as always, sticking together

Almost fourteen years ago, I managed to capture an amazing shot of the men in my life and what proved to be one of my most favorite photos of them.

A photo of the hand of our son, Daniel Quinn, scarcely 30 weeks adjusted age and just 2 pounds and the newest member of the Kilo Club, as he tried to grasp the index finger of his father’s hand.

One year later, as we celebrated Daniel’s first birthday and the finalization of our adoption, it served to remind us just how small he really was and how far he had come then.

A year after that, it would receive a special photo journalism award in a local photography show as it astounded the judges with one who truly was Fearfully and Wonderfully Made…it also irritated a local photo journalist that an amateur photographer would receive such an award…over her entry.

Today that photo is properly framed and hanging amongst so many other treasured photographs of our circus act here under The Big Top.

But today, inspired by the works of Red Methot’s Les Prèmas, I tortured my men with a photo shoot…as a mamarazzi will do.

Fourteen years later we prepare to celebrate tomorrow, as we do every year, because every birthday of a 1 pound baby boy born 4 months too soon is something one must always celebrate. We celebrate our preemie, Notre Préma, as parents should. Tomorrow this most extraordinary and most favorite son shall be FOURTEEN YEARS OLD which absolutely deserves all the shouty caps and everything else that we could possibly offer him. Oh, and I should add that we couldn’t possibly be more proud and happy that we get to call him our most favorite son…as we do every day. On the cusp of completing his fourteenth year, he is suddenly aware of the fact that he is our only son…but yes, absolutely, our most favorite son…something that we all celebrate here under The Big Top.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Robert Fulghum

not tired yet

Yesterday was World Prematurity Day and as expected, I shared one of my most favorite pictures of one of my most favorite preemies.

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When he was just one pound, we would nest him using two beanie babies, two lions…and yes, I would call this Daniel in the lions den because…c’mon!

But yes, in recognition of World Prematurity Day and the mightiest, strongest humans I know, I share a picture of the strongest and mightiest one in my heart. The one who calls me Mom.

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He and his lions have come so far, so very far, nearly fourteen years later.

There may come a day where he finds posing with his beanie babies that once covered his tiny, one pound body to be tiresome.

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Today is not that day.

NaPhoPoMo

suddenly I see

Lately I hear it more and more…

My goodness, he’s grown so much!

I nod in agreement…sort of, kind of. Fine, I’m just being polite in that I-know-you’re-just-trying-to-be-encouraging way as I have for most of his life because sometimes it’s just not worth the effort to counter. If I did then I would have to explain and educate and…sometimes it’s just not worth the effort. So I nod like I am agreeing.

But lately I am hearing it more and more and more.

He’s grown!

Jodie pointed that out when Daniel and I visited her last month and it surprised me. I mean she had only been away from home for two months. But she insisted.

He’s gotten so BIG!!

Hmmm…

And then suddenly, this weekend I saw it. I saw it in pictures of us standing side by side.

He is growing!!!

NaPhoPoMo

the people that you meet each day

As a NICU nurse, nothing gives me more joy than seeing “my babies” grow and thrive and grow up outside of the NICU. Actually that is kind of a universal joy felt by all NICU nurses, respiratory therapists, unit coordinators and neonatologists. Moments like this:

OMG! I’m crying again. Seriously.

After over 25 years and more patients than I can keep count, I can tell you there are the ones I will never, ever forget…ever. And some I have remained close to through the years because sometimes you do become much more than just the nurse and patient and patient’s family. Hurray for Facebook (after my tiny human patients are officially discharged) for that. Truly.

Then there are the moments when you are in your neighborhood at the mall, the movie theater, the local farmers’ market, the grocery store, or even while at play at a Pumpkin Fair Carnival and you find that you are being stared at…literally. I check to make sure nothing is amiss…spinach stuck in my teeth, a bra strap showing, or worse…and then I smile, perhaps a little awkwardly because what if they are not smiling at me? What if they are smiling at the old man behind me; or perhaps the kid flying down the Giant Slide ride before my kid.

Excuse me, is your name Laura?

She looks familiar to me, but Im not sure why or from where. But she has a stroller with a sleeping toddler so maybe…

I nod my head yes and confess that she looks very familiar but I’m not sure where we have met.

You were my baby’s nurse.

Oh! That’s where I met you, lovely lady with the most striking, velvet dark eyes. I peek at her sleeping little one and honestly I don’t remember him at all. Then again, he was oh so much smaller as mom catches me up on life this first year after leaving the NICU.  It’s clear that it hasn’t always been easy.

I recall a late night conversation in the NICU where I promised her that it wouldn’t always be easy after the NICU…speaking as a NICU mom myself.

I nod my head, understanding. Understanding much too well.

It’s then that my son comes running up to me breathless after flying down the giant slide ride for the umpteenth time. I introduce her to my very excited and eager to take on the next carnival ride, thirteen year old son.

Wait! He was a 24 weaker too! Right?

She reaches out to shake his hand. Daniel, graciously, yet shyly, shakes her hand as he flashes his brace-faced, dimpled smile  before he heads back up to the giant slide ride because he tells us that it is actually that amazing.

Thank you, son!

I peek one more time at her sleeping toddler and I hug her good-bye as I quietly tell her:

It’s hard work but you are doing great mama! 

We both wipe away tears as we say goodbye until we meet again here in our neighborhood.

superlatives

It’s the last day of school, people! #6thgradelife achieved and completed.

Naturally, one celebrates with a toga party because what could possibly be more fun than a toga party…and games…and yearbooks signed by your classmates, teachers, principal, yard duty, janitor, cafeteria workers and anyone else on campus you can think of.

Looking through Daniel’s yearbook, I couldn’t help but notice the graduating 8th graders’ pages. Two more years, people. This is happening in two more years! We need to prepare for this. Then I turn the page and come upon the class favorites…superlatives that the classmates bestowed upon their favorite classmates…the ones who are most athletic, friendliest, smartest, funniest, most outgoing, with the best hair, the nicest eyes,…and let’s not forget the shortest.

Yes, recognize the shortest girl and boy in your class.

Daniel looked at it and muttered, Well that will be me, I guess…because, yes, he is the shortest kid in his class. The. Shortest.

Obviously!

His friend on the left is average height amongst their classmates and he, like most of Daniel’s classmates, is a year younger than Daniel. This is our son’s life and his reality because his pituitary gland doesn’t function like pretty much every other child’s does at his school. He has to deal with daily injections to try and stimulate his body to grow with the hopes that he just might reach his minimum projected height as a man before full-blown puberty sets in; not to mention the quarterly all-day visits to Valley Children’s in Madera and the x-rays, blood tests and MRI procedures. All this to help this kid to grow and, god willing, catch up to the normal kids growing normally on the growth curve.

Looking back at the class favorites page, I’m just not sure how I should feel about this kind of superlative.

The shortest?

Really?

True, he likely would never be considered for most athletic or most outgoing or having the best hair because…omg, look at his hair! Still there is so much more to him than his obvious lack of stature. His kindness. His wicked sense of humor that models his Dad’s. He has the most beautiful, green eyes I have ever seen…next to his Dad’s. He is someone all his teachers, faculty, classmates and support staff  say exemplifies the six pillars of Character Counts (citizenship, responsibility, caring, trustworthiness, respect and fairness) that, ironically, certain members of the school board recently have failed to reflectahem.

But he remains, and likely will remain, the smallest in his class. And I’m just not too sure how to feel about such a superlative being bestowed upon my child. I put that feeling out there on Facebook and, sadly, that feeling was lost…because he is kind, he is special, everyone else struggled being short or tall (everyone commenting being female), it’s part of life (the bullying…?)…All true. All well-meaning. All just not understanding.

Scroll back up to that picture and look at Daniel standing next to one of his peers.

I’ll wait.

Now let us all think of all the short statured men in our lives, men standing tall at 5’5″ or less. Let’s think about these men. Think about what they do for a living. Think about their successes and failures. Think about how WE regard them.

Short man’s syndrome

Napolean Complex

Sure you have your Daniel Radcliffe, Bruno Mars, Dustin Hoffman, Ryan Seacrest, Prince, Kevin Hart, Seth Greene, Danny DeVito, Michael J. Fox…I’m sensing a pattern here…there are also your Robert B. Reich, Yasser Arafat, Voltaire, Beethoven, Picasso, Houdini, President James, Madison, Gandhi, Lenin and, of course, Napoleon Bonaparte.

But the reality is it is so much harder for a small statured man to be successful and respected than his taller peers. Yes, short women have it hard too but think of a 5’2″ woman you know and a 5’2″ man you might know. We do view them in a much different light. It’s the short man’s curse, if you will. That curse has probably never been more pervasive than it is in today’s appearance-is-everything society. The short man must not only conquer the usual challenges that guard success but also withstand ridicule and even prejudice. Studies have revealed that short men are less likely to be hired, promoted, or paid as well as their taller colleagues, and are less prized by women.

Yes, it’s hard out there for a short girl and a tall girl and a tall man but then again…I don’t know…Like I said, I’m not sure how I might feel seeing my son, my teen-aged son fast becoming a man, being recognized first for his size because our sizes, our shapes, our physical appearance should not matter. Middle school is rough. We all deal with a certain degree of teasing, and worse, bullying because of our physical differences; and yes, we survive…well, most survive. Still, living with it right here, right now with my child, I just don’t know. Before Daniel, I likely would not have seen what the big deal is. I would likely roll my eyes, shake my head, sigh and offer the same feel good encouraging words not understanding at all because my girls all were and remain average, NORMAL height. But living in our own Holland here it is a big deal…

no pun intended…

For the record, for the curious, my 13 year old son is now 4 feet 5 1/2 inches tall.

Grow Daniel, grow!