August 27, 2013

Summer Must Include Fair To Be Complete

So the next couple of post I am going to say better late then never. We have officially closed on our new house and will be moving in September 10th which is in exactly two weeks but who is counting?!? We have about half of the house packed and it hasn't been too bad. Each night after the kids go to bed we get as much packed as we can and then at 9pm we are done. This then gives us sometime to relax. I have most of the 'we never use' items already waiting in boxes in the garage. I have a large portion of the 'I can make due without for the next two weeks' also boxed up. And today I started with the 'we are just going to have to make due without' items. First up was Drew's toys. Weird thing is he was so excited to have me pack up his room. I have always threatened to give away all of our toys maybe the kids really could care less.

We did have to take one night off from packing to attend a local fair. I still remember the Douglas Country Fair that Paul and I grew up going to every single summer. There is just nothing better than the Fry Guy, eating dirt that has been tossed into the air from the speedway, or walking through barns and getting the free bag to fill with all the junk freebies the vendors give out including the sheriff sticker badge. The fairs in CA lack majorly when compared to those in MN but there is one about 45 minutes from our house that we found three years ago. It is as close to a MN fair as we have found. Last year the night that Paul was going to take the older kids was the night we ended up delivering the quads. I am so glad that he ended up staying at the hospital with me instead of going to the fair because I would have never reached him if he would have taken the older kids. 

I love the tall trees. Not what one thinks of when they think of CA.

And a close up because I think they are just too darn cute.
Because of our work schedules the weekend of the fair we ended up having to go in the evening. It just did not sound fun to try and deal with four babies past their bedtime who would be stuck riding around in a stroller so we called grandma to come and stay with the quads while we took the older kids. We told the big kids we had a special adventure for them and they guessed all sorts of places. They were not thrilled when grandma told them we were going to go to the dump!

The big kids had a blast and it really is a treat when we blend into the crowd. Not a single person came up to us asking if our kids were natural. Amazing what happens when you leave four kids who are all the same age at home. We ate fair food. We walked through the animal barns. We saw vegetables that won first place (I have never understood why someone takes the time to enter vegetables into a fair. Can you really tell a difference between one green bean and another?). We listen to karaoke singers. We did NOT ride on any rides (except a zipline because this mom has a total fear of not knowing how well fair rides are put together. As my kids have learned, we go to Disneyland for rides). We did NOT play games (how do I get rid of a 3 foot stuffed animal without the kids seeing me). We DID finish the night off with ice cream. All and all we had a night that just felt like summer.

"Look mom twins."

Can I just tell you how jealous I was of this pig. She is able to nurse all her kids at one time. Yup, jealous!

Fair food with a photo bomb.

Isn't she so pretty. We are so getting chickens at our new home. A tad excited!!

The Nevada County Fair brings back lots of childhood memories of summers long ago. I do hope to someday take the kids to the same fair I went to as a kid and I would love to take them to the Minnesota State Fair but once they are all a little bit older because there will be lots of walking that day. What things did you do as a kid that are now must-do's with your own children?
The girls wanted to zip line so bad. I had them get on the scale and told them that they were not big enough only to have the teenage worker say that they just met the weight needed. Thanks Dude! They wanted mom to go with them and of course they wanted to see me go first. I think the guy understood how serious I was when I told him to make sure my girls stayed away from the doors until they were secured. I was a bit panicky until they started coming done on the zip line with huge smiles on their face.

They were so excited when they got down that the above mentioned teenager won my girls over a second time by telling them they could go again.

August 21, 2013

With One Blink They Became Kindergartners

I have no idea how my little girls have gone from tinny tiny newborns, to toddlers who loved the words 'no' & 'why', to shy preschoolers, to now kindergartners. It just doesn't seem like they are old enough to take this next step. I have a feeling I will feel this way for the rest of my life; that my children are moving at a faster pace than I really want to accept.

The last month has been very stressful for me because when we found out we were moving I had exactly a month to figure out what we were going to do for school for the girls. We had them already enrolled in a local charter school which took a little work getting both girls into after only Aubrey had been accepted. I know, so weird that only one child would get in and not a sibling but after many phone calls both girls were finally accepted. We were so excited for them to attend this charter school. We felt it was a good compromise since we are not at a stage in our life that we can home school yet which we would love to do someday. Those 4 'littles' just take up a little too much time at this point.

Lunches packed with a kiss from mom (the kisses came back home with them and we quickly found out that no candy is allowed at school. Opps mom's mistake!)

Daddy had his one day a month that he has to go into work for meetings so he left the girls a note. They then left a note taped to the front door for daddy for when he returned thanking him for the note he wrote them.
Once we knew we were moving I started looking into both the public and private schools around our new home and also trying to figure out logistically if we could commute the thirty minutes each way to keep the girls at the charter school. It is very hard to research schools in the middle of the summer when most school offices are closed. The internet can paint one picture and then when you read reviews you get a totally different take. I spent many hours trying to figure out what would be best for our girls. I very quickly crossed off the public school system. Public schools are just not for Paul and I. We have our reasons and because I never enjoyed the time spent in English class on debates I am going to leave it at that.

Next we talked a lot about keeping the girls at the charter school. Paul wanted to make the drive each day. I knew that as much as I wanted the girls to go there that after the first month we would begin to dread the time spent in the car. The kindergarten at the charter school was for 3 hours every day. It was not enough time to run home and then back so we would have to stay in town. The girls were signed up for afternoon kindergarten which of course meant the babies would never get an afternoon nap. We just couldn't do it. It took us a long time to finally decide that we would have to decline our acceptance into the school.

Finally it was down to private schools. There are two private schools near us; one 2 miles away and the other 15 or so miles the other direction. The farther one is a Christian school that goes K-12. We heard great things but after looking at the tuition and minimal price breaks for siblings we knew it just wasn't possible. So that left the school which was so close to our new house, A Catholic School! The night we put our offer in I started looking at this school and of course one of the first things I looked at was tuition. You can imagine my astonishment when I saw that after 3 children are enrolled any additional siblings are FREE! I could not believe it. We started to then do some serious looking into the school. I read reviews. I looked at test scores. I talked to parents who had sent their children there. At the beginning of August we got to meet with the Kindergarten teacher and the girls feel in love and to be honest so did I. When we were down looking at the garden and the girls were asking their 4,563rd question and I was giving the annoyed, you have asked way to many questions answer their teacher was still explaining everything just as you would imagine a kindergarten teacher doing! She may at the end of the year though start changing her tune and start giving the annoyed answer after my inquisitive daughters are in her class.

A very happy Grandma that her granddaughters are getting a Catholic education.
We now have two little Catholic school girls and today as they had their first day of school the memories of my own days at a Catholic elementary school started coming back. The songs at mass that I still know by heart and now my girls will be learning them. The friendships that will be made that will carry them through high school because they will spend the next 9 years with the same class of 19. The values that they will be taught that will hopefully carry them through the rest of their life. This decision is right for our family and we are so excited to join our new community at school. It is not only exciting for the girls but for Paul and I too because this is the next step in raising our children into adults.

I did not shed a tear today because they were so excited to start their new adventure. They were in my room at 6:05 this morning asking if they could put on their uniforms. They were not happy with me when I told them they needed to wait until after breakfast. They were not going to their first day of school with egg yolk on their shirt! After mass my mom and I walked them to their room and gave them a kiss at the kissing bench and they both waved and walked to their teacher who was waiting with her arms open ready to welcome them with a hug. I heard Natalie ask where she should put her 'reading' box and I knew they were going to do just fine. Aubrey and Natalie each have their best friend with them all day long. They are so excited for their new role as kindergartners and tonight Aubrey told me three times, "Mom, thank you so much for letting me go to that school."

Natalie & Aubrey, Mom and Dad could not be prouder of you. You are both so smart, love life and are so excited to be friends with anyone. I cannot wait to watch you blossom this year. And I only hope that your excitement for homework continues the rest of the year because you couldn't wait to get home to show me the papers that I was suppose to read from your homework folder today!!

August 19, 2013

One Year Update

Over the last 365 days we have been lucky enough to be your mom and dad. Some days it is exhausting and we look forward to bedtime but most days we can't believe you are ours. The four of you have not only grown our family from 5 to 9 but you have truly made our family grow. I can honestly say that before we got pregnant with you we had our priorities a little backwards. Material things meant a lot to your mom & dad and we use to dream about all the things we wanted in life. The bigger the better was how we were living our life. But becoming pregnant with four babies taught us so much about life and what really matters. There was no guarantee that even though we were pregnant with quadruplets we would get to bring four babies home with us. There was so much that could happen from the first time we saw four beating hearts on the ultrasound until the day we walked out of the nicu for the final time. We quickly learned that a large mansion, or an expensive car, or the greatest vacation in the world did not mean a thing when you were talking about bringing four lives into the world. We had to rely on one another and our family during these long days and not things. The journey of having you in my tummy was the beginning of showing mom and dad what really mattered in life. It isn't the stuff it is the ones we love. And in the evenings when I have four babies crawling all over me planting wide mouthed wet kisses on my face, or when your big brother looks at me while he is getting dressed in the morning and says 'I love you', or when your sister Natalie stretches up on her tippy toes to give me a kiss or each night when Aubrey is cuddled up against me as she sleeps these are the moments I now live for. These are the times that I understand unconditional love and I have the four of you to thank for showing me why we are here on this side of heaven. 

Kenzie Rae
You have been our little peanut since day one but have shown us all that being little doesn't mean you will be last. You are often the first to try new things and show everyone else how things are done. You love to be heard by screeching and saying dada for everything. Your giggles we must fight for because you do not give them out freely. You love to clap your hands whenever you hear music, when we change your diaper, when nap time is over or whenever you are happy. You spend a lot of time clapping! You have always let us know when you are done eating. With your bottles you will just plain refuse to open your mouth. In your high chair you will repeatedly rip off you bib and take your tray off no matter how many times we replace them. You still remain a little doll for your older sisters and they love to carry you everywhere. If Kenzie needs something there are always two big girls who are more than willing to get it for you. Kenzie your were my little Baby A and the first one we got to meet. You continue to want to be the leader and you make me so proud little girl.

Isabella Lynn
Somehow along the way you went from the fussiest baby to the most easy going. You love to explore the house and usually end up in the room that mom and dad are in. As you have gotten older your personality has started to shine more and more. You give out smiles so freely to those you love but you take a moment to warm up to those you don't know. I am in love with your one little dimple on your right check that we get to see when your smile stretches from ear to ear. You are usually the last one at the dinner table and will often be seen grabbing food off of the others trays. You are content viewing the world from your knees and aren't too fond of this pulling up stuff unless it is when you are in the bath! I think you will be our little tomboy or a daddy's girl because whenever dad is outside you can be found gazing out the windows at him. Isabella your smile makes me smile. True happiness glows from you when your smile lights up your face. 

Tate Richard
You are my Baby C and my tator tot. Of all the babies you love to cuddle the most. Your giggles are heard many times throughout the day and can always be brought on my tickling your sides or giving kisses in your neck. You often have the look of wonder when you finish your bottles because everyone else always has half of their bottle left and yours is gone. Mom and dad think you have the look of 'how do they always get more' every time you sit up from drinking your bottle. You were the biggest at birth and it is a title you are not willing to let go. Your older sisters often complain about carrying you because you are just too heavy as they say. Tate you are our happy go lucky kid. You are happy to just play by yourself and can be found usually in the girls room or Drew's finding some cool toy to entertain yourself with. Tate, I love when you crawl up into my lap and rest your head against me. I hope that you never grow to big to do that.

Rylan James
I remember watching you in the nicu and felt from the very beginning that you were a little old soul who had been here before. I still believe this but I think you were a singleton and not one of four when you traveled this path previously! You let us all know when a sibling has invaded your space but you also are found giggling at them when they do something funny. I love standing outside your door in the morning because I have a feeling you are the ring leader of group mischief such as everyone throwing their pacifiers over the railing or turning on all four music boxes at one time. The first six months of your life I watched everything you did because I had the most concerns about you developmentally. If I would have only known that you would be one step behind Kenzie in everything I could have spent a lot more time focusing on something else! Rylan I have never taken your life for granted and I am so glad that God didn't take you home with Him when you were 24 hours old. 

I still can not believe it has been a year since we welcomed our 2 little girls and 2 little boys into our life. It seems like yesterday that we were visiting you in the nicu and watching you grow ounce by ounce. Now we have four little ones who love to be tickled, who climb up on our laps when we are sitting on the floor and who each night we get to watch sleep soundly in their cribs. Kenzie, Isabella, Tate & Rylan you are loved so very much. You came as a four pack but to mom and dad you are each your own unique person and each of you adds so much to our life. The first year of your life as been amazing, I can't even imagine what the second year will bring. 
This is as good as the picture gets with four very mobile babies and one lap that is not big enough to hold four babies at one time!

Love you babies.

August 14, 2013

Flashback to 2004

The beginning of August has us celebrating two very exciting days; the birth of the quads and mine & Paul's anniversary. But each year as August turns into September I recall what was taking place during these months in 2004. The life Paul and I had 'planned' was being put through our first test. One we never expected we would have to take but in hindsight we are okay that we had to pass this hurdle because without it we never would have ended up going through fertility treatments which gave us 6 of our 7 kids.

July 2004 started out so exciting for us. We had been in California for a little over a year. I was loving my job as a trauma nurse and Paul was finally working in the engineering field. We had just closed on the perfect starter home and were waiting to move into it in September because we were renting it back to the previous owners for two months. We were starting our picture perfect American dream.

Paul had noticed a small lump on the outside of his throat and had shown it to me. I blew it off and told him it was probably an enlarged lymph node due to being sick. He insisted it was more and told me it was cancer. Being a loving wife I told him if he was so concerned to make an appointment and get it checked out. He is a male this wasn't going to happen and in a couple of days his lymph node would be fine. Well my theory was wrong and he did make an appointment.
A month before his diagnoses

Our 1st home
He went in and saw our primary who felt is was a blocked salivary gland and it was now about the size of a small grape. Paul got a prescription for antibiotics and came home. At first we thought the antibiotics were working but about day 7 we noticed it was getting bigger so he made another appointment with the same doctor and she still felt it was a blocked salivary gland so gave him a new antibiotic to try but also referred him to an ENT. He saw the ENT on July 30th, 2004 and had a biopsy done on the lump that was growing quite quickly.

Fast forward to August 4th. I am at work and I was having the busiest day I had ever had as a nurse. My patient was so sick that it took two nurses to care for her. I will never forget the day that Brian and I had tag teaming to keep that patient alive. Around 4 in the afternoon Paul calls me and his first words were, 'What is non-Hodgkin lymphoma?' I told him cancer and asked him why he wanted to know. Thinking about the next words he said still makes me tear up and I get a pit in my stomach because he then said, 'I have it'. I stayed strong even though my world was crumbling. What do you say to someone who had just been told he had cancer from a doctor over the phone and they were totally alone? You tell them they will be okay. That they can fight this. That there are awesome drugs out there. But deep down inside you do not believe a single word you are saying. Instead you are SCREAMING how does a 23 year old get cancer? I held it together and got off the phone. I told Brian I needed to go to the break room. I made it to the door and my knees finally gave out and the sobbing, choking tears came. I immediately called my mom. I needed my mom more that day than I had ever needed her before. I honestly don't remember what she and I said. Probably not much. I have a feeling we cried together. I made it back to the nurses station and thankfully the patient I had been working on all day had finally turned the corner because I was useless the rest of my shift. I know I told someone about the phone call I got and then said I needed to go walk. I walked the halls for I have no idea how long. A co-worker came and asked if I wanted to go home and I remember telling her no because if I went home Paul would know it was serious. I made it til 7:30 when my shift ended and when I got home Paul was sitting in a video rocker staring outside. I crawled into his lap and we cried together. This is the only time we cried together during his whole treatment. I cried two other times and those were the two times I left Paul to spend nights in the hospital alone. That night was also the only night we looked stuff up on the internet. The statistics didn't matter anymore because Paul was not a statistic, he was my husband and I needed him to survive.

He ended up having another biopsy the next week which still did not give his doctor the necessary information needed. The ENT would not transfer our case to an oncologist no matter how hard I tried. He was scheduled for a surgical biopsy for August 12th even though we had never spoken with an oncologist yet. I was not comfortable with his doctor and did not feel good with how things were going. I was able to speak with one of our trauma doctors on August 11th who had just come back from vacation. I asked him his personal and professional opinion because he and his wife were both cancer survivors. Within an hour I had an oncologist at the nurses station, PET and CT scans ordered for the next day and when I called to cancel Paul's biopsy for the next day the ENT called Paul and told him that his wife had no clue what she was doing and was risking his life. His response was, 'She is my wife and I trust her and good bye.' We still to this day have never gotten over the fact that a doctor first gave a cancer diagnoses over the telephone and then treated Paul the way he did. To say we don't like him is a huge understatement.
This is the funniest picture ever because if you know my husband you know the chemo must be the reason he is holding a book. My husband never reads unless it is in a magazine form!
Baby Ella and her brother-in-law

A break in chemo for some family time
Over the next couple of weeks Paul underwent many different tests, scans and more biopsies. He donated sperm because I knew the chemo could destroy any chance of having kids once he was cancer free. On September 15th Paul was admitted to the hospital to begin his fight against cancer. The small lump that Paul first noticed the middle of July had now spread from ear to past midline of his chin and stuck out  so far that he appeared to not have a neck at all. His tumor was rapidly growing which would give him a huge advantage to beat this thing. We knew his first round of 8 would have to be inpatient but we thought he would complete the rest on an outpatient rotation. Oh how wrong we were. I remember day 2 of treatment when we realized we would be spending the next months as residence of the oncology floor. He would have one week inpatient and then be home for two weeks then repeat this 7 more times. It didn't take take us long to realize that those two weeks would be interrupted with multiple blood draws, and overnight stays in the hospital to get blood and plasma. The best thing was that 3 days into treatment we were already seeing the tumor shrinking. You may of heard us shouting Hallelujah on that day in September.  

Christmas and about half way done with chemo. (These are the walls we would paint mid-chemo. Oh how badly they needed color!)

We finished round 1 and were sent home. He only had one bought of nausea and that was when they served him zucchini one night and from then on out he learned to keep meals to things such sandwiches, mashed potatoes, chicken fingers, muffins and other items that had no smell. Refusing any breakfast trays to come in until he asked for them also kept the nausea at bay because the smell of bacon and eggs at 8:00 in the morning was more than he could handle. 
Our life became the hospital. We would get the phone call to come in and we would check in with suitcases packed with everything we would need for the week. I often would not leave the hospital except for occasional runs to Chipotle. We would forget that life was still going on outside the four walls of the hospital. We would bring our own sheets, our own towels, our pillows and enough clothing to have choices. Paul refused the hospital gowns because he did not want to admit that he was a patient. Hard to do when every time he got out of bed he had to drag along an iv pole! My work commute was shortened from 5 miles to two long hallways. I would get up and shower in Paul's room then make the walk from the oncology unit to the trauma ICU five minutes before the start of my shift. For all my breaks I would stop by Paul's room for a quick visit and then back to work I would go. We often got the knock on the door at 3 in the morning asking if I could come in early. I really had no excuse to say no since I was already there. 

We had date nights, they were just in the hospital cafeteria. We had friends over, we just all camped out and watched American Idol in our favorite room of 123 or 100. We had favorite nurses and we had some we asked not to have. I was never Paul's nurse. I was always his wife. I never ever turned off his pumps even when they drove us nuts because the nurse was taking too long. There was one night when his call light had been on forever because his chemo had ended and a new one needed to be hung. The beeping of his pump was driving us cray and I needed to work the next morning. I told Paul he needed to go out and find a nurse to turn the thing off. He walked out and came back with the dang thing still beeping. When I asked him why he didn't find a nurse he told me they were all in a room down the hall doing cpr on a man. The beeping no longer bothered us that night and we realized that not everyone would win the battle with cancer. 

On days of discharge we would literally watch each drop of medicine drip into his iv. We counted down the hours and then the minutes until Paul signed the discharge papers. Why? Because when we weren't stuck in the hospital we were busy living the life of newlyweds who had a new house, no children and lots of free time. We went to movies, went out for dinner, spent weekends picking paint colors and painting all the white walls in our house. Paul also went to work everyday in between his sessions. We did not see Paul as someone who was sick. We use to tell people that he doesn't look like your typical cancer patient because to us he was still just Paul but with a totally bald head. Now we look at pictures and he so looked like a cancer patient!! 
Good times in between chemo

Steriod puffiness in full effect

Chemo & radiation done and the hair was growing back!
One year from diagnoses.
It seems like so long ago since we received that diagnoses of the big "c" word. Like maybe it actually happened to someone else but then his annual checkup and lab work roles around and reminds us that another year has passed and we question whether he will remain in remission for another year or will he have to fight the battle again. It has been 9 years but today as I made the appointment for this years scan the pit in my stomach has returned. It will remain there until September 9th when he will meet with his oncologist. We pray for another year of Paul being a survivor but if the battle needs to be fought again he will come at it with full force because he has seven amazing reasons to fight that he didn't have back in 2004!

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