Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pictures, Piano and Prayers

Here are some more pictures from North Beach on Saturday. My friend Jessica had to rescue Nicholas from the bay when he decided to sit in the deep water and her camera took a dunk. I assumed these pictures were gone forever, but they live!!

As you can see, initially Marino was unsure of the water again.

But then he decided he liked it! !

I took this video of Marino yesterday, just doing his normal thing, playing with one of his birthday presents, the baby grand piano, standing, crawling and at the end of the video, I finally get a "bye bye" wave out of him.

If you will recall, a few weeks ago I asked for prayers for Amber, Steve, and their baby girl, Megan Grace (original post is here: http://takingontheworldwithourboy.blogspot.com/2009/06/amazing-megan-grace.html)

Megan Grace was born early yesterday morning. She passed away after spending only a few precious moments with her amazing mom and dad. Please keep the three of them in your prayers and hearts.

Monday, June 29, 2009

1 Week Before the Big Birthday...

The title of this post has nothing to do with the content...I am just excited Marino is turning 1 on Friday!!

We had a good week...on Wednesday, we got to see our friend Lauren (she and I had some girl time to celebrate her birthday). Marino showed her all of his new tricks, including tackle:)

On Saturday, we met some of our internet friends at North Beach. It was a really beautiful day and Marino loved the beach, including the water this time! I think he felt more confident seeing other babies go in the water, but he played in water up to his chest and did lots of splashing. He even lunged forward and went under for a couple of seconds but still came up happy!

It's funny to me that he actually looks "chunky" in the picture below:) I had to buy these crab trunks from Gymboree...they have a whole "crab" line of clothes for toddlers right now (we love crabs in our family since we all share the zodiak sign Cancer). I resisted the urge to buy them all but I had to get him these trunks (I currently justify all Marino expeditures as "birthday presents").

And here is Marino playing with his new friends Nicholas (15 months) and Natalie (18 months).

On Sunday, we had lunch with Sarah and Claire. We hadn't seen Claire in a couple of months (!) so it was great to see them. She is getting so big...it's amazing how babies change month to month. I meant to get a picture of the 2 of them but forgot...I'll get one next time we get together.

Marino is cutting one of his top teeth currently and it seems to be bothering him a lot. I can feel one corner cutting through so hopefully it will be out soon enough and Marino will stop biting everything in sight (his current favorite teething toy is Mama's toes).

I can't believe my little man will be a TODDLER on Friday. He's getting so big and continuing to vocalize more and more. Over the weekend he started putting his hands in the air and saying "YAY" when he's happy (which is, um, pretty much all the time). He's also started dancing where he waves his arm up and down with the music (it reminds me of 90's hip hop videos...see "Nothin But a G Thang" circa 1993; I told him yesterday he was born in the wrong era:)) .

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

FAQ - My Friend Just Had a Preemie; How Can I Help?

On the message board I frequent for preemie parents, we get a lot of visitors asking what they can do to help a loved one that just had a preemie. First, let me say that I think it's really sweet that these folks care enough to research what they can do to help. And let me also say there are lots of ways to help! I polled the board to get some suggestions. Here's what we collectively came up with... if you're a preemie parent, feel free to comment with suggestions and I'll add them to the list!

What You Can Bring

  • Books for Mom and Dad: "Preemies: The Essential Guide for Parents of Premature Babies" and "Preemies" by Dr. Sears seem to be the 2 favorites of preemie moms.

  • Books to read the baby are a good suggestion for parents spending many hours in the NICU.

  • Gift cards: restaurants around the hospital, gas cards (travel back and forth to the NICU can get expensive)

  • Frozen meals (mixed reviews on this, some moms said they didn't use these, some said they loved them)

  • Goody bags for long days in the NICU: magazines, snacks (especially for breast feeding/pumping moms), crossword puzzles, a journal to record NICU days.

  • Clothes for baby. Most NICUs allow preemies to wear clothes from home after they reach certain milestones. All clothes for the NICU must snap down the front to allow monitor wire access. Our NICU didn't let us put bottoms on him, just tops. Preemie size is best, but newborn size works too (its ok if the clothes are too big). Kimono style tops are great. It's a nice feeling to do something "normal" like dress your baby in something cute.

Intangible Gifts

  • Rides to and from the NICU are often needed for moms having had c-sections. I could have used someone to take me to and from my room to the NICU when I was still in the hospital (transport takes forever, although most moms aren't hospitalized as long as I was).

  • Offer to visit the NICU with your loved one, or meet them at the hospital or nearby for lunch, dinner, etc.

  • Babysitting other children or animals - this was a BIG one!

  • Grocery shopping

  • Mow the lawn/shovel snow/rake leaves

  • Cleaning the house, doing laundry, taking out the trash, doing the dishes. These seem like simple things but when you are emotionally drained, it seems like climbing a mountain. When Marino was in the NICU, my wonderful friend Sonia came to visit and helped with seemingly simple tasks like sanitizing bottles, folding baby laundry, washing toys for the baby...things I had been dreading and just couldn't seem to motivate myself to do. It was a big help.

  • If you are a decent photographer, offer to take pictures (possibly a family photo) or loan the family a digital camera if they don't have one (or buy them a disposable one).

  • Offer to update friends and family for the parents.

  • Offer to do baby shopping...lots of families say they didn't feel they had time to spend their days in the NICU and shop for baby.

  • Just remind your loved one that you care and are excited for the baby as you would be for any other baby. Send congratulatory cards, send text messages to say you are thinking of them, fawn over pictures of the baby. I was always surprised if people said it was upsetting to see pictures of Marino with all his tubes, wires and things...to me he looked like the most beautiful creature in the world!

  • Be there to listen and be positive but not to the point of downplaying what the baby/family is going through. "Oh, baby will be fine" is a nice idea, but the reality is many preemies are not "fine" their first year or two of life the way term babies are. Most have some issues, from reflux to developmental delays, to more serious complications. Don't downplay the experience or the journey...just lend an ear, support and hugs.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Animal Sounds, Playdates and Father's Day

Marino made some amazing progress this week with his language development. As I mentioned, he started saying "bye bye" this week. On Thursday, he started mimicking sounds for the first time and now he mimics everything! He really loves mimicking animal sounds, and my favorite thing he's been saying a lot of is "mama." I'm really excited about this development, since expressive language has been the one area he was still showing a delay in.
He's also started playing "chase" with us in the past couple of weeks. When we're laying on the floor, he'll start crawling away from me...I'll say "I'm gonna get you" and he'll squeal and start crawling away really fast and laughing. If I don't "get him" quick enough, he'll turn around and look for me. Could I have anymore fun with this boy?

This weekend was a lot more relaxed than any we've had in the past month, which is fine by me! On Saturday, Evan and I tried to get started with our cleaning since we have company coming in a couple of weeks. My best friend Sonia and her family are staying for a few days...I think this will be the most time we've gotten to spend together in the past 3 years and I'm really looking forward to it. And, yes, our house is that much of a mess that we need 2 weeks to work on it! It was a stormy day - good for cleaning.

Later on, our friend Gabrielle and her mom, Kristal, came over. We met them in our Waterbabies class. Gabrielle is the sweetest baby ever. She's 15 months old and just adorable -very gentle and loving. Of course, Marino is loving, but, gentle? Not so much. In fact, he kept trying to eat her tiny fingers:( Here's a couple of pictures...I couldn't get a good one of them together (too much movement!).

In this picture, she is snapping her fingers, which is how she tells her mama she wants to hear music. Is she cute or what?

This morning, Marino and I gave Daddy the presents we had for him (bbq tools, to help him grill us yummy meals, a book called "Daddy Loves Me", and our slideshow posted below). He really liked the slideshow (I sobbed the whole time I was putting it together!). Then we went to lunch at Mi Rancho. Here's a shot of Daddy and Marino (who is becoming a total ham).

I just wanted to let Evan know how much I appreciate him being such a great dad, especially when Marino was first born and I couldn't be there for him. Evan spent his days and nights going back and forth between Marino and I, bringing me pictures, videos and reports from the nurses back from the NICU. He was so excited the first time he got to hold Marino, change his diaper, feed him half an ounce. In fact, Evan had to teach me how to do firm touch with Marino (preemies' skin is too sensitive to stroke, so firm touch is what feels best for them), how to change a diaper, give him a sponge bath, feed him a bottle, burp him, etc, etc. Marino REALLY loves his Daddy and it's fun to see them together and imagine the fun they will have as Marino grows.

I also wanted to say Happy Father's Day to my own wonderful Dad. My Dad had always been my #1 fan and so much fun to be around. I love him!

Happy Father's Day, Daddy!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fun in the Sun

We had a great few days enjoying the summer. On Saturday, Marino and I went back to Baby Bootcamp for the first time since Waterbabies started (7 weeks). I love the class and we had a good time. After class, we went to Daddy's company picnic. That deserves it's own post, but I don't have the great pictures Dave took that day yet, so stay tuned for that at a later date. After the company picnic, we went to a cookout at Wally and Sam's house, which was great, aside from a very embarrassing mom moment I had there (involving a diaper blowout and another baby's white, engraved towel:( ).

At the cookout, Marino got a chance to play with his cousin Raiden.

Baby Bella, looking adorable, as usual.

Hanging out in the pool with Raiden

On Sunday, we took Marino to the beach for the first time. Rahsaan and Tara came with some of their brood and Brian, Kim and Alana went too. Brian is recovering from major back surgery (he just had the surgery 6 days prior) and he was a trooper. I'm calling Sandy Point a beach but it's really kind of sand on top of clay and pebbles next to the bay. It's a starter beach of sorts. Marino was very into sand (he especially liked the bite sized rocks and shells). The water was a different story...
For those who don't know the story behind his name, we named Marino after our mutual favorite thing, the ocean. We were married on the beach in St. Thomas and we both love the beach so we searched for a name that had an oceanic theme. Marino means "from the sea" in Italian (it also happens to be the name of my great great uncle, so named because he was born on the boat immigrating from Italy).

So far, Marino is not quite living up to his namesake. He HATED the waves. Oh, boy, the first time a wave came (and these are tiny bay waves, not ocean waves), he climbed up my leg. When I tried to put him back in the water, he held his legs up to his shoulders!

Brian burying Alana in the sand.
Tara, Rahsaan and Baby Raiden

Daddy and Marino (Sonia pointed out, no peace sign in this picture! A first!!)

On Monday, I got a chance to visit Patti and Baby Madelyn. Wow, she is adorable! Patti was generous enough to let me hold her. She is so tiny, about the same size Marino was when we brought him home from the hopsital the second time (in August). It's so hard for me to remember what it was like to have a baby that tiny. Madelyn is a perfect angel and she slept through a lawn mower outside! I need her to have a talk with Marino...

Marino's daycare was closed for a professional day on Tuesday so I had to take the day off. Lucky for me, my mom and stepfather were on vacation on the Maryland western shore, so Marino and I went and met them at North Beach. But first, Marino did something awesome at home...he waved bye-bye to Daddy!

This was my first time at North Beach and I really liked it. It was nice, quiet, clean and everyone was very friendly. AND there is a little bake shop down the street that sells dairy-free gelato!! It wasn't a very sunny or hot day, but really that made it more comfortable for all of us. I somehow still managed to get a terrible sunburn on my knees (?!).

Here's a picture of the boardwalk at North Beach.

I love when I go to the beach and there are visible sea creatures (it let's me know the beach isn't too touristy if there are actually some thriving ecosystems). I even found some beach glass there (which I've not found at any other beach I've been to). There were a plethera of horseshoe crabs there. Sort of creepy, huh?

Here's Marino hanging with Grandma. He liked looking at the water but wanted no part of getting in (it was chilly anyway).

He fed himself some watermelon (very messy).

Here's Marino with Grandma and Grandpa Ray. See the cool boat playground in the background?

Marino even waved bye-bye to Grandma and Grandpa Ray at the end of the day. Keeping in the spirit, he said "bye bye" to me TWICE today when I was leaving daycare! How cool is that?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Family Portraits (Harder Than You Think)

11 month olds are notoriously bad listeners. As such, taking a posed family portrait with one is a complicated affair but Evan and I are brave and we attempted this feat at the beginning of the month with our friend Dave King. Here are some of the better portraits of the 3 of us...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Amazing (Megan) Grace

If you don't have internet friends, it probably seems strange that other people do. I have a number of internet friends....what can I say? I'm a Master of Community Planning student...I like the idea of communities, virtual and otherwise. Since having Marino, I've "met" a number of preemie moms online that have provided me with an enormous amount of information, advice, and support. On our preemie mom board, we always say its a sucky club to have to join, but we're lucky to have each other.

One of my internet friends is Amber (who I know because we both had destination weddings). Without the internet, I would never have had the pleasure of knowing her, but she is a truly amazing person. Amber is now 32 weeks pregnant and carrying a baby girl, who she has named Megan Grace. Megan Grace has been diagnosed, in utero, with Osteogenisis Imperfecta, Type II. You may have heard of OI, as it is the subject of Jodi Piccoult's newest book "Handle With Care" (and if you don't know who Jodi Piccoult is, you must have avoided all book stores for the past decade). Type II OI is fatal. Amber has known that Megan's OI is fatal, but she decided to continue her pregnancy, to give Megan Grace a life, even if most of that life is inside of her womb. Pretty amazing, huh? Amber is a completely selfless mom already and I am just blown away by her strength and love for Megan. I wanted to share this story, because it is on my mind and in my heart every day. Megan Grace will likely arrive in early July.

If you are interested in following Megan Grace's story, Amber keeps a blog for her at http://formegangrace.blogspot.com/. If its on your heart to do so, please leave a kind word for Amber on her blog. And, I'm sure this goes without saying, but please pray/send good thoughts and vibes to Amber, her husband Steve and Baby Megan Grace.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

One Year Ago...

A year ago today, our friend Dave King took the pictures above for us. I was 29 weeks pregnant and blissfully unaware of what the next few months had in store for us. I definately enjoyed being pregnant (once I got past the first trimester)...as I mentioned before, I never got to the point in pregnancy where I didn't like being pregnant anymore. I definately loved having Marino kicking inside of me and daydreaming about who he would be.

I'm feeling very emotional as Marino's 1st birthday approaches. It's not really so much that he's turning one but more a feeling of being overwhelmed when I look back at the past year, with all it's twists and turns. I have to think that in my adult life (barring any unforseen tragedy), I'll never have another year where life will change so drastically as it did this past year (I think this is probably true for all first time parents, regardless of the circumstances around their baby's birth). To think that a year ago, it was just Evan and I... and now our lives are so FULL with this amazing new life. Looking at these pictures just makes me realize that I could have never dreamed of what was to come for us. I've tried to find the words to express what it means to be Marino's mom, but everything seems so inadequate.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Happy Birthday, Madelyn!

My wonderful friend, Patti, had her baby girl, Madelyn, early this morning. She is 7lb, 7oz (which sounds lucky to me, since that's my birthdate!). Congratulations, Patti & Doug!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Auntie Chelle's Birthday

I have to say that I have been extremely lucky in the sister-in-law department. I genuinely love all 3 of my sister-in-laws (Richelle, Rianne and Holly). Hopefully, I will get lucky in the brother-in-law department too, one day, but for now, I have 3 awesome sister-in-laws. Yesterday was my sister-in-law Richelle's 23rd birthday. Richelle is one of the sweetest people I know and she was a big help to me while I was on maternity leave, keeping me company and helping me with Marino during my bouts of c.diff. Marino, Evan and I went to Grammy Deb's for a cookout to celebrate Richelle's birthday. Marino is lucky to have so many family members that adore him.

The birthday girl, Auntie Chelle, and Marino
Here is Marino with the New York chapter of his fan club.
Grammy Deb has really cool transition lens glasses and Marino is sort of obsessed.
Here he is laughing at Don's dancing:)
Marino and Auntie Rianne, home from finishing her first successful year at Brown.
Today was the first day where I didn't have anything planned since school ended. Marino, Max and I took a walk before it got too hot and then Evan and I spent some time child proofing the living room. We still have some work to do, but I feel like I don't have to chase him every second now. For your enjoyment, below is a video proving expensive toys aren't the only source of entertainment...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

11 Months Old

Marino is 11 months old today.
30 days until our sweet boy turns 1!

This month wasn't quite as dramatic in terms of development as last month, but here are some changes over the past month:

- Marino is up to 19 pounds, 5 ounces

- he got his first tooth (second one is coming in next to it and the top 2 are swelling)

- he's moved into 12 month size clothes

- he's started cruising a little

- he's *trying* to stand on his own (this generally results in a fall within 5 seconds, but he's trying)

- he started signing "milk" (poor guy, for a few days, Mama and Daddy were confused and thought he was waving at us since he has a unique interpretation of the sign)

- he occassionally signs for "more" (according to daycare, he hasn't done this at home yet)
- Of all the foods I've made for him, his very favorite so far is mashed potatoes with mixed vegetables (the boy loves veggies). He makes "yummy" noises while he eats this!

Marino loves to laugh. I mean, our boy is the easiest baby in the world to get a giggle from (it's sort of addicting!). But last night, for the first time, I made him laugh so hard he snorted! Oh, it was so adorable!

Another random event from last night...Evan and I turned on the baby monitor (I had forgotten to turn the base on upstairs) and we heard some woman reading to her baby! Evan and I were just blinking at each other for a minute, trying to figure out what the heck we were listening to! Evan made me go upstairs and make sure there wasn't a ghost in Marino's room!

Marino and I are going to be tv stars (not really). Today when I went to daycare for Marino's physical therapy, our local public access channel was filming a story about the daycare (see post from Friday, May 29th for why this daycare is unique) and they asked if they could interview me and get a few shots of Marino playing. Of course he was a total ham and wouldn't pay attention to anything but the camera. Mama, on the other hand, does not like being filmed (or being the center of attention in general). This was also one of those times I really wish I had washed my hair or not worn sneakers with a dress (especially since they said they often repeat shows for up to 3 years) ::blush:: Oh, well, at least my child is cute! I'll let you know when it airs (only in our County, but it will likely be online as well).
In case anyone is wondering how my photography skills improved so rapidly this month, the picture above is from our friend Dave King. He was nice enough to come take some pictures for us last night since our last photo shoot we were missing Evan.