Sunday, August 23, 2009

And now we are officially parents of a teenager!

(Note: something is going funky with Blogger, because when I try to insert text under photos it goes all I've included all text up front.)

My tiny, 24-weeker, 1 lb, 6 oz. baby turned 13 today. If I don't think about it too much, I can avoid getting teary eyed. (It's already happened at least once today.) I wrote in his birthday card that the day of his birth was the most frightening day of my life, but it was also one of the happiest...thinking of the moment when I woke up from my general anesthesia after the c-section and was told that he was alive. Going in, we heard that he had only a 50% chance of survival. And so it began--117 days of a roller coaster ride like no other. The whole experience truly changed our lives.

I was in awe--and continue to be in awe--of Christopher's will to live and ability to survive. He survived three surgeries (including heart surgery) before he weighed five pounds; several infections, including a severely life-threatening one; low flow to the brain and cerebral edema; a serious drug reaction that nearly cost him his life; gastroesophageal reflux; and extreme chronic lung disease.

He had--and continues to have--a love of life the likes of which I have rarely seen. He is one of the least-critical and most forgiving people I know. When asked how his day was or how he is doing, his typical reaction is "great!" I have rarely heard him say an unkind word about anyone--I aspire to this trait of his!

I said to Mike this evening, after we returned from more birthday celebrations, that I hope he stays as sweet and affectionate throughout his teenage years! I know this day is only the beginning, and I know he will need to go through the testing and separation from us...but I'm hoping that it's not too painful, and that he will continue to have a close relationship with us.

It was a busy weekend of birthday celebrations and hanging out with friends. We are leaving for Toronto in 2 days, so we are also gearing up for our departure.

On Friday morning, the kids had their last swimming lesson. For the previous two weeks, Chris was taking a "junior swim instructor" class with his friend Nico, while Kieran and Nick took swimming lessons at the Wilson Pool. Kieran went down the BIG slide all by himself for the first time, while Nick went down the little frog slide by himself and thoroughly enjoyed his swimming lessons. Next: he graduates to the swimming class without a parent!

On Saturday Mike took Chris, Kieran, and a few of Chris' friends to the movies while I took Nicholas to Costco. We met up with them afterward for pizza. Kieran has been Danny Zuko lately..."Grease" is the word around our house...he spends a lot of his time putting mousse in his hair, combing it back, pretending to smoke a cigarette (lovely!), and posing with an undecidely sexy/hoodlum style! So I guess it could be worse--could be Brittany Spears or Hannah Montana!

Saturday evening, we had our wonderful friends the Lutzes over for dinner. Kristin and I were copresidents of Precious Beginnings together for several years, and we got to be close friends. Then they moved to Wisconsin 4 years ago. And now, hooray hooray!, they have moved back to Oregon. I still can't quite believe it!! So we had them over for dinner last night and celebrated with key lime pie with a candle on it (can't have enough birthday celebrations around here!). We had a good time with them, playing Rock Band on the Wii, and catching up.

This afternoon, my little rockers did some dancing and jiving to "Greased Lightning" while I began packing. We gave Chris a choice of where he wanted to go for his birthday dinner, and he chose the Old Market Pub. Mom and Dad joined us. Chris had an ENORMOUS chicken and broccoli calzone, causing me to remember all the horrible feeding problems we had with him in the NICU and when he came home. He did not reach the bottom of the growth charts until he was probably 4. And now we call him "the bottomless pit."

Then we returned home for one more birthday treat at home with the rest of the key lime pie. Let the adventure begin!

Friday, August 21, 2009

SO Proud of My Church Today!!

This morning, the churchwide assembly of the ELCA voted to allow blessings of same-sex relationships. And this afternoon, they voted to allow sexually active gay and lesbian clergy (previously they had to be celibate, and really, what's the point of that?). As I watched the voting on the live feed, I was instant messaging on Facebook with my friend Susan in Anchorage (whose youtube video I put in my last post)...and I had tears rolling down my face.

I was watching the live feed of the assembly this afternoon, and was positively THRILLED to see my pastor (and friend) speak at the microphone, addressing the assembly. She spoke of our partnership with Roman Catholics, and how they have expressed how inspired they are at the inclusivity of the Lutheran church.

This will cause great division in the church, because the ELCA is full of conservative members. I was fascinated to watch all the arguments from the floor...some from people holding their bibles and talking about how this goes against the bible. Poppycock. If Jesus were on earth in the flesh today, I firmly believe he would be ministering to drag queens and the HIV positive among us. He would not be rejecting, but embracing. This is a day to celebrate.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Go, Lutherans!

In a huge step in the progressive direction, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) approved a statement on human sexuality at its churchwide assembly. It's not far enough...but it opens the door for full inclusion of gay and lesbian clergy, in particular.

Our pastor was there to vote on the statement, as well as our Oregon Bishop Brauer-Rieke. The Oregon Synod voted a few years back to be "Reconciling in Christ" (Lutheran churches and synods that welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people). But all you need to do is listen to Garrison Keillor to realize that many, many Lutheran congregations and individuals are conservative and traditional, particularly about this issue. This does not even include the less-progressive Lutheran denominations (Missouri Synod and Wisconsin Synod, to name a few, which don't even allow female clergy).

Tomorrow the assembly will vote to repeal a ban on noncelibate gay pastors. Since I know a few pastors who have been rejected because of their sexual orientation, this issue is near and dear to my heart. Here is one of these gifted individuals, talking about her experience as a lesbian pastor:

This, to me, is what being a Christian is all about: the open, loving arms of our Creator...the law of love Jesus taught in the New Testament, overpowering and reforming the laws and rigidity in the Old Testament.

I am so delighted we as a church body are taking a step in the right direction.

Cousin Fun at the Beach

On Sunday afternoon, my sister Nadine and her family joined us at the beach. We hadn't all been at the beach since her twins were babies--with six children and four adults, we figured it would be quite crowded! However, it worked out fine. The kids had a wonderful time together, as usual.

Sisters on the beach:

Nick and Garrett goofing off


Daniel with big cousin Chris:

Ryan, wet and completely and proudly covered in sand:

A coloring party back at the house:

Yay! Curious George stickers:

Nadine and David relaxing:

We celebrated Nicholas and Christopher's birthdays (9/4 and 8/23, respectively) with ice cream sundaes. Nadine, who is the gifted greeting card writer in the family, wrote a beautiful card to Christopher, and it had us all in tears. She wrote about remembering his first few days, weeks, and months of life, and how much we all desperately prayed for his survival...and what a wonderful young man he is growing up to be. It was an amazing love letter from an aunt to a nephew. What made it especially poignant was recalling that Nadine, David, and my parents were all at the beach together on August 23, 1996, the day Chris was born. This was in the days before abundant cell phones. When I went into labor unexpectedly at 24 weeks, we had no easy way to get hold of them. After Chris was born, Mike asked the nurses to call the Rockaway Police, who drove to the beach house to convey the news. They had no information beyond news of the birth--no sex, name, or even if he had survived. I cannot imagine their worry and stress levels while they were driving all the way back to Portland, not knowing how any of us were doing. So reading Nadine's card made us all cry, remembering that day.

Nicholas enjoying his birthday song
Soon-to-be-13-year-old Chris

Garrett and Daniel
Kieran and Ryan
Almost done with that (first) bowl of ice cream!

Nick and Garrett in a "fort" on the beach--which was a big hole with logs and sticks piled over it. Said fort got disassembled a few hours later, because Nick threw Kieran's shoes into the hole, and one of his orthotic inserts got lost. We were all digging for it (and promising the kids a reward if they found it). Alas, it was not to be found, even after we disassembled the fort so the adults could get down into the hole to look. Well, it's only money, right? I am finding myself saying that too often lately...

The boys wading into the water--it was ice cold, but you know kids--they don't seem to mind it!

In the meantime, the rest of us were bundled up in sweatshirts, because typical of the Oregon Coast, even though it was sunny, it was not "hot" on the beach.

Kieran post-swim

Sand angels

Mike, David, and Ashley
We feel so lucky to have a wonderful beach house to retreat to, and to live only an hour and a half from a beautiful coastline! I suppose I take it for granted sometimes...but I know I could never live very far away from a large body of water.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sand, Sun, Sharks, and Hash Browns

We had a great time at the beach last weekend--we had uncharacteristically sunny skies (unusual for the Oregon Coast, especially in August!).


On Saturday we drove nearly 2 hours south to Newport to take the kids to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. We hadn't been there since Chris was little. Here is a benefit of Facebook: the day before I posted that we were going to the aquarium, and some friends of ours responded that they were planning to be there that day too! So it was fun to meet up with them and hang out for awhile. They drove all the way down from Portland to Newport, just for the day. What's unique about the Oregon Coast Aquarium is that all of the fish and sea creatures there are native to the Oregon Coast.

Kieran in front of some sea cucumbers (or something?)

And the sardines...I really liked the sardines! They swim with their mouth open to catch organisms and plant life--take a look:

Last time we went to the aquarium I LOVED the jellyfish tank. It wasn't as spectacular as I remembered it from last time--seemed smaller and less full--but still cool:

I also liked the enormous Japanese crabs--they were about as big as Nicholas!:

Here is Kieran sitting in one of the water tubes--see the fish underneath him?

We're being swallowed by a shark!

Nick doing a "show" while we are waiting for Mike and Chris to catch up with us:

Chris with the sharks and fish:

And with a diver, who attracted twice as much attention as the fish and sharks!

Posing in one of the tubes:

Playing in the kids' play area:

Nicholas loved these little caves and tunnels near the octopus exhibit:

But what he loved BEST were the sea lions and seals, two of which he named "Abby" and "Dobby." Kieran loved the flattened penny machines--he spent $1.53 on three souvenir pennies!

Otis Cafe

After the aquarium, we took the kids to the Otis Cafe for dinner. Our friends joined us (sadly, I neglected to get any photos of them!)...although the place is so small, we couldn't sit together. As expected, the kids LOVED the Otis and the big portions. Both Kieran and Chris had adult-size hamburgers (with the to-die-for hash browns), and polished off their entire portions! Mike and I had the Sitka omelet and Hangtown fry (with fresh oysters) and shared with each other.

Beach Fun
We had another beautiful day on Sunday, and we spent lots of time on the beach:

The beach was full of pelicans that day--it was really amazing!

Playing Rock Band back at the beach house!

Kieran's been slicking his hair back constantly because he is pretending to be Danny Zuko from his latest obsession, "Grease"!