Butterbean

We’ve had a bit of a rocky start, haven’t we, Baby Boy?

Sometimes it was my rigidity, my inability to stretch myself enough to include you in our “pre-baby” lives. We had a hard time finding a rhythm because of that inflexibility, and I’m sorry for that. I was robotic: make the bottle, change the diaper, wipe the spit-up, just trying to stay afloat.

Sometimes it was my anxieties that kept us adrift from each other, stomping down on my throat, making it impossible to breathe. That’s no fault of yours, Butterbean, but it’s crippled me, nonetheless. The sleepless nights, the constant worry, the uncontrollable emotions have all affected how I’ve been parenting, and I’m sorry for that. But I’ve been trying, everyday, to be better.

Sometimes it was the three-month battle with your severe reflux and colic that drove the wedge. No matter how much I rocked, and walked, and patted, and soothed, I could not make you happy, sweet boy. And in every waking moment, I felt like I was failing you.

But here’s the awesome part, and I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point, I fell head over heels in love with you. Maybe it was the first time you genuinely smiled at me…

Or maybe it was watching your big brother taking the time out of his busy life (practicing his Acrobat-Baseball Star-Pop Singer-Hair Stylist), to dote on you…

Or maybe it was watching you react to the world around you for the first time: reveling in the texture of your fingernails against my skin, blinking into the bright sunlight, singing along with my lullabies…

…but somehow, you wriggled your way deep into my heart. You are a treasure, Butterbean. You make me laugh every single day. And even though we sometimes still have our bad days, I keep reminding myself that everyone does. I can finally see what our future looks like, the four of us, together. I can see your personality beginning to peek through: all giggles paired with seriousness. You’ll be my quiet child, my contemplative child, the one who thinks long and hard before he leaps. But leap, you will, with your big brother in the lead. (I see the way you look at him. I get it, Butterbean, I adore him, too.)

I know we’re getting started a little late. I know the last three months have been hard, for all of us. But let me say to you, sweet boy, that I can’t wait to get to know you, now that we can clearly see each other without the fog of post-adoption depression in our way. Mommy loves you, Butterbean. Always.

Sons Of My Heart

My sons. My life. My heartbeat.

Where there was one, now there are two. One of you is all sunshine and light, silliness and laughter. The other is all seriousness, storms raging just beneath the surface, ready to erupt with a moment’s notice. So different. Night and day. But brothers, nonetheless.

Your similarities are visible: button nose, sweetest smiles, golden-haired and eyes of blue. There is no denying you are related.

My Gorgeous Boy and my Little Butterbean. You own my heart.

Life has been a bit chaotic since bringing Butterbean home. His start in life wasn’t the easiest, and we’ve struggled with a gamot of health issues. But finally, finally, we seem to be finding balance.

Sweet boy. Your cries peal through an otherwise quiet afternoon, and as I bounce and rock and pat your back, bringing you no relief from this thing they call “colic,” I wonder if you know how hard we try. To soothe, to calm. To love you through it. We hear you, baby boy. We hear your pain and discomfort. Your Daddy and I feel it in our own souls each time you cry.

Even your Big Brother does his part, by bringing me dropped pacifiers, or a swaddle blanket left forgotten on the floor. He pats your back and strokes your head and asks for a “fist bump,” all to make you smile.

And oh, when you smile…

… it’s as if the clouds part and the most vibrant rainbow pours through. 

You love the feel of sunshine and the breeze on your face. You love to bounce and walk, to take in the world around you (even though you only see in colors and shapes and shadows, just now.) You hold your head up like a champ, dark blue eyes soaking it all in, a look of deep concentration on your face. You’ll be a great scholar, one day. All that deep thought will be put to good use, to better this world we all live in.

You require constant reassurance — and honestly, Butterbean, so do I — that your world is ok, that you are safe and warm and loved, that you haven’t been forgotten. You like to be tucked just under my chin, your arms folded beneath you as a pillow, and when you finally nestle in and relax, you get your best rest there, laying next to my heart.

It’s where you’ve always been, even before I knew you existed. 

My family. My boys.

“Clann mo chroì.”

Sons of my heart.

Goodbye 2016, Hello Brand New World of Awesome!

I vaguely remember the days when New Years Eve meant getting dressed up, going to some fantastic party, drinking cheap champagne, and toasting in a shiny new year, all of it pinned on the hopes of that all-important kiss at midnight. It wasn’t a right of passage, or a possible plan for the night, it was a MUST ACCOMPLISH THIS TASK BECAUSE IF I DON’T HOW LAME AM I AND IF SOMEONE DOESN’T KISS ME MY NEW YEAR WILL SUCK HUGELY sort of thing.

Oh, how the times have changed.

Tonight, instead of sparkly dresses and two hours worth of hair-and-make-up, I’m sporting my favorite piggy pajama pants and Brian’s socks.

Tonight, instead of drinking cheap champagne out of plastic toasting glasses and watching people I don’t care about making nice, I’m drinking a perfectly chilled hard cider and watching college football, because that’s how THIS mama rolls.

Tonight, instead of attending a fantastic party, I’m doing twelve loads of laundry, while a homemade delicious dinner bubbles away in the oven.

The Pioneer Woman’s Scalloped Potatoes and Ham. It’s what’s for dinner, y’all.

And the best news of all? That midnight kiss is guaranteed. (I just might have to wake him up first.) (Because we have a toddler.) (And sleep is a precious commodity around here that we trade like black market LuLaRoe.)

A lot of people would tell you that 2016 was the worst year in recent memory. With political disappointments, deaths of too many beloved celebrities to count, along with personal hardships and catastrophe, most of the people I hold near and dear are not sorry to see 2016 go.

Me? Well, I’ll probably cry every time I see Alan Rickman’s face from here until I die, and I still haven’t ruled out the possibility of becoming Canadian. But all in all, 2016 was pretty amazing to me and mine. I finally realized a dream and quit my job to become a stay-at-home Mom. I’ve spent my days raising an adorable and outgoing toddler. And we are living in a little house that makes me squee every time I pull into the driveway.

And if all those things aren’t amazing enough, four days before Christmas we got news that we didn’t even know we were waiting for. The sort of news that, when you hear it, steals your breath, makes your heart skip a beat, and changes your life in a nanosecond.

When you find out unexpectedly, wonderfully, terrifyingly, amazingly, miraculously, that your family is going to be growing by another heartbeat….well, it makes 2017 even more exciting.

So, Happy New Year, friends! And bring on the crazy!!

What’s Crackin’, Friends?

Here I am, That Gabbiest of Abbys, back on the interwebs again, just in time for Christmas. (Santa tipped me off that you guys were begging for new blogs from me. So, here ya go, nine days early. You’re welcome.)

As in years past, any time I’ve taken a sabbatical from my blog, there’s been a good reason. And this time is no different. Since last we met, I went and quit my job, packed our stuff, and moved clear across town! Oh Happy Day!

It’s kind of a long story. The gist of it is this: toddlers require a lot of attention. And because I was working from home before, my attention was divided. And Mama didn’t like that. So after much debate, we decided it was time to make a change. And here we are, in our very own home, with a fenced in yard and a fireplace and a happy little neighborhood.

Seriously. If you look up “Happy” in the dictionary, this is what you’ll find:

Being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t something I thought would be in the cards for me. As a child, I always envisioned myself as a working mom, home in the afternoons dressed in my pantsuit with a smart briefcase, being welcomed by my children at the door. (In these MASH-inspired dreams, I drove Mazda Miata and lived in a 2-story Colonial and was married to Zach Morris.) (MASH the game, not MASH the television show.)

As it turns out, it fits me to a tee, this full-time Mommy thing. I love being wholly available to our son, with no work distractions. I love living with the freedom being at home offers, and all the moments I get to share with him. Is it challenging sometimes? Sure. But it’s 100% rewarding.

I also love house-living. This is my first time in an honest-to-goodness house since pre-college. I hadn’t realized how weary I was of apartment living until I had so much space, and a yard. The responsibility isn’t lost on me…there’s more housework and, since we have a yard, yard work that we’ve never dealt with before. But I’m taking leaves, dusting baseboards, and vacuuming 7 rooms like :

via GIPHY
There might even be whistling involved.

It’s a wonderful life for us in these past couple of months, and as we settle in to celebrate the holiday in our new home, I can’t help but be grateful for the journey that brought us here. A lot of that journey was shared on the pages of this blog, and I felt compelled to share with my readers (however few of you there are left) a little slice of our happiness. My Christmas wish for all of us this year is that we can find peace, happiness, and calm in 2017.

And if you’re a parent to a toddler, may I suiggest a play-yard to keep your holiday peaceful, happy, and calm? It’s working over here.

Merry All-The-Things to one and all!

365 Days (Sixth Anniversary)

I kept looking at the date on my calendar today. October 25. Is it someone’s birthday? I thought to myself. I knew our son’s month-a-versary was the 9th, his adoption anniversary on the 16th, but it was the 25th that was nagging at me. Had I forgotten a birthday? An anniversary?

That’s when it hit me. It’s not just another Tuesday. It’s the sixth anniversary of Brian’s life-saving surgery. The surgery that removed the Nerf-football-sized tumor out of his belly, and the “C” word out of our lives. The anniversary of the day a team of surgeons saved my husband’s life.

I can’t believe I forgot.

I immediately sit on his lap, showering his stubbly cheek in kisses, whispering in his ear how grateful I am that he’s here. My son giggles at our sudden show of affection, and signs “Up,” wanting to join the snuggles. We wrap our arms around him and he lays his head on Brian’s chest, smiling.

If it weren’t for that day six years ago, we wouldn’t have had that moment today.

So even though most of my readers have seen this post multiple times, and even though you probably won’t want to read it again, I’m sticking with tradition and posting it anyway. Because I never want to forget where we could have been, if this story had gone another way.

It was October 25, 2010………
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The alarm clock blares into the darkness. It is 4:15 a.m. We wake in the same position in which we fell asleep: flat on our backs, staring at the ceiling, our hands still clutched together between us. It brought enough comfort in the night to allow us to sleep, even for a few short hours.

My husband gets up without a word. The shower and the antimicrobial surgical soap are waiting.

I make the bed, wake his Aunt Tina, and start the coffee maker. I debate for 5 solid minutes over whether I should lay out his clothes for him. I decide to do it. This isn’t a normal day, so why should I act like it is?

Dressed and completely awake, we decide to get an early start to the hospital. The interstate is deserted. I’m unused to driving in the dark, and the empty highway startles me. Our headlights slice through the pitch black, and only road signs greet us along our asphalt path. For twenty minutes, we are silent. The radio plays quietly in the background. Tina asks me a question, I answer it. Brian sits in the seat next to me, hands folded in his lap. He tries to appear calm, but I can see the nerves dancing under his skin.

As we pull into the parking lot the sky just begins to turn pink. Morning has officially arrived. We gather our belongings–bags and afghans and books and sweaters. Changes of clothing. Warm socks. We trek to the sliding glass doors, a small caravan of modern day nomads.

The fluorescent lights are much too bright. I feel like I want sunglasses. Tina takes our stuff and makes a beeline for the waiting room “to get us comfy seats near the coffee maker.” I smile. Brian and I head the other direction. I stare at the dark blue veins under the skin of his hand as he signs his name and hands over his driver’s license. I rub my fingers down his back, feeling every bone in his spine. He smiles weakly.

We sit. We wait. It feels like days, but it’s only minutes. He plays Angry Birds. Tina and I make small talk. I want to stand up, pace, fidget. Finally, they call his name, and we walk back to finish the paperwork. I could let him go alone, but I can’t abide it. So I squeeze in to the little cubicle with him. I listen as he answers the same 25 questions he’s been asked so frequently these last few weeks. He jokes with the nurse who taps away on the keys of her computer. We sign where we’re told to sign.

They send us to another office. Here we go over how the surgery will happen. What the doctors will do. What we can expect. This nurse has less information for us than she likes. She keeps looking as his file, glancing at her computer monitor, swishing her mouse in search of more facts.

“Did the surgeons tell you what recovery was going to be like?” she asks gently.

No. We don’t know what to expect because they won’t know how bad it is, and they won’t until they open up my husband’s abdomen.

She nods once, plasters a smile on her face, and continues to walk us through the surgery plans she’s aware of.

At this point we are separated. They take him back to prep him. I can’t go. It’s the first time we’ve been separated since the cytoscopy. I feel the panic start to creep up and I stamp it down quickly. No time for that now. He kisses me, squeezes my hand, and disappears through the thick wooden doors.

Thirty five minutes later my parents arrive. Dad hugs me, Mom squeezes my arm. I tell them all that has happened. They ask if they will get to see him before the surgeons take him to the OR. I say yes, we should get to go back any minute. Moments later they come for me. We pick up our bags and afghans and books and sweaters and head to his room.

Brian lays on the gurney in his blue cotton gown. It looks so thin, I immediately want to ask for a blanket. He has a shower cap on his head, and blue booties on his feet. He’s already got an IV in each arm. His skin looks grey in the too-bright lights.

Mom goes over to him immediately and smooths back his hair. “How ya feelin’, kiddo?” she asks. She’s been so strong throughout this whole ordeal. My heart swells. Dad and Tina talk about everything but why we’re here. The C-word hasn’t been used once today. We’re denying its existence even as we are trying to eradicate it from my husband’s body.

One of Brian’s surgeons knocks and comes into the room. He is young and handsome and calm and kind. Brian and I share a secret smile–he’s known in our house as Dr. Superman. I can feel Brian’s nerves begin to settle as Dr. Superman walks us once again through the procedure. He reaches out a hand to me when he mentions how unsure they are of the outcome. “We won’t know how much the tumor has spread until we’re able to get a good look at it. It could be attached to his colon. It could be on his bladder. If it has infiltrated the wall of his bladder we will have to remove it. I don’t think that will happen, but you need to be prepared for that.” He gives my hand a squeeze. My heart is in my throat.

The activity in the room increases. There’s no room for us in there anymore as nurses and doctors hover over my husband. We’re allowed to kiss him goodbye. I lean over him and we lock eyes. A tear escapes even as I swallow a sob. “I love you to the moon and back,” we say. And we’re ushered back to the waiting room.

I can’t stand it. I can’t sit there and wait. So I leave Tina and my parents and I head to the financial aid office. I spend an hour asking questions, filling out paperwork, discussing our options with a social worker. I get a sense of calm knowing I’ve accomplished something. When there’s nothing left to do I go back to the waiting room.

I keep waiting for the phone at the nurse’s station to ring. It doesn’t. Why aren’t they calling? Shouldn’t they call for an update? It’s been nearly 2 hours and I’m beginning to worry. I’m contemplating getting up and asking the volunteer about it as Dr. Superman rounds the corner in his scrubs. He looks grim. My heart begins pounding so loudly I can’t hear anything else. He asks to speak to us in a private room. Episodes of ER and Grey’s Anatomy flash into my mind. The private rooms are bad. They only take you to the private rooms for bad news. My knees buckle. Someone steers me by the arm.

Dr. Superman turns the knob on the private room’s door and it is locked. “Well, I don’t have a key,” he says. “And I don’t want to keep you in the dark anymore. The surgery was a success. We got the entire tumor.”

I don’t realize I’m holding my breath until it all comes out at once. The tears that have been living behind my eyes for 3 weeks come out in a flood. My Dad is smiling, my Mom is crying, and Tina has a look of relief on her face I didn’t anticipate. She never looked worried for a second before this moment. Now I realize she’s been holding me up for days.

I hear only bits of everything else Dr. Superman says. The tumor was larger than they expected. His surgical scar will be about 10 inches long. The tumor was the size of a Nerf football and was only attached by a fiber to his colon.  Brian is going to be fine. He won’t even have to endure chemotherapy. Dr. Superman gathers me into a hug and his reputation as a superhero is solidified.

We flutter back into the waiting room like so many birds. We are light on our feet, there’s a song in our hearts. We each grab for a cell phone and begin the process of spreading the good news. I call Brian’s Dad first. Then my brother. Then Brian’s boss. I email and Facebook and text message. I could literally dance a jig in the middle of the hospital.

We’re told Brian is on his way from recovery to his room on the top floor. We grab our bags and afghans and books and sweaters and head for the elevator. We beat him up there. We stand in the hallway, afraid to occupy a room this isn’t rightfully ours yet. The nurses see our posse and begin rounding up chairs. It’s a private room, and we’re all impressed that Brian will be treated like a VIP while in house.

I hear the elevator doors open and a gurney coming down the hall. There is my husband, back in his blue cotton gown. The booties and shower cap are gone. They maneuver the bed into the room, plug in all his equipment, and retreat. I dash to his bedside, lean over him and say his name. I’m desperate to touch him, to connect with him, but there are so many wires.

Groggily, his eyelids open and I all see is ocean blue. He takes a moment to focus on me, and smiles weakly. “How’d I do?” he asks.

I run my fingers carefully through his hair, down his face, and smile at him, wanting him to see nothing but joy and excitement and exhilaration in my face. “They got it, baby. They got it all. You’re gonna be just fine.”

“That’s good,” he says, and drifts back to sleep.

My family talks quietly in the background. I watch my husband sleeping, and I allow myself to take in everything I see. I wrap my fingers around his bony wrist, stare at his chest as it rises and falls, wait for the pulse I can see in the vein of his neck. I’m no fool. I know recovery is going to be long and difficult. I know he’s going to wake up when the drugs wear off and he’s going to be in tremendous pain. I know we’re going to be living at this hospital for a week, maybe more.

But nothing could tramp down the feeling of good fortune in my heart. Brian was going to live.

It’s October 25, 2010.

Brian and his balloon