Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It never hurts to ask

If you've come to visit us over the past 4 years in North Carolina, chances are that we've taken you to a particular Asian diner in Brier Creek. We love this place. We stumbled upon it when I was pregnant with Luke and Will, and totally craving the spiciest of spicy foods! During that pregnancy, we'd go at least once per week so I could get Thai Blazing Noodles. I think the name speaks volumes about the spiciness of this dish... the other give away was that every time I'd walk up to the register and order it, I'd get a disclaimer from the order-taker about how hot the dish was and was I sure I didn't want something else.

Bring on the Blazing Noodles. I couldn't get enough of the stuff. Nor could I figure out what the unique ingredient in the sauce was. It's no wonder that Luke loves spicy food now!

The staff quickly started recognizing us and were excited about our impending pregnancy. After Will and Luke were born, we used to take them with us for the staff to ogle. If we'd go to eat at lunch without the boys, the staff would ask why we didn't bring the boys with us. We really enjoyed going there, and even after my pregnancy was over, I still loved the dish. It is the only dish I had ever ordered at this restaurant and was truly unique.

Once Luke and Will turned 2, they stopped being so easy to take out to a restaurant. And even though this particular restaurant is loud and no one minds if your child cries, the experience of taking them with us wasn't too good. We kept going to the restaurant for lunches, but not with the frequency that we once did.

Eventually I was put on bedrest with my pregnancy with Matt, and we tried take out Blazing Noodles. It wasn't nearly as good as a take out dish, so we agreed that as soon as Matt was ready, we'd take him to the restaurant and keep the family tradition going.

We tried to go earlier this week. Imagine my shock and sadness at walking into the restaurant and seeing that my beloved dish was no longer on the menu! I asked the order-taker if they could still make it even if it wasn't on the menu - she said they could not. I am embarassed to admit it, but my eyes actually welled up with tears! In fact, I was so disappointed and deflated that we ended up leaving and eating somewhere else.

Yes, I know that's not totally a rational response to the loss of a menu item. But what can I say, I was recently pregnant. And moreover, I was recently on bedrest and had months to look forward to my return to my Blazing Noodles!

The order-taker recommended that I send an email to the corporate office of the Asian diner. I'm not shy about that stuff, so when we got back from our second-choice lunch, I wrote down our whole history with the restaurant on their website comment area. I asked if there was any chance they could bring the dish back. I also asked that if they couldn't bring the dish back, could they send me the recipe? I'm not shy when it comes to complicated recipes, and I was dying to know what the unknown flavor in the sauce was.

Surprisingly, it took them only 24 hours to respond. I actually got two responses from two separate customer service people. The first response was typical corporate bull answer, thanking me for my comments and appologizing for the disappointment I felt. They have a lot of new tasty options on the menu, had I tried the Thai Dynamite? Delete.

Not 20 minutes later, I received the second email but from a different person. All it said was "Here's the recipe for the Thai Blazing Noodles - enjoy!" And sure enough, when I opened the attachment, it was the recipe! It looks like it came straight from the company cookbook for their chefs.

So now I know... the unique ingredient that I couldn't place is Oyster Mushroom sauce! Let me know if you want to sample my home cooked Blazing Noodles! It truly never hurts to ask, even if the question seems silly or impossible. I NEVER thought they'd actually send me the recipe!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


We pulled out this playmat for Matthew a couple of days ago. Yes, it was Luke's first (like 3 years ago)... but now he can't get enough of it! I suppose we have to expect some amount of regression with a new baby. This one just caught us off guard and made us laugh a little bit.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Test drive: a walking story

Slowly but surely, Will is getting used to his gait trainer. Walking in it certainly isn't his favorite thing to do these days, but he does enjoy the praise when his steps are completed!

Below is a video of Will's recent trip out of the garage and onto the driveway. You'll notice that at the start of the video, he's having a bit of trouble, but as he nears the end, he's really getting the hang of it! Eventually we'll work on getting him to hold up his head while he's walking, but for now, these steps are exactly what we want to see! Nate is bringing Will's feet forward for each step, but once Will has weight on his feet and is moving forward, he pulls his own feet back. He definitely understands the concept of how to walk, we've just given him the tools to do so.

No matter how, no matter when, no matter the circumstances, it really is a proud moment as a parent when your child takes his first step! Look how hard our boy is working! Look how far he's come already! Our hope is that with continued work with the gait trainer and his physical therapist, Will will continue to strengthen his trunk (core) muscles and will be able to take more steps on his own.

If you get this update via email, you may want to go directly to the online blog ( to view the video.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hot rod!

Will's got a new set of wheels! Over the past several months, Will has been working with his physical therapist on walking with assistance. Basically, she holds him up and moves his legs forward, and he does his best to stay upright and moves his legs back. Though his original response was to whine and complain, he's gotten a lot stronger and able, and therefore complains less when taking steps.

Will's current stander doesn't allow him to walk (though it is great for supporting him upright and allowing his leg/hip joints to feel downward pressure), so we started down the path of acquiring a gait trainer for Will. The gait trainer holds him in a supported, up-right position but allows him to move around with or without assistance.

Acquiring new equipment for a child with special needs is not easy, regardless of whether you have private insurance or Medicaid. There are a lot of hoops to jump through, different people to involve, letters of medical necessity to write (and ensure those letters contain the right key words!)... not to mention that from the time you choose the equipment with your physical therapist to when the equipment arrives, about 4 months have passed! It is a lesson in patience, aggravation, agitation... but there is definitely a sense of accomplishment once the equipment arrives!

So yesterday, Will's gait trainer finally arrived! Hurrah! It is going to take him a little bit of getting used to, but we have nothing but hope and excitement over what his new wheels are going to mean for his ability to get around on his own.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One month old

Matthew is one month old today! To commemorate, he accompanied me to my 4 week post-op appointment to UNC. He mostly behaved himself and was happy to meet my OB and nurse again. It is really hard to believe that a month has passed already! The time is going quickly...

During the past month, Matt has met a great-grandmother, almost all of his grandparents, and his aunt. He's been a busy guy! When taking breaks from his demanding personal appearance schedule, he sleeps well and doesn't have a hard time eating. At his last pediatrician appointment, he was already pushing 11 lbs! Matt has been more alert during the day, and is working on holding his head up when spending some time on his belly. He has officially moved out of "baby blob" stage! Luke and Will are becoming more intrigued with him on a daily basis. We appreciate their curiousity, and somehow managed to avoid the "when is he going back to the hospital?" questions!

One of the more exciting events over the last couple of weeks was Matt's first tub bath. Matt was never a fan of his sponge baths, and definitely seems to enjoy spending time in his tub. Here are some G-rated pictures of his first time in the tub. Despite his trademark scowl, he really did enjoy himself!

I guess it's just not in the cards for me to have a child that looks like me, huh? How is it possible that all three of my sons look different from each other, but somehow look just like my husband?!?!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Playtime with my brother

It isn't always easy for us to capture photos of Will and Luke together, because their planes, speeds, and heights of the world are usually pretty different. It is a special occasion when they can lie together and laugh like they do when we are getting them ready for bed... when rough-housing with Daddy or tickles from Mommy are abundant!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What's in a name?

We Slaviks are all about the nicknames. It's a wonder that our children aren't confused about their actual given names, considering we call them each about 300 different nicknames on any given day. Some make sense, some don't. For example...

Luke's most common nickname is "Buddy." I have no idea how this one came about, but it seems like a pretty common nickname to have for a son. He's more likely to respond to a request when it is prefaced with "Buddy" because if we call him "Luke," it is typically followed with "no" or "do you need timeout?" We also refer to Luke as "Luke-a-Duke" and on very special days, he answers to "Trouble." Anyone with a three-year old knows why.

Will's most common nickname is "Bubba," which is kind of ironic considering that he's the skinny one we've always been trying to put weight on. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on our part? Or positive reinforcement? When Will is in a talkative mood, he goes through many two-syllable sound combinations. We realized about a year ago that one of his favorite sounds to make is "ba-ba." At first we thought this might be him telling us that he wants a bottle... but we quickly discovered that this is how Will refers to himself! The kid might not be able to say "Will," but he definitely knows that he is Bubba! Will is also the proud owner of nicknames "Baba ganoush," "Smooch," and "Fish-face." Don't ask why... there's no reason behind any of these names.

So when Matt arrived in the operating room and we learned that he was a big baby, I mentioned to Nate that he is more of a "Bubba" than Will is! But we're not trying to confuse anyone and rearrange nicknames, so we've been on the hunt for a new nickname for Matt.

We may have found the perfect nickname for him!

For any South Park lovers out there, you may remember an episode several years ago where Cartman decides that he's going to take Weight Gain 4000 (with over 4000 grams of saturated fat per serving!). To refresh your memory, turn on the sound on your computer and click this link:

Cartman ultimately ends up putting on a lot of weight and calls himself "Beefcake" like the television commercial. Here's what he ends up looking and sounding like:

So... kind of facetiously... Matt's nickname is now "Beefcake!" This may or may not be better than "Cart," depending on your point of view or sense of humor!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Goings on

We've been a busy bunch over the past week! Here's a breakdown of some of the fun...

Matthew had his two week checkup with the pediatrician. He now tips the scales at 10 lbs and 6 oz... that's more than a pound gained since birth! He's also 22 inches long now. He's eating well and sleeping well too. Here's a recent picture of he and I together.

Will's class went strawberry picking at a nearby farm. It was great to get to know his teachers better, as well as some of the other children and parents from his class. Though it was a warm day, we had a good time and brought home enough strawberries to have jam for a year (which I proceeded to make and can that very afternoon!). Matt even got to join in the fun (strawberry picking, not jam-making... he's just a smidge too young for that).

Luke's class had a Mother's Day get together on Friday. I was so happy to be able to attend and see Luke's classroom and meet his teacher. They performed two songs for the mothers in attendance (Luke was a little too shy to perform) and then had some snacks together. It was a fun morning - especially since my post-op ban on driving is now lifted and I was able to enjoy the freedom of driving myself to and from Luke's school! Look out world... its been almost 4 months since I have been allowed to drive myself anywhere.

We spent Mother's Day weekend with my dad, Grandmama Tammy and Nana Jean (the boys' great-grandmother on my dad's side). It was cool to have so many generations together to celebrate! Nate enjoyed playing chef for the entire weekend (his delicacies included red velvet whoopie pies). We had lovely weather, and enjoyed a nice outing to the playground. Grandpa kept Will estatic the whole time by running him around the playground... they did wheelies and even lost Will's shoe at one point!

We also tried to pull out the kiddie pool for some splashing fun (it was nearly 90 degrees here this weekend), but it was a bit too cold for Will!

Matthew is becoming more and more alert these days and spending more time awake. He's quite content a lot of time time, and enjoys watching his brothers and dog run around from his perch in big brother Will's old bouncy chair... when his cheeks and lips don't get in the way! It's hard to believe that he is officially 3 weeks old today. Time is just flying for me, and I am trying desperately to slow it down!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Being brave

While we were in the hospital for Matthew's birth, we were fortunate to have many friends visit us. One set of visiting friends had a baby in January, who was born 10 weeks prematurely. He is doing very well now and they are all settling into life at home. It was great to finally meet their son and share some time with friends who share a common bond as NICU alumni.

As we were talking, our friend told me that she thought that Nate and I were very brave. It struck me as an odd comment at the time - I didn't feel like we were doing anything that needed commending! She told me that she felt after what we went through with Will and Luke's birth in 2007, going through another pregnancy with all the potential risks and fear associated with it showed a lot of bravery on our part.

I have had a lot of time to think about this conversation during 3am feedings. As Matthew noshes and Nate sleeps next to me, it's definitely a good time to think about things!

In essence, I understand what she was saying. As a NICU parent, you have lived through a lot of fear and turmoil. When you got pregnant, you never really thought that you could end up in the NICU. Until your child really turns the corner, you hang onto every word your doctor says, feel angst over every milliliter of milk your child spits up, and wait with baited breath each night when your child is weighed because with each ounce gained, you are one step closer to home. Once your child is released, you vow never to go through that again.

Honestly though, during this pregnancy, it never occurred to me that we were being brave. We love being parents, and wanted to expand our family despite Luke and Will's unexpectedly dramatic premature birth. Though there were rough patches and many nerves as this pregnancy progressed, our faith kept us going... faith in God, faith in each other, faith that things were going to be okay. I can't tell you how many times I would get myself upset about something, and Nate would talk me down again by telling me that in his heart, he knew that things were going to be alright.

His heart was right.

I still don't know if I think we were being brave. But it is nice to know that someone thinks that we were! So in honor of bravery, I'd like to issue a challenge. Tell that person whose bravery you secretly admire that you think they're brave. It could be a friend who recently left an abusive relationship, a cousin who decided to forego her career as a lawyer because she found staying at home with her children much more fulfilling, your brother who faced spinal tumors and surgery with dry wit and perseverence, or a loved one moving on with life after the death of a spouse. That person may think that they're just doing what they have to in order to survive. But really it's a whole lot more.

We all want to be brave. On an average day, most of us don't think that we are. Sometimes it takes the view of someone on the outside to remind us that we've all got a bit of Superman in us.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Flying field trip

We are an airplane-loving family. About once a week, we all sit on the back porch and watch the airplanes lined up to land at RDU. Luke loves to yell "I see airplane!" and Will enjoys the excitement and the noise that an airplane overhead brings. Matt appears indifferent toward his brothers' flying machine addiction.

So imagine the boys' excitement when we announced we'd be taking Oma to the airport this past Sunday! I think we could have gotten Luke to agree to do pretty much anything as long as we were going to the airport to see airplanes. His recently-typical response of "no" to everything was replaced with a much more agreeable three-year old. Maybe we should go to the airport more often...

We intended to go to the top of the parking deck to view some airplane underbellies, so after dropping Oma off, we made our way towards the parking deck. Out of the corner of my eye, though, I saw a partially-hidden sign for "Observation Area." We decided to check it out.

After driving a while and thinking we were lost, we came to the observation area. It was pretty well-hidden and lacked a lot of signage... but it was like an oasis of families! People picnicking, kids running around... totally random. And totally new, well-kept, and with a superb view of the runway!

It was fun to see all the kids' excitement and awe as the airplanes rumbled down the runway. We could see far enough out so they could experience the moment when the airplane tiptoes off the runway and starts its precarious ascent to 30,000 feet. Oh, to be a kid again and marvel at these things... though I have to admit, its really fun as a parent to experience these seemingly everyday occurrences through the eyes of a three-year old. It sort of reminds you that little things can be exciting if you only open your eyes and watch them.

So if there's ever an afternoon when you're trying to reach us and we just can't be found, you might try the Observation Area at the airport... we might just be there picnicking or flying a kite!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Transpo woe

In the midst of Matthew's homecoming, Luke and Will started their new County pre-school programs. This isn't the way we originally planned things - as Luke and Will were eligible for these programs on their birthday back in March. However there were some unexpected delays, and by the time we were ready to start the programs, the schools tracked out (for anyone unfamiliar with the term, "tracking out" is the term used when a year-round school has several weeks off every nine weeks throughout the year). The schools that the boys were assigned to tracked back in on April 26. Oy. Busy week, no?

We had some angst over the boys starting their programs, mostly because it would be a new experience for them on top of having their home life turned topsy turvy the week before with Matt's arrival. We had minimal angst over how they would get to their new schools, as we had been assured that the appropriate transportation would be provided.

The week before school was scheduled to start, we called transportation because we hadn't heard from them. They assured us they were working on it. On Tuesday, we had a baby. We called back on Wednesday, played phone tag all day. On Thursday we learned that the County was maxed out on their transportation budget and that they boys wouldn't be receiving transportation. We started to panic.

Transporting the boys to their programs is not an easy feat. They need to be on the road early to drive to Luke's school and drop him off, then over to Will's school for his drop off. By mid-morning, Luke's program is done and he needs to be transported from him County program to his day care center. Will needs to be picked up from his full day program at 3pm, and Luke needs to be picked up from his day care center after that. All in all, its about 100 miles of driving a day. Nevermind that the vehicle that they ride in needs to be large enough to handle transporting Will's equipment and be fit with appropriate car seats.

By the Friday before school started, our story had been escalated up the ranks at the transportation office. We were assured that something would be happening. But by Monday, we had no County transportation for the boys, so Nate spent the day jetting them around. Tuesday provided us with no progress, so Nate drove them again. He barely saw Matthew for the first couple of days he was home!

On Wednesday we learned that a company had been contracted to transport the boys and the driver would be stopping by that night. This meant that Nate had to drive the boys again on Wednesday, but they would have transportation from that point on. A very friendly driver (and former pre-school teacher!) showed up on Wednesday to meet us and show us the vehicle. We realized that Will's stander wouldn't fit in her SUV but figured we would at least give it a try on Thursday morning. Because she transports multiple children in her vehicle, the third row of seating needed to be used, leaving minimal storage space in the back.

On Thursday morning, we got the boys up and ready in time for their new ride to school. Luke was very excited and got into his new car seat willingly. Will's car seat really didn't fit him very well and was not installed properly. It was then that we realized that his Kid Kart (wheelchair) wouldn't fit in the vehicle either. This is an essential piece of equipment for him. We were upset and told the driver that we wouldn't be sending the boys with her today. Sweet Luke waved bye bye to the driver as we walked back inside, deflated. Nate drove them again on Thursday.

After dropping them off at school, he spent the next couple of hours between the contracted transportation company looking at their fleet of vehicles to see if they had anything large enough to transport the boys and Will's equipment (they didn't, with the current transportation plan and number of kids in the vehicle) and the County transportation office.

When all was said and done, the County was able to move one of the children to another route, so that the rear seat in our transportation SUV could be left down, thereby leaving enough storage room in the back for Will's Kid Kart and stander. The driver took the car seats to the local fire station and ensured that they were installed properly.

So FINALLY, on Friday - two weeks after the woes started - the driver beeped her horn from the driveway bright and early. The car seats didn't move when we put the boys in them (also, Nate had fashioned a head rest for Will to ensure that he sat properly in the seat). All of our equipment fit. And the boys went happily to school as two nervous parents stood in the doorway and waved. We felt sorry for the skinny kid who was stuck sitting in between Luke and Will's car seats!

We called the driver after the morning drop off to see how things had gone. Luke's drop off was wonderful, and Will started getting kind of antsy in the 10 minutes between Luke's drop off and his. So the driver sang 'Itsy Bitsy Spider' to him for the rest of the trip. I love pre-school teachers, they think of everything! The mid-morning Luke school shuffle went well, as did Will's return trip home that afternoon.

Whew! We're looking forward to a much less eventful week this coming week, as we settle into a routine at home. It will be great not to put 400+ miles on the van in a single week, too! The SuperDad medal of the week definitely goes to Nate for his butt-numbing travels, persistence, and patience!!

And for those of you wondering about the important stuff, both Luke and Will transitioned exceptionally well to their new County programs! Luke's vocabulary and word usage seems to have increased in the first week! And although Will gave his teachers a bit of a struggle with his eating during the day, he is having a fun time in his new program. He comes home in a great mood each day, it's wonderful! The class participated in Field Day on Friday and ran in a relay with some first graders!