Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Parenting: 101

Live and learn ! Being a parent means exactly that - only in fast forward !

I thought that Eric and I were both pretty proficient in our parenting skills. That is until last night. I began having my doubts.

At dinnertime, Eric filled Elaina's sippy cup nearly full with 1/2 juice and 1/2 water. She sat happily in her highchair and worked on her sippy cup and some fruit puffs as I was getting dinner ready. Upon a closer look, I realized that she had downed the entire cup of juice within only a 5 minute period. Unless she is part camel - that's pretty out of the ordinary.

"Downed it" was right ... right down the front of her dress and nearly puddled into her highchair seat ! Apparently, her sippy had a drippy. The rubbery nipple wasn't fitted on properly and she was covered in sweet smelling pear juice !

Impromptu bathtime : 6:15 pm !

As for my mommy skills, I allowed Elaina to stay up past her regular bedtime because we were happily playing a game of peek-a-boo and she had a catnap only a few hours earlier. She was crawling around her room, reading her books and every bit content. Within only minutes, she turned into a little yelling machine ! Just that fast - she was done playing and done being pleasant. Mommy lesson : Put the baby's jammies on first and then play. Little yelly-pants was not in the mood for a new diaper and she was certainly not in the mood to be stripped of her clothes for her pajamas.

These are lessons you don't dare forget !

Monday, May 29, 2006

All Weekend Long !

* You try to pose 4 little girls under the age of 5 when they all have their own little agenda ! This is the best we could do !

You may be able to tell by now when we have a busy weekend or even a busy week ... no Elaina posts ! My apologies !

Finally, with Memorial Day weekend giving us an additional day off from work, it felt like we had some time to rest ! Can we do this every weekend ? I enjoyed every bit of my time home with my family. The only thing I didn't find time to do was ... blog !

Here a recap of how we enjoyed our weekend :

Friday, our friends, Derek and Beth and their 3 sweet girls came to stay at our house. We had a cookout and just enjoyed everyone's company. Their girls were so excited to see their friend, "Belaina" that she is all they had talked about in the days leading up to their visit.

On Saturday morning, Beth and I had "business" to begin early in the morning. Our "business" was a neighborhood garage sale in her parents' allottment filled with wealthy families and great deals. This was the 11th annual sale and it is always packed with bargain hunters. Luckily, there were plenty of bargains to be found. Beth and I had a great time spending the day collecting our treasures. Back at home, the dad's had a father / daughter day. Two dad's and 4 little girls under the age of 5 ! This is a day that Eric hadn't ever experienced before. We figured that Beth and I have our "business" in the summer that we can devote a day here and there to shopping together and the guys get their turn during football season going to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers. Fair is fair. We all have fun in the end and that's really the most important thing of all.

Beth and I had a long day, but accomplished plenty. We were proud of ourselves and our great finds. The dad's survived and enjoyed some time at the local park with their girls. No one was about to cook on this night, so we ended up at our favorite local pizza place for a great dinner ! What a day !

Sunday meant saying goodbye to our guests. Derek and Beth had to leave to visit with her family for a cookout before heading back to their home. Their departure was followed with a family nap. We were all beat. It truly was Elaina's naptime - Eric and I just thought we would join her slumber. Aahh.... how often can you steal away the time to enjoy a nap with the 2 people you love the most ? Sign me up for everyday !

This night, we invited our neighbor, Sam, to join us for dinner. Sam is a friend of ours who lives next door. He is Eric's age and single and just a really nice guy. I have a sneaking suspicion that Elaina has a crush on him ! Here are two examples : yesterday, I was holding Elaina outside and upon spotting Sam, Elaina immeditely began waving at him like her little arm was made of rubber as she flapped it so hard to get his attention. She gave him a giant, sloppy smile and wasn't content until her acknowledged her. At dinnertime, we sat outside (Elaina in her walker) and she was practically flirting with Sam. She laughed and cooed and batted her eyes and gave him every bit of attention that her little 19 pound self could muster up. It really was very humorous seeing her react to someone in such a way. She is a nut !

And finally, we have today's events. It's Memorial Day and our town has a small parade down Main Street before heading into the cemetary for a memorial service to honor those who have (and are) served our country. Eric was involved in the parade riding in the fire truck with the fire department and Elaina and I caught up with him after the parade at the cemetary. It's an overwhelming feeling to see most of the town make time to honor our service men and women in this nearly 30 minute ceremony.

The rest of our day has been spent cleaning up the house, catching up on some projects and playing with StinkerBell. Elaina was in rare form today. She was a little bit of a (do I dare say ?) .... a brat ! She is cutting yet another tooth, this would be her fourth tooth on the bottom and she sometimes gets a little fussy. (Justified - of course ! ) But today, she was not only fussy- she was cranky and defiant and refusing to eat and didn't play well and just really not my usually- happy baby. I hate to say this, but bedtime couldn't come soon enough tonight. Goodnight all .

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Stats !

Elaina had to go to the doctor today for yet another shot. It's really a carry-over from her 6 month visit - they didn't want to give her 5 shots at a time so advised us to come back for the one shot that could be delayed and they could check her out prior to her 12 month visit as well. So, Eric took Elaina to her appointment and got the following stats :
Elaina weighs 19 lbs. and 1.4 oz
Height is 27 3/4 ''
Head circ : 17 1/2 "

What a perfectly healthy girl ! Yeah Elaina !!!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ba-donk !

This is the sound Elaina's head made when she fell down and hit her head against the wall ! Ooohhh ... the crying ! My poor baby had every reason to cry - within 5 minutes, she developed a visible bruise on her forehead. I nearly cried !

From the pictures above and the story of her "crash" you might be able to guess what kind of night we had. Elaina was not interested in eating any baby food for dinner and was just too tired to even make an attempt. I supplied her with some juice and fruit puffs while we ate our dinner and before long, this is what happened. She was out ! It's tough being a baby - especially when you bonked your head, you have a cold and mom wants to make you eat food !

Not long after, I fixed her up with some cold medicine, soft jammies, a warm bottle and plenty of hugs and cuddle time ! You know - even the days when she's miserable- she is every bit sweet and lovable !

* Notice in the second picture : Elaina's first bruise !

On your Feet !

Today when I came home, Eric and Elaina were playing outside in our driveway. She was half walking and half holding onto the brick retaining wall. She was amazing me ! (and Eric too ! ) I really think that she is so close to just taking off and becoming a full-fledged walker any day now. After all, she became a champion crawler in all of one week and pulling herself up onto everything along the way.

I have discovered that she does much better walking when it's on her terms. ( Oh - she is so much like me !! ) With too much encouragement, she becomes distracted and plops to the ground to crawl faster to her target. I think that her maximum step count (in a row) has reached 10 at this point. I love watching her face with her look of determination and concentration of walking and focussing on her mark at the same time. Any day now ....

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It Snot easy being green !

This morning Elaina woke up looking a little bit green. Her nose specifically. Actually, more like the stuff seeping out of her nose ! I know that's gross, but when your nearly 11 months old - that's part of life and this mom has to write about it. I had previously thought that it was a symptom accompanying her teething and now, I'm leaning more toward it being that her immune system is weakened during the teething process and she develops actual cold symptoms. Maybe it's really one of the same. I just want her to feel better.

She has lost a little bit of her appetite, she's more sleepy than usual and she gets noticeably irritated easily. When your talking about an easy- going-mild-tempered baby acting anything out of the ordinary - you notice a difference. She is a growing girl though and her little body is going through so many changes each and every day. I swear that when I hold her in my arms and see our full image together in the mirror, I can't believe that big girl is really my little girl. I have enjoyed every stage that she is growing into. It's the most wonderful feeling to witness my daughter discover her world around her. Her first tastes, her first steps, the look of incredible achievement on her sweet face as she pushes the buttons on the phone or TV.

What can I say ? I am in love with my girl !! Snotty, stinky or silly - she is my world !

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Party at my place !

Today, Elaina's friend, Maddie stopped in for a visit. The girls took turns going in and out of the door and pushing the doorbell to Elaina's house. What a beautiful day in the neighborhood !

Maddie is 6 months older than Elaina and they played so nicely together. Both girls were overdue for their naptime, but playtime had to come first. Elaina was the first to break into a case of the crankies. To her credit, she was nearly asleep when Maddie arrived and an hour past her naptime then ! However, my sweet girl rarely puts up a fuss for bedtime or for naps. (Lucky me !) With some warm cuddling and rocking, she melts like butter ! Goodnight !

Friday, May 19, 2006

FLASHBACK : 5-19-2005

One year ago today -

Our lives had been turned upside down. Our days were somber and we had very little happiness. Eric and I didn't know where to begin to put the pieces of our shattered lives back together. The only thing I had to look forward to this day was to spend the day at the spa - a Mother's Day gift given to me by my sweet Ava and her wonderful dad. Who, luckily, gave it to me two days early. A day at the spa would be a short term fix to ease some of my stress and temporarily, forget my pain.

Literally 5 minutes before I had to leave the house for the spa, my phone rang. It was the judge that I work for. Oohh, was my mind racing. (Just so you know, it's not common that a judge would be calling me at home.) I wasn't due back to work for almost 2 weeks and was scared as to what may have transpired in the time that I had been off.

Our conversation went something like this :

Judge : Laura, I hope this isn't too soon, but I had to call you. I was at a Christian lawyers luncheon today and I began talking with an attorney who is representing a birthmom wishing to place her baby up for adoption. From the families she has had to choose from, she has asked to see more options. She is requesting a couple who has been married for a number of years, who have college educations (and put an emphasis on education), religious, and stable. Laura, I couldn't get your face out of my face. I felt that he had to have been describing only you and Eric. If you are at all interested in adoption, I would recommend you get in touch with this attorney soon - the birthmom is due June 22 !

Laura : (trembling and sobbing) Absolutely !

I can't tell you how many people sent cards and notes and phone calls after Ava's death and everyone concluded by saying, " You're in our prayers." I often wondered, " If so many people are praying for us, when will the pain go away ? If so many people are praying for us - why does it hurt so bad ? When will we ever find happiness and will we have a baby of our own ?"

After this phone conversation, I knew that God was blowing the cover off his master plan for joy and happiness in our lives. There's no way that this could be a coincidence. I wouldn't believe that God would even let us get wind of this birthmom, if we weren't meant to connect. Not now. Not when we were most fragile, could we handle another major earthquake of hopeless despair.

My mind was racing. I still needed to make my appointment at the spa ! I got myself out the door and frantically called Eric on his cell. By this time, I was just bawling. He made the intial contact with the attorney over the phone ( I was a basket case) and he had asked that we submit a letter about ourselves, like an autobiography - and soon. My stress- free day at the spa was anything but that. Every emotion was pulsing through my body at least 100 miles per hour. Excited, nervous, scared, anxious, happy. Happy ? Did I say "happy ?" Finally, we may have had something to look forward to. I was tiptoeing on the border of happy and emotional meltdown.

The entire time that I was supposed to be enjoying my day of pampering, I prayed that I would have all of the right words as I would sit down this night and write the most compelling letter of my life. Where do you begin to compose a letter about yourself that will be enough to convince a complete stranger that you want her baby more than anything in the world - but not sound desperate and overbearing. I believe that my letter took me nearly 3 hours to complete. I did pour out my heart and soul to this woman in a manner that suggested that our paths have crossed for a reason. I stated that we have each sacrificed our own happiness for what is best for our babies - referring to the loss of Ava of course.

So, year- to- date, I guess that you can tell that God was on our side and that He did hear all of the prayers from our friends and family and our desperate pleas for a child. This day was the first glimmer of hope that has lead us to the most abundant joy that we will ever experience. Still, my heart swells with gratitude for the sweetest blessing we get to hold onto each and every day.

Thanks to everyone for all of your prayers on our behalf and we hope to get so lucky to be blessed with another wonderful miracle !

Hi New Tooth !

This title holds 2 meanings. I'll confess that I am not the best up-to-the-minute reporter. For the past week, Elaina has been working on pushing her second front tooth through. When this tooth finally makes it's grand appearance, she'll have a full toothy smile with 4 top teeth and 3 on the bottom. Just in time for her to eat her birthday cake in July !

Also, I neglected to report another cute trick that Elaina has learned. She has been waiving to herself - sorta like a little "Hi" to herself. The other day when Eric was mowing the lawn, she flirted with him with a continuous wave until he returned her greeting. Upon seeing his wave to her, she began waving back to herself - just like Daddy did. I do believe that was the most enjoyable time Eric has ever spent mowing the lawn. She had us both laughing !

Thursday, May 18, 2006

" We'll have a gay old time !"

Now put that title to music. Sound familiar ? It's the theme song to the Flintstones cartoon of course !

At one of our sales over the weekend, I found a Flintstones book that plays the cartoon theme song with a slight push of a button. That very book has become Elaina's favorite toy of this whole evening. We had music before dinner. We had dinner music. We had even had clean-up-the-kitchen music. The child kept her finger pressed against the button ! Non-stop ! The book only left her sight 2 times. Can you believe that Eric gave it back to the baby when she dropped it ? Come on !!! Thank you Daddy !

I'm glad that she has so many other books to choose from now. Maybe I'll hide this one a little bit out of her reach for a day or two. It's a good thing that I enjoyed the Flintstones cartoon - we're all having a "gay old time ! "

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Special Invitation

Our life has gone through so many unbelievable changes over the past couple of years. Last year, while spending all of our days in nights in the hospital with Ava, we developed a special friendship with many of the nurses who fell in love with our sweet girl. One of Ava's greatest admirers was Nurse Becky. Becky was made to be an intensive care nurse. She has an overwhelming love for her babies she cares for and makes a point to develop a relationship with the parents too. She made our time spent in the NICU more comforatable as she cared for our baby and made us feel like human beings again as we swapped stories and shared our lives.

Since our time there, we have kept in touch with each other and she invited Elaina and myself to her house for a baby party / luncheon today. She has already met Elaina and knows that Ava had a hand in sending us such a special angel to share our lives. Becky also invited two other moms and babies from the NICU and her grandson and his mother. She prepared a fabulous lunch for us and we spent the day talking and playing on the floor with our beautiful babies. It's rare that I am able to share stories with any parent who has been through similar circumstances with a child in the NICU for any length of time. It was great to hear how their beautiful girls have grown and developed and are doing so well.

Regardless of the circumstances and trials we have endured with our children and whatever their future hold, each one of us recognizes that you never get to take a day for granted and that these babies are our whole world. You just love and squeeze them and hold them tight and pray that they always have the happiness that each of them deserves.

* Baby Lilly and her mom left before we were able to include them in our picture.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Blessed Day !

Oh yeah ... and it's Mother's Day too.

Today, Elaina was baptized !

This is the day I had been looking forward to. Our little angel has been blessed into the Catholic religion with all of our family to join in our celebration. After the night we had last evening, I was fearful that this day wouldn't turn out exactly as I had planned. Most of the evening, Eric had complained that he wasn't feeling well. Just as we were going to bed, he said that he was freezing cold and was shivering. Eric hardly ever complains and he is never cold. Hmm... sound like the flu ? NO NO NO ! This couldn't be happening ! When Ava was baptized in the NICU, Eric and my mom both came down with the flu on the same day (3 hours away from each other) which left only me, my dad and one of our favorite nurses to witness her baptism. This day was going to be the best ever - we had family and friends joining us, we had a nice lunch planned and we had everyone at the 11:00 Mass who would rather not see Eric yack during the service.

Maybe a good night's sleep is all he needed. He woke up feeling fine and I woke up knowing that God had heard my prayers for sure ! During the introduction of the Mass, Fr. Ring announced that Elaina Rose was present this day to receive the gift of baptism into the Catholic church. Elaina must have been paying attention because, as she was standing on my lap, she began clapping her hands just after he spoke her name. Oh ... I melted ! I saw the admiring smiles of the people around us and I thought to myself, " Yeah, that's my girl ! "

Her baptism went very smoothly as the priest poured holy water atop her head and annointed her chest with oil. My brother and sister-in-law , Greg and Kate, have proudly claimed the role as her Godparents. Like so many, they recognize what a special baby we have been entrusted to care for and love. We all feel that Elaina has been a beautiful blessing for all of our family to enjoy. Just the way it was meant to be.

What made the day even better was that so many of our family and friends were able to join us for this celebration. Their presence was enough to satisfy me, yet they brought her the most beautiful gifts also. Since Elaina has grown to love books, she received many books and special keepsakes to commemorate this blessed event. We'll always treasure the memories of this beautiful day.

* My only regret of the entire day was that my poor child only had about a 20 minute nap all of the day until nearly 3:00 ! She was very social and couldn't miss a minute of her party. The only time she became fussy was when we tried to get some family and group pictures with our little Precious.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Soggy Shoppers

Yeah, I know it's springtime in the Northeast, but will it ever stop raining ? I believe this makes Day 7 of consecutive rainy days.

Less determined bargain shoppers and those who prefer to be sensible and dry would be content to stay in on a wet day like today. Not my family ! My mom joined me and and my mother-in-law and we hit some garage sales ! Our thought was that we would load up the deals as the rain would be plenty enough to deter others from infringing on our target sales. We were surprised to see how many others braved the 55 degree day in the drizzling rain to get some deals. The three of us had a great time bargaining for our treasures ! I have to admit that I was impressed that my mother-in-law conceded in our shopping addiction as she powered along and helped navigate to the next sale.

The best find of the day was for Elaina, of course. On one of our first sales, I found a Little Tykes play yard / house perfect for our girl. The only problem was the fact that it filled my mom's trunk immediately. Luckily, we weren't to far from home and made a pit stop after Round 1 of our sale shopping. Better yet, Elaina loves her new plastic neighborhood ! Eric cleaned it up and helped her to "move in." She must have crawled and walked in and out of the front door of her house at least 60 times - shutting the door behind her every last time ! How funny ! This provided nearly 20 minutes of uninterrupted fun for the new homeowner !

Later in the afternoon, we met Aunt Cindy for a late "Mother's- Day- lunch." Elaina stayed home with her dad on this particular girls' day out. (We missed you Elaina !) It wouldn't have been fair to her to drag her around in the cold, wet weather when she would surely have a better time playing with dad and grandpa at home.

Our evening was spent at Eric's brother and sister-in-laws house choosing a monument for Ava. I feel so bad that an entire year has gone by and we haven't yet memorialized her grave. It's not because I haven't wanted to do it, it's just that I have wanted it to be absolutely perfect that I didn't know where to begin. Since Tim and Terri own a monument business and Terri is every bit of an artist, we all sat around the kitchen table and shared ideas and sketched the perfect memorial for our perfect angel. I am pleased with the result and feel that we have done our best.

Mother's Day has seemed to hit hard for me over the past 3 years. Three years ago, I spent my first Mother's Day with Tim and Terri sobbing over having to choose Ella's monument. That was a horrible, emotional pain. Piercing pain. I vowed that the following year would be different. It was. That year we were still trying to get pregnant without any success. Still, I thought, "just wait until next year, that would be the best of all." The following year brought Ava into our lives, only to have her become an angel the day before Mother's Day.

This year leaves me with very bittersweet emotions. Again, I find it painfully ironic that we are faced with having to memorialize our daughter - one more time. Oh... and it doesn't get any easier. Not even after a year. The thing that is cause for the bigger celebration is that Elaina will be baptized tomorrow. That's plenty enough to overshadow my grief and make my heart happy.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Lost Agenda

What a busy week ! All in preparation for a busy weekend - our baby will be baptized on Sunday !

Knowing how this weekend will fly by and be jam-packed full of activity, I thought it would be a good idea to only work a half day and get things in order with a little less hustle and bustle. My first stop was to the mall for a return and to purchase the jacket that I didn't have time to get on my last trip during my lunch hour. Two stores and one hour later, I made my way out -one full hour behind schedule. To my demise, I spotted a sign that read, " Street Garage Sales." Oh, come on.... I can't pass that up ! I made a few stops (in the pouring rain) and picked up some cute clothes for my nephew, Colin. Not so lucky finding girl stuff or me- stuff. One more hour behind schedule. I finally get home with Elaina and a few other treasures in tow and remember how much packing I failed to do the night before. At this point, I foresee yet another hour that will disappear !

We finally got ourselves together to get on the road for the almost 3 hour drive to get to Eric's parents' house. As always, they were thrilled to see our smiling, little sweetheart and soak her with hugs. Our 3 year- old nephew, Evan, was there ready to see "the baby." He lavished her with attention and brought her toys so they could play together. They were so cute - you'd think that I would think to pull out my camera for a quick shot. Nope. (Sorry - no picture available.) It probably would have been a good idea for me to have had my camera focussed on Elaina taking 7 steps in a row too. Nope. (Sorry - no picture available.)

My whole day was somewhat out of sync. What can I say ?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Toss - the -Tot !

Eric and Elaina have a new game they play. It involves tossing Elaina onto our bed and waiting for her to slide down (feet first) to the floor only for Eric to pop her up again. She squeals and laughs so hard ! I could barely catch my breath from laughing so hard too ! She is a goof !
Holding onto the bed sheets, she inches her way to the edge of the bed and slides down to the floor awaiting another lift. Even after nearly 10 tosses, we were still amused and rolling in our laughter.
Ten months old is such a fun age ! I love to see how her personality and sense of humor is developing and she is able to communicate how much she loves ( or doesn't ) love certain things. With her slobbery, wet smile, it was clear that she loves the "Bed -Toss -Game !"

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Being Ignored

Elaina and I were playing in her room tonight and while she was reading her books to herself, I grabbed the phone to give my girlfriend a quick phone call. As soon as my full attention wasn't centered around my beloved, she took 8 steps ! I was so much in awe that I nearly forgot who I was talking to and that I was in the middle of a conversation ! (Sorry Amie ! )

Isn't that always the way; when you want them to do something, they won't and when you don't want them to do something , they will. Plenty of times, Eric and I will sit on the floor with our arms stretched out to encourage our little stepper to walk to us and she falls to the floor. Stop paying attention to her for half of a minute and she takes 8 steps !

Now when I leave her in her crib to play while I take a shower, I wonder if she isn't carrying on full conversations with her toys and reading to her dolls ! Hmm ...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Stair Master

Do you suppose there is anything wrong with a 10 month- old learning how to climb the stairs ? A few weeks ago, Elaina made her way over to the steps and just began to climb. She got to the 6th step before looking back and realized that she was out of her element and got scared. Dad saved her.

Tonight she was crawling all over the house like a crazed monkey and when she got to the stairs, she just began to climb. I was already upstairs and Eric was bringing up the rear (literally) following her. Hearing the commotion and his encouragement to her, I looked down to find her only 4 steps from reaching the top. With an excited smirk on her sweet face - she was climbing over the threshold of the final step. Oh what a big girl !

On yet another trip upstairs, I decided to let her have another crack at doing the stairs herself. She did. With her fingers gripped tight into the thick pile of carpet, her little diaper-butt wiggled and wiggled and her legs moved like a skilled rock-climber. What can I say ? She's a natural.

Little Miss Independent Elaina.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Angel in Heaven

Today is an anniversary that I haven't been exactly looking forward to. A year ago today, our sweet Ava became an angel.

From the day she was born, she had already been an angel. There wouldn't be any other reason to be able to explain how she was able to endure the life that she had on this earth otherwise. More than likely, her condition was constant discomfort and pain for her. Multiple procedures and operations drained her. As her parents, Eric and I only elected to have the necessary steps taken for her in order for her to progress. We had no interest in only maintaining a poor situation and certainly nothing that would compromise her life. Only the best for our baby.

Even a year later, I couldn't even begin to explain the type of horrible roller coaster ride we went through in our days with her in the NICU. Absolute heartbreak. Some days, we had some encouraging news, but by the end of the day, we could always count on a test result or a back-to-reality doctor to shatter our hope into a million pieces. Not only was it a roller coaster of emotions, but a roller coaster testing our faith. Upon Ava's diagnosis as I was 6 months pregnant, I prayed that whatever happened, it would be for the best for my baby. Not me. My baby. If she was going to have special needs throughout her life, I prayed to God that she would at least have a good quality life. A handicap of any type would certainly never be anything that any parent would be content with for their own child - but if it meant that we had a child - so be it. She is the baby that God has made for us and this is the baby that we are going to love with all of our heart.

All but 2 days of Ava's life was spent in the NICU. Mostly at Akron Children's Hospital. There, she was surrounded by her mom and dad and plenty of nurses who fell in love with our sweet baby. Toward the end of her 3rd month, the doctors had exhausted all of their medical resources to aid in her prognosis. At this point, we both had to face the nerve-wracking reality that our lives were going to change in a way that we could never prepare for. I have never had any interest in being a nurse, yet it seemed as though I was getting a crash course in order to handle the specialized care for my own child. My mind was racing. What do I do when something goes wrong ? Will I be able to handle all of this ? How in the world would I ever be a person again ? How would Eric and I ever be a couple again ? Ava had received around the clock care at the hospital by a full staff of professionals - and now it was just Eric and me. Actually, only me - Eric would be going back to work. My only solace was that, if God was bringing me to it, God would bring me through it. It was all in his hands from the beginning.

I barely remember having Ava home. I'll spare the details that would just make my mind spin and tell you my favorite memory. I will never forget the feeling of having my sweet, precious baby cuddled up next to me in bed. At the hospital, we held her almost every minute that we were with her. There was never a time to lay back in peace and quiet and curl up with our baby to actually rest comforatably. In Ava's bedroom at home, we had moved a twin sized bed in next to her crib. We pretty much set up a fully functioning hospital room in her bedroom to accomodate the both of us. Spooning with my baby, my arm hugged around her little body and her next to my heart. That is how I want to remember my Ava.

Her time at home was only brief. We ended up back at the NICU in Akron. On a sunny, crisp, Saturday afternoon, our angel was fading. With my parents at our side and floods of tears and breaking hearts, our angel went to heaven. Our heartache only meant peace at last for our baby. No more pain. No more tests. No more staring wishfully at the monitors. Only peace. Just what we had prayed for her all along. She would never have the peace and quality of life that she deserved here on earth. She was in God's hands the whole time.

We've lost two our two girls. I would often think that if I were to hear about a couple who had lost their two daughters, I would cry even if I didn't know them. It turns out - the story is ours. I've always believed that no matter how bad your day is - there is always someone having a worse day than you. Today, we were on the top of the list - no one's life could have been more shattered than ours on this day. If you were to ask me one year ago if I would ever be happy again, the answer would be a firm "NO !" Absolutely, no. I couldn't help my feelings, but I never thought beyond my baby. I truly felt that nothing would ever make me smile again. I love Eric, but what did we have to be happy about ? Even with my family, whom I love, I doubted that I would ever be able to enjoy anything ever again. That was my true feeling down to my bones.

Like George Bailey in "It's A Wonderful Life, " I wished that I had never been born. I wondered how I could literally drop off the face of the earth. And, where had God been ? Why wasn't he listening to my prayers ? My hope and my faith was nearly non-existent.

In the days following, I begged Eric to just let us move. We went to Kauai, Hawaii on our honeymoon and loved it. Let's move there. I've been to Oklahoma and liked it. Let's move there. New York is a busy place, we wouldn't even have to talk to anyone. Let's move there. I wanted to be somewhere else that no one would know us and we wouldn't know anyone. I wouldn't have to be around anyone who knew our story and I thought it would be the only way to escape our reality. My reality is that my husband wasn't going for any of my ideas. Neither of us knew how or where to begin to pick up the pieces - but we couldn't run and hide.

It's amazing what a difference a year can make. It's amazing to see how and when God will reveal himself. In the end, God chose to give us a miracle !

Reflecting upon this past year, I have never known such happiness. The glow of my healthy baby's smile and the sparkle in my husband's eyes when he is with his daughter. Even for me, it's hard to hold back tears of happiness and joy when I think how blessed we are with our sweet angel. One that was custom made just for us. This has always been my every prayer and heart's desire. In one year's time, I am thinking how God has spoiled us with the most beautiful angel on earth with two special guardian angels covering her at all times. God has let us walk through the fire and not get burned. I know that I have alot to look forward to when I get to heaven. Until then, my angels, Ella and Ava are every bit in my heart. I pray each day that through Elaina they are able to feel the tenderness in each kiss, my warmth in every hug and feel my happiness in my laughter. With each smile that crosses my face and every tear that comes to my eyes, I am thanking God for taking care of all of us and blessing us with angels !

Saturday, May 06, 2006

In and Out of Town.

This weekend, Eric is out of town doing a gun show in Raleigh, NC. In turn, Grandma and Grandpa H. are here to spend the weekend with two of their most favorite girls. (That would be Elaina and me, by the way.)

We spent the majority of the day shopping and loading up on lots of great stuff. (We love stuff ! ) We found plenty of nice things for Elaina and Grandma and Grandpa and even Eric. I had no luck at all in finding the one and only one thing I needed for me - a dress for Elaina's baptism. Isn't that just the way it goes ? Oh well, it's truly Elaina's day and she will be looking beautiful - but then again, when doesn't she ?

Now more about our girl ... My mom has often referred to Elaina as a "Love Sponge." She is exactly that. She just soaks up every bit of love and attention directed her way. In return, she generously shares her hugs and affection to her adoring family members. Today she finally said, "Mom !" Then, "Mama." Yeah ! She is too cute ! Happy Mother's Day to me - a week early !

After a busy, long day, Grandma snuggled down with Elaina to feed her bedtime bottle. In the meantime, I was on a cleaning rampage throughout Elaina' closet. I sorted and organized and categorized and labeled all of her too small and too big clothes. Whew ! This girl has alot of clothes ! I have to admit that it was sweet remembering how little she was and how it seems like it wasn't very long ago that she was wearing her 3-6 month wardrobe. Where has the time gone ? Now I know where the clothes have gone ! ( In plastic totes #1-3 ! )

**In case you were wondering, we don't refer to that as being "spoiled" - we prefer to say that she is "worthy !"
And that she is !

Friday, May 05, 2006

How Many ?

53. That's the number of unread e-mails received in our inbox in nearly a month without internet service ! To spare you many unsavory details of my heated conversations with the cable company ... let's just say that their work is finally complete. Remember in one of my previous posts how the cable company was to come (Tuesday night ) to fix our Road Runner connection ? Oh yeah ... no show ! Upon my phone call wondering where they were, they said that they didn't think we were home because no one answered the phone when they called. Maybe a message from them would have been more appropriate.

Hmmm... I promised no details, yet I'm still complaining. Enough. Upon my final call to them, the lady got the message that their service to us was obviously poor and she was able to pull some strings to have a repair tech at our home tonight. He was here for nearly an hour and a half ! This poor guy earned his money tonight - too bad the majority of people in the company hadn't been so dedicated.

In summary ... Glad to be back, check some previous posts for some newly posted pictures and feel free to e-mail us anytime now. We'll probably respond.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Ready to Roll !

The search is over. I have been searching high and low for a used 3 -wheeled jogging stroller for Elaina. Okay... it's just called a "jogging stroller," you don't really have to jog. Whew ! I got a hot tip that a jogging stroller had been brought into the baby resale shop only 10 minutes from my work. I went there immediately to investigate. For only $40 (compared to $130 retail ) - we had a new set of wheels ! It is like the Cadillac of baby strolling. What a smooth ride. No more bumps and bouncing and battling the uneven terrain of our village sidewalks. It's beautiful ! Elaina and I went on a test ride and I realized that this is definately our favorite mode of transportation. Now, I can work on getting in shape this summer by pushing Elaina along on evening walks with the girls.

Whle I was shopping, I met a very sweet, young mom and we ended up talking for some time. Time well spent ! I had planned on being home somewhat early today as we had an appointment to meet with our priest to discuss Elaina's baptism. Our priest is fairly new to our parish and I have enjoyed his masses very much. He is very personable and friendly and just likes people. Our meeting was going well, Elaina was snug and content in her infant carrier and was entertaining herself by "reading" her books. And then... nmnmn. Nmnmmn. Grunt. Grunt. Our red-faced, beauty queen was filling her diaper. Alot. For about 3 minutes ! I am such a bad adult. I had to hold back my laughter as the priest was talking to us. I should be over that type of juvenile behavior - but it was pretty funny because she is soo obvious !
And, did I mention that it had been a warm, muggy evening and the air in the room was already stiffling ? Throw in a stenchy diaper to that equation and .... whew... get me outta there !

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Can you hear me now ?

Tonight we went to dinner with Eric's teammates from his bowling league to a local family restaurant. The best part about tonight's dinner was that Elaina was able to join us and have her part entertaining the whole crowd. Our friends, whose son is a month younger than Elaina, was also part of the party. Tanner is his name and he has lots to say. Loudly.

After dinner, we all sat around the table and we pulled Elaina out of her seat to visit with everyone. Tanner's dad held him next to Elaina and he began to yell in her direction. Elaina harmonized with a synchronized yell and they challenged each other to see who could hold out their bellow the longest. Very soon, pretty much everyone at the table realized that they were having to talk above the holler of the babies and focused their attention on our two screech monkeys. As I glanced around to the other tables nearby, I discovered that we were getting smiles and stares from the other patrons as they pointed in our directions. I have to admit that this could be annoying to some, but because they were so cute, our fellow diners were able to laugh it off. We allowed them only about 5 minutes of competing until we attempted to quiet them. Tanner vied for Elaina's attention by continuing his holler (only louder) and Elaina turned her head to another friendly face of our friend waiting to hold her.

Only 5 minutes into the drive home, both kids were knocked out. Yellin' takes a lot out of those babies !

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

10 Months Old !

Didn't Elaina just turn 9 months old ? Whew ... it seems like I just posted her 9 month entry the other day ! A whole month later and our girl is growing so big and only getting sweeter and cuter by the day ! She is every bit lovable and kissable - it's true love !

So here is what Elaina has been up to as a 9 month old ....

* Beginning to take steps, 2-3 at a time !
* Has gotten 4 new teeth this month ! (bottom left, 2 eye teeth and top, front left)
* Points with her index finger and waves it around like her magic wand.
* Trying so hard to say KeeGee (our nickname for our dog, Keegan) - Elaina says "Keekke" ( much emphasis on the "k" sound )
* Much effort into saying bye- bye (mostly presses her lips and whispers to herself "bah-bah" very lightly - sometimes the lips just move without any sound. Too cute !
* Getting really good at saying Dada ; not as much luck with Mama
* Her feelings get hurt when she gets blocked into a specific play area, like the entire half of our living room isn't enough room for her to roam, she makes a wimper face and cries for about 2 minutes !
* Starting to get herself into trouble as she goes up to the TV and presses buttons to change the channel after being told "NO!" several times and getting smacked on the hand. This has become a nightly occurrence and the same scenario plays out every last time ! She's a STINKER !
* Cartoons have become a favorite as her attention span is growing longer and longer
* Bounces on her knees when she is enjoying her favorite music and cartoons. Likewise, she'll clap her hands to the entertainment.
* Becoming fast friends with Keegan; they have a mutual respect and both like to eat things off the floor !
* She has developed such a little personality and smiles and giggles all of the time. She loves to play and be "gotten" by mommy and daddy !

This has been a fun month and we're looking to all of the excitement that Elaina's 10 month will bring !

Monday, May 01, 2006

Feeling Disconnected

Here I am !

To my faithful readers, I apologize for depriving you a week's worth of little girl stories and smiles. It seems as though we have a weak internet connection from our cable lines that run to the house with road runner internet access. This has not only halted our internet access, but we aren't able to receive the higher cable channels on our TV upstairs - making it impossible for Elaina to watch her favorite cartoons in our bed. ( Do you just see how spoiled we have become ? ) We've had the cable company out two times already to fix this problem and we're up and running for a day and then back to nothing. Getting in touch with the cable company is a feat in and of itself. We can expect hold on the phone for at least 45 minutes with each and every call - regardless the time of day. Good way to discourage people from phoning in.

Looks like this entry will just be a jumbled mess of recaps from the past week. Oh, but what a week it has been ! Little Miss has been taking steps ! 2-3 at a time ! Out of the blue on Tuesday, she started standing more on her own. She would take on a standing position as I put her down from being held. And finally, she just started creeping to where she wanted to be. The two biggest bribe toys are her binky and the remote control. She also goes between mommy and daddy to soak in as many hugs and squeezes as she can handle ! I am beaming with pride over my little girl's newest milestone. She is growing up so fast !

Wednesday, we attended Eric's bowling banquet and Elaina stayed with our friends, Scott and Jessica, who are expecting their own baby this fall. Elaina is pure entertainment for them and they seem to love her company as well. When we arrived to pick up our little Peanut, she was cuddled up in her jammies along with Jessica, sleeping on the sofa. So cute ! I swear that cuddly little babies are like sleeping pills !

This past weekend was very enjoyable for all of us. We did some shopping on Saturday afternoon before meeting some friends out for dinner. Elaina was good throughout the whole day until dinnertime. While playing with her toys, she developed a case of the "dropsies." She tested her mom and dad as she would play with a toy and drop it to the floor. Over and over and over again. We are such suckers that we played her game for a little while until she was just forced to entertain herself with the toys that were hooked onto her infant carrier seat. It's too bad that she is just so irresistible - we'll do just about anything for that little stinker !

Sunday was a full day of catching up on housework and laundry and playing ! Our neighbors gathered in our backyard for an impromptu cookout for dinner. Elaina crawled all over the grass and the deck and even taught herself how to dismount onto the ground. As she would get to the edge of the deck, she would peer over the edge and wiggle her tushie around to go feet first to the ground. (Our deck is only about 12 inches from the ground.) You might be able to tell that Eric was the one who allowed her to figure this one out for herself. I can't say that I would be so trusting to believe that she wouldn't fall on her head ! She is one smart girl with great manueverability !

Finally, the cable company is scheduled to send yet another repairman out on Tuesday and we will hopefully be up and running shortly after. Until then, I've been stealing away time from work in attempt to get up to speed with Elaina's story. Believe it or not, I get less interruptions with a nearly 10-month old at home than I do at my desk in a 30 minute span !