Monday, August 31, 2009

Florida Rewind . . . Marco Island Memories

Florida was truly one of my all-time favorite vacations . . . in fact, it was our first family vacation. I was pregnant with Gavin when we visited Maui - and that was our last vacation alone as a family.

The timing was perfect in Florida. Vacations tend to be just a week long in the US - and 'holidays' in the international world are typically two weeks. I know I'm just an American in a Canadian world - but, I'll take two-week vacations any day. At least I'll shoot for a 10-day minimum.

The first six days were in Disney World and we spent the remaining six days in Marco Island, Florida. Because it's a 'Snow Bird' destination, peak season is in the winter. So, we were able to rent a three bedroom house with a huge private pool for a great deal. Disney was so much fun. I think I was the saddest when we drove away! But, having a few days of complete relaxation after the frenzy of Disney was fabulous.

Autumn was as wild as usual and wanted to live in the pool all week.

Gavin was happy to chill on the side of the pool.

One of the best (and only) family photos was a lucky shot at a seafood restaurant.

We built card houses . . . and then knocked them over.

I taught Autumn some cheering stunts.

And, we enjoyed the beautiful beach.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gavin's 'Baby and Learn' Class

Gavin was able to attend a preschool program created through the Bloorview Rehabilitation Center, where he goes for Spina Bifida clinic, therapy and swim classes (both Gavin and Autumn). The class was once a week for a parent and child . Jeff was among only a few 'parents' that attended. The other adults were mostly nannies and one grandma. They try to maintain a 50/50 ratio between children with disabilities and able-bodied kids. One little girl was fairly severe - diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy among several other things. Another beautiful little girl was born without part of her arm. Otherwise, Gavin showed the most visible disability since all other children were able to walk. Of course, it didn't slow him down at all. After a few classes, he became a bit less shy and then was diving head-first down the slides.

Autumn and I both attended the last class with Gavin and Jeff. I was able to finally meet the mother with the shockingly foul mouth in front of the kids (confirmed within the first 30 seconds of talking to her). I was able to see for one morning what it might be like to be a stay-at-home mom. I chatted with the women there about doctors we should know, sales at local stores on children's shoes and school registration . . . all the topics that women tend to cover in groups . . . and, all conversations that don't come as naturally for Jeff with the other moms.

They played with toys and ate snacks.

The super soft, fully padded colorful gym was by far Gavin's (and Jeff's) favorite part of the day.

Wayne, the Music Man, was the highlight. He came in every week to the gym and taught the kids some cute songs that we still sing regularly - and now I use in Nursery, too. Since it was the last day of class, they took the kids to the outside playground instead.

Because Autumn will be in Junior Kindergarten for half the day and Gavin's preschool is so far away because of traffic (should be 15 when it usually takes 50 min), Gavin will be attending Autumn's nearby preschool instead this fall for only a few days a week. It makes my stomach turn to think of him being with someone else for even a few hours a week alone - especially given he has only been left alone a couple of times with sitters, other than Becky and Jeff's parents, in his 2 1/2 years. I'm his Nursery leader at Church - so, he's with me even then. I'm sure it will be good for him. But, it makes me so anxious . . . what happens when they take the kids outside to the playground? What if they have balloons in the classroom? What if they try to feed the kids kiwis?

As if being a normal paranoid mom wasn't enough . . .

Oh Happy? Graduation Day

At Autumn's preschool Christmas performance, she might have been the only one who refused to wear her angel halo. I was surprised she even let the teachers put her graduation cap on . . . clearly, she was no happier to wear it. We had a hard time sorting through the many sad-faced pictures to choose one. Pretty much the whole first hour, this was her expression. The amazing thing is that I have never seen a more perfect frown. She's talented, I tell you. Perhaps Hollywood is in her future.

Once graduation was over and the cap came off, Autumn let loose a bit for some dancing and bubble popping. This is her best little friend, Alita. Jeff and I were cracking up watching and hearing Alita sing during the performance. Her little mouth was open so big and she was singing her heart out. Autumn, who picks up the words of all songs with unbelievable speed, refused to sing at all. We're hoping they will be in the same Junior Kindergarten class. Alita lives nearby and they get together for play dates. Gavin absolutely loves "A-li-li."

Autumn and a few of her teachers. Giselle (on Autumn's immediate left) runs the program and was Autumn's favorite teacher.

Autumn is already sounding out and writing words on her own. She loves any and all books. She has become quite the artist and loves to cut every drawing out. I come home everyday to a pile of fresh confetti under the kitchen table. Autumn is dramatic and moody and emotional . . . but, with that comes a little girl that loves to sing, is passionate about all animals (we always have a collection of snails, worms, and lizards), is so sweet to her little brother . . . and makes us laugh constantly.

We're so proud of Autumn and how much she has learned during her preschool year. In Utah, she would have one more year of preschool. But, here in Ontario, she is set to start Junior Kindergarten in just over a week. I'm not sure I was prepared to send my little girl off on the bus so soon.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Yes, we do want the first haircut package . . .

A momentous occasion occurred just a week ago. Autumn had her first ever haircut . . . at 4 1/2 years old. She'd never had so much as a trim (I'm not bragging here). Knowing our sweet little precocious girl, you know that she is fiercly independent, fearless of anything physical (albeit shy in social situations initially) and a stubborn little chip off the ol' block (you can blame that on me or Jeff - take your pick). So, you may be able to understand why I didn't want to introduce her to scissors too young. Until recently, Autumn was unconvinced that girls even got their hair cut. All worth it since we haven't (yet) experienced the super short self-inflicted bang cut. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

We made it a girls' day out. We went to Sharkey Cuts, a children's hair salon, first. Autumn actually sat in a pink Barbie jeep during the cut. After they painted her fingernails purple for her 'mini-cure', we headed to Boston Pizza for a lunch on the patio followed by a trip to Michael's Craft Store.

The beautician gave me a reproving look when I explained that this was indeed her first haircut experience. And, then she hesitantly asked if I wanted the "First Haircut Package" that typically applied to young babies, including a before and after photo and a pink sachet for her cut hair. Umm . . . yes.

She had a huge frowny face on the entire time her hair was being cut. And, then immediately afterward she said, "Mom, that was such a great idea." Oh, Autumn. I can only imagine your teenage years.

They cut at least 4 inches off . . . and you still can't see the bottom of her hair in either picture.

When Autumn told us that her hair was almost hitting the water in the toilet when she was going potty . . . we knew the time had come.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Canadian Ladies

On Tuesday, we all decided that the ladies needed to schedule our own night out. And, I - of course - pushed for a movie night since Jeff is generally anti-movie . . . and actually going out to a movie is out of the question for him (can you sense the bitterness?).

We saw Julie & Julia . . . which was a cute movie. Just my style . . . nothing scary . . . happy ending (generally).

And, for all of my beautiful girls back home . . . I miss you all so much. You will never be replaced. I just feel so lucky that I have made friends with incredible people while living in Toronto - especially since it was so hard to leave Utah. And, now you can put a face to a name of all of my friends here. Hopefully we'll get some of these families down to Utah to visit when we move home.

In order, from left to right:


Amanda. She is actually an American from New York. Her husband is from Ecuador and they live in Canada. She is a professional (brilliant) opera singer. Amanda is a strong woman with amazing insight . . . and incredibly funny. She makes the most realistic sounding animals noises I've ever heard. I've joked before . . . but, it's true . . . if I could buy stock in Amanda, I would. I have complete faith in everything she does. I have much respect for this lady. Her baby boy is due in November.

Angie. Angie's the newest addition to the group. She and her husband and their two boys (2 and 5) moved into our ward in May. They are the perfect playmates for Gavin and Autumn AND for Jeff and I. After babysitting their boys one night, Angie, Nathan and I stayed up until 4:30am talking . . . if that tells you anything about how much I like this family! I admire Angie for her strong beliefs and hope she rubs off on me.

Marjorie. Marjorie and her husband are French-Canadians from Quebec. Her accent is luscious. She's artistic and creative and designs beautiful things for her son, house and friends. Her husband is a language genius, fluent in at least 3 languages. I love her contagious, hearty laugh.

Sarah and Violet. Sarah is the newest mom of the group . . . in a bikini 6 weeks after delivery and looking amazing. She had Violet - naturally - at home and then hand-made her blessing dress when she was just weeks old, because she didn't know the sex. She never ceases to amaze me. Seriously. And, Violet didn't make a peep during the movie. Wow.

Emily. Emily was my first Canadian friend. She is honest, sweet and open. Emily was so kind and accepting of me right from the start (yes - despite me being an AMERICAN). She is amazingly crafty and a domestic diva. She made us all headbands and gave them out for no good reason. I have never once seen Emily get frustrated, mad or impatient - even though her daughter is well-known for her incredible lung capacity. You truly cannot help but love Emily.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Day Gavin Was Born

I was cleaning off my computer desktop today (I was finally annoyed with everyone commenting on my desktop clutter whenever I projected my screen for a presentation) . . . and I found this document. I hardly remember writing it. And - wow - what a flood of memories it brings. It's long and not our happiest moment. I need to continue the story with all of the amazing things that happened over the first year of Gavin's life, how his story brought out the best in friends and family, how his presence increases everyone's faith and perserverance, his first time standing in the stander and his first time pedaling up a hill on his trike. He is such an amazing little angel. For now . . . here's the story of Gavin's first day:

Autumn was well over a week late when she was born . . . and we had to force her out. So, when my water broke at about 4 am a week before my due date . . . Jeff and I were completely taken off guard. It was so unexpected that I was unsure about what had actually happened. I called the hospital for instructions, gathered my bag and decided to drive myself to the hospital. People always get a kick out of that part. Since I wasn’t really contracting yet, I insisted it wasn’t worth waking Autumn or the friends that would be caring for her. So, I drove myself. We live about 3 minutes from the hospital . . . literally.

I don’t know if it was because an earlier and un-induced delivery was so far out of the realm of our thinking or that somehow we were all gaining a sense for what was to come . . . but, the day was shadowed with doubts and concerns. Later, Suzanne, our nurse, said that she could not shake the worried feeling she had . . . although she attributed it to the meconium they had already found in the fluid. She had insisted that the anesthesiologist be in the room during delivery in case the baby had breathing problems.

Dilation happened more quickly and more easily than it had with Autumn. And, the pushing began. Everyone in the room (Jeff, Dr. Tayler, a medical student, our nurse and the anesthesiologist) cheered when the baby’s head emerged. And, that was the turning point that foretold of the month ahead. Suddenly, instead of pushing only during contractions, they were instructing me to push straight through. Voices became more frantic and louder as minutes ticked by. As I leaned forward, I caught a glimpse of my doctor – red, sweating, and panicked. Jeff told me later that the baby’s face was turning a sickening blue. Options were limited and time was critical as Dr. Tayler jammed his knee against the bed for leverage and forcefully yanked the baby from my body. That was likely the moment when Gavin fractured his left femur, we discovered later.

There was no celebration or pause to allow Jeff to cut the cord. Everyone in the room except me immediately recognized that the problem was more severe than the baby’s breathing. The nurse and anesthesiologist immediately went to work on the baby in the warmer beside me. Instantly, the nurse gestured for the doctor . . . he stood for a moment at the warmer and came back to announce that “the baby has a large open cyst on his back . . . we will need to confirm . . . but, it looks like he has Spina Bifida.”

“Spina Bifida? I didn’t think people even got that anymore. I took my prenatals . . . how could that be!?” Those were the only words I spoke for almost an hour. The rest of the time I sat in bed, my head covered with the sheet . . . hysterical.

This wasn’t what was supposed to be happening. It’s not real. They’re going to fix him. How bad is it? I can’t see him. What does he look like? Is this my fault?

I can’t account for who left the room . . . but, almost immediately, there were 10 or more people in and out of the room . . . most of them hovered over the warmer . . . huddled over the baby. Life Flight had been called. They needed to talk directly to the doctor. A different nurse was holding the phone to Dr. Tayler’s ear so he could talk to the Life Flight team.

Life Flight? For my baby? I can’t see him. What does he look like? Is he okay? What do his eyes look like?

Strangely enough, I can remember the smallest details from that day. But, I can’t remember if Gavin was crying. I was obsessed with his eyes. Did they show signs of mental defects?

Dr. Tayler continued to work on me and asked for something three times before he raised his voice and demanded medicine immediately. He couldn’t stop my bleeding. I was oblivious.

One blonde nurse suggested they try to put the IV in the baby’s head . . . people were rubbing my arm coaxing me to breathe . . . Life Flight would have to drive down to pick up the baby because a helicopter couldn’t fly in because of severe weather . . . Dr. Tayler was yelling orders – No latex gloves! (all children with Spina Bifida are on latex precaution their whole lives and/or develop an allergy) . . .

Jeff wasn’t crying . . . but, I still cannot find words that describe the way he was looking at the baby. He was rubbing me, too . . . and then he was standing a bit farther away . . . watching the scene transpire.

I finally heaved myself forward enough to try to catch a glimpse of my son. I saw what looked like it might have been a leg . . . but, badly disfigured . . . flop up and sideways over his body. I laid back down in utter and complete devastation.

“How bad is it?” I finally asked Jeff.

“It’s bad. He’ll never walk.”

Dr. Tayler kept saying over and over, “You need to let Karen see the baby. She has to see the baby. Make sure you show the mom the baby.”

They finally placed him in my arms, but with support from two others, so that he could nurse. He was wrapped in plastic and blankets . . . and I could hardly see his face. I couldn’t see his eyes . . . they were badly swollen. The nurse that had been rubbing my arm told Jeff to grab the camera . . . “Daddy, this is a proud moment.” Jeff snapped two pictures. They took him back. Life Flight had arrived.

Jeff’s parents were en route and arrived minutes after the baby was whisked away.

“Where is the baby?”

I told them. And, then they were crying, too.

A nurse came back in to tell me that he was doing well. The team had found a vein for the IV in his head (the blonde nurse was right); they were snapping pictures (that I’ve still never tracked down), stabilizing him and preparing him for the drive back to Primary Children’s Hospital. He was wheeled back in and we asked for a few moments alone with the baby.

Jeff was sobbing uncontrollably and could not regain composure enough to give the baby a blessing. We decided immediately upon his name . . . Gavin Jeffrey Peterson . . . and his grandfather said the prayer.

“Will the father be traveling with us?” Life Flight asked.

One of the things that still strikes me from that day was how the shock of it all prevented us from immediately thinking and acting like Gavin’s parents. We would never let Autumn be alone . . . but, Jeff and I were so confused . . . so completely incapable of making a decision and being separated at that time that Gavin was taken without either of us by his side. And, then he was gone.


It was so strange . . . I had been in labor, delivered a baby . . . and he wasn’t there.

A nurse came in to say that people were starting to call the hospital. Friends and neighbors knew we were there.

We don’t want to talk to anyone. Send them away.

One of the nurses asked me, "Honey, what can I get you?"