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Thursday, 28 May 2009

How do you solve a bedroom problem with 2 insomniacs?

Arg! Ethan has been sleeping in a portable playpen in our room since his birth in October. Duane did NOT like this idea at all but I reassured him saying "don't worry, the Baby Wise approach worked beautifully for Anika & she was sleeping thru the night at six weeks... I have no doubt this one will do just as well then we can put him in his crib in Anika's room."

And so the playpen was setup in our room with the understanding it would be temporary...

Now you guys know the rest! Ethan has never slept well at night and trying to solve the problem with him in our room is NOT working. So this week, because I do not have my big girls, I put his playpen in Melina's room in hopes that with me not hearing his every grunt and fuss between his actual wakeful times, I might get some slightly better rest.

The plan was successful. He has been waking at 10:30 (fusses & goes back to sleep), 11:30 (gets really upset & needs to nurse), 1:30 (fusses but eventually goes back to sleep), 2:30 (gets upset & needs to nurse) and 5:30/6:00 he nurses again and up for the day at 7:00/7:30. The nice thing with him finally being out of our room is that I am not awake the whole thirty to forty minutes it takes him to fall back to sleep between those feedings.

Trust me, at this point of sleep deprivation, every minute counts!

We get the girls back on Friday so last night I transitioned Ethan back into his crib which is in Anika's room. Anika stirred only once during his feedings; however, tonight, the two kept each other awake until nearly 10:00 pm (bedtime is usually 8:00 pm) AND Anika and Ethan are BOTH wide awake as I type this (passed midnight).

Here's my dilemma...

We have four bedrooms upstairs: master (Duane & I), Mina's room, Isabel's room (with extra bed for overnight respite worker) and Anika's room. Isabel still wakes in the night, too, although praise God it is not nearly as bad as it used to be!!! Not to mention, Isabel's room already has another bed for the nights we have respite.

Anika is my only good sleeper so I am not keen on her sharing a room with Ethan who is now keeping her up late AND waking her up in the night. Afterall, have you seen Anika when she is sleep deprived? She's almost as bad as me! Lastly, there is so little that Mina enjoys living out on the farm that taking away her one and only "space" seems cruel. But Anika & Mina are my only sleepers so shouldn't they be sharing a room?


The only other option would be to setup Izzy's sleeping space in the basement but that doesn't sit nicely with me, either... but what else can we do?

More than ever, our main-floor addition for Izzy's space is becoming more and more urgently needed. Either that or some answer to prayer regarding Ethan sleeping better at night.

You know, I did the math... Mina had colic til she was nearly a year old... she screamed ALL night long and most of the day. And then she had night terrors and would wake many times in the night until a few months before Isabel was born.

Then Isabel arrived and she wouldn't sleep at night either. She would be so happy and good during the day and then scream all night unless we had a movie playing. Finally, finally, finally, after eight long years, she started sleeping through the night waking only once for position changes every once in a while. So JUST before Anika was born, Izzy started sleeping.

I was detecting a pattern and fearing the worst with baby #3, but along came Anika and we applied the Baby Wise approach and were beautifully rewarded with a by-the-clock no-problems-whatsoever-with-bedtimes baby! Even today, when it's nap time, no problemo. When it's bedtime, no problemo.

Then came Ethan...

Other than the 18 months before Ethan arrived, I have not slept through the night in over thirteen years.

Isn't that just down right mean? What the heck is God thinking up there? What, he wants me to LOVE the ideo of ETERNAL REST? For the first time in my life, I look at death as an OPPORTUNITY to finally get some sleep... granted I'd never wake up again but even that has nice ring to it, don't you think?

So what would you do? Make the teenager share a room with her two year old sister while the other two non-sleepers get their own rooms? Or set Izzy up in the basement until the house reno can be done? Or leave Ethan in Anika's room and deal with two grumpy children all day instead of one? Or leave Ethan in our room and I get even less sleep?

Which is the lesser of all evils? Seriously, I'd love your input!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Y chromosome = gene of destruction!

Sheesh! It's a good thing it took four tries before having a boy because I may very well have stopped sooner!!! Nah, I'm just kidding. But I am absolutely AMAZED at the difference between Ethan and my other three girls.

Ethan's attention span is rather comical. My girls LOVED when I would talk to them and move my hands in slow movements... yeah, not Ethan. He figures I'm not moving fast enough or doing anything terribly interesting. He would rather roll all over the place until he reaches Anika's toy stroller, bench press it a few times (I am NOT kidding), knock himself in the face (and be AMUSED by that) and proceed in examining the wheels intently and other structural details.

Are you kidding me?

And the kid is secretly Bam-Bam from the Flinstones! He lifts his legs simultaneously in the air and pounds them to the ground so hard that his pelvis cannot help but get lifted! Oh yes, you should see my eyes bug out of my head when I am observing my son. It is a whole new world with him and I find myself NOT knowing how to engage him other than being rough with him, letting him roll around freely and getting into absolutely all the things he shouldn't be. (Oh dear Lord, this is one kid who can be delayed in walking as long as possible!!!)

And sign language? At this point, Anika would sign "milk" and "diaper" and "more" but Ethan just wants to grab my hands and shove them in his mouth. And the little guy has NO concept of the word "GENTLE". From day one, he has GRABBED forcefully all things within his reach. Anyone who has held him knows first hand, right Linda? Remember your lip he nearly yanked across the room? I will never need lip enhancers (not that I'd ever get them anyways) because Ethan keeps my lips rather swollen from his Ethan-grasp-of-death.

Tonight, I laid him on his back in the tub and he proceeded to do his bam-bam leg pounding thing and he watched with a serious look as the water splashed higher and higher as he kicked harder and harder... the bathroom was a total mess! Again, my eyes were huge as I watched this little bundle of mass destruction pound every ounce of his being into the little bit of water that remained in the bathtub. All of this while Anika blinked patiently while getting water in the face as she looked at her bath book and played with some toys. She is quite tolerant of her little brother.

Oh, and my girls always LOVED the funny faces I would make and the silly dance moves etc... Ethan looks at me so seriously. To get him to crack a smile is so rewarding because you have to work EXTRA hard to get it! But when you do... man o man, talk about melting heart moment. All is forgiven and redeemed in those moments.

The higher you throw him in the air, the happier he is. The more you bounce him roughly on your lap, the more he laughs. The rougher you are with him, the more content he is.

Is this right, folks? Yes, I just called you folks... someone cue the barn music and get ready for a ho-down!

All of this to say THANK YOU for your prayers, for renewed energy, for a happier Ethan (although every time I write that, he has to go and prove me wrong the next few days) and for those redeeming moments that make me wonder if I should delete my last entry.

And thank you to my two Cindys! (My cousin and the other is/was my birthing trainer) The two of you always have such encouraging words to share. I just had to say thank you for wanting to help out!! And of course my dear sister, Diane, from BC... despite your incredibly hectic life, you make time to touch base on my life via this blog and always leave words of wisdom and comfort... I love you so much! All of you who reach out and share wisdom either through leaving comments or emailing me directly, you are absolute treasures!

Keep praying that I learn quickly how to mother a boy, as it is clearly NOT the same as raising girls. No wonder Duane's number one memory of his mother is of her yelling "GO OUTSIDE!!!" I'd better start practicing with Duane! Hee hee hee!

Saturday, 23 May 2009

7 month old boy for sale

I honestly don't know what more to do for this kid. I think he will be the death of me!

I am living off of grass food for crying out loud, wearing 100% cotton, eating sprouts, making EVERYTHING that goes in our mouths from scratch, washing our clothes in flippin' Soap Nuts and using Debbie's Dryer Balls in the dryer! I use almost NO chemicals when cleaning the house, we have no dairy or eggs in the house, we got rid of our farm animals, we've doubled our grocery bill because of our special diet needs, we've paid through the nose for homeopathic, naturopathic, conventional prescription meds from allergy specialist & dermatologist & pediatrician and now we are trying a Chinese medicine acupressure doctor...

And my son has slept a total of 2 1/2 hrs ALL DAY today and is STILL screaming as I type this. Oh that's not to mention the five to ten times we get up in the night.

I have HAD IT! I am so TIRED and I can't even have the luxury of ordering a quick meal or even a frozen meal when I've got nothing left in me! These are the moments nobody warns you about... the moments where you would do anything to NOT have this child anymore. That HORRIBLE moment where you can understand why demoralized parents shake their children from sheer loss of all their reserves...

Nobody ever tells you about the feeling of not wanting your own child anymore. And it SUCKS!

What's wrong with him? I don't know anymore. I am so sick and tired of my head spinning around and around trying to piece every possibility together, of trying to do research and reading books, of taking herbs and oils and teas.

I just want a NORMAL baby! I just want to be a good mom!

I had ONE good week just over a week ago. No matter what the night, I was up with Anika & Ethan between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m., potty training with Anika, morning nap for Ethan, outdoor hour with Anika while Ethan slept, laundry done, house cleaned, meals made, etc... It's the closest thing to a routine that I've had in seven months! I was pumped, I was energized (well, motivated) and feeling like there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

But when I get my older girls back for my week with them, everything goes down hill for some reason. Ethan won't sleep properly, routine is disrupted with unexpected stuff, etc...

I don't know what to do or what to try anymore. I feel deflated and unrewarded for all of our efforts... all of my efforts!

I even baked a too-much-chocolate cake for Izzy's birthday and watched everyone around me eat pizza while I ate quinoa vegetable stir-fry without soy sauce. Mmmm. Come on!! Doesn't that earn me ONE night of sleep?

I just want to know when this will all end. When will it get better? How much longer do I need to live off of just forty-five minutes to an hour of sleep at a time? Just give me an end date and I'll endure it because at least I will KNOW that it will end!!

So there you have it... my down-in-the-dumps, worst-mom-of-the-year award feelings dumped on all of you like a sack of potatoes. Plop! I pray my next entry will be a little more uplifting. Take care out there...

Monday, 18 May 2009

Ten years and counting!

Yesterday was Isabel's 10th birthday...

This is significant on many levels. Many people, including specialists, warned me six years ago that she likely wouldn't see the age of ten. I remember sitting in the pediatric neurologist's office as she looked me in the eyes and explained that little ones like Isabel who have significant neurological damage (hence the epilepsy) seldom see their teenage years. She warned me that they often go in their sleep with one last major seizure, and that should that ever happen with Isabel, that we shouldn't blame ourselves.

I left that doctor's appointment to attend Isabel's preschool graduation. I think other parents were looking at me like I was over-emotional about the whole little graduation but the fact was that I was crying because the news hurt my heart so much and all I could think of as she wore that little cap on her head was "this will be the only graduation she'll ever know."

Well, she is ten years old now and stronger than ever! These last couple of years have been the LEAST stressful, health-wise, that Isabel has ever had. We have not had to visit emergency in years, and I can count on one hand how many times she has been sick (which have pretty much only been colds). Our only concerns today are her range of motion, or rather, atrophy and her "growing" needs (lift systems, wheelchair ramp, main floor living space, etc...).

We are looking to either build an addition to our 100+ year old home (which is beginning to feel like it doesn't make much sense) or knock it down and build a bungalow from scratch. You can imagine how enthusiastic we are about taking on more debt at this stage in our economical "low".

But, we can still carry her up the stairs to the bathroom for bathing and up to her bedroom every night. We can still carry her to and from the van. She is well over fifty pounds and getting rather tall but we are managing for now. Our goal is to save up enough money over the next couple of years to be able to swallow the loss in tearing down this house and building new.

So that's where things are at with our Isabel Faith. She is in double digits now, healthier than ever and nothing beats her big toothy grin when she's happy. Thank you for your prayers all these years and for your support. Thanks for being part of the journey!

God bless you all!

Monday, 11 May 2009

The gift of relationship

You know, I cannot remember a time in my life where I did not believe that Jesus was my best friend. As a little girl, I remember playing in the forest and talking away because I just assumed Jesus was with me all the time. In grade five, we had to bring an item that was most meaningful to us for show and tell and I brought a statue of Jesus (which I'd accidentally scrapped his nose off from carrying Him around in a plastic bag). I just couldn't imagine NOT knowing He was there.

However, there was a phase in my life where I felt I was making all the wrong choices and it's amazing how we pull away from light when we believe we are causing darkness... how could Jesus be WITH me anymore when I was no longer talking to Him about the good I saw in others or the unconditional love I felt Him compelling me to offer others? How could Jesus be WITH me anymore when all I had time for anymore was MYSELF?

My own faith walk has left me INSPIRED by others... how many of us walk each and every moment of our lives on this unseen path? How incredible EACH and EVERY life must be that it contains every fragment of a person's LIFE moments!

So when my thirteen year old says to me "I don't know whether I believe God is real or not... I just don't know WHAT to believe." how do I GIFT her with my own LIFE moments so that she can add them to her own and SEE for herself what is real?

I feel like I have been spoiled! I have been witness to miracles through Isabel and various other experiences. I have FELT the incredible POWER of prayer... it truly is a feeling! I tried describing it once in one of my Isabel updates... it is like a thousand whispers breathing LOVE into an outreach like a safety net in the midst of a great fall. It is BEAUTIFUL.

How can I help EVERYONE feel that? I will sit here and type out to you all of my love and all of my faith that you may feel that "filling" as you read this... an "uplifting" as though God's hands were picking you up off the ground! I will send to you the richest blessings I can imagine that you may feel the fullness of this TRUTH I have always believed. Even if only for a moment... may it be YOUR moment to KNOW.

And for my darling Melina? When I try to share with her from the very core of my heart, she rolls her eyes and calls me cheesy... but why do things that come from the heart have to be cheesy? And besides, I've never heard anyone complain about a cheesy pizza! Have you ever heard "oh, this pizza has too much cheese."? So let me be an extra large (again, no comment!) ooey gooey extra-cheesy pizza of love for anyone who reads this right now. (Man, I am missing pizza now... darn this gluten-free diet!)

I suppose it is similar to me trying to tell a stranger how incredible my husband, Duane, is. I can tell them ALL the things that make him incredible in my eyes... but it won't mean anything to them until they themselves experience some form of relationship with him... and I suppose even then, it would be different from the relationship I have with him. At least, it better be! Hmmmm, maybe I should use another analogy...

Well, I am sure you get my point! I pray that my dear daughter KNOWS God and Jesus from her own experience with Him. Her journey WILL be different from mine, and I will look to be inspired by the ways she gets to know Him differently than I have.

Wherever you are in your own journey, whether two steps in or two steps back, I am grateful that you are journeying AT ALL! May every storm be followed by a glorious rainbow and may every winter be blessed by the new life of spring. May you feel His nearness in all things, always.

From the bottom of my heart (and with extra cheese), God bless you!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Two milestones in one day!

Well, our little Ethan pierced his bottom right tooth today AND decided to suddenly master the ability to roll from his back onto his tummy. What an exciting day! And Anika has been using the potty several times today, too. So much excitement around the Vaags household!

Melina asked me what I wanted for Mother's Day the other day and I didn't even have to think twice about my answer... SLEEP!! Mina & Izzy will be with James this weekend so I will celebrate motherhood with my children next Sunday. Duane has promised me rest tomorrow as my gift. I am LOVING the sound of that!

As I type this, Anika has come running into the office saying "you're kinning me!" There is no self-awareness like that brought to you by a mimicking child! I didn't realize I said "you're kidding me" as much as I did until Anika has started saying it non-stop. It's funny because when she starts up these strange comments, I always ask myself "where did she learn that?" until I catch myself doing the exact same thing later on.

This dawned on me when we were all at the supper table and a piece of food fell out of my mouth and I jokingly said to Duane, "sexy!" Only to have Anika yell "sessy!" not even two seconds afterwards. Better watch what I say!

Hope you are all celebrating motherhood to its fullest tomorrow in respect for the mothers who bore us into life, for the mothers you have become, for the mothers you know (sisters, cousins, friends colleagues) and a special prayer to all the women who SHOULD be mothers but whose life circumstances have not allowed them to be. May you ALL be blessed!

Testing the waters.. or rather, the cream

A week Wednesday had come and gone since our visit to the dermatologist and since the lathering of hydrocortisone cream for Ethan. She had advised us to apply liberally for a week or two and then only on red spots as needed after that. Wednesday morning was his last "lathering" and sure enough, he didn't sleep as well that night. Ah who am I kidding, he's not a great sleeper ANY night but at least he typically falls back to sleep easily after his nursings.

Thursday during the day, I watched as his hands began to move subconsciously towards his ears and his head to scratch. He clawed at his chest again when bath time came and his regular lotion just isn't cutting it for him.

After his nap Thursday afternoon, he woke up just screaming. When I went to get him, a pool of blood leaked out from his ear and my heart just started thumping so hard... What is happening now? Luckily, when I cleaned the blood away, he had cut inside his ear from scratching so hard, and not because of a busted ear drum or something more serious. But my heart sure ached for him.

Finally, yesterday, I had to put the hydrocortisone cream all over him again because you could tell that the underlying itchiness was all he could think about again. Toys aren't near as fun for him when he is so itchy because he barely focuses on them. There is a constant distraction keeping him from engaging in his surroundings. Which just SUCKS developmentally speaking.

I am just so grateful that we had a whole week where he could be FREE. His hands were free of socks because he didn't claw away at his skin, he played with toys and reached for his feet. He cooed and laughed so much. But my favourite is being able to rest cheek to cheek or to caress his soft little face and head... things you don't realize you've taken for granted until your son is covered in open wounds and you fear touching him will give him staph infection or worse.

Anyways, he is positively BEAUTIFUL and we've started introducing sweet potato and bananas to his diet. I am SOOOOO thankful that we haven't had to do ANY wet wraps in about a week now... ah the FREEDOM!! When you add it up, we were basically under house arrest for six hours of the day! One hour with each wet wrap PLUS the two hours he needed to sleep in it afterwards. Oh, I sooooo am not missing those days! AND because the underlying itch had gone away, Ethan could actually play with his toys UNSUPERVISED! Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen... I was actually able to ACCOMPLISH some tasks this past week. Feeling good right now. Feeling soooo good.

Our next goal? To establish some form of routine around here. Nothing is getting done because I never know when Ethan will go down for a npa or for how long. Last night he woke up about eight or nine times and I am super duper pooped out. (ah ha, another poop comment... yes!)

At least we have had our faith renewed that this won't last forever, that Ethan won't suffer forever, that there can be breaks of light even if it is the eye of the storm... at least it is a break.

Thanks for your MIRACULOUS prayers! We are RICHLY blessed!!!

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Three blind men walk into the dermatologist's office...

And this is not the beginning of a bad joke, although the great deal of varying approaches to Ethan's eczema within conventional medicine is enough to make one stop and laugh (with a mild twitch in their eye!).

You guessed it, we met with the pediatric dermatologist on Wednesday... super nice gal who just came back from maternity leave. Her daughter is the same age as Anika and she also has a six month old son. I figured "hey, this is nice... maybe she'll be able to relate to us better than anyone else has so far."

She looked Ethan over, asked questions about his current protocol: hydroxizine (antihistamine), two wet wraps per day, two daily baths in tubs of Vaseline Creamy (ok, ok, not literally but just about!) & Protopic for his face. She looked at us and said, "let's get him OFF the meds and off the wet wraps."

Oh me oh my!! I could hear the angels sing... even if only for a second.

"We're going to get a STRONGER steroid cream and you're going to LATHER him in it for a week or two. And don't worry about the warnings on these creams saying to 'use sparingly'. I want you to lather him head to toe. There may be some thinning of the skin but you'll notice that he won't need to wear socks on his hands anymore because he won't be itchy."

I think my jaw dropped.

"And we'll keep up with the Protopic on his face because it's working so well. And just disregard the warnings on that one saying it can cause skin cancer."

I think I actually choked.

When she asked about what we were feeding him, we told her he was strictly breastfed and that I was on a restrictive diet. This next part made me lose all hope in our new-found-friend.

"Eczema has nothing to do with diet. Either you have it or you don't. I mean, tons of my kids come in and their parents say that they notice redness & swelling when their kids eat certain foods, but they keep eating it and are perfectly fine."

Um... anyone else see the not-so-smartness of that comment? She just admitted that nearly all of her clients claim to have an allergy... and yet eczema and skin issues have NOTHING to do with allergies? Hmmmm.

We told her about Ethan's blood test results and the success we've had in eliminating those foods from my diet. Her comment "yeah, but he's never even eaten any of those foods, so how can the blood tests be accurate? Just put him on this cream and you can eat whatever you want."

Oh me oh my... we just smiled and nodded, accepted the prescription for stronger cortizone creams for my son and a skin-cancer discosure prescription cream for his face and went along our merry way. $223 later, (oh yes, you read that right) we went home feeling deflated that once again we were told something completely different by another medical professional.

The good news is that Ethan's skin is PERFECTLY BEAUTIFUL; however, his stools are beginning to turn green again and he seems to have even more issues with sleeping. But we'll do this for the two weeks (although I am applying the cream sparingly) and see where we are at after that. We haven't needed to do a wet wrap with him for over 24 hrs (which is a HUGE relief considering it is a one-hour process each time). But the whole thing feels fake. Duane and I both know that the minute we stop using that stinky cream, we'll be right back at square one or worse!

So that's where we're at these days. Our son looks positively beautiful and I can't stop caressing his soft cheeks and kissing them or resting my head against his smooth scalp. He is much happier and laughing far more liberally (apprently I look funny to him... no comments please! LOL!). But we fear that we are training his body to create less cortisone.

We pray that short term use benefits will outweigh potential long-term damage. He is gaining weight at record speed and filling his diapers no problem. Surely this is a good thing, right?

So what's with the entry title refering to three blind men? Simply put, I have always had this opinion of TRUTH: there once were three blind men approaching an elephant. Each one reached out and tried to explain to the others what an elephant was. The first man said "an elephant is flimsy, flexible and paper thin" having reached out to feel the elephant's ear. The second man said "no, no, an elephant is hairy and wisps about from side to side" having reached out to feel the elephant's tail. The third man said "neither of you is right. An elephant is long like a flexible tube with a rough surface" having reached out to feel the elephant's trunk. Each was right regarding PARTS of the elephant, but together, they could have had a bigger, more accurate picture of what an elephant truly was.

We all approach TRUTH the same way from our own individual perspective. We feel around and use our own experiences & wisdom to hypothesize what is TRUTH. But the fact remains that no matter how far we reach, we are still limited. The only way to see TRUTH in its full dimension, is to HEAR one another whether it makes sense or not, and TRUST that eventually, the bigger picture will reveal itself into something that DOES make sense.

So even though we don't necessarily agree with all the opinions coming our way from the vaste specialists working to help our son, we trust that there is a common thread between all of them. And maybe if we continue to listen and look deep enough, TRUTH will be revealed thanks to each person who shared their understanding, and we won't have to be blind anymore.

The next time you listen to someone who seems out of their mind to you, just remember that they are revealing to you to the best of their ability, their understanding of what they have experienced as TRUTH. Then even in those strange moments, you can accept that in their own unique way, they are trying to GIFT you with more to see.

That is our challenge, that is our goal. To HEAR, to SEEK, and finally to SEE. God bless you all in this same journey!