A Journey with Love and Laughter

Read about our family as we journey through life as a family, with siblings, school and spina bifida, and lots of fun and laughter along the way!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Little Boy and his Dog

Nickolas is FINALLY on the mend again.
We found out at the beginning of the week that Nickolas had an ear infection. And we got some antibiotics. I had really hoped that Nickolas would bounce back right away like Katheryn did the week before. But no such luck.
He continued to feel really lousy for the rest of the week.
Except today. Today he didn't want to cuddle all day. Today he was good moving around and sitting by himself and having some independence.

Today he was back to playing with the dog and eating and NOT dropping all of his food accidentally.
But Sammie can always try...

And instead of giving his food himself, Nick decided to wave it around before eating! Much to the disappointment of Sammie!

Now that Nick is starting to feel better, we have a whole bunch of new therapies lined up!
We do weekly speech therapy workshops for the next 6 weeks, and physiotherapy has started up again for our next block (8 or 12 weeks - I'm not sure). So there is lots of work to do in the coming weeks.

But today, Nick was just a little boy with is dog!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Big Little Girl!

The title of my blog is the Ridding Family. So while I do blog about Nickolas, I talk about Katheryn as well. And I think she is quickly going to become of age to realize that sometimes Nickolas gets more attention and parent time than she does. Even though we try really, really  hard to divide our time.

But that is not the point of this post!

Katheryn is going to be 3 years old in April - in 6 weeks. 3!!! We've already talked about her birthday cake - which she picked out herself from googling children birthday cakes. And she went in a completely different direction than I thought she would.
Katheryn is really coming into her own, she has her own opinions, her own hobbies, her own favorite things to do. She doesn't want mom and dad to pick out things for her.
For example, that is how this outfit came to pass. She picked out what she wanted to wear, and then saw the purple skirt. Very, very specific. "Mommy, I want this shirt and this pant and this skirt!".
Acutaly I think it's kinda cute. In a let's stay inside today kind of way...

One of Katheryn's favorite things to do is colour. It comes out 'mommy, I want to tol-or' she loves colouring and drawing. Her favorite subjects are to draw mommy and daddy and Nick. Lots of circles and doodle - but she points out who is who.

And photography. If she can get her hot little hands on my little camera she is ready to shoot off all kinds of pictures. She started doing this in November, and for Christmas she got 2 children's cameras. But they are nothing compared to Mommy's camera.
She has actually gotten ALOT better.
Some of her favorite subjects are:
toys - specifically Dora and Boots

 Daddy (see the why do you have the camera face)

 Mommy (let's see what you can do)

 Nick (hi sis!)

One thing for sure that Katheryn is, is stubborn. Very, very, very stubborn.
Our current battle, that we keep calling a truce on, is potty training. But that final battle, the final defeat is coming soon. Katheryn has absolutely no desire to sit on the potty, and stay.

I was very surprised when I saw her sitting for 10 min on the potty. Then I turned the corner and saw this:

Just like with all of Nick's stuff I know that we will get there. With Katheryn I acutally do know that we will get there, that Katheryn will use the potty, that she will get out of diapers. So I'm not going to stress about it. She is very stubborn, just like her father.

Katheryn has been sick for the last little while. Very cuddling and staying close. Wants to be held and carried. Sick, better, sick, better ect. Now she's feeling so much better and she's bouncing off the walls! And TALKING about EVERYTHING!!

And starting to like some singing. Very slow. Katheryn doesn't like mommy or daddy to sing. But on one long car ride we started.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Family Day!

Nick decided to show off after dinner today!
Instead of putting him in his standing frame I decided to try something different.

So I set him up beside the couch, put his AFOs and shoes on, supported his ankles and hips and bum and let him play.
I wasn't quite sure what he would do.

But he did it! He pulled himself up and stood there! It took me a couple of tries to see if I could let go. But I finally did, to see what he could do... and TADA!!! That is ALL NICK! Mommy strings are cut!
He was so happy with himself! Of course I yelled for Kyle and he grabbed the camera! He kept doing it over and over again, standing for about 20 seconds and then would sit back down. Then up again!

This is all from a little boy who was so sick and stuffy and leaking and feeling awful this morning! What would he be doing if he was in top form the last couple of weeks!

In Canada/Ontario today is Family Day. A holiday to enjoy with your family. The day did not go at all as I had planned because everyone was too sick to go out.
I think I'll say it went SO MUCH BETTER!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ugg! Sick!!

Watching your children when they are sick is horrible. Especially when there isn't anything you can do. You know they feel lousy - you can see it in their face. Can't breathe, not hungry, fever. Just not interested in anything. But still trying really hard to still be happy!

Katheryn had it last weekend. Snotty and coughing, not sleeping through the night. Fever off and on for a couple of days. But still active on and off too. Then she got this lump on her neck! To say I freaked out would be an understatement. But after Kyle calmed me down and we decided it was not worth a trip to the ER, Katheryn continued to be active and we got in to see the doctor Monday morning.
Googling in this case was actually a good thing. Most cases of a lump on the neck in children under 10 years old is a swollen lymph node secondary to another infection (ear, throat ect).

A prescription for antibiotics later, and a fight for 2 days to get Katheyrn to actually taken them. And we got ourselves a whole new girl!

Talking up a storm and running around the house. She actually has so much energy that she would be racing around and stop and talk to me, and continued to run on the spot! I haven't seen her like this in months!

Nick on the other hand is being hit by a cold now.

He still has a smile for the camera, so at first you can't see how lousy he feels.
Then you notice how he just sits there with his mouth open - because he is so stuffed up.
And the constant leaking and...
OK well everyone knows the symptoms of a cold. Everyone knows how lousy THEY feel when they have this. But now I'm watching it in one or the other child and all I have is hot steam and tylenol at my disposal. And food and fluids. And rest.

Hopefully we are on the mend now. I haven't seen so much snot is a long time!

And I am really glad that I stocked up on a 6 pack of kleenex boxes last month! (I think we have 1 left)

I've been worried off and on about Nick. Is he getting enough fluid, is he dehydrated? How is his shunt? His bladder? Do inflamed sinuses put pressure on the shunt or increase ventricles? (Never heard of it, but there is always a first time). How long is too long to be sick?

Is there ANYTHING I can do to make him feel better?
And should i still make him do physio? Or is cuddling better?
I can see how harder he has to work to do things. He's not sitting as straight, he's supporting himself more. All he wants to do is be held and supported (like in his highchair). It's taking him longer to eat his breakfast.
Can we please just get over this cold!

Through all this, the not breathing, feeling lousy, snotty and generally feeling swollen and tired and grumpy. He still hams it up for the camera!

I know it will pass. But it feels like we just did this (in December).
Is it springtime yet?!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Someone you Love

Everyone has someone they love, and someone who loves them back. I bet you can list off, more than one, more than six, people that you love and love you back.

Take a moment to imagine if you didn’t have anyone who loves you. Take a moment to imagine if you were not surrounded by family and friends.

Take a moment to imagine what it would be like to be a 4 year old boy, living in an orphanage, without a family all because you were born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. And in weeks or months you were facing being moved to an ADULT mental institution, because you were born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Because your forever family was waiting in the US to adopt you, but today you are in your orphanage in the Ukraine.

Now imagine YOU could do something about this. Imagine helping to donate the funds needed for this international adoption (which is expensive) to get Shea home to a family that loves him. YOU can help. In just 3 months (since Joanna found him) over $6,000 has been raised, but almost $8,000 is needed, and time is running out for Shea.

So if you can think of people that you love and love you back please, PLEASE take a moment to SHARE LOVE, Share Love with Shea.

Click on the ChipIn to donate. It is simple and easy and safe. (I’ve done it myself). Just a couple of dollars and a couple of minutes helps Shea get home to his family just a little faster.

This was really meant just to be a comment on Facebook - but it just got away from me.

Shea is so close to getting home! So close to being surrounded by family who loves him, even if he has spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Spina Bifida and hydrocephalus should not be a death sentence, it should not mean a lifetime in a mental institution, it should not mean having no one to love.
You can follow Shea's journey at http://savingshea.blogspot.com/ (If you aren't already).
(Shea is a boy even though he's often dressed in pink!)

I can't even imagine if my Nickolas was born at a different time, or to a different family, in a different country how his life would not be apprecited, how he wouldn't know love and family and laughter and know that he'll be kissed when he goes to sleep at night, and when he wakes up in the morning. All because of what he was born with, all because of spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

If Nickolas was born overseas, in this country would he be crawling around the floor laughing when he finds a bit of dog hair, then looking up to his mommy to show off his find, before quickly shoving it in his mouth as I decide if it's just extra fibre or if I should really pry his jaws open and take away his prize....

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's Back...

That feeling. You know the one. Where things are just right. You smile a little wider, you stand a little taller and you see the world a little brighter.

I'm not really sure why this feeling appeared. I didn't quite know that it was gone, but with the stress of the shunt, the continuous snotty noses and coughs, not sleeping and always having a messy house got the best of me for a good 6 weeks or so. But not today.

Today things are good, things are happy.

We had a very good physio appointment. Probably the major impact on my mood. I was feeling so lost about physio, about development, about where we were. I felt that we weren't moving forward but just stuck. And today I got to see the most amazing thing.

I got to see my baby boy on his feet, hands out, feet moving - towards me. Kim (the PT at Bloorview) was walking behind him, holding his chest and helping his feet move. BUT there he was. Something he was not able to do before the standing frame, gaining strength and getting a new angle on the world!
 [Of course I never thought to bring my camera]

But that's not all. Nick is ready to show off his new tricks!

Nick has started to fully feed himself! For a while we've been able to put finger food down for him, and he'll pick things up and put them in his mouth. But he just couldn't get his head (actually his mouth) around the idea of the spoon in his hand. But as you can see, he's got it!
He even took my spoon so he could do it all himself!
What a big boy!


We've been trying to get ideas of stuff he can do when he's standing. We've graduated up to 1 hour, twice a day. And he wants to grab more stuff. His FAVORITE thing to do is put everything in a basket. Doesn't matter what it is - it goes in the basket. Which is great when we are trying to clean up.
And he's piling blocks together and putting rings on a stick (or whatever that plastic thing is). Nick is hilarious - he does all this stuff and then clasps his hands together and is sooo proud of himself. Then looks at you for the appropriate appreciation of his work.

Another thing that Nick is busy showing off...
His whine. Moooommmmmy, it's tooooo far, I caaaan't reach iiiiit. Muuuuuummmmmmmy, can you pass me that cracker, pleeeeaaaase. (Paraphrasing of course).

I'm taking this new stage as a developmental thing. He realizes that he can impact my actions, and if he sits and 'looks pretty' or at least 'looks pretty pathetic' I'll get him whatever he wants.
OK I will admit that I tend to get things for him. But now that I realize he is doing this (I wonder how long  he has been doing this), it is time for him to get down to work!

AND I saved the best for last!
The 'walking' was pretty great, but this is all Nick. This is Nick doing all the work and just using mommy as a little support and encouragement. (Call it the mommy-crutch). Are you ready?

Did you see it?
He's standing! He's pulling himself up on me - but that is weight on those legs of his!
And not only is he doing it once - but over and over again! So that I was able to take a bunch of pictures while trying to hold the camera steady and get the gist of what was doing on.

And we start physio again in a couple of week, we have our workshop for speech therapy over the next month, we got all checked out from neurosurgery.

Nick is happy and healthy and things are going great. Katheryn is really talking up a storm. I am taking control of some aspects of myself that I've been effectively ignoring for the last couple of years (read: weight). And Kyle and I are on the same page for so many things lately. So that feeling that things are right in the world, it's back!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Talking about speech therapy

Speech Therapy means another therapy to add to the appointments and stuff that Nick is doing. But this is good, and it's not so much about Nickolas, right now it's mom and dad classes and a play group where we get to practice!

We had our speech assessment the beginning of the month, Nick remained completely silent through the whole thing! But he is starting to chatter a little bit. Just no actual words yet. But I think that mama and dada are going to come soon. He is making those sounds when he is really angry and babbling in his crib at night.
I asked, but it doesn't count.

I even caught Katheryn trying to get Nick to talk. I could hear her yelling in the van the other day. When I opened up the door she is saying to Nick - "Say Daddy, Say DADDY! DADDY" He of course just smiled and laughed at her.
Dadda is his favorite sounding word to say. In the middle of the night when he wakes up and is very upset that he is awake it is dadadadada that he's saying in his VERY unhappy voice! But I don't actually think he is calling us - yet.

I made sure to ask for a copy of his assessment when we left - something that I have to keep reminding myself! (So that I have records for everything, instead of them being all over the place).
I received it this year.
Pretty much what we expected.
I really, really hate hearing that he is delayed in everything. But like mobility, language is pretty obvious and it's obvious that by 15 months (wow - are we there already!) he should have a word or 2.
So bad news is that he is severely delayed in his expressive language (using language) - well duh! He has no words. But in reading the report it said that he is showing some 'scattered communication skills' in the 12-15 month range. So that is good.
That's another reason why getting the report is helpful, I can go back and read this stuff instead of just remember that she said something about some talking stuff, but I can't remember. And the words severely delayed just repeating over and over. Because he is showing improvement - that's all I ask.

But his other stuff - his understanding and pre-language is there and in the appropriate range. So he understands what we say, what we want him to do ect.

Have I mentioned that I hate these assessments. They make me feel so dumb.
When I'm asked a really simple question like 'does he point to action words in books?' What?! I have no idea. Oops, he's supposed to be doing that?

But we have a plan. Kyle and I have some workshops to go to this month. We have a parent session where we learn all kinds of different things to do, and the a couple of parent and baby sessions where we practice. And reassess in 4-6 months.

A plan is good. Lets us feel like we are doing something.

I got a picture book for Nick to look through - full of HIM! He seems to be enjoying it!

This is just the first of what is Nick doing posts - more to come - I promise!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spina Bifida in the News

Spina bifida is on the lips of many newscasters across the US and Canada. I was excited and taped one of the news reports (and accidentally slept through the other - oops). Reporting on the results of the MOMS research study done in the United States.
It is also all over our blogging world as well. Many of the moms I follow participated in the MOMS study.

The result of the MOMS study is complete and published. This is a study that was done in the States. It compares doing surgery to repair the back either before or after the baby was born. Prenatal versus postnatal surgery.
I did look into the surgery when I was pregnant with Nickolas. This was a research study, where parents who were eligible were randomly assigned to the prenatal or postnatal surgery group. The prenatal surgery group had surgery at (I think 24-26 weeks), while the baby was in the uterus! It really blows my mind.
Closing the back in a teeny, tiny 24 week fetus. Then closing mom back up and continuing with the pregnancy.
It is actually during this surgery that this photo came from.

The other group is the postnatal group. These moms (who were randomly assigned) had the initial testing for the group and then returned at 38 weeks for a scheduled c-section - just like Nickolas.

So I went into watching these news articles knowing the study was completed early (apparently ignoring the fact that it ran twice as long as anticipated). AND that it was declared a complete success and now fetal surgery is being offered separate from the trial.
Amazing. But at the same time a little saddening.

Saddening because all of this news, all of this excitement about the surgery, isn't going to help Nickolas. Isn't going to help any of the kids that are born. But I think that is just me being a little self-absorbed. This is GREAT for future parents who get a diagnosis. I wonder what it will do to doctors who recommend termination for a fetus that could have surgery?

That being said, this surgery IS NOT A CURE. It is never meant to be a cure. It was meant to see the impact on the various complications from spina bifida. Specifically hydrocephalus, and chiari malformation.

Then why does many of the news reports discuss how spina bifida causes walking difficulties, brain damage and mental disability.

Wait a sec. Back that up!
So this is how the post surgical group is portrayed? Can't walk, brain damaged and having mental problems. What is this horrible thing called spina bifida?
I think that this kind of portrayal is negative,  perhaps we don't want spina bifida in the news - at least not like this.
I suppose (gruginly) that chiari and hydrocephalus could be considered brain damage - but that is certainly not how I see it.

The Canadian News was much more gentle. CTV news reported:

I did think about the surgery when I was pregnant. One part of me wishes that we could have participated. Hey what mom wouldn't wish we had participated when it has been a great success. That being said I was not going to be able to leave work and Katheryn for the 15 weeks I'd have to live in the States, or the money to do so.

As well I didn't even qualify. For one I wasn't a US resident, but even if I was, I had a previous c-section which automatically disqualified us. As well, Nickolas did not have hydrocephalus before he was born (which I had thought was needed - but looking at the research wasn't needed). That is what I keep telling myself. But I know we did the right decision, just sometimes, in the middle of the night that thought 'did you do everything humanly possible' creeps in. My rational mind knows that yes I did.

Because this is my blog I thought I'd just write my thoughts upon reading the research myself. I think it might be a little dry - so feel free to just skip to the Comments section.

Looking at the results (and coming from the perspective of a L&D nurse) I can't help noticing the impact on the uterus. 1/3 of the women had a weak scar from their surgery - and 8 women had their uterine dehiscence (or start to come apart). It gives me shivers just thinking about it.
So it is not risk free. This affects this mother, this pregnancy and subsequent pregnancies with multiple scars on the uterus. It is not something to take lightly (Not that ANY of the women who participated took this surgery lightly).
As well from the L&D eye: premature labour, premature water breaking were significant. Not only are these kids going to be born with spina bifida, but also risks of being premature.

How premature? 13% were born under 30 weeks. Under 30 weeks! Preemie-premature. 33% were born under 34 weeks (before lungs are mature). Another 33% were at the later premature phase and only 16% were term. Compared to 85% of post-surgery babies who were term.
In the scheme of things I guess prematurity can be outgrown and nerve damage can't. But I've never had a premature baby.

So, those are the risks.

But what does surgery get you?

The need for a shunt was decreased (but not eliminated). Only 65% of the prenatal group met the criteria for a shunt placement - and only 40% had a shunt placed. (Not quite sure why there is a difference between needing a shunt and getting one - but maybe I'm not reading it right).
The postnatal group (like the general SB community - I think) had 92% had criteria and 82% had a shunt placed.
The Chiari - 96% postnatal group had Chiari malformation (again typical). But only 64% in the prenatal group! And these babies were more likely to be mild. The Chiari still worries me, but Nick's chiari is not symptomatic. The introduction of the article, which talks about herniation of the hindbrain  - scary! Does not mention that this is often not symptomatic. I think leading to the media discussing brain damage and mental deficiency.

The second primary outcome does say that the mental development index and functional level (not sure why mental and motor was clumped together) was significantly better in the prenatal surgery group. Looking at the actual numbers of the mental development index - there wasn't a significant difference between the 2 groups.
About the functional level - yes there was a difference. 32% of the kids who had prenatal surgery functioned at 2 or more levels higher! I'm amazed. As well as more likely to not use assistance to walk.
NO difference in cognitive scores.

One final note. The discussion part of the article says that the surgery decreased the risk of death. I'm not quite sure where they got this. There were 4 perinatal (before brith) deaths, and 2 preshunt deaths (in the prenatal surgery). So I'm confused about how surgery decreases the risk of death. It also mentions the improved mental function scores. From what I read I don't know how they came to these 2 conclusions. But I know that I am sensitive to the possibility that spina bifida and hydrocephalus (with chiari thrown in for fun) can cause Nick to have a mental disability.

I do not mean to be negative about the article or in any way about the women and children who participated. I can only imagine how brave it is to be part of an experimental study where your child and yourself is put at risk (and/or benefit). It is a great thing for those who participated and those who planned and wrote about the study. It is an excellent study that opens to door to so many new possibilities. But I've studies so many research papers during my nursing school years, and I guess my mind still critically analyzes these papers.
Apparently I'm long winded today, and I thank you if you actually completed my whole 'review' of the study.
I promise tomorrow I'll have some long-awaited updates on Nickolas, and hopefully some pictures! I have a couple of half completed posts to spruce up!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Give Love

To my SB Mommies - I am sure you have read this a couple of times - thanks to Joanna and her beautiful writing. But this is for family and friends who haven't read this, who don't know who I'm talking about when we think about Shea.

It's a reminder that everyone needs love.
So Joanna, take it away!

Because it's February.

Because I just decorated my house in pink and red hearts.

Because Valentines are not just for couples...but friends, mommies, daddies, siblings, classmates and neighbors.

Because everybody needs love. And not the romantic comedy, butterflies in your stomach, plucking petals off daisies kind of love.

They need the "I'm yours forever" kind of love.

The "we can do this together" kind of love.

The "can't stop starring at you" kind of love.

The "I'm always there for you" kind of love.

The "I can't keep myself from smiling around you" kind of love.

The "I promise to make time to laugh with you" kind of love.

The "everything you say is so important to me" kind of love.

The " I couldn't be prouder of you in this moment" kind of love.

The love that lifts you up....

Squeezes you tight...

Makes even hard times feel alright..

The love that teaches you all that you need to know...

And gives you support you need to grow...

The undeniable you were made for me...

And together we make a family...

What's mine is yours...

I treasure each kiss...

And everyone deserves to feel like this...

Kind of Love.

Because real love is something that cannot be bought - only shared. We need it from the time we are born - and those of us who having loving families know that NOTHING could have replaced that. The love of family - the love I was given as a child - made me who I am today. It teaches us how to love the rest of our lives. It can never be truly expressed in the form of greeting cards, chocolates, flowers, or jewelry. Those sweet tokens and gestures give momentary happiness - it's the feeling love behind them that really means anything at all. So with that in mind, and in the spirit of this holiday of love - I would like to propose the perfect gift for your loved ones.

Give the gift of Love itself.
Give Love.

You can bring joy and love not only to those who hold your heart -
but to child who needs your help.
Give Love.
 By helping one little boy come home to the family who is waiting to give him this kind of love. The kind of love every single one of these children pictured above are given every day.

The kind of love so many of us are blessed to have.
The kind of love he deserves.
Give Love.

Shea's story is a remarkable one - and it is only just beginning. For those who don't know - and didn't read about Shea in December - he has spina bifida and hydrocephalus, was born in an Easter Eurpean contry and is put up for adoption. He is fast approaching the age of 4, where he will be put in a mental institution for the rest of his life. He now has a family ready for him - and Shea is WAITING to come home. His family is actively completing the adoption process - eager to give Shea the love, support and care only a family can give. The only thing we can do to help them bring Shea home as soon as possible is to GIVE.

Give what you have.

$5, $25, $50

It's not the size of the gift, but the size of the heart behind it.


It is so costly to adopt internationally - so much so that many people say "we can't afford that" or "it's just not possible for us". But this family has given everything they have not once, not twice, but 3 TIMES (read their blog - they are an amazing family)and is making that leap of faith to make Shea a part of their family - but they need help raising the last bits.

(And in adoption language, "bits" = $9,000!)

They need our HELP!

As a friend so honestly reminded me "Let's face it ... we all spend/waste $$$ on this every year. The chocolate is gone...the flowers die... and all you have is a distant memory of the token(s) you invested in."

 How much more meaningful - how much more noble - how much more true to what love is all about - to give that money instead to this family - to this little boy -
to bring him home - to give him Love.
So help share the love...with Shea. :)
Isn't that the most adorable Valentine ever?!
It's message is simple - it's purpose sincere.

Make a donation (even just $5!) in the name of a friend or loved one - to Shea's Adoption Grant (through the chipin on the right hand margin of the Saving Shea blog) or visit his family's blog and donate through their chipin (it all goes to his account.) Then print out these adorable Shea Valentines and give them to your sweetie, your sister, your mother, your friend - and see their faces light up at the sweet face on the card.

 I can't think of a sweeter, kinder,
more beautiful way to Give Love.

Can you?

(visit http://www.savingshea.blogspot.com/ to read more about Shea's story as well as to view/print these Valentines.)

Thank you Joanna for those beautiful words. I hope they inspired someone out there to really think about what love means this Valentines.