Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sick Baby...

Like the rest of our fellow Alabamians, this week has left us deprived of sleep.
It has been a crazy week of weather and schedule changes.

The next three days are promising to be so incredibly jammed packed, but when Saturday night finally gets here, it will have been all worth it.

Last night, I had dreams of crawling into bed after my kids were finally asleep, resting against the pillows and drinking a glass of wine while reading part of a book that is taking me months to read.

Instead, I spent a good part of the night tending to a sick baby.
It wasn't even my baby, it was Addie's newest - Baby Andrew.

Addie is - a mess.
She was so tired last night and I was so sure she was going to fall right to sleep, Baby Andrew resting in her arms, but then, she sat up and started rocking Andrew and trying to shush him.
Then, she took his hat off, felt his head, became rather alarmed and announced he was "hot" and "doctor".
It was at that point that my dreams of any rest and relaxation got tanked.

In an effort to calm Addie, I got a cotton round, saturated it with lavender and gave it to Addie to apply to Andrew's head, reassuring her that would bring down his fever.
Next we had to brush his hair out of his face, get him snuggled in a baby blanket, with his stuffed bear in his arms.
Addie had to get him nestled in her arms, just right, so that she could keep close watch on his fever.

It is crazy.
Crazy awesome that she is nurturing and remembering the things that we do to make someone feel better, and she has such a caring nature.
It's crazy how much effort goes into making sure that I don't interrupt the miracle that I'm right smack in the middle of - because imaginative play is a gift that I didn't get to experience with Addie for years.
It's also crazy how I have to make certain that I don't rush through these moments - no matter how exhausted I am - because in Addie's mind, she is caring for her baby and I can't just toss him to the side and tell her to go to sleep.
It's not like when Julien was younger and I could put his toys in his toy box and he could go to sleep knowing that tomorrow he could play with them again.  
Addie doesn't understand the concept, we can't just take things from her, it's always a process.
It's a process of helping her understand and helping her make connections, because that is what she does.

She goes to sleep worrying about her babies and when she wakes up each morning, she always asks for her baby if she doesn't immediately see whichever one was there the night before.

It is a crazy, and sometimes exhausting process, of helping her learn and helping her understand and bringing her comfort.

I wouldn't trade it for anything - and thank goodness, Baby Andrew was feeling much better this morning.
Addie is sleeping soundly, and there's a book and a large glass of Coppola calling my name.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Home...

Our first day in Detroit was spent trying to see and do everything that we have wanted to do for years.
Most importantly, we wanted to spend the entire day with my brother; and my sister and I wanted to show the kids where we are from.

When most people think Detroit, they think:


While that is accurate - and my parents old house has an American automaker plant sitting where it used to be - Detroit isn't all factories and crime.
Like every big city, it all depends on where you go.

We started out the day in search of "Made in Detroit" attire, so we headed over to a nicer version of The Summit (Yes.  I said it).
This place was super neat, and my brother quickly pointed out that the shopping center is "dog friendly".
They have water bowls outside the stores, a beautiful sitting area with a fire pit to stay warm in the winter and a splash pad for canine companions to cool off in the summer.



After lunch, the kids decided that Addie needed to have a little fun of her own, and three body guards to accompany her.



She had a blast!


Next stop.
Our birth place.






My brother was quick to point out that St. John's is a Level II Trauma Center and that if we were to be shot or stabbed, this would be the place we needed to go.
I assured him we had no intent of utilizing their fine facilities during our visit.


....and as some of you have already seen, my Little Primate, photo bombing at Hardcore Pawn.
Addie was absolutely exhausted.
She was standing, watching photos being taken and next thing I knew, she walked right over and stood - in the photo.
However, before I could retrieve her, we had to document the moment.


It was Julien's idea for us to go and considering we knew the opportunity wouldn't present itself again for a while, we figured why not...


While we were in Detroit, we celebrated my niece turning 20.
WOW.

My brother is one of those people who has connections - everywhere, and for everything.
He should have been in politics.
He's shaking hands and kissing babies everywhere we go.

When my niece said she wanted Mexican food for lunch, my brother took us to Mexican Town - to the best Mexican Restaurant - ever.

Seriously.
It was unbelievably fantastic.


How I miss them!


I have no idea what was taking place, other than my babies trying to get into trouble.


After lunch, MaryRose presented my niece with the best cake - ever - from the Mexican Town bakery.
On the car ride home, I even searched for the recipe for this amazing cake, and found it.
I hope to completely waste my time and money sometime real soon by trying - and failing - to make it anywhere near as good as what we had.
In fact, Julien told me not even to bother.
Don't you love an honest guy?




My niece and former sister in law brought us a basket of goodies for our car ride home (....by this point, my fleece pants and I were good friends...).
They made sure to pick "Made in Michigan" and local treats for us.
So thoughtful!


Prayer is a powerful thing.
Addie had a belly full of food and cake and was sleeping - like a baby.


Almost as soon as we hit Ohio, snow started to fall,


and there was a lot of it and several accidents along the way.



Due to the driving conditions, we ended up staying the night in Kentucky before continuing on Home.


Our mammoth spring break trip certainly is filled with wonderful memories.
It was quite the adventure, and an adventure that I am so thankful we had the opportunity to experience.

We truly are blessed beyond words.

~ ~ ~

It took me a week to catch up on washing clothes and to get my house back in order after the trip.
It took me a month to go through all the pictures.

Just when I thought I have almost caught up on sleep, I got a text from my sister last night, reminding me of our trip scheduled for next year.
Here we go again.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

My Favorite Oldest Brother

As I mentioned, my favorite oldest brother and his girlfriend met us in Canada for dinner - and, at my request, to escort us to Detroit.

We got into Detroit way past bedtime and much to our surprise, my brother had our room keys waiting for us, and
had taken the liberty of supplying us with enough snacks to last a week
and
had something waiting especially for Addie.

~ ~ ~

My family, never once, questioned Addie's abilities or disabilities, or her diagnosis.
They have loved her unconditionally from the very first moment.
It is even more special to me that my brother who sees Addie maybe once a year, is one of her biggest cheerleaders.
Not only that, his girlfriend, MaryRose has loved Addie since the moment she first met her.
She was amazing.
She walked into my home like she paid half the mortgage, took control of preparing dinner and did everything she could to make that night wonderful.
You can't repay people for those kinds of acts.

~ ~ ~

They are kind and caring people who wanted to make sure that our visit was perfect.

Simple enough, a "Welcome to Michigan" sign and four stuffed animals, but it left me speechless.
It was overwhelming.
It's funny how things can bring memories flooding back.


However, this was a perfect welcome.


It truly was so sweet to walk into the room and see this:






My favorite oldest brother, he makes me proud beyond words.




Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Canada - - Take Three

This part of the trip was extremely meaningful to us.
It was exciting and fun, and so very sad.

Those of you who have been with us for the last several years will remember this post about our first meeting with the O'Hara's!

Three years have passed since we met one another in person, and we have been talking for the last five years.
Although we have only met twice, Jenn is a very dear friend to me.
She has been my lifeline, my sounding board and the first person I turn to when I desperately need someone just to understand.

I have said it a million times before, I am so very fortunate to have Addie - and for her to be doing so well.
The odds have been against her since the moment she entered this world and despite her gregarious little self, each day is a challenge.

Jenn has the picture perfect family, and they are the most loving, caring and close knit family I have met, and I honestly can't say enough good things about them.
It was Hanna who brought us together and although the challenges Addie faces is different than the ones that Hanna faces, we share an extremely rare bond - through a heartbreaking diagnosis of Microcephaly.

Since we were passing through Canada, I had to make sure we met up with the O'Hara's, even if only for a little while.


Gracie is Hanna's older sister and she is absolutely precious!
The girls brought Addie a bag full of gifts, one being a monkey apron - it is so incredibly adorable and couldn't have been more perfect!

Jenn and Matt also made sure they brought my family a bag full of special surprises as well.
It.  Was.  Awesome.


Thank you Gracie for being so sweet to Addie - we miss you!


Hanna is a doll.


My entire family met the O'Hara's for dinner, including my brother and his best girl from Detroit - it was a lot of fun!




Baby Ben has three older sisters to keep him busy and from the look on his face, I think he was hoping that this little blond girl wasn't going to be permanently added to the mix.


Hailey is Hanna's younger sister and this is the first time we got to meet her.
She was so sweet, but was so very quiet throughout dinner.

Addie was - in heaven - being around all the girls.




We got into town much later than I had anticipated, and it was close to bedtime.





When I asked the girls if I could take a picture, they all climbed up onto the bench and just happened to be in order by age and height.
They are all absolutely beautiful!


We took one final picture before the night started to come to an end.


It was much harder to say goodbye than I thought it would be.
I so wish that Jenn's family lived nearby, for my own selfish reasons, but also for Addie.
She was so happy being surrounded by the girls.

One of the gifts The O'Hara's gave to Addie was a photo album full of pictures of them.
It was one of the most thoughtful gifts Addie has ever received.
As soon as we got her in the car, she began looking through the album again, and asked, "Where going?".

She didn't want to leave - and neither did I.
It was hard.


Thank you Jenn and Matt for meeting us for dinner and for being who you are.
I hope to see you again soon!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Canada - Take Two

We had to take a few minutes to thaw out and there was no better place than the local gift shop/wildlife viewing area.

Addie has issues with Santa, the Easter Bunny and anything resembling a clown (smart, smart girl), but has zero problem approaching a gigantic bear.


She even insisted on holding his hand for the picture.


Yes.
Julien owns jackets.
We even had one mega warm one with us on the trip.
He opted not to wear it.
I opted not to unnecessarily raise my stress level.
He is 15.
If you have had one of those people in your life, you understand.

Addie - was giggling and attempting to do, "Super Ballerina!".
The sun was blinding us.
I'm pretty certain my toes were completely numb.



I don't know if they were all delirious or they just knew that they didn't have an option but to smile for the camera.
Either way...


They were all full of laughs!



My sister, Julien and I ran across four lanes of traffic, over a muddy median and through frozen grass to get to this spot.
After all that, he was going to take a picture with me and act happy about it!


As you can imagine, this was not peak season at Niagara Falls.
I was not complaining.
There was zero wait time at a popular restaurant and while we were all busy chatting, the waitress took Addie's baby and got him a chair of his own.


When Addie spotted him, she was concerned enough that she had to get up and make sure he was OK.


After lunch, we proceeded West - and Addie was exhausted!
We were all so incredibly quiet in hopes that she would take an extra long nap and be in great spirits for our next surprise!


We had an uneventful five hour drive through farm lands - and other than high winds and a little rain, the weather was great - considering what we could have been encountering.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Canada!

(Happy Easter! - This Blog is still catching up from Spring Break)


I have been to Canada more times than I can count.
Each and every experience has been - rather remarkable.
My Mother was adamant that we take the kids to Canada, and while everyone but Gabi and Addie had been at some point, it was necessary that we all go again.





After I convinced the border patrol guard that just because we are from Alabama didn't mean that we had brought an arsenal of firearms with us, we were granted access to a beautiful day of memories.
...and I was most appreciative of the barrage of questions...


The experience is similar to that of visiting the Grand Canyon.
A lot of standing around, just looking at the beauty before us, yet enamored with the enormity of it all. 





~ I remembered that I had this photo!  1978...probably sometime in the summer months! ~
Me with my Dad and Grandmother.







I'm not sure that Addie knew what to think of it all!