Saturday, September 25, 2021

Fiona is TWO Years Old

 Dear Fiona, 

You are TWO years old. 

These last two years have flown by so quickly. Mama still remembers the day, oh so vividly, when she learned that you were a girl. Mama was so sure that you would be a boy number 4, and upon getting the news that you were definitely NOT a boy; she imagined what life will be like with dresses, pigtails, and little pitter patters in glittery shoes. You have met that, and even exceeded what she imagined on that morning. 



You are a spitfire. Oh, yes. When something does not meet what you want, you holler on the top of your lungs, and make sure that you ARE HEARD. Your wide grin reveals chipped front two tooth, a testimony of your wild nature, and small giggles escape out of your mouth. You no longer toddles around, and instead, you jump, kick, and dance. Yes, you love to dance! When a joy hit you, you can't help but break out in a full body wiggle with stomping. Your blonde eyebrows furrow when you are unsure as your raise your chubby wrist with your fingers outstretched out, and your small lips form into an O. 

Pigtails, and ponytails are now a part of your hair assemble, and you are very unsure if you approve. Sometimes, you will leave it in with no problem. Sometimes, you scrunch your nose, and yank the rubber out of your hair! You bang your head on people's heads as a form of kisses. Mama tries to correct and show you how to kiss gently, but nah, you would rather head bang! Shoes, shoes, and oh my shoes! You LOVE shoes. You will put on your brothers' shoes, Mama's shoes, or Daddy's shoes. Sometimes you'll steal the neighbor kids' shoes. You just love wearing them. Mama isn't sure why you love them, but you just do.





When food meets your satisfaction, you flash up a fist without a thumb up, which Mama finds quite hilarious, because she knows what you mean, and you try so hard mimic her. For some reason, you can't quite master sticking up your thumb. So a fist it is! You're just a great kid. You love drinking coffee much to Mama's dismay! Thankfully, it is just when the cup is nearly empty, and you will sneak a sip...just like how your older brothers did at your age. 

Just like your older brothers, you are speech delayed, and prefer very much signing over speaking. You have been working with Mrs. Kim at home for early intervention with speech. Slowly but surely, you are getting there, and Mama isn't worried about you. It's just a part of being a CODA. You love to sign KITTY, bath, eat, KITTY, bed, mama, and KITTY. Notice a pattern? You often hold up your index finger, and scold at anyone who tries to ask you to speak. You definitely have a sass to you! You also do the same to the dogs while they are barking, and being too loud. Then you will tell them, wagging your index finger at them, and saying, NO! Stop! 



Oh the sass to you! It never fails to make Mama and Daddy laugh. You have Daddy wrapped around your finger. He picks you up into his arms, and coo to you how you are an angel, and his baby girl. It is funny to see Daddy so tender-hearted with you, because he is very much so rough and tumble with the boys. It is NOT to say that Daddy does not have you participate in crazy wrestling matches, because he often grabs you, lifts you up in the air, and slam you onto the bed while you're laughing wildly. Mama does not quite understand how you and your brothers find this SO amusing, yet you do! It is just that there are quiet, tender moments of Daddy picking you up into his arms, and holding you close to his heart. It is difficult for Daddy to say no to anything you want. You are very loved as much as your brothers are. 

You love your older brothers. You truly have the best of the worlds with each one of them. Forrest has taken over a role of tender, loving, and caring oldest brother who is always on an outlook for you. He is always the first one to run to scoop you up when you are afraid, or hurt. He often receives you out of your crib when you are crying. Forrest is the first to express any concern regarding your welfare. Franklin is often a comedic relief for you. When you are sad, or upset, then Franklin is the first to sit down to try get you laugh or smile. He loves to jiggle you around in his arms, much to Mama's dismay, and her cautioning him to be careful. You have never shown any disdain of being carried wildly by Franklin running around. Matter of fact, you are often hollering, and laughing RIGHT ALONGSIDE him. Now with Fox being the youngest of the boys, you often find him to be your playmate. Sometimes, you two do fight; hollering, screaming, biting, hitting, and kicking at each other. Goodness! Both of you can be so stubborn. Thankfully, this is far and few in the between. You and Fox often do play well together. You are so lucky to have three big brothers to look after you in their own ways. 

You and Missy are dear friends. More often than not, Mama finds you cuddling with Missy during your naps. With Missy's steady motor purring, it always put you into a deep slumber, and once you awaken, you love to sit up, and gently pet her. Upon Mama arriving to pick you up out of the crib, you gleefully sign: PET CAT. PET CAT. PET CAT. Mama isn't very sure why Missy adore you so much, since she steers clear from the boys, and does not show much interest in small kids. But you, she has made an exception for. 

You just love animals. You love petting the dogs. You get concerned when Bea lays down instead of eating kibbles, and you always carry the bits of kibble to hand feed Bea. Otis is a bit too rambunctious for your liking. His deep barking startles you, and you run to Mama's side. Sometimes, Otis's fluffy tail wags so furiously, and it hits you on your head, yet you just shrug it off. Sometimes, you have so much fascination of dumping a dog bowl of food into the water bowl, and Otis is often found right by your side, gobbling up wet dog kibbles. You exclaim HI to every dog when you are out with Mama on the walks. The only creatures you hold some fear towards is the chickens. Their flapping wings, loud squawking, and quick zoomies often makes you anxious. So Mama makes sure you are at a safe distance while the chickens are free ranging.  

You stopped nursing at age of 16 months, just shy of your half birthday, and it made Mama sad to end that relationship with you for plethora of reasons. It was not very surprising when you abruptly decided that you were done, mainly because of your get-go personality, and there had been signs of you losing interest. She had hoped to try push nursing until your second birthday, but it was just not in the cards for both of you. Just like that, you wanted a hug and kiss then be put down for bed. Mama's heart was heavy, knowing that the years of breastfeeding ended just like that, and even with that, she was also ready to step into the next part of her life as you entered yours. 



You pull your diaper off and run around commando. It is because you strongly dislike the sensation of a wet diaper. Sometimes there are signs of an interest in being potty trained, then as quick as your curiosity has been, your interest simply wanes, and you don't want to pursue it. Mama has decided that she will just go with the flow, and see what happens! No rush. 

You are still sleeping in your crib, which is another milestone that Mama isn't rushing you through, and you will let her know when you are good and ready to transition to a big girl bed. You are content with sleeping your crib, so why change that? All in due time. It is possible that you being a fourth child bears a lot of weight with Mama's being so laid-back.  

Your favorite food still remains the same from when Mama carried you, which is tacos, guacamole, anything spicy, and especially so sweet food, which is just perfect, because it is what Mama also love. Matter of fact, when Mama has you for the girl's weekend, bang shrimp with spicy sauce is often the dinner choice! You also love cheese! Just like a true Wisconsinsite! 



Your personality is starting to shine through, and it has been a great joy to get to know you. You are empathetic, loving, and love being around people, especially Mama. We are excited to see what this year brings to you, our dear Fiona. 

Love,

Mama, Daddy, Forrest, Franklin, & Fox




Thursday, August 26, 2021

Forrest is NINE years old

 Dear Forrest, 

You are NINE years old. 



This is your last year of being in a single digit. Never again, you will be revealing your age with a goofy childlike smile, holding up a few fingers, and laughing as you do it. The glimpse of young childhood is slowly fading away from your physique. Your legs are starting to become less knobby, your face thinning out, and you're growing taller. Before Mama knows it, you and your friends will be towering over her...but not for at least a few more years!

Time is the sand in a hourglass of life. The sand pours down rather relentlessly. As much as we wish to freeze the moments, and to revisit the same experiences again, time does not work in such way. It does not give us a luxury to sit back, and pause the moment when we see fits. This serves a poignant reminder to appreciate, love, and embrace the moments that we will always cherish. It is not always easy to remind ourselves of this, and we are often guilty of forgetting. Nonetheless, when we do remember to slow down, and to embrace the moments...it is when we realize that the small things are what makes life worth living for. 

This past year had been a challenging year once again, due to the CVID19 pandemic, and you took it in a stride. You entered second grade with Mrs. Zoll, and that meant your last year in LEADS program at Hillcrest. Amidst the mask wear and social distance policy, you navigated through the murky waters of attending school in person. Thankfully, Mrs. Zoll and the class in the LEADS were all fantastic. You were able to remain safe, and healthy during the year. With a brief virtual school stint thrown in the mix, you attended school nearly full time, and was able to accomplish things that you were unable to do so during the previous year. The atmosphere was most certainly different with CVID19 looming over your head as well as other students'. You all handled it incredibly well, and with such grace. Mama and Daddy could not have been any prouder of you than they already were. 


Because of you being in the second grade, this meant learning was becoming a bit tougher, and things came less naturally for you. This resulted in frustration for you, and this often invited a dialogue about grit. It was okay not to always know things. Matter of fact, Mama and Daddy did not always know things despite them being adults! It just showed you that even with some things that may be harder to learn and retain, it did not reflect your level of intelligence, or did it reflect your ambition for learning. It was a lesson for you to learn; even most knowledgable person still faced new information on a daily basis, and it simply meant that learning was a life-long process. 

The holidays were a strange one. Mama and Dad opted to err on a prudent side, and celebrate at home. It did not mean you and your siblings missed out on all of the fun! It simply became much more intimate, smaller, and cozy. Halloween brought you a movie night with green goo popcorn with your neighbor friends while watching Ernest Scared Stupid movie. Thanksgiving lent Mama a chance to try her hand at making the meal! It turned out fantastic! The homemade cranberry sauce was a hit. Daddy was quite pleased with how well the turkey turned out. Christmas was a bit different, because instead of traveling to other places to celebrate with the extended family, we opted to stay at home, and celebrate just by ourselves. You had a chance to Facetime your grandparents, and show off your gifts. Gramma TC and GrandAunt Rosalie sent you and your siblings a matching pajamas that also matched with your cousins! So there was a fun photo compilation of all cousins wearing matching pajamas! Gramps Dave and Nana Jess met halfway with Mama and exchanged the gifts. Gramma Bobbie and Gramps Mike were able to sneak in gifts for you all. There was definitely a lot of love in all of the gifts from our family. While Christmas looked different; it was not lonesome, even though different, and it was one of the most relaxing Christmases to be had. 


As the snow started to thaw, you began playing baseball for the Marlins in the spring. What a fun experience this had been for you! You loved having Dad as your coach, and having your best friend on the team with you. Mama felt that it was a great way to build up your confidence, and it was! You learned how to embrace the team losses and wins as the season progressed. You learned how to hit the ball, and to run around the bases. You loved having family come to watch, and support you play! Baseball was all what you talked about, and you looked forward to every practice as well as every game. When it ended, you exclaimed that you wanted to do this next spring! 

As the spring semester winded down, your time with LEADS ended, and you were eager for the summer to begin.  Mama and Dad decided to sign up you and Franklin for soccer. You decided that soccer was not really your thing, and that was okay! The most important thing was that you tried it out, and stuck it out to the end of the season. 



You spent the summer spending time with Gramma TC for Camp Gramma...twice! You also visited the Farm rather often, and enjoyed cousin time! You also had Gramps Dave and Nana Jess come to spend time with us. You also went with Mama and the kids to stay with Gramma TC and Aunt RO for several days while the house was being fixed up. You had a lot of yummy food, plenty of sun, and swimming! There was some fishing, biking, and playing with the neighbor kids! 

Dad built a chicken coop, and got four chickens from Uncle Grant. You and Franklin took turns to feed, water, and put the chickens to bed at the night. It was a chore that Mama didn't have to remind you two often about, because you were always ready to take care of them! When Ms. Bawkey, Nightshade, Mr. Fluff Butt, and Mr. Cappuccino began laying eggs--oh how exciting it was for all of us! You loved collecting eggs every morning, and checked quite often during the day to see if there were any to retrieve. When the chickens free ranged for a couple hours, you often loved supervising, and often picked up whoever was willing to be held. 



You had your annual allergist appointment with Dr. McMeen. The discussion of having food challenge was brought up again. With CVID19 disrupting life, Mama and Dad never got around to starting the food challenge last year. Nonetheless, Mama requested for you to have a second blood panel to ensure that the numbers were still at zero for tree nuts before setting up food challenge. Dr. McMeen explained that the food challenge was going to be an all day affair, and that it was going to be done in the clinic. You were more enthusiastic to get the ball rolling this time around. You wanted to make sure that you were able to eat tree nuts, because this meant more variety would be available for you to enjoy! With your consent, Mama promised you that food challenge will happen either this fall or early winter of next year! 

You are still enjoying your role as an oldest brother. You are straddling between the worlds of wanting to be with your friends, to game, and do "older kids" thing, and wanting to play with your younger siblings. You alternate between loving and hating Frank (even though Dad and Mama reminds you quite often to be kind even if you feel annoyed), and wanting your own bedroom away from him. Frank struggles with this a bit, because he looks up so much to you, and you're the best thing to him. It is definitely a tough one to navigate through sometimes. You like to usher, and hoover over the little ones, especially Fiona. Mama has to often to remind you that while she is thankful for your consideration of helping her out, it is not your role to be a parent, and it is hers as well as Dad's. She is so careful not to place so much responsibilities on your shoulders, and making sure that you get to be Forrest even in the middle of all family chaos! You are a wonderful big brother, and your siblings love you so. 


The summer winded down to its end with the cool crisp in the air, you celebrated your 9th birthday with a sleepover party with just a few friends, and in your words, it was the coolest party ever! The fall brought to you an exciting change! 

You are now attending Olga Brenner Elementary for intermediate school. This has evoked some anxiety for you to go from a small class size in LEADS program at Hillcrest to a mainstream public school. The good news is that you will have your best friend in the class with you this year! With open house event recently, you also know that you have a few classmates from LEADS in the class with you as well! Your teacher, Mrs. Reed, appears to be warm, kind, and excited to have you in her class. It will be definitely strange for Mama not to be picking you up along with Franklin and Fox at Hillcrest, and picking you up at the other school instead! 

Dad, Mama, Frank, Fox, and Fi all are excited to see what your 9th year will bring to you! 

Love,

Mama, Dad, Franklin, Fox, & Fiona 




Saturday, June 19, 2021

Fox is Four Year Old

 Dear Fox,

You are FOUR year old. 

Your fourth birthday comes in swooping like a crashing wave against the jagged rocky shoreline. Your aptitude for wildness is evident as a mischievousness flash in your cobalt blue eyes, and a crackle of laugh always escape through your grinning mouth. If you could, then you would be swinging from the lamp on the ceiling while shouting a Tarzan yell. Mama always refer you as her Little Wild from the book, Where the Wild Things Are. It is a rarity that you would not be exploring, discovering things, or creating a mess out of absolutely nothingness. If you are quiet for too long, then Mama or Daddy knows it means you need to be checked on! 


What a year to be put in the book. You've survived your first year with a global pandemic exploding upon on the world's stage. It has been a confusing, strange, scary, and overwhelming year in of itself. 

You attended the first year of 3K at St. James while seeing Erin at Hillcrest for speech after a long laid back summer. You were certainly a busy little guy! You spent the majority of year pretty quiet. Ms. Kim and Ms. Tammy often reported to Mama that you were content to go along with your classmates, yet you had no desire to speak up. You were muted, and kept to yourself a lot. Despite this, you never showed any indication that you did not like school. You always had your shoes, and coat on every morning. You always asked Mama if it was time to go to school. You loved crafting, and playing with your classmates. Daddy and Mama figured it was probably because you were so young, due to having a summer birthday, and being nonverbal added in unique approach with you. It took you an entire year to come out of your shell, and to warm up! 

While you attended St. James three times a week, you initially saw Erin twice a week, and made a slow progress. Dealing with speech virtually was difficult for you, because you didn't have a lot of interest, or patience with participating online. It posed a challenge for both Mama and Erin! Nonetheless, you trucked through until the shutdowns lifted. You began going in person to visit Erin around January. There was an assorted medical appointments in the month of January, and it was a lot to take in! Erin ended up placing you in a group session, and it helped some. It was not quite a push you needed, and the diagnosis of speech apraxia was tossed around in spring. Erin worked hard with Mama and Daddy to navigate through with which approaches that would have worked the best for you. Finally, an extra speech session was added to your load with meeting Erin twice a week, and you began to show a progress! Matter of fact, something inside you unlocked, and there was a language explosion! You went from barely speaking to becoming a chatterbox! You just needed time. 

Like as if pandemic was not enough; a speeding curveball was thrown at the Russ Family, and threw them for a loop that it did! 


In the fall of 2020, you had a scary situation, and it forever changed everything. You and your brothers were watching Pokemon cartoon on one early Saturday morning. All of you were cuddled up with Mama in the bed, and Mama was trying to get more sleep while all of you were being entertained. Mama instantly woke up when she felt a strange motion against her body. Being a mom, and also Deaf, she was often familiar with you kids' body motions, and usually knew when something was up. This moment, she just knew, and shot up from sleeping. She witnessed your first seizure. It remained, even to this day, to be one of the most difficult things that she had ever to encounter with you (or any of your siblings). This led to Daddy rushing you to ER, and from that moment, this began your journey with epilepsy. 

You had a possible seizure-like activity not too long after while eating lunch. It was difficult to distinguish if it was a true seizure, or a strange body reaction. Nonetheless, it was noted, and reported to your pediatrician. A month later, you experienced a second major seizure in the middle of night. Thank goodness that Daddy heard what was happening, and they were able to assist you while seizing. By having a confirmed second seizure, Dr. Karbon referred you out to Dr. Edgar, a pediatrician neurologist, and it was when you were diagnosed with an epilepsy. It was explained to Mama and Daddy that you had what was called Tonic-Clonic seizures. You were quickly put on medication called Keppra to manage your seizures, and ever since, you have been seizure-free as evidenced by your EEG exams, and a MRI scan cleared you from any potential brain abnormalities or injuries.

You had your 6 months check up with Dr. Edgar. You were said to be in a great health, and it was a great news how Keppra was able to effectively manage your seizures. With being on Keppra, it did affect you behaviorally, which was one of the common side effects, and you had liquid B6 added to your medicine regime. It did help to manage your behavioral outbursts. It was a combination of so many things; your frustration stemming from being nonverbal, Keppra, and you being 3, which meant there was normal preschooler behaviors to deal with! It required a lot of grace, and patience. It was not always easy, but you did get through it with Mama and Daddy. 


You had been seizure free since you went on Keppra in November. Given your age and the lack of seizures on medication, you had been given a green light this winter (December) to start weaning process. However, if there was a seizure that may surface while weaning, then the treatment course will have to be reevaluated. If everything went well while weaning, then this meant you were going to be medication free! In the meanwhile, you had a salvia swab for a genetic testing. It was to test 290-something genes that were associated to both syndromic and nonsyndromic (meaning hereditary and non-hereditary genes). 

Mama and Daddy are hopeful to get the result, and have answers to their many questions. Is your epilepsy something you will outgrow? Is it for life? Is it related to something else? Or is it going to be a complete mystery? 


You embarked onto the next big stage in your life: being diaper free during the day! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Given your stubborn, and independent streak coupled with temper and being non-verbal, it made the whole experience difficult. Nonetheless, you did not give up with a help from Mama. You began in March during spring break right before you turned 3. Peeing was an easier concept to grasp, and you were able to go without a pull up with an exception of nap time and night time. You were able to attend St. James in the fall without any incident. 

Pooping? That was a whole 'nother beast! This reminded Mama so much of how it was a challenge for Forrest as well! Matter of fact, it was not the day before 4K that Forrest finally grasped how to use potty for pooping. Mama did not want you to go that long, but understood that it was different for each child. If it meant it was going to take you this long, then so be it. It remained a struggle for many, many months. You were very ambivalent towards to using toilet. Some days, you willingly went on the toilet to poop, and some other days, you had a horrific meltdown, because you did not want to poop on the toilet! It was truly a battle of wills! So many tears were had by you and Mama! 

Finally in the spring of 2021, Mama decided to take your pull up away completely, because you were starting to use it sneak away and poop in it! Mama thought, no way! With you still needing a pull up overnight, Mama hid the pull ups in a high place where you were unable to reach, and you had no idea where it went. So in your mind, it was just gone. Something clicked. You began using toilet for pooping, and had no problem going in it ever since. 

Mama is hopeful that once you turned 4, you will start working on being diaper free at the night, but it all depends on how developmentally ready you are. Your brothers all turned a bit after 4 before they were ready to go without overnight. You will probably end up being the same! 



You are closest to Fiona. Mama thinks it is because you are close to her in age, and you both have similar trajectory in term of play. You do enjoy playing with Forrest and Franklin. You often join them to jump on the trampoline outside, or trail after them as you all go on an adventure through the world of imagination. It can be difficult for you to relate with Forrest, because Forrest is nearly 4 1/2 years apart, and Forrest has a tendency to 'parent' you, despite Mama explaining to him that it is not his role to bear. Despite this, Mama has often seen you cuddling with Forrest as he gamed. You love sitting with Franklin, while snacking and drinking soda as an occasional treat, as you watch TV together. Franklin loves to take you along with him to explore, and go on adventures in the backyard. More often than not, you find grubs, or insects crawling in the dirt. Mama loves that you have no fear of handling insects, because it is really educational, and GREAT for you to be identify and discover all critters!

You love building forts, dig in the dirt, and smash playdough. You take a great joy out of building duplo towers, and your most favorite activity of all, would be visiting the cows! You are quite obsessed with cows, and if you could, then you'd have a pet cow! Matter of fact, your first verbal word is COW. Your happy place is in a barn, being surrounded by the cows, and it is nowhere else you wouldn't want to be! 

You are signing more, and more these days. It appears that along with your speech explosion, your signing has also exploded, and your facial expressions are on the point! Your emotions are easily read as you express them appropriately. You are definitely a CODA in the making! 


You will be attending 3K again at St. James in the fall of 2021. With you having a summer birthday, Daddy and Mama feel that it is for the best that you are the oldest among your peers instead of being the youngest for several reasons. Mama is curious to see if your personality will shine this time around, and you will be more verbal in school, or you will end up being a quiet kid again. Time will tell! Nonetheless, it will be great for you to be with Ms. Kim and Ms. Tammy once again. You will continue to receive speech therapy with Erin as well! 

You are such a sweet, loving child. You love to cuddle with Mama while twirling her hair, and being cuddled up in mama's cardigan. Mama is hoping that you will not outgrow carrying her cardigans around for a long while yet! She just adores how you carry it around with you, and how you hold it against yourself as you fall asleep. You are such a night owl, and easily can stay up past your older brothers! You are not necessarily a "morning" person, but you do get up when your older brothers are up. It has to be done on your term. You don't like being woken up, and it can be a challenge for you to hustle once you are out of your bed!

You do have a habit that will need to be broken as soon as you turn 4, and that is going to be a big hurdle! You suck on your thumb, which is pretty sweet and endearing, but not so good for your teeth! Your pediatrician dentist has told Mama that it is time for you to stop doing this in order to prevent your teeth from being damaged. It will be a hard habit to break, and not a fun one to go through, and Mama has a faith that you will be able to break it in the end. After all, you did end up being potty trained after a long, arduous process of trying to get there! 


Mama is hopeful that this summer will be filled with a lot of fun trips, and vacations to make up for the last summer. With CVID19, it feels like a summer has not been a summer last year, and with CVID19 being slowly managed with vaccinating, it is safer to be able to venture out and do things this year! So far, you've been to Brook to Forest, Mulberry Farm, up north to visit grandparents, and even more are yet to come with other set of grandparents as well as trips! 

It is hard to believe that you are 4, yet here we are. We are so lucky, and so blessed to have a smidge of WILD in our family. Love you, sweet little rainbow baby of ours. 

Love,

Mama, Daddy, Forrest, Franklin, and Fiona



Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Why, It was a Charlie Foxtrot

2020.

That alone says everything, right? 

Stu jokingly replied to my question of "Give me a descriptor words for 2020": Charlie Foxtrot. I raised my eyebrows rather quizzically, and asked him what it meant. He causally told me to google it. It was kind of funny coming from someone who always told me NOT to google anything, because of my anxious nature, and jumping to the worst conclusions. What is Charlie Foxtrot though, you asked. Well, well. You asked. It is rather bluntly put in to say a situation was a clusterfuck. 

That is 2020 boiled down to a chaotic mess. No doubt. Let me preface by sharing something real quick before I jump into this whole reflection thing over a glass of wine. Yes, we are privileged. Extremely so. We have been financially secure the whole time. We don't have to worry about making the ends meet, especially during the lockdown earlier this year. Despite some hiccups with our general health, we are thankfully well, and that is so important for me. Coronavirus has not taken away anyone we love, but we are not spared of a death in our family. 

We lost our matriarch of the family. Grandma Bernice left this world, and woke up in another world. I found myself missing her quite a lot, because she was my last living grandma (albeit through marriage). Grandma Bernice was the first one in Stuart's family that I felt wholly embraced by. She loved without conditions. She spoke to me just like she would with anyone else. Grandma Bernice never made me feel like I did not belong. It was just what a grandma should be. And I really missed that...even after all of these years of knowing her, and becoming comfortable with being one of the Russes. She was a beautiful soul. I selfishly wanted her around longer, but it was not the case. 

Coronavirus happened. It disrupted my routine. Many people knew me to be methodical, fastidious, and particular. I liked order. I liked predicitability. As you can see, Coronavirus was neither any of those. Again, we were very fortunate to be in a position where we were able to get by without worrying about loss of income to afford everyday expenses. I was already a stay at home mom. I did experience a bit of a loss, because I had hoped that Fiona and I were going to have a few hours by ourselves while the boys were at the schools. I had a vision of taking Fiona to library, a playdate with fellow friends, and gaining some of time back to myself to keep up around the house. I hoped to do some house projects. That did not happen. So yeah, I had some sense of loss in having to let go of my vision. House projects did not happen. I had no time in between raising our little ones, and teaching our older kids. Playdates and the trips to the library did not happen, because we were on a lockdown, and people were afraid. 

At the same time, our basement flooded...not once, but twice! Stu tiredlessly pumped water out of our basement for several nights in the row. We had to relocate our things from the basement to upstairs. After the second incident, we decided to have someone come and look at our basement to prevent more flooding. As it had turned out, we needed an entire sump pump system replaced. It was not JUST the machine itself that needed to be replaced, but the whole dang pipes, and the well. Horrible was the first thing that came to the mind. The company said the earliest they could do our basement was at the end of summer! Like what the... really! Let me tell you something; I HATED it, because our things were upstairs instead of in the basement. Our things were out of the order, and out of its place. We were already cramped in our living quarters, and it was already cluttered, because we were literally living in the same space 24/7. It was very much so of a stark parallel of what was happening on the outside world; it was cluttered, chaotic, and out of the order. 

It was not easy to try navigate through troubled waters with my older kids. They were more aware of what was happening, and felt very much so affected by the matter. An abrupt loss hurt them. It hurt me as a parent to witness that. To be frank, it sucked. This contributed some to why we decided to purchase a puppy. I assure you, it was not entirely an emotional purchase! We did have a goal. We wanted a therapy dog, and felt it was as might well be a good timing to get a dog. It was how we ended up with Otis! 

We felt guilty that our kids didn't have anything exciting to look forward over the summer. It led us to buy a trampoline for the kids. It turned out to be a GREAT investment. I realized that I was so busy focusing on the fact that we didn't take trips, and do fun events; I failed to see that we learned how to garden, our family grew closer, we got to know our neighbors, Franklin was more motivated to learn sign language, we found ways to stay connected with our extended families, and we learned how to slow down. Our summer may have been uneventful, but we gained a lot. 

The company finally came at the end of August to replace the sump pump system. I thought that it was end of that, and we were going to be able to reclaim the family room once again. How wrong! We had a difficult time finding a contractor to put up walls for us. We learned that we had to wait even longer, because there was not anyone coming until end of November to do our walls. Ugh. 

This whole time, my health was a stickler. I had a chronic stomach problems. It was just horrible. I went from trying to figure out what was triggering my stomach issues to thinking, okay I need to prepare myself how bad it was going to be today. One day it hit me that an answer was simple. It was nothing malicious going on in my body. It was my response to the stress. I was literally making myself sick from stress! How laughable. I didn't mean that in the way of self-mocking, but like omg, that was insane how one can make self so ill from something simple. I had to learn to take care of myself better, how to de-stress, and how to let things go, especially when it was not in my control. Easier said than done! My hair was falling out, and I was sick on toilet quite often. I was not sleeping very well. It hit me that I was internalizing a lot. 

I felt like I had to keep the family together. Stu was facing mammoth challenges in his job. My kids struggled emotionally with not being able to socialize with their classmates, from not being in school, and trying to understand the impact that CVID19 had on the world. We missed our extended families. The whole anti-mask culture stressed me out. Again, I understood that we were privileged to still live comfortably, and be able to afford everyday luxuries. I did not want to come across as if I was taking granted of everything. At the same time, all of us were struggling. Some more so. Some less so. Nonetheless, we struggled. 

Stu had a hiccup with his health, and thankfully, he recovered. Forrest managed his peanut allergy just fine, and we were offered to start a tree nut challenge. Forrest's allergist felt confident that we should proceed with the food challenge. I knew almonds were going to be just fine, but other nuts left me a bit nervous. I left it up to Forrest to decide when he wanted to start the food challenge. He had not approached me yet about this, and it was okay. Franklin and Fiona both remained to be in great health the whole time. Franklin worked hard learning how to read, and write. He went from knowing very little to being able to independently read Peter the Cat series! He also recently turned six! Fiona was receiving speech therapy in home, and had an explosion in development of both speaking and signing. 

Our Mr. Fantastic Fox had a rough go of it. He got diagnosed with epilepsy. It was something that we all needed to still process, and work through. The worst feeling about dealing with epilepsy was watching your kid going through a seizure, and not being able to do anything to stop it. All we were able to do was sit, watch, and wait. It was heartbreaking every time. Fox ended up going on an anti-seizure medication, and was being monitored while increasing his medication. In the meanwhile, he went through a battery of tests to figure out the cause of his seizures. At this time of writing, we had been waiting for his results. 

Coronavirus continue to elude us, and I thought we were able to count ourselves lucky until it rattled our family. My mom ended up being quite ill, and had to be hospitalized. I worried about her, and wished I was there with her. I did not want to think about a world without her.  It somberly reminded us how fragile life was, and not to take anyone for granted. I did not wish this upon anyone. I did notice that I grew angrier toward those who boycotted mask wear, did not believe in social distancing, and being responsible to curb the spread. I found those people to be reckless, and irresponsible. I had very little to no respect for them. I was just done. The pandemic fatigue was real. 

We celebrated Christmas just by ourselves. It was a strange experience not to be with our extended family, but we also enjoyed not having to go anywhere! It was actually nice to spend time by ourselves, and to take our celebrations in a stride. 

2020 may not have been our year, but it is a year to remind us what to hold dear. We are able to grow closer as a family, and to appreciate the simplicity. We are able to slow down, and focus on what is happening in the moment. We are able to look at each other, and realize how important we are to each other. Sometimes, we need to appreciate what we have instead of hurrying through everything. We are forced to slow down, and to regroup from the source, and the source is our family. 2020 may have been a charlie foxtrot, but it is a gift in the disguise. 



Tuesday, November 24, 2020

FDR is SIX Years Old

Dear Franklin, 


You are SIX years old. You're oh so stubborn, fiercely independent, opinionated, hilarious, yet incredibly thoughtful and loving. You definitely pack a punch, and are filled with so many small surprises. As a second oldest, you are just like a blizzard that bestowed upon us on the night you were born. You are larger than life, determined, creative. and unpredictable. It is never boring with you around! You are a splash of color in otherwise dreary, and ordinary life. You are the masterpiece of every stroke that is being made on the canvas with ever slightly changing shades of colors. No one little variety is the same. The canvas is constantly being reinvented, and remade. Oh, our spark of madness, a wildfire, and ever powerful wind that cannot be easily harnessed. You are an archer of your life with a flaming bow in your hand. You are our rebel. 

You are an intense person. You remind Mama so much of an engineer bunny; so full of energy, and keeps going until you crash. When you do crash, you crash hard! You would fall asleep at 4 pm, and stay asleep until the next morning. By the way, you know this is exactly what Daddy used to do when he first started teaching? Yup! You are so much like Daddy that it's not even funny. You love saying: by the way when you start talking about something, and it is quite endearing. You can be stubborn when you put your mind to something, and completely shut down. This can incredibly frustrating at times, and Mama has to learn how to work around that. It is just how you roll. You are so goofy! You love slapstick humor. When it comes to creating, you love being a part of the process, and the outcome is amazing. You help Mama with baking, and cooking, but more so with baking. You love coloring, and drawing. Mama has a drawer full of your creation.



Your 4K got off with an excellent start. You loved school, and looked forward to going every morning. You loved being able to walk with Forrest into the building every morning. It made you feel distinguished, special, and cool. Mama knew it was what you wanted, and as much as she wanted to walk with you into the building every morning, she respected your choice of preferring to go in with Forrest, and handling it like a big boy. Mama and Daddy were so excited for you to experience a field trip, 4K spring concert, and end of school year activities. Mama always loved those rituals, and wanted so badly for you to experience them. Sadly, your 4K school year was cut way too short, because of a global pandemic stemming from a virus called CVID19. It caused schools to close down with a hope to squelch the curve, and this took place in early March around spring break. Unfortunately, CVID19 outbreak was much worse than it was initially anticipated to be, and the schools made a tough decision to not allow students back into the building for the rest of the year. Mama struggled with you and Forrest obtaining the best education virtually. The education you received did not match the school standard, and Mama really TRIED. She grieved that you did not get to experience things you should have. 

Despite her worries that you were not getting the education you deserved, your end of the year report card based on what you left off in March; you came with a glowing report, and because of that, Mama and Daddy were so proud of you! You showed that you knew alphabet, counting up to 30, understanding how to write a sentence, and being able to read beginner phonetics. Daddy assured Mama that you were in a great position to begin kindergarten, and Mama agreed. You always had bounced back from whatever that pushed you back. It was just in your personality not to be bulldozed over. You were, and still are, always resilient. This assured Mama that you were more than prepared to attend Kindergarten. 



The summer was uneventful. Mama and Daddy felt quite bad that there was no major trips, family outings, and get togethers. However, their worries were unneccessary, because as they saw how your friendship was sparked among your neighbor friends, and this enabled the parents to get know the folks that were living next to them. You and your siblings were gifted a trampoline that was used quite a lot over the summer. It was the best investment made. 

Mama and Daddy made a decision to send you and Forrest for in person learning. It was a decision not easily made, and they weighed so many factors with a biggest reason of wanting to make sure you received a complete education for reading and writing from someone who had years of experience of doing so. Because you were enrolled in LEADS, Mama and Daddy had an advantage of knowing who was going to be your teacher, and that was Mrs. Heins! She had already taught Forrest, and was eager to get to know you. With CVID19 still being an ever-present problem, it was required that you and Forrest to wear masks while attending school. You were a champ with using masks, and knew when you needed them. The drop off in the mornings were easy, because all Mama had to do was drive up to a teacher, and drop you off with Forrest to escorted into the building. However, the pick up after school was a bit of challenge, because you two were divided in separate groups, and needed to be checked out individually by a staff member. Mama made do out of a difficult situation, because she saw how resilient you were, and wanted to follow your example. Yes, dear Franklin, you were an inspiration for Mama to keep going. 




Unfortunately, in person learning did not last for long. The community struggled with the politics of wearing the masks, and socially distancing. As result, the virus ran rampant through the town, and the schools had an overwhelmingly difficult time with making sure there was enough staff to run the schools. You went from in person learning to virtually learning online. It was a bit of an adjustment! Mama quickly learned that you and Forrest needed a break from being on the screen so much, and she was able to orchestra a few local getaways for family to go exploring! It was awesome to be able to hike, and explore the woods. It brought back the memories for Mama, and she was grateful that you get to experience the same. It was easy to dwell on the negativity, and stress of being stuck at home during a pandemic. It was NOT easy to be stuck at home all day long with the same faces day in and day out. You continued to amaze Mama and Daddy by being SO resilient, and amazing. 

You recently recieved great marks from Mrs. Heins regarding your learning. You are quite on time among your peers, and you often put a lot of focus in your work. However, you can be quiet, and not a willing participant in the classroom. You often prefer working alone, and not to draw attention toward yourself. It could be your personality, your introverted tendencies, and a bit of your confidence level needing to be worked on. Nonetheless, you had been doing amazing, and it showed. 




Your signing has improved greatly from being at home with Mama. Because you are forced to learn at home, and apply your education experience through using an Ipad, you come to a realization that you need to be able to communicate with Mama more effectively. Your confidence with signing has always been a challenge for you. Suddenly, you began to flourish, and grew confident to fingerspell the words that you didn't know, and to showcase your abilities that you've had all along. Daddy jokingly had said that out of four kids, you were going to end up being an interpreter, and an active participant in the Deaf community. Who knows? You had always been on a path destined to make  you to be unique! 

You are growing to be more picky with food. You definitely have your preferences. Just like Mama, you don't like anything over processed, soggy, and substandard choices for food. You like food prepared in certain ways. You have a bit of advanced taste for a little kid!  For example, you scarf down corned beef, chili, and hamburgers instead of chicken nuggets from McDonald's-- the choices that may not appeal to small kids. This corresponds somewhat with your love for cooking and baking. You happily help Mama to peel potatoes, or carrots. With safe knife, you enjoy chopping. You love to measure, and experiment with baking as well. It warms Mama's heart so much to have you show so much interest in cooking and baking! 


As a second oldest, you are often found by Forrest's side, and there is not anyone else that you look up to as much as you do Forrest. While you do have your own developing interests, you do find yourself copying Forrest's tastes, and desperately wanted to be just like him. Forrest and you have a close relationship, and it is rather wonderful to see. Mama hopes to see this continue well into your growing years. You love playing with Fox when the mood strikes. Mama suspects it is because she is still so young, and doesn't really do much yet. However, you do have your moments with Fiona. You are absolutely kind to Fiona, and often love to love on her. 

Your wellness check is due in December. By then, Mama should find out the status of your height and weight. You are an overally a healthy person! This is important during this time in our lives for you and your siblings to remain healthy. Currently, your favorite color is GREEN, and everything must be in green. You love chocolate, bananas, and pineapple on your pizza! You love outdoors, Pokemon, Pete the Cat, and gaming. You dislike to be bulldozed over, to be told what to do, and to be forced into something you don't want to do. You have such a big heart, and it shows. You are such a goofball! You say the wildest things, and make everyone chuckle. 


Franklin, this goes without saying that you are such a beautiful person, and we all are extremely lucky to have you to be a part of our lives. 

Love,

Mama, Daddy, Forrest, Fox, and Fiona 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Fiona is TWELVE Months Old

 Dear Fiona, 

You are now TWELVE months old. 

You have been holding true to Mama's nickname for you, a firecracker, and it is absolutely apt for you. With older three brothers, you do have to hold your ground in order to keep up with them. You are sassy, expressive, hilarious, loving, determined, and assertive. You do not like missing out on anything around you, and you make sure that you are included--always. You love scrunching up your little nose. You may "though be little, but you are fierce". You are a fashionable diva, but dislike headbands. You tolerate them just long enough for Mama to snap a few pictures, then you carry on to your merry self WITHOUT a headband. You love to hang your head upside down, and coo. You are a constant joy to all of us. Forrest and Franklin are always doting on you. Fox loves playing with you, and it is so heartwarming to see this relationship blooming between you two, especially with you both being the youngest in the family. You're the addition to our family that we needed, and a quintessential final link in the circle that connected all of us together. 

A year ago today, Mama had no inkling that today was going to be your birthday. The funny thing was, with her previous pregnancies, the only person who got it right about  the fact that Mama was going to have a baby that day was Daddy! Every. Single. Time. He was right. Just like with your brothers, Daddy knew you were coming on that day, and slapped on his "birthing" shirt that he wore to every birth, then announced to Mama that he was ready. Mama smiled at him, and shrugged. Sure enough, you came that night! Your birthday came with special significance; the date "twenty-six" was the date when Mama and Daddy began dating on the following month nearly sixteen years ago! 

Oh our sweet little Pumpkin, you are amazing, and a dream come true. There has been many nights when she looked upon your sleeping self with such an awe. It is such a blessing to have you as our daughter. Just like your older brothers, you ARE a gift. 

You are still nursing, albeit a lot less than you used to. You have such a case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), and it can be a challenge to get you to nurse. Because of this, Mama just follows your cue. You typically like to nurse close to your sleeping times (nap and bedtime). Mama is hoping that extended breastfeeding will continue well into your first year for a reason of providing you with antibodies against CVID19, and other ailments. You being her last baby also is other reason why she doesn't quite want to end the nursing relationship just yet. Thankfully, WHO (World Health Organization) strongly encourages breastfeeding in the first two years. With having said this, if you choose to stop anytime, then Mama is okay, although she has a feeling you may continue until your second birthday. 

You are such a foodie. You love eating food. Your favorite meals are mac and cheese, and tacos! Guacamole is your most desired fruit, even though you do love strawberries and peaches. Mama has been gifted with a bag of pears, and you enjoy them too! You drink water, and a bit of juice. You aren't  a fan of cow milk, which does not surprise Mama, because she isn't a big milk drinker either. She is thinking about introducing you to either soy or almond milk, and see how that goes for you. Perhaps you'd take a liking to it instead of cow milk. 

Your sleeping has been okay this month. You keep switching a poor pattern of sleeping between day and night time. For example; you slept poorly for a few nights in row, but napped awesome during the day time. Then suddenly, you decided to throw wrench in it, and flip those two! Then you went on a nap strike, but slept great during the night. This inconsistency has been wearing down Mama, but she is hanging in there with you, because it is as to be expected with babies. This just means MORE coffee. Your sleeping will resume back to normal soon...or eventually. 

You still have no sign of a tooth! Mama keeps thinking you will end up with a tooth, because of the signs you have been exhibiting along with your gums being a bit swollen, yet a single tooth has not made its appearance yet. Mama is patiently waiting for yet another milestone...WALKING! You show absolutely no interest in being mobile on two legs, and you are perfectly content with being carried. Mama suppose that it is okay. After all, your older brothers are also late walkers. It will happen when you are ready. 

You make a wide range of noises while vocalizing, and you shout when you want attention. Along with shouting, you burst into tears when you are hurt, or when you are not being attended to quickly enough. You have a few signs down; done/finish, pick me up, bath, water, food, and milk. You love being read to. You enjoy watching Mama sign to you. Your favorite activity is peekaboo! You will find anything to drape yourself with, then wait for your cue to take it off. Once you hear, where is Fioooonnnnnaaaa, You throw the blanket off your head with a big smile on your face. It is absolutely endearing! 

Your one year old picture shoot had to be rescheduled. It made Mama sad to have to reschedule it, but it was what it was. Fortunately, the reschedule was not that far off! The new family pictures moved to late October instead. Mama hoped that the weather was going to be a lovely fall day, but with it being Wisconsin, who knows! No matter how it was going to happen, Mama knew it was going to turn out beautiful. 

This year has gone by so quickly...much quicker than Mama anticipated, and with you turning one year old, this has left Mama with a lot of sentimental feelings. Your year brought your firsts, but that meant it was also Mama's lasts. With you being her last baby, she feels that your babyhood is disappearing through her fingers like sand. It is not easy to embrace. At the same time, Mama acknowledges that while this process can be sad, it is also downright exciting, because you are becoming a little human with your own thoughts, feelings, and dreams. It is a neat process to watch you grow up. The person you are becoming into is awesome. Mama is so excited to see who you are becoming to be, and to develop that bond with you. It is not just Mama who is feeling this way, but Daddy and your brothers as well! 


Love,

Mama, Daddy, and the kids 


Fiona is ONE year old

Dear Fiona, 

On the day we found out that we were pregnant with you came with a lot of uncertainty. I will never forget sitting on the toilet, holding up an extremely faint positive test, and having a sense of awe over this tiny life growing inside of me. Your start was a rather shaky one. You see, because of my history of having low progesterone, I had to be monitored from the very start. This meant multiple blood draws. The first blood draw showed a low HCG level, and it left me worried whether you would stay. It was not very promising, and all we could do was wait until the next blood draw. Even with worry and anxiety, I chose to be hopeful. As fate has put in their stars, stay you did...and you grew! The next blood draw showed that the HCG level had not doubled, but quadrupled! The hormones continued to quadruple, and I was given a progesterone suppositories for the first trimester. There had not been a day that went without me being grateful that you stayed. 

I was so sure that you were a boy number five. We even had a name picked out. I kept having dreams that you were a boy, and we all prepared to become a boy only clan. However, there was one person in our family that was quite adamant that you WERE DEFINITELY NOT a boy was Forrest! He told us that G-D knew that there was too many boys in the family, and they wanted to give us a girl instead. We cautioned Forrest to be prepared, because we were not very sure that we were able to have a girl, especially after four boys, and this baby was going to be loved regardless what was in between the legs. As how it usually was, life hurtled on through the first trimester throes; I met with Dr. J, who was a high risk specialist, for a standard NT scan exam at 13 weeks. During the scan, Dr. J did his typical thing of checking you out, and making sure you were healthy. The boys were sitting with Stuart, and watching the big screen where you moved, and wiggled. Suddenly, Dr. J stopped, and gave us a look, then asked us if we wanted to know who you were. Stuart and I looked at each other, knowing that we wanted to know who you were, instead of being surprised at birth. We both privately thought you were a boy, because a penis seemed more obvious this early, right? After all, it was about the same time when we found out that your brothers were boys from when I carried them. Dr. J smiled, and said, Your baby is a little girl. 


Upon on hearing that news, I was floored. Oh my sweet little pumpkin, I truly thought I was going to be forever a boy mom. Understand, that would have been perfectly okay by me, and I've always had a dream of having a huge gaggle of boys. All of my life, I knew I was going to have boys. Call it a premonition. Call it a vision. Call it an intuition. I just knew.  I had a hard time imagining myself as a girl mom. It was not that I never wanted a daughter. I did. I had always wanted just one little girl among the bunch of boys. While I did not want to place so much emphasis on gender or a biological sex, and I wanted a healthy, beautiful baby, but I won't lie, I did have a slice of hope for a daughter. I knew I was still going to have a strong bond with my boys, and that they were their own people with their own tastes. There was not anything they were not able to do that a daughter could have done. It was just that I wanted an experience of raising a daughter. I wanted to have what I have with my mom, and to have a next generation of strong women in our family lineage. 

Stu and I wanted to confirm at our anatomy scan to make sure you were actually a girl before believing in this news. So we waited. It was a long wait! The big day finally arrived. The technician confirmed that you were a hundred percent definitely a girl. Even with this confirmation, I found myself asking EVERY SINGLE TIME when we had an ultrasound, which there were a lot, that you remained a girl, and the answer every time was a yes. But I still struggled to believe. I ultimately decided that I would finally believe it once you were in my arms, and I saw you for myself. 


My pregnancy with you was difficult both physically, and mentally. A loss prior having Fox forever changed me in how I viewed things in life, and being pregnant. I knew this was going to be my last pregnancy. My body was just not able to carry anymore. I was older. I was getting tired of being pregnant! I tried extremely hard to cherish every moment with you inside my belly, and remained thankful that I had Dr. J and Dr. Mbah look over me during my pregnancy with you. There were a lot of twists, and turns with you. Because of this, I dubbed you my little Firecracker! Boy! A firecracker that you were! 

I even picked a day for you to be born, October second, but you decided it was NOT the day you wanted your birthday to be! No way that you were going to be an October baby. You wanted your own birthday on your own month. To be honest, on the day you were born was so unassuming, and uneventful. I didn't think it would end up being your birthday. I had some symptoms that pointed to early labor starting, and I figured we had time before you came. Little did we know that it was going to be a GREAT night. It was not until 7:40 PM that night that it became real that you were coming. By 10:41 pm, you entered the world. The minute you were placed into my arms, I asked if you were a girl, and someone, I was not too sure who, said yes she is a girl! Still to this day, I found myself being in awe that I actually have a daughter...YOU! 

                    

With the next generation of girls, you are destined for great things, and with that, you will break the barriers that are yet broken by the previous generations. You are a warrior, a fierce spirit, and our ever firecracker. You will explode with greatness, and pave the way. You are a leader just like your brothers. May you always remember to be fearless, strong, and kind. Have courage to do things you dream about. Do not give up, and hold on to your grit. Keep going even in the face of adversity. Never lose a sight of who you are. Do not let anyone tell you that you are not allowed, or can't do certain things based on your gender. You CAN DO anything that you put your mind to. You are fierce, powerful. unique, awesome, sassy, silly, and beautiful. You are so loved. SO, SO loved. 

With you turning one, it is such a bittersweet birthday, because you are our last baby. This past year, your firsts have been our lasts. There also have been never-haves, which makes me quite sad, because of the nature due to a global pandemic that has taken over for most of your life. We spent most of your life apart, and away from our family instead of celebrating get together, holidays, and meaningful events. It has left you an impact; while I am not sure if it is already in your personality all along to be a bit shy, or if it is a result of social distancing, I sure hope that you will come out of your shell when the world is free of the virus, and show off your beautiful personality. The world has turned itself upside down with systematic racism, the protests, politics going awry, so much hate, confusion, and fear. Even in the face of adversity, there are also beautiful things to remind us to be connected, to pick love, and to always see the good. I pray that you will always choose to look for the good, to spread goodness, and to be there for people even during the difficult times. 



You are everything I love about it myself, and everything I wish I am. You inspire me to be a better woman, a stronger person, and a better mom. 


Love,

Mommy