Play School Pre-School


It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog here…my grand plans of uploading monthly pictures of Frank has fallen flat, but not for lack of taking (they exist). I find opening my laptop a recurring challenge, with little hands and many needs, but am usually able to share lots of photos through Facebook and Instagram.

Life with these two boys is both full and fulfilling. It is such a privilege to be their mommy.

Many of you know we plan to homeschool our little family (which makes me eager and excited just thinking about). For now, we find that the most everything we learn is learned through play: through songs and rhymes, crayons and chalk, mud and grass (lots, and lots of mud). Wally is constantly being acquainted with the world around him: the intricacies of making cookies, and the cool warmth of wind. Frank is being (eagerly) pulled along by his big brother, and seems to delight in every moment Wally hugs, kisses, nearly smothers, and plays with him. I had no idea a brotherly bond could form so young, and I couldn’t be more in awe of this marvelous existence.

Of course, there are, too, the challenges…the tears and the tantrums, defiance and demands…Even, still, both these boys are so filled with joy they consistently remind me to smile every morning (even before my coffee!)

We’ve all been doing well, though missing Daddy, who is gone many weeks at a time these days as he prepares for a 8-9 month Deployment beginning this summer. It’s hard having him away, and are already eager to have him home (even though he hasn’t left yet!)

Frank has reached almost 13 lbs and loves to eat and smile at Wally…he scoots for toys, and rolls over. Four months looks good on him, but I can’t believe time has gone so fast!

Wally’s most recent cardiologist appointment went very well, and his T-Rex (a new fixture of everyday life for him) got to have an EKG and Echo, too! The way everything is looking now, we hope he won’t need another surgery for about 8 years, when he’ll need a conduit and pulmonary valve replacement. That can all change very suddenly, so we will continue 6 month follow ups, but, we are definitely pleased!

Some of our biggest news is that we are planning to transition out of the Active Duty Marine Corps into Reserves. After Dan’s deployment, we hope to move “back” to the Grand Rapids area or wherever a job may lead us. We’re currently exploring many different options, and are always looking for more opportunities. We are certainly eager for what the future (and more time together as a family) holds!

Enjoy some photos of life lately and we’d ask that you keep us in your prayers for a smooth Deployment. It’s very hard on Wally having Dan gone, and hard on Dan to be away!

Sending our love as always,
Frances, Dan, Wally, and Frank

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The Klimas Family at Play


Frank was such a sleepy, dreamy, newborn….and now he’s already an ever growing, starry-eyed one month old. Here’s a look at some of those early beautiful moments captured by our friends at First&Orange Photography.

(If you’re looking for photographers in the SD area, hit them up! They are the incredibly fun, patient, and clearly, talented. Thank you, Alexander and Hanna.)

We are so in love…

 

 

…and a bit tired, and sometimes a bit loud.  But these moments show us looking and feeling our best — which really is how we feel on the inside — even on the lazy Monday mornings, mac-n-cheese on the floor, sleepless nights kind of days 🙂

 

 

Walter has really stepped up into his role as big brother. He’s been enjoying helping (when he wants to), and has even offered up his “Elmo”  and toy cars in attempts to make Franky feel better (though notably not “Buzz”). It’s been exciting to watch both these boys grow in the past month…and despite our fears of not being able to love another child as much as Wally, our hearts have simply grown, too.  It’s funny how that works.

 

Wally is great at smiling on cue (though not sitting still for pictures), and loves telling people “cheeeeeeseeeeee” to take their picture. Sometimes his smiles look like this:

And sometimes he scrunches up his nose and they look like this:

But, his favorite thing (playing) always looks like this:

 

Also wanted to share some dreamy photos around the house, the way we only get to see it in the morning and night – with every toy in it’s place, no less! For posterity.

 

 

Brothers


This business of meeting little souls, and growing little humans never grows old.

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Life has flown by these two short weeks as a family of four. We were lucky to have Dan home for some time on paternity leave, and I am now on my own wrangling our two fun, silly, and lovable little boys.

Walter: fully enjoying the role of big brother. He helps with taking out diapers, gives Frank plenty of hugs and kisses, brings baby his blanket, and continues to enjoy the “vroom vroom” of cars, the friendship of “Woody” and “Buzz”, and has an energy and zest for life unlike any I’ve known. His talking is improving on the daily, and has been repeating most of what he hears. Life with Wally is never boring, and often challenging, but we cherish every minute of it.

Franklin: eats, sleeps, and feeds…..

….but truly, Franky is an incredible sweet and cuddly baby boy. We find ourselves mesmerized by his every glance and movement.  For his age (and early at that), he seems to have already a budding fondness for exploration. His bright eyes almost endlessly look around, and he can already squirm a good bit of distance when on his tummy. Seeing as he’s been eager to be mobile from day one, I’m thinking we’re due for another active little boy.

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Life, despite its challenges, has been incredibly comfortable. How quickly we’ve adjusted to the new addition in our life, and how quickly we couldn’t imagine life without him. We have felt very at ease in this role as second-time parents (though it is, of course, not always easy), and despite a little sleepiness, life has progressed as it may with few bumps. To say I am absolutely infatuated with this splendid family of mine would be an understatement.

Having Frank has been a particularly special experience for me on any number of levels. There is something magical about watching your husband become a father (again), and see your little boy grow into the role of big brother. As I’m an only child, and one who had always wanted a sibling, Walter has the experience of a sibling in the form of Frank that I never had. It is all new to me, and I hope I can help them both learn to cherish this relationship as much as I do already. When faced with the uncertainty of infertility, we didn’t know if having more children would be a reality for us — and let me tell you, what a beautifully welcome reality is our Frank.

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the brothers meet:

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Granny and Gramps are lots of help (and lots of fun):

Heading home (two boys asleep on a long drive is a success!)

Our first family outing was a trip to “The Strand” along the Pacific Ocean on a Stroller Warriors Run (my running club)…Walter wanted to hold Frank’s hand the whole way:

Taking advantage of a sunny (but still chilly) day at the SD Zoo amid a week of stormy weather:

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And finally, Franky boy’s first bath (yes, he loved it):

Thank you to so many for constant prayers and enveloping love. For you, we are always grateful.

Love,

Dan, Frances, Walter, and Franklin Klimas

Franklin Richard Klimas


We welcomed our precious son Franklin (Frank/Franky) Richard Klimas early this morning at 12:24 am on January 7, 2017!

At 5 lbs 13 oz and 19 inches he is doing splendidly in Mommy and Daddy’s arms, especially for a 36 weeker.

I needed to be induced early in order to ensure Frank’s safety after receiving a diagnosis of Cholestasis of pregnancy, which causes liver trouble for me, and dangerous toxicity to baby. Dan was able to make the three hour trip through traffic in time to be there for Frank’s birth, so both our boys have a great track record of always waiting for Daddy before being born! He’s a Daddy’s boy, already.

I’m happy to report that we are both doing exceptionally well with no health concerns, and are simply enjoying this special snugly time as parents.

Later today Wally will get to meet his little brother, and we’ll report back on life as a family of four.

Praise the Lord, from whom all blessings flow.

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Giving My Child Life Was the Right Choice


It’s a narrative I have addressed indirectly here, and sometimes, in careful discussion, directly with others: the close tie that congenital heart defects have with abortion; the tragic reality that a large number of babies diagnosed with CHD in-utero are “terminated for medical reasons” due to their imperfect hearts. And today, it looked me square in the eye. Following the recent political discussion (relating to the Presidential Debates), a New York Time Opinions article was trending among Pro-Lifers and Pro-Choicers alike.

You can read that piece here: Late-Term Abortion Was the Right Choice for Me

This opinion is nothing new. It is one I have encountered from the first days after receiving Walter’s diagnosis – from my Maternal Fetal Specialist, from chat rooms, and from any quick google search of Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia (the above article refers to a baby likely diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, often in the form of a single ventricle, and one we have encountered frequently in our “heart community” of friends).

These various “termination” stories are often so “powerful” because they reject the Pro-Life narrative that aborted babies are unwanted from the beginning. Though a human heart is formed between weeks 5 – 6 of pregnancy, defects are often not noticeable, or not examined until the standard 20 week anatomy scan, meaning at this time a mother is often visibly pregnant, has felt her child move, and may already have had a baby shower, or decorated the nursery. In many cases, these families name their baby, have post mortem photos taken together, and hold a memorial service. I pray for these women, because they acted out of what they thought was mercy for their child, because they trusted the medical providers who made them feel that a life with an imperfect heart (needing painful open heart surgeries and the uncertainty of transplants) is not a life worth living, because our society and culture has told them that an imperfect life is a valueless one, and because women (as well as their unborn children) have been let down by a country that will fight to not simply permit abortion, but celebrate it.

 

My position among many of my friends and some extended family is not a popular one. But legality, and right, aside, let us at least discuss this “choice” given to women in the wake of these diagnoses, and quite possibly, we may have something to agree on.

First, I’d like you to step into my shoes for a moment: twenty-two years old, newly married, and pregnant with my first child. I had also just moved to a new state, far away from family, to support my husband in his career as a Marine – a duty which keeps him away from home 50%-75% of the time.  I had started a new job with great pay, good benefits, and was part of a fast track program to high level management positions within a Fortune 500 company (a job where I would eventually use all of my sick time and vacation going to doctor’s appointments, begin my FMLA early, and later resign, unable to keep up with the demands of work, and the extensive prenatal care we needed for our son). My situation was never desperate: it was happy, beautiful, and full of life’s challenges, but given the news we would soon be given about Walter’s heart, many would not fault me for taking “mercy” on my child and ending his life prior to his birth.

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The narrative I have shared here regarding Walter’s diagnosis has always been a hopeful one: one where Dan and I had everything together and expert doctors were planning to save Walter’s life.  But, there has always been so much more to that story. The parts where the maternal fetal specialist handed me a box of tissues and said things didn’t look good – that our son may not survive birth – and if he did – would have a tragic life.  Where “termination” was brought up multiple times during the appointment, but no mentions of adoption ever discussed (all before even meeting with a fetal cardiologist who makes her life work caring for children with CHD and gave us the hope we craved). When I slept on the floor of Walter’s already painted and decorated nursery for a week, believing in my heart that Walter would never come home to enjoy it. When my strong, steady, husband’s eyes welled up and his voice shook when he said “brain and heart anomalies”. When my husband was quietly asked to leave the room so that I could sign consents acknowledging that I had been advised of (and declined) my abortive rights in the state of Virginia.

I am grateful that I have a husband (and family, and faith) who valued life of the unborn prior to ever learning about Walter. I am grateful that Dan and I discussed prior to even getting married (let alone pregnant), that regardless of what any prenatal testing showed in any child we had, we would do everything in our power to help that child live, and in the very least, be born. The cruel reality is that Walter’s heart was made to fail, and that it is only by the miracle of modern medicine that he had a chance to live beyond a few months old.

But I also know that many women do not have this support system, information, and resources. In one of their most desperate and vulnerable moments they turn to their doctors who greatly favor termination over palliative care (as there is, of course, no cure for CHD). They turn to doctors who give no information about adopting out a child with complex medical needs to a family prepared to handle them. They turn to doctors who refer them to cardiac specialists only after rejecting termination as an option. When I was handed information on ToF w/ PA, there was a simple medical description of the diagnosis describing the four part defect (five including the Pulmonary Atresia), and a notice of my abortive rights in the state of Virginia. No adoption pamphlets, no CHD support group information, no contacts of local parents raising a child with CHD who may be able to provide some answers….no hope. We were given some resources similar to these through the Children’s Hospital in DC after deciding to not terminate Walter’s life. Even then, I was not introduced to our “LA Heart Moms Group” until Walter was already in the middle of his first open heart surgery, by another “Heart Mom” who approached me in the waiting room.  It was my own research (hours upon hours of it) where I found personal stories, alternative treatments, research studies, medical journals, and so on.  These were not handed to me with the same gravity and authority as the termination notice from my doctor.

Later, after Walter’s birth, we learned of a local family who chose to terminate their child with ToF, and our hearts broke. I contacted our Navy OBGYN clinic to see if perhaps, I could provide them with contact information for our LA Heart Mom Group, so that women given a CHD diagnosis in the future could speak with women who had been in a similar situation. I also asked if the clinic worked with any adoption agencies to offer their services to women considering termination. I was given a firm “no” and “no”. This reality is true across the medical field: they are bound by strict laws and regulations prohibiting “advocating” this kind of information to their patients. After having difficulty conceiving our second child, I quickly began looking into adoption, finding that no networks existed with the purpose of putting women carrying babies with various defects (like CHD) in contact with families specifically looking to adopt children with a certain disability. Yes, adoption agencies and the foster system exist, but there is nothing as specific or as helpful as what I was looking for, and none of them are allowed to be presented by medical professions to women given these diagnoses. (Of course, a discussion of adoption, its hurdles and expenses is an entirely separate and tragic discussion on its own).

What this all leads me to ask is, “what kind of ‘choice’ is this?” What options and support are we truly providing mothers in a system where terminating a child with birth defects is the primary objective of the medical community? I can only imagine the uproar were the situation reversed. In our society’s attempt to make sure a woman’s right to abortion is protected, we have dismissed her right to fight for her child.

If the Left is earnest about their respect for a mother’s choice, if they look at a room of toddlers and see Walter’s life just as equal and valuable as the others, despite his critical life-threatening heart defect, then we can agree that medical practitioners should be legally required to provide alternative options to abortion as equal and valuable as termination. As it stands, when I look at my energetic, curious, and thriving son, I know that he grows up in a world where about half the people he meets would not find his pre-birth execution horrific, but understandable. Personally, I would at least like to know that mothers given the same choice I was had more opportunities to see and meet children like our Walter, and just maybe, see more of them thrive, laugh, and love, too.

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*I would like to disclose here that as this is my personal blog, any unfriendly or hateful comments towards either myself/other commenters will be promptly deleted. I absolutely respect your right to an opinion, but similarly respect my right to civil discourse in my own space 🙂

Two Years of Birthday Blessings


A very happy birthday to me with our miracle by my side, and our gift from God inside, I couldn’t be happier!

Walter turned two on October 1st, and today, I get to enjoy my third birthday as his mother. After he was born in 2014, he gave me the gift of getting to leave the hospital relatively healthy and unbelievably happy, in 2015 he let me celebrate his first birthday with him at home after two open heart surgeries, and this year he woke up and for the first time called out “mama, mama” for me to start the day with him. Music to my ears.

Our little boy is just a gift that keeps on giving.

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Photo credit to Granny, on a fun day at the park. Perhaps a truer portrait of a young Walter has never been captured.

He fills the room (and our lives) with his giggles, his crave for tickles, inquisitive questioning, and harried mischief, on the daily. He is a little boy who contains in his body a strong will desperately defiant, but a heart eager to please, and love. He can open doors and unlock them, get through almost every baby gate we throw at him, climb out of a crib and onto bookshelves, run away and hide behind trees…and yet, he can give the softest kisses, biggest (whole body, knock you down) bear hugs, quietly explore a newfound leaf or favorite rock, and cuddle under blankets with his head on my shoulder.

This world of raising little souls (and little boys!) is a challenging one. Each day seems plagued by thunderstorms and lightening of managing endless energy and trickery, only later graced by rainbows of calm. My life is filled with laundry, dishes, snacks on the floor, toys to be put away, diapers, potty training, tears, nap time, and so many things characterized as mundane. But they are equally filled with wonder, learning, the sound of new words forming on previously quiet lips, lessons, and an understanding of all encompassing purpose. Some days, pass quickly and quietly, while on others I am in awe of challenging beauty, and weight of the tasks I have been given in my vocation (truly my call) to be Walter, and now, Franklin’s mother. How soon these little boys will grow into young men, and then older men…the kind I want to be just like their Daddy, and their Gramps. I have been given a wonderful, challenging, and fulfilling gift, and for that I am grateful.

A friend of mine shared in her writing this reflection from Chesterton last week and it has resonated with me since. It seems particularly fitting of my sentiments today (and always).

“To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes, and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it.

How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.”

—G.K. Chesterton

 

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He always smiles for his Gramps. Pumpkin patch and apple picking on Walt’s actual birthday. We celebrated officially a few weeks earlier with cake, presents, and Daddy!

A few things I’d like to remember about Wally as of late:

  • At our pumpkin patch visit, he ran (of course) up and down the rows of vines seeking out the green pumpkins. He found their contrast to all of the other orange ones particularly striking. This boy never misses a beat. I wonder, too, if he will name “green” as his favorite color (it runs in the family).
  • Walter “caught” his shadow. He spotted it in front of him the other day up against a large buffet dresser. He then pinched his fingers, as if picking it up, and carried it across the room at each shoulder like a garment, and “threw” it onto the closet door. This process repeated itself back and forth, again and again, for several minutes – each “catching” of the shadow just as careful and neat as the one before.
  • He is no longer sleeping in his crib (he can climb and chew his way out), and though he has a perfectly comfy toddler bed, often chooses to sleep on the floor in front of the door with his blanket, teddy, Elmo, and Woody. I can sometimes transfer him to his bed, and on very special bedtimes, he will let me lay down with him and sing him songs as we (both) drift off to sleep.
  • Walter’s speech is improving drastically. He is still considered very much behind, but his vocabulary is nearing 25-30 “words”. Some are still indistinguishable from one another, e.g. “water” and “Walter” are both “Wa”, but are obvious in context and are a huge improvement. He so wants to talk and communicate, that it is making parts of our day so much easier now that I can get better insight to what he is asking for. His firsts two syllable word was “bubble” which came out clear as day, and is a favorite! I have to admit, being called “mama” is sill *my* favorite.
  • Cleaning: Walt is fairly neat (for a toddler) and demands a napkin on his lap (or tucked in his shirt), wipes his mouth/hands after meals, and cleans up milk spills with exuberance. To my chagrin, he insists on picking up all the trash he finds at the park and throwing it away, but despite the uncleanliness of it, I appreciate his newfound desire for public service. Sweeping with the broom is another favorite, and we’re working him up to the hand vac.  Recently, he’s danced, clapped, and cleaned up all of his toys before bed almost every night. For being our energetic wonder boy, he sure has a knack for helpfulness.
  • He got a new pair of shoes, and it is love. Who knew?! This cool little dude got a pair of navy blue Converse All-Stars, and we had to get into a fight with him to take them off before bedtime. They are the first thing he wants to put on in the morning, and clearly, the last thing he ever wants to take off. He proudly shows off his “shoooooeeessss” to everyone he meets.
  • Lastly (for now), Wally enjoys opening presents and cards! This made his birthday so much fun, and I had no idea he would have any understanding of opening gifts/cards and being excited about them. It sure makes it enjoyable for the gift givers. Completely contrary to anything we expected, he quietly and carefully unwraps gifts at the tape, not wanting to rip the paper, and gives many “oohs”,”ahhs”, and “wooows” to his surprises waiting inside.

All I can say further, is that our wonderful Walt gives us surprises and gifts of his own every day!

 

 

 

 

Setting Our Hearts At Ease


I’ll skip to the punchline: Frank is heart healthy, and otherwise considered a perfectly normal, healthy 20-week old little baby boy in the making. Yes, he is definitely a little boy, and yes, he has a heart with all its parts (and in the right places, no less).

No soft markers.

No charoid plexus cysts.

No hard markers.

No genetic testing.

No quiet concerns, no hand holding, no tissues.

I just have to let that sink in for another moment.

Because we’re still coming to grips with reality, this time with the one we hoped and prayed for from the beginning: a normal, healthy, uneventful pregnancy with a little boy who has no surgeries planned in the near future.

And even with all of this, I know that for us, pregnancy, babies, and child rearing will never be quite the same. We’ve seen the other side, and all of our sentiments with and about Walter still hold true for Frank. Both our boys will be perfectly imperfect in their own ways, with their own limitations and own weaknesses. We know that with parenting comes the unexpected – just hopefully not with the open heart surgery, and emergency helicopter rides. It comes with bumps, bruises, and scars to show for it. (Lots of scars.) It comes with sickness, accidents, hospital stays, disappointments, and great victories. It comes with hugs, kisses, and frustrating speech delays.

Today was a day that lurked quietly in the back of our minds since Wally received his diagnosis.  We had no idea what his Tetralogy of Fallot would mean for our future children. The cause of CHD is so unclear that no doctor can give clear answers of what to expect in terms of genetic linkage and family repetition. Numbers like “doubled risk” are thrown around, which translates to mean a risk of less than 1% of having a child with CHD hovers to somewhere between 1%-2% in subsequent children.  We’ll still be following up with our cardiac fetal specialist to ensure Frank’s heart is on track mid-third trimester, and all our future children will need extra CHD screening.

But, today is a good day.

Today we can plan for things like holding Franklin right after he’s born (and not after he’s cleared by the NICU), bringing him home and away from hospitals for a good while, and getting to feel like “normal” parents for at least a moment or two.

We’ll take it. Let’s celebrate.

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We didn’t get a great profile of Franklin today, but did get this cute wave. Hello, in there. We love you!