Two Years Home From the NICU

Today is the two year anniversary of Owen’s home coming.  We stopped down to the NICU today to say hello.  Everyone was thrilled to see how big and strong he’s gotten.  He walked all over and gave lots of air kisses.  Here’s the note that we left for them with this quote that I thought was the perfect way to say thanks to a NICU staff, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived; This is to have succeeded”.  Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Thank you NICU

A Good Ole Fashion Mom Brag

I just tucked the boys into bed and can hear them jabbering through the monitor.  Kellen says a word, Owen repeats it.  It all makes me realize that I haven’t been that mom that brags about her kids on the blog lately.  Celebrating is one of the pillars of this blog…so, let me celebrate (PS – feel free to celebrate your own brag-worthy moments in the comments).

Words, Words, Words Galore!

I realize it’s pushing my mom-bragging limits a little by putting up a 1 min 25 sec conversation where I only get one word responses…but go with it here.  Owen was essentially mute…note even an audible cry…for the first year of his life.  I hear all these words and my heart sings.

He has somewhere between 30-40 words that he uses on his own and he repeats nearly everything else that we say.  Owen was born into a family of talkers and he’s not one to be left out. His favorite words?  “Daddy”, “Puppy”, “Doggy”, “Monkey”, “Nookie” and “Lilly”.  Yes, Lilly is a little girl in his school.  His first girlfriend that’s not a nurse!  Awww!

Owen’s not the only one suddenly mastering words.  Kellen has really taken off with writing and reading readiness.  He writes all of our names and any word that you spell for him.  He also has started sounding out what letter words start with and he and he’s at the beginning stages of working on reading simple words.  It’s such a joy to see that he likes learning.  He’s already excited to start kindergarten next year and the fact that he’s getting the basics of reading now makes me feel much better about the idea that we are leaning towards sending him to a Chinese Immersion program for elementary school.

Soooo Close

Honestly, it has felt like Owen has been “almost” walking forever but each week he gets a little bit closer.  In typical Owen fashion, he’s not learning in the linear process.  He skips steps and goes back and learns the “easier” things later.  For example, he can run with his walker, but he’s not yet walking on his own.  He has started to take 3-4 unassisted, but not very stable, steps a few times a day and on Friday he stood for about 8-10 seconds on his own.    His therapists aren’t really sure what to expect with him – they said he’ll either take off running (and skip walking), or be one of the kids who takes steps here and there for a longer time, in which case he’ll be more reliant on his walker for the near term.  I think they kind of suspect the running scenario, but we’ve all learned long ago that it’s not worth predicting what Owen’s going to do because it’s never what you think.  He will walk when he’s ready…probably in efforts to get to a “puppy”.  (I don’t have the heart to tell him he’s allergic – he loves puppies so).

The Big Bad Wolf

Kellen was the wolf in his class’ Three Little Pigs Parade.  I hope you’re secure in your brick house when this scary wolf comes knockin’!



Summer swimming lessons are complete.  Kellen graduated from Frogs and moves on to be an Octopus this fall.  He is loving the water and learned to duck his whole head in the water on command and can float and scoop swim with assistance. Owen is going to take Aquatots again so he can keep work on getting his face in the water to blow bubbles.  However, he made a ton of progress and really enjoyed his time in the water by the end of the 8 sessions.


Overcoming Fears

Being at school has really helped Owen with his auditory sensory sensitivities.  I’ve not spent a lot of time on his sensory sensitivities, but over the winter and spring we had several issues where Owen would have such an emotional response to sensory triggers that he would give himself an asthma attack (I didn’t know this before, but pulmonary has said that emotions are one of the biggest asthma triggers). OT has been working with Owen on his sensory triggers and I also believe school has helped expose him to many new sights and sounds.  I am happy to report that I can now take a shower without causing my son to have an asthma attack and look at this progress…feet in the grass!  He even took a few hand-held steps in the grass after this picture was taken.


Me too, Me too!

We saw GI last week.  The doctor has another “maybe it’s this?” big-named, word to consider for Owen.  I’m not going into what it is…wanna know why?  I didn’t even Google it.  Yep, that’s right.  I am not obsessing over it.  Time will tell.  I’m making progress too, plus, I’d rather spend my spare time doing this.



Since Owen was born, I’ve been waiting for the day that my boys could play together.  However, with his developmental delays, I was beginning to fear that they may never be at a place to truly interact.  I should have known not to doubt.  It’s still in short 5-10 minute bursts, but more and more, Kellen and Owen are playing together.

Kellen is such a loving big brother.  He already has his life planned.  He’s going to move to Arizona and be a fire fighter.  Kyle and I can visit sometime, but not too much.  Owen will live with him.”I’ll make sure he’s always okay, Mom”.

Owen was six months and just out of the NICU before Kellen got to hold his brother.  I love the look pride in his face.  Owen wasn’t smiling yet, but he found one for his big brother.

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It’s hard to think of any part of parenting that’s better than watching your kids laugh together.


“No, Owen, you don’t eat it. It goes here” [a couple of minutes later Owen knocked down Kellen’s tower and that play session ended with tears. It was nice while it lasted.]


“Yeah, Mom, he’s not cooperating…again.”

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An all-time favorite.  The joy.  ahhhh.

An all-time favorite. The joy. ahhhh.


Very proud of himself


“Is this a goofy smile, mom?”

Yes, Kellen, you can be goofy and the best big brother all at once.

What No Father Dreams of for Father’s Day

Ask any dad the very last thing he wants to do on Father’s Day and I’m pretty sure family photos would make the list.

I’m not sure if a three hour car ride with two kids who haven’t napped all weekend would fall just behind, or just before family photo shoot on Kyle’s list of worst ways to spend Father’s day…but lucky him, he got both of these treats in on this Father’s Day.


Okay, maybe I’m the lucky one; he did both with, almost, no complaining.

I will agree with him on the car ride.  I’m really starting to think a limo with a noise proof window and a bath tub is the way to go for our next family-mobile.

However.  I LOVE family picture day.  While I absolutely hate getting my picture taken and turn super awkward (or maybe, even more super awkward is a better description) the minute I know a lens is on me, I do love getting the pictures that have been so kindly edited by professional photographers.

Professional photographers have this magical way of only capturing the best of everyone.  Tyson (my second cousin, which admittedly, can be said about most of the people in my hometown, but we really did grow up together) and Tonja of Pichette Photography get pictures like these of my boys.

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And, really, could Kyle have been having a bad time?  He even got to jump on the couch.

How do kids manage to look adorable, and not awkward in action shots?

How do kids manage to look adorable, and not awkward in action shots?

In all seriousness, today’s photo shoot was probably one of the least painful ever.  Owen was on fire with his giggles and smiles for the camera and Kellen kept his goofy faces in relative check.  The weather was perfect and Tonja always seemed to get her shot within a few frames.  Maybe we all felt so at home because we took the pictures on my extended family’s property just across the street from my childhood home.  (Or maybe we bribed the kids.)  I’m not really sure what it was but, based on the sneak peaks that she sent, I can’t wait to see the rest.

Fortunately, Tonja is good to me and is going to do some “modest” touching up of the photos to conceal the evidence of my temper-tantrum on Saturday morning.


The lighting doesn’t show it in it’s full glory of redness.

We were an hour later than I had hoped in getting on the road for our weekend in Wisconsin.  We actually got into the car and a few blocks away and had turn around for something we forgot…TWICE.  By the second time, as I came back to the car, I whipped the car door open with full force.  Me and my big nose were standing in the doors path.  Oh.  My.  God.  It hurt.

Fortunately, the start to the weekend didn’t predict the rest of the weekend.  We went to my hometown for my nieces grad party and decided to get a hotel at the Waterpark Resort.  It was a blast.  The speed of the water slides surprised me.


Kellen was in heaven.


Owen not so much.  He wouldn’t let me put, even, his feet in the water.  He preferred hanging with Grandpa Mike.


Well, honey, I know it wasn’t your dream Father’s Day setting.  Thanks for being a trooper, you really are the world’s greatest farter…I mean father.






The Athlete and The School Boy

I admit it, this week I’m going to be the mother that focuses mainly on the fact that her kids are getting so big.  I’ll try not to be too annoying, but it’s a big week in the ANRC house.

Tomorrow Kellen starts organized sports.  He is taking both floor hockey and ice skating this summer.  I guess my life as a soccer…err, this is Minnesota…hockey mom is beginning.  Kellen has expressed a strong interest in hockey for a while.  I have the secret mom hope that he’ll hate it (I hate the cold, the risk of injuries is concerning, it costs a small fortune and hockey in Minnesota is crazy competitive) but I’m trying to let Kellen live his dreams and so I’m going to be cheering whichever avenue he chooses (and I promise to not push swimming too hard because if I do, he’ll choose skiing like his dad and did I mention I hate the cold?  At least hockey is in the ice arena).

The other big life change in our house is Owen started school today.  Oh guys, he did really, really well!  And I didn’t cry!  I can’t say I wasn’t emotional, but I didn’t cry.  Several of the teachers know Owen as Kellen’s little brother and were excited to have him in the class.  His favorite part of the day was outside time.  The school sent home these pictures of him on the swing.

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He did cry some and had some moments of alternating crying / smiling, but as first days go, they said he did great. During snack, he mouthed foods that I sent while the other kids ate the school provided snack.  I’m hopeful that eating with his friends will encourage him to eat.  When I arrived to pick him up he was excited to see me and promptly said, “bye bye” (as in “let’s go”) so it seems 3 hours is just about his max.


Done for the day and ready to go "bye bye".

Done for the day and ready to go “bye bye”.

School is still a test for Owen.  It was a decision we didn’t take lightly and we included his pulmonary doctor in the decision.  The plan is as long as Owen is sticking to “simple” colds and ear infections that we typically see in the first years of school, he can keep going.  However, if he requires multiple courses of prednisone or gets hospitalized than we pull him and wait to try again later.  We are looking for the balance of giving him the opportunity to develop as typically as possible, while still watching his lung health and his attendance will continue to be a fluid decision.

For each day that he gets with his peers, I’m thrilled for the possibilities.  Since we’ve been home he’s been up in his bed jabbering away.  I think he’s processing the big day (don’t be afraid to sleep a little too, buddy!).


Take Me Out To The Ball Game

We had such a great treat today! Owen had the honor of representing Gillette Children’s Hospital by leading the Kid’s Running of the Bases at the Minnesota Twins baseball game.

The 10-0 score tells me that the game was great. I wasn’t watching much, the kids aren’t the sit and watch type. It worked out well because we were in handicap accessible seating and the kids had room to get up a play without interrupting other attendees.  Also, our seats were perfect because the Twins hit 3 home runs into the stands just below us.

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Giving cotton candy a try.

Giving cotton candy a try.

With cousin Derek.

With cousin Derek.

We even had enough room for friends Becca and James and their daughters Emma and Maddy to stop by for a while. Emma was a 23 weeker who was in the NICU at the same time as Owen.


At the end of every Sunday home game, kids who attend Twins game line up in a line that wraps halfway around the stadium. The kids in our party skipped the line and were escorted right down to the front of the line.

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Owen and his friend, Nathan, ran and Owen walked with me holding his hands. He walked nearly the entire way. I picked him up and carried him half way between 2nd and 3rd base and then put him back down to walk from 3rd to home.


Owen standing on home plate.  I love what this picture represents about what Gillette does for kids with disabilities.  Do you see the line of kids wrapping around the field? It goes up inside the stadium and curls back around to the far right the picture.


Once Owen was done, the rest of the kids attending the game were able to start their run and we grabbed a quick family pic with TC.


Owen hadn’t napped during the day and fell asleep while in his carrier in the walk to the car.


When we got home and I was taking Owen out of the car, I noticed something on the floor… his g-tube! I quickly took him in and scrubbed up to put in a new one. Unfortunately my worst fear came true. The hole had already closed. I quickly changed his diaper and loaded him back into the car for a trip to the Emergency Room. Fortunately, they have some great tricks and Owen did not have to have surgery. We were there for about an hour and his tube is back. With this experience, I learned some keys on what to do if a g-tube hole closes again. I will write a post on that subject tomorrow because I know it’s so many of our fear for our tubies.


A visit to the ER wasn’t the best part of the day, but things could have ended much worse and the rest of the day worked out perfectly so I’m going to chalk it up as practically perfect. Thanks to Gillette Children’s for the great memories and all your help in getting Owen mobile enough to participate in the running of the bases.

The Best Lessons

It’s not every day that I get to look at the day and think I just created a memory and gave an important lesson…for Kellen AND me.  Yesterday the stars aligned perfectly for that type of day.

Kellen, Owen and I were sitting on the screen porch watching the rain outside.  Owen was in my lap and I put him down and said, “Owen, it’s Kellen’s turn for snuggles with Mommy.”  Kellen climbed in my lap with a kiss on my cheek and we had this conversation.

Kellen:  The rain makes me sad

Me:  Why does the rain make you sad?

Kellen:  Everything is dark and it’s too wet to play outside.

Me:  Well, what about if we put on rain boots and rain coats and go play in the rain?  Would you like to see if can make the rain fun?

Kellen:  Really?!


Do you know what we discovered?  The rain can be a lot of fun, if you let it be.


bliss And beautiful too.

flower peace KellenThe day aligned perfectly because Kyle was home from work and could watch Owen.  By the end of the summer, maybe he’ll be walking and able to enjoy some splashing in the rain on his own.  Playing through the rain is a life lesson I definitely want him to know.

These pictures remind me of one of my favorite quotes that is so relevant when you’re in the throes of whatever life is handing out.

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

-Vivian Greene

Vivian was a smart woman, but she must not have had little boys…here’s my little boy version of her quote.



Things I Learned In My Week Without Internet

I’m connected to the world again.  After 6 days without the internet, I have it back.  Six days, Comcast!  Six days!  At the peak of frustration they were telling me it’d be 8-9 day.  Does Comcast not know we live in the day of instant gratification?  Not cool.  Not cool, at all.

I learned a few things this week without internet.  Not everything I learned was related to the fact that we didn’t have internet, but I learned them this week none the less.

  1. You can’t book a trip to Canada with the delta app on your phone.  You need a computer to do it.  (I’m so excited for a long weekend away with a friend in the coming weeks!)
  2. If you ask 6 different Comcast customer service employees the same question, you will get 6 different answers.
  3. Internet is not necessary to download iBooks.  I downloaded and read three last week.  One of them was even good (considering the genre).Our Little Secretsu
  4. My time spent on the computer has no impact on the cleanliness of my house.  I have lots of other excuses for not cleaning.
  5. The cleanliness of my house is impacted by visits from my mother.  Thanks, Mom.
  6. When comparing how much you love each other with a four-year-old, “8 Miles”  is even longer than “infinity and beyond and all around the world and back again”.  As a matter of fact, “8 miles goes all the way to heaven!”
  7. He then further explained heaven by saying, “by all the dead people”.  4-year-old logic is sometimes kind of awkward.
  8. 8 miles of love that reaches all the way to heaven is the best feeling in the world.20130519-134539.jpg
  9. Glasses and a full head of curly hair makes for a suddenly very grown up looking two-year-old.20130519-134548.jpg
  10. Learning to see the joy in the world of a two year old is the best feeling in the world.
  11. Yes, I had two “Best Feeling in the world” claims and by definition best can only be one, but I see no point in limiting such feelings.  Here are a few other best feeling in the world moments.
    My Mom, the screen porch and a girly drink.

    My Mom, the screen porch and a girly drink.


Watching my boys play together.

Watching my boys play together.


A few moments of silence in the sun.

A few moments of silence in the sun.


Kellen learning at school that a butterfly comes out of a chrysalis, not a cocoon, and coming home to be twin butterflies emerging from the ottomon chrysalis with his brother.

Kellen learning at school that a butterfly comes out of a chrysalis, not a cocoon, and coming home to be twin butterflies emerging from the ottoman chrysalis with his brother.


One of Kellen’s favorite things is to visit his cousins.  At Thad and Marie’s Kellen is able to play in big piles of dirt and on the basketball court with their 4-year-old grandson while the teenage cousins keep an eye on them.  When he’s at Thayran and Erica’s, there is often a neighborhood full of kids playing hide and seek in their yard and this trip they had a “petting zoo” of a rabbit and two guinea pigs in the garage.

My mom flew into Minneapolis this weekend and she and I took the kids down to see family in Tomah.  Somehow the 2.5 hour drive turned int 5.5 hours on the way their and 3.5 hours on the way home which was hard on the kids and the adults.  However, we had a nice time seeing family.

Owen has definitely hit the stranger-danger stage of development.  I was not allowed out of his sight and he was a little on edge the entire trip, but when he relaxed he had fun discovering new homes and playing peek-a-boo and trucks with his aunts, uncles, grandma, great grandma and cousins.  Owen also has been eating potatoes for several days now and so far it looks like he is tolerating them.  Fingers crossed!

Here are some pictures of the weekend.

tomah1 tomah2 My brother doesn’t like his pic out on the interweb, so I’ll just show a dimple.  Owen’s aren’t nearly as pronounced as his uncle or cousins, but this is where they came from.tomah3Teaching Grandma the art of the selfie.
20130513-121131.jpg Preemie generations.  Thayran was a 31 weeker which was about the age of viability in the 70’s.20130513-121047.jpg Cousins.  Their due dates were just one week apart.  This hug was so rambunctious that they immediately fell together to the floor after this picture.20130513-121014.jpg A little Packer indoctrination while in Wisconsin.20130513-120940.jpg 20130513-120922.jpg Every child who has been to Grandma B’s has played (“Gently!  Gently!”) her Baby Grand.  This is the piano that she and I sat and played when I’d sneak down and spend my evenings with her after my parents went to bed.20130513-120852.jpg



I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day!  Thad and Marie and kids gave me a potted plant and a card that made me hold in tears.  Kyle, Kellen and Owen gave me a spa appointment that I’ll be cashing in on soon and 3 pounds of candy.

Kellen also painted a teapot that had this poem that I think you’ll all relate to:

If You Give a Mom A Muffin 

by Beth Brubaker


If you give a mom a muffin,
She’ll want a cup of coffee to go with it.
She’ll pour herself some.
Her three-year-old will spill the coffee.
She’ll wipe it up.
Wiping the floor, she’ll find dirty socks.
She’ll remember she has to do laundry.
When she puts the laundry in the washer,
She’ll trip over boots and bump into the freezer.
Bumping into the freezer will remind her
she has to plan for supper.
She will get out a pound of hamburger.
She’ll look for her cookbook
(“101 Things To Do With a Pound of Hamburger”).
The cookbook is setting under a pile of mail.
She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow.
She will look for her checkbook.
The checkbook is in her purse
that is being dumped out by her two-year-old.
She’ll smell something funny.
She’ll change the two-year-old’s diaper.
While she is changing the diaper, the phone will ring.
Her five-year-old will answer and hang up.
She’ll remember she wants to phone a friend for coffee.
Thinking of coffee will remind her
that she was going to have a cup.
And chances are…If she has a cup of coffee,
Her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.



The day has come and it’s just about gone. Owen is officially two. I stopped doing it a while ago, but even the medical professionals will stop correcting his age now that he’s two. That, of course, doesn’t mean that he’s caught up, or that he won’t continue to close the gap between his abilities and his peers. It does mean he’s reached another birthday. His other two birthdays were in an ICU.

This year, he kept his ICU stay to a short visit to the NICU to drop off cakes for the staff. We also checked off one of the remaining bucket list items but leaving coffee and muffins in the family room (it just so happened that it was even on a snowy day).

Owen helping answer phones at the NICU.  It just so happened that our favorite HUC, Jolene, who now works in another office, was taking a shift on the day we were back.

Owen helping answer phones at the NICU. It just so happened that our favorite HUC, Jolene, who now works in another office, was taking a shift on the day we were back.

From the NICU, we went over to the eye clinic for his three-month check up. Owen got a birthday surprise from Dr. Anderson who has been following him since he was in the NICU. I thought we’d be talking about eye surgery to fix his eye crossing. Instead, Owen was given a prescription for glasses! In the past, even three months ago, his vision was good. However, he is now far-sighted. Also, his crossing continues to improve, so there is some hope that the glasses may correct the last of his crossing and he may not need surgery in the future. If that happens, it’d be wonderful to keep surgery number 8 at bay.

Saturday we had a small party for Owen. He had a great time watching the bigger kids play and crawled around giving his hellos. Since Owen is not eating right now, we decided to shower him with bubbles after singing happy birthday. We still served cupcakes (super hero themed) to guests, but wanted the birthday wishes to be about Owen and bubbles are a favorite (he even said “bubbles” in EI last week).

Here are some pictures of the fun day!



















We put glasses in the party favors in honor of Owen’s glasses wearing future.

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My Favorite Picture of the Day20130421-121106.jpg

Sunday, we spent the day together as a family.  Owen and Kellen played with the birthday presents.  Here is video of Owen walking with his new walker from Grandpa Corky and Grandma Cheryl.

Sunday ended with Owen trying to flex two-year-old temper tantrum muscles at bedtime.  He didn’t want to lay in his crib, he wanted to lay on the bottom bunk of the bunk beds.  Sorry buddy, you’re getting to be a big boy, but you’re not that big yet.