Thursday, December 27, 2012

More Than Just a Fashion Show

As my loyal readers can imagine, Christmas included some time in the NICU.


First order of business was getting Levi in some Christmas duds.  VFN's Editor-in-Chief selected the above Christmas monkey shirt, but it was kind of unexciting because Levi had already worn it before.


Levi's favorite nurse found some donated Christmas clothes and snagged a couple of other outfits for Levi.  This was the under layer.

Note to readers: We're not sure if the hat in the above picture was meant to be a beret or a chef's hat, but it matched the outfit, so we felt like we had to use it.  :)


A fleece Christmas sleeper went on top.  It was big enough that Levi will probably be able to wear it next Christmas...


But, the clothes were hardly the most exciting part about Christmas in the NICU.

It was also the first day Levi got to eat out of a bottle.


Preterm babies start bottle feeding on their sides so that the milk can pool in their cheeks instead of choking them if they forget to suck, swallow, and breathe at the same time.

Levi drank two whole milliters.  Which was about one twenty-fifth of his feeding.  So, not really a whole lot, but we'll take it.  He took the rest of his feeding through the tube in his nose.

We'll start feeding Levi with a bottle about every six hours.  In between he will still have his gavage feeds through his tube.

But, eating from a bottle wasn't even the most exciting thing that happened on Christmas...


Kaitlyn got to see her baby brother.

It was through a window, but she definitely recognized Mommy and that Mommy was holding a baby. We're pretty sure she has no idea that Levi is coming home with us someday, but at least she knows he exists.

Life will never be the same, Kaitlyn.  Life will never be the same.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Notice Anything Different?

Notice Anything Different?

The high flow nasal cannula (aka the tube that goes into his nose) is gone.

Levi is breathing on his own.

No More Machine!

Here is the high flow breathing machine.  Sitting.  Powered off.  Because he doesn't need it any more.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fashion Show

First Outfit

This is a picture of Levi’s first outfit.  As in, the first time he wore anything other than a diaper.  The outfit is among the many that belong to the NICU and was chosen for Levi by his nurse.

(Note to readers: Do not be alarmed by the disturbing bag under Levi's left eye.  The Tegaderm was pulling on the skin a little bit, but it did no permanent damage.  Thank you.)

 Tiny Fist

This is a close-up of Levi’s tiny fist while wearing his first outfit.

(Note to readers: Please forgive the quality of the picture.  I did not have my macro lens.  Thank you.)

Levi and Santa

This is Levi’s first outfit purchased by VFN’s editor-in-chief aka Mommy.  It also happens to be Levi’s first special occasion outfit (what’s more special than a visit from Santa?).

Levi's Fancy Shoes

It even had little shoes.

Daddy Loves Me 

This is Levi’s first outfit purchased by Mommy that wasn’t a special occasion outfit.

It says, “Daddy loves me.”  And guess what?  He does.

Bananas Over Mommy

This is the first pair of jammies purchased by Mommy.

It says, “Bananas over Mommy.”  Guess what?  He is.

All Swaddled Up

Mommy took great pleasure in dressing Levi up.  Even though most of the clothes are not visible under the swaddle...


This fashion show is brought to you by the fact that Levi is no longer in an isolette.

Open Crib

He is in an open crib.   One step closer to home.

Final note to readers: Anyone who thinks the amount of picture-taking is ridiculous might want to think back to Kaitlyn’s early days.  It’s only going to get more ridiculous.

Friday, December 14, 2012


When Levi was born, he had some markers that suggested a genetic disorder.  A blood sample was sent to Seattle for testing to indicate if Levi had any missing or extra chromosomes.

We waited a week for the results.  A week is a long time when it’s between you and knowing what life holds in store for your baby.

The results came back normal.

Another blood sample was sent even farther away for a Micro-array-based comparative genomic hybridization.  This test zoomed in on Levi’s chromosomes and look for the duplications or deletion of pieces.

The wait for the CGH array was supposed to be six to eight weeks, but we didn’t have to wait that long.

The results came back normal.

And although we would have welcomed Levi into our family regardless of the results, we breathed a sigh of relief.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Day in the Life of This NICU Mom

Wake up.

Open my laptop to check the Interwebs.

Get mad that the Internet is not working.

Get mad at myself for getting mad about the Internet not working.

Vow to go on an Internet fast.  Someday.

Eat the breakfast that I bought the night before in the hospital cafeteria.

Get crumbs in bed.

Laugh at how annoyed Steve would get if I was getting crumbs in bed at home.

Miss Steve.

Get dressed.  Remember to put on my all-access NICU parent pass.

Walk to the hospital.

Wash my hands.

Talk to Levi's nurse.

Hold Levi for a couple of hours.

Change Levi's diaper.

Wash my hands

Buy lunch in the hospital cafeteria.

Walk back from the hospital.

Eat lunch in bed.

Get crumbs in bed.

Miss Steve.

Play on the Interwebs/read for my graduate classes/take a nap/sometimes do more than one of those things at the same time.

Walk to the hospital.

Wash my hands.

Change Levi's diaper.

Wash my hands.

Hold Levi for a few hours.

Wash my hands.

Buy dinner in the hospital cafeteria.

Walk back from the hospital.

Eat dinner in bed.

Get crumbs in bed.

Miss Steve.

Call Grandma and Grandpa Busch and Grandma and Grandpa Alston and give them the Levi Report.

Walk to the hospital.

Wash my hands.

Change Levi's diaper.

Wash my hands.

Hold Levi for a couple of hours.

Wash my hands.

Walk back from the hospital.

Call Steve and get the Kaitlyn Report.

Say prayer with Steve before saying goodnight.

Miss Steve.

Try to practice good sleep hygiene by not getting on the Internet so close to bedtime.


Play on the Internet.

Go to sleep and do it all again.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Daddy Meets Levi

Steve wasn't able to be in Anchorage when Levi was born (somebody has to have a job to support the VFN household...), but he made it to Anchorage a few weeks later.

Karin's Sign

Levi and one of his favorite nurses were particularly excited about it.

Daddy Looking Down

The first thing Steve said was, "That's a small baby."

Levi Meets Daddy

There was holding.


Snuggling.  (I love how Steve's thumb is as big as Levi's arm.)

Almost a Complete Family Picture

Family picturing.  (Little kiddos aren't allowed in the NICU, so Kaitlyn has yet to meet her brother.)

Levi Holding Daddy's Finger


Holding Mommy and Daddy's Fingers

And this precious moment where Levi got to hold on to both of his parents at the same time.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Introducing Levi Benjamin

Another life-changing opportunity has come our way.  This one is in the form of a tiny little boy born November 18th.

Steve and I are adopting another baby.  His name is Levi Benjamin Alston.

Levi wasn't supposed to arrive until February 4th, but the doctors said he might come early.  His birthmother flew down to Anchorage to be close to the hospital just in case.

On November 12th it looked like Levi was on his way, so I impulsively bought the next ticket out of Brevig Mission.  Longtime readers may remember that I missed Kaitlyn's birth by five hours.  That was not going to happen again.

After six days of waiting Levi was born.

Because he was eleven weeks early, he was whisked directly into the NICU.  I got to see him long enough to verify that he was, in fact, male before he disappeared through a window.

It was three hours before I got to see him again.  Three hours of frantic prayer.  Three hours of being told that he wasn't yet stable enough for us to see him.  Three hours of wondering what that meant and if it was normal.

Levi Benjamin Alston

Finally, the charge nurse brought us into the NICU.  He was tiny.  He was fragile.  He was beautiful.


By the next day, he was off of the respirator and on a bubble C-PAP.  Basically, that means he was breathing better.

It also means I got to hold him.


He only cried a little bit.  :)

Tiny Baby

Most of the time he was calm.


We even got to see him with his eyes open!


I am in love again.

More about Levi coming soon.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Adventures in First Grade Reading

I teach a reading class every morning from 9:00-10:30.  When I first accepted my position, my father-in-law asked me how I was going to know how to teach how to read.  I said, "They'll already read when they come to me.  I'll just work on inferencing and comprehension and stuff like that.  I don't know how to teach kids how to read!"

Then I got the assignment: first grade.  I am, in fact, teaching kids how to read. 

Thanks to a scripted reading program and some helpful colleagues, we're doing all right.  I thought I'd offer readers a little glimpse into my mornings...

Angie Board

The Angie Board.  This is the only thing that bears resemblance to my previous classroom.  There are a lot more baby pictures now than they're were before...

Story Star

We focus a lot on parts of a story.  We also have very simple goals that we work on for a couple weeks at a time.  It turns out that "Active Listening" was too complex of a concept.  Now we are working on "Sitting Still."


We have little name stars (I blurred the names out).  And black paper that blocks any action happening outside the classroom.  (Our classroom is a little conference room in the office that used to host the video conferencing equipment.)


This is the first time I've ever had an alphabet up in my classroom...

Writing Strategies Bank

We work on alternatives to raising our hands and asking the teacher how to spell something.

Wow Writing

Some of the writing makes it to the Wow Writing Wall.  (I'll have to scan some of the writing some time.  It's adorable.)  My first grade teacher saved all of my writing in a three ring binder and gave it to me at the end of the year.  My parents still have it.  I'm doing the same thing for my students.  Each one has a file folder full of writing.

Reading Class 1

But, this is the best part about teaching first grade reading.

Reading Class 2

These adorable little faces and smiles.

Reading Class 4

They also hug me every day.  They even hug me when they see me outside of school.

I love it.

Reading Class 5

They're young enough to be silly, yet old enough to hold a good conversation.

Reading Class 3

And they are teaching me lots.  For example:

-Letting first graders pick which stickers they want is not a good idea.  It will take FOREVER.

-If you let one first grader have a turn at something, you have to let all the first graders have a turn at something.

-It is very important how long your pencil is.

-First graders will remember exactly what you said when you don't want them to remember it at all.

-It didn't really happen if you didn't share it with the class.

-Sometimes you just need some time to cry.

-Being uninvited from someone's birthday party is serious business.

-Being forbidden from trick-or-treating at someone's house is even more serious business.

I think I still have a lot to learn.  I'll keep all VFN readers posted.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mommy Blog: Successfully Making It Through the First Year

Factors that have contributed to my not blogging include:

-excruciatingly slow internet
-a camera that is misbehaving and the inability to fund a new one (for some reason, Steve doesn't thing that "camera" needs to be one of our major budget categories...)
-the cosmically unfair fact that our version of photoshop is incompatible with my new laptop
-my laziness preoccupation with other things

But, I'm back.  You're welcome.

Countless things have happened in the last year, but one is particularly noteworthy: my baby turned one.  Lucky for me/Kaitlyn/all of my readers, my amazing sister-in-law was able to document Kaitlyn as a newly minted one year-old.

Note to readers: These pictures were not taken in Brevig Mission.  They were taken during a visit to the Lower 48 that Kaitlyn and I made in March.  If they had been taken in Brevig Mission, they would have consisted of Kaitlyn in a snowsuit, coat, boots, gloves, and beaver hat with only her little eyes poking out.

Kaitlyn Walking in the "Woods"

She walks now.  Both a blessing and a curse.

Kaitlyn Swing

Kaitlyn got to enjoy a swing for the first time.

Kaitlyn Laughing Swing

Something tells me she liked it.

Note to readers: My mom loves this picture.  It's on the fridge at my parents' house.

Kaitlyn Swing Portrait

For those of you artsy types, I'm including this portrait.  Isn't it beautiful?

Kaitlyn reaching for the cake

My favorite pictures were the ones of the Cake Smash.

I spent days on etsy looking for the perfect tutu.  Please try not to judge me.
I spent days on pinterest looking for the perfect cake.  Again, please try not to judge me.

Ultimate Cake Smash Kaitlyn

It was all worth it.