Monday, December 21, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
A BEAUTIFUL story board created by Stephanie using two photos from the NICU (Sarah was 11 days old) and one from her homecoming (at four months). What a change!! It's 10"x 20" and will soon hang over Sarah's crib.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Anyone who knows me well knows that I LOVE a good soapbox. My main soapbox issue has always been (and will likely always BE) animal welfare. But the soapbox of premature birth is running a close second these days. When news broke of the Duggar's new baby, there were headlines like, "Baby Arrives Early - Doing Well" and comments from network representatives like, "mom and baby need as much rest as possible." In my mind, those statements perpetuate the idea that preemies are simply small babies. That with time and rest, they'll be just like a term baby. As someone who knows how incorrect that is...it makes me incredibly angry with the media. But what's new?
Sarah was born at 27wks and believe me, of all the things we did during her 109 days in the NICU, "rest" was at the bottom of the list. And while I would agree that overall she did "well"...that's all relative to the situation. She did (and is doing) well for a baby born 13wks early who had no amniotic fluid for a month prior. Preemie parents live in a world of ventilators, cannulas, PICC lines, O2 sats and countless specialists. We have to learn about things like intraventricular hemorrhages, chronic lung disease, patent ductus arteriosis, retinopathy of prematurity and necrotizing enterocolitis. To put it simply...we worry every minute that our child might die. And sadly, many do. So to see something as serious as a premature birth glossed over...gah!
I wish the Duggars well and pray that Baby Josie is a fighter. They have a long hard road ahead of them.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Trying out her new Nap Nanny. It's sort of like a little recliner for babies with reflux, it keeps her upper body elevated to 30*. Purchased new, these run about $150 with shipping - OUCH! We were lucky to find one gently used for about half the price. It just fits in her cradle and so far it really seems to help at night.
Houston, we have a smile!!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Saying "Hi!" to cousin Caitlin.
My dad, the "Deacon for a Day" with my sister and brother in law, Sarah's godparents.
Sarah with her godfather and uncle, Darren.
With cousin Caitlin at the after party/Iron Bowl. Check out her pants...I made those from the arms of a wool sweater I bought at the thrift store for $1.50 ;-)
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
In the 1980's a doctor at UC San Diego received a grant from the March of Dimes. Using that grant, Dr. Allen Merritt developed a method of using artificial surfactant to mature the lungs of babies born prematurily. That grant, and the therapy that resulted from it saved Sarah's life.
Surfactant is a soapy substance secreted by cells in mature lungs that helps the lungs open and stay inflated. Like so many extremely premature babies, when Sarah was born she was not breathing on her own. She didn't cry. In fact, it was the following week before we heard her make any noise at all. Sarah's prematurity was complicated by my lack of amniotic fluid during the month prior to her birth. Her lungs were basically a sticky mess and she wasn't strong or mature enough to inflate them herself. Before Sarah was two minutes old, she was placed on a ventilator and she received her first of two doses of artificial surfactant. She was transitioned from the ventilator to CPAP within 48 hours - nothing short of a miracle given her gestational age and the circumstances of her birth.
While November is Prematurity Awareness Month, the 17th is designated by the March of Dimes as Prematurity Awareness Day. As the mom of a preemie, I, along with so many others, have been asked to blog about how prematurity and the March of Dimes have touched my life. Because of Sarah's premature birth, nothing in my life will ever be the same - I will forever look at things differently. And quite simply, the March of Dimes and the research they sponsor and support saved my daughter's life. That is a debt that I will spend the rest of my life trying to repay.
Below, I'm reposting my entry from November 1st that announces Prematurity Awareness Month. I'm happy to report that the link I provided to Sarah's March of Dimes page has raised $95. I also know of at least two other generous donations made in Sarah's honor. Please consider donating - help the March of Dimes fight...so babies don't have to.
From November 1st:
Today marks the beginning of Prematurity Awareness Month sponsored by the March of Dimes. Four short months ago, I knew next to nothing about prematurity...I never had a reason to know. Boy how that has changed! During the 31 days that I was hospitalized prior to Sarah's birth, I spent much of my time on the March of Dimes website (www.marchofdimes.com) studying statistics. Reading stories of other women in my situation. Looking for hope. Looking for someone to tell me that Sarah would survive.
Did you know that pPROM (pre-term premature ruputre of membranes) happens in only 1% of pregnancies? I believe I was more likely to win the lottery than I was to end up with pPROM. I had exactly NONE of the risk factors and my premature rupture remains unexplained. I'm at increased risk (30%+) if we ever decide to have another child.
I ruptured at 23w1d...my pregnancy wasn't even considered "viable" at that point. Generally speaking, babies born at 23 weeks have less than a 20% survival rate. 80% die.
I carried to 27w3d. 90% of babies born at 27 weeks survive. But that still means that 10% do not. And many of those survivors face life long challenges in the form of physical handicaps, learning disabilities, etc. Believe me, when you're facing delivery at 27 weeks, the fear that you'll fall into that 10%...it's paralyzing.
Too many babies are born too soon. And too many of those babies do not survive. This is where the March of Dimes comes in. The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. They are dedicated to improving the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality through research, community services, education and advocacy.
By virtue of being this site's "author", I happen to know that 654 people are signed up to view Sarah's updates. Don't worry, I don't have access to any personal info and I'm not selling mailing lists ;-) I'm floored that 654 people have even heard of Sarah! If everyone who is signed up to read these updates donated $5 to the March of Dimes, we could raise more than $3,000 to help other babies like Sarah. We could give hope to other families like mine...to other families who spend each day at local hospitals with their babies. Believe me, there are a LOT of us. And a little hope goes a long way.
So I'm challenging each of you to skip that fancy Starbucks coffee just ONE DAY this month, Prematurity Awareness Month, and donate that spare $5 in Sarah's honor. You can donate online here:
Thank you all so much for the encouragement and support that you've provided over the last three months - Sarah is one very lucky little girl!
Friday, July 24, 2009
I was hospitalized on Father's Day after my water broke...I was only 23w1d pregnant. Sarah Francis was born this past Tuesday - I'd been hospitalized for 31 days at that point. She was almost 13 weeks early but so far she's doing much better than anyone could have expected. In an attempt to streamline information, I'll be updating on Sarah's Caring Bridge site only for now.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
We'll miss you sweet girl - good luck!!
Monday, June 8, 2009
This is Marley, our almost 3yo Alabama Brown Dog (that simply means we have no clue what breed(s) she might be). She ran in her very first flyball tournament (much to everyone's surprise) the last weekend in May and earned her first TWO titles (FD, FDX). Granted the first two are easy in terms of points...but still...
Marley is going to be our speed demon and if we can build some sort of box turn, she'll be amazing!! With that said, I refuse to handle her. She's a little too Border Collie-like for me - jumping, barking, lunging, nipping...no thanks. I'll stick with slow but consistent Veronica!
I'm excited about smocking and sewing (you can't find nice girl clothes with DOGS on them) but in a cruel twist of fate, it seems I've developed a lovely case of pregnancy induced carpal tunnel syndrome. In both hands. And in case you're wondering, this shit HURTS! The little hand/wrist braces only help so much considering that the pain goes straight up to my shoulders.
Yep, that's right. A moderate to severe case at that. He spent the day at my vet's clinic the week following our emergency vet adventure. His EKG looked great (whew!) so they moved on to a chest x-ray that showed the right side of his heart enlarged. Doc could see the worms on the film.
Strange part? He tested NEGATIVE (for the THIRD time since we found him a year ago) that same day. Even though it's quite obvious he's infested. We now think that the worms either temporarily affected one of his heart valves or that the entire load shifted, basically causing him to pass out that Sunday.
Heartworms explain all of his cardiac symptoms perfectly, but they weren't even on our radar since he tested negative in April 08, again in October 08 and since he's been on preventative (that I now know could have killed him) religiously since we found him.
Ralphie received his first immiticide injection that same day (May 27th). He was out of commission for about 72 hours before returning to his old self. Which leaves us the difficult task of keeping him calm. Sadly, he's spending a lot of time in his crate these days. But it's only temporary.
I guess if I had to choose between a treatable case of heartworms or getting to know our local veterinary cardiologist on a first name basis...I'd pick heartworms. His treatment will be over in 8-10 more weeks and there should be no long term effects.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I showered and decided to lay down for about 30 mintues. Um, yeah. An hour and a half later, Brandon woke me up with, "You are SOOOO late!!" So we scrambled around getting ready to leave and started putting dogs in crates. Wait a sec...where the hell is Frankie??
We looked in all of his favorite hiding places - in the bed, under the bed, under the end table, under the computer table...nothing. So I rush out to check the car (sadly, we've left him in the car before). Nothing. By this time THREE HOURS have passed since we got home from flyball. And it's been pouring down rain the entire time.
Brandon grabbed an umbrella and took off running thru the neighborhood screaming at the top of his lungs. Just as I grabbed my car keys, I saw Frankie sitting at our glass front door. Outside. Soaking wet. And shivering. Apparently he'd gotten out of the car with the other dogs, but never came in the house. So for THREE HOURS, little Frankie was who-knows-where, in the rain. And we had no freaking clue he was even gone. By the time Brandon made it back up our street I was standing in the rain holding Frankie and sobbing.
We're back to frequent and random dog head counts - I can safely say that when I left the house this morning, everyone was present and accounted for!
Then Sunday happened. We woke up at 9am - all the dogs got a few minutes in the yard and then we started feeding. Ralphie eats in his crate which is in our den. He was perfectly fine when he got up and even jumped the baby gate (that he's not supposed to jump) to get to his crate for breakfast once he came in from the yard.
Fast-forward to 11am. Not all of our dogs get along so we crate/separate/rotate them to make sure 1) everyone has equal play time and 2) that playtime is safe. I opened Ralphie's crate to let him out and...nothing. I looked in and he was laying there all but completely unresponsive. He could almost lift his head and could follow me with his eyes, but that was it. He couldn't stand up and seemed to be in a fog. He'd also pooped in his bed which is unheard of for him.
My first thought was "seizure"...which, on its own wouldn't necessarily alarm me. Mazie has one random seizure maybe every 18 mos - not often enough that we would medicate for it, but we know the symptoms that usually follow and we know that the only thing we can do is try to keep her from hurting herself or others until she comes out of it. But Ralphie's other symptoms didn't add up. His gums were white (suggesting either a problem with his circulation or internal bleeding), his normally red nose was almost blue tinted and his skin was cold and clammy. His temp was only 97* (normal for an "average" dog is 100* - 102*) and his breathing was shallow and rapid.
So I call Brandon and tell him that Ralphie needs to go to the emergency vet asap. Let me insert here that it takes a LOT for me to go to our REGULAR vet...so when Brandon heard that I was headed for the EMERGENCY vet, he knew it was serious. While I was digging frantically for Ralphie's medical records, he was able to stand up and walk to me on his own, but he was wobbly and still in a fog.
By the time we got to the emergency clinic, Ralphie was walking on his own but still was not himself. His temp was up to 98* (still considered mildly hypothermic) and he still had all the classic symptoms of being in shock. His heart rate was 160 bpm. His red blood cell count was slightly elevated as was one liver value that the vet felt would be corrected with fluids.
True to emergency clinic fashion, the tech came in with a "suggested protocol" along with an estimate. They wanted to keep him overnight on an EKG (in case he had another seizure...although I told them repeatedly that we weren't certain he'd even had ONE) and give him an injection for his vomitting (althought I told them repeatedly that he vomittED...once...he wasn't vomittING). That, along with the exam and the bloodwork would only run us...$700. Um, okay. Let's take a step back and re-evaluate the situation.
I know I'm the parent that most vets hate - I like to think I'm pretty well informed and even level-headed when it comes to vet care. I also INSIST on being actively involved in my dogs' care - I want more than just a cost estimate, tell me WHY you think something needs to be done and please don't assume I'm looking for a status quo "this is what I would do if he were my dog" answer.
I agreed to the anti-vomitting injection (because it was all but being shoved down my throat) and requested sub-cutaneous fluids since they felt he was dehydrated. I told them that, at that point, WE would decide if WE thought he needed to stay overnight. By then, his color had already started to return and he was beginning to perk up. The 350ml of sub-q fluid (which hung in a big lump on his side earning him the the temporary nickname "Quasimodo") helped TREMENDOUSLY and in the end we decided to take Ralphie home for the night. Less the $300 that we were charged.
He spent most of Sunday afternoon sleeping in his crate and he's been perfectly fine ever since. He'll spend tomorrow at our regular vet's clinic where he's scheduled for a chest/abdomen x-ray and an EKG to determine if his heartbeat is at all irregular. I honestly don't expect any more answers tomorrow than I already have today. I think it would be like trying to diagnose my asthma while I'm NOT having an attack. If that's the case, we'll just hold our breath for the next few weeks, hoping this was an isolated incident.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
So, while we had no real reason to expect a problem, it's still a relief to know that everything is (likely) good. My next appointment (and BIG ultrasound) is scheduled for 5/27! We can't agree on a boy name so my bet is that the kid is boy. I'm equally confused by either so I truly have no preference.
Friday, April 24, 2009
We'll miss you Cena - you're one lucky dog!!
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
2. Ralphie's score is also impressive when you consider that he was beat up at daycare just one week ago and spent three nights at our vet's clinic. He and one of his best buddies got into a scuffle that was instigated (I believe) by the kids who live in the "apartments" next to our training facility. Brandon had already run the kids off once that morning for throwing rocks at the dogs. He has much more self control than I do...I've already had, "If you f------ LOOK at my dog again I'm going to stuff you and hang you over my mantle" translated to Spanish in case there's ever another problem.
3. I'm 11wks 3days pg. It's been pretty textbook so far - no true morning sickness (though I'm thisclose to nauseated all the time). It's the super sensitive nose (when I couldn't smell at all before getting pg) and the bionic gag reflex (hello toothbrush) that I could do without. But hey, if those are my biggest complaints, I'll count myself lucky. We're having some elective genetic screening this afternoon and we see my OB again tomorrow.
4. I also have a job interview tomorrow. I've been surprised at the number of GOOD accounting positions open...but I also realize that there are also a LOT of qualified applicants applying for those positions. My fear is that all else being equal, most companies are likely to choose the person that WON'T be on maternity leave in six months. Oh well. Worrying won't help that I suppose.
5. In the event that I don't find a job prior to October, I will be taking full advantage of my portion of the federal government's bailout. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed into law in February and provides a federal subsidy for 65% of the cost of COBRA health insurance coverage. That's a difference of $650 a MONTH in our expected cost of insurance. I'd still vote Republican and I still have HUGE hesitations about the direction our country is headed, but I won't turn Democratic assistance away.
6. Miss Molly, the wire haired Jack Russell is still with us. She's being adopted by my sister and brother-in-law and the original plan was to send her out to CA last week when my parents went to visit. Only she's WAY to tall to fly in cabin now. So she'll be in AL until June.
7. Veronica earned her SIXTH flyball title at our March tournament - FM (Flyball Master). It simply means that she's earned 5,000 points over the course of her career. Points are earned based on the speed of the team she's running on - the maximum points you can earn per race is 25 but that is for teams with very fast times. Veronica's total is made up of a LOT of 1 and 5 point races over the last four years. No shame in that! I'm proud of you big V!
8. To update on our other dogs, CiCi, Mazie and Frankie go to daycare (usually) twice a week and have a blast running and playing. CiCi likes to chase the big Jolly Ball egg and barks like a mad woman when she gets it stuck in the corner. Frankie will play with just about anyone. And Mazie...my sweet Mazie...she's content to run in circles, all alone, smiling like it's the greatest thing in the world. Marley is just about ready to compete in flyball - she'll be Brandon's to hanlde as she's a bit nuts. And Lily...well, Lily has her strict routine at home that keeps her sane and everyone else safe. So that's a good thing.
9. Yes, I'm still planning to keep all seven dogs when the kid comes. And we're really not that worried about it.
10. HUGE news regarding Shelby Humane Society here. This program, sponsored by the ASPCA, has the potential to make great improvements in the welfare of animals in Shelby County, AL. HUGE!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I found out last week that my job is "being eliminated no later than August 28th." Wow...that's an awesome kick to the uterus! So now, on top of being pg, I get to look for a new job. And we all know how eager companies are to hire pg gals. Good times!
Oh well. Things ARE looking up...there are a LOT of job openings out there, and Ralphie ROCKED a sit/stay AND a down/stay at 25' in class last night. Better things are on the horizon...I hope.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
1. I'm pregnant. Yep, you heard it here first. Brandon S...you didn't just pass out, did you?? I've decided to call this Ten on Tuesday my Pregnancy Pet Peeves.
2. Please don't ask me what I plan to do with my dogs. I plan to have a kid. And dogs. Will it be a lot of work? Sure. Is it rocket science? I highly doubt it. And please don't tell me that you would, "...never have a baby around a pit bull." I don't care what you would or wouldn't do. Really. I don't.
3. The one thing that is only slightly less offensive than, "What do you plan to do with your dogs?" is, "Oh congratulations! How old are you again?" I'm 34yo people. Hardly menopausal. I'm pretty sure my aging body can handle childbirth.
4. No, I'm not hoping for twins. I agreed to ONE and the dr confirmed that I'm only having ONE. See?
5. I'm due October 17th. Yes, that IS Alabama's homecoming. Sorry, not much I can do about that one.
6. Are we buying a bigger house? Well, no. But we won't be buying every baby contraption on the market either. See, here's where the dogs come in...hours of (free!) entertainment!
7. Will I be staying home? Bwahahahahaha! No.
8. What if the kid is allergic to the dogs? First, allergies are very commonly misdiagnosed. Thankfully I have a lot of experience on the subject. And the support of an amazing allergist who is quite fine with my having seven dogs living IN my house. We'll cross that bridge if we come to it, not before.
9. Please don't give me your horrible nausea stories, your painful birth stories or your awful kid stories. If these things are going to happen to me, I'd just as soon they be a surprise.
10. And finally, if you're genuinely happy for us, thank you. We're very excited and are ready for the challenges of parenting a two-legged child :-)
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
It's taken me almost 35yrs but I've figured out that I really like cook. Baking (bread, in particular) is like therapy for me. And trying to keep the dog hair out of everything...well, that's sometimes a challenge. I figure it's like the baby in a King Cake...having the hair in your slice is a sign of good things to come. Or projectile vomitting...depending on how you feel about dog hair in your food. But I digress...
Chocolate Cheesecake (recipe adapted from AllRecipes Chocolate Cheesecake II, changes noted in red):
1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs **Oreos with the filling removed**
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
**I omitted the ingredients that made the topping (bad reviews) and used the chocolate ganache recipe that follows.**
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F ( 175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan. **I used a mini muffin pan and cooking spray.**
In a small bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups chocolate wafer crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar, and melted butter. Press onto the bottom and 1 1/2 inch up the sides of the prepared 9 inch springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). **I pressed a spoonfull of crumbs into each mini muffin cup and cut the baking time to 5min**
To Make Filling: In a small saucepan, heat 1/4 cup whipping cream and 1/4 cup chocolate chips, stirring constantly, until chips are melted. Remove from heat.
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar until smooth. Add cocoa and beat well. Add eggs and beat on low until just blended. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and reserved chocolate mixture until blended. Pour over crust. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 45 to 50 minutes or until center is almost set. **I filled each mini muffin cup to the top with filling and baked for 20 minutes.**
This recipe made 48 mini cheesecakes.Chocolate Ganache (recipe adapted from AllRecipes Chocolate Ganache, changes noted in red):
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped **I used semi-sweet chips**
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional) **I substituted my homemade vanilla extract**
Place the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, watching very carefully because if it boils for a few seconds, it will boil out of the pot. When the cream has come to a boil, pour over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Stir in the rum if desired.
Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over a cake. Start at the center of the cake and work outward. For a fluffy frosting or chocolate filling, allow it to cool until thick, then whip with a whisk until light and fluffy. **I spooned the ganache onto each mini cheesecake and refridgerated overnight.**
**NOTE: I used less than HALF the ganache for the cheesecakes - next time I'll just half the recipe**
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Mr. April (along with Piper Perabo) is our former foster puppy Wally!! He's the BIG little guy that was abandoned by his family and was living underneath their empty trailer. He was adopted in April 2006 and calls a penthouse apartment (with Perabo's manager) in Manhattan home now...quite an improvement I'd say.
The tiny text underneath Piper Perabo's name gives the mailing address, contact information and website for our rescue group - that's HUGE!!!
You've come a LONG way baby!
Friday, January 9, 2009
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Clockwise from top left, that's CiCi, Mazie, Frankie, Veronica, Lily, Marley and Ralphie.
She needed a quiet place to recover from her ordeal...and I think it's been established that my house is anything but quiet. A friend in Chicago offered to foster Val...she's still in Chicago :-) She has a great mom and dad and a brother named Gizi - I still get updates and she's doing really well.
2. Dudley -young male pit bull mix. Dudley was one of Val's pups.
Strangely enough, Dudley is in Chicago as well. His new family drove all the way to Birmingham just to meet him and he made the big move the same weekend. Dudley has two sisters, Izzy and Mabel - both bully-mixes as well. He's a lucky boy!
3. Ruby - young female Dachshund-mix. We pulled Miss Ruby from our local animal control thinking, "Oh she's small and young...she'll be adopted fast!" FIVE MONTHS LATER Ruby found her family! Ruby now lives in New Orleans :-)
4. Ralphie - adult male pit bull. Okay, okay, WE adopted Ralphie...but it's not like we turned a lot of other people down. Their loss = my gain. By far.
He's a fantastic breed ambassador - he starts Level III obedience next week and we're working toward his therapy dog certification.
5. Meatball - adult male domestic medium hair. Meatball was our "neighborhood cat" who moved into our front bathroom last winter when the temps dropped below freezing.
Meatball's new family includes his mom, and four sisters (one human, one feline, two canine). He's a sweet boy and he deserves this happy ending.
6. Shirley - young female Lab-mix. I got Shirley and her sister Laverne for free at Walmart. It's amazing what you can find there, really! I can only hope the other seven puppies in the litter are being cared for properly.
Shirley stayed in the Birmingham area and has two (human) sisters who love to dress her up in their dolls' clothes.
7. Laverne - young female Lab-mix. Shirley's sister. Laverne was adopted by an incredible family in Connecticut - she made the big move just before Christmas and has been adjusting to the snow ever since!
And last but certainly not least...
8. Riley - adult male Lab. Riley is the pup that was abandoned by his family and turned out to be hw+. He's still living in my sewing room, but just until he completes his heartworm treatment. An adopter has been approved for him so as soon as he gets the all clear from the vet, Riley will be headed to Rhode Island!