Saturday, October 4, 2014

Ryan is 4 years old!

We recently celebrated Ryan's 4th birthday with two Disney Cars themed parties (plus he had a celebration with his primary class at school). Ryan has been really into the Disney Cars characters for a long while now, and this year he insisted on having it for his theme. Lightning McQueen and Francesco Bernoulli have practically become members of our family, parts of our identity, etc, considering the number of activities and conversations that we have about these race cars, haha!

Looking back on this past year, Ryan has changed and grown so much. From a shy and dependent 3 year old to a confident and rambunctious 4 year old, I couldn't be any more proud of this little man. I wish that I had a video camera running constantly, so that I could catch all of the quirky/hilarious things that come out of his mouth. On occasion, I have been able to jot down some of these things on my phone, but this is only a small fraction of what I get to experience on a regular basis.

I'm guessing that some of these traits (issues?) are common for pre-schoolers, but anyways, I think that most of them are pretty funny/cute!

1. Grammar confusion: "Where is him?" "That's she's food." "Look! There's two ones!" "Today is the goodest best day."

2. Shows kindness / affection: "Does your tooth feel better now, mommy?" "I love you, mommy. I care about you. I need my mommy." "That looks pretty on you" (even when it's an old t-shirt).

3. Remembers everything better than I can (seriously!): Before we leave the house, "Don't forget to bring the cupcakes." When we are at the market, "Mommy, you need to buy more vitamins, remember, you said that?"

4. Notices every detail: "I know that building over there is Henry's doctor because it says 888, see?" (I didn't even realize that we could see that building from where we were).

5. Obsessed with his little brother: "Henry said balloon! Henry said goy goy!" "Hey, this is Henry's first time doing that. Good job, Henry!" "Henry can't handle these big boy toys because he can only play with baby toys because we want him to be safe." "Did you know that all babies are God-gifts? Like surprises you don't know!"

6. Mispronounces words: "reggaly" for regular, "aminals" for animals, "ghostesses" for ghosts.

7. Thinks about the future: "Mommy, will you let me know when I'm a grown-up, in case I don't know?" "I can feel that my teeth are starting to get looser, so that means that I'm getting really big." "One day, I'll be the boss."

8. Takes things literally:  "Wow, Ryan, you're as fast as lightning!" "No mommy, I'm so much faster than Lightning!" (meaning the race car, Lightning McQueen.)  Ryan calls tank tops "muscle shirts", so at church he announced that "Mommy is wearing a muscle dress!"

9. Tries to get his way: Puts a toy in my hand and whispers, "playyyy". Since he's not allowed to say "potty words", he decides to go into the bathroom, calmly says the words aloud, and then comes back out. He asks for "gluten-free" water (he has no idea what gluten-free means, but decided that it was a cool thing to say.)  I told him that he couldn't have a cookie before dinner because it would spoil his appetite. He narrowed his eyes and said, "I don't like appetites."

10. Tells stories: "I'm going to tell you a scary story. One time I went into my closet and I closed the door and it was really dark and really spooky and then... the fear came. Wasn't that scary, mommy?" "The ducks went into the hole when it rained because they didn't want their friends to see their fur all messed up. The end."

11. Makes sure that people are doing (what he thinks is) the right thing: "Why is that lady wearing a swimsuit in a restaurant? It's supposed to be ONLY for the beach or the pool." (It was actually a very revealing shirt, but I can see how he could mistake it for a swimsuit). To me, he says, "Honey, honey, why aren't you eating your food and sitting the proper way?"

12. Loves repetition: He wants to read the same books over and over again. Danny and the Dinosaur, the Richard Scarry books, and Meet the Cars characters book. It's amazing how much he still enjoys every detail of these books, even after the hundredth time.

Birthday Party Pictures

Thanks to all of our family and friends who celebrated with us this year. I still can't believe that our sweet boy is already 4 years old. It really feels like just the other day I was on here writing blog posts about him as a baby, posting a video of him crawling and then taking his first steps, trying to figure out potty-training, etc. Time flies and every single day that I have with these boys is precious to me. Nobody knows what the future holds and I feel very blessed to even be here today after everything that we have been through. Always praising God for this beautiful life!


I thought that it would be an interesting experiment to give Ryan a list of things and ask him whether he thinks that they are "real" or "pretend". It will be interesting to see how his perspective changes each year. Here are his answers as a just-turned-4-year-old:

He knows that these things are real:
Dinosaurs ("they were real a long, long time ago")
God ("yeah, he's in heaven!")  <------------ This answer made me smile!
Policemen and Policewomen
George Washington

He knows that these things are pretend:

He thinks that these (real) things are pretend:
Kings and Queens

He didn't think that any of the pretend things on the list were real.

He couldn't pick an answer for these things:
Rapunzel- "I don't know. What's that?"
Goldilocks and the Three Bears- "Huh? Well, bears are real, but I don't know about the other thing."

I love the way his mind works. It looks like we are going to need some geography lessons and to read some classic fairy tales, haha! I'm surprised that he said that hearts are pretend, because he definitely knows how to draw hearts, and often reads books about the inside of the body that explain the function of the heart. I guess you just never know what to expect from a pre-schooler!


Btw, Ryan and his friends had a blast racing in these Cars characters that I made. (And I let them crash and "destroy" them at the end of the birthday party, which was probably even more fun!) The cars were super easy to make, made of recycled cardboard boxes, and definitely the highlight of the party!

More and more each year, I'm thinking that fall is becoming my favorite season. My favorite used to be summer, but now I look forward to the slightly cooler days, pumpkin picking, comfy boots, and the festive holidays coming up! Happy beginning of fall!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Henry is 6 Months Old!

To our sweet baby boy Henry,

I will never forget the day that I first held you in my arms and caught a glimpse of your bright red-orange hair. From the very start, I knew that you were going to be somebody special. In just a few short months, you have filled our house with an unbelievable amount of love and happiness. I can't wait to see what all you have in store for us in the upcoming years. You are already so amazing! We admire your laid-back, easy-going personality (completely the opposite from the rest of us) and how nothing at all seems to phase you. You just have this huge smile and adorable giggle that escapes from your sweet little mouth whenever somebody looks at you. You are a strong, both mentally and physically. You have taught us many lessons in what it means to have faith. Just the fact that you exist is a miracle in itself. Thank you for letting me love you completely and unconditionally. Happy Half Birthday!


We LoVe YoU, HeNrY MaTtHeW!!!

Henry, 3 to 6 Months:

Henry got his first two teeth at 7 and a half months old!

From Instagram. follow me @ Dana52084.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What We've Been Up To

So, it turns out that life with two kids is exactly everything that I had hoped it would be and more! Our little family has been happier than ever and spending lots of time outside, enjoying the warm weather. These past few months have flown by, but I will do my best to fill everything in.

In mid-May, we took a trip down to Florida to visit Barry's parents and grandparents, and to celebrate my 30th birthday at the Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, where we got married 5 years ago. Wow! Has it really only been that long? Our wedding feels like an entire lifetime ago, and I feel older than 30. (Is that weird?) The gazebo where we said our vows is no longer there, so we just got a picture with the boys in the exact spot that it used to be. Still special, I guess. We got to eat at all of the restaurants and hang out at the beach/pool, which of course, flooded back all of the memories of our lovely wedding celebration. I've always felt blessed, but the fact that it was my 30th birthday and I had my wonderful boys there with me made me feel especially thankful. I can not imagine a more fulfilling life than the one that I have.

This trip brought a lot of firsts for baby Henry: first time on an airplane, at a hotel, at grandma/grandpa's house, in a pool, at the beach, etc. Our little guy took everything in stride and was an absolute pleasure to have along. His big brother Ryan was surprisingly agreeable and well-behaved the whole time too. (On a side note: Ryan is an amazing kid, as always, but age 3 has definitely been his most challenging year yet. It brought a lot of change for him and his unique personality is continuing to develop.) The one bad thing about vacations is the amount of STUFF that we have to bring for the kids and the hassle of getting it all packed and through the airport. But it was definitely worth all of the extra work for this memorable vacation!

Since we've been back home, we have mostly just been hanging out, doing playdates, attending social events, seeing family/friends, and going on day trips. I am grateful that we live in an area that has plenty of kid-friendly places to go, so that we never have to travel too far to find somewhere fun.

Ryan finished school a couple weeks ago, and I must say that, although I love his Montessori school, I really, really, really enjoy having both of the boys home with me for the whole day. We get to take our time in the mornings and participate in late morning activities that run into the afternoon, instead of having to rush to pick up Ryan at school. Plus, I honestly miss him a lot when he's at school. Looking at these before and after pictures make me realize just how much he has grown in the past 10 months:

I love both of these kids so much I think that my heart might burst! So far, they seem to be complete opposites when it comes to their personalities, complexions, and body build. (Henry already wears 12 month clothing at not even 6 months old. Ryan will be 4 years old in September, but he just started wearing 3Ts, and they are loose). Well... they do say that opposites attract and it is already apparent that these guys care about each other very deeply. I can't wait until they are old enough to play together!

The rest of our summer will be filled with swim lessons, music together classes, playgroups, VBS, and plenty of trips to the parks and the beach that is 5 minutes from our house. We will be having some friends from out-of-state visit and stay with us next weekend. I will also be having my wisdom teeth taken out later this month. We somehow always manage to stay super busy, and it feels great to finally have all of my energy back because I love running all over the place with these two!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Skull Surgery

Last Monday was our first experience at Children's National Medical Center in DC. We met with Dr. Keating, the neurosurgeon who would be doing Henry's surgery. Of course we were nervous, but we knew that this is what needed to be done. I'm sure that compared to all of the other surgeries that Dr. Keating performs on a regular basis, this would be considered minor. But still, when it involves your 3 month old baby, it is all very scary.

At the pre-op visit, Dr. Keating measured Henry's head and calculated the ratio of width to length (cephalic index) as 67. Anywhere from 75 to 83 is considered "normal". The goal is that the surgery and further natural head growth will eventually bring Henry into the "normal" ratio range. It will also ensure that he will not have any intracranial pressure in the future, and that his brain will continue to grow normally. After Henry's physical and his blood work all checked out, we were given the go ahead for the surgery. It still didn't feel real. 

We arrived at the hospital bright and early on Thursday morning for the surgery. We received a thoughtful care package from Cranio Care Bears. My favorite item that they sent was a prayer chain made of ribbons with different inspirational quotes and verses on it. We ended up hanging it on Henry's hospital bed and it somehow made the experience a little more cheerful. I also loved the teddy bear with a bandage on his head.

I was surprised how happy Henry was that morning, considering that he was not allowed to eat for the past 9 hours. He is such a good-natured little guy. I held back all of my emotions as I dressed him into his tiny surgery gown and handed him over to the surgeons. It was all in God's control, as it always is.

I can't express how relieved I was when Dr. Keating came out and told us that Henry did just fine in surgery. But then I saw our swollen baby, looking so helpless, being wheeled from the operating room to the PICU. It completely broke my heart, but I felt so thankful at the same time.

Henry did remarkably well with the surgery itself and also with the recovery. He did have some swelling in his face on the first and second days, and he ran a fever on the second day. But aside from that, his incision was looking great and they sent us home on the third day. He has been a little cranky since we have been home, compared to his usually laid-back self, but for the most part, it doesn't even seem like he just had surgery!

Special thanks goes to my Aunt G, who stayed with Ryan for the first day and night, and also the second day, so that Barry could be with us in the hospital. Barry went home for the second night while I stayed there with Henry. 

Ryan has been asking about the "boo boo" on Henry's head. He says to him, "Don't worry Henry, it will go away after a long time". It is endearing to see the concern that Ryan has for his baby brother. He has such a tender and loving heart. I am so proud of our big boy AND our little boy.

So... I can honestly say that the cosmetic results were better than we had even hoped for. I was shocked to see how round Henry's head looked immediately after we took the bandage off. Supposedly, his head should continue to grow in an even rounder shape in the upcoming months/years. I am very curious (and hopeful) to see what it looks like in the future. I think that it looks amazing already! In the pictures above, you can clearly see the dramatic difference. I must admit that I have never thought so much about a person's head shape in my life.

God has truly answered our prayers by protecting our sweet baby and giving him strength to get through the surgery and recover quickly. This was such a humbling experience.

*UPDATES: 3 Weeks Post-Op*

Henry continues to do well and he is just as happy and laid-back as ever. At our 3 week post-op appointment today, Dr. Keating gave him an "A plus" for head shape! The surgery results really ended up being better than anybody expected.

*4 Weeks Post-Op*

Sunday, March 30, 2014

About Our Baby's Head

When Henry was born, it was obvious that his head was not completely round. Of course, newborns often have strangely-shaped heads after making their way down the birth canal. And plenty of babies develop flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly) that can be fixed by wearing a helmet. But Henry’s condition is a little more serious than that.

A CT scan at 9 days old showed that one of the bones in Henry’s head had completely come together with another bone in his head. (These bones are called “sutures”.) This means that one of his soft spots had closed too early, while he was still in the womb. His head looks somewhat normal from the front, but you can definitely tell that the back of his head is pointy. The side view and top view show that his head is long and boat-shaped.

Henry's fluffy hair generally hides the odd shape, but you can really see it in the bath pictures.

The good news is that Henry’s scan showed completely normal brain growth and his doctors do not believe that he has any increased intracranial pressure. However, as his brain grows more, his head NEEDS to be able to accommodate it. If his head isn’t able to grow in a normal, round shape, it could cause future intracranial pressure and development issues. 

So that is why our sweet little guy will be spending his 3 month birthday in the hospital having surgery on his skull.


While I am absolutely terrified to hand over our perfect baby to an operating room full of surgeons, I am trying my best to stay positive and focus on these things:

1. Thankfully, the neurosurgeon does not feel that Henry needs the most invasive open-head surgery (cranial vault reconstruction). Instead, he will be performing a smaller-scale surgery called the pi procedure. This surgery should take less than an hour and will require a 2 or 3 night hospital stay.

2. Although the surgery will leave Henry with a scar from ear-to-ear, the scar will eventually be covered up by his beautiful hair. (I was thrilled to find out that they will only be shaving a strip of his hair for the procedure, rather than his entire head!)

3. Out of all of the types of craniosynostosis that exist (yes, that long, scary word is the official name of it) Henry has the mildest form. He has none of the syndromes that can sometimes occur with it. He only has one suture that closed (the sagittal one) instead of multiple sutures. The type that Henry has, non-syndromic craniosynostosis, is considered to be “an isolated condition in an otherwise normal child”.

4. This condition is fixable and should not affect him severely for the rest of his life. Approximately 1 in 2,000 babies have this, and doctors have been successfully treating it and fixing it for decades. There are so many more serious illnesses and heart-breaking conditions that other children and their families have to suffer through. We are truly blessed, in that sense, that God gave us two very healthy children, and we will never take that for granted.


When we first found out about this, one of my first questions was, “What caused it?” It is hypothesized that non-syndromic craniosynostosis is caused by fetal head constraint, meaning that his head got stuck in a weird position in the uterus and there was not enough room for it to grow in the correct shape. Some types of craniosynostosis are linked to genetics, but those are generally the more severe cases that involve syndromes.

Please send all of your most positive thoughts and prayers for our little one next week. Pray that the surgery goes smoothly, that he does not feel too much pain, that he recovers quickly and easily, and that he does not have to deal with any effects of this in the future (besides the scar, of course). At least he is young enough to, hopefully, never even remember the surgery itself. 

Also, please pray for Barry, Ryan, and myself, as we try to gather the inner strength to get through this week and next week. I know that the surgery is for the best, but I am scared that I won't be able to go through with it. Please pray that I can put my own feelings aside for the best interest of our child.

The pointy part of H's head is noticeable here.

I have honestly had a difficult time talking about this, up until now. Talking and writing about it somehow makes it more real, and it was simply easier not to think about. It is crazy that we are now just a few days out. In my mind, our happy, easy-going baby is one hundred percent perfect, and the fact that he needs surgery is just so hard for me to wrap my head around. I mean, that little guy holds my whole heart. The thought of him feeling any kind of pain absolutely kills me. I hope that we are making the right decision and that we will be able to look back and see this as just another obstacle.

I guess what they say is true about life being a series of peaks and valleys. Thank you all for your support.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Brothers When They Were Babies

It is interesting how Ryan and Henry seem to have very different personalities and complexions, but you can definitely tell they are brothers… just look at their little faces! THEY MELT MY HEART. In these pictures, R is 4 months old and H is almost 3 months old.

And of course, we can't forget our fur baby, Lucky! He's the oldest brother.  =)

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Playdate

This past week, we invited some friends over to play. I love themed parties and St. Patrick's Day is always such a fun one to celebrate! Ryan was so eager waiting for all of his friends to arrive that he kept running up to the clock and trying to figure out what time it is. He finally decided to just keep asking me every 10 minutes or so. For the entire morning, of course.

I enjoy drinking a green smoothie every day for breakfast. You MUST try this one! It is quite delicious (Ryan considers it a dessert) and the ginger gives it the perfect amount of spice. In case you are unable to read the ingredients on the picture, just blend together: 2 handfuls of kale, 1 banana, 1 green apple/apple juice, 2 tbsp lemon juice, fresh ginger (a little goes a long way), 1/4 cup of water, and ice.

I made a "Pot O' Gold" filled with chocolate gold coins as a party favor for each guest to take home. The kids could also make moveable paper leprechauns and festive St. Patrick's Day cards with stickers. Between these activities and Ryan's toys, everyone seemed to be entertained and some of our small guests didn't even want to go home. It makes me happy that they were having a good time!

These two (and their daddy!) are my world. I couldn't feel any more blessed. I remember celebrating this holiday 3 years ago, when I was going through treatments, and I am so grateful for how far we have come since then. What a difference a few years make.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Month of Henry

Our sweet baby Henry is already 6 weeks old!

This past month has flown by faster than any I have ever known. Henry is growing and gaining weight quickly, and is becoming more active and aware each day. He is already a very sweet boy who loves to cuddle in mommy's arms. He is a great eater and an even better sleeper!

We have already had two photo shoots, several doctors appointments, a few visitors, and one big snowstorm. Henry has already outgrown all of his newborn clothes and is on the verge of outgrowing his Lil Joey diapers.

This past weekend, Barry's parents flew up from Florida to visit. They spent some time with the boys while I went in for my PET scan on Monday. I was super nervous waiting to hear back the results. It was right after my first pregnancy when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My worst fear right now would be a recurrence. Thankfully, my PET scan this time was completely clear! Only by the grace of God!

I will be going in to see my oncologist next week, for a physical and to talk about some discomfort that I have been having in my arm and leg. I have a sharp pain that comes and goes randomly in my leg, with various intensity. My right arm is achy and radiating warmth from the inside. I am sure that my oncologist will be able to help me, regardless.

I am celebrating the fact that I am still cancer-free after three years. It feels like a miracle that I can go on to have such a blessed life after all that I have been through. I am so happy with my life, my husband, and my two beautiful boys. It truly doesn't get any better than this!

Please be sure to follow me on Instagram, @dana52084. I post there much more regularly than I do on this blog, since it's easier to do from my phone. Here are some recent Instagram pics:

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