Category Archives: Birthday

It’s great to be 8!

On Monday, Patrick will be celebrating his 8th birthday. 8! 8 whole years! And 2 whole years since his transplant!

I’m working hard to pulling together his birthday video. We’ve had a big and busy fall so it’s going to be a little late this year. But it’s just astounding to see how he has grown in the past year. In every way.

The year after transplant, Patrick’s body was shocked and he didn’t grow. But this year we can barely keep up with his clothes. We upgraded him from the only bed he’s ever known, one of those crib-bed combos, because he had gotten too tall for it. His clothes are a medium now and he’s in that awkward size 13 shoe that’s right between little and big kid styles. He is just inches below my shoulder now. And honestly, sometimes I turn around and am surprised to see that he is still small because he feels so big.

He’s grown a lot in spirit, too. For the time being, we have hit upon the perfect mix of medications for his ADHD that keeps him calm and focused while still letting him be his boisterous self. (His psychiatrist warns me he will outgrow these doses soon, but for now they are working.) That has given him the opportunity to grow in a lot of other ways. To sit still and listen and understand. To have his own ideas of how to do things and then to stand up for them. He is becoming more helpful, more responsible, more patient.

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He is still the amazingly compassionate child we have always known who is endlessly concerned for the happiness of others. He is the first to give a hug when someone cries. He remembers others’ needs he heard of throughout the day in his prayers. He can tell you all about each of his classmates favorites. And he sees the best in even those who sometimes seem the most different.

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With glasses helping his vision, Patrick has grown into a voracious bookworm. He reads all the time. Bedtime reading time is non-negotiable and he’s often found on his bed looking at books. His reading fluency is growing by leaps and bounds. He reads everything to me. And is pretty darn good at spelling. His handwriting is really getting better which is very impressive in light of the fact that he is right-handed and his brain injury has left his right side fairly weak and uncoordinated. He doesn’t like math. But if he forgets to protest because he doesn’t like it, he’s even getting the hang of addition.

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We bought a trampoline last spring and Patrick can often be found in the backyard jumping. He went from not jumping evenly with both feet to starting to do jumping tricks. One of our favorite summer passtimes was to go into the backyard and alternate between jumping until he was too tired and reading Dick and Jane. He’s discovering joys we didn’t think possible like bike-riding and swimming.

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He earned his Tiger Cub Rank last month and most of the available beltloops. He’s excited to move on to Wolves and we hope he’ll be as happy and welcome in his new den as he was in the one we left. He had a wonderful experience at scout camp this summer. Patrick loves scouting and I love what it teaches about being a good boy and growing into a good man.  He is really trying to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent… and HUNGRY.

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We went to a Patrick’s annual follow-up appointment with his transplant team last week. They were so happy with what they saw in him. The first thing the surgeon said was “well he has changed since we last sawl him,” commenting on how tall and grown-up Patrick seems now. While Patrick sat on Dr. Mercer’s lap and took pictures on his cell phone, we reviewed his diet, growth and medications. With everything going so well, Dr. Mercer decided that Patrick may not still need steroids to prevent rejection. They gave us instructions on how to gradually wean him off of them and the acid controller that they have made necessary for him, too.

He gave him the all-clear for sports. (Adaptive baseball here we come, we hope?) And we decided it’s time to start planning to remove Patrick’s port. With things so stable, they think that he can soon only need labs 4 times a year. That makes the port not worth the risks. Still need to talk to the doctors here about how to go about that.

 

With so much growth, we faced a big choice for Patrick this year. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 8 is the age at which children are generally considered old enough (accountable) to be baptized. We believe that younger children are innocent and unable to sin and repent, therefore baptism is not required for them. Most 8 year olds are able to understand enough about the gospel, baptism, promises, and repentance (if not more) to be able to decide if they want to be baptized. Living in Utah, where the church is so prevalent, 8th birthdays are a really big rite of passage.

So we have been watching. And studying. And praying. And finally a few weeks ago we met with our Bishop to talk about baptism. By that interview, the answer was fairly simple. We decided that Patrick is still not at the same level as most 8-year-olds. Right now, he is still innocent. And so, for the time being, he will not be baptized.

For those of you wondering about the doctrinal implications of this, the Book of Mormon teaches:

Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them;

To be clear, Patrick has a very strong love for Heavenly Father and Jesus. Just this morning he refused to get out of the car because I’d forgotten to say a morning prayer and he wanted one. He wants to be baptized. And we believe that in a few years, he’ll be ready to understand and make that choice.

For those with logistical questions: Because we believe Patrick will someday be able to be baptized, we are not doing any replacement baptism celebrations. Those things can wait a couple of years so he can appreciate them. For the first time in his life, something can wait. He has years ahead of him so this is ok.

I’m going to throw in a separate bonus post about this decision, but in light of an 8th birthday, I thought at least this much should be answered for now.

Instead of 8th birthday traditions, we are going to do something that Patrick has rarely experienced in his life. We are going to have a plain old ordinary birthday. With terminal illness, then transplant, birthdays have always been a bit unusual. This year, Patrick’s school is celebrating Halloween today and not next week so he won’t have to share except for trick-or-treating. It’s a long weekend. We’ll have cake and present with family at Sunday dinners. We’ll go to an amusement park on Saturday so he can ride rollercoasters and drive cars. We’ll send treats to school We’ll decorate with a banner and balloons. I’ll make him his choice of dinners. And we’ll have cupcakes and sing to him and open presents. Just us. Just boring. It will be wonderful.

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Because he is wonderful. And we have been blessed with a little bit of ordinary. And for Patrick, ordinary deserves to be celebrated.

8 years, buddy! I am so proud of the boy you are becoming.

Happy Transplant-a-versa-hallow-birth-day Patrick

This post is quite belated. November was a challenging month which deserves its own post. But I would be quite remiss to skip over a post about Patrick’s exciting October 31.

This year was a huge milestone. Patrick’s 7th birthday. And the one year anniversary of his transplant.

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Last year, we spent Patrick’s birthday anticipating transplant. I had only just wrapped his presents and gone to bed when the phone rang telling us a donor had been found. Around midnight, we were our local children’s hospital being admitted and transferred for insurance purposes and bidding goodbye to Patrick’s faithful GI doctor. A little after 1, we boarded a life flight plane. We were awake (and tearful) all night, arriving at Nebraska Medicine around 6 a.m.

We caught a little bit of sleep and then tried to cram in as much birthday and Halloween celebration as possible. Around 1 p.m. they took Patrick down to have a central line placed and he was kept asleep for the rest of the day.

His long-awaited and sorely needed multi-organ transplant was an amazing birthday gift. The kind of gift from a stranger that still takes my breath away.

However, from a celebration standpoint, that wasn’t much of a birthday. And so, this year we decided that we had a LOT to celebrate.

So, several months ago, we asked Patrick’s transplant team if it was safe for him to celebrate in Disneyland. And they answered with a very emphatic “YES.” In fact, all but swore they’d do everything in their power to get him there. And so, we bought tickets and made plans.

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Parent teacher conference fell just right to give a long Halloween weekend. We left for Anaheim Wednesday night and I couldn’t help see both parallel and contrast as we touched down in the dark and traveled to our room exhausted from a late night of travel.

Here’s some of the highlights from the rest of the trip.

Thursday

We stayed for 3 days. In my mind, a day for each occasion: Halloween, Transplant & Birthday. When we checked into guest services to request a disability card that would allow Patrick to wait for rides without standing in lines. When they asked why and I explained that he was celebrating his transplant anniversary and is immune suppressed, they handed us all I’m Celebrating badges. Patrick insisted we wear them right away.

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Disney Cast Members are trained to watch for badges and offer congratulations. However, I’ll admit that few expected our answer of celebrating a year since transplant. It started to feel a bit strange to keep explaining, so we snuck the badges off when we went back to our room and didn’t pull them back out till we were celebrating birthday.

We decided to head straight for the ride that Patrick loved best last trip. Radiator Springs Racers. What we didn’t think about was that Patrick always has had a good chance to warm up on calmer rides before this fast ride with big ups and downs. He was terrified. But insisted we go again and, well, after the second go broke down crying during the ride. He’s a thrill seeker, but this year Patrick also finally had a sense of fear and we had to be a little bit more careful what he rode on.

We abandoned that plan. And switched to kiddie rides in Bug’s Land. Patrick was much happier there. In fact, he had an awesome time there!

After an afternoon break and nap in our room, we got dressed in our Halloween costumes and headed back to Mickey’s Halloween Party.  Patrick had asked to dress as mechanics, so I’d put together some family costumes of Mater’s Pit Crew. We headed to Cars Land to take a couple of pictures and the costumes attracted extra attention from cast members who offered pictures and even some fast passes and we ended up there longer than planned.

Unfortunately, as we arrived at the gates to Disneyland Park, we realized that we had forgotten to pack Patrick’s evening meds. Howie bravely headed back alone to get them while Patrick and I headed in to find something to ride. With crowds as they were, we were just getting onto the first ride when Brian caught up with us.

We rode a couple other rides in the dark. Then decided to give trick or treating a go. We’d planned to skip it, but when we discovered that there were lower sugar nut free treats available in each cart, and when Patrick was having a great time with it, we hit a few more trick or treat lines. We caught the electric parade and then watched the halloween fireworks before heading back to our room.

Friday

Friday was incredibly busy in the park. That meant fighting crowds in a lot of places and we didn’t ride as much as usual. We did the obligatory multiple rides in Autopia, met a couple of super heroes, and then decided to let Patrick try a couple of grown up rides as he was seeming braver. The was the first time we’ve tried Matterhorn. Unlike other rides, the Matterhorn bobsleds don’t allow for sitting side by side. The meant Patrick couldn’t bury himself into daddy’s side.  I guess he found it fun, but scary. The ride stopped and I turned to see if he was ok (remembering tears the day before). Patrick was lying down in the bottom of the sled.. laughing. I guess it was scary until he got where he couldn’t see.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was open for the first time in the years we’ve taken Patrick. He was nervous on this one, but actually really enjoyed it. He asked to ride it again, but with crowds as they were, we ended up grabbing lunch and then heading back to our room to rest.

By the time we came back, it was night and the idea of a roller coaster in the dark was scary. Instead, we headed off to Dumbo and he was much happier.

That night, we decided to watch Fantasmic. We opted to request a seat in the handicapped section so that Patrick could stay in his stroller. That always end up a bit awkward. Patrick is so much younger than everyone else there. But he quickly made friends with a grandma who was sitting there alone while her family was seated somewhere else. Her birthday was on Halloween too, so they had an instant bond.

We tried to stay put after the show for fireworks. Alas, though, Patrick was doing an awesome job in underwear for this whole trip. (He had a couple of accidents on rides, but mostly was good about asking for and making it to the bathroom.)  And halfway through fireworks realized he needed to find a restroom. Oh well.

Saturday

Thank goodness Halloween meant some limitations on entrance and crowds went back down in the park. It was so strange to be there knowing it was Halloween for everyone. Lots and lots of people in costumes. But we’d had our Halloween and were purely doing birthday.

We did some back to back rides of the kiddie roller coaster in Toon Town because there crowds hadn’t found the back of the park yet. At Minnie’s house, the cast member made a big deal of Patrick being there on his actual birthday.

In fact, Patrick absolutely delighted in wearing his birthday badge and having EVERYONE wish him a happy birthday everywhere he went.

After getting our morning fill of rides, we hopped onto the monorail and rode to Downtown Disney. There’s a fairly authentic Italian style pizzeria restaurant there called Napoli. Patrick DEVOURED the pizza there.

Seriously good pizza

Seriously good pizza

Then we went to get his present. A car from Ride Makerz. (This is the car lover’s version of Build a Bear. You design your car. It sounds like it’s starting out fairly inexpensively. But once you add remote control and a rechargeable battery and custom wheels and all.. well… We knew going in. Thank goodness Patrick’s fancy was fairly restrained. The experience was worth it. He loved getting to assemble the car with power tools. And he loves his truck.

We had reservations for dinner. Disney is always so good with dining. But we learned that we have entered a new realm for them. See, they are AMAZING at following allergy precautions. They won’t take a risk with any thing you declare to them. And they have lots of alternatives.

However, we knew going in that Patrick was going to was to order the mac and cheese. In fact, he’d been rather picky all trip and we were fairly sure that the mac and cheese was the only food he’d order on the menu.

So we asked the chef to come visit us at the table to make sure that the pasta and other ingredients they would be using were exactly what I expected and would be safe. Some pasta is made with eggs and unsafe. However, for Patrick pasta manufactured near eggs, as long as it isn’t concentrated eggs, is ok.

Well, before we knew it, we were being visited by the restaurant manager who explained to us that they would not be able to serve him any pasta. Or the cake that we’d special ordered for his birthday.

Only after I’d made a very in depth explanation of the parameters we’ve worked out with Patrick’s allergist would they allow us to order these foods for him.

So lesson learned. Disney is great at avoiding allergens. But don’t tell them your grey areas out loud. I think that’s going to be an ongoing rule as long as Patrick needs to eat food’s that he is mildly allergic to.

Anyway… once food was ordered the dinner was very nice. Patrick beamed at his little miniature cake and really, really loved the sorbet they brought him , too.

After dinner, we headed over the World of Color show. Our dining package reserved us seating in a specific area. And then, on top of that, Patrick had his handicapped pass. However, that really only led to a lot of confusion. It took a lot of walking to find the area we’d be seated in. And once we got there, we weren’t so sure it was where we wanted to be.

The reserved handicapped section was full. Beyond full. Like they had to make people get up and move to make room for us. And they just kept cramming people in.

Really, the problem came down to large family groups that didn’t understand that a family of 12 was too big to all squeeze in with one family member there. Alas, that meant that as we were rule abiding, our family ended up divided. They seated us on a bench so that we could fold up Patrick’s stroller and make room for others. And then they needed more space and Brian got up to allow it. Meanwhile the gigantic family grumbled about how unfair it was to ask them to be separated.

I think maybe next time we’ll have to look more closely at whether or not we can do regular seating. Thankfully, Brian stayed close enough that we could still see each other and the other people he ended up standing with (who were also displaced) were very kind. The show was really nice and Patrick really enjoyed it.

And we went to leave, but Patrick kept talking us into one more ride, and then another and then another and we ended up lingering and riding and then doing a little more shopping so that he ended up getting to stay up till midnight on his birthday.

Monday

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We came home Sunday and had a quiet day at home. And then Monday evening we invited grandparents to come join us for birthday cake. Mixed in with needing to run back and forth to help with Patrick’s school to help take him to the bathroom that made for quite the complicated day. Never decorated a cake in half hour increments with errands in between. But it came together and Patrick loved the little quiet family party at home.

And by the end of the weekend, I was quite satisfied and quite done with reminiscing about how far we’ve come. It is truly miraculous to see what this year has brought. And also, it is time to get back to normal.

That’s what we hope Patrick’s 7th year will be. Just a nice normal year where he can keep growing and we can settle into the normal that we’ve always dreamed for him.

Patrick’s Getting a Transplant – Day 1 (and a half)

Last night, as Brian and I were turning off the lights to go to sleep, my cell phone rang in my hand. I looked at the caller ID and my heart skipped a beat. It was the transplant team. It was 10:30 p.m. It took me 2 rings to get the courage to answer.

Patrick’s transplant coordinator asked how his health had been, and then she told me that she was calling because they had received an offer for donor organs for Patrick.

I thought I’d be excited when this call came. I was not. I wanted to shout “NO” and hang up the phone. Patrick has been having a very good year. His health has been good. He is loving kindergarten and for the first time has had friends his age. I’d just helped to a Halloween party in his class. It was a hit and he’d had a great time. We’ve gotten in to one of the best mental health programs in the state and were making good progress with his attention and behavior. We’d been trying a medication for his ADHD and it was a hard adjustment, but it seemed to be helping. He’s been learning to read. And I just planned his birthday cake and finished wrapping his presents.

Did I want to change any of that!? NO!

But at the same time, we know a very hard truth. Patrick has been defying odds as he lives with a terminal illness. There is a reason they let us do a wish trip. Patrick is running out of access. His intestines have been redilating and sooner or later would need surgery again. Patrick has been living on borrowed time.

We have said for 5 years that transplant would come at the right time for Patrick. Why that time happened to be during one of the happiest seasons of his life, I don’t know. BUT it did. And we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Who knows when it would come again.

Getting ready to go was a chaotic mess. We had bags packed for us, but needed to pack Patrick’s things. We needed to call insurance and the doctors and somehow get to Primary Children’s, then to Life Flight and then to the Nebraska Medical Center. We needed to gather family to say goodbye and get blessings. And we were supposed to do it in 6 hours.

We didn’t do it in 6 hours. I was too confused. The hospital and Life Flight couldn’t agree.. And it took extra time. And it was ok.

 

Patrick's doctor- with us since we got to Utah, almost as much family as physician

Patrick’s doctor- with us since we got to Utah, almost as much family as physician

We got to the hospital a little after midnight. There, we were met by Patrick’s amazing GI who had come in and stayed up just for us. He wrote orders and then saw us off.

We got to the airport and were met by two amazing nurses and a pilot. Patrick had to ride lying on a gurney, but they managed to make it fun enough that, even though we’d woken him 2 hours after he went to bed (on a day he hadn’t napped), he laughed and played and was ok.

The Life Flight and ambulance teams

The Life Flight and ambulance teams

We arrive at the hospital around 6 a.m. and were shown into the PICU. There was some bustle of admission, but things were pretty quiet. Before long, Patrick had snuggled up and fallen asleep. And so did I.

Eventually, they came for some labs. We let him open his birthday present. Then, Child Life came by and asked if he needed a Halloween costume. As I’d left his awesome purple minion costume at home, we borrowed a Buzz Lightyear. It barely fit, but he was happy. And it came just on time, as the Nurse Practioner told us just then to let him up to move around. We made it out just on time to go trick or treating. Each department of the hospital put together mostly non-food goodies. Patrick happily went to each of them saying “Happy Halloween” and being showered with gifts. He came away with quite the haul. We even made the news.

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Trick or treating in a borrowed costume (with accessories)

Trick or treating in a borrowed costume (with accessories)

About 2/3 around the room of trick or treats, we got a call that they wanted Patrick back in the room for a procedure. We made a hurried run back to the room where they explained that they wanted him to go to interventional radiology to try to place another line. That sounded like a request to do the impossible. It turns out it was hard, but possible. Patrick currently has 6 lumens.

Going down early for this meant that Patrick would need to be intubated and sedated earlier than we expected. It wasn’t worth the risk to wake him up again. So I used the little time that we had before sending him down to try to explain to him what would happen. I could tell he didn’t get it. I could tell he was scared.

But it was time to go. So we did all we could to tell him we loved him and help him feel brave, and then we walked him to the procedure room and kissed him goodbye.

 

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He spent the afternoon intubated and asleep. He woke a little once and made a furious fight to take the breathing tube out of his throat. It took several people to keep him safe until they were able to get some more meds to settle him down. Hard, hard moment.

But the rest of the day was peaceful. With him asleep, they were able to get the other catheters and lines in that they will need to be able to monitor and take care of him during and after the surgery.

Finally, around 6 p.m. they came to take him to the O.R. We sat a bit on pins and needles till them, because until the organs arrived here and were inspected, there is always the chance of the transplant not going through.

It’s 9 p.m. now. The last update said that they were finishing putting in the liver and were just about to start putting in the other organs.

It has been a very emotional day. We have shed tears of fear and of hope and of grief and of joy. We have celebrated a birthday and Halloween and then said goodbye to our son for an indefinite amount of time. We have doubted ourselves, and we’ve been given flashes of reminders of faith. We have been touched again and again by the encouraging words of our family and friends and even of strangers.

Once again, we find our lives entirely overturned. I honestly don’t know how we are going to do this. But I am trusting it is going to be ok.

 

I’d like your help with something, if you don’t mind. Patrick’s birthday celebration got cut short when they took him early to place that line. I’d love for him to wake up to a room full of birthday wishes. Would you consider mailing a birthday card or sending an e-card? Mail to:

Patrick Hoopes
Patient Mail
Room # 5349
P.O. Box 6159
Omaha, NE 68106-0159

or you can send an e-card that will be printed and delivered to him http://www.nebraskamed.com/patients/well-wishers

 

The big slide

I went online to look for pictures from the most recent HopeKids party and found these from the HopeKids birthday party that we attended in November. I just had to share.

This year, the party was at Classic Fun Center in Sandy. This place has two skating rinks, an arcade, ball pits, and best of all, inflatables. I wasn’t sure that Patrick was big enough for inflatables, and was sure his tubes would get in the way. Daddy saw otherwise.

Howie knows Patrick loves slides and so he found one he could carry Patrick up to slide down.

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He’d tuck Patrick under his arm, and up they’d go.  Up about 15-20 feet… and at least that many little foam steps.

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They’d stop at the top to get backpack and tubes situated. This only helped build the anticipation.

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And then down they’d come.

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Both of them thought this was pretty darn fun.

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And so, they’d go again.

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They did it again and again until Daddy was so tired from carrying Patrick and his equivalent weight backpack back up the slide that he couldn’t do it anymore. So they sat and had a rest.

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We played in one of the calmer inflatables for a bit. Patrick was really scared and frustrated trying to walk until Daddy started bouncing so we’d bounce. That’s how we finally got this smile.

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And then, well rested, they went down the slide again. Is it any wonder why Patrick loves his Daddy?

(p.s. THANK YOU HopeKids for a very fun birthday party.)

2 years old

It’s amazing to think that my baby is 2 years old! He has grown so much in this past year! And it is such a miracle to still have him here with us.

We had a great time celebrating his birthday. Since it fell on a Sunday, we spent the morning at church. We dressed him up in a new little sport coat. They sang to him in his Primary class and he got to go get a treat from the bishop.

After church and naps, it was time to get ready for the party. Since Sunday dinner is a tradition for both sides of the family, we decided to invite all of them to dinner together.  I worked all the week before shopping and preparing food… ironic for a child who doesn’t eat. We did our best to pick foods he could share, though… and that wouldn’t take the party too long to eat so Patrick wouldn’t have to wait for them.

Patrick’s birthday dinner was simple, but his favorites. We bought him a personal sized bag of Baked Lays potato chips and a little cup with a bendy straw that we filled with water. Patrick LOVES eating chips out of the bag, so having his own was the perfect birthday treat and he had fun getting them EVERYWHERE around him.

After dinner, we gathered to sing Happy Birthday and blow out candles. Because Patrick can’t have milk, eggs, or sugar, I decided to make a non-food cake this year. I painted a round box and decorated it like a cake with cars everywhere, one of Patrick’s favorite things right now.

The street signs all had birthday messages on them. After blowing out the candle, we opened the cake instead of cutting it. It was filled with toy cars for all the kids to share.

Then we opened presents. Patrick made off like a bandit with about 20 small toy cars and a few big ones, shape sorters, balls, toy instruments and tools, books, puzzles, pop-up-pals and more.

Brian and I gave him our big present the day before so he could take it trick or treating… his very own Radio Flyer wagon. He wanted to help build it, so I gave him his toy hammer and soon he and daddy were both banging away.

It took me most of a day to clean up and make room for it all, but he plays with all the new toys almost every day… getting them out himself. He couldn’t be happier!

And the wagon – oh the wagon – has taught him a new independence. I can put his backpack in the wagon and he will push it around the yard all by himself for an hour or more. Just try to end this game before he’s tired and he’ll cry inconsolably.

Many thanks to those who helped to make Patrick’s birthday party a success. Those who helped cook, host, setup or cleanup. Those who made extra effort to come. And those far away who couldn’t come, but sent presents.

We all know what an absolute miracle this 2nd birthday is! Thank you for sharing with us in celebrating a momentous day!

Happy 2nd Birthday Patrick

Not many people get sentimental around Halloween. In our house, we just can’t help it.

2 years ago at 3:07 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Patrick made his way into this world with much excitement. Doctors swept him out of the delivery room and into the operating room. The prognosis for him was grim. At first hours or days, then no more than 1 or 2 years.

That’s what we were told a few days later when we first heard about Patrick. Infections or liver failure would take his life within the first couple of years ago.

We were scared to hear that news and not sure what the future would hold. But there was something special about that beautiful little boy with the angel eyes and we loved him more each time we told his story and looked at his picture.

Last year, when we celebrated Patrick’s first birthday it was a big event. We almost lost him that year and his mere presence at home with us that day was a cause for celebration.

This year, not only is Patrick still healthy and still home, but he is amazing us as he grows bigger and stronger with each passing day. I didn’t imagine when we met Patrick that he’d be the vibrant little boy that his is now at age 2. On his first birthday, we had even more reason to wonder whether we’d ever see that day.

Patrick is walking. Not all of the time, but often and with more confidence in every step. He is learns more words all the time and loves having you teach him words for the toys he finds of the books you’re looking at. He loves the people he loves with an enthusiasm that’s hard to describe. He loves cars and Elmo and pushing his brand new birthday gift wagon. He kisses us goodnight every night and gives me hugs and kisses every morning. He adores his Daddy. He gets into trouble with his friends in music group. He likes chips and french fries and drinking from a straw.

He’s an amazing little boy whose love of life is contagious.

Happy Birthday Patrick. May this be one of many, many more!

Adoption Reflections: The best gift

Today is my birthday. Brian’s been asking me for weeks what I want for my birthday. The problem is, last year I got one of the best birthday gifts that I could have ever wished for. And this year… well, I can’t think of much more I’d wish for.

Last year my birthday was a pretty quiet event. My mom had flown home to Utah after a great week together. (She was good enough to blog about this.) I’d picked Brian up at the airport the day before. Patrick was recovering from surgery and was pretty out of it.

My mom had told a few of our favorite nurses that it was going to be my birthday.. so I was greeted with birthday wishes when we arrived at the hospital in the morning. Patrick was just waking up. For a kid who’d just had surgery, he looked great!

But that wasn’t the biggest event of the day. See, in Michigan, the birth parents have to go to court to relinquish custody. We’d been told that this process could take weeks, if not months. Until then, although we had rights, so did the birthparents – and in a hospital situation, with privacy laws and medical consent to worry about, the result was some awkward situations for us as adoptive parents.

The lawyer at the adoption agency had made some heroic efforts and gotten a court date just over a week from the time we signed our adoption paperwork. That morning, Patrick’s birth mom and dad went to court.

We met them for lunch shortly afterwards. I’ll never forget the image of Patrick’s birthfather comforting his birthmother as we walked into the restaurant. We had a nice lunch and got to know each other a bit better. This was the first chance we’d had to meet Patrick’s birth father. I tried to remember it all so I could tell Patrick about them someday.

Then we went back to the hospital. One of the best parts of time in the NICU with Patrick was naptime. He was in a very nice room with a comfy recliner. We could sit for hours in that chair with him snuggled up. With this sweet little ball of baby on my chest, the lights dimmed, and music playing in the background, it was impossible not to fall asleep sometimes. We called them “Patrick naps”. They were the highlight of my day. So after lunch, Brian and I each took a turn with a Patrick nap.

That night, we splurged a bit and went out to Benihana for dinner. My birthday cake was this funny little ice cream roll with a pink paper umbrella stuck in it.

This birthday didn’t have wrapping paper or candles. No one sang “Happy Birthday”. I didn’t have a party until weeks later. I didn’t get any cards. I didn’t even see most of my friends or family.

I didn’t open any gifts on my birthday. But I did get the best gift of all. Patrick was officially ours. I was officially a mom.. and best of all, it happened on the day I’d set as my arbitrary deadline. I didn’t want to turn 29 without being a mom.

Patrick’s life has been one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. He has healed sorrows I didn’t think could be healed. He has taught me patience and courage and love.

So please forgive me if this year I’m not very worried about present or parties or cakes. This morning Patrick grabbed my hair and pulled my face down to his and give me a big wet sloppy kiss right on the mouth. That is gift enough.

Patrick’s 1st Birthday Party

Patrick had SUCH a good birthday! He could tell from the party preparations the night before that something good was going on. He watched me decorate his birthday cake… and then was too happy and excited to go to sleep.

He did, though, finally, and when he got up in the morning, he was again just HAPPY! It’s like he knew this was a big day.

Because Patrick’s birthday is on Halloween, we dressed up and invited guests to do the same. We chose a circus theme for the party. Patrick was dressed as a monkey. Brian was the ringmaster. I was a clown.

We spent the morning finishing things up for the party. He thought watching me hang streamers was great fun! (I used red and white streamers to create the feel of a circus tent in our living room.) About 1 we changed into costumes.. he loved my clown wig and played with it for most of the rest of the day.

Slowly the guests arrived. Because Brian and I have brothers, sisters and parents nearby, we knew there would be a lot of grown-ups… so we made all the circus activities self-serve. The adults helped the kids paint their faces and learned to make balloon animals for them. We had popcorn and animal crackers and caramel apples.

Of course, most everyone came in costume. Some carried on the circus theme… My dad came as a lion tamer, with my mom dressed as his lion. My brother was a magician.

Some of the friends and family who dressed up

Once everyone arrived, we sang Happy Birthday and Brian blew out Patrick’s candle. (Patrick was too confused about why everyone was singing and just kept watching me to see if it was OK.)

He’s not allowed sugar, so he couldn’t have cake, but he was given permission this week to have cheetos and hulless popcorn, so that’s what he munched on instead.

Daddy’s better than any boring old snack.

Then we opened presents. He got lots of new toys and some new clothes. He loved them all, but I think his favorite thing about the party was not the gifts, but the fact that all the people he loved best were there.

Patrick & “Papa”, Brian’s dad

Patrick and Grandpa, Emily’s Dad

The party wrapped up around 6. All the kids went home with hands full of balloons, balloon animals, caramel apples, and cracker jacks with faces all painted. I think everyone had a really good time!

That put us just on time for trick-or-treaters. Patrick didn’t go trick-or-treating this year… he’s too little and not allowed candy anyway. At first he liked seeing all the people who came to the door. Eventually he got tired and not too happy when people would ring the doorbell. Eventually I sat him on my lap and we read books until we were sure he was good and tired. Then, we turned off the porch light and put him in bed. He was exhausted, and so were we.We all crashed for the night.