Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Family of Four: One Year Later

June 6, 2012
The Gawel household was preparing for the arrival of our second little boy coming home. We were giddy with excitement for Connor to meet his little brother for the very first time after 2 months and 5 days living at the Children’s Memorial. I spent half of the day at the hospital going over last minute items with the nurses and doctors. The other half of the day was spent organizing the mass amount of medical supplies being delivered from our home healthcare services.

Car seat test one day before departure

Just a fraction on the medical supplies delivered

June 6, 2013
I arrived at the Illinois Center to meet my friend Carrie on the first floor before making the trek up to The MIX studios on the 27th floor. Carrie is my dear friend who started the Jackson Chance Foundation to honor her son Jackson’s (also known as Little J) legacy.  Carrie and I were invited to record our stories about our boys and our friendship for a local Chicago radio show called The Eric & Kathy Show. Does that sound familiar?

If you go back to September 7, 2012 you may remember the Eric & Kathy Radiothon benefiting Lurie’s Children’s Hospital. The radiothon started around 5:30am about an hour after JD’s first buddy, Jackson/Little J, passed away which I detailed here. The Eric & Kathy Radiothon allowed Jackson to be celebrated and honored on the day he entered heaven.

9 months later we sat in a recording studio opposite Eric and Kathy sharing what Lurie’s means/meant to us while we spent many hours at our kids bedside. Looking back I never realized just how much time we spent at the hospital. It was a full time job traveling to and from the hospital while at the same time making sure Connor was not feeling the changes. Was it a lot of work? Yes! But at the time it did not feel like a lot of work. It was what you do as a parent. You love your children as much as you can in the best possible way you can.

June 7, 2012
I woke up so energized knowing my two little buddies would get to meet today.  The excitement for the boys to meet helped mask the fear of taking care of JD without the help of doctors or nurses. Yes, there was a little fear knowing the tube running down his throat had to be in the exact right position or I could potentially drown my son from the inside (okay maybe not that dramatic but it sure felt that way).

The post from June 7, 2012 helps sum it up.

My favorite part of the day was the moment when Connor ran to the backdoor with the Pokey Little Puppy stuffed dog he picked out for JD. As he set it gently into the infant carrier he looked up at us with a large smile and said “Hold it, please” as he tried to slide his hands under JD. No matter what sort of rascally things Connor does towards JD in the future I will always know he loved his brother from the first moment he laid eyes on him.

The Gawel brothers finally together

First night sleeping comfy at home

June 7, 2013
Our pediatrician Dr. D is pretty dope!

During our April appointment I showed Dr. D the boys Opening Day picture which is adorable (I mean how could you not love this pic)

Opening Day boys

He asked if I could send him the picture, which I did. A week later he called me to tell me he had forwarded that picture on to a close friend at the Cubs and the Cubs organization would like to invite us to a game. How wonderfully considerate and nice, I thought. Those words do not even describe our ticket pick-up experience let alone our day. 

Wrigley Field is one of my favorite places in all of Chicago
Take me out to the ballgame

Let's get some runs . .. seriously some runs would be nice

We picked up our tickets at a special side entrance where we avoided the main gate and escorted to the concierge to check our stroller.

Next we picked up our tickets. Not to brag but I am pretty good at understanding tickets, row, aisle, seat  . . . doesn’t take much to follow the numbers. Yet, these tickets were different and very difficult to understand. As we were being directed closer and closer to the field bubbles of excitement started to form. We finally arrived at Asile 19 and showed the usher our tickets. He looked at the tickets, smiled at us, and said “oh, follow me.” Down we walked until he held his hand pointing to the VERY FRONT ROW behind homeplate. As he walked away, he smiled and said enjoy the game. WHAT?!?!? Greatest Cubs day ever. Even Nate who plays everything as super cool guy got pretty geeked out by these seats.

If that was the end of the story it would be an outstanding story but it’s not . . .it goes on.

About 30 minutes before the game Dr. D’s friend, Wilford Brimley (or the identical twin who works for the Cubs) came over and said “Is this Connor and JD? How are you boys doing today? I heard your favorite player is David DeJesus. Do you want to meet him? Come with me.” SERIOUSLY!?!?! Why does Connor love DeJesus so much? Last year I went to a baseball game with some friends and they handed out David DeJesus bobbleheads which Connor loves. As a 1½ year old he would run down the hall “bobbling” his head holding DeJesus. He truly is his favorite.

June 28, 2012: Hot summer day just hangin' with David DeJesus bobblehead

Fun David DeJesus Facts:
His birthday is the exact same day and year as mine. DeJesus knows what it’s like to have this said to him “this is for both your birthday AND Christmas.” Ugh!

Nate went to high school with DeJesus’ wife, Kim

As we chatted with Wilfrod Brimley we watched a few of the ceremonial opening pitches, watched as the ball kids got ready, and the players take the field for stretches. Next we were escorted on the field for a family picture:

Nate had to hold Connor tight as he was very close to running the bases

Standing on the on deck circle waiting for DeJesus looking up at the stands made my eyes water. A year earlier we were driving slowly down Fullerton staring at our 6lb 10oz baby. And yet on Friday I stood with a sore back because my 18½ lb baby was heeeeavy. Smiles and watery eyes.

Ever see a 2-year-old try to comprehend how his bobblehead is now a real person? It helps me appreciate that wide-eyed innocence during special moments in life. Our real-life bobblehead was such a sweet guy. Sometimes the people in DeJesus’ situation can blow off their little fans but that was not the case with DeJesus at all. He happily had a conversation with Connor about how bobbleheads’ heads move around. He gave him a game ball. But coolest of all he reached in his back pocket and handed Connor his batting gloves. Connor is NEVER short on words and he just stared with a smile and wonder. Treasured family moment forever. June 7th will continue to be a very special day for the Gawels every year.

"David DeJesus said 'Hey Buddy' and gave me his batting gloves" Connor loves telling the story

Gawel Family photo with our bestie David DeJesus

First ballpark hotdog

View from our seats

June 8, 2012
It was me and my two boys alone for the first time. Was I scared? Yes. Did Connor watch more TV then he is normally allowed? Maybe J Was it fantastic having both boys home with me all day? ABSOLUTELY. We started learning just how hard the nurses work remembering the feeding schedule, the medicine doses, when to check vitals, changing diapers, enjoying some playtime, and so much more. We loved holding him without cords and wires. Connor continued to protect JD and make sure he had his Pokey Puppy with him at all times.  

We could not leave the house or go on walks or run to the store or visit friends but we started our life as a family of four and we were loving it. Our fabulous friends, the Webers, dropped off Lou Malnotiis pizza and wine for dinner topping off a great first full day at home.

Making himself right at home

June 8, 2013
Coming off the high of our Cubs game we rolled right into the weekend with excitement. Lil’ Sluggers in the morning then Ribfest Chicago in the afternoon (trying to get all our fests in before moving to the ‘burbs).

As we watched Connor lead his team in . . . troublemaking (the 25 year-old coaches have patience of a angels) our favorite Dr. D came running by and stopped by to check-in on our Cubs outing. The smile that formed on his face matched our own as we excitedly told him about Connor and JD high fiving Daivd DeJesus.  Knowing JD’s up coming surgery will put him out of commission recovering for at least a month he was thrilled to help us create special family moments.

We ended up stopping by his house to share a few cheers and beers with his family on the way to the Ribfest. Warning: the Gawels love a good backyard party so if you are inviting us just to be polite too bad because we will actually show up.

Another great day wrapped up with a Game 5 win sending the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Hitting home runs never gets old

Heading to the Ribfest

How many ribs should we get?

June 9, 2012
Saturdays in the summer are suppose to be spent outside enjoying the air and allowing little ones to wear themselves out. However, last year we could not leave the house as a family as JD was not yet ready for the city world. Instead we took turns taking Connor to the park, to the store, and to get ice cream (that was my turn).
If you were driving through the city on this day you would have seen a line of ambulances making the 3 mile drive from Lincoln Park to Streeterville transporting kids from the old Children’s Memorial to the new Lurie’s Children. Throughout the day while we enjoyed home snuggles over 200 families were nervously awaiting their turn in the ambulance.  I was actively texting my NICU moms and our nurses while following the progress of the move online. All went well and our buddy Jackson got the best room with the best views in the house which he deserved.

That evening I finally got to take my matching PJs picture that I dreamed of since the moment I found out we were having another little boy. Being home as a family of four was becoming comfortable

Saturday night family of four

Brothers matching PJammies

June 9 2013
Sunday mornings are for brunch. If I had my way we would go to church and brunch every Sunday morning  . . . but pretty much everyone else in Chicago has the same idea leaving long waiting times with two hungry adults and two rascally kids.

A year ago this kid was wearing a collar and was unable to  be held without lots of support, now he is practically sitting up on his own

 While big family moments with Cubs players are some of our favorites we will always have a place in our hearts and memory for the everyday joys - brunch, park, naps, family dinners, movies, walks, laughs and most of all nightly snuggles. 

June 10, 2012
With each day JD was home we got a little more comfortable and felt a little more like our life as a family of four was becoming normal. June 10, 2012 was the day Connor became his little brother’s personal superhero. As we went about our day Connor would periodically check-in on JD and  . . . well you know the rest. JD made a noise, Connor said “JD out,” Nate noticed he was blue, the ambulance arrived and we were back at the hospital (read all about it here).

An hour later he turned blue

Thus, our next 1½ months were spent at Lurie’s Hospital . . . not a bad place to be when your little one needs extra care. We rolled right back into our old routine but the best part was Connor was now allowed to visit. While he loved seeing his brother the full size Chicago fire truck was really the draw. Daily, Connor would ask if he could “go to JD’s hospital.”

Over the next few weeks we celebrated Father’s Day, the 4th of July, and summer in our private room at Lurie’s. While I would have loved being home with both of my boys during that time I am grateful for those extra few weeks. It was during those weeks I spent more time with my friend Carrie and her little man Jackson. I cherish those moments with Jackson and Carrie.

It was also during that time I got to know the new hospital much better. The months following our discharged included LOTS of appointments at the hospital and by that time I was totally a pro making the appointments much smoother.

June 10, 2013
A typical Monday: play date at the park with friends, trip to Trader Joe’s, naps, and playing baseball while wearing David DeJesus batting gloves . . .you know a typical day.

DeJesus' gloves almost fit

Balls are hit further and bases are run faster with DeJesus' gloves on

On June 10, 2012 if you would have asked me “what do you think you will be doing this time next year?” I would have told you “I have no idea what the future looks like.” I always knew we would find our normal but I was unsure of what our normal would be. It turns out our normal is the exact same as I always imagined  . . . with a few more appointments. And in reality is there really even a “normal.” Every family is unique in their daily routines and adventures.  The Gawels are no different. When we received JD’s diagnosis I did not know how the words “special needs” would fit into our daily lives. It turns out it doesn’t . . . because the words special needs never come up. JD needs a bit more attention but then again what second child doesn’t (the second children I know always were a bit more rascally even as adults). 

Chunky, happy boy with no wires, no collars, no helmets, no shoes just fun on the floor

A year ago he had a collar and was not cleared for tummy time. Today we are working on rolling over all by himself.


Gawel Adventure List
With JD’s surgery coming up we working towards checking off items on our Gawel Adventure List in the next few weeks. Knowing it may take a few weeks before JD will be up and running at full speed we want to make the best of the summer prior to surgery. Therefore, we have fast tracked some of the simple things we want to do this summer.

Things like:
*Watch the boys play in the sand at the beach
*Take a family ride on the ferris wheel at Navy Pier
*Attend a Kane County Cougars game with friends
*Swim in grandma/grandpa pool for the first time.

Simple yet memory making. I love making childhood memories. We kicked it off big by becoming besties with David DeJesus so we are hoping to keep the excitement going.

This week, one more thing has been added to the Gawel Adventure List:
*Gawel Family Photo with the Stanley Cup

When I was pregnant with Connor the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. I was unable to attend the parade because a crowd of 2 million people does not mix well with a 7 ½ month pregnant belly.

When I was on maternity leave the Cup made it’s way through my office allowing my coworkers to take pictures with the greatest sports trophy in the world (next to the Olympic Gold Medal – obviously). Thus I missed out on the parade and the Cup in 2010.

Once again the Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup and once again I missed the parade. I have watched as Facebook has blown up with pictures of the Cup all over the city of Chicago. Once again I continue to miss it. But not this time! In order to avoid missing it I have added “Gawel Family Photo with the Stanley Cup” to our Adventure List. Not sure how I plan to make that happen but considering we gave Connor the Kaner . . .

Connor the Blackhawk

… we will find a way. Part of me hopes they make their rounds through Lurie’s while JD is here surgery but the likelihood of that happening are pretty slim. Until then I plan on searching for the Cup in the hopes we can have a wall of super amazing photos from pictures with David DeJesus to JD sitting in the Cup (okay that is asking a lot but if you gotta dream big).

We will keep you posted on the Cup Watch 2013 but until then I will keep spiking Connor’s hair in the Kaner in the hopes we happen to be walking past a bar with the Cup.