Thursday, September 18, 2014

Birthday Suit and Very Hot Baths

I took this picture back on Christina's birthday right at bedtime. She is fresh out of the bath and in yummy white pajamas. There is something just so delicious about a baby that is freshly fed, bathed, (in her case medicated), lotioned and ready for bed! And she of course assumes her favorite yoga pose! 

Strangely, baby girl likes very hot bathes. I obviously don't let her enjoy them as hot as she would like as to avoid overheating! But like me, I can tell she likes a scalding hot bath. I discovered this because I tend to have her take baths with me because it's difficult to have her use a baby bath since she can't hold up her torso or head. So one evening, I had drawn a fairly hot bath for myself (to listen to my Dave Ramsey podcast, my nightly ritual) and then figured maybe I'd just quickly bathe Christina too. I put just her feet in to see how she would react to the searing water. A smile ensued and relaxation took over as I dipped her deeper and deeper in! She is such a cute and funny little girl! 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

One Year

It is hard to believe that it has been one year since our sweet baby Christina was born. In some ways it seems like a lifetime ago. It has been a wonderful year with our little angel and we are so amazed with her progress since we weren't even sure she'd survive the first year. Now she is a (relatively) strong and thriving girl! She still has many challenges and always will, but she is happy and comfortable and that is what is most important to us.  

When we contemplate on this past year we have learned and grown so much with Christina. In reflection some of the things we've learned:

To find joy in very small accomplishments and milestones

As morbid as it may sound, but just go to sleep and hope she's still alive in the morning, and if she's not that's okay

The respite of good friends is important

Find humor and take light of things

Don't be surprised to receive doctor bills nine months after date of service

Keeping your marriage strong and romantic is important

It's good to get out of the house and still do normal routines with the kids

Get a good group of doctors but don't let them push you around

Lots a medical knowledge, some doctors legitimately thought I had been to medical school

Be comfortable to talk and be blunt about Christina's condition so others are more comfortable around her

Don't get offended by comments of others and children really do say what they think, but I find that refreshing

I'm always surprised at the people Christina takes a liking to 

I'm also surprised at the people that just adore her and find her genuinely beautiful 

James' favorite primary song to sing is called I Will Follow God's Plan. Since having Christina this song has had new meaning to me. Every life has a purpose and is of value. Even that of a severely handicapped little girl. Her life may differ from most others but it is still a gift and a blessing. We are all God's children and He loves each of us. 

My life is a gift; my life has a plan.
My life has a purpose; in heav'n it began.
My choice was to come to this lovely home on earth
And seek for God's light to direct me from birth.
I will follow God's plan for me,
Holding fast to his word and his love.
I will work, and I will pray;
I will always walk in his way.
Then I will be happy on earth
And in my home above.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

These two kiddos are my favorite!

 Watching James and Christina play is the cutest thing! They mutually have fun with each other. Anything James does she finds hilarious and entertaining! Which is very helpful since I will assign James to play (babysit) with sissy and keep her happy so I can shower and do my makeup or wash the kitchen floor, etc. 

You know when you are in a bad mood or stressed about something and there are a few things that can lift your mood. For me it is taking a bath with a Diet Coke and listening to Dave Ramsey, or looking at the picture below! She is just so darn cute and bashful!

And my sweet baby James, who isn't a baby at all anymore, is just as fun as ever! Such a big boy who wishes he was going to school in the fall, too bad for him he has to wait until 2015. I'm just glad I get a year more to enjoy with him!

Baby girl gets around on her knees sometimes, but lately she has been popping her bum in the air like downward dog and walking around with her head on the floor! She's even started attempting to lift her head, but it's not too easy for her. She learned that she can rest her chin and face on her arm to look around a little better. 

And she loves blankets and stuffed animals in her bed. I will put one or two in there and she will reach around until she finds one and cuddle with it. I've tested her and moved them away from her and she will move to find it! She's such a little cuddle bug!

Miss Chris has been adding some more teeth to her mouth and with that has come a crabby girl. At church this week she was so out of sorts but still very dolled up! I did manage to get her to smirk a little, she was resisting though! Oh and those dimples!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Birthday Camping Trip

For James' and Brian's birthdays they wanted to go camping in the mountains with grandpa! They all had a blast hiking, fishing, and camping! The only downfall was that all three shared a two-man tent! They reported it was a tight fit!

Waiting for grandpa at the meetup spot. Brian let James have a Coke since he had been so patient after the long drive and then they had to wait some more!

Found grandpa and then they were on their way to the mountains.

Lots of fishing and hiking.


And some more fishing in the morning!

A look at the tiny tent! And then off for some ice cream and shakes before heading home. These boys were in hog heaven after a fun camping trip. And I had a fun girls' weekend with just me and baby Christina, shopping and eating out!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Baby Christina at 10 months

Baby Christina is nearly 10 months old and she is doing very well and she keeps surprising us with her milestone achievements.

We feel so blessed (and maybe some luck, but I attribute luck to God anyway, so it is still blessed) that Christina has been so healthy. Granted she's had her issues, but no major bacteria or viruses! Wait, so formula-fed babies can have a healthy immune system?! (I'm mostly just being sassy, I am actually pro-breastfeeding, where it is possible.) But I digress. When Christina was born, Brian and I both had trouble answering certain types of questions about Christina. For instance, when people would ask "Is she healthy?" or "How is she doing?" These questions seem so relative. Because in some ways, she is as healthy as a horse. But in other regards, nearly every body system in her little body was made wrong but does in fact function well enough. And when people ask how she's doing, well, she's happy and not in pain, so that is good, right? Does she do typical things most 10 months are doing? Well, no. Does she seem to care? Well, that's a no. So she seems fine to us!

James is easily her favorite! At least when it comes to entertainment purposes. They both really love each other and James will spend hours a day playing and wrestling her. At first I was worried at how wild and rough he was with her, but when you hear her cackle laughing it's hard to argue that she doesn't love it! I am her favorite when she wants comfort or cuddling. And she has warmed up to Brian, inasmuch as she doesn't cry anymore when left with him!

She does her own version of crawling. She can go surprisingly quickly from point A to point B. She does move her legs one at a time forward as she scoots her head forward without lifting it. She will rest and lift her head momentarily, but her lifting is up off the ground, not like up looking around. She also loves the yoga position downward dog, but uses her head to balance and not her arms! She is a determined little thing!

She still doesn't eat anything orally and is solely fed through her g-tube. But I am hopeful that she will at some point eat by mouth since she loves things in and around her mouth. We just started to brush her four little teeth and she lets me brush her teeth for over half an hour. She loves the taste of a little bit of toothpaste and the feeling of the toothbrush. So things like that make us hopeful that she will learn to have food in her mouth again and learn how to swallow again.

My mom came to town to visit and she thought we were not seeing all of her brilliance and potential (said with some jest) but I argue we are just realists! So we went out and got her some toys. One that she has seemed to enjoy and engage with a little is a play mat with music and toys that dangle. She also has a light toy that is basically a big box that lights up when you push a button. She just recently started to enjoy that toy. She intentionally pushes the button, but we are still undecided if she understands the cause and effect of this toy. If she can figure that out she could be entertained by a whole range of toys!

And she really was smiling in these pictures!

So far she mostly goes by sissy or baby Christina or baby sister. When baby sister number two comes in the fall this might get confusing and we may have to nail down some more distinctive nicknames! And speaking of baby tres, she's really in there!

Friday, June 6, 2014

A legacy of maternal strength

I hope to be able to leave a legacy of maternal strength to my daughters. We are very happy to announce that we are pregnant with a baby girl due this fall! We can hardly contain our happiness to be having a healthy baby. But with this joy also comes some apprehension because, like me, she is also a carrier.

For Brian and me, choosing when to have children has been both the most wonderful as well as the most terrifying experiences. As many of our friends and family know, I have a chromosomal balanced translocation. There is a lot of genetic jargon to explain what a balanced translocation is but most simply put it means that when I have children there is a 50/50 chance at conception of having a severally handicapped child. Brian and I both knew that we wanted to have children but with my condition the when and how can be quite complicated. We have made all of our procreative decisions very seriously and prayerfully. I am thankful to have had my parents to look to as examples and support in our tough circumstances. And most importantly to have a wonderful husband to love me and listen to my endless chatter and nervousness about this issue.

We have been dying to announce that we are expecting for several weeks but we wanted to wait until we knew more about the baby. Concealing the pregnancy grew ever difficult because it seemed my body knew just what to do the third time around! I am 18 weeks along, and besides lots of fatigue, the pregnancy has been very smooth sailing!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Finances: Our History and Current State

So before you start reading, I wanted to preface this blog entry by saying that I am nervous to write about this topic. I get so excited talking about personal finances, but I was worried that no one else would care (and that still might be true) so I asked my husband if he thought people would be interested in me writing about finances. He laughed and said of course people would care because people love to talk about sex, money, religion and politics. With that said, here I go to start the discussion of money on my blog. (And maybe more to come if people really are interested!) And no, I don't think I will be discussing sex anytime soon on my blog, I'll keep it to money!

Our Financial History and Current State

The Beginning

Early in our marriage, Brian and I decided we wanted to avoid debt as much as possible in a world where it seems most people are comfortable having loads of debt. We were fortunate to get married without any debt and we both were able to avoid debt in our undergraduate degrees by working, scholarships, and grants.

Our Debt and Money Issues

We first went into debt when Brian started law school. It was a calculated choice since Brian could not work for most of law school and I was staying home with James. We also bought a home here in Las Vegas for under $70K. We lived very frugally during those three years and we were very creative with our spending and saving of money. What creative tips do you have for staying out of debt? Or stretching a dollar?

Soon after Brian graduated from law school, Christina was born. We had health insurance with a high deductible so my prenatal care and the birth were several thousand, but not atypical prices with insurance. However, baby Christina's cost became astronomical in only a matter of minutes. A stint in the NICU will cost you several thousand per day. Yes, thousands per day! She stayed in the NICU for 19 days and her final bill was over $100,000. So after a little math, her stay cost well over $5,000 per day! And I don't say all this to say "Woe is me" but on the contrary because we had insurance. (If you don't have health insurance, go buy it today! You cannot afford to not have it!) We only had to pay a mere fraction of that! But even with only a fraction of that due, it was still a lot of expense and Brian wasn't a licensed attorney yet and was making minimal money. It was the first time that we didn't have any money in the bank because we had exhausted all of our savings and even our emergency fund to pay for the birth and NICU bill. Even after baby Christina was discharged from the NICU she had LOTS of specialty doctors and surgeries and the costs still seemed never ending. At the rate it was going we feared that we would never financially get ahead of it! And luckily we were able to avoid debt, but it was month to month for a couple months until we were able to get ahead! And we can thank monthly budgeting and Brian's increase in salary to that! I mentioned in a previous post how I hated budgeting but at that point I knew something had to change. We had been hearers of the word (Dave Ramsey's word that is), but not doers of the word. In the last six months we have been able to get very ahead and we feel very in control of our money. Do you worry about money month to month? Do you budget each month? Do you hate it like I used to? Or are you a nerd and love to watch your money?

Our Current Choices

And I stress the word choices because as we control our money and our debt we are able to have more choices and I can't wait until all of our debt is gone and all the choices we will have then! But back to the point, our only debt is our mortgage. Our current choices are to knock out our mortgage as fast as we can or to invest 15 percent of our income in retirement (401K and Roth IRA). Currently we are only contributing about 10 percent. Dave Ramsey (our favorite financial adviser and author of The Total Money Makeover) suggests at the point we are at to invest 15 percent into retirement before paying off the house. The reason we are debating the issue is that we want to be moving to a better area and to a bigger house in the next two years and we want to have as much money into our mortgage so that when we sell we can have a big chunk of our next house paid for. What are you thoughts? Are you putting money away for retirement? How much? Should we be more aggressive with retirement savings, as Dave says to do? Or with our mortgage, as the Nelsons want to do?