Monday, December 31, 2012


I keep reading Facebook and Twitter posts about saying goodbye to 2012.  Some people are so ready to see it in the rearview mirror and some people will look back on it with fondness.

I can't figure out where I am in that mix.

On one hand, 2012 just, to be frank, sucked.  It sucked hard. My family was broken apart for 3 months.  My baby boy fought tooth and nail to survive.  We learned new definitions for the words "stress" and "tired".  We said goodbye to many people. There was sickness and there were horrible accidents and there was sadness for so many. There are lots and lots of moments of 2012 that I don't EVER want to relive, even in memory.

However, 2012 was full of moments of indescribable joy.  Parker beat the odds.  Jeremiah showed himself to be the most adaptable and good-hearted little boy I could dream of.  Our family and friends went to the ends of the earth and back for us.  STRANGERS went to the end of the earth and back for us.  Those strangers are now new friends.  There was healing and there was life and there was gratitude.  There are lots and lots of moments of 2012 that I will revisit for the rest of my days.

I guess I could sum it up with, "2012 was a learning experience."  I learned more about NICU life than I ever wanted to know.  I learned all the words to "The Next Episode" while trying to keep myself awake driving home from the hospital at 2 am.  I learned how to trust God more than I ever thought possible.  I learned a lot about myself and how I handle stressful situations.  I learned how to ask for help.  I learned that donuts can speak a thousand words from a thousand people.

I'm not a big New Year's Even girl-- I never have been.  This year I am sitting alone in my pink PJs while my boys are all asleep.  I am being foul humored about my corneal ulcer that was diagnosed today.  (Woke up with blurry left eye vision, and am glad I went on in for a check. Apparently it is a borderline emergency situation.  The eye doctor gave me her personal cell phone number "in case it blows" before my follow up Thursday.  Um, super?) I am also looking back at all of our pictures from this year, and I will send myself off to bed (After midnight.  It just won't be the same without Dick Clark.  God rest his sweet soul!) with these memories.  Some are bitter, some are sweet, but they all made 2012 what it was. 

And made us who we are.

Happy New Year from the Knolls!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

On the Subject of Miracles

This day.  December 22nd.  Until last year, it was a time of recovering from Jeremiah's birthday (more on that later!) and last minute hustle and bustle in preparation for Christmas.

Until last year.

A year ago today, we woke up and dropped Jeremiah off at Naner's house so we could go for our 17 week ultrasound.  We'd know in time for Christmas if it was a Parker or a Marianna!  But I knew.  Even then.  I distinctly remember sitting at the Chik-fil-a drive thru and saying to Mike, "I'm nervous about this appointment."

Parker had chosen to be a drama queen from his conception- after several initial OB visits where we weren't sure he was actually there, one "can't find a heartbeat" appointment, and some recalculation of my due date, we finally were in the clear.  Everything from 10 weeks to 17 weeks was smooth sailing, minus the constant barfing.

Our appointment started with a very clear and unmistakable sign that Parker was a boy.  The ultrasound lady spent a seemingly endless time measuring the heart chambers, and my mommy radar went on high alert.  She stepped out to get the doctor, and when he came back in our whole world changed.  We went from "We're having a boy!" to "We might not have a baby at all."

The next few weeks were such a blur.  I started this blog a year ago today, and re-reading those early posts is almost painful at times.  Mike and I were just plain lost.  We were doing the best we could, we knew we had a hedge prayed around us that was impenetrable, but we were flailing.  We found support from other CDH parents and CHERUBS.  We sucked it up and did the best we could, but at the end of every day, when we slowed down long enough, there was a lurking feeling of dread.

That all changed the day we first saw the cardiologist.  The day I waved my Krispy Kreme in the air while singing David Crowder as loud as I could.  The day I knew in my bones that God was in control of this little boy's life.

Something shifted in me that day.  The feeling of dread never disappeared, but my focus changed.  I can pinpoint the second it happened- during the fetal echo, the tech hit some switch that turned the black and white image into a color one.  (Click HERE to see an example)  Watching his little heart, squooshed and misshapen though it was, beating and seeing the explosions of color nearly brought me to my knees.  How could anyone not believe that God's hands created life?  How could all of these tiny tiny tiny systems be working together, creating another person, without a divine plan for them to do so? I had literally seen the hand of God through the wonders of modern medicine. I had seen a miracle.

"Miracle" is a word we use often around here, especially recently.   I even put it on our Christmas card! (which I wish I could send to all of you.  But I can't, so here ya go!)

Not a day goes by that somebody doesn't describe Parker as a miracle baby.  And that is very much true. Not just that he survived, but because he existed at all.  My biggest hope for my children, BOTH of them, is that they never lose sight of the fact that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Jeremiah was born healthy, which  (when you think about it) is nothing short of impossible.  All of his little systems fired at the right time and he came out as perfect a baby as you've ever seen.  He is a miracle.

Parker's little body, for reasons unknown, had a misfire at 7-10 weeks gestation.  Despite everything else developing normally, that one little blip could have ended his life.  It almost did.  He beat the odds and survived.  He is a miracle.

I said it then and I'll say it now, if you allow yourself to see God's hand in the world around you, everything is a miracle.  That we are able to carry on life as we know it is just downright unexplainable.  Lots of people will do their best to berate me for that belief and will belligerently present proof to the contrary.  And that's just super for them.  For me, however, it's a choice.  A year ago today, I hit a "make it or break it" moment in my journey of faith.  Focus on the science and the statistics, or allow myself to freefall into a place where I focused instead on the beauty of God's miracles, even the less than perfect ones, instead of trying to reason them out.

I chose the latter.  Some people did, and still do, shake their head at my "naivete" for trusting the God of all creation, no matter what the outcome.  It's getting harder and harder to hold onto any slip of faith in a culture that seems to be daily turning its back further on God.  My hope and prayer is that all of us are able to, as the card says,  "Be filled with wonder, rest in His peace, and always believe in miracles."

'Cause the last year has taught me-- they're everywhere.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Traditions and the Kindness of Strangers

*An aside-- It goes without saying that I am in constant prayer for the people of Newtown, CT. I just can't even begin to wrap my head around it, and I've quit trying.  I've just hugged my babies tighter, prayed without ceasing, and tried to swallow the sick feeling in my stomach.  I've also done my best to keep Jeremiah completely unaware of it, which is so hard when it is splattered on every TV, radio station, and newspaper we see. Even passing conversations and "code words" aren't lost on him. An entire school of babies has had their innocence snatched away in an instant, and all I can do it try to shield Jeremiah and Parker as long as possible.  As far as they are concerned, it's just Christmas as usual.*


I am a complete sucker for traditions.  I think it's due to my very happy childhood and the memories I have from it.  I am also a complete sucker for taking the same picture to document said traditions from year to year.

One of the greatest Atlanta traditions is the Pink Pig.  You could ask me how it got started, and I would tell you that I have no idea.  All I know is that for many years of my childhood, and for many years of my parents' childhood before that, it was assumed that no Christmas season would be complete without a ride on the Pink Pig.

What is it?  In my day, it was a floating pink death trap with caged windows.  It hung from a rail and squeaked along, flying around the Great Tree on the roof of Rich's department store downtown.  I can so clearly remember the clanking and the vague feeling that I might not make it out of there.  Therein was the thrill!!

Priscilla and Percival.  Can't really describe to you how small these trains are.

The Pink Pig was closed in the 90s, more than likely due to the obvious lawsuit waiting to happen.  It has been resurrected by Macy's at Lenox, and though it be a mere SHADOW of the former glory, we will take our kids there every year until they go to college.  And they will love it, doggone it!
Now it's a glorified mall train inside a shockingly pink tent.  Silly safety.

Jeremiah truly does love it, for now at least.  I was thrilled to be able to take Parker this year.  Yet another time that Mike and I held hands and said, "Can you believe we have them both?"

Want to see what I mean about being a sucker for tradition?  My crazy has spread to my husband, bless his bones.

 My sweet boys.  Same Daddy-n-me plaid shirts.  Same pose, 3 years apart.  Tickles my heart.

After the Pink Pig, we stopped by Santa's Wonderland at Bass Pro Shop for our visit with Santa.  We go here for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it's free (even the Santa picture!).  Mostly, it's because Bass Pro is every little boy's dreamland on a regular day, but when you add in merry-go-rounds, shooting ranges, train tables, and 4 wheelers, it just doesn't get any better.

 Two items that will NOT be coming to the Knoll house this year.

Jeremiah had practiced and practiced and practiced for his Santa visit. (We instituted the three present rule when he was born, more to keep ourselves in check than anything... and also in response to my years as a teacher that made me fear nothing more than raising kids with entitlement issues.  That's a whole other story for a whole other day!)  Anyway, he had it down pat and when the time came, he nailed it:

 "Size 18 bike, new Bible, and night vision goggles."

He also took it upon himself to communicate Parker's wishes (or what he imagined Parker's wishes to be) in his stead...
"My brother wants squeaky toys."
(Parker was unimpressed with Santa.  At least he didn't fall out crying.)

Our trip to Santa's Wonderland was a bit rocky this year-- they've instituted a new crowd management system to see Santa that was not explained clearly to customers.  In years past, you just stood in line and went up there.  This year, they've added a "Bass Pass" with an assigned 30 minute window to visit, thus freeing you up to walk around and play while you wait.  GREAT IDEA!  However, the signage explaining this new development said "If the line is longer than 30 minutes, this Pass will free you up to roam the store while you wait."  When we arrived, there was no line.  We sashayed on up there, only to be told that we needed a pass.  We went back to get one, only to be told that they had handed out all the passes for the REST OF THE DAY and we would have to come back another time.


I tried very hard to not be ugly, as I appreciate that they make Santa a free experience for all kids.  It really is wonderful.  However, I expressed my confusion and was told that there WAS a 30 minute line, I just couldn't see it.

"The line is invisible?"
"Well, no, it's just that there is a group of people waiting ahead of you that you can't see.  They are the ones with the Bass Pass for this time period."
"So the Bass Pass is required?"
"Only if the line is longer than 30 minutes."
"But there's not a line right now."
"Yes there is, but you can't see it."
"So the line is invisible?"
"Well, yes, I suppose it is."

Mike and I were in the process of figuring out how to communicate to Jeremiah that he would not be seeing Santa that day when a very kind woman in a green sweater tapped me on the shoulder.

"Do you need a Bass Pass?  We have an extra."

You, kind maiden in your green sweater, were Angel #1 of the evening.

So we took her Bass Pass and grabbed some dinner.  We got back into the invisible line (which was now 50 people deep) at our appointed time, and went to see the Big Guy.  As our turn approached, we dug for the video camera.  And dug.  And dug. And emptied the diaper bag.  And emptied the bottom of the stroller.  And broke into hives and sweating because all of our family memories are housed within its shell. (I do NOT back it up to our computer as often as I should)
Our turn with Santa arrived, and we had to give up the search.

Devastation.  Fake smiley happy times for Jeremiah's sake.  A long, slow, painful walk out of Santa's Wonderland.  I asked Mike to just double check that no one had turned it in.  He stopped at the merry go round and asked the operator if he knew anything about a camera.

"Yeah, I saw it back here and turned it into customer service a while ago!  Small, silver one, right?"

I burst into tears and hugged our Angel #2 while he was trying to operate his merry-go-round, thus causing his finger to come off the switch and the merry-go-round to stop suddenly in midtwirl.  I cared not.

It's so easy to throw up our hands and say, "This country has gone to hell in a handbasket and there's just no coming back from it.  The whole world is full of terrible people."  It seems that way, especially after yesterday.  However, I don't know how it's possible to live life with that attitude and try to raise happy kids at the same time.  And so, this year, while it may seem childish, it may seem like sticking my head in the sand, and it may seem out of touch with reality, I'm making a choice to believe that there are more Bass Pass hander-outers and camera rescuers out there than we think.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Belated Six Months

 Remember this lil' guy at 3 months?
 Look at him now at 6 months!  Growing like a weed!
I know he's mine, but heavens to gracious he's pretty darn cute.  That could be due to the fact that he looks just like his mama :-)  Thank you thank you thank you, Nesie, for the pictures!

My sweet daddy put this picture up on his Facebook account a few days ago-- it makes my heart happy for so many reasons... Mostly because I love my Daddy and Sister to the ends of the earth. It also tickles me to death to finally have a little clone baby after Mike got to (and still does) crow about Jeremiah.

I took this picture right before we left town Thursday, and there might be a bit of truth to one of my friend's comment that it looks just like Mike and I sitting there playing Legos.  I love those boys to pieces!!

I need to record Parker's 6 month stats before I forget-- he is 29 inches long (so far off the chart it's not even funny) and 20.1 pounds (75th %ile).  He's a quarter of an inch longer than JB at 6 months and almost a pound heavier. NICU what??? He's gigantic! And sweet as can be.

Round 2 of Synagis today.  Follow up with GI on Monday.  147 more days of hibernation.  Tick tock tick tock.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Mike and I snuck off Thursday night and, after a HORRIFIC drive down, arrived for 4 days of fun with Mickey Mouse.  Many, many people have asked why on earth we chose to go to DisneyWorld for our "romantic grown-up getaway."  I shall explain thusly:

1) we had 4 days left on our already-paid-for 10 day no-expiration Park Hopper tickets = "free" admission
2) we had some leftover points in our Disney Vacation Club account for this year = "free" hotel
3) "romance" in the traditional sense doesn't happen too much at our house. 

We are not stroll on the beach, gaze into one another's eyes, violin music sorts.  There is absolutely no doubt in anyone's mind that I love that man more than anything and he loves me right back.  We just, somehow or another, missed the romance train.  Flowers and candlelight and wine glasses we are not.  Football games, pizza, and laughing at inappropriate things we are.  And we are both SO OKAY with it. In the grand scheme of things, a pre-paid-felt-like-free Disney weekend would be just as good as flopping on the sand somewhere.  All we wanted was a chance to be footloose and fancy free together after such a long, hard year.

We had an absolute BALL.  Our family motto is "Disney or Die," due to the not-so-relaxing pace we keep during our Disney *vacations*.  In true DOD form, Hubs and I never slowed down, and in 2 days at the parks managed to ride EVERY. SINGLE. THING. (Even the Carousel of Progress, which I had to convince Mike is technically a ride.)  We did all four mountains in one day, which is like winning the Disney Lottery.  Mike even conquered his old childhood nemesis The Teacups.

We ate insane amounts of food and shared beverages in all the countries at Epcot... except Canada, because nobody should drink Labatt Blue. 

We sauntered around in our mouse ears and exchanged "Go Dawgs!"es with passers-by.  We clutched our phones all the way through Splash Mountain, 3 minutes to go in the SEC championship, frantically checking texts and the ESPN app, only to lose service just before the big drop.  Service returned at the bottom, and we disembarked from our log heartbroken with the rest of the DawgNation, but proud of our boys. 
We snuggled up close on Main Street during the park closing song, watched the castle lights and talked about how excited we were to bring BOTH our boys back in May.  We got lots of Christmas shopping done and whiled away the car ride hours playing trivia on Sporcle.

We laughed and laughed and laughed.  'Cause that's what we do best.

We were SO READY to see the boys Sunday night.  They didn't care one bit that we were home, mostly because they had been spoiled rotten at Naner and Big Tom's house.  Shout out to the best sister and brother-in-law EVER!

There are so many people who just don't "get it" when it comes to Disney and our family.  I don't actually "get it" either, but I know that when I am there, my heart is happy.  It's a place I associate with so many of my loved ones because we have made trips there together.  Lots of my happiest childhood memories are from our times there, and I can't wait to make those memories for my boys.

There are people who probably mock me daily 'cause the back of my car looked like this:

Those people don't know why it brought tears to my eyes  today to finally have a car that looks like this:

We are creepy Disney people and we are proud. :-)

It was a wonderful weekend, I was happy to be in my favorite place, and I just love my husband so so much.  The drive home is always hard, but we have a tradition of making it easier by getting a Ghirardelli milkshake and driving by this exit knowing that it's true:

150 Days 'til the Grand Griswold Adventure for JeanJean's and Parker's birthday!   Can't wait!