Abby’s learning curve

Abby discovered, today, that her ability to crawl truly means the ability to travel. I’m in BIG trouble now.

Crawling over the last week has simply meant “moving faster” to get the toy I want. That’s it. Simple and uncomplicated. But, as of late, we have started to see the typical separation anxiety that 9 month olds experience start to kick in. Once I am out of view, and out of ear shot, Abby is fine with (literally) whoever I decide to leave her with. But the leaving part is getting hard. Distraction tactics are in full force for drop offs at Nana’s or leaving her at home with someone else (which currently includes Daddy). So, today when I asked my MIL (Teta as we call her) to watch Abby for me while I went into the kitchen to make some lunch, Little Miss crABBY Pants McGee over there threw a fit and tried, for the first time, to follow me.

We are so lucky – we have this amazing play room/den where all of her toys live, and were we spend easily 80% of our playtime. Until today it has never occurred to her to leave this happy place. Truth be told, I don’t think she understood that she could leave it without assistance. But today, with tears streaming down her chubby little cheeks, she made a break for it. She moved passed the carpet and placed one tiny hand on cold tile flooring. She stopped dead in her tracks. Everything – no more tears, no more cries, and no more movement. Just stunned silence. The change in texture was so shocking that it distracted her completely. She didn’t like it. She retreated back into the den.

I, however, stayed in the kitchen. And over the next 20 minutes, Abby tried over and over again to cross that line from carpet to tile. The first few tries only got one hand out. After a while, she got both hands out. She was pleased with herself and tried one knee. NOPE. That didn’t work. Back to the den she went. Over and over she tried to be okay with the change she was feeling underneath her. And, as all of the learning curves seem to go with her, it was only a matter of time. Eventually we had all for limbs on tile. And she could now see me from the entryway floor. She still didn’t like the tile, but she wasn’t going to let that deter her. She scooted on her butt several feet before I gave in and picked her up. I figured she’d earned the assistance after all that.

As a result, Abby played on the kitchen floor for the first time today, too. She seemed happy as long as she could see me. Little girl is growing up right before my eyes.

So, it looks like Anthony and I will need to make that very first “baby proofing” trip to Babies R Us on Saturday. Joy of Joys. Baby gates, table bumpers, outlet covers, and cabinet door locks are all in our VERY near future. Because, as her therapist predicted, we can already tell the crawling phase won’t last long. Just over one week into crawling for real and she is doing her darndest to stand. We are just a hop, skip, and a jump away from a full-blown TODDLER!!! I’m beside myself with pride and an ever so slight amount of fear and apprehension.

Wish us luck, everyone! I promise to keep the video camera charged!



The Re-Read

I have tried 3 times now to sit down and write a post about Abigail’s Birthday and what exactly that means for us. And every time I tried to express my feelings, it came out wrong, or didn’t feel right, or… I don’t know, it just didn’t work. It was like when a character has writer’s block in the movies – they type something they think they like, they smile thinking they’ve finally won, and then it turns out to be rubbish. Then the writer frustratedly balls up the paper and chucks it at the waste paper basket, inevitably missing because it bounced off the rim.

For almost a month, I’ve been chucking the proverbial paper ball in the waste basket over and over. I couldn’t figure out how to get my thoughts in order or my words to make sense. But for every writer, there is a muse. I had a turning point tonight, when I re-read this blog post (by Brienne Shepard of Brienne Michelle Photography) again, for the first time in almost 6 months.

Bree – if you are reading, please know that you, and your photography, is often the source of my inspiration. You’ve captured my daughter, and our story in a way no one else could. For that, I am truly thankful.

I re-read the very first post Brienne did about Abby, just over one year ago. She was less than 48 hours old, and we were up to our elbows in hospital bracelets, tangled wires, ear-splitting alarms, and the gut-wrenching truth that our baby girl shouldn’t be alive. But there she was, living. Breathing. Defying all the odds.

Our story is such a crazy one. A baby that could fit in the palm of our hands. A hospital stay that cost over ONE MILLION dollars (yes, you read that right, and THANK GOD for good insurance!). The ups and downs of an 83 day NICU stay, and the aftermath of raising a baby that breaks all the rules. But when I read that first post again tonight, I saw it in a different light for the first time. That post, when it was written, was all about the unknown. It was about what had happened, and how none of us knew how to deal with it. It was about the first steps of a journey that was complicated and scary and unique in a very lonely sort of way. But looking back on all that has happened this year, Anthony and I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Once again, I have to throw some statistic-y notions at you. You see, even though Micro-preemies are not “normal” there is a “norm” per-say, as to how their life goes. We were warned from the word go that this was going to be complicated. It was going to be hard work. And there were an exorbitant amount of things that could go wrong for us. We’ve been told to expect delays, even further behind what the “text books” say we should hope for. We’ve been told that it wasn’t about if she had a problem, it would be what and when. And the one thing that stuck with me from the very beginning was when Dr. Ben-Avi (one of the Neonatologists) told me I wouldn’t really be able to breathe a sigh of relief until she turned one.

With MOST Micropreemies, we deal with delays, internal problems, illnesses, aversions, and a slew of other oddities that the general public has a hard time wrapping their head around. Anthony and I prepared for the worst. But I have to say that from that very first piece of good news we got just 2 days after she was born (No blood pooling in her brain) we’ve gotten good news after good news after good news. And even when the news was bad (serious intestinal infection in the NICU, or RSV in January for example) we still were told that the situation was nowhere near “as bad as it could have been” and eventually, we all came out on top.

They compare the NICU experience to a roller coaster. And they compare that first year of a Micropreemie’s life to that of a marathon. Patience, endurance, hard work, blood-sweat-and-tears, but in the end you finish the race. Well folks… we finished.

The day of her birthday, we were traveling to San Diego, as Anthony and I were both in a wedding that weekend. But all day, I was insistently, almost obnoxiously keeping track of the time. I REFUSED to miss the moment Abigail turned one. And at 1:30pm on the dot, Anthony and I, plus her God Father (the groom) and the bride, and a handful of other friends sang her Happy Birthday. I cried. But they were tears of joy. And tears of relief. As her God Father picked her up to play, I had a chance to spend a moment with Anthony. We hugged like we’d just won the lotto or something. We’d finished the race. I said, “We made it!” and he smiled back and said, “We sure did.”

I could sit here and re-cap the whole year. But I don’t want to. Re-reading that post made me realize just how long ago that was, and just how far we’ve come. I’m done holding my breath. I’m done worrying about the crazy little things. I’m done looking at Abigail as a special needs baby. Instead, I wanted to tell you all that Abigail is doing incredibly well. She may have started out at just a pound and a half, but as of today we are OVER 19 POUNDS and looking into forward facing car seats. She may have started off small enough to fit in our hands, but as of today we are on the verge of growing out of 12 month size close, we’ve moved on to size 2 shoes, and we’ve upgraded to size 3 diapers. We may have started feeding her through a tube, but as of today, she is holding her own bottle, eating tons of fruit and veggie purees, and chomping away on crackers, puffs, and yogurt melts.She has 8 teeth! She drinks water from a sippy cup, she babbles, she plays independently, and…. wait for it…


Like a mad woman, actually. Holy cow, can that girl move!!! It’s incredible.

The truth is that we still have a long way to go. I can’t ignore that. But I can tell you that she is doing so well that her therapist actually wants to use her as an example of what proper health care, proper therapeutic intervention (like occupational therapy), and hard work from a loving family can do for a baby that was born so early. Her therapist calls Abby her Star student because every time she gives us something new to learn, Abby’s got it down by the next session a week later. Her therapist says that if she didn’t know, she would never have guessed Abby was a Micropreemie.

I feel like I’m rambling a little, so I’ll get to the point. The point is, I realized a few things tonight. First, I realized that a year goes by in no time flat. Second, I realized just how blessed I am to be living the life I’m living. And third, I realized that all I really care about is that Anthony, Abigail, and I are home, together, where we belong. We are growing as a family of three. We are raising a smart, charismatic, beautiful child. And I truly, truly could not ask for more.

Thank you for all of your love and support over the last year. You’ve all been amazing. God Bless.


Abigail on the day she was born.

Abigail on her first birthday.

“Life is 10% about what happens to you, and 90% about how you deal with it.” -Anon

10 Year Reunion

The day I started High School, I was a total nobody. I was attending Saugus High School… and all of my friends were attending Canyon High about 20 minutes away. I was a freshman. I was the new kid. I was pretty much alone. I had one thing going for me, tho – I was signed up for Choir.

I was so excited! Singing in a HS choir! That was going to rock! Yea… well… little did I know that I was placed in the ‘Mixed Choir’ class – the one that is pretty much the over flow of students who didn’t get into any of the other electives they wanted to get into. It was awful. My one shot at making new friends and I was surrounded by people who make fun of what I do. I was down in the dumps about it, too. BUT the director was new. And she was looking for anyone and everyone who actually wanted to sing. I showed interest and I had an audition for Concert Choir at lunch the next day. I don’t remember much of the rest of my first day. I think I blocked it out.

I auditioned for Concert Choir, and was one of only 3 freshman to make it. Woot! I had my class schedule changed immediately to reflect my new accomplishment. My little freshman butt was in that 5th period Alto Section seat by day 3 of HS. I was so excited! But my section… not so much. Apparently, before this new director, Freshman weren’t allowed in Concert choir. Ever. So the rest of the section, made up of Sophomores through Seniors, wasn’t happy that the rules had changed. Once again, I felt like I wasn’t going to make any friends.

One of the other freshman girls must have felt my pain over in the Soprano section. Because she made her way over to me by the end of class to introduce herself and ask if I wanted to meet her friends. Her name was Emily. I jumped at the chance to make a new friend! I agreed to meet her the next day at brunch where she and her friends hung out. She introduced me to her friends: Danica, Shannon, John, Trevor, and Ruth. Almost instantly, I became one of them. I had a group of friends. It was incredible! And Ruth and Danica were choir girls, too. They were in the woman’s ensemble. Shannon and Trevor were dancers, so I clicked with them really quickly, too! It was the beginning of an era. I was a total GLEEK! A Gleek with friends.

Time passed, things changed, and 4 years of high school happened without me even knowing it. Emily and I were close for that first year. She ended up transferring to a performing arts high school, and we lost touch until recently (thank you Facebook!). Trevor and I danced at the same studio for a while and had some great performances together. I loved him to death – my first real dance partner. He transferred to that same PA HS as Emily. He’s still dancing his heart out, now the coach to our rival HS’s dance team! Danica transferred to Hart High. I saw her occasionally, as I had several church friends who went there, and all these years later, John and I (along with Anthony) attended her wedding last year. John and I are still super close. We see each other whenever we can and talk often. Shannon moved on from Dance to Cheer-leading. It was her real love, and we were happy to see her do it! But practice for that took up almost all of her time, so we didn’t get to hang out much anymore.

Which leaves Ruth. Oh, Foofie. My Ruthie Foof-A-Moof. This girl changed my whole world for the better. We were fast friends that first year, and inseparable for the following 3. Ruth was also in the theater crowd, and introduced me to her friends there. One stood out among them. Her name is Megan. Meg, as we called her. And that was it – by the middle of sophomore year, you pretty much could count on the fact that if you saw one of us, the other 2 were within ear shot. We did everything together. And we were all in choir together, too – so we were spending an exorbitant amount of time with each other. Megan was a soprano while Ruth and I were Altos. And one day near the end of Sophomore year, Meg told us she’d made a new friend. One of the other Sopranos in our grade. Her name is Felicia. I said, “Oh yea – I know her. She’s my locker partner.” Long story short, we quickly made her our 4th musketeer.

From Left to Right: Ruth, Me, Megan, and Felicia

If you were to ask me who my best friend was in High School, I would tell you, “The *GALZ*” which was what we called each other. I didn’t have just one best friend. I had 3. And we were the most tight-knit group you’ll ever find. We went through everything together – first loves, first heart breaks, accomplishments and failures, summer shenanigans, family “stuff”, etc. We were sisters. They defined my High School years.

By Senior Year, we pretty much owned choir. We were most of the choir counsel, we were the ones that “Dooley” (that director I told you about) relied on most, we sang in 3 out of 4 sections (I sang Tenor most of that year, with the boys), and all-around-biggest-hams. But graduation was around the corner and our lives as we knew it were about to change. I got into 3 schools. As you know, I decided on CLU here in Thousand Oaks. Ruth decided on San Diego State. Megs and Feech were going to C.O.C and Moorpark colleges, respectively. The awesome foursome was splitting up. Of course, as you always do in HS, we promised to be best friends forever. We promised to always call, see each other every summer, and that we’d be each other’s bridesmaids when we got married some day…

This photo was taken the night before I moved to CLU. We all crammed into the pull out bed in my parent’s living room (using EVERY blanket in the house to cover us all). I was so ready to go! (I was kind of CLU obsessed, actually…) but I wasn’t ready to leave these girls behind. The move-in to my dorms was so fun! But saying goodbye around mid-day was one of the hardest things I’d had to do at that point. This picture was the last one we took as a foursome, in late August of 2001:

Semesters went by. Megan and Ruth moved all the way to NYC to go to school. Meg still lives there!!! I’ve seen her once or twice since this photo was taken. Felicia ended up at Santa Barbara State University. I saw her several times while she was there because my job required me to go there a couple of times. But then she and her boyfriend, Lawrence, moved to Idaho a couple of years ago – and I haven’t seen her in since. And Ruth has been just about everywhere you can imagine. She’s a world traveler! She is the one I see most often. I’ve seen her about once every other year or so since this photo was taken. She was the only one of the 3 who was able to attend my wedding, due to distance. I thank God for Facebook everyday because a couple of years ago, that is how we all sort of re-connected!!! It’s been wonderful to talk to them all so frequently again.

Now, it is 2011. So much has changed since our Senior Year of High School! But these girls are still my close friends. No, we didn’t see each other every summer like we said we would. Yes, there were years in there where we lost touch. No, we were not in each other’s weddings. But none of that seems to matter now. You see, 2011 is the year of our High School Reunion. And The plan they’ve got for such an awesome occasion is lame. There is no other word for it. LAME. “Hey – let’s all meet in a mediocre restaurant/bar and see who remembers who….” Yea – NOT GOING. I was bummed. I was really looking forward to a genuine excuse to see these ladies. None of us were very interested in attending the shin-dig. BUT!!!! Felicia to rescue!!!

Felicia and Lawrence tied the knot last night! (So, again, about a gazillion congrats to you both!!!) It’s a night we’ve been anticipating for months! It was our very own mini HS reunion! And while we’ve grown up a lot, we realized that not much has changed. We still squeal in excitement when we see each other. We still use much of the same language we did then (and our familiar slang resurfaced all too easily). We danced, we cried, we hugged, we laughed, and smiled. The only difference between now and then was that we could legally drink this time around!

I took the liberty of bringing some of these pictures I’ve posted with me. We couldn’t stop laughing! And Ruth found “The book” (a book we wrote notes back and forth to each other in that no one, not even husbands, will be allowed to read and it WILL go with one of us to our graves, thankyouverymuch!) which just brought back even more memories. It was so fun. So, we decided to re-create one of our very favorite pictures from HS:

The four of us at our final Choir Concert in 2001

Last night at Felicia’s Wedding.

I gotta say, I think we are even cuter now than we were 10 years ago! I can’t believe that much time has passed, and we are still close. We are still friends. We are still sisters.

I love you *GALZ*! It was so much fun! Let’s do it again VERY soon – or at least before another 10 years passes!!!

Love Jen


Have you seen the Google Chrome commercial called “Dear Sophie” yet? It is SO adorable. It is about a dad who opened up a gmail account for his daughter the day she was born. He has been emailing her letters and photos and videos for her whole life. She is about 5 now, and her email account has hundreds of emails from her Dad that she will get to read and see when she is older. It is awesome!

Anthony’s cousin, Brian, told me about it a couple of weeks ago, when he showed me that he decided to start doing it too. He emails his daughter once a week with a sort of “what’s new this week” email, complete with pictures. I know she will love it later in life.

I am the type of person who likes to stand out and be original as often as possible. But I am also the type of person who knows a good idea when I see one! So I’m jumping on the band wagon. Yup – Anthony and I opened up an email account for Abigail. And we are sending her emails! We will send pictures, little stories about what is happening in her life, videos we take, or just little “I love you” notes. I sent her her very first email earlier this week. I also posted her email address on my facebook wall! Because we are putting our own little spin on this idea.

We want you to email her too! So many of you out there have pictures with her, or of her, that we don’t have so we can’t share them with her. Many of you have stories to tell her or messages to leave her… And Anthony and I have countless comments from hundreds of you that are meant for her to read some day. So, we figured we’d invite you all to shoot her an email. And to keep doing so over the years to come. Then, when she is old enough to use that account for herself, she’ll get to read all of those notes. It will be so cool!

So here it is: (don’t forget the “j” at the end of Abigail!!!)

Thank you to those who have already sent her an email! It is so cool to start compiling all of this for her! And thank you, in advance, to all of you who will email her in the future!