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 


Friday, August 28, 2020

Fiona is ELEVEN Months Old

Dear Fiona, 


You are ELEVEN months old. There is just one more month left before you turn one. It is mind-blowing to look back in the past eleven months, and realize how quickly these months have gone by. Time is such a fluid concept. Some days does not ever seem to end, then there are other days that goes by within a blink of eye. It is surreal to think that this time last year, Mama is extremely pregnant with you, and ready to have you, then now you're approaching your first birthday. Mama always tell new parents to CHERISH time, because all it takes is a snap of finger, and a baby is no longer a baby, but a child. As we all get older, the quicker time goes by, and the more it is so imperative to truly stay in the moment, which is something Mama is doing with you, sweet little pumpkin. 

You are now in 12-18 months clothes. Mama is hoping the weather will cool down sooner instead of later, because there are a stash of clothes in 12-18 months designed for fall weather, and they are sure cute! Besides, Mama is ready for the summer to be over anyway! Bring on leggings, and oversized sweaters! You are still in size 4 for diapers, and it will be some time before you go into a bigger size. You are once again dealing with a terrible diaper rash. Mama thinks she knows the culprit, and she is on to help you recover as quickly as possible. 

           

You have started your speech sessions with Ms. Kim. It poses a bit of challenge, because everyone are wearing masks, and you don't really like it. It frightens, and baffles you to see Mama, Daddy, Ms. Kim, and Michelle wearing masks in your presence. You tend to become shy, and quiet...unless Forrest is present with you, then you are more likely to vocalize, and respond. Otherwise, you struggle with the stranger anxiety. The goal is to get you vocalize, babble, and develop a verbalized language. One step at time. You will get there. After all, three sessions aren't going to magically turn you into a babbling brook. Sometimes, it can take time for these things to happen. 

You're pulling yourself up onto everything! Nothing dares to hold you back! You dislike being contained. You complain, shout, scream, and cry until you are freed. Then you happily venture onto your little adventure. You often end up being pulled towards something that is not safe for you to be around. Mama is always chasing after you, then relocating you to a safer spot. She is constantly fishing things out of your mouth. It blows her mind what you find on the floor despite her vacuuming, and sweeping! Mama suppose it is what happens when there are five other people living in the house with two dogs, and two cats! 

         

You recently made a trip down to Racine with Mama, and the boys while the basement crew came to your home to work on an intensive project to fix the entire sump pump system. You handled the long drive like a champ, and slept for most of it. At first, you were frightened by all of the new faces that you were unaccustomed to see. It was one of the negative impacts from being quarantined, and cooped up away from extended family for so long. 

Fortunately, you were able to warm up quickly. You had fun playing with your cousins, especially Archer, seeing that he was only 2 days older than you! It was neat to see how much you and Archer had in the common with the milestones being achieved. It was a trip well worth going, because it was so good to be able to catch up, and see everybody once again. 

      

You still have no teeth! It is better to have teeth later than early though. It will come when it comes. Mama thinks you will have your first tooth around your first birthday. Maybe? You are still not walking, and have no interest in attempting. It is possible that you will start walking after your first birthday as well, which is just fine. You enjoy peek-a-boo! You love covering yourself in a blanket or Mama's cardigan, then try to boo someone. It is so adorable. You also love it when people sing to you. You love the song, If You're Happy, and You Know It, Clap Your Hands. You haven't quite mastered clapping, but you love lifting your hands above your head. Close enough! 

With your older brothers starting school next week, which is a bit anxiety provoking for Mama; it means it will be just you and Mama for a few hours three times a week with Fox away to attend St. James for 3k! Mama is looking forward to resuming her walks with the dogs, and you. She has not had much opportunity to walk this past summer. Hopefully, that will change once the older three goes to school. The dogs may appreciate being walked as well! Despite Mama's anxiety, it will be nice for you to be just with Mama for a bit during the week. Mama is also looking forward to having some kind of routine once again with school starting up, tutoring ASL students, AND decorating for the holidays!

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Grandma Bobbie showed Mama a link to crochet a cute Candy corn outfit. Of course, Mama had to buy the pattern, and yarns to start making the costume! Here's the secret; candy corn is actually one of Mama's favorite candies, and she's not very sure why there's so much animosity toward marshmallow pumpkins and candy corn! Yes, she's THAT basic. There may not be a trick or treat planned this year, but it won't stop Mama from celebrating one of her favorite holidays, Halloween! You will probably wear that costume once a week for the whole month of October, ha! 

With September just around the corner, Mama is excited for so many things; the family photo shoot, holidays coming up so soon, FALL (of course), and most importantly of all, you TURNING ONE! 

Love,

Mama, Daddy, and the Boys 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Forrest is EIGHT Years Old

Dear Forrest, 

                         

You are now EIGHT years old. You are approaching the end of a whole decade like a greased lightning. The old and tried parable is true: The days are long, but the years are short. Mama and Daddy could not believe how fast time has gone by. Eight whole years have gone by around the sun just like that. It is incomprehensible that Mama has to tell people that she has a 8-year old child! Like where did time has truly gone by? It no longer feels like it is "yesterday" when she had you, because so much time has passed, and that makes her feel kind of sad, yet happy all at once, because she is getting to know you as a person. Oh Forrest, you are one of the kind. One of the kind. It is such a privilege and honor to be your Mama. You're just how she imagined you to be when she carried you. 



Eight years ago today, Mama and Daddy excitedly waited for you to make your debut into the world. Seven years ago, you made your first steps with Mama's arms outstretched to you, and Daddy cheering you on. Six years ago, you ran around the house with a toddling brother behind you. Five years ago, you began 3K while Mama shed some tears at the thought of letting you go into someone else's arms. Four years ago, you proudly showed off that you were potty trained at last! Three years ago, you welcomed a new brother into your family, and assumed a big brother role once again. Two years ago, you began kindergarten, and flourished. 

This past year has been a wild ride! You started first grade in LEADS, and had a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Henning. The year started off with an excellent start. You flourished in the class, and learned so much. Daddy and Mama received wonderful reports about you; how you were eager with absorbing information, being helpful towards your classmates, your teacher, and loved to talk with your best friends! Right at the cusp of the school year, your baby sister joined the family, and there had been nothing but an instant love between you and her. You had been so gentle with Fiona; making sure her neck was supported, letting Mama know when she was fussy, and protecting her from the rambunctiousness from your younger brothers. As Fiona grew older, you carried her in your arms, and you enjoyed talking to her. You grew to become one of her favorites, and you LOVED the idea of being her favorite. You loved telling people about Fiona, and always wanted to show her off. You had always (and still are) been a wonderful big brother, and this did not surprise Mama a bit. 
      
      
                                          

This spring marked a full year of living in a new house, and the truth to be told, it was a right decision to move into a bigger home. It gave you, and your younger brothers more rein of freedom to run around! The trade up was a bigger home with a smaller yard, and you guys did not pay any mind to the size of yard though! You and your brothers were recently surprised with a gift of a giant trampoline that came with a mister system. Oh boy, oh boy, it was a GREAT investment! Daddy and Mama were quite glad that they bit the bullet to purchase that for you guys.  With the trampoline in the place, the yard was still comfortable enough to accommodate the dogs, gardening, and you guys to run around! It worked out well. 

You were joined by Franklin at Hillcrest Primary Elementary school. With Frank being in LEADS along with you, you had some events that also included his class, and as much as you sometimes claim be "annoyed" by Frank, you sure were a wonderful brother to him. It warmed Mama's and Daddy's hearts to receive pictures of you with Franklin during those times. This proved how kindhearted you were. Of course, it also helped that you were quite experienced as a big brother! 



With Fiona being born at the end of September,  while everybody adjusted well to the new family order, but not without some bump; there came a challenge with you going along with peer pressure, and making less than ideal choice in the moment. It served you a serious lesson to learn from. The lesson taught you that sometimes even good people make the wrong choices, and holding themselves accountable when they made a bad choice. It was not easy to witness the pain that you had to go through. However, you did learn that in life, pain was one of the teachers that we all did not always like, wanted to avoid at times, and to not have to deal with its swift hand. Nonetheless, the lessons that pain provided brought you some humility, and accountability. Daddy and Mama were able to guide, and discuss with you how to get through your wrongdoing, and felt confident that you understood the ramifications. With this tuckered inside your mind, you continued to grow, and become a dashing young boy that you had always been all along. This enabled you to mature a bit more, and encouraged you to remain a helpful, kind boy that you had always been. 

With your chronic headaches that bothered you for so long, Dr. Karbon decided to order a MRI scan of your brain. While it was scary for Mama and Daddy, you thought it was the coolest thing ever to get an imaging of your brain! You told Daddy and Mama that it felt like you were being in a rocket, and loved listening to music on youtube during the scan. The scan came back clear, thankfully, however, it did show that your aneoids were enlarged. This was obviously result of your allergies. You were referred to ENT, and received nasal spray. It did help greatly along with medication to manage your allergies. You asked Mama for a scanned image of your brain to show off to your class, and you loved showing it off to your class! 



The school year continued to truck on through winter of 2019 with no indication of what was coming. Mama, Daddy, and brood of you kids spent the holidays with the family, then celebrated the birth of 2020. In the beginning of 2020, you and your younger siblings had no inkling of an ominous viral outbreak resulting into a pandemic all over the world. Unfortunately, it became so bad that schools had to close, and the states ordered a mandatory quarantine to crush the outbreak. 

During the quarantine, something you had wished for so long finally happened! You lost your tooth!! Oh boy, you wanted this so bad. Prior losing your tooth, you sadly announced every time when your friends lost their teeth, and pined to experience the same. Daddy and Mama reminded you that it was going to happen in due time, and sometimes, you had to wait. Then it finally did! Once you lost your tooth, more followed, and you were able to experience something that you had waited for so long. 

You and Franklin received homeschooling during the shut down period. The education you received was definitely out of norm. Mrs. Henning sent a weekly vlog of reading a chapter book, and you looked forward to it! You made sure Mama wrote down on the white board when the next chapter book vlog was released, because you did not want to forget it. You also loved Google hangout with your friends and Mrs. Henning. Mama proposed you to read the first three Harry Potter books, and have you watch a movie upon completion of each book. You LOVED the idea, and actually completed all three books! The fourth book as well as remaining books were a bit challenging to read. So you and Mama decided to stop at book four, and wait until you were a bit older to be able to get through them. You and Franklin completed handout assignments so quickly. That enabled Mama to see how thirsty you and Franklin were to learn. She tried her best to keep you and Franklin engaged with learning in different ways. It was challenging! 

                                     


Te spring ended with a second welcome of a new family member into our family! Otis, a Golden Doodle with a potential of becoming a school therapy dog (or just a very well behaved house dog), tumbled into our lives just like that! It was so much fun to have Otis grow up with you and your siblings. You learned how to help train Otis, and enjoyed it! With an arrival of Otis, the school district made a hard decision to close the school for the rest of the year. This brought a lot of BIG, DIFFICULT, and SAD feelings for you to process through. Mama and Daddy had several heart to heart dialogues with you about how much pandemic had affected you. Fortunately, having a lot of zoom playdates with your friends helped. You looked forward to Facetime dates with your grandparents. It provided a connection in such strange time. 

This meant an abrupt end to your first grade year. This left you confused, frustrated, scared, and sad. It was heartbreaking to have a lack of closure, and to deal with so many losses of saying goodbye, continuing learning experiences, field trips, a spring concert, and end of the year school activities. You missed Mrs. Henning, and your friends quite badly. Daddy and Mama tried their best to guide you all through a confusing time, and to give you grace to express your feelings. Daddy and Mama knew this was a historical moment--something you and Franklin may remember when you both become older, and still wished that it did not happen the way it did, but they dealt with the hand of cards as best as they could.

The pandemic continued into the summer. You and Franklin learned how to ride bikes effortlessly. You loved racing ahead down the street, much to Daddy's dismay, and zoom everywhere during the walks. You were instructed about bike safety, and did become better at listening. With the weather becoming warmer, Mama felt more comfortable with you inviting a friend over for a play date in person. You were able to have a few playdates with your friends (one at time)! You also had an opportunity to visit your grandparents on the farm, and in the city! You and your younger brothers went to Camp Grandma for a week. It was definitely a different camp experience, because you were not able to go to zoo, or any fun places, however, Gramma Theresa made up for it by providing a lot fun activities to do at home. You spent time with your cousin, Izzy, and Facetimed Alice as well! 



You love pizza, bacon and eggs, shrimp, Pokemon, Minecraft, Nintendo Switch, listening to the music especially AJR pop band, talking with friends on the messenger, playing with the neighbor kids, fishing, going up to the Farm, Camp Grandma with Gramma Theresa and Grand-Aunt Rosalie, day trips with Gramps Dave and Nana Jess, learning about facts, being a big brother to Fiona and your younger brothers, and reading. What you do not like is "baby stuff" as you often tell Mama, not being right, being told that you are not the boss (ah, the joys of being 8), cleaning, and having to eat certain vegetables. 

With you being the oldest, Mama often asks you to help out with things around the home, especially when she has her hands full with Fiona, and Fox. You often do not mind helping, and gladly do so. At the same time, Mama is cautious not to overburden you, because you deserve to have the same childhood as your younger siblings does. You act older than your age at times, and it can be hard to believe that you had just turned 8. You are the Professor of the family, and always sprout off what you know. You can be absolutely hilarious, and have a smart as whip comments to spit back. Sometimes, your whip of tongue can get you in trouble though! 


You had your annual allergy visit with Dr. McMeen. You weighed 55 pounds, and measured at 4 foot and 2 inches. Dr. Mcmeen discussed with you and Mama about your Eczema, and how to manage it during summertime, since you were prone to flare ups during this time of the year. It appeared that every summer, you got a quite terrible flare up on back of your knees, and Mama suspected it was from grass or tree (or even both!) pollen. 

Then Mama asked Dr. McMeen about food challenge, and you had to have a skin prick test to make sure that you remained allergy-free to tree nuts. You had both skin and blood tests in the past that indicated that you were not allergic to tree nuts, however, for you to proceed with food challenge, Dr. McMeen had to retest you. To no great surprise, you remained negative for tree nuts! With a confirmation set in the stone, Dr. McMeen gave you a green light to start food challenge to test all seven different types of nuts. She gave Mama an intensive instruction how to proceed with the challenge at home. It left Mama anxious, but she knew that you would go through this with resilience. Before you could go through with the food challenge, your eczema had to be cleared up first. This was to prevent any confusion whether eczema was caused from the food challenge, or environmental. 

Daddy and Mama are hoping that you will be able to have your diet expanded, and not to have worry so much about what you eat. You are great at self-advocating, and making sure that the food does not contain any nuts. Your sense of self-advocacy does ease Mama's mind, because it shows her that you are able to navigate through obstacles with little to no problems. However, you do have anxiety surrounding your food allergy, and it can flare up from time to time. This is when Mama and Daddy steps in to have a discussion to talk through your anxiety with you, and help you to make a peace with it. As older as you get, the more comfortable you become with having a peanut allergy, because it is a part of who you are. 


Mama scheduled you to have your 8-year old wellness check with Dr. Karbon on September 30th, because it overlapped with Fiona's year old wellness check. It was easier to hit two birds with one stone to bring both of you, and possibly Franklin and Fox as well to get flu shot for everybody. Mama always made sure that you kids received your flu shots every fall, and this year was just as important or even more important with CVID19 circulating around. 

You will be entering second grade with Mrs. Zoll this fall, and it marks your last year at Hillcrest Primary school. By next fall, you will be starting a new school at Olga Brenner Elementary school as a third grader! This makes Mama a bit sad, because this marks a new chapter in your life, and you've been going to Hillcrest since you were three years old! You will be making the best of this year with or without CVID19! 



Mama and Daddy are looking forward to what year 8 brings for you, and see nothing but great things in store waiting to happen! 

Love,

Mama, Daddy, Franklin, Fox, & Fiona 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Fiona is TEN Months Old

Dear Fiona, 


You are TEN MONTHS old. 

Holy Moly, you are in a double digits now, and your first birthday is rapidly approaching. Mama is already brainstorming the ideas for your first birthday celebration, CVID19 style, since it may not be safe for a gathering. Nonetheless, it does not mean that you should be cheated out of your special day. Mama is excited to have your birthday picture shoot set up! Much to Daddy's dismay, Mama is already sprouting off ideas for the family picture shoot. He smiles at her, and nods his head lovingly, then say, whatever you like, honey

Your day has finally arrived, and you cannot be contained anymore. You are a mobile baby! You are constantly on GO! You march on your hands and knee in a creeper style. You move so quickly. Mama puts you down in one spot, and in an instant, you're across the room! Mama has asked Daddy to pretty please build barn style gates to secure the exit ways, because she's always chasing after you. Your favorite spot is dog bowl dishes. Yuck. You just LOVE them for some reason, and splash in water. You are standing up with a help from anything that is within your reach, and you pull yourself up! In no time, you will start walking across the couch, or anything you're pulling yourself up on. Mama thinks you will be up and walking around, or shortly after your first birthday. After all, you do have three older brothers to keep up with! 

                      

You are a great eater. You prefer fruits; you love strawberries, blackberries, cranberries, and bananas. Your favorite snack is guacamole! You do end up really messy, but that's okay as long as you are happy, and content. You eat with family three times a day, and have snacks in between if you get hungry, which isn't very often, and you've started drinking water out of a strawed sippy. You and your brothers appear to have mastered straws early on in your lives, which was just fine by Mama, because Mama does not like the spout kind of sippy cups anyway. 

Based on your last wellness check, you weighed 18 pounds, and measured at whooping 29 inches tall! Your next wellness check is scheduled a few days after your first birthday. This is an inconceivable thought. Mama is not quite ready for you to turn one just yet! Nonetheless, given your height, you no longer fit in your infant carrier anymore, and to be honest, it has been time for a while  anyway! With a ton of researching, and looking around for what fits your needs the best, Mama has decided to buy you Graco 4Ever DLX car seat, since it is the most recommended car seat on the market, and has features that Mama likes the best. The car seat has been installed, and secured with no problem. You, on other hand, are not too sure about your new car seat just yet! No worries, you will come to like it in time, especially with long road trips to visit our families. 

Mama has finally moved you out of her bedroom. The decision came to her rather abruptly, especially with you growing bigger, and standing up, which makes it unsafe for you to be sleeping on the insert part of the bassinet. Moving you to the bottom of the pack & play could be a feasible option. Unfortunately, it won't be too easy on Mama's back to pick you up from the bottom of the bassinet to nurse you during the night. Besides, your bedroom was too pretty not to be used. Putting away the pack  & play pen was not a hard part. Putting you down in your crib for the night was DEFINITELY the hard part. On the other hand, Mama has made up for this by cuddling with you in her bed every morning!

Mama grieved the thought of that chapter coming to a close with the pregnancy and newborn days. She knew that it was time to sell the baby bassinet that she used with Fox and you, and it was a bit of a daunting thought for her. The pack and play pen was put away for future use, since it still can be used for several more years. With you being her last, Mama knows that a lot of  your "firsts" will also be her "lasts"; while there is a lot of joy surrounding your development into becoming an amazing young person someday,  there is also some sadness in letting go of what Mama holds special in her heart, and it is such a juxtaposition. This only makes Mama cherish you even more! 

       

With you sleeping in the crib, you developed a routine pretty quick, and it was when Mama knew moving you into a crib was the right decision. You showed that you had 3-4 hours window of wake up in between of your naps from the time you get up in the morning, and between your morning nap and afternoon nap. Then you liked to start winding down for the day around 6:30 PM with a bath and a story. By 7 pm, you nursed before going to sleep, and you usually stay asleep until 4 am, and got up to nurse. Wake up for the day depended greatly on what was happening on the day. The wake up tended to happen between 7 to 8 am. Sometimes 8:30 on the weekends! 

You do enjoy your sleep, and sleep soundly as long as you stick to your routine. However, Mama notices if there is any disruption in your routine, then you tend to sleep poorly. So it is important to make sure you stick to your schedule. This come fall with school reopening, your schedule will change once again, but you will adjust as long as the family sticks to it. It may be tricky, because the school schedule may change fluidly, because of CVID19 outbreaks. It just means that it requires all of family to go with the flow. 


                   


Having said this, you are currently going through 9 month sleep regression. This is not surprising, because so many new changes are happening in your life. You're crawling all of the sudden. You are standing up with pulling up. You are becoming more cognizant of what is happening around you. You are chewing on everything like crazy. Maybe a tooth is on the horizon? Naturally this is causing you to be a bit more wired, and it is fueling your midnight party! As tired as Mama is, she knows that regressions don't usually last more than a month, and you should be able to go back to your normal sleeping pattern. In the meanwhile, Mama suppose she will have to rely on coffee, and late night movie showing with you! 

                      


You are still nursing on demand. With eating food in the place, you are showing a pattern with nursing, and it is right on the track. You nurse between 6-8 times in 24 hours. Sometimes more if you are feeling unwell. Mama has a goal to nurse you until your first birthday, then continue into your second year until your second birthday. She has a hope that extended nursing will work out for both you and her, but also has no expectation to continue if you prefer to stop before then. After all, World Health Organization sees real benefits in nursing until toddler's second birthday, especially with CVID19 still surging around the world and in US, and you would benefit from the antibodies found inside the breastmilk. 

You recently met with the EI (early intervention) team to see if you were eligible. It was definitely an interesting experience to have everybody wear masks inside their home, and it was done for everybody's safety. You grew a bit overwhelmed by the sight of people with their faces half covered, and in time, that sensation passed for you. Your evaluation proved that you did need speech intervention, because you were not at where you should have been at your age. Mama and Daddy were not worried, because they did expect to hear this news, and they were relieved that you were able to get in sooner instead of later. They were also glad to be so familiar with the team members, because it meant nothing was new or unexpected for your journey with speech. With your speech being delayed, you showed that you were on time or ahead with other developmental markers. The team agreed to meet twice a month to work with you! 

                       

There is still no sign of tooth. However, you've been chewing like crazy, and chomping on anything you can bring to your mouth. Thank goodness for Dottie the Roomba! It cleans up whatever mess is left behind, and there is less risk of you putting anything foreign into your mouth. You sure LIKE putting stuff in your mouth, much to Mama's dismay! Goodness. You do enjoy chewing on Otis's toys though. That can't be stopped! Nonetheless, a tooth will happen when you're good and ready. 

Mama and Daddy are excited to see what month 10 will bring to you, darling Fiona, and you are so loved by all of your brothers. 

Love,

Mama, Daddy, Forrest, Franklin, and Fox