You will have significant experiences.
I hope that you will write them down and keep a record of
them, that you will read them from time to time and refresh
your memory of these meaningful and significant things.
Some may be funny. Some may be significant only to you.
Some of them may be sacred and quietly beautiful. Some
may build upon another until they represent a lifetime of
special experiences.
- Gordon B Hinckley

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What Dreams Are Made Of...

Dear Family and Friends,

When your child is born on the cusp of viability, as parents, you don’t dare to dream about the possibility of normalcy.  At times it feels like such an unattainable goal anyway, a tease of sorts, that you just push it out of your mind.  In the beginning, all your attention is focused on keeping your child alive, making life and death decisions for them, in hopes that they will have the best chance at a quality life.  Then, your child comes home and your day-to-day work with them begins; not only are you responsible for meeting their basic needs as an infant but you are also participating in daily therapy aimed at correcting problems and catching them up to their peers.  As time goes on, your child progresses and you are SO thankful for that.  You develop a profound appreciation for milestones, as if you are witnessing a miracle with each roll, crawl forward, word said and letter learned.  But as your child progresses, so do their peers, and sometimes watching kids born after your child hit milestones well in advance of yours can knock the wind out of you.  You learn to smile and applaud and gush while hiding your own anxiety and fears that your child may never accomplish the same things.  It isn’t that you go through life all doom-and-gloom, but you do often find yourself waiting for the other shoe to drop, because experience tells you that it often does.  Then one day, when you least expect it, the dreams that you never dared to entertain come true, and your miracle child enters the realm of normalcy.

Everett graduated from his final interventional therapy, speech therapy, program on Monday.  YAY YAY YAY!!!  After four years of therapy aimed at catching him up to his peers, he has finally arrived.  We are so excited and proud and grateful.  He has worked so hard.  We have worked so hard.  And to see all that effort pay off is the stuff of our dreams.  I attended his final IEP (Individualized Education Plan) on Monday and found myself extremely emotional as I recounted all the interventions he’s endured.  For the past four years, we have participated in weekly therapies (PT, OT, Speech).  There were days that were easy and days that were hard.  There were days that he didn’t want to do it, days when he didn’t want to be messed with, days when I was so fatigued with the whole process too.  Then there were days when he did something AMAZING, when he hit a new milestone, and it all seemed worth it.  And then there were days like Monday, when our dreams came true! 

As I sat with his therapists, signing the graduation papers, I found myself trying to tell them what a big deal this is for us.  I suddenly had tears streaming down my face as I told them that I was in awe of this little boy who has defied every odd that was given to him.  They teared up too as I thanked them for helping him become the best version of himself and for putting up with a mom who has learned to advocate (sometimes loudly) for her son.  While I know the road ahead could still be paved with difficulty (he’s still at risk for learning disabilities), in this moment, our little man is our hero and we couldn’t be happier with the life we are so blessed to be living.  

With Abundant Pride,

The Bollinger Family

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Everett Turns Four...

A letter to my son on his fourth birthday...

My Dearest Everett,

When I look back at this year of your life, I will remember it as the beginning of your independence.  This year you began to spread your wings and even took those first few flights out of our loving nest.  And you have soared...really soared.  

Your first major step toward independence was potty training.  A process that took SEVEN months in total, you dug your heels in the harder Daddy and I tried to push you.  You made your sentiments known by peeing everywhere but the toilet (walls, towels, floors, rugs, the bathtub, in the air, on us) as we struggled to figure things out.  But we did eventually figure them out...bribing you with Hot Wheels cars for making your deposits in the proper place.  By the end of June, you had earned 100+ cars and our household was diaper-free.  

Of course, we were pushing potty training because of another major step in your independence...preschool.  Daddy and I found the perfect environment for you and your first day was in mid August.  You walked into that school and never looked back.  Daddy and I walked out fighting back tears.  By all accounts, you are a sweet student.  You play with anyone and everyone.  You share freely, say “please” and “thank you” without prompting, and are affectionate with your teachers.  You have a hard time sitting still sometimes but you love to learn.  You know the entire alphabet (upper and lower case) with sounds and corresponding animals.  You know all your colors, shapes, and numbers to 20.  You can recite countless songs, books, and movie lines.  You hate art and stickers.  

Your body has brought you more independence as you’ve seemed to develop some finer coordination.  You run now, really run.  You no longer require much help to access play equipment.  And a huge change this year is that you like to try new things by yourself to see if you can succeed.  You have amazing upper body strength; you do full chin ups at gymnastics with your body in an almost vertical position.  Your core is still weak so you have a hard time sitting criss-cross for a prolonged period of time.  But that never holds you back.  You are a natural swimmer...or more like you naturally think you can swim.  You have NO FEAR of the water.  Just last week you took your first unassisted strokes across the pool.  I hope this is the beginning of a life long love of the water.  

Your language has also brought you independence as you can really tell us what you want now (and we can even understand you too).  You talk constantly...CONSTANTLY.  Your sentence length has more than doubled this year, starting at three words and now averaging eight to nine words.  You tell us what you want, what you think, what you do and do not want to do.  You make up stories and songs.  You refer to everyone as a “he.”  You are always concerned with how those around you are feeling, with a common questions being, “Mama, are you happy?”  I write down the things you say that I want to remember forever and put them into a jar.  My favorite was when we asked you if you’d prefer a brother or a sister and you replied, “No, I want a puppy.”  Oh, you’re going to be so disappointed.  
Independence suits you.  You have found your voice, your opinion, and are no longer afraid to ask/demand what you want.  You make your own decisions.  And what I love the most about watching that process is that the undertones of your sweet personality shine through in everything you do.  This has really been a year of seeing who you are going to become...our first glimpse of the person you are growing into.  We have loved every moment watching you discover who you are.  As you spread your wings even wider next year, Daddy and I will be beside you for every flight.  We can’t wait to see what your future holds.  Happy 4th birthday little man!!!  


Mama and Daddy

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Healthy Baby Blessings With a Side of Anxiety...

Dear Family and Friends,

Zac and I had our anatomy ultrasound last Monday.  It’s the big one where the technician checks the baby for defects, anomalies, and takes measurements of all his/her body parts.  For those of you who have done one recently, you can understand how nerve wracking it can be.  Especially since we didn’t opt for any early testing, seeing our beautiful baby very much healthy and typical was a HUGE relief.  He/she got the award for wiggliest baby of the day and while they did eventually see everything they needed to, this baby gave them a run for their money.  For myself, who has been feeling super frequent baby kicks for over a month now, it all makes sense.  This kid is active!

As you might have gleaned, we don’t know the gender...yet.  Being the HUGE planners that we are, we of course want to know.  But we are waiting to reveal this baby’s gender at Everett’s birthday party next Saturday.  We wanted ourselves and our families to find out together.  So a close friend has the envelope with the baby’s “goods” and Everett will open a present, prepared by her, with either pink or blue balloons.  It’s going to be awesome!  Another reason we chose to wait to find out (we’ve been waiting almost six weeks since our doctor said he knew) was because we really wanted to appreciate that this baby is healthy.  Going through our journey with Everett, we learned that gender really isn’t what is important.  Health is of utmost concern.  We just wanted some extra time to focus on that blessing before getting caught up in everything pink or blue.  So what do we think it is?  Our money is on blue.  My mom and several close friends are feeling pink.  Either way, we will be given what we are meant to have...we couldn’t be happier either way.  And that’s the honest truth :-)  

I am 20 weeks along now and we shall lovingly refer to the next six weeks as the “we are absolutely terrified” part of this pregnancy.  In this last week our anxiety levels have skyrocketed.  We are entering the period when an incompetent cervix (if that’s the problem) would manifest itself.  But so far everything is looking great!  We are also getting close to the window of “viability” for this baby.  Our local NICU will attempt to resuscitate a baby at 22 weeks gestation per the desires of the parents.  At 24 weeks gestation, every baby is given a chance.  That window of 22-24 weeks is a timeframe that couldn’t come and go fast enough.  We’ve discussed what our plans would be if this baby came that early, but I can’t even imagine having to actually make those decisions.  And part of me hates that, given our history, these are conversations we have to have.  Yuck!  

In addition to our general anxiety, Everett’s birthday is coming up next Thursday.  Our little man will be FOUR years old (how did that happen???).  Everett’s birthday has always been a day of emotional dichotomy.  But newly added is that our miscarriage happened on Everett’s birthday last year.’s that for timing?  So October 10th was and continues to be a bittersweet day for us.  We are hoping this year, the day involves nothing but happy smiles from our little man and a whole lot of cake.  

Zac confessed yesterday that he’s been thinking a lot about the NICU.  He was in LA for work and anytime we are down there, CHLA seems to call out to us.  Zac actually drove there by accident/habit once a year ago on his way to training.  He made it into the parking lot before he realized that CHLA wasn’t his intended destination.  It’s been on my mind too.  While we, of course, prepared ourselves that having another NICU experience might be in our future, I think it is finally sinking in that we really could end up back there. Just typing that makes me nauseous.  I told my doctor yesterday that I thought we were more prepared than this.  But now that we are in the thick of “possibilities,” it’s all just a little overwhelming.  I knew it would be hard to carry another baby, but I never imagined it would be this hard.  We are really trying to stay positive...and the vast majority of time we are exceedingly hopeful.  But the tight rope between hopeful and realistic can be a hard line to walk. 

All this being said, any prayers and good thoughts in the coming weeks are much appreciated by us and our families.  We are all stressed (grandparents included) and will be sticking close to home and to each other.  We are keeping the hope, faith and love.  Life, as always, is good.

With Anticipation,

The Bollinger Family