Friday, March 6, 2015

We Are Now 3...with Steps Being Made!

Hi family and friends!

Before Grant and I were thinking of growing our own family, people would always say statements such as, "ohhh you just wait...time will fly by!" To be perfectly honest, I thought to myself, well of course time flies has to move, right?! Boy, did I have to eat those words. Something about having a likes to speed up that clock!

Let me catch you up on the last year with Miss E....

We had a wonderful 2014 summer full of fun in the sun...and pool time! Thankfully, Elise loves the water and enjoys being outdoors. I feel like we spend more time in our backyard May through September than we do inside the house! I'm certainly not complaining... 

Relaxing with one of her favorite babysitters, Shelby
deck jets are loads of fun for toddlers

One very special summer moment was Elise being asked to be her Uncle Jordan's and Aunt Maggie's flower girl. They wed in a beautiful outdoor location in Bloomington, Indiana, on July 26, 2014. We weren't for sure if Miss Elise would walk the aisle herself, so a precious moment was made when my father, Phil, got to walk her down the aisle as she focused solely on throwing those flower petals.

Daddy with his flower girl 7.26.14
"off call for Dr. & Mrs. Raynor" {Elise's reception outfit}

The happily wed couple!

Christmas Eve 2014
As I mentioned in my post from last year, Elise wasn't fully into the 'Santa' idea in 2013. This year brought little progress on the excitement of the white bearded man, but of course that didn't stop us from celebrating! We did try to introduce "Elf on a Shelf" as WE, the parents, were excited for the daily interactions. Elise LOVED her elf, "Happy" much so that she didn't want to leave the elf's side. Soooo, since Elise really didn't understand WHY the elf could not be touched, we decided the elf would just be a friend this year rather than the intended magical elf that sits on the shelf. Buuuttt, since I'm new to this parenthood thing, (and this Elf on a Shelf thing), I didn't think things through before I let Elise take Happy to church nursery with her....
"Mom! Elise is touching her elf!!" 
Whoopsie....needless to say, we kept Happy at home from then on and I made some apologies to other parents that had children in the nursery that day. Eeeek! 

2014 will go down in history as the year of Disney: Minnie Mouse, Mickey, Daisy Duck, Doc McStuffins, and the list goes on! Santa brought Elise a Radio Flyer tricycle that we can't wait to use once the snow melts and the temperatures rise.
Christmas cards (sorry, hard to read!)
Polar Express train ride in French Lick, IN
December 5th
Grande, Ami, Gaga, & Papa came all aboard with us in pjs!

How is Elise coming along developmentally?

We started physical therapy at Schneck Rehabilitation Center shortly after her second birthday in February 2014.

Once a week on Tuesdays at 9am, we worked with "Sassy," (Elise's favorite physical therapist's nickname given to her by E herself!) Elise wore her AFOs (leg braces) for many months, but we kept seeing little to no signs of walking. Worry set in for this mama, but as with everything, Elise has shown us she will master a skill when she is ready. 

At 28 months of age on May 20, 2014...we...had...a WALKER!

We continue physical therapy to this day. We are currently working on being independent when she climbs stairs, jumps, and climbs ladders. A few months ago, our therapist began to notice Elise walking on her toes, rather than her whole foot. Something that might travel with Elise for many years to come is tightness in her muscles. There's something about being able to bounce around in a belly for a FULL 9 months! Elise doesn't hate much, but when it comes to stretching her muscles, boy does she try to protest. It's just not comfortable for her. Therefore, we had to get fitted for another pair of AFOs. These current AFOs are slightly more uncomfortable than her pair from last year due to being a harder and thicker plastic. The braces work on giving her calves a full stretch as she wears them while being active. There is definitely a sigh of relief when we take these off at the end of the day!

As for eating skills, shortly after her 2nd birthday we were completely off the bottles and onto sippy cups only. Now, as a three year-old, Elise's favorite pastime is STILL not eating. She would rather play with some of her Disney toys and have a small bowl of cookies nearby. If she takes anywhere from 5-10 bites during any one given meal, we chalk it up as a success. For a while, she refused Pediasure in her sippy cup(high calorie/nutrient milk). But, as of the last few months, she is back to drinking a couple of bottles a day. Whew! 

We tried to introduce potty training this past late fall, but we could tell Elise wasn't ready yet. I am a firm believer that if the child isn't ready, no use in the parent pushing! We have the princess underwear ready to go along with the talking Elmo potty. We watch potty videos with the hope that someday she will be ready...especially before preschool this coming fall. Did I just say 'preschool?' Whoa! (I think we'll try to encourage the potty again this summer...easier time with less clothing!) 

Last week, we had Elise's three year old check up with her pediatrician. Dr. K noticed two things right away. First of all, Miss E is 24 pounds at 3 years of age. First percentile for weight and 9th percentile for height. Yes, preemies tend to be on the smaller side for several years, but our little lady's rib cage and shoulder bones are really starting to show...somehow we need to pack on the pounds. I knew her weight wasn't going to be great, but when the child only eats 4-5 bites at any given meal, to hear "we have to pack on the pounds" seems so overwhelming and near impossible on somedays. However....

Dr. K noticed when Elise speaks, she doesn't open her mouth very tall or very wide. Her speaking skills have made huge leaps and bounds in the last 1-2 months, so we have been thrilled with getting 2-3 word sentences from her independently. However, at her age, she should be speaking 4-5 word sentences quite frequently. 
Dr. K wonders if speech therapy might help Elise gain more complete sentences. She ALSO wonders if Elise's eating isn't affected by her lack of movement in her mouth. Makes sense! If a person doesn't open their mouth very tall or wide, chewing and swallowing might become an issue. We will begin speech therapy in the next couple of weeks and hope to finally have some relief/answers to our daily eating struggles. 

One more thing developmentally...that I encourage ALL mamas (especially mamas of preemies) to do....toddler gymnastics class. Side note: It might be the cutest thing you've ever seen! 

An obstacle course always finishes out the gymnastics class 

Lottie and Elsie hugging on the giant in-ground trampoline

Elise goes to a YMCA in Columbus for a mommy-and-me gymnastics class on Thursday mornings. She absolutely LOVES it! They instruct the little guys and gals on following directions, jumping, running, back flips, front flips, different gymnastic positions, beam work, and work on the bars. It's a 30-minute class that flies by (even for the mommies) and wears the little ones out. I've seen so much growth in Elise since we started her in classes this past fall. 

Elise's third birthday was quite a treat! Along with Elise's generous Grande and Ami from Wisconsin, we took a seven day Eastern Caribbean Disney cruise! Boy, did we have fun! We departed from Port Canaveral, Florida, on February 7th, and we celebrated Elise's 3rd birthday the next day aboard the Disney Fantasy ship. We visited St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, and Castaway Cay, Disney's own private island in the Bahamas. I HIGHLY recommend the Disney cruise for anyone who wants Disney's 'magic' without all the walking, lines, and humidity of Orlando. Just to name a few highlights...we saw all the characters, attended a performance of Aladdin the Musical (Broadway quality), and got to wake up to a new tropical place every morning. We can't wait to cruise again with Mr. Mouse himself.

I'm 3!! 

Children who are not fully potty trained are not allowed in the Disney cruise pools. But, in Disney fashion, the splash zones are equally as fun (if not more) than the pools (and welcome swim diapers!)

The beautiful St. Thomas port

Birthday treat...Bippity Boppity Boutique!

Swimming with Daddy in the Bahamas


Our last sunset off our balcony...God at work!

As soon as we got home from our very relaxing cruise, we came back to good ol' Indiana snowstorms. I must admit, I do love a few good snowfalls every winter. Boy, did we get that this February! School was out for 7 days as we had three substantial snow falls one after another. Sooooo, what do the Olsens do?!? Why, pick up a puppy from the breeders! 

We've been thinking on a fur friend for Elise for quite some time. We found our perfect match, a miniature goldendoodle, back in January from a trusted breeder close by. We agreed then that our pick up date would be late February. Little did we know we would be in the middle of snowstorms! GAH! However, Pippa Olsen is a delight. Elise had some jealousy issues in the beginning, but falling in love simultaneously. We are excited to watch them grow together. 

Meet Pippa Olsen; 10 weeks old 

On our way to our first vet visit #holdinghands

Moving forward....This spring, we will once again walk in support of all babies born prematurely. We as a family, might not be using March of Dimes currently, but we sure appreciated their support when we were in the NICU. Therefore, we do not ask friends and family to give for Elise, but rather for babies currently fighting, and those babies even yet to be born, that will need the research and expertise that only the March of Dimes organization can provide. Boy, does Elise has a story to tell. Let us generously give so that other babies can grow up with their own stories to share.

We ask that you visit our website { here } and follow the quick steps to donate to this organization that is near and dear to our hearts. If you are local and would love to support our team not only financially, but physically, come join us the morning of April 25th at 9am in front of Seymour High School and join us in March of Dimes' 5k walk! 

Mimosas for adults, juice and a bouncy house for kiddos, and cookies for all will be served at the 'EE after party' back at our place :) JOIN US!

Until next time,

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Look at You! Are you TWO?!

Hello friends and family! 

We continue to be amazed by our miracle baby, Elise. She is now a chatty, exploratory, and very easy-going TODDLER! That's right...don't adjust your screens...that last word was 'toddler.' Hard for me to even type, let alone BELIEVE!  

Catching Up on As the Olsens Turn....

We had a wonderful Christmas with Elise. Although she still did not completely get the "Santa" idea, she did love to see all her presents and spend time playing with each one. Elmo (or "Melmo" as she calls him) was the theme to Christmas 2013! 

Christmas Eve 2013
Shortly after Christmas, we celebrated her 2nd guessed it....'Melmo' style! We decided to have a brunch party complete with yummy pastries from a local bakery, mini quiches, and a fruity Elmo face. Elise was extremely blessed by all her friends and family for making her birthday party a priority on a snowy Saturday morning. 

Blowing out her candle

Such a smiley birthday girl!
Another big excitement in our household has been the addition of a playroom upstairs. I had this vision of an indoor treehouse, but certainly no skills to complete it. We have a wonderful friend who is a carpenter and was able to turn my dream into a reality! Thanks, Eric! 

Elise's sweet babysitter, Sadie, offered her artistic talent for the flower wall. Elise calls the playroom her "weeeeee" room. Although she is still building courage for the big green slide, she loves the bird's nest (aka trampoline) and her favorite Christmas present from her godparents: her kitchen. 

How is Elise doing developmentally? 

Before we left the NICU, our neonatologist in Indianapolis told us that Elise would 'grow out of her prematurity' by two or three years old. So, what does any parent do? They look forward to the day when he/she can say "my child is all caught up!" 

Our pediatrician, here in Seymour, cringed when I told her what the neo said simply because it is not true for most babies born early. Elise is on her own time schedule and God made her Elise....not your average child. (I type that for myself to read more than anyone else!) 
On Elise's two year appointment (2.8.14) she weighed 22 lbs and was 33 inches tall. Although she continues to be our petite little lady, her height was impressive. 

(Ladies, later in life, won't Elise love to hear that she's petite in weight, but has average to tall height?? Lucky duck!)

Coming away from our two year check-up, one area of struggle is bottles vs. sippy cups. Elise is a huge fan of the bottle. Three bottles a day and some crunchy Cheerios makes her one happy toddler! Replace a bottle with a sippy cup, and you'll hear wails for "baaaaabaaaa!" From the pediatrician's advice, we cut out bottles and went to all sippy cups right after her check-up. Dr. K said it may take a few days, but she will eventually become so hungry, that she will drink from the sippy. We were 4-5 days into the "say no to baba campaign," and Elise came down with strep throat. In order for her to stay hydrated, we gave a few bottles during her sick days. Since then, we have been slowly weaning the bottles vs. cutting off cold turkey. We find slowly weaning is working better than the cold turkey approach. There is still much progress to be made in this developmental stage as she is not a huge fan of table food either. 

"Slow but steady, " says Elise.  

Another area of growth for Elise is walking. Although she was quick to roll over as a baby and fairly quick to begin crawling, walking is lagging behind. She has taken independent steps, but only with the idea of getting from point A to point B before she falls or drops to her knees. Due to this, our pediatrician enrolled us in physical therapy for the next several weeks in hopes Elise can strengthen her legs and get to steppin'! 

Once in PT with Miss Alyson, it was noticed right away that Elise's ankles seem on the weak side. Therefore, we had an orthotic specialist come fit Elise for AFOs for her shoes. Since she loves (and prefers) to crawl, it is helpful that the braces actually make crawling uncomfortable. Hopefully this uncomfortable feeling and some much needed practice with the braces will encourage her to start walking. 

Yesterday, when we picked up the braces to take home, Elise tugged on this mama's heart strings a wee bit. She gave me a look of, "why are you doing this to me?!" Her feet felt heavy and awkward to her all day. Cries and whimpers were heard throughout the afternoon and she even tried pulling them off a few times. Of course, there was a huge part of me that wanted to take off the braces for her and say, "That's right, you don't have to wear these silly things." However, we have a goal in place (and not to mention these plastic suckers cost $4,000!) 

During nap time yesterday, I took her braces off so she could sleep. You could see instant relief wash over her face. She was being a trooper this day, like so many days of her life. A big part of me wanted to give an audible sigh and feel sorry for her. However, I did my best to picture her as a kindergartener taking her "little" braces to show-and-tell and proudly describing, "When we were all younger, what came natural to so many of you, didn't for me. These helped me learn to walk." 

We can jump this hurdle, just like all the other hurdles in the past...

She reminds me of a little soccer player :)

"Marching" Forward....Elise's Elites! 

It is that time again! Raising money so ALL preemies can have a fighting chance like our Elise....

Last year was our first year to fundraise for March of Dimes; an organization that is obviously very near and dear to our hearts. We set, what we thought, was a lofty goal of $2,000. After fundraising for just a few short weeks, we had to raise our goal...and raise it....and raise it!  At the end of the walk, we had raised over $8,500! WHAT an honor and blessing to preemie babies who are fighting for their lives now, and those that fought the good fight, such as Elise. Thank YOU for being such an incredible supporter of this very worthy organization. 

As we prepare to rev up our Elise's Elites engines this spring, we again ask you to join us as we raise money for all preemies. Would you help us? 

Travel to {} to see our team page Elise's Elites: giving our best for her best! On our web page, you will see simple instructions that will guide you on how to donate to March of Dimes on behalf of our team, order official team apparel, and/or sign up to walk with us on 5.17.14!

We hope you will join us as we march for all babies this spring!

**Our family asks that you keep our friends, the Mendez family, in your closest prayers. J gave birth to twin boys in January at 23 weeks. (to put it in perspective with Elise...the twins were born two weeks earlier than Elise and were boys, which there is proven research that girls tend to be stronger in the NICU than boys..) It was very touch and go in the beginning, but the boys were hanging on strong. Last week at two months old, one of the twins was diagnosed with NEC. The surgeons rushed him to surgery, but it was too late. There was nothing they could do besides let mama J hold him while he waited for the Heavenly gates to open. I will attend this little angel's funeral tomorrow. Please pray for the entire family; especially J & S who are living every parent's worst nightmare. Also pray for the understanding of his three older brothers at home and the one twin who is still fighting in the NICU. As someone who enjoys mentoring other preemie families, there comes a time like this when no words will do....only prayers. THIS is why we march for ALL babies: past, present, and future. 

You may follow their incredible journey here. Please send your love... as your love was the only reason my feet hit the floor during our darkest days with Elise. 

I leave you with a picture that made me stop and reflect. I pray to God the Mendez family has a similar picture in a couple of years. Keep fighting the good fight, Marcello!  

upper left: 2.14.12
bottom left: 2.14.13
center right: 2.14.14
"watch the bib grow"

Until next time,

Saturday, March 16, 2013

What a Difference a Year has Made!

 Wow! I think the hustle and bustle of parenthood can be seen by my lack of writing since last fall! There aren't many nap times that I have the energy to do much besides grab some lunch and veg for a minute, but today I wanted to provide an update to all of Elise's tride and true followers! 

Catching You Up

A big moment last fall was Elise's baptism. We were so honored to have all family join us as Elise officially became a child of God in our Presbyterian Church. This day was also very special because Grant became a member of our church! Elise's baptismal gown has been in my family for 40 years. My grandmother made it out of her own wedding gown. Many Davis cousins have worn this gown, including me and my two brothers. What a special treat to add to a very memorable day. 

Special thanks for the tedious work by Take the Cake. This is a replica of one of the stained glass windows in our church. Way cool! 
Another exciting fall trip was Elise's first road trip to Arkansas for Uncle Matt and Auntie B's wedding! She was fabulous in the car (9 hour trip one way) and fabulous coming home. She slept through the entire wedding, but she will see pictures and hear stories as she grows older! 
The beautiful newlyweds
What's New with Elise? 

Elise is doing absolutely amazing! She has had two "setbacks" with the stomach flu this winter, but nothing tooooo major. The first occurrence was a few months ago. I was feeding Elise her morning bottle while watching the Today Show (she looked fine and seemed like she was feeling well...we were about to head off to our workout class like normal). 

All of a sudden, I felt Elise go limp in my arms. Her color quickly became ashy while her eyes rolled into the back of her head. I told myself I could NOT panic, because what good would that do?? I called out her name several times and tried tapping her cheeks. Nothing was working. I also tried splashing some water in her face. No go. I started to grab my phone to dial 911, and Elise came to slightly acting like something was stuck in her throat. She vomited a little and seemed to perk up again. I called my husband, Grant, instead of having a fire truck, police cars, and an ambulance show up at the house! 

Grant immediately knew what had happened...she was choking on her vomit and aspirating. She would aspirate (take fluid into her lungs...lower her heart rate....and breath shallowly) in the NICU many times. However, that "handy-dandy" monitor would tell you exactly what was happening. This was an instance (9 months after the NICU) when I really could have used one of those monitors ....and one of our NICU nurses or doctors right around the corner! 

God always works in mysterious ways...just when you desperately need Him. I started to realize Elise needed to vomit more, but couldn't. Around this same time, our cleaning ladies came through the front door. Ahhh, another mom to help me! Grant was quickly driving home from work to come get us. Our cleaning lady helped me clean myself and Elise while keeping a very watchful eye on our little girl. 

We decided to take Elise into the hospital to get checked out by her pediatrician and make sure this scary episode was just a one time event. Poor Elise vomited the whole 5 minute drive to the hospital and continued to become dehydrated in amidst being admitted to the pediatric floor. She got a round of IV fluids while we stayed overnight to have her monitored. She was her usual bouncy self the next morning. 

Round one of the stomach bug was history. 

Round two was just last week. We decided to take our first beach vacation as a family of three. We eagerly packed up the car one early Saturday morning and took two days to make the 16 hour drive to St. Petersburg, Florida. Florida was experiencing a cold front when we got there (high of 62), but the locals promised us brighter days ahead. We had our own little house on the bay with a private swimming pool and hot tub. We were set, right??? 

Our ONE good day in Florida...we made the best of it. Elise seemed to enjoy the hot tub!

Grant became ill the first night in Florida. He battled through a GI bug for four days. On the 5th day, I woke up with the same symptoms he had just gotten over. (Keep in mind the weather was still super chilly at this point...our pool water was a delicious 58 degrees!) Grant became worried that Elise would be next, so we packed up the car and decided to end our "vacation" two days early. We were three hours from home and Elise started vomiting. A few days later, we thought we might need another round of IV fluids to kick the bug goodbye, but thank goodness Elise was able to keep down small amounts of formula and we did not need a hospital visit. Hopefully round two (and we pray the LAST round) of the stomach bug is ending very, very soon! 

Where is Elise developmentally? 

We celebrated her very first birthday on February 8, 2013. (I know, it doesn't seem real!) She weighs 16 pounds and 1 ounce. She is 27.25 inches tall. 

{Scroll down for birthday party pictures}

As I write this, Elise is 13 months old chronologically. Her adjusted age is approximately 10 months old. She has a list of sounds that she likes to express (i.e. da, ga, bree, wray, wee, ah, ma). I think my all-time favorite sound/word of Elise's is 'nana.' I'm going to believe that she has heard us speak so much of her Nana Lisa, and that is why she has developed this very cute nasally sound :) She also squeals and laughs, especially when she is in her exersaucer. As for medicines, Elise continues to take Prilosec for reflux issues twice daily. Add a daily vitamin to the mix and that is IT...blessed beyond belief. 

Last month, the eye doctor graduated Elise from routine follows up to yearly visits. This was GREAT news! We were so relieved to know that her eyes were doing very well considering the odds they were up against as a 25 week preemie. Elise's eye doctor told us most preemies by one year of age are wearing patches to strengthen their eyes or are already wearing prescription glasses. Praise God for those gorgeous brown eyes being so healthy. 

Lately, our biggest challenge area with Elise has been food. About two months ago, she started showing a lack of interest in her formula bottles (we've always thickened these bottles with rice ever since she showed signs of aspirating in the NICU). We thought her lack of interest was a sign she was ready for baby food. Hooray, right? 

For 2 straight months, Elise would ONLY take sweet potatoes (and a "good" table session would be 4-5 small bites once a day). I tried every other kind of jar food with her (even the meats!) and she always gave a "tequila face" for everything (a tequila face? The face that is made after taking the first shot of tequila in college...come on, you remember!) 

Just recently however, Elise has expressed interest in what WE are eating. She now has added guacamole, mashed potatoes, yogurt, and pudding to her list of preferred foods. Within the last month she has also had her two bottom teeth pop out! Now with some 'munchers,' she is showing more signs of gumming foods such as Gerber puffs. Elise's pediatrician really wants her to gain weight so she has told us to give Elise anything that is high in fat. I kid you not, I recently fed her nacho cheese sauce from Steak n' Shake and she LOVED it. Who says a few stares from other Steak n' Shake customers bothered me? ha! 

What is ahead for us?

This past summer, we were honored to be asked by the Indianapolis headquarters of March of Dimes to be an Ambassador Family for the southern Indiana region. Part of this fun responsibility is to speak at different engagements and possibly even make local television appearances! The 5K March of Dimes walk (for Seymour) is being held at Seymour High School on April 20th at 10:00am. We will have our team out in full force and we would love for YOU to join us! Many, many thanks to a dear friend, Alison Vinciguerra, for establishing us with a website to answer all your questions. 

Travel to {} to see our team page Elise's Elites: giving our best for her best! On our web page, you will see simple instructions that will guide you on how to donate to March of Dimes on behalf of our team, order a team shirt from us, and/or sign up to walk with us on 4.20.13!
Without the love and support of March of Dimes, we cringe to think of Elise's possible outcome. Thank God we don't have to, but now it is our turn to raise money for future preemie babies so they may have a chance in this world! 

Seventy-six cents of every dollar goes directly to saving the lives of premature babies

I leave you with some updated pictures of our miracle baby. Enjoy! 

Those eyes!! 

The necklace my dear colleagues at Jackson School gave me after Elise was born. That is her first footprint! 

NICU Grad 2012

"It's my party and I'll cry if I want to!"

February 14, 2012...6 days old

February 14, 2013...what a difference a year makes!
For Elise's first birthday, we decided to do something a little different. Since her NICU doctors and nurses mean the world to her, and us, we held her party at Bravos Italian restaurant on the north side of Indianapolis...a restaurant G and I frequented several times for dinners while we were visiting Elise in the NICU. We invited all her primary nurses and doctors to share in yummy appetizers, cake, and...snuggles! We were honored to have so many family members make the drive for this special party. It was also so wonderful to see her NICU buddies again...or as we like to call them, "Elise's miracle family."  Elise is so loved, and it is times like during the "Happy Birthday" song that I look out over the crowd that adore her; family, nurses, and doctors, and I am overcome with Mama emotions. The beginning of this journey was dark and scary, but now I feel as though we have weathered the storm, and we are basking in the blessings of those who prayed so hard and fiercely for Elise and our family.

Invitation courtesy of Alison Vinciguerra
visit her blog here!

Elise and Auntie B! (Her Uncle Matt and Auntie B made the long drive from Arkansas for this first special birthday...9 hours!)

Winter ONEderland theme
cake courtesy of Take the Cake 

Nurse Donna and Dr. Ben Saad

Grandma Raynor


Elise's God family got her a rocking elephant named "Daisy."

photo trees with photos from Elise's first year

Until Next Time....
G & J & E