Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A royal decree

I, Prince Luke, hereby decree that today is "Everybody Only Wears Underwear Day." Officially. Because I said so. And because I got water on my pants. And since I took off my pants, I might as well also take off my shirt. But leave the crown.

Monday, June 27, 2011

4 across

Boys love trucks. Our boys love Daddy's big red truck. Tonight we took some pictures in it, Daddy and his three boys. Sitting 4 across. As it should be. Sometimes the boys cooperated, sometimes they didn't. As it should be.

Sadly, tonight was our last night with the truck. As things often go when you're a mature adult and parent, sacrifices sometimes need to be made. When Nate started work last November, we needed a commuter car and from a financial and physical space perspective, we weren't able to keep three vehicles. Nate found a nice guy to buy the truck, and after shaking Nate's hand and promising to take care of her, he drove the truck away.

We felt like we had to take some photos to commemorate our life with that pickup. I almost called this blog post "Goodbye to a friend," but I didn't want anyone to worry at the onset of reading that an actual person had passed away. Perhaps you think it is silly to eulogize a pickup truck, but you have to realize, she's been around for the past 10 years.

The truck didn't really sit 4 across. It had a big gray bench seat, which sometimes held me, sometimes held a car seat. Luke liked it best when he was Daddy's wingman, sitting in his booster seat in the passenger seat. He could see so much from that seat. His favorite thing to do was listen to music and ride with Daddy... "make it loud, Daddy." And away they'd drive, singing Dave Matthews and bobbing their heads together in time. Luke still likes to talk about going to get mulch in the truck last August, and the thrill he had when the front loader dropped a full yard into the bed of the truck.

When I first met Nate in 1998, he drove a gray 1988 Chevrolet Celebrity sedan, which for some weird reason, he and his friends called the Coche del Rio. The coche had seen better days, having been broken into a couple of times at the University of Rochester. I can remember my mom chastising Nate for driving her daughter around in it. I don't know if that embarassed him, but I do know that he was awfully proud to show her the truck when he bought it in 2001.

I have so many memories of that truck. I was a 20-something girl sitting on the tailgate in a parking lot in Johnson City, NY - watching Nate, Chris, Martin and Rick play street hockey. Totally in love with my future husband. That was back when I drove a red Mazda pickup and Chris had a red Dodge. The three red trucks parked side by side always made me laugh.

Nate got cussed at by a Massachusetts Highway Patrol Officer on the side of the Mass Pike in that truck. Heavy Boston accent. Serious potty mouth.

The truck was the scene of many discussions that formed our relationship. Trips to Albany in the snow to see Dave Matthews shows. Breaking up in 2002 when things just seemed unclear. Getting back together a couple of months later when things suddenly became clear again.

Nate visited me in Syracuse in that truck. I was so lonely living by myself during grad school. Nothing made me happier than the sight of that truck outside of my apartment or MacGregors Grill and Taproom, where I tended bar.

We drove in that truck to get engaged at Cortese Restaurant in Binghamton. What an exciting scene when we nearly rammed his parents brand new house in that truck, not being able to wait to get inside to share our excitement and my engagement ring with the thousands of festive, waiting Slaviks inside.

We loved that truck so much that we used it as our departure vehicle from our wedding. Somewhere there is a photo of us in our wedding dress and tux (though I sadly don't have the photo), smiling from the front seat as we prepare to drive away to start our married life. Our lovely friends toilet papered the truck, but they hadn't planned on Mother Nature dropping an inch of rain towards the end of our wedding reception. That toilet paper turned into globs of toilet paper mache. We went to the car wash on the night of our wedding, to wash that darn truck. Then off to Denny's at 3am. How pickup truck of us.

In 2005, we moved from NY to North Carolina. The truck made the trip and enjoyed her time away from the salt and into the sun. Since we moved here, we have moved two times. The truck was a key member of the moving crew each time.

Since we had the twins in 2007, the truck got washed and waxed a lot less. But when the stars aligned, she got a wash. Nothing was more thrilling for Nate and Luke than to wash the truck together. The earliest photo I have of them doing this is early 2009, when Luke was just 2 years old.

I drove the truck to the hospital when I thought I might be in premature labor with Matthew. I needed to get there, and Nate needed the van to stay home with the boys. Thankfully I drove the truck home that night too. Big truck for a 30-something girl and her big belly.

Luke sobbed when we told him the truck wasn't going to be here anymore. I think Nate's heart was breaking a little too, but he comforted Luke and headed off to meet the new owner. My love and his big red truck, one last time.

After the transaction was complete tonight, Nate and I toasted the truck with some Woodford Reserve (I don't like bourbon, but I do like my husband) and did what we do best... smiled, hugged, separated two fighting boys, and got everybody ready for bed and another day tomorrow.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

When life gives you lemons

Squeeze 'em...

Add sugar...

Add water... (sorry, no photo!)


Toast your awesome dad... (on Father's Day... so I am a week late in posting this!)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Old Buildings

Nate and I realized a long time ago that we share an interest in old buildings. Over the course of our relationship, we've enjoyed touring buildings such as Biltmore in Asheville, NC; Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub in London, England; and Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, Quebec. Whenever we travel somewhere, my first thought on places to visit is typically some type of building or bridge.

There are two old buildings of interest in Corolla on the Outer Banks. One is the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, and the other is the historic Whalehead Club, a large period-restored house that was built as a hunting lodge during the roaring '20s. They're located about 500 yard from each other. We decided to visit these places during our recent vacation, but opted out of going into the buildings due to our loud, unruly, touchy feely, inquisitive and sometimes wobbly kids. Nothing scares me worse than a young kid on the top of a lighthouse on a windy day. It is entirely probable that motherhood gave me a fear of heights.

So we walked around the grounds. Beautiful weather, lovely views, and happy Slaviks. Can't beat that. Of course we took a lot of photos. Here are some of the best.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nags Head Festival

While we were on the Outer Banks, we read in the local newspaper that the town of Nags Head - about 30 miles south of where we were staying - was turning 50 and having a festival to celebrate. The ad said that they had children's rides, so early one evening we hopped in the car and decided to check it out.

The festival was pretty small. There were about 10 rides (4 of which were good for little kids) and a dozen food vendors and knick-knack tents. Thankfully we got there right around the time the festival opened and the ride lines weren't too bad, because by the time we left less than 2 hours later, the line for the little ferris wheel was about 75 people long. Clearly a lot of other Nags Head residents and visitors had seen the same ad in the paper... this festival was a big deal!

I'm going to step out of my element and tell you about how each of the boys liked the festival without talking in birth order. Ha.

Matthew probably liked the festival the least. There wasn't really a lot that he could do besides walk around. All I could do was keep close to him and try to run interference so he didn't get trampled by the throngs of kids running between the candy apple place and the 'spin-you-around-until-you-lose-your-cookies-a-tron.' He was also pretty good at quality testing the installation of the temporary fencing. His new thing is to grab something and just shake the heck out of it. Thankfully the temporary fencing was very sturdy and Matthew-proof.

Luke got to ride on the most rides. He spent a lot of time on the mechanized boats (where he met his best friend for Wednesday), a worm ride that went around and around an apple, and a mini train. He was happy to be able to use a lot of tickets and ride each ride a couple of times.

We're never sure what Will is going to be able to do when we go to a festival or fair. I've never seen even a super slow ride that is actually capable to handling a person in a wheelchair (because, you know, people in wheelchairs don't enjoy having fun like the rest of us walking folk). And if you do find a ride that you as a parent think your child would be able to handle, you're never sure if the carney attendant is going to turn you away.

The Nags Head festival had a huge slide. With a huge line. But based on the huge grins of the kids coming off of it, and the love of speed and "danger" that we know Will has, Nate and I agreed that he would try to take Will on the slide.

I waited anxiously as Nate carried Will through the line. I bit my nails as he approached the carney allowing people to go up the stairs. Would they turn him away?

NO!!!! They allowed Nate and Will through the line, and they strode triumphantly up the really tall steps. They sat down on that slide, took a collective deep breath and...

Talk about joy.

Nate and Will rode the slide twice, both times with the same huge smile spreading across Will's face. It was so great to see. And such a great thing for father and son to share. Sometimes in this life, we really have to seek out opportunities for fun together. Sometimes we get turned down. Sometimes Will doesn't like it. But when it all works right... when the stars align... we beam.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just beachy

You've obviously guessed after yesterday's post that we spent the past week at the beach. We met Nate's parents (herein referred to as Grammy and Papa) in Corolla on the Outer Banks. It was about a 4 hour drive for us to get there (with a very full van, artfully packed by my professional engineer husband), and like another world along the way! Beautiful farm land, quaint river towns, and many expansive bridges. We did our best to avoid the large wildfire burning in southeastern NC.

Our house met all our needs and was in a great spot, less than 2 blocks from the beach. That close proximity seemed like a "nice to have" when we were booking the house... we didn't realize just how valuable it would turn out to be as we toted 3 kids, 4 beach chairs, 2 umbrellas, a cooler, various bags, sunscreen, hats, and Will's bath chair to the beach each day. Thank goodness for the Radio Flyer wagon that we rented for the trip!

We were also very fortunate to be able to take Otis with us on the trip (that's a story for another blog post), and that the temperature all week didn't top 90. This was great for all of us, but especially for Will.

After the first day, Luke took to the beach like a fish to water. He just loved it. We put him in a bright orange surf shirt each day so it would be easy to spot him in the sea of children. He made me proud when he wouldn't go out in the sun before putting on his "scunscreen" and hat.

Luke made a new best friend at the beach each day, which was fun for us to see, and a nice break from his brothers for him! He enjoyed building sand castles with Grammy and taking beach walks with Papa. I think his most favorite thing was running into the 65 degree water (brrr!) up to his knees, turn around, and run screaming back up the beach. This provided hours of entertainment. Unfortunately Luke couldn't wear his orthotics at the beach, so we had to limit the running after a while because his poor ankles and knees started to hurt him quite a bit.

Will and the beach are not the best combination. Over the course of Will's life, we have gone to the beach 4 times. On each of those occasions, as we literally were driving into the beach town, Will would vomit. No joke. It was like he could smell it. "Oh, no... salty air... the beach again?" Barf. Thankfully for us, this time was different. No vomit. Score!

We brought Will's bath chair with us on the trip. We thought he might enjoy sitting on it on the beach and feeling the ever-present Outer Banks wind on his face. But Will really didn't enjoy sitting in the chair. In fact, the only way we could keep him happy was to put him in the backpack for a walk down the beach, throw him around in the water (this was short-lived because of the really cold water), or cuddle with him in a beach chair. Thankfully between all of us, we had many willing pairs of open arms with which to hug our little beach-hater.

Last but not least... Matthew (I always write these stories in birth order). Oh Matthew. What a serious kid. He would not crack a smile for the first couple of days near the ocean. He would stand, belly stretching out his surf shirt, fists clenched, and stare at people. He loved to stare, stone-faced, at sunning girls in bikinis. Go figure. At least they laughed about it.

After the couple of days it took for Matt to get used to the feel of the sand on his toes, he quickly joined his brother Luke in enjoying the beach. He was very independent and loved to run around, dig holes, attempt to eat little rocks, and steal other kids' toys. He was a little boy in baby clothing.

Stay tuned this week... I have a lot more photos to share from some of our other fun times on the Outer Banks! It has actually been really hard for me to weed out the photos I want to share!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A week away!

We've been out of town for a week away... much deserved, great company, and very very fun. We're still getting back into the swing of things, doing laundry, going back to school and work, remembering how to sleep in our own comfy beds! So I apologize for not blogging since June 11. I also apologize for not writing a long post tonight... I just finally downloaded our pictures (all 523 of them).

So here is a clue as to where we've been hiding! Stay tuned for more NC Slaviks pics and stories...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Jumping Java

I like coffee in the morning. I am not an addict, as I can survive without it, however I am a much happier person when I have had a cup or two before tackling my day. As we were registering for wedding gifts 8 years ago, my kind husband understood this and agreed to put a coffee maker on our registry. He hates the taste of coffee. But he loves me.

So I received my lovely coffee maker from a kind wedding attendee. Since that time, I have loved it. Aside from my two pregnancies, my coffee maker has been used very steadily each morning, coming on trustily at 6am. I had a true steadfast appliance.

Yesterday morning, as we were bustling around the kitchen, I heard a strange rattly sound. It wasn't Matt. I turned in the direction of the sound - my coffee maker!

The carafe was rattling and the coffee inside was boiling! I quickly pulled the carafe out of the coffee maker and smoke was pouring out of the heating plate. Nate yanked the plug out of the wall. The kitchen reeked of electrical burn.

Thankfully there were no sparks, but the coffee maker shorted out completely. After she cooled down on the porch for a few minutes, I walked her to the outside trash can. I had a moment of silence for my trusty friend. Now she's at the bottom of the can, waiting to be picked up on Tuesday morning.

So now I am on a mission for a new coffee maker. I am open to advice, so feel free to email me at!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Hi... I'm Chuck..."

Uncle Chris and Aunt Jenn gave the boys a talking dump truck a couple of years ago. His name is Chuck, and his faux child's voice tells you constantly:

"Hi... I'm Chuck, and I'm a dump truck."

When provoked, Chuck will rumble his engine, shake his dump bed, and roll a couple of feet. He gets a lot of love at our house. He probably ranks up there in the top 10 of most played with toys.

Now, before I get any further, I need to warn you. I have three sons. Two of them are in diapers. Poop is an inevitable blog post topic at some point. If you don't want a poop story first thing on this sunny Friday morning, your best bet is to stop reading now.

With that being said, after dinner tonight, I changed a dirty diaper on Matt. I figured he was cleared out, so a little naked time would do him a lot of good. What boy doesn't love to run around naked? Luke joined in for some naked time, run around fun. Will was so tired, he was already in bed!

While playing with Luke in his room, Matt squatted down to play with a toy. I thought the position was funny and pointed it out to Nate. He laughed, and then a look of horror spread across his face.

Nate: He just pooped!

Me: No! He just went!

Sure enough, Matt hadn't been completely cleared out after his dirty diaper and had relieved himself right there on the floor.

Honestly, in all our time as parents, we haven't ever dealt with this situation. We froze for a minute. Bad move.

Luke, on the other hand, was none the wiser about what had happened. Chuck the dump truck was nearby and hadn't been played with all evening. Seemed like as good a time as any to wake Chuck and start him up. Chuck's engine started rumbling. He shook his dump bed. And then...

I am sure you know where this is going.

Luke had pointed Chuck right at Matt. That is what good brothers do, right? They share. Unfortunately, Matt's relief was still on the floor, in between Luke and Matt. In Chuck's path. And in a matter of seconds, it was stuck in between Chuck's tire and his bumper.

Sure made clean up easy.

I swear only a matter of seconds passed from the moment of Matt's now-not-so-cute squat and Chuck's date with a handful of Clorox wipes. But it sure did go in slow motion!

Nate and I were hooting with laughter. Do these things happen to other people?! Perhaps, but they don't share them with the blogosphere.

So now, "Hi... I'm Chuck, and I'm a dump truck" has sooooooooooo much more meaning. Makes us laugh every time. What do you want me to say... we have three boys. Eventually, your sense of humor reverts back to that of a 5 year old, and laughing about poop is quite appropriate.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Since the beginning of 2011, Will has been averaging one seizure a month. This whole thing is so strange to me, because prior to June 2010, Will had never had a seizure before. Now it is a regular part of our lives. Apparently this type of late onset isn't atypical with people who have significant brain atrophy, as Will does.

We have been meeting regularly with Will's neurologist to figure out how to get things under control, and have been increasing his seizure medication to try to get the monthly seizures to stop. Will's doctor added a new drug, Keppra, after Will's last seizure in April, because it works well in conjunction with Will's existing seizure medication.

We realized this past week that it had been 5 weeks since his last seizure. We typically don't talk about things like this when we realize them, because we always seem to jinx a good thing by talking about it. But we were so happy that we had broken the monthly seizure rule. The Keppra seemed to be working well.

We had a neurology appointment on Monday to check some medication levels and sing the praises of this drug regime for Will. Smiles all around. Will happy. Mommy happy. Daddy happy. Doctor happy. Happy, happy, happy.

When will we ever learn?

I was catching up on some work last night when I heard Will sputter from his room shortly after bed time. I knew what it was before I walked in the door. Nate was out taking Otis for a walk. Thankfully Will didn't vomit, just a cough. But he was having a seizure.

I walked him out to the living room and cuddled and sang to him on the couch as the seizure took over his body. Unresponsive. After 5 minutes, I administered his emergency seizure medication intranasally. We continued to sing and sway as the medicine worked its magic. Will's seizure subsided shortly before Nate and Otis got home. Thankfully it was a short one. We didn't need to go to the ER. We all slept fitfully the rest of the night.

Frustrating. Back to square one.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Peer pressure

As the heat soars to record highs here in North Carolina, it occurred to me that Luke and Will's hair was getting long and in need of its typical summer shear. We NC Slaviks don't do anything subtle. When it comes to Luke and Will's haircuts, the old college clippers come out and Nate gives them "you're in the army now" level 4 clipper cuts... except when he accidentally starts Will's cut with a level 2 and has to improvise with a fade on the side. That's talent. And years of giving Sigma Nus haircuts in Crosby.

Luke doesn't mind the clipper. Will cries. But he cries if we do scissor cuts. He cries if we take him to a barber. So we save some money, time and face by clipper cutting him at home. We've moved past the point of being shocked at the shunt scars that become more obvious when their hair is clipper short.

Here are some post-chop photos (after the tears dried):

Once Will and Luke had their haircut, I looked sadly over at Matt and realized that his hair had gone beyond the cute baby mullet hair that I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, and had entered "mom, you need to suck it up and cut my hair" length.

The idea of clipper cutting Matt's hair scared me, so we piled into the van and took him to our local Great Clips. The lady was just so excited to be the first one to ever cut Matt's hair, and she did exceptionally well with him. He never cried, but he never cracked a smile either (until we were done). He was just very pensive and unsure of what was happening to him.

In the end, Matt survived his first hair cut. He looks a lot less neglected and "my mom wishes I was a girl" now. Only I am sad to see his baby hair go! I know that after the first haircut, his hair will start to lose its baby-fine-ness and become more coarse. But I am happy that we got to make the decision on when, where, and how much hair he lost... very different from our "first hair cut" experiences with Will and Luke (their first shunt surgeries while still in the NICU)!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Stealth cleaner

You parents of young children out there understand the strange paradox of emotions that accompany a quiet house. Usually when the house is finally quiet, it is night time and your children are in their beds. You sort of breathe a heavy sigh and start cleaning up after dinner and Hurricane Matthew, and getting ready for the next day - when you will do it all over again.

The stranger of the quiet houses is during the day time. Kids are loud. When they aren't, there's something wrong in the universe and certain panic ensues.

On Saturday, we put Matthew and Will down for early afternoon naps. Luke doesn't really seem to do well with naps on the weekend anymore, so he gets to stay awake. Putting the younger two down to nap was remarkably easy on Saturday, and as Nate and I were closing the doors on our napping boys, we felt so lucky not to have had to wrestle anyone to sleep.

We started making lunch, chatting quietly, and just enjoying a pause in the chaos. About 5 minutes passed before we realized that Luke wasn't down for a nap. He wasn't with us. He wasn't on the couch, or anywhere else in our fields of vision.

And any parent of a young child out there will tell you... this kind of quiet is NOT good. Unless sleeping, a quiet child is bad news. Like a little stealth ninja... unrolling full rolls of toilet paper into the toilet and laughing as the water overtakes the toilet bowl, coloring on your dry cleaning with permanent markers, or taking scissors to give your favorite rug a haircut.

Not that we know any of these from experience, or anything. So you can understand the immediate fear and distress as we searched the house for quiet stealthy Luke and his path of destruction.

We came upon Luke in our bedroom, standing at the window. We stifled hearty laughs as we saw how he spent his 5 minutes of complete freedom. I snuck back out to grab my camera, and was lucky to snap this shot before he turned around and the magic was gone.