Family P: Christmas Newsletter 2019

Hi there! 

Time again for our end-of-year annual recap. This accounting is never easy to compile but it’s a good jog for my memory and always an exercise in perspective. As I look back at 2019, I see so much growth for our family and definitely a certain amount of chaos that has become our new normal. We shared wonderful experiences, made lots of memories with friends and family, and we are incredibly blessed to start 2020 happy and healthy!

January kicked off with a celebration of our 4th Pittlandia anniversary and having become masters of hygge we spent much of the month hunkered down with twinkle lights on, comfort food cooking (with the occasional, but necessary, Postmate delivered Pho!) and a constant queue of board games and movies.  Mamaw brought cousin Remie to visit in February, and despite Fern fighting a bizarre bacterial infection and big sis coping with a birthday party reschedule, we were able to squeeze in a couple of fun outings. Eventually, Olivia’s “Chicken Art Party” went off without a hitch and we closed out the month with our first real big snowfall of the season. Olivia enjoyed an after school watercolor class and slayed her sales goal, hitting up just about everyone we know for Girl Scout cookies. In March we ventured South to Orange County to meet our new niece/cousin, the beautiful Wendy Raulston. We hit all the usual spots, Balboa to Laguna, and loaded up on Taco Loco and Portola Coffee. Townes celebrated his 5th birthday in April surrounded by his closest buddies at a vintage nickel arcade called Wunderland, easily his favorite place in the entire world. May brought drier weather and sunshine and overnight Portland bloomed! We made the rounds: The Magnolia Loop at the Hoyt Arboretum, the International Rose Test Garden and the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival to see all lady Spring had to offer. We attended our last May Day celebration at Woodhaven and said goodbye to the most wonderful co-op preschool. We spent Mother’s Day in the Columbia River Gorge taking in great views and enjoying the company of greater friends. June arrived and Olivia finished her 1st grade year and said goodbye to a very special (retiring) teacher. Auntie B visited just in time for the opening of u-pick season and we filled our baskets (and bellies!) with fresh Hood strawberries. Mamaw made her second visit of the year, this time with cousin Rylie in tow. Showing Portland’s best, we conquered a 7-mile  waterfall hike in the gorge, woke up super early for the annual hot air balloon festival, and devoured kolaches as good as West, TX. In July we lost our eldest hen Ella (widow of Sam, RIP 2018) but quickly escaped our urban homestead for a Hood River getaway with Papa G and Uncle Chip over the 4th of July holiday.  We enjoyed all the beers, spectacular views and made a few hike attempts (Note: Dog Mountain is NOT kid friendly!) We arrived home to the BEST package: 4 baby chicks via USPS mail that spent the better part of the Summer in our festive but cozy basement. I have been asked to share their names here: Marshmallow, Cinders, Goldie, and Zombie. The kiddos braved their first Portland swim lessons, cheered on by Gramma G! We became official Oregonians when we brought home our first Subaru and immediately started making preparations for an outdoor adventure! Our first Pittman family “camping” trip kicked off August at Suttle Lodge where we spent 48 hours convincing the kids that we were DEFINITELY having fun! A few days of paddleboarding, marshmallow roasting and a long running game of Phase10 made “roughing it” totally worth it. The delicious food, beer and Summer camp vibes served at the Boathouse obviously didn’t hurt either. Home only long enough to rinse the dirt off, we embarked on our next adventure, a road trip to Boise, ID by way of Bend, OR. Bend highlights included: A wonderful hot springs hike around Paulina Lake, delicious pizza at Jackson’s Corner, and an afternoon at the High Desert Museum. We made our way to Boise by way of the “Painted Hills”  in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The Raulstons introduced us to the best coffee and river/pond adventures in their new home city, we paddle boarded and splash padded and strolled along the greenbelt…but really we just enjoyed spending time with “the best baby ever” (Wendy, according to Townes). Come Summer’s end, we said goodbye to some dear friends who moved away and welcomed distraction from the first day of school jitters with a visit from Auntie B and Chase! September always brings loads of change and welcomed routine for our family. Olivia started her first day of 2nd grade, Townes in his first day of Kindergarten and Fern turned 3 and added speech to her weekly therapy schedule. Before the rains returned in October, we hit our favorite Fall spots, including a pumpkin adventure at Our Table Cooperative Farm and apple festival at Smith Berry Barn. Dan and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary and realized that we should probably start planning something big for number 10! Dan was invited to speak at a conference in Dayton, Ohio called Rust Belt while Olivia and Townes also tackled some age-appropriate coding in an after school program called, “Coding for Kids.” We were lucky to have dry weather and healthy kiddos for trick-or-treating in our school neighborhood. Olivia costumed as a fuzzy puppy; Fern, a friendly pumpkin; and Townes, fitting for his recent gaming obsession, Super Mario. November brought a major life change none of us saw coming. We adopted  a sweet 15 month-old, 100-pound Pyrador (Labrador Retriever Great Pyranese mix) named Everest. He’s made himself right at home, instantly became Fern’s best friend (she tastes good!). He’s my walking buddy and the chickens’ worst nightmare. We may have a few kinks to work out (Portland rain + dog paws = LOTS of mud) but he has stolen our hearts and is the perfect addition to our family. Gramma G came to visit with perfect timing to give us a crash course on puppy training tactics. We enjoyed a refreshingly low-key Thanksgiving and without looking back, exposed the big kids to both Harry Potter and Star Wars! As is our tradition, we ventured to farmland on black friday to chop down a Nordman Fir, decked the halls, and settled in for some of the shortest, darkest days of the year. We enrolled Fern in her first extra curricular activity, a gymnastics class specifically designed to help with her social skills and gross motor development. December came in heavy and Influenza B took as all down one by one. Thanks to Uncle Chip, Olivia and I were lucky enough to escape long enough to for our annual OBT Nutcracker date before throwing up the white flag. Gramma G drove in from Boise to save the day—a perk of living only 7 hours driving distance! Hopefully we’re done with germs for 2019 and are looking forward to visits from Mamaw, Papa G, Auntie B and Chase!

Olivia (7)

A self identified, “kid” (the stage between “little kid” and “big kid”) Olivia has done a lot of growing this year. She loves to read, write and draw and she continues to amaze us with her creativity and wit. In the Fall, she bridged from daisies to brownies with her girl scout troop and is gearing up for cookie sales again later this Winter. She continues to blow us away with her confidence and sureness of self. Borderline obsessed with chickens, her buddies at school often greet her with a “Bak!” and although she’s not a huge fan of cleaning out the chicken coop, our flock is one of her biggest sources of pride and joy! After school you can find her cuddled up with a Raina Telgemeier book or play-dating with friends! Occasionally complaining about the woes of being the oldest, Olivia enjoyed her first sleepover(s) this year and is always looking for opportunities to escape with Mom to eat sushi and get mani/pedis!

Townes (5)

Still our little button-pusher, Townes loves all things electronic. Most afternoons he can be found talking mom into extra screen time so he can hone his Nintendo Wii skills. He is already reading beyond the Kindergarten level and likes to show off at home, reading anything and everything he can get his hands on! Always a carb man, Townes’ favorite foods are waffles, pancakes and bagels and his number one request during weekly meal planning talks is, “Breakfast for Dinner.” Sweetly bonded to his little sister, he’s the best big brother and the first to offer her comfort when she needs it. After my own heart, Townes is a list man. Anything with a box to check, task to cross off, goal to measure and you can count on him to be ready with the marker! Kindergarten has offered the most comforting structure and he’s thriving at school, as long as we don’t require him to wear socks. We find ourselves in constant conversation about Mario, Luigi and leveling-up and answering the question, “When are we going to Wunderland again?”

Fern (3)

Fern maintains a full schedule of weekly physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, early intervention and gymnastics! She loves reading, puppets, cars, balls and anything Daniel Tiger. That said, in a room full of the most stimulating toys, and she would still choose Everests’ kisses every time. She’s sweet and patient and still the most easy-going baby-toddler. Her independent play skills are evolving daily and it’s the most wonderful thing in the world to watch her discover something new. There’s not much that Fern doesn’t like to eat, although we’re testing the waters with a gluten-free and dairy-free approach to nutrition and I’m certain she’s bummed about it. She’s twenty-six pounds of pure love and the best snuggles and even though I’m feeling every ounce, I love that she still wants to be held. Fern is supported by the most dedicated and caring team and we are lucky to be working with some of the best providers out there! We are excited to be adding a 2-day preschool program in Fall 2020 and know that she’s going to continue to blossom. 

Meg

“The days are long and the years short” and I’m thankful for that because I need every minute to accomplish all I do in a day. We joke that my “job” as Mom has slowly evolved into a hybrid of Mom/Nurse/Therapist/Teacher/Nutritionist. I take pride in the fact that I have been asked on numerous occasions in the ER if I am “in the field.” Managing Fern’s schedule, at-home therapies and insurance claims fills most of our time during the school week, squeezing in Everest walks when we can. I’m proud to say that 2019 has been a year of progress with adding some self care to my weekly routine in the form of barre classes. Although, at times inconsistent, these brief moments away gave me some respite and at the very least gave my athleisure some legitimacy. I also attempted watercolor lettering and bullet journaling although I’ll admit, neither really stuck. Still relying heavily on my google calendar, LOTS of coffee, and dry shampoo to make it appear as though I have it together!

Dan

Dan would say that this has been our year of adulting. We dealt with some not-so-glamorous, house stuff, hired a financial advisor, negotiated the price of a car and finally bought a life insurance policy. Still constantly attempting to quench his thirst for knowledge, Dan finds time to read multiple books/papers at a time, ranging in subject from poetry to philosophy. Occasionally sneaking out for a solo late night indie movie at his favorite, Cinema 21, or Netflix-ing while snuggling kiddos to sleep has allowed him to keep his title as family film buff. The start-up Dan went to work for in 2018, Auxon, completed its first successful round of funding in the Spring allowing Dan to continue working to develop software in the high-security/safety world. Bless his heart, he continues to try to offer me watered down explanations of exactly what it is that he does but the math is far beyond my comprehension.  As much as the novelty of bus-life is wearing off, he’s thrilled to be within walking distance of Coava Coffee, Burrito Bar and Powell’s bookstore on the daily.  

I say it every year, this annual recap is really for us but we’re thrilled that you made it this far and we would love to hear from you!🙂

For the millenials in the crowd and the skimmers who’d prefer to scroll, a semi-complete photo documentation of our year can also be found on the internet @mmoguu and @pittma_

Catch up with us Here: megan.gorham@gmail.com and Here: dan@dpitt.me

Family P: Christmas Newsletter 2018

Friends and Family,

Glad you’re here! Welcome to our annual Christmas newsletter, my attempt to recap our year in the hopes that I’ll be able to remember it all when I’m old(er). For the more millennial-apropos account of our year, feel free to just scroll here and you’ll get the gist.

In January we celebrated our 3-year Pittlandia anniversary with our first Washington-side Columbia Gorge adventure: a hike to Pool of the Winds at Hamilton Mountain.
In early February, Fern had her first major illness (RSV) with no seizures! We were thankful to be able to manage her symptoms at home. We also escaped as a family to the coast (nebulizer in tow) for a low-key Presidents Day Weekend getaway. While we made stops at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Haystack Rock, Rogue Brewing, and Devil’s Punchbowl, the kids agree that the highlight was seeing hail-snow on the beach! We saw record snowfalls and did our best to keep our little-feathered friends happy by serving up hot oatmeal in the mornings. We celebrated Olivia’s turning 6 with her two best buddies and their sweet mamas at the Oregon Ballet Theatre’s magical production of Alice in Wonderland.
In March, we added a couple of extracurriculars to the calendar: Townes in “Messy Art” at the Multnomah Art Center with Teacher Vicki and Olivia in an introductory dance class including ballet, tap, and jazz. Our Spring Break staycation included lots of Super Nature Adventure hikes, play dates, and trips to the Rhododendron Gardens and Forest Park. We thoroughly enjoyed the return of the sunshine, celebrated Easter with the Smiths and frolicked in the tulips with the Chens!
In April, we celebrated Townes’ 4th year with a Super Nature Adventure at Cooper Mountain Nature Park. Olivia was recognized as one of the best writers in her kindergarten class at the Maplewood “Writer’s Tea”,  where she read an excerpt from her how-to, How To Make A Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. Townes’ “Messy Art” was featured in the Spring Art Show at the MAC and he quite enjoyed the spotlight and opportunity to share his artistic creations.
We all sang and danced and made flower crowns at Townes’ preschool May Day celebration, one of our favorite Waldorf traditions. Spring was the beginning of a huge developmental growth spurt for Fern and she mastered the art of pulling to stand, crawling, and cruising all over the course of just a few months!
By June we were super excited for some fresh berries and for u-pick season to arrive. Olivia officially became a kindergarten graduate and we made our way back out to the coast to celebrate Father’s Day with Papa G.
For the third year running, we made it to the Tigard Hot Air Balloon festival and reconfirmed that yes, the 4:45 AM wake up call is totally worth it. We may be made for Summer in Oregon—Thursday night concerts at the farm, berry picking, lavender harvesting, walks to the food trucks for al fresco dining—definitely our jam.
Our official Summer kick-off entailed a Fourth of July was a trip to a tiny island in the Puget Sound, Decatur Island to be specific, with our dear friends the Rays. It was definitely a memorable vacation. To get there our journey included car, a locals-only ferry, and the back of a pick-up. There were no grocery store, no restaurants, and only spotty cell service. However, there was also the most spectacular scenery and a perfect opportunity to disconnect. Gramma G snuck in a Summer trip and we were lucky to fit just about everything in, peach picking, snow cones and a trip to Hug Point for some tide-pooling and sandcastle making! At the end of July, we set off on our longest road trip yet with the kids: to Boise, ID for a week with Papa G and my siblings and their families. We ate some potatoes, hiked some high desert terrain, and had many a trampoline-base-water-balloon-fight in the backyard of our AirBnB. Despite all that, the highlight for me was finding out that I’m going to be an Auntie (again!). My youngest sister Emily and her husband Holden are expecting their first sweet baby this Winter!
August. After a quick turn around at home, we set off to meet up with Mamaw and the Rakowska family for a week in Nederland, Colorado. Amidst a pile of cousins, we enjoyed hiking, kayak, and paddle-boarding, and exploring the Boulder area. Soon after, dressed in tie-dye, we marched with Townes’ preschool in our neighborhood Multnomah Days Parade. Bittersweetly, we spent as much time as possible getting in our last hikes, u-picks, and splashes before Summer said goodbye.
September brought lots of change for our family. The transition from the easy days of Summer to more structure and routine was welcomed on all fronts. Dan started a new job, a new company in fact, with some of the coworkers he’d met at PolySync after they were all suddenly let go. Auxon’s mission is to make critical software systems safer, by making software engineering feel more like real engineering. Olivia started the 1st grade in Mrs. Abel’s class at Maplewood Elementary and Townes, his second year of preschool at Woodhaven School in the Sunflower Class. To commemorate Fern’s second year here on Earth, she got intimate with a New Orlean’s style doughnut and had a nice quality of life improvement precipitated by a pair of tubes in her ears. Yay for hearing! Dan traveled to Saint Louis to speak about dependent type theory and using it to prove properties about software at Strangeloop, a conference for people who are doing interesting and esoteric things in software.
Dan and I celebrated our 8th Wedding Anniversary in October. We saw the addition of a fantastic new developmental pediatrician, and an occupational therapist to Fern’s team and embarked on another round of genetic tests. Auntie Em came for a special solo visit and we spent lots of time catching up, indulging pregnancy cravings, and carving pumpkins! For Hallows eve, we took to the ‘hood with a chicken, a robot, and tiny pink superhero on a surprisingly dry night of trick-or-treating.
November came and we welcomed the darker days of the season in a celebration of light and giving; the lantern walk through the forest at Townes’ Waldorf preschool. Dan imported some of his friends for a Portland staycation full of music, beer, poetry, and hiking. We enjoyed a low-key Thanksgiving at home with the additions of Mamaw and Uncle Chip, complete with handmade place cards and after-dinner entertainment.
We started December by paying reverence through the Spiral Walk at Woodhaven, a Waldorf tradition meant to celebrate the coming turn of seasons and the “rebirth of light”. The days are extra short here this time of year, and although it’s always an adjustment, we welcome the opportunity to for all things hygge: toasty fires, warm wool socks, hot homemade soups, puzzles and books, and crafting and baking. I know I mentioned earlier that we were MADE for PNW summers, but we have truly come to appreciate the seasons here.
Once again, we ventured out to Hillsboro farmland to cut ourselves down a Christmas tree. On account of us waiting a week or so longer this year (December 1st!), coupled with a tragic shortage of firs in the PNW, we found ourselves with literal slim-pickings. This year, our Noble Fir is closer to a pear in shape than to a cone, but this obtuseness doesn’t affect its efficacy as a source of gravity for presents, mirth, and Fern. We have been slowly working our way through our Advent bucket list, a mother-daughter date to the Oregon Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker, making Dawn’s famous toffee, visiting Peacock Lane, seeing the Zoo Lights, etc. We’ll end 2018 in the company of all of our family, trickling in a little at a time taking us into the new year surrounded by love!
Although I have glazed over it here, our year was filled with a fair amount of trial. Dan’s grandfather passed away over the summer and he made a last minute trip to Ft. Worth to spend time with his family. We are still ticking boxes along Fern’s medical journey and although she is making steady progress, we still don’t really have any concrete answers. We have also been adjusting to life as pioneers/supporters of pioneers in the tech start-up world. Our small flock of hens sadly decreased by 2, one taken by illness (Sam), one by a predator (Oakie). All in all, we are so thankful in these circumstances as 2018 has been happy and healthy. We hope that we can reflect the warmth we feel on to you and yours.

Cheers!
M + D

 

Olivia (6 years old)
Olivia started the year very passionate about ballet but quickly realized that her love for the art was not strong enough to overcome her aversion to tights. In the Spring, she gave gymnastics a try and found it to be much more of a fit! This Fall she joined Girl Scouts and has really bonded with her girls in her Daisy troop. She hopes to start an after-school watercolor program next year and possibly give ninja classes a try! Most of her free time is spent drawing or writing and “she wants to be a children’s author and illustrator when she grows up. With a passion, Olivia LOVES chickens—snuggling ours, learning about chicken care, just about everything except cleaning out the coop! She’s a self-proclaimed Pet-a-tarian (def: one who does not eat pets), i.e., she is not currently eating chicken. Her favorite food, however, hot dogs. (The organic, grass-fed, nitrate free kind, of course!) She has started taking the bus to/from school occasionally and although she finds it a bit “boring,” we know it’s been a huge source of independence building. The tooth fairy visited has our house twice this year and we’re predicting a whole lot more visits next year! Day by day, looking and acting less and less like a little kid and more like a big one, She is quite precocious and she keeps us on our toes.

Townes (4 years old)
Townes is possibly a little mechanic in the making. Our little button pusher, switch flipper, knob turner – I can always count on him to turn all the lights off before we leave the house, start the washer and unlock the car. He loves to figure out how things work and is especially fascinated by remote controlled anything. We frequently find him “watching” Spotify, singing along to “The Beat Bugs” (A Netflix show based on tunes from the Beatles). He has formed lots of his own friendships this year in preschool and even requested some “drop-off” playdates! Still very attached in the overnight hours, Townes wakes up frequently requesting a “snuggle part-a-ner.” He’s a carb guy and can pack away an entire baguette if he’s allowed. Still a very slender fella, our biggest struggle with Townes is keeping his pants pulled up. Perhaps Santa will bring him some suspenders? He’s kind and gentle and although it takes him a good while to warm-up when he’s in his comfort zone, he’s a heart-warmer.

Fern (2 years old)
In complete toddler-fashion, Fern has entered the “getting into everything” phase. She loves her weekly sessions with our physical therapist, Helga and is working on taking facilitated steps, ascending/descending stairs and free standing. With her occupational therapist Stefanie, we have focused on troubleshooting sleeping and feeding challenges, sensory integration techniques, and productive play. Some next-level toddler proofing is in our future as Fern’s most recent discoveries have included water in the toilet, removing items from the dishwasher, and climbing on top of things. She’s lucky to have two of the most patient siblings who love to play at her level, to read and sing to her (“The Itsy Bitsy Spider” is her fav), and to chase her with the handheld vacuum. Quite the social butterfly, she recognizes familiar faces and loves it most when Townes’ preschool class sings the goodbye song to her. Her giggle is the most magical sound and we can’t wait for her to find her voice. She’s mastered some big skills this year and made huge developmental gains! I’ll save a true medical update for a separate post. We are constantly amazed at her and are celebrating every single milestone!

Dan
Mostly working on his intellect. Dan is frequently reading several books at the same time, and even squeezing a weekly Proust book club in. He finds time to read and learn (he’s currently learning French!) on his bus ride to and from his new office downtown. He’s continued to foster an interest in logic and philosophy, with some of this year’s highlights at the intersection of the two with thinkers like Wittgenstein, Frege, and Quine. For the past 4 months, he’s been working on starting a company and as the kids will tell you, ”teaching cars how to drive themselves.” He’s a master dish-doer, coffee brewer, and breakfast burrito and waffle maker. He fills all the water bottles, reads all the books at bedtime, and never forgets to stock the fridge with all the finest PNW IPAs. He reminds me to stay positive, encourages me on the daily, and tries his hardest to get me to slow down long enough for some lovin’.


Meg (as seen by Dan)
Meg is the star at the center of the universe of our little family—keeping us all together. She’s passed on her love for craft to both Townes and Olivia, keeping them well supplied for any creative endeavor they may wish to embark on. She also took up bullet journaling this year, the perfect outlet for an acutely organized person with an artistic bent. She’s VP of the board at Townes’ preschool and has been able to exercise those empathic (grown-up) people management skills she honed in school. But more than anything, she’s the ideal mother to our children, loving them fiercely, patiently, and without asking for hardly anything in return (I think she would say a “thank you, mom” would be nice once in a while). She gives her whole self to us, and we are all so lucky to have her.

Update: AFernieJourney 2

(Sincerest apologies if you are landing here from the link on our Christmas card! Should you wish to skip this post for something lighter, just scroll down… or go here)

Over the past month, (I can’t believe it’s been a month since most recent trip to the ER! Time flies) we’ve seen both Fern’s neurologist and cardiologist at OHSU and I just wanted to type up a quick update!

Following her seizures in the ER on black Friday, we were sent home with directions to follow-up with Fern’s neurologist and orders for a sedated MRI . The ER doctors started Fern on an anti-seizure medication  (Keppra) at the lowest possible dose that theoretically should raise the threshold at which she would have a seizure, hopefully preventing any more seizures. Her blood work also came back showing that she was severely anemic so we started her on an iron supplement that she’ll likely stay on until she starts ingesting more iron-rich foods.

Although it was tough to see our baby go under anesthesia, the MRI went very smoothly and the doctors were able to get great pictures of her brain. She tolerated the sedation well and didn’t require any help keeping her vitals strong. Her blood pressure was somewhat alarmingly high during the test an the anesthesiologist felt that a follow-up with cardio was necessary considering her heart murmur.

Our appointment with cardio was VERY reassuring! Our doctor felt very confident that the VSD would still likely close on it’s own. Although most cases of this kind of VSD close sometime in the first year of life, the majority of those that don’t are still likely to close on their own within the first 5-6 years of life and don’t require surgery. The location of the VSD is not cause for concern and in his opinion, not something they would operate on unless it was causing some kind of symptoms. More or less, his words were, “You’ve got a green light from cardio!”

The MRI results also came back “unremarkable” and as far as we can tell for now, Fern’s brain looks totally normal. Obviously this is a huge relief and answered prayer but also leaves us a little in the dark as far as where to go next. Our neurologist recommended a referral to genetics next. Although we have already done extensive genetic testing (mostly when I was still pregnant) genetics may have some ideas on other syndromes, conditions, etc. to test for. She also recommended a referral to a pediatric ophthalmologist who might be able to provide another angle or opinion, also just checking another box/getting another “green light” to add to Fern’s chart. She also sent us home with a prescription for a rescue drug (a suppository sedative) to use in the case that we are home and Fern has another seizure lasting longer than 5 minutes. Theoretically she should be able to stay home even if she has another short/mild seizure but we, of course, wouldn’t hesitate to go back to the hospital if we felt like it was necessary or if anything new/different presented.

Cold and flu season has officially hit our home. I suspect that this is just a side effect of three young kids. Olivia came down with a nasty (likely flu?) bug on Christmas Eve. It would appear that Townes is next and we appreciate all the prayers in the world that we can keep it contained to just the two of them.

 

 

 

 

Family P: Christmas Newsletter 2017

2017 got off to a fairly slow start with lots of snow days, hygge, and pho. The kids took turns in a constant rotation of flu, cold, and stomach bugs; but thankfully, looking back, all I really remember is extra snuggles and home time. Fern’s adventures at OHSU continued with our first appointment in the CDRC (Childhood Developmental Rehabilitation Center) and we added a wonderful physical therapist, Helga, to her team of providers.

In February, we completed our first hike as a family of 5, in near-freezing temperatures, at Silver Falls State Park. Olivia celebrated her birthday with a dozen or so preschool friends by way of a unicorn-themed birthday party at our house, complete with a rainbow cake, piñata, and lots of glitter. Dan was able to sneak away for a weekend stay-cation with “his dudes”, experiencing Portland through kid-free eyes. 

In the Spring, we made our first “triangle trip” as a family of 5: Portland -> Dallas -> Orange County. Texas highlights included: a trip to the Dallas Arboretum with loads of pals, day trip to Ft. Worth to visit grandparents and a sweet new babe, some country-time with cousins and lots of filling up on salsa and Texas BBQ! Successful flights and juggling of 3 carseats and luggage for 5… California didn’t disappoint with always wonderful weather – Fern, especially, enjoyed loads of sunshine and tummy time in short sleeves! We made treks to Balboa and Laguna, rode by ferry and by boat, ate tacos at loco and walked on the pier. Gramma G treated Olivia to a special trip to the Magic Kingdom that she’s sure to say was the highlight of her year!


In April, we had big plans to make some of our first REAL home improvements (new carpet!) which were somewhat more complicated than we bargained for. Upon returning home from our two-week vacation, we spent a few days in our own beds only to be out again. The discovery of asbestos flooring (hidden beneath our current carpet) resulted in a two-week process of abatement, demo, and rescheduling installation. Living in a hotel room for two weeks with three kids five and under isn’t for the faint of heart! That said, Townes still celebrated his third year and the Easter Bunny managed to find us, in spite of the circumstances!

With fresh new carpet, in May we finally officially celebrated our little Townes man with a “pancake party” at home with a few of his close buds. Olivia danced around the Maypole wearing a crown of flowers at the May Day celebration at her preschool. For Memorial Day weekend, Papa G came for a quick visit and helped us check another project off the list: New stairs off the back of our house. We also managed hikes to Wachlella Falls in the Columbia River Gorge and a nature walk through the Redwoods at the Hoyt Arboretum.


As always, our plans to u-pick our way through summer went off without a hitch starting with strawberries in June. Trying our own hands at a green thumb, we planted, and successfully grew, several of our own veggies in our backyard garden this year. Olivia enjoyed her last few days of preschool and we kicked off summer with lots of playdates and splash pad adventures. Both kiddos are becoming great little hikers and enjoyed “Super Nature Adventures” to Tryon Creek State Park, Powell Butte Nature Park and Wapato Greenway on Sauvie Island.  July was packed with summer concerts at Kruger Farms, more berries, and a week-long escape to Redmond/Bend with Gramma G. Come August, Mamaw brought Remie for a special cousin visit and we hiked our last hike in the Gorge as we knew it before a massive fire broke out, scorching most of our favorite trails. Olivia enjoyed her first summer day-camp at the South West Community Center Community Gardens and Townes at Woodhaven Preschool camp. We walked in our neighborhood “Multnomah Days” parade and enjoyed the Solar Eclipse at 98% totality from our backyard. The kids would say the highlight of our summer was the addition of 6 laying hens to our family and our official embarkation on an urban homestead journey. Affectionately named, Waffles, Oakie, Lay-A, Coconut, and Sam and Ella, they are slowly adjusting to their extra-snuggly handlers. Because many will ask, we get 5-6 eggs a day in the spring/summer and 2-3 in the winter.

September was a big month of change for us. All within its first week, Olivia started Kindergarten at the neighborhood elementary school, Townes started preschool at our sweet Waldorf-inspired co-op, and Fern turned one! We spent the bulk of the month adjusting to our new routine and pick-up/drop-off schedules but were nonetheless lucky to squeeze in some Auntie and Uncle time with all my siblings in town for a long weekend. My brother, Christopher, also settled in to a pretty consistent schedule at work leaving us looking forward to “Chip Fridays.” I am so thankful for his help ushering us in to the weekend each week and the kids adore having a fresh audience.

Gramma G made an extra trip in October and got to experience the cusp of Fall in the Pacific Northwest with some misty morning hikes and apple picking. We were lucky with plenty of dry weekends for a few family pumpkin adventures followed by one very soggy field trip to Bella Organics on Sauvie Island. On Halloween, with a ballerina, train engineer and sleepy little bumblebee, we enjoyed trick or treating with Olivia’s kinder pals. Favorite fall hikes included Hoyt Arboretum, Forest Park “Witches’ Castle” and a “leaf walk” at Laurelhurst Park.

November brought lots of germs and sick bugs to our house. Fern had her first febrile seizure, in Fernie fashion, sending us to the ER by ambulance and keeping us on our toes.  Dan started a new job at Polysync – math, and self-driven cars is what he does. We welcomed the darker days with a celebration of light and giving with a sweet Waldorf tradition, a lantern walk through the forest, at Townes’s school. November was filled with long afternoons practicing reading fireside with hot apple cider and popcorn. We hosted Thanksgiving with Auntie B and Uncle Chip and enjoyed a fabulous ballet performance starring none other than Olivia Kate Pittman. We “opted outside” and selected our annual Noble Fir at a Christmas tree farm in Sherwood. Unfortunately, Friday also brought on Fern’s second and third seizures and we spent 24 hours in the ER running all sorts of tests. A black Friday indeed.


Thankfully, December brought unusually dry weather and we’ve been fortunate to enjoy lots of Christmas activities outside! Townes walked in his first spiral walk at Woodhaven, another wonderful Waldorf tradition. The children walk to the center of a spiral of evergreen branches where they light a candle, then retrace their steps back to their families. Singing and watching the light in the room grow was such a wonderful reminder of the light we carry within, and the importance of sharing it with others during this season. The days are extra short here; sunset on the solstice is at 4:29 pm! I’ve really come to enjoy the opportunity to spend extra time creating coziness and warmth at home. We’re still working our way through a long list of advent actives and looking forward to a solstice hike, the grotto lights, Peacock Lane, and spending lots of our hygge time with family and friends!


We are, again, so thankful for the enormous amount of support and love we’ve felt from our friends and family this year as we navigate through becoming a family of 5 and the ongoing FernieJourney. This has definitely been a year of growing deeper in many of our relationships and friendships (far and near) and we are profoundly grateful for our “village.”  Our plans for next year include a summertime trip with friends to the San Juan Islands, celebrating both grandmas turning the big 6-0, some home improvements, and hopefully dipping our toes in the Pacific. Who knows, maybe 2018 will be the year we brave a campsite with kids?!

We sincerely hope that your holiday season is filled with love, light, and peace!

Dan

“I subsist on a steady diet of coffee, tacos, and math papers.  After the tire fire that is our political predicament became inevitable, I took an interest in the political and economic philosophies of myriad leftists.  The ones who resonated with me the most are the midcentury Critical Theorists and the Frankfurt School, and how could they not:

“I’ve been listening to the radio today, and it’s got me thinking about Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. Which could ultimately be reduced to: Capitalism gives us existential cavities, because we’re so broken at the end of a work day, we just want to consume cultural M&M’s. Wallace talks about this in Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. Paraphrasing: if all you consume is this, you will die. In a meaningful way, you will die. But his assessment does not include the cause, only the symptom. It’s not about incremental fixes, filling those cavities, those holes in our souls, with the occasional square meal. It’s a complete change in diet. Art could save the world.”  – From my own notes this year.

These inclinations lead to me joining up with the Democratic Socialists of America, and although time does not permit much activism, I at least make it to monthly meetings to get updates from the folks who do.

Because of our adventures with Fern, I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with the big kids just the three of us and our favorite outing is, and has been, Hopworks by way of Powell’s.”

Meg

On a first name basis with the Instacart and Prime-Now shoppers, I am super thankful for the multitude of grocery delivery options and am proud to say that it’s been months since I set foot in the grocery store with 3 kids in tow! Meal planning, Pinteresting and scouting fun stuff to do, is how I spend the few moments each morning before the kiddos wake up. On the board at Woodhaven, I’ve really enjoyed playing an integral role in directing our little Waldorf co-op. Cooking, cleaning and chauffeuring fill most of my days but I sincerely find so much joy in some of this mundanity. Watching our kids grow and change and helping them become good humans is the most rewarding work. Still dreaming of the day the yoga mat will stop collecting dust and showers are a more regular thing but for now I find pride in my ability to just be the glue that holds us together (with Dan, of course). Currently enjoying the research phase of all things urban homestead and look forward to lots of home projects in the near future.

Olivia

If you hadn’t guessed already, Olivia is really into ballet at the moment and we have plans to get her started in some classes this Spring. She is loving Kindergarten and is becoming an excellent writer and reader. She loves handling the chicken chores (at least the fun ones) and is an expert at both wrangling and snuggling. She’s an excellent conversationalist, never leaves without a big hug and is blowing our minds with how self-aware and empathic she is becoming. This year has brought a new-found confidence and level of independence that we’ve been waiting for. Olivia (mostly) appropriately dresses herself everyday for school, can whip up a personal batch of guacamole, and loves to fetch the mail from the mailbox solo. Her favorite foods are breakfast burritos and pho, just like her mama.


Townes

Townes is sweet and mild; such a snuggler. He has really blossomed in preschool and most days at pick-up can’t wait to tell me all about what he did, who he played with and what the snack was. On days home, he is quite the taskmaster and loves to help with laundry and dishes. Playing with trains, Magnatiles, animals, and marbles are his favorite solo activities. Anything with a button or switch and you can bet that this little dude wants to see what it will do. He’s a tinkerer and thinker – always wanting to understand how things work. While just barely on the growth chart, he’s a slender little fella who, like his Dayda, loves chicken tacos! One-on-One time with this little guy is priceless, he looks forward to Maplewood Coffee dates with mama and going to Powell’s with Dayda.

Fern

Fern is so sweet and easy going. Just happy to be held, to watch and wait for someone to engage her, she mostly qualifies as an “easy baby”. I am thankful that Fern’s story is just a tad bit different, as some of her developmental delays have really allowed me to soak up just a tiny bit more time with her in the infant stage. Now sitting unassisted, doing some standing, lots of clapping and smiling, she’s excelled so much with physical therapy and we couldn’t be more proud of how hard she’s working to overcome. In typical 1-year old fashion, she loves getting into everything, loves to play with anything she’s not allowed to and still puts everything in her mouth (including, but not limited to: faces, fingers, hair, and anything paper, plastic or resembling a wrapper.) She loves anything that makes sound and feels like such a big kid when her big brother and sister include her in their games! She loves guacamole, hummus, and chili and makes a huge mess at every meal. Always a positive force, she truly is the perfect completion of our family. 

 

More Pictures Here:

Instagram // @mmoguu

Instagram // @pittman_

Facebook // Megan

Facebook // Daniel

Twitter // @pittma_

 

Update: #AFernieJourney

My sincerest apologies for the giant gap in documentation of Fern’s story here on this blog. As I’m getting ready to write out annual family newsletter, I’ve realized that I never finished or published Fern’s Birth Story over a year ago. I’d like to attempt a quick catch-up here although, I’m afraid it will likely be the cliff notes.

Sept. 8th 2016 Fern was s born at 37 weeks with no major complications. The muscular ventricular septal defect (VSD) that we saw at our fetal echogram at 19 weeks was still present, resulting in a murmur but did not require surgery. Cardiology ordered follow-up at 1 year.

During the first 6 weeks, we battled strep, flu, stomach bugs, galore at home, but luckily Fern and I both stayed pretty isolated from the germs. Around 6 weeks, some intense colic settled in and we started down a long road to discovery with a lactation consultant. We ultimately decided that a combination of constipation and food sensitivities could be causing her troubles and I experimented with cutting dairy and eggs from around 6 weeks to 8 months! We tried various homeopathic and probiotics and found the  most success with a Chinese herbal called “Easy Going.”

Between 4 and 6 months we started having some concerns that Fern wasn’t meeting developmental milestones. The first thing we noticed was that Fern wasn’t smiling (granted, she was crying and screaming a lot, even in calm times, she was less expressive than “normal”). She didn’t smile until just a week shy of 6 months. This was also right around the time she started rolling over. For perspective, these are both milestones that babies start reaching at more like 3-4 months.

At 6 months we were referred to a developmental pediatrician at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Dr. Brian Rogers, who gave Fern her first official diagnosis of congenital hypotonia (low tone). His assessment was essentially that Fern had “significant delays” and that the cause was more likely than not neurological. (This did mean that it was not likely a muscular disorder!) The scariest on the list of possible diagnoses was Cerebral Palsy and although we don’t suspect CP, we haven’t effectively ruled it out. He ordered a test for Prader-Willi Syndrome that came back negative. We reviewed the results of the Micro-Array (Genetic Testing) that we had done when I was pregnant and found nothing interesting.

The developmental delays that Fern has make her eligible for enrollment in a program called Early Childhood Intervention, through Portland Public Schools that is FREE to us. We have a wonderful occupational therapist who comes to our home once a week to check in with Fern and work on developmental milestones.

At this point we also started with weekly physical therapy with a wonderful provider, Helga Lang, who has been working with Fern to start hitting some of those gross motor milestones – rolling, sitting, transitional movement, pulling to stand. She is such a kind and gentle woman and probably the single person, outside of our family, who Fern is most comfortable with.

Around 7 months, we were referred to the OHSU feeding clinic to assess Fern’s feeding abilities. We determined that although feeding was difficult for her it was something we were effectively achieving (she was gaining plenty of weight and overall successful at nursing, even if she was miserable) and that we didn’t need to do further studies until we started solids.

At 9 months, Fern’s heart murmur remained unchanged so we were referred to the cardiologist at OHSU who was unimpressed and saw no urgency in monitoring her through their office. Their direction was to reassess every few months but their prediction was that the VSD would still likely close over time.

We also had another appointment with the feeding clinic at OHSU to get some help with transitioning to solid foods. Swallowing, chewing and coordination are still difficult for Fern and although she is making progress with solids, she’s still “several months behind.” I am so thankful that i have successfully been able to nourish her with essentially breastmilk alone. I still have an ample supply and she seems satiated by just nursing. That said, since she’s never taken a bottle successfully, that means that in 15 months I haven’t been away from Fern for longer than 4 hours.

At 1 year, Fern is sitting up on her own, developing at her own pace in most areas. Her social and emotional development are the only things that are relatively “normal” and she’s a generally happy and easy baby. We were referred at this point to a pediatric neurologist at OHSU, Dr. Erika Finanger. Her assessment was similar to Dr. Rogers, identifying Fern’s delays as primarily gross motor, with some cognitive delay. Since Fern is making progress with weekly physical therapy we are encouraged that she will eventually “catch-up”. We agreed that an MRI was likely the next step but that we would wait until she turned 2.

At 14 months, Nov.1st, I was home with Fern and Townes, Dan had just left to take Olivia to school, and I had just climbed back in bed with a mildly under-the-weather Fernie. I had taken her temperature to make sure she wasn’t running fever and at 100.5 determined that if she had higher fever after I’d fed her and let her nap that I would give her Motrin. After a few minutes of feeding, she began convulsing in my arms and it took me a few seconds to realize what was happening. The seizure lasted a little over a minute. This was long enough for me to get up with her in my arm and walk from our bedroom (where Townes was thankfully watching a show) to the dining room where I grabbed my phone to call our pediatrician. When I reached the after-hours recording, I decided that a 911 call was necessary and hung up to call. Fern was still convulsing about half way through my emergency call. The firetruck arrived in less than 5 minutes (paramedics shortly after) and they took Fern’s temp at it had only climbed 1 degree since I’d taken it 15 min or so prior. Because of her medical history they felt that a trip to the ER was necessary. Luckily, Dan was still close to home and by the time we were strapped in and ready to go he was home to hang with Townes. When we arrived at the hospital, sure enough, her fever had spiked to 104.1 The ER confirmed that this was likely nothing other than a typical febrile seizure and sent us home with direction to manage her fever and not let it spike.

Certainly a terrifying experience but I know plenty of kiddos who have had febrile seizures and we all bounced back fairly quickly from the experience. The illness that initially caused the fever resolved and a little cough remained but for the most part, Fern seemed to be her happy, healthy self.

The few days leading up to Thanksgiving, Fern’s cough seemed to return but since she otherwise seemed to feel fine, we weren’t too concerned. Black Friday. We had been out to a u-cut tree farm to cut down our Christmas tree with Auntie B and Uncle Chip when she started to run low grade fever. I had given her Motrin around 4 and she went to sleep around 6:30. She was asleep in my arms at 8 when I woke her up to give her more medicine. Her temperature on our infrared thermometer read 104.7 and I didn’t have time to take a rectal temp before deciding that we were going to need to take her in. As I was on the phone with the pediatrician on-call, she started having another seizure. Similar to her first, this seizure also lasted around a minute. Towards the end of the seizure Fern’s lips turned slightly blue and it was clear that she wasn’t getting enough oxygen. Just as we were hanging up with the doctor to call 911, the seizure stopped and her color improved. We threw her in the car and went as fast as possible to the ER. As soon as they had her fever managed, they ordered a chest x-ray and blood work to rule out all major suspects that could be causing the high fever. It took 6 nurses over an hour to get her IV started. Since it was a holiday weekend IV therapy and PANDA (pediatric IV therapy) weren’t on call so they called up to both NICU and PICU to get some baby vein experts. At some point in the night, Fern began convulsing again, this time the convulsions were more like whole-body twitches (like startling) every 3-5 seconds for 5 minutes. At the 5 minute mark, concerned about her oxygenation, the doctors gave her a drug called versed, that stopped the seizure and sedated her. At this point, they ordered a quick scan MRI and we started discussing  a lumbar puncture to rule out meningitis. When the chest x-ray, blood, urinalysis and MRI all came back normal, we decided it was safe to assume that the fever was being caused by nothing more than a cold and that although she was “at risk for developing pneumonia” there was nothing we could do more than manage her symptoms and keep her fever reduced. After 10 hours in the ER, we were released again with orders to manage her fever and follow-up with our neurologist for an EEG and comprehensive MRI. Fern was also started on an anti-seizure medication called Keppra.

After being released from the ER, Fern’s cough worsened and although we were able to keep her fever under control. Initially we were very concerned about some developmental set-backs. It seemed like, overnight, we had lost almost 3 months of physical therapy work. Fern wasn’t even holding her head up on my shoulder, much less sitting, rolling, trying to scoot. After a week, we were still suppressing her fever and with lungs full of gunk our pediatrician agreed that we could safely call the illness pneumonia and prescribed an antibiotic and an albuterol inhaler. 5 days of antibiotic and Fern FINALLY seems back to normal. Her tone has mostly returned and once again she’s proven stronger than we give her credit for.

We were able to get in for an EEG last week and the results suggested that there is no seizure activity. Obviously fantastic news but not enough to understand why the second seizure in the ER happened. Our sedated MRI is scheduled for Friday and we’ll have a follow-up with our neurologist sometime before Christmas.

Please excuse and brevity, typos, grammatical errors, etc. 3 kids and this update has been produced over the span of 5 days, in 15-20 min increments of time… Your prayers, well wishes and love are FELT and we cannot say enough how much we appreciate the support we have been fortunate to receive from all of our friends and family. More on this #AFernieJourney to come.

 

XX

Megan

Family P: Christmas Newsletter 2016

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Maybe the rate at which we experience time is a function of age and number of children.  This year, we increased on both of those inputs.. 2016 brought the longest days and months as we waited, wondered, and prayed for our baby Fern. As a result, our year was full of amazing adventures and the building of the most wonderfully supportive village in the Pacific Northwest. That said, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that we were mostly, and frankly are still, in survival mode. No doubt, there were lots of exciting moments in 2016 – but none as amazing as the addition of our sweet miracle, Fern.

Last year, an easy theme emerged as I recapped our year: The seasons seemed to mirror our experiences during our first year in Portland. The flow of words came unimpeded… Effort or not, this year has been about embracing chaos with happy hearts and positive attitudes. So here goes.

[Note: this was written of the course of 8 hours, mostly with an infant wrapped to my chest, while I served 3 meals, no less than 7 snacks, changed numerous diapers, mediated lots of toddler conflict, explained where babies come from and why we have to cover our mouths when we cough. I hung some garland, helped the kids with a less-than pinterest worthy craft and *almost* swept the floors and got the laundry put away.]

Long gone is the appeal of a wild night out on New Year’s Eve. Maybe our desire to be hip and feel young will return one day when the kids actually sleep through the night, but for now a celebration in “the Tiki Basement” complete with tamales, guacamole and an epic ping pong tournament seemed ideal. This sentiment yielded a new tradition with the bringing in of 2016.. Family Gorham traded SoCal sunshine for a New Year’s celebration in the cold and rainy Pacific Northwest. Luckily, we enjoyed a few crisp, dry days that allowed for a trip to the Gorge and wine tasting in the Willamette Valley.

As we approached the anniversary of our move to Portland, we began to feel settled in our new home. Finally feeling like true Oregonians ourselves, we learned that we were expecting our first (and only!) native. In February we celebrated Olivia’s 4th birthday with a party of Olivia’s own creation: The Rainbow Party — rainbow cake, playdoh and decorations.

In March, at around 11 weeks pregnant, our adventures with Fern really began. During what would become an emotional few months, we were fortunate to have the support of our families and an amazing village of friends. We waited anxiously, week after week, for a miracle. You can read more here, here and here about our journey with Fern.

In April, we celebrated Townes’s 2nd birthday, camp style, complete with a campfire cake and e springtime creek play. As I entered my second trimester, we shared the news of our sweet new addition with friends and family. We celebrated Easter with the first of many epic egg hunts in our front yard. We ventured to Woodburn for the Oregon Tulip festival and made multiple trips out to the Gorge to hike Olivia, now officially ambulatory on her own accord,, conquered 3+ mile treks. She has become quite the little hiker!

May brought gradual improvements in Fern’s sonograms, and by 16 weeks were very close to “normal.” Now on summer’s cusp, we welcomed the longer, warmer days. Again, we u-picked our way through the summer, trying our best to stock the chest freezer for the winter months: Strawberries and cherries in June, blueberries and raspberries in July and peaches in August. Dan made a trip in June to CA to help “Uncle Chip” move North. It was perfect timing.e needed a landing spot in PDX while he got settled, and I was in desperate need of an extra set of hands. I honestly don’t know how I would have survived this summer without his help.

We celebrated my 30th birthday,and the beginning of my third trimester, with a trip to Bend. We adventured in the Santiam State Forest at Three Pools in Opal Creek, had our first family hot springs experience at Paulina [pronunciation: PAUL-EYE-NAH] Lake, and enjoyed some amazing meals. With August came the return of weekly doctors visits  for fetal monitoring. This, of course, on top of acupuncture and chiropractor visits and our schedule seemed packed. The kiddos were lucky enough to see all three grandparents for summer visits this year. We shared concerts at Kruger Farms, picked berries at Smith Berry Barn, and hiked the Gorge.

September’s arrival also meant Fern’s arrival, and we started making plans. We were almost certain that I would need to be induced a few weeks early due to the general “high risk” nature of my pregnancy. With induction scheduled for 9/21, I was thrilled to be the parent helper for Olivia’s first day in the “Sunflower” class at her Waldorf-inspired preschool. The following day at my fetal monitoring appointment, with concern about my blood pressure, my doctor and I made the decision that induction that night was the safest call. Our perfect Fern Opal was born the next day, September 8th, at 5:05pm, 7lbs 4.4oz. I’d love to provide you a link where you could read Fern’s whole birth story, but alas,  that has yet to be documented (#thirdbabyproblems). The most uncomplicated part of my pregnancy with Fern was labor and delivery. It was remarkably fast and easy; I had a short, active labor and successfully avoided any unnecessary intervention. Townes and Olivia were over the moon to meet their new baby sister and we were anxious to get home and start settling in as a family of FIVE. Fern’s post-birth echocardiogram revealed a still-present muscular VSD (something we’d identified somewhere around the 19th week of pregnancy), resulting in a grade 2 murmur. Thankfully, this is not cause for immediate concern, and will only require a follow-up with a pediatric cardiologist at 6 months. We were blown away with the outflowing of support and love from our friends and family,especially our Woodhaven community. Through delicious meals (and wine!), rides to school for Olivia, and entertainment for Townes, we survived those first few months.

Outings were sparse., Fern’s first was a trip to the u-pick apple orchard where we collected almost 20 pounds of apples and pears.  Dan’s 6 week paternity leave allowed for him to volunteer as the parent helper in Olivia’s class several times. It was an experience he would say was  transformative, validating our choice for more gentle and peaceful parenting approach. After the first day, he came home saying that it was one of the highlights of his year!  The big kids loved having Dan home and enjoyed numerous “Dayda Dates” to the OMSI, Powell’s, “The Coffee Store” and of course, Hopworks. Qhen Dan returned to work, we welcomed more family help, and I started practicing our new normal tackling daunting tasks like the grocery store with more kids than hands and getting three kids in and out of car seats and gear in the rain.

Halloween in the PNW is challenging for small trick-or-treaters. Not only is it likely to be raining, but by October, “the darkness” has started to set in. Shorter days with earlier sunsets, coupled with the lack of sidewalks or light pollution in our quadrant of Portland bring a different Halloween experience. Still, set on trick-or-treating this year, we braved our neighborhood streets with a forest fairy, a knight, and a colicky baby.

Some of our first big storms came in the first weeks of November, turning our creek into a rushing stream (sometimes flooding into a lake) and the promise of a very wet rainy season became apparent. Since this isn’t a political statement, we’ll just casually move right into the next (fittingly dark) season.

We enjoyed the lantern walk at Olivia’s school, and despite the pouring rain, we welcomed the darker days with a celebration of light and giving. After hosting for 27 last year, our Thanksgiving was wonderfully casual and intimate this year with just the five of us. I stayed in PJs, cooking all day, Olivia handled the decorations and “turkey games” and Townes (my biggest helper in the kitchen) cut all the green beans by himself with his “kid knife.”

For Dan’s favorite of our family’s Christmas mores, we selected our very first Nordman Fir, Hillary Nordman,  retiring Juan Noble in favor of the healthiest and happiest of the u-cut trees, while also maybe paying homage to our first almost lady president. After cutting and carrying our 6.5 ft beauty through the forest, we enjoyed a late lunch (and good beer) at cozy spot in the country. Kicking off the advent season, we gathered with our Woodhaven community to participate in a spiral walk. The children walk to the center of a spiral of evergreen branches where they light a candle, then retrace their steps back to their families. Singing and watching the light in the room grow was such a wonderful reminder of the light we carry within, and the importance of sharing it with others during this season.

We’re looking forward to some fun Christmas outings including: The festival of lights at the Grotto, watching the Christmas Ships from the bank of the Willamette, and visiting hipster Santa downtown. In a year with basically zero travel, we’ve been super lucky to have our families all here to visit. Plans for next year include a 2+ week “triangle trip” to both Texas and California over spring break, and hopefully our first family camping trip over the summer! We sincerely hope that your Christmas season to be filled with love, light and peace!

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Olivia: Four and a half and will tell you her life story if you so much as glance in her direction. She loves chatting up adults and telling them all about her age, siblings ages, and her school. She still has very strong opinions about “soft pants” and what gets packed in her lunch. She loves “dragon tears,” playing doctor, and dogs. Chickens & a coop are on the top of her birthday wishlist (we told her that Santa doesn’t bring live animals and we’re on board with chickens, in fact they’re already in the works for Family P: Spring/Summer 2017). She has become quite the artist, practicing drawing pictures of her friends, family and school. You can often find her sitting at the kitchen table, listening to “Magic Treehouse” books on tape, doodling cards for her friends. She’s mastered writing most of her letters and loves to help me write “to-do” lists.

Favorite Colors: Red and Pink.

Favorite Foods: “Flat Cheese Sandwiches” (not-grilled, American cheese sandwiches). “Bongo beans and Rice” (Garbanzo Beans, Brown Rice and Aminos) and “Noodle Soup” AKA Pho from TuTus (Our favorite neighborhood food truck).

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Townes: Two and a half and becoming quite the chatty little guy. He managed to inch his way on to the growth chart this year. He’s still very reserved in new situations and environments; it takes him a tick to warm up. He officially weaned around 22 months but  is nonetheless still quite attached to his Mama. He’s always practicing all things “big kid”, following Olivia’s lead, and likes to “do it myself.”  He’s perfectly content being sandwiched in between a big “tita” and a little “Fernita” as long as he still gets adequate snuggle time from Mommy and Dayda. Some of his favorite things include: binoculars, flashlights and anything with a button, cord or plug. Loves to paint and get creative at art class at the Multnomah Art Center. Starting to get the hang of sitting on the big potty and fingers crossed will “potty train” without much assistance. Wakes up hungry and although picky, is a great little eater. Loves to help himself and knows exactly where to find the “Damn Crackers” (Perfectly endearing pronunciation of Graham). He’s a big helper in the kitchen and has become the expert potato scrubber, carrot peeler and chopper of all things. We never imagined it possible after Olivia, but Townes really is an even goofier kid. One of his favorite phrases is “oh! a joke!” followed by forced laughter. Refers to himself as “Tao Tao” or “Tao Bamboo”  and is constantly keeping us in stitches. He’s a little risk taker, not afraid to climb up on stools, counters, and chairs, resulting in the most adorable little chipped front tooth earlier in the year.

Favorite Foods: Seaweed, Any kind of pasta, Crock Pot Chicken tacos, “Ah-Wos” (Olives), muffins and all kinds of fruit.

Favorite Color: “I really want a flashlight”

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Fern: A “chunker-monker” with many nicknames. Depending on who you ask… she’s Fernie, Fernita, Tenacious Fernacious, Ferniture, the list goes on. A challenging temperament, she’s certainly the completion of our family. Colicky as she may be, her presence is such an amazing miracle and we’re reminded of it frequently. Hard as it is, we’re rejoicing in every difficult moment in this newborn stage. My best nurser, with the biggest tummy issues, we’ve at least (at LAST!) been blessed with a good sleeper! This girl sleeps a pretty predictable 6 hour stretch almost every night for which we are super grateful! Loves her paci, keeping a watchful eye on her big brother and sister, and being worn. THis snuggle bug, loves tub time with Mama and watching Dayda play his guitar. She’s already scared us with more ER/ Urgent care visits than her siblings combined. We’re all absolutely and completely in love with our little Fern and are enjoying every moment of the fleeting infant stage. The longest, shortest time.

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Meg – How many pair of yoga pants do I own? At least one pair for every day of the week. How long has it been since I last hit the mat? Let’s just say, I’m grateful that athleisure is officially a trend. Between the dusty, dirty days on the u-pick farm and the wet and muddy preschool pick-ups, I very rarely find myself motivated to really “get dressed.” This year has left me incredible thankful for lots of things,even more than spandex pants and baseball caps: some of the greatest friends – far and near, who have really come together to support our family during a really tough year. Survival mode has me saying “yes” to the big kids a little more often and indulging in take out, grocery delivery services and  coming 2017: a housekeeper!? I’m practicing choosing joy among the piles of laundry and crusty floors.

Hobbies include: breastfeeding, calendaring, pinteresting, and meal-planning.

Favorite Foods: Vanilla Hemp Latte, Coconut LaCroix, Pinot Noir, and anything I can eat easily without spilling on Fern’s head.  

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Dan – Between lots of doctor’s visits, sonograms, and fetal monitoring in the first half of the year and a generous paternity leave, Dan was actually home a lot! He successfully escaped for a weekend camping in Big Sur en route CA to OR in June and made some time to enjoy some of his favorite bands as they came through Portland. This was a year of cooking for him.  He’s learning the basics, now, but has generally assumed responsibility for breakfast every weekend morning.. Monday through Friday you can still find this dude at Intel, computing about computer stuff. He’s professionally into category theory, compilers, and hacking on distributed consensus problems,all while listening to lots of bones music and occasionally brushing up on his ping pong skills.

Hobbies include: Telling dad jokes, reading books, hiking on trails, camping in tents, listening to tunes, and the constant mission to grow as an empathetic human being.

I say it every year, this annual recap is really for us, but I really hope you enjoyed catching up with us too and would love to hear from you 🙂

Catch up with us Here: megan.gorham@gmail.com and Here: danielscottt@gmail.com

More Pictures Here:  @large_arborist and Here:  @MMOGUU

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Update: Fern (32 Weeks)

Well… my posts certainly aren’t getting any closer together which is a beautiful thing. I’d love to say that the past 10 weeks had been completely uneventful and that my second trimester had been all precious baby kicks and sweet and salty cravings… And although we’ve still been on a bit of a roller coaster with our sweet baby Fern, I’m absolutely thrilled to be looking at the end of my third trimester carrying the most perfect, wiggly baby girl. The past few months, I’ve continued to feel a little bit of improvement with my energy level but am definitely slowing down at we approach the home stretch.

At a few of my appointments between 24-28 weeks my blood pressure readings had been slightly elevated. My doctor ordered a few tests to determine if I was showing early signs of preeclampsia… Luckily, since there have been no traces of protein in my urine, no swollen extremities or vision changes – we’ve continued to feel confident that I’m just experiencing hypertension with pregnancy. My doctor has since had me monitor my blood pressure at home with direction to call if I was over 140/80. Of course, the first time that happened, we happened to be in Bend on vacation.. and I was successful at laying down and resting long enough to relax and bring my rates down without an ER visit. Slowly my doctor has altered her recommendation (considering my blood pressure) from induction at 39 weeks… to 38 weeks… to “between 37-38 weeks” depending on how things progress. After a long ER visit on Tuesday night (my blood pressure was through the roof 153/106!) followed by a 24 hour migraine (surely a result of the stress) we suspect that induction “between 37-38 weeks” is probably reality. Currently praying that I don’t develop true preeclampsia symptoms and can more safely attribute my symptoms to anxiety and stress.

We did finally decide on a doula and I’m feeling a little less anxious about what my actual labor and delivery process will look like considering induction. The fact that Fern’s birth could be as little as 5 weeks away is SUPER exciting and wonderful! Daniel and I were just talking yesterday about how we’ve both had that same calendar realization – Fern is coming NEXT MONTH. He’ll likely start paternity leave around Labor Day to be able to be home with us the last week or two then be off 4 weeks after. Your continued prayers and support are so appreciated.

 

Much Love and Gratitude,

M

Update: Fern (22 Weeks)

Goodness… I really can’t believe the last update I made was over 6 weeks ago. The sheer fact that our sweet Fern has grown from the size of a navel orange to the size of a spaghetti squash blows my mind. We so appreciate your continued prayers on this journey and please know that an absence of update most certainly means the best. Here’s a quick run down of our appointments and new info from the past 6 weeks.

19 Weeks (3 Weeks Ago) We had a trifecta of appointments, a typical anatomy scan, a Fetal Cardio Echogram (a detailed look at baby’s heart via sonogram, performed by a pediatric cardiologist) and a clinic visit with my Doctor.

The anatomy scan (without considering any previous scans) was completely and totally normal. The radiologist we saw that day went so far as to say, “If you had come in today for your first scan, we wouldn’t have even mentioned any abnormality to you – everything is within the range of normal!”

Our echogram revealed nothing major, however, the pediatric cardiologist did identify a “very minor muscular ventricular septal defect (VSD)” which is a very common abnormality and could feasibly have caused the cystic hygroma. The way she explained it, while Fern’s heart was forming around 11 or 12 weeks, the left and right atriums were sort-of fusing together. During this process, if you can imagine, the muscular wall between the atrium would look like swiss cheese in the early stages of fusion then slowly the holes would close leaving 2 separate sides of the heart, each with 2 chambers. In Fern’s case, there is a very small hole allowing blood to flow between the 2 atrium. The most likely scenario is that this type of small hole with eventually close up on it’s own, ideally before birth. If there are signs that it hasn’t closed (we would hear a murmur post birth) we will follow with another echogram and possibly a course of treatment to help support Fern’s body while it closes. Surgery would be HIGHLY unlikely in a case like this.

Our clinic visit was uneventful, as they usually are. I’ve had slightly elevated blood pressure (likely just caused by the stress of constant visits and tests) and an increased number of headaches (very easily attributed to the same stress and/or the CRAZY allergies I’ve experienced during the PNW Spring) which can technically be signs of preeclampsia so we’re watching that closely but won’t be more concerned with the likelihood of that for another couple of weeks.

A few weeks we’ve been able to skip, but for the most part I’ve alternated clinic visits and sonograms weekly. Next steps are really just to keep a close eye on everything. We’ll likely continue with clinic visits every 2 weeks and formal sonograms as my doctor feels the need to order them. She is able to do bedside sonograms at every clinic visit which is a wonderful reassurance under these circumstances. That being said, I’m feeling lots of movement now (at 22+2 Weeks) which is comforting and dare I say some of my energy is coming back? At around 32 weeks we’ll transition to weekly clinic visits and NSTs then around 36 NSTs 2x a week or possibly more frequently. Considering the severity of the initial cystic hygroma, I am statistically at a higher risk for still birth and other (obviously super scary) late term complication so we’ll likely follow my doctor’s recommendation of induction at 39 weeks, possibly a membrane sweep at 38. The CVS test that I had done at 11 weeks also caused a small amount of bleeding on my uterus and although it’s almost completely healed it still puts me at higher risk of pre term labor so we’ll obviously we watching for signs of that too!

Obviously VERY early on we were advised completely against any travel outside the Portland Metro area which definitely put a small dent in some of our late summer plans (We’re super bummed to miss some dear friends’ wedding in San Fran in September). However, my doctor did slightly relax those restrictions to “within ambulance ride” so we’re looking at the possibility of a weekend trip to Bend to celebrate my 30th birthday early in July!

Feeling like the best thing in the world to be able to focus on how big my bump is getting, what I’m craving and enjoying every little kick. Every little movement feels like such an amazing gift. I can’t begin to explain how much your continued thoughts and prayers mean to me (and to us!). Each time I pick up a text or voicemail from someone checking-in, I’m overwhelmed by the reminder of the number of people who are praying for our sweet Fern (and our family).

Much love and gratitude,

M

 

 

 

 

Update: Fern (15 Weeks)

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For the past month, our weekly appointments meant holding our breath until the sonographer announced that Fern had a heartbeat but only letting that relief sink in skin-deep, knowing that the doctor would also have to address any changes positive/negative. A few weeks in, after hearing that the fluid around Fern’s belly had disappeared was about the same time we decided to share the news of our sweet new addition.

Yesterday we had another our weekly appointment (15 Weeks). A combination of lack of childcare and wanting to include our kids in the process of getting to bond with new baby sister landed us in the same waiting room as a family. Still anxious, we waited quietly for the sonographer to find a heartbeat. Olivia was mesmerized by the sound – We all were, but seeing her face was priceless. Another clear view of her heart and anatomy and significantly smaller cystic hygroma measurement. One of our doctors came in after reviewing the images a wanted to take a second look for herself. She felt confident enough to say, “If you had come in today for your first dating scan, we would NOT have mentioned anything to you about the hygroma – or anything abnormal!.” My heart stopped. Baffled and confused, overwhelmed… again, we kind of sat in shock. The same way I remember feeling at our first sonogram, like the world stood still and my brain and heart didn’t know exactly how to process. Have you ever felt an overwhelming sense of God’s presence? Sometimes for me it’s chills or overwhelming happiness – the kind that forces you to smile… but this was different, like a really big warm hug. The kind that holds you really tight and you don’t want to end. The kind we should embrace our spouses, kids, friends and families with. Love is amazing. In this season, I’ve experienced the most amazing outpouring of love for our family. All of your sweet words, gifts, (um… delicious food!), prayers and support  have been so incredible. We feel it. I have never felt so surrounded by love and I want to thank you ALL from the bottom of my heart – it means the world to us.

Of course we’re still praying for complete resolution and for a clear genetic panel results (micro array) to come back in the next few weeks. We will likely stay in the Fetal therapy clinic for several weeks to come, possibly throughout pregnancy, and will probably still do more testing around 20 weeks on Fern’s heart for peace of mind. But for NOW, our exam showed only one thing, a perfectly healthy sweet baby girl, sitting “criss-cross applesauce” with long bony fingers (Olivia is convinced she waved at her!) and an adorable Pittman nose.

Fern

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Because there is not a great place to start this story and since we’re quite honestly still very raw, I’m going to attempt to share mostly just what the facts are today and ask for support and prayer as we embark on this journey. I should add a disclaimer or trigger warning but after turning to a number of friends and community I am realizing how much more common these types of scenarios are and how much I don’t want to contribute to the masses of people who feel like they can’t or aren’t allowed to talk about it. Here’s our story:

Wednesday March 9th, at 11 weeks pregnant (adjusted 11 weeks + 2 days) Dan and I went in to get a sonogram at OHSU (Oregon Health and Sciences University). We’d told very few people that I was pregnant, only a few close friends and had just really begun to share the news with our families. Thrilled to be finally getting the first look at our sweet babe (we’d known I was pregnant since around 5 weeks but didn’t have an ultrasound scheduled until 11 weeks, which seemed like an eternity already.) With two healthy happy babes at home, and no other signals that anything unusual was happening with the pregnancy, we were completely caught off guard when the sonogram tech (after seeing a strong heartbeat – 162 beats per min! and seeing our sweet baby wiggle and wave) practically tossed one blurry sonogram photo at me and nearly ran out of the room. When she returned with not one, but TWO doctors, one of whom we learned was a genetic specialist we knew there was something seriously wrong. Dan could maybe give a more accurate account of what was said here – I truly heard the most horrifying silence – I could tell everyone was speaking, and even felt myself respond and ask questions, but all I can remember is silence – we were quickly ushered to the genetic counselor’s office where we learned that our baby had a cystic hygroma (fluid surrounding parts of the baby) resulting in some concerning NT measurements (Nuchal Translucency – 4.7mm, normal is under 2mm). We learned that although most of the cystic hygroma is near the baby’s spine/back there is a very small amount surrounding the baby’s belly. We immediately agreed to a CVS (a test that involves scraping the placenta for a small sample of tissue that can be cultured/grown to determine if baby has one of the major chromosome abnormalities, e.g. downs, turners. The perinatologist who performed this procedure was clear about her feelings that this baby would have a less than 5% chance of survival considering the ultrasound results and urged us to consider termination. We left the hospital heartbroken and confused – we were asked to consider our options and sent home to wait for the CVS results.

Friday March 10th, our CVS results came back clear, they were able to see that chromosomes 13, 18, and 21 were all normal and only 2 XX chromosomes…. Yep, a girl! – good news but unfortunately only an answer to what is NOT likely the cause. We officially transferred my care from the Midwife group to Fetal Therapy and met with our perinatologist, who specializes in genetic abnormalities. Considering the results of the CVS, her outlook was slightly more positive, although she still believes we fall into a 20% positive outcome likelihood. Past this, things are hard to put in writing, because the truth is, these are all the facts we know at this point.

A sweet and happy note, weeks ago, when we’d first told Olivia and Townes that we were going to have a new baby in our family, Olivia was insistent that we add the name Fern to our list of considerations. Moments after hearing that it was a girl, Dan and I both knew exactly WHO she was. We agreed that the kids (mostly Olivia) should be included and allowed to grieve and process with us… She knows that there many different outcomes and that Fern may get to be an angel before we ever get to meet or hold her.

Next steps will be a microarray panel (?) where they will test each of the other chromosomes – the CVS only looked at 13, 18, 21 and XX – and determine the likelihood of any of the more rare chromosome abnormalities. Unfortunately, if this test comes back clear and the cystic hygroma gets worse or starts to cover more parts of the body (or develops into fetal hydrous, basically an extreme case of cystic hygroma) we will still be a bit in the dark.  The most likely other cause of cystic hygroma, outside of genetic conditions, would be a congenital heart defect. Ranging from something that would prevent the baby from surviving  the next days/weeks/months… to something that could resolve itself during pregnancy… to something that could possible require surgery after birth. There are fortunately an overwhelming number of miracle stories where babies with these types of cystic hygroma / NT #s seen at around 11/12 weeks that miraculously resolve.

From here on out, we will have weekly sonograms to check baby’s heart rate and monitor any other changes or development. At around 17/18 weeks when we would typically have an anatomy scan, when we will be able to look at her heart more closely, we will have more of an idea of what type of defect is causing the hygroma. At 20 weeks we’ll have a fetal echogram and meet with a team of doctors including a pediatric cardiologist who will help us determine next steps.

Our prayers are big. We believe that God made my body to sustain and grow new life and we have faith that these problems are not too big to be fixed. We’re choosing to believe that our sweet Fern will thrive and we’ll get to hold her in our arms come September and get to raise her and see her grow into a happy and healthy little girl then into adulthood. I’ve already felt so much amazing support and love from our friends and family and we would appreciate your continued prayers, positive thoughts and support as we embark on this journey.

 

UPDATE:

 

March 24th, 2016: At our weekly sonogram, we got wonderful news that the fluid surrounding Fern’s belly has actually disappeared! An encouraging sign that her tiny body is working to resolve whatever abnormalities are causing the fluid build up. We were also able to get an almost complete anatomy scan at 13 weeks pregnant which was wonderful! Fern’s heartbeat is strong and we were able to look at 4 chambers of her heart, her kidneys, brain and vital anatomy. We were encouraged to hear our doctor say that if there was something major with her anatomy, it is most likely that we would have been able to identify it today. The cystic hygroma is still present but is limited to the area behind her neck and is still concerning. We are waiting on a Micro Array Panel that will hopefully rule out any other genetic abnormalities. We’ll continue to be seen weekly and will remain on course with the plan for a fetal echogram and complete anatomy scan between 16/18 weeks. Thank you for your continued prayers!