Sunday, November 29, 2009

Brookside Gardens

Saturday, Marino and I took a trip to Brookside Gardens. We'd never been before and its really nice. They had everything set up for the Garden of Lights event for Christmas, and I'm looking forward to going back for that sometime next month.

Marino seems to be sick again. He has a runny nose and is wheezing (no fever or other symptoms). He is on Singulair and I started doing breathing treatments again, so hopefully we can keep up with that without needing anymore medical intervention.

Here are some pictures I took at Brookside Gardens. The shirt is from Zingo Tots ( and the hat is from Lorilooms on Etsy ( very stretchy and I think it should fit him another couple of years, so it was a really great deal.

Kindred Spirits...Marino and the Gnome

Waving hi to passersby...he was very popular!

Friday, November 27, 2009

5 on Friday

As always, here are 5 special reasons I am loving my boy this week:
5. On Sunday, Evan, Marino, Max and I were all laying in bed. Marino started winking at Max! I'm not sure if he thought Max was winking at him, or what possessed him to do it, but it was very adorable.

4. Marino asked me Wednesday night to tell him what the moon is called (ie: he pointed at it and said "this?"). I told him it is the moon and he repeated "mooooooooooooooon." As we walked away, he started waving and saying "bye bye" to the moon:)

3. He learned "football" this week and he gets very excited about it. He recognizes a football and the game (basketball has its own name) but he also thinks any large crowd of people = football. He was very confused watching the Macy's parade with me yesterday...he thought the parade was a football game because of all the people:)
2. He refused to take a morning nap this morning, and he fell asleep while eating his lunch! He napped like this for an hour!

1. Miranda and Pacey came over to play today. Marino and Pacey play so well together and I just love it! They love to kiss, hug, wrestle on the floor, pretend to go "night night," share snacks, etc. So fun to see them together...they are really two peas in a pod! Marino also adores Miranda. He kept coming and putting his head in her lap and tackling her when she was on the floor. He was very sad when they left:(

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving 2009

This fall went by so fast. I swear, with all the craziness that's gone on with us since September (starting with the burns), Thanksgiving just snuck up on me! I have so much to be thankful this year, as always, but the most important thing I'm thankful is that Marino is happy and healthy and has come so much further in this past year than I could have hoped for.

We had a lot of fun this Thanksgiving. It was fun to have Marino able to partake in the actual feast on Thanksgiving this year, since this was him last year:

Can you believe how tiny he was? He was 4 months actual age but only 2 months adjusted. I remember wondering what he would be like this year and of course, he's even better than I could have imagined!

Here's another fun comparison picture...Miranda & Pacey and Marino & I last Thanksgiving (she was nearly twice his size!):

And this year (all caught up in size)...

These two really love each other!

He was really interested in her hair today.

More kissing cousins

We went to my Aunt Kerry's first to visit with her and some of my family and then we went to my mother-in-law's to visit with some of Evan's family. Yeah, we had two dinners. We're special like that. Marino ate: turkey, green bean casserole, candied yams, stuffing, mac and cheese, dinner rolls, collared greens and cranberry sauce for dinner this year.
Here's Marino and his Aunt RiRi (I love this picture)
Daddy and Marino
Marino and his Great Aunt Ronnie performing a duet (video below)
Lots of family: Marino and I, Rianne, Grammy Deb, Krissy, Sammy, Ronnie and Evan

Here's Marino and Ronnie performing a duet...note he gets creative and tries to play with his face at the end.

Monday, November 23, 2009

100th Post: Meeting Baby Siena

This is my 100th post to this blog! And its a good one, since it contains lots and lots of adorable pictures!

On Saturday, Marino and I were finally healthy enough to take a drive to New Jersey to meet Baby Siena (my best friend Sonia's newest addition). I can't say the same for Evan, who was deathly ill with a stomach virus all day. Luckily, Marino did great on the ride up and back with me. He also learned a new phrase "yee haw," which he finds hysterically funny.

Siena is adorable and she has been blessed with the ability to sleep through anything, even 2 screaming toddlers in her house. She is beautiful and delicate and I can't wait to see who she will become.

Marino and Cat had a great time playing together, as usual (when they were not arguing over who got to hold "Melmo" - that's Elmo for those of you who don't speak toddler...Elmo has a strange effect on toddlers). The last time we visited with Cat, Marino was just learning to walk, so this time he was able to keep up a little better.

We also got to see Rachel and Wrenford, who just got engaged! So happy for them both!

Here's Cat and Momo at the playground...aren't they adorable?

Cat decided she wanted to wear Marino's hat...she is actually very good at putting on a hat...if Marino put it on himself, it would only be 1/4 of the way on!

Big squeeze!!


Cat and Wil being silly together on the swings.

Momo and his Auntie Rachel

Cat and Momo tandem sliding


Baby Siena snuggled up with her mommy at the playground.

Sonia and Siena.

Love all of you! Can't wait to see everyone at Christmas time!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

5 on Friday

I had another rough week, my friends. Between catching Marino's stomach virus and learning about Errin, I was really dragging this week. But the boy? He is always a joy! So, here are 5 reasons I'm loving my boy this week:

5. Conversation with Marino this morning:
Me: (strapping him in the car seat) Are you ready to go to daycare and see all your friends?
Marino: Bye Mama!
Me: Well, don't say bye to me, I have to drive you there. You can't drive, you're still too small.
Marino: Please?

4. He learned "turkey" this week, just in time for Thanksgiving.

3. Sunday I was deathly ill. I mean, I was SICK!! My aunt (who he has only been around a handful of times in recent memory) came to take Marino out to eat with my cousin and her friends (tweens). Marino happily left with them, waving bye. They reported he was "an angel" and said "please" and "thank you" to the waiter! And he came back a couple hours later, happy as a clam. Pretty easy going guy, my boy.

2. Marino is getting good with knowing people's names. Here are some of the names he knows so far: Mama, Daddy, Annie, Kai Kai, Wy Wy, Laney, Dodo (all daycare friends), Aunt Chelle ("eshell") and RiRi (Aunt Rianne).

1. He really loves the Redskins. He points out the Redskins emblem everytime he spots it (pretty often around here), raises his hands and says "YAY!"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Errin Vuley: She Took on the World

Normally, I only blog about Marino or my experiences as a mom...this is, after all, intended to be an open love letter to my favorite boy. Tonight, though, I moved to blog about someone else, a very amazing person I met long before I even thought about being a mom.

I moved to Atlanta after I graduated college in 2000. My first job was with an advertising agency. I liked my job...we were always busy and there was always something going on. But working for corporate America didn't exactly leave me feeling all warm and fussy inside. I always thought I would work for the government, in politics, or with some liberal non-profit. I started searching to see what feminist non-profits existed in Atlanta and I found GARAL, the Georgia chapter of NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, know referred to as NARAL, Pro-Choice America). When I called to see if there were volunteer opportunities available, I spoke with the Deputy Director, Errin Vuley. Errin invited me to a meeting and that was how I got to know this amazing person.

You know how there are certain people you meet and within 2 seconds, you know you will love them? Errin was that kind of person. She was so warm and friendly. She could connect with anyone. After that first meeting, I stayed after and we talked for hours. That conversation we had on the first night we met was one of the most meaningful conversations I've had in my life. Errin was that special. Errin welcomed me to GARAL, where I ended up on the Board of Directors. Through Errin, I met so many of the other amazing women in the feminist community in Georgia. Looking at Facebook today, I was reminded how many amazing people I've had the pleasure of knowing through Errin. She brought so many people together for her causes (and for fun). Errin motivated me to get a job in politics. Yes, believe it or not, folks, I used to be passionate about something other than Marino.

After leaving GARAL, Errin went on to work for Georgians for Choice and later as the CEO of GOAL, a Girl's Journey of Growth, which is an organization that helps young women gain self-esteem and self-awareness (for more information, please go to She was also involved in many other events and organizations, like this final event she was working on, that will take place tomorrow:
Errin wanted to change the world and her passion was strong enough to motivate you to want to do the same.

My friend Ebony, who was one of my closest friends in Atlanta (who I met through Errin, of course), sent me a Facebook message today telling me to call her. She told me Errin was killed in a head-on collision yesterday morning. Unbelievable. Errin was 35. She moved so many people, she brought together a community, she was loved by countless people, she changed the lives of young women. Imagine what else she could done in her lifetime.

Today, I mourn for Errin, her family and all the people who loved her. I mourn for the loss of a beautiful spirit and all the other lives she could have touched if her life had not been cut short. Errin, you will be missed but certainly not forgotten.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prematurity Awareness Day: Our Story

Today is Prematurity Awareness Day. If you're reading this blog, then you are probably already aware of the issue of prematurity and what it means for both preemies and their families. The March of Dimes is asking bloggers to blog about how prematurity has affected our lives, so below are some of my rambling thoughts on how it has impacted Marino's health. I hope it makes sense...I am sick (caught Marino's stomach virus) and very emotional about this issue today.

I was lucky enough to have a healthy pregnancy until the day Marino was born. I loved being pregnant - I felt better pregnant than I normally do. I loved it! I wasn't lactose intolerant for the first time in a decade...oh, the milkshakes I drank! The cheese I ate! I was having the time of my life...blissfully ignorant of what was in store for us.

I knew nothing about prematurity before Marino came into the world...the thought of having a premature baby never occurred to me. I swore he was going to be born late. I didn't know of anyone who had given birth to a baby before 34 weeks (34 weeks is the point at which antibodies are passed from mother to baby, so 34 weekers generally have stronger immune systems than younger preemies). I imagine I thought, as many people do, that having the issues of prematurity end once the baby leaves the NICU.

Marino was born very suddenly. My HELLP Syndrome progressed quickly. I got to the hospital maybe 2 hours after my first symptom, Marino was born about an hour later by emergency c-section. I wish I could tell you about everything Marino went through his first few weeks of life, but the truth is, I didn't now know most of what was going on. While I can recite all the explicit details of Marino's medical history over the past 15 months, that first month I was in a morphine and illness induced haze. But I do know that he could not breathe on his own at birth and was placed on a ventilator. He had jaundice and a low white blood cell count (this was because of my condition). He could not maintain his body temperature. He could not consume formula orally. He could not defecate on his own without the help of suppositories (initially at least). He was small, even for his gestational age. His skin wrinkled on his body because he had almost no body fat. He was covered in lanugo (fine hair all of his body). In short, he was not ready to be born.

Marino: July 3, 2008

In the NICU...he looks like he's saying a prayer here.

There is a sense of loss that parents of premature babies go through that is difficult for other people to understand. Yes, we are blessed to have babies that are alive. But we grieve for the loss of the expected pregnancy/birth process. I missed our baby showers. I missed getting to the point in pregnancy where you feel hiccups, or can see hands and feet moving across your belly. I never got "that pregnant." I never got so far along in my pregnancy that I didn't want to be pregnant anymore. And most of all, I grieve for the loss of a healthy that involves being handed a crying baby to hold and kiss. I feel physical pain thinking about what it would be like to have held Marino in the first minutes after his birth, to have said "Welcome to the world, Marino." What would it have been like to have been handed a 7lb Marino at birth instead of seeing a 3lb Marino in an incubator 3 days after his birth?

Even after Marino came home, the effects of his prematurity had a dramatic impact on his health. 10 days after his release from the NICU he started grunting. No fever, no other symptoms, just a weird grunting with each breath. I mentioned it to my mom and she held him for a while...then said maybe we should call our pediatrician. We called and she listened over the phone. "Um, I think you should take him to the ER...just to be safe she said." (God bless her). We arrived at the this time, he was basically non-responsive. His penis was blue (low oxygen). He didn't want to eat. But still, no temperature, no coughing, no obvious signs of illness. "Is this your first baby?" the condensending ER doctor asked me, "they just do things like this." Any mom knows when something is WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! with their baby. And something was wrong with mine. Our pediatrician called the ER to follow up. They said they were discharging us. She asked me if I was ok with it and I said no way. She asked for a second opinion from a NICU doctor (again, God bless her). The NICU doctor took one look at him an admitted us. They did a spinal tap. He didn't move. He was essentially unconscious for the next few days.
Marino in the Pediatric Unit
August, 2008

It took a while to diagnosis the problem. They initally thought it was NEC (since he was "guarding" his belly when they tried to touch it). They started prepping for surgery, called in the surgeon, and then discovered his bowel was fine. They moved us from the Pediatric Unit to the Pediatric ICU. They found a bacteria. It ended up being Group B Strep, which is usually passed from mother to baby, but wasn't in our case, since a) I did not have him vaginally and b) I was on antibiotics before I even saw him for the first time and was at the time (and would be for another 5 months). They told us he got it "from the community." It developed into sepsis, which manifested in his belly. Within 48 hours, the lab came back that he had bacterial meningitis. We were terrified. We were told he needed 14 days of IV antibiotics and we moved into the Pediatric Unit.

Marino's weakened immunity to these illnesses is a direct result of his prematurity. They also told us at the time that he had a Level 1 IVH (bleed on the brain), another common issue caused by prematurity. That coupled with the meningitis could have been a serious issue. It is only by the grace of God that he had no lasting effects to his brain, sight, hearing, etc.

When we left the hospital the second time, we were told to keep him away from other people as much as possible. We didn't take him out of the house (except for walks outside) until he was 4.5 months old, and then only sparingly until RSV season ended in April. We didn't have friends and family over often. Sometimes it felt a bit like house arrest. Some people thought we were overreacting. Our primary focus was keeping Marino healthy. It felt, at times, like it was us against the world, a battle for Marino's health. And even with the events of the past few weeks, learning he has asthma (which he may have had were he born term, but it is likely this was caused, in part, by having respiratory distress at birth), it still feels like a battle. Just seeing the words "respiratory distress" on our discharge paperwork on October 31st really brought things full circle. We are still battling the issues of prematurity 16 months later. It affects Evan and I as parents more than you can imagine.

Even after all that, I can say that we have been so blessed when it comes to Marino's health. So many preemies have much more difficult battles, even after the NICU. The list of problems that can be caused be prematurity is too large to list. Every organ, every muscle, every part of a baby's growth and development can be adversely affected by being born too soon.

The silver lining of this cloud has been the wonderful friends we've made, in the hospital, online and in real life. I don't know what I would have done without their support sometimes. When Marino was in the hospital last month, I could say to my preemie friends "Marino's desat machine is making me want to rip all my hair out...its giving me flashbacks" and no one had to ask what I meant by that. They all get it. And my IRL friends: Audra (who is the kindest person I know and only had 1 month of preemie mom life experience on me but was like a mentor to me), Laura, Katie, Megan, Karen, Martha and Carol (who just sent Marino an adorable holiday outfit, thank you) - I have a special place in my heart for you guys, as I do for the other preemie moms in my life I haven't met in person yet: Kelly, Tricia, Shana and Ivory and all my other kind hearted friends. I'm not sure what I would have done without you all sometimes.
I took a class a couple years ago called "New Issues in Community" where we discussed what makes a community. One of the most important elements was a shared history...and my preemie moms and I definately have a unique shared history. Ours is a history of highs, lows and not taking anything for granted. Today, I'm thankful for my new friends and the miracle that is my premature baby, Marino.

For information how you can help, please visit the March of Dimes at:

or call your local NICU to see what you can donate or provide to families struggling to care for their premature infant.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

More Pictures and Port Discovery

OK, I couldn't just show you 5 of the pictures Dave took, because I love so many of them. I just love showing off my boy!

Here Evan was tickling him, but he was so sleepy, he started falling asleep once he was laying down on the ground!

Toddler photography bloopers...the boy is clearly too skinny still for 18 month size pants...

Full moon (aka embarassing shot to show future girlfriend)
Happy guy!
There's ducks in this lake, mama!

Our little family

GQ pose
He loves it when we kiss
Handsome Marino

Family snuggle time

Wednesday we had off for Veteran's Day, so the 3 of us went to Baltimore to go to Port Discovery, the children's musuem. We had a lot of fun, it was very toddler friendly.
Here's Marino playing with some animals. In Marino's world, animals say "badup badup badup."
There were apples and bananas in this little house, so Marino was a fan.

Jazzy barn scene.

BAWWWL pit...he went nuts for this! There's a little video below of him in the ball pit...he didn't want to get out!

"gentle" petting the cow
Where do I start, mama?

Marino as a cowboy...

Riding a horse with mama

Playing ball on the big soccer field with Daddy.

Ball pit video...he's swimming in these balls and loving it!

New things this week:

Marino started saying "bear" this week, but for some reason he says it with a Boston accent: "beyahhh." It's ridiculously adorable. Beavers are bears, too, by the way.

Marino started saying "night night" this week, too, and resting his head down when he's tired. Today, at nap time, "night night" was the first thing he said before he fell was precious.

He also started telling me when he is going "poo poo" (yes, if you're not a parent, this is probably not all that interesting and maybe gross). We're going to slowly start potty training, although I expect it to be a long road (he's young, especially for a boy).
Medical Issue of the Week:
So...the children's museum was fun but possibly not the greatest idea I ever had. Thursday afternoon he started vomitting and stopped eating. He just kept asking for "wa wa" (water). Friday, he was still sick (throwing up, downing Pedialyte and not asking for milk, he slept for 5 hours during the day), but luckily it never progressed to a fever or breathing issue, so I think it was just a 24 hour stomach bug. Today, he was eating and napping normally. I literally have no more sick leave, so the illnesses and other minor medical disasters really need to stop for a while, mmkay?! !!