Friday, February 16, 2018

Birthday Brothers

Our boys both have February birthdays, but beyond the month they were born and the family they were born into, they don't have a whole lot in common. Well, they do both have exceptionally large heads.

Also, all three of our kids like footwear. Angie likes to buy shoes, Zy likes to wear them, and Paul likes to eat them.

That's about where the similarities stop.

When people ask about how the boys are different I sometimes refer to them as football positions. Paul’s the linebacker to Isaiah's quarterback. I second guessed myself once recognizing that it’s not fair to compare the mind of a 2 year-old to a baby. But then I remembered the first words spoken about each of them. When Isaiah was handed to me in the hospital, the nurse said “He’s so alert!” And that was repeated by strangers his whole first year of life. When Paul was born it was instantly apparent that he was strong. And that’s been said of him not only early but often. 

For the most part, Isaiah has been calm and contemplative. He goes at about 45 mph, a nice cruising speed. He’s careful and cautious about everything. He’s a clone of his daddy. And loves helping him with tools more than anything. "Daddy, do you need my help?" "Always, Buddy!" And Isaiah runs to get his tools as my heart melts over this pair.

The books Isaiah enjoyed reading in our laps at one year-old, Paul eats! This kid lives in extremes. He has the biggest smile when he sees me, and the saddest, most piercing cry when his tummy hurts. Paul is usually going 110 mph, climbing over anything that dares stand in his way. Jon says he's a Go-getter. I say, he's a bull in a china shop. In other words—he is just like his mama. 

The tide is turning around here. Squishy hugs are turning into wrestling matches. And the little guy who just wants to play with his big brother, is about to be able to hold his own. The fear mechanism that keeps Isaiah on high alert at all times, has yet to be turned on in Paul. He keeps us on our toes physically while Isaiah keeps us laughing with his antics. They are precious treasures we never would have guessed we'd enjoy so much! Thank you, Lord for these perfect gifts.

Here are a few pics to see the boys' personalities and huge adorable heads.
We didn't even need to buckle Zy, but if it's not a 5-point-harness, Paul will escape.

Sharing is a concept they've yet to master.
I told you the tides are turning.
Paul is raring to go!
Isaiah's 3!

And Paul's 1!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Resting Grump Face

My baby turns one this weekend!!!

The year's been a little tough. I've lost the baby weight plus another 15 pounds due to Paul's allergies, but he's thriving, so all the dairy, eggs, and peanuts I've forgone have been worth it.

Just this month, he's been knocking down milestones, because knocking things down is one of his favorite things to do.

All the sudden, he:

Claps - I sat him on the potty the other day and said, "If you tinkle I'll clap for you." He clapped! Didn't tinkle, but the clapping was cute enough.

Points - At a conference earlier this week, he pointed to pretty much  every animal in the exhibit hall.

More/Mas - He's getting pretty good at signing for a little bit more food. It must be confusing that we're trying to teach him sign language, Spanish, and English for the same concept, but he'll figure it out.

Drinks out of a sippy cup - This one is huge for us as we thought Isaiah might go to college nursing. It's an important step toward weaning and my freedom to eat all the foods again.

Swallows more food - Since he started solids, most of them have come back out. He mashes things up a bit, gets all the good juices and flavors, then just pushes them right back out. But Jon noticed that we're seeing less return than we used to. Maybe he's finally getting the hang of this tricky eating process. Another step in the right direction toward weaning.

Peek-a-Boo - Oh my goodness! Angie taught Isaiah to play Peek-a-Boo with Paul when he cries, which almost always works to snap Paulie out of whatever upset him. But now Paul has started doing the hiding as well. It's the CUTEST thing, his smile melts me...

A Few of his Faves

Song - "Jesus Loves Me," he really does prefer it.

Pastime - Antagonizing his big brother by trying to play with him, which means putting Isaiah’s toys in his mouth or knocking them over.

Hobby - Climbing (his second birthday party definitely needs to be at a rock climbing gym)

Lovey - His Lamby Wubanub - "Baa Baa"

Place - Mommy's arms, all hours of the day and night.

Snack - Teddy Grahams, he's not allergic to them and he can usually swallow them!

Meal - Just like the rest of the family - Taco Night

In case anyone was worried the name "Paul" might not have enough nicknames to choose from, here are the alternatives we call him regularly.



Baby Paul




The Wog

And here are the names Isaiah calls him: 

Paul.E.Wog.Y Charles


Slobbery Guy

He hasn't traveled as much as his brother had at this age, but he's still made it around a bit.

States he's Visited:


And finally, what you really came here for, his claim to fame, his hashtag #RGF.

The Resting Grump Faces:
The original Resting Grump Face
RGF meets the ocean for the first time.
That lower lip tho!

Not impressed with the Eclipse, even in totality.

Not the typical RGF, but too cute not to add.

How he feels about Christmas family pictures.
Blue Steel

Friends, he really is not a grumpy guy. Paul is the sweetest, mostly chill and happy baby. As long as you're not trying to hold him still or keep him from his mama, he'll be cool. We love him to pieces, and can't wait to see what God has in store for this next chapter!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Advent Storying

I owe you all an apology. I posted this picture in November:

I’m usually better about steering away from posts that might lead anyone to false assumptions about our perfect life and unattainable #famgoals. The twinkling lights and Instagram filters must have gotten to me. I’m sorry.

I knew I’d crossed my own boundary of over-idealistic posting, when this comment started garnering more attention than any of my other comments in recent memory:

“I’m sure it won’t be as lovely as the idea. No one goes to bed at the same time here. Angie will never be around, Paul will try to eat the books, Isaiah will then cry because his brother ate the book, etc. But if we can tell our kids the story of Jesus’ birth like 24+ times this month— that’s a win!”

And then when a friend made this comment, I knew I owed you all a reality check after the fact.

“Thank you for the great idea and for posting your “keeping it real” comment. I needed that dose of reality to balance my impressions/delusions of perfection.”

I, all too often, get drawn into the story people craft, possibly sometimes intentionally, but usually inadvertently, of their picture-perfect life and family. I never want to make anyone feel like they can’t keep up with the Charleseseses, because believe me you can, we can’t even agree on how many “eses” to put after our surname!

So, here’s what really happened in our 24 days of advent storying. 

First, my family thought I was nuts for taking random pictures while we were reading. Well, Angie likely did, by now, Jon is probably more surprised if I’m not documenting a moment with photos.

You’ll be happy to know (since many were library books), that Paul did not eat any of them. But Isaiah found other things to cry about.

We did read 24 books about Christmas, the last one this evening, but of the 5 of us, I’m the only one who read all 24. As often as not, someone was missing. Paul had gone to bed before story time, Angie went out with friends, and Jon and Isaiah missed one reading because Isaiah couldn’t keep it together. I’m pretty sure his epic meltdown was over us reading the “wrong” book. He didn’t like the number we chose and there would be no convincing him that was the correct date. 

Even on the best of nights, children were wandering around, as their attentions wandered likewise. Here is what it often looked like while we tried to share the story of the Christ-child.
This is Isaiah reading a book while the rest of the family is reading a different book.

Notice this time Isaiah in the other room playing during story time. SMH

But then there were moments like these as well:

Angie spent 3 weeks reading bedtime stories with us! Probably my favorite part of the whole experience was passing each book around to take turns reading and having her join in every third page. How many nights would it take to convince her to actually like reading? We’ll keep going if there’s hope!

And yesterday, Isaiah randomly turned over a candy cane and said, “It’s a J, for Baby Jesus.” The kid knows the Christmas story now. He might have learned it otherwise, but reading it most nights for a month sure was a fun way to teach him about Jesus’ birth.

What expectations are you still holding onto for a picture-perfect Christmas? 

I know I expect a low-stress punctual departure for road trips every time. Am I insane? This never bodes well for a happy ride. 

Anyone else have false expectations that their kids might be able to share their stuff a little? Isaiah can’t even handle Paul playing with Paul’s new toys.  

Here’s one; I somehow expect other people to read my mind, know exactly my taste, and buy me perfect gifts. That awkward moment when you know someone really tried and it’s just not your style, at all. Ugh.
A few other warnings for any Holiday gatherings you may have left to participate in:

- Do not expect everyone to get along and agree every moment of your event. 

- Do not bring up politics and expect a light cheerful discussion.

- We shouldn't expect to be in close quarters for extended periods during cold and flu season, and come out unscathed.

- You're setting yourself up for a let down if you think all the food you painstakingly prepare will come out Top Chef quality or even be ready all at the same time.

- And why do we expect our kids to act like adults? They have little to no impulse control, minimal moral compass, and much stronger instincts toward justice than grace. Plus, be ready for them to wake up far earlier than we’d like Christmas morning!

The only safe bet I know of this Christmas is that Christ is the hope of the world and the more we think and act like Him the less we’ll think of ourselves. If we put our hope in anything less we're likely to be disappointed, but Jesus will exceed all of our expectations.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Not Quite 3, But Almost 7

Isaiah will turn 3 in February, but if you ask him how old he'll be at his birthday he'll tell you "Maybe... 7!" And if he asks you "How old you are?" he'll probably say "Wow!" in response to your ancientness.

For the time though, he's obsessed with being 2. When you let him pick what color bib he wants (because if you don't ask you're going to choose wrong) he'll look down at his shirt and say whichever color matches best, even if it's not one of the options. In the same vein, he must have 2 of everything, because he's 2 and that's a match! Tonight, he INSISTED on having 2 apples with dinner. Apples weren't even on the menu, but fighting with him over eating too much fruit is not a battle we choose to fight. 

So, almost-3 can be pretty precious, as long as you have enough apples and the right colored bibs, but it can obviously be very trying as well.

One of the most exasperating ordeals of his age is the dropping of the sacred nap. We can't get Isaiah to go to bed until 10pm or later, so we do look forward to the day he forgoes naps altogether and turns in for the night a bit earlier. But the in-between time is another story. He thinks he doesn't need a nap, but he's wrong. Below are some results of his attempts to skip a nap. I usually have to give up on him to take care of Paul and he eventually just crashes somewhere random and hilarious.

This was our most discipline-filled day to date, he actually fell asleep in Time Out.

Then there's this: the way they'd both prefer to sleep; cuddling. 

Isaiah amazes us pretty much every day with the things he remembers or picks up on. Yesterday, he bought a blow torch with Daddy, when they got home to try it out, he pointed to the back of the box and "read" the instructions "Do this outside!" I don't even know how he knew what a blow torch was, but I'm glad he's keeping his daddy safe and all of us amused.

Whether you have an almost 3 year-old at home this Christmas or not, I pray you're finding plenty of God's wonders to marvel at this week as we anticipate the birth of another precious child, Baby Jesus.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
-Isaiah 9:6 (the other Isaiah)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Saga of Paul's Stomach

I've been waiting a long time to write this post...

Many of you have been so kind to ask how Paul is doing. Until recently it's been a different response most every day. I kept thinking I would be able to sum up his tummy troubles sooner, but I wanted to wait until we had some answers and some resolution. I think we're finally there. So, here is a pretty detailed account of what we've been through with him--for my own memory, as well as anyone else who's interested or who may benefit from our trial and error.

If you recall, Paul had a bit of a traumatic entry into the world. From the start he was puffy, bruised, and red as a tomato. Shortly thereafter, he developed a newborn rash just in time to complicate his newborn photo shoot. Cradle cap and baby acne followed close behind. Then eczema crept its way into the mix, to confuse our treatment plans of his head and face.

At less than one month old, Paul started spitting up profusely and regularly. Moments after we took this picture of our sleeping angel at his baby dedication, he spit up covering his outfit, my 2 shirts, as well as Jon's shirt and pants. We were grateful it was after the ceremony and not before or during our time on stage, I'm sure the family on stage in front of us was too! We were also glad this wasn't his first mess of this nature, so we had backup clothes for Paul and me, Jon just had to find an air dryer in the bathroom.
As the spitting up became more than what we remembered was normal with Isaiah, we started to ask questions and check in with his doctor. I remember posting on Facebook, so relieved that the pediatrician had diagnosed him with classic reflux, thus I would not be joining the ranks of breastfeeding super-mamas on restricted or elimination diets. I also remember that many of you commented with your condolences and advice on my thread. I thought I was in the clear with simple reflux that would respond to medication, but you experienced mamas knew what I was about to find out, that there was nothing simple about it...

Per the doctor's recommendation, we started our precious little man on Zantac. After no improvement, two weeks later we doubled the dose. Next, I went off dairy and soy. No small feat, as I was previously going through a gallon of milk a week, probably a half gallon of ice cream, and a couple pounds of cheese. I had joked with Jon that other people have backyard chickens, we needed a backyard cow! Plus, soy is also a hidden ingredient in most of my go-to foods. So, drastic meal and snack overhauls took place around here.

As he continued to worsen, we also added Nexium. I started on a probiotic and we increased the dose of Nexium. Then we were confused about whether his arching, screaming, and severe diarrhea, were part of his disorder, or due to the Nexium? Were we making the poor kid worse?

So, we went for more opinions. Our pediatrician recommended a GI specialist and a Speech Pathologist/Feeding Therapist. It wasn't easy to get an appointment with either of them, and by this point, we wanted any help we could get, so we scheduled both. The GI specialist was, unfortunately, no help. But our dear feeding therapist was a dream to work with and so sweet to Paul.

Thinking his discomfort was due to gas from a bad latch, s
he had us start some tongue exercises, tried kinesthetic therapy tape, diagnosed him with a posterior tongue-tie, and hooked us up with an infant probiotic for him. So, next we went to a dentist who agreed he had a tongue-tie and revised it.

At about 4 months, he started to become very interested at mealtime. So, with the blessing of our feeding therapist we started to offer him some food, because this guy is strong and if we didn't start giving it to him, he was just gonna grab it out of our hands whenever it was close enough!

Although he loved strawberry in his baby safe feeder and gnawing on carrots, we noticed some red blotches around his mouth and neck for a few minutes after he ate. When we offered him avocado for the first time, at the feeding therapist's office, together we watched him break out wherever it had touched him.

Our therapist talked to the nutritionist she works with and mentioned the foods he'd reacted to. The nutritionist thought maybe it could have been a birch pollen allergy, with
trigger foods being: avocado, strawberries, carrots, almonds, apples, apricots, banana, celery, cherries, chicory, coriander, fennel, fig, hazelnut, kiwi, nectarine, parsley, parsnip, peaches, pear, pepper, plums, potatoes, prunes, soy, and wheat. Try saying that list 5 times fast!

So, I stopped eating ALL of those things (not that I was eating a lot of chicory, coriander, or fennel that I knew of) and we stopped feeding any of them to Paul. That was hard with him because fruits and avocado are such easy first foods. It was hard for me because Potatoes, Soy, and Wheat! I never did a strict elimination diet down to like 4 or 8 ingredients, because he never had any blood in his stool. I did a few hypo-allergenic formula trials while I was getting my system cleared out, but I'm too stubborn to give up nursing and switch to formula.

But he kept reacting, even when we avoided that whole list. So, I took dairy out of my diet again too. And we took out a second mortgage on our house to buy more Tummy Calm, the one thing we found to bring him some relief! After 11 reactions to various foods, we were bewildered. We finally made an appointment with our allergist.

We love our allergist! He helped us through Isaiah's tree nut allergies and now walks with us through Paul's myriad of concerns. He skipped skin testing because Paul's skin is so sensitive that it was likely to light up like a Christmas tree with false positives, and went straight to blood testing.

A week later, the results showed Paul is allergic to MILK, EGGS, PEANUTS, DOGS, and HAPPINESS. Just kidding, about that last one, but really God? Those are most of Your best inventions.

Here we are about 6 weeks later, avoiding all his allergens, and he's doing well. We used to have to walk him around in the middle of most nights to calm his painful tummy down and comfort him back to sleep, now I just nurse him when he wakes up and he settles right away. He hasn't had a bad reaction since his testing, and he isn't hurting for size, as he's EXACTLY the same height (29.5 in) and weight (22.0 lb) as Isaiah was at his 9-month check-up, 85%!

next step is to start eating more baked goods to try to build up Paul's tolerance to milk and eggs. It will be a sacrifice, but I'm willing to do whatever it takes to heal Paul's gut even if it means such hardship as forcing myself to indulge in delicious muffins, cookies, and cakes again. I anticipate the pounds I've seen fall off through this process of elimination diets, will creep right back on as I reach for a few more baked treats this holiday season.

Thank you all who have prayed for and supported us through this ordeal, especially those of you who have made special meals with us in mind, I know it's not easy. I have gained such better understanding of the dietary restrictions many of you live with every day, as I've tried almost all of them. Between our two boys, I don't think there is a common allergen I have not had to read labels for in this past year. I love how God teaches us empathy by letting us walk in other people's shoes.

Next Thanksgiving, if I can eat all the pumpkin goodies with pounds of cream cheese icing I will be thankful as never before. For now, Paul and I will count our blessings, because when a few are removed, the abundance of all the others is even more clear. Savor your treats this holiday season whether they be delicious foods, snuggles with cuddly babies, or conversation with visiting family. God is so kind to us. 

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18