The Bread & Butter (Vol. 2017 | Issue 1)

20 Apr

This is the start of a new format here on House of Pickles, a weekly update in short form that will be more rapid fire to cover what we are doing at that moment. Hope you enjoy!

Quick Hits:

  1. This week is The Mrs’ birthday – none of us are prepared. I blame Elise, she really should’ve been more on top of this.
  2. Colorado Sprummer is in full effect. This is the time of year when it should be spring but it feels more like summer. Is April too early to let your kids run through sprinklers?
  3. On Saturday we’ll be celebrating Tad’s 2nd birthday with a party at a gymnastics gym. On one hand I can’t believe he is almost 2; on the other hand pray that we are able to keep him alive in a gymnastics course.

What We’re Grateful For:

This year we decided to do something different and pick out a word for our family. In 2017 that word is grateful.
Currently I am mostly grateful for Miss E’s giggles. She has developed quite the little personality and likes to scream at us a lot – most times failing to harmonize with her brother – so anytime we get to hear those giggles it is literally music to our ears!

What We’re Working On:

These two words are the scariest words a parent can type: potty training. We are working on this with Trevor, not even officially 2 years old, and success has a very fluid meaning right now. If we keep a diaper on him for more than 2 hours… success.

The Cow Must Be Napping:

This week Nolan got to get away from the house for a few hours and enjoy some 1-on-1 time with his mama. While they were out and about they decided to get lunch together at Chic-Fil-A. I love that place, and Nolan has become a big fan himself. In honesty he is a big fan of any place that serves “chicken and fries”, so it’s no surprise that Chic-Fil-A makes the cut. Last week he kept asking his mom if they could go “high five the cow”; “Mama, can we go to the place where we high five the cow? I wanna high five the cow!”. Josie had no clue what he was talking about for quite a while until Nolan clarified, “you know, where they serve the chickens and fries!”.
Today as they were eating lunch the cow was no where to be seen. Bummer dude. But Nolan was anything but dismayed… “Huh, the cow must be napping mama. But the sun is up, sooooo… but the cow must be napping huh mama?”. Yes son, the cow must be napping. The imagination on that kid is endless!



Hanging from the Chandelier

16 Apr

We have a middle child… I know that is shocking to hear but it is what happens when your family offspring is an odd number. There is a middle. Our middle is a smug, shy, adventurous little boy whom we named Trevor and lovingly call Monkey, Tad, or a random mild profanity. Raising this boy over the past two years has me contemplating whether or not I have Tourette’s, schizophrenia, or both. I think it is passed time for us to talk about him.

Trevor was destined to be a middle child. In fact, had we not had Elise, he would be the oddest baby of a family I’d ever seen. See most kids that are the youngest of their clan are, well… spoiled. Take my wife for instance – er – never mind, bad example. But I think you know what I mean. Close your eyes, think about families you know and the youngest child is usually the prince or princess who gets away with FAR more than the older children got away with. C’est la vie. So Trevor’s spirit just never fit being the baby of the family. He wasn’t ever about being spoiled; he was all about being ornery! Trev is just… Trev.

If we didn’t have his spirit in our family we would actually appear publicly quite sadnessnormal. But he is the catalyst that propels us toward circus status. Whether we are out to eat and he randomly sends his entire plate to the floor or we are in the store and he knocks an entire product off the shelf a la Sadness from Inside Out, he always keeps us on our toes.

I know many of you reading this can’t believe that such an adorable child could possibly be that difficult. Let me just be blunt. Most days his cuteness is the only thing between him and Military Kindergarten. Wait – do they have Military Kindergarten? I just made that up. Now I have to look into it. Huh – his cuteness might not have saved him after all.
Here is a sampling of the adventures of Tad:

Sword fights – with wine glasses: Once the Mrs. was sorting some laundry and in walks Trevor, hands bloodied. Running back downstairs – which she had left a mere 1 minute earlier – she found two wine glasses shattered on the living room floor. Two things came out of this: 1) a lock on the dishwasher & 2) more wine glasses in the dishwasher.

Hanging from the chandelier: Trevor is literally a monkey. Or maybe he is more mountain goat. He climbs everything with shocking ease. His favorite obstacle is the counter height dining table we have. We’ve done just about everything to keep him off it. We’ve laid the chairs down, he uses them as a step stool. We’ve placed them on the table, he pulls them off. We’ve locked them in the closet, he picked the lock with his pacifier and next thing you know he’s back dancing on top of the table. His go-to entertainment once he gets up there is to hang from the light above the table. Much to the chagrin of our friends who also have kids and prefer to keep theirs off the table, we have just given up on that fight. Sorry ’bout it.

Scissors: If you haven’t caught on yet, the kid loves danger. He recently has developed an affinity to pushing a chair over to the cabinet where we have the scissors stored and getting them out. Once I had them in my back pocket, had my back turned to him, and the next thing I know he was crying. He had pick-pocketed me and poked himself near the eye.

Button-Pushing: On one morning the house was quiet. A little too quiet. And then the microwave turned on. Trevor had pushed a chair over to the oven, climbed up on top of the stove, and turned on the microwave. I can’t make this up…nor do I have to continue and clarify just how bad that one could have been.

Dog Food: Lacking proper nutrition from his parents, he supplements by visiting the dog dish frequently. He will often come up to you with chipmunk cheeks full of Authority Natural Chicken & Rice dog food, both insanely proud of himself and bewildered as to why you could possibly be upset enough to take his tasty treat away. Speaking of tasty treats, we have also learned to be extra alert when he is in the back yard and we haven’t picked up after the dogs that day…

I could go on and on … and on… about all of the things Trevor does to earn his middle child stripes, but I am making myself sick remembering and a little worried someone is going to call DFS on us. I promise you we are attentive, caring, responsible parents. By the way, I am not writing this for parenting advice on how to care for the little turd. If you believe you have ways to cure him, I will send him to you FREE – including shipping and handling. You can send him back once you get him straightened out or realize you’re just as inept as I am. I won’t hold my breath.

I love that boy with all of my heart, despite all of the frustrating moments we have had in two short years. I will often tell the Mrs that in a few years he is going to be so much fun because he is always up for doing anything. My kind of kid! But until then I am leaning toward taking a “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach. Don’t be surprised if you find me hanging from the chandelier!




Three’s a Crowd (Part 2)

9 Apr

Author’s Note: It has taken me a lot, and I mean a lot, to write this post. It literally has been the bottleneck for all posts to the blog; knowing that I have to finish this story has backlogged all future stories. I hope it is worth the wait. If you would like to read Part One, click here

Monday October 3, 2016 started out quite normal. We had a long awaited meeting scheduled with our newest little addition to the family – Elise Ann Dill. Had we relied on past history, she shouldn’t have made it to be an October baby. She was expected to make her appearance near the same time as her brothers did, 8 weeks early by gestation and 4 weeks prior to this day. Yet there we were, up at 5:00 AM and ready to head over to the hospital and begin the scheduled C-Section process. We were nervous, excited, and – if I am honest – ready for this to be over.

As I detailed before in the first installment, Ms Elise should never have had a scheduled C-Section appointment to be born. She truthfully shouldn’t even have been created. And while the first part of this story detailed the emotions we felt after finding out we indeed were starting a little family circus, let me take a moment to explain how our attitude had shifted over 7 months. What started as fear and (truthfully) anger had melted into hope and excitement. A girl! First of all, how neat is that? After experiencing two rambunctious boys we would now get to know the joys of having a little girl in the house. But beyond that the fear had morphed to acknowledgement. As we journeyed through a third uncomfortable and challenging pregnancy both Jos and I couldn’t help but sit back and acknowledge how incredible this story is. Just when you think that you have your life planned out, God gently chimes in, “Not quite yet…”. Sure, kids are created every day against all odds, but this just went deeper. God knew how difficult our pregnancies had been, he KNEW how much frustration, worry, and angst the deliveries had caused so why would he put us through this again? We had to admit that God’s plan is always better than our own. And while we were no where near ready to tackle the responsibilities of a third kid, we slowly began to enjoy and anticipate what this little girl was destine to do with her life. The fact that we were selected literally against the odds to grow and support her through her journey was incredibly heavy and undeniably exciting.

So we sat in the car on the 20-minute drive and talked about how the day might go. E had made it to a critical 36-week mark which allowed us the ability to deliver at our “home” hospital, and also introduced possibilities we hadn’t experienced before. We had a great chance of holding this baby in the operating room – alright! We might even get to spend the first night together, the 3 of us, in a regular hospital room instead of apart in different hospitals area codes apart. What was that even like?? She shouldn’t even require a NICU stay which would be ground breaking for us. We had tossed scenarios around in our minds and settled on worst case: They might have to take Elise into the NICU just to check and make sure she is ok, but we would get to see her back with Josie as soon as that evening, potentially even while the Mrs was still in recovery. This was going to be a cake walk.

The first few hours of the morning went great, and aside from the slight contractions that she had been experiencing for a full month there was no signs of actual labor. Everything was setting up just as the doctor had designed. Vital signs were stable, both for mom and baby. Even anesthesiology was in the room early! That literally never happens we were told. (Turns out, that guy might have been an angel.) We were ready for our 9:15 AM delivery. And then things suddenly changed.

“OOOHhhhfff”, Josie grunted. “What was that!?“, she asked. I immediately assumed a contraction had picked up so I walked over to the monitor. Nothing. I looked back at my wife and the look of pain in her eyes was severe. Any husband knows the different levels of pain their wife can endure, especially after child birth, and I knew that whatever she was experiencing was a pretty intense pain. I asked her to describe it, she said “IT HURTS”. I decided to not ask anymore questions. I looked back at the machine monitoring muscle contractions… still nothing. Well this is all helpful I thought to myself. After just a simple minute that felt like an eon Jos decided to call the nurse. It was 9:04 AM, just 11 minutes pre-operation. The nurse came in and she literally started wheeling Josie out of the room immediately while saying, “Well, they’re either ready for you in OR or they’re going to be ready for you”. Josie’s doctor came in at that same moment as well and asked a couple benign questions before saying. “Well – I will scrub in and see you in OR!”. It got a lot intense in a little amount of time.

Let me side-step briefly. The most frightening ~7 minutes of my life have been spent in a white hallway at our local hospital, 15 ft away from an automatic door controlling entry to the operating room. Twice I have sat in a blue chair as doctors and nurses rush past me into a room that I know holds my wife and baby and I have had nothing to do except plead and pray to God. And wait. I have buckets of empathy toward every dad who has had to do that same routine. It causes visions of the worst possible outcomes a man can imagine to flash behind his eyes. I cried each time, once with Trevor and then again that day with Elise. And then the nurse came out: “Joel? Come on, Josie wants you”.

“I’ve got blood in the belly!”, I hear the doctor say just moments after I sit down on a stool near my wife. My heart hit my gut.

Here’s what happened. That intense pain that she felt just 15 excruciating long minutes ago? That was an organ inside of her body breaking. More specifically, do you remember the T-cut incision I mentioned in Part One? Elise had busted through that delicate scar and was causing a world of commotion. First, Josie was now internally bleeding. Second, Elise was having sensations of birth…except that she was still very much stuck inside her mother. She took her first breath – a lungful of her mother’s blood instead of beautiful oxygen as her instincts would’ve liked. Not a great start to life in the real world. It was approximately 9:21 AM.

Elise Ann Dill was officially born on October 3, 2016 @ 9:29 AM. Well, more accurately that is the time we all decided it was after the medical team and myself had gotten back to the NICU and one of the nurses noticed an official time hadn’t been called. You better believe that OR was hectic from 9:21 AM on. See, Elise wasn’t exactly “alive” when they


Elise, meeting Mom and ready for transport. How can you not believe in love at first sight?!

pulled her from her mother’s abdomen so it’s hard to argue an exact time of birth. Her 1-minute APGAR was a 1, which is borderline dead. Her 10-minute APGAR was still just a 5, which leans toward or can indicate brain damage. Normally babies rebound more quickly from a low initial APGAR score, up to a full 10 by the 10-minute mark. Not Elise. The blood in her umbilical cord at birth was so acidic they feared she had been without sweet oxygen for too long. Josie had some internal bleeding but thankfully they were able to suck it all out within minutes and control the bleeding. The doctor said at the end of the day she bled about the same amount she would’ve in a normal C-Section delivery. The cold truth is that had we not already been at a hospital, mere minutes away from a scheduled operation, with anesthesiology already in the OR prepping for Josie (remember I said the guy must’ve been an angel!)… neither my wife nor our baby girl would be here today. If Josie would’ve been at home with the boys on a normal day there is almost no way she could’ve rounded up someone to watch them, gotten to the hospital, and still survived. Elise for sure wouldn’t have survived.


God had a plan. We learned that over 7 long months of working through a pregnancy we had done everything to prevent from happening. And then we learned it again in 25 minutes at a hospital where everything worked out so perfectly that not only did our new baby girl survive near death – but she was set up to thrive. The quick action taken by our doctor to deliver Elise and then again by the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner to send E down to Denver and to Children’s Hospital for further screening was crucial. I have played out nightmares in my mind where the doctor disregards Josie’s pain and says, “Ah you can wait until the 9:15 scheduled operation, can’t you?”. I’ve wondered what might have happened had the NICU team not gotten Elise stabilized, prepped, and transferred into a world class facility within 6 hours of being born. But thank God I don’t have to actually live those scenarios out. Because tonight I have a beautiful wife, fully recovered, (she was released from the hospital the next day at noon – 27 hours post-operation!) and a beautiful 6-month old baby girl who has stolen all of our hearts.

Thank God for his plan.


RSV – Really Sucky Virus

9 Feb

Look, I realize I still haven’t finished the birth story of Elise. I totally understand that you have been hanging on the edge of your seat for an entire MONTH (!) waiting to hear part deux. The truth is this: that part of the story is extremely hard on my heart and is going to take much more effort to write than I had originally imagined. 

In other news, we have achieved a milestone only 40 days into 2017: another year – another high deductible met. We are getting really good at this… a little too good if you ask me. For the third year straight you can likely blame my family for the increase in your premium if you are insured by Cigna. Please accept our apologies. 

It started out innocently enough, a “common cold” showed up in the house. We employed the usual defense: keep all surfaces wiped down with Clorox, insert humidifiers into kids’ rooms, get as much rest as possible, wait it out. As every parent can attest: having a sick kid is brutal. As some parents can retort: having three sick kids at the same time is asinine. Both of our boys worked through it in normal course, leaving behind a simple cough and really no worse for the wear. We actually were cocky enough to think it had missed the Babes completely. Boy were we wrong.

So here I sit, in the PICU of Children’s Hospital next to a baby that did nothing of her own accord to catch the most contagious virus of the season. When she first showed signs of the cold we didn’t ever expect it to get to this point. But as it developed her appetite waned and her breathing deepened to the point where a visit to the doctor was warranted. They passed us to a satellite hospital, who treated her for a day before reaching the ceiling of their care and transferring us to Children’s. And here is where we confirmed that she indeed was dealing with RSV that had complicated to Bronchiolitis. RSV. Respiratory Syncytial Virus. Really Sucky Virus. Most parents know the basis of this virus, a respiratory bug that usually bears out as a a simple cold but can be serious for kids under 2 yr old. For some reason the 2017 version is amped up a little bit. Statistics would tell you that 48% of ALL COLORADOANS have recently had or currently have RSV whether you have been formally diagnosed or not. I believe you call that epidemic. 

What is my point? I don’t know. I’m tired, but not as wiped out as my daughter who has had her lungs sucked out 9 times in the last 36 hours, been poked, prodded, jostled, and constantly monitored. I’m hungry, but not as hungry as she is after only eating minimal volumes for 4 days. I’m frustrated, but not as pissed as she gets when they put a suction tube down her inflamed and swollen nose. 

Most of all I am aware. I have never been one to expect to keep my kids healthy 100% of the time – or at least not after I got out of the crazy first-time parent mentality. We can’t live in a perfect little eco-bubble. But at 4:00 AM as I listen to my Babes choke on mucus too thick for her to cough up, my mind definitely wanders toward “what could I have done to prevent this?”. Maybe there wasn’t a thing… or maybe there was the thing and I missed it. Maybe I’ll never know. 

One thing I do know: I’d rather not deal with this again and I will definitely step up my home defense against bugs of the future. I’m reinvigorated to be more diligent in defending against other sickness. I’d rather not watch my kid suffer to take a breath, choking on saliva and snot. I’d rather not sit in an ICU room listening to the hum of machines and monitors working on my precious child. 

Elise is progressing well and she will heal up just fine. She’s already made leaps and bounds in the last 16 hours. She’s a fighter and she won’t even remember this episode. But her parents will never forget it.

Really Sucky Virus – you win this time. But you better watch your back. You pissed off the wrong high-deductible paying-stretched-too-thin-at-the-end-of-our-rope crazy parents. I might just do something drastic. Something like carry a holster full of Lysol spray with me at all times. Or wear a fanny pack full of Clorox wipes. Sorry Josie, but let’s be real here – the fanny pack would only add to my sex appeal. It’s why you married me. 

And A Fire-Breathing Dragon

9 Jan

I often talk about parenting as being a humongous puzzle. You are continually moving pieces around, flipping them onto different edges, often shoving them into spaces that they aren’t meant to be in, and always looking for the missing pieces. And at the end of the day, you’re always just puzzled. (HA! Dad jokes for days!)

One of the most debated parenting strategies in the ever changing puzzle that we face today surrounds electronic usage. When do you allow it, how much do you allow, what do you allow them to watch? Every parent struggles and debates on what stance to take on this and the Mrs and I are no different.
As many parents do, we started using an electronic device (her phone) just to keep Nolan occupied when he was feeling especially ornery in a restaurant or when – let’s just be real – we simply needed a break. He took to the movies on YouTube pretty quickly and we could always find a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or other acceptable similar episode to keep him quiet and happy for ~30 minutes. After a while this evolved into Nolan doing his own web surfing on YouTube which can be unnerving. Our feelings were and still are that he deserves some leash and trust as long as he shows he deserves. I can only recall twice when we have asked him to watch something different, or have just changed the video he randomly browsed to. He is 3-1/2 remember; he looks at the thumbnail previews for toys he knows from movies he loves. He doesn’t venture much outside those lines. I am confident of this because I review his viewing history often and I can quote a lot of the lines from the videos he watches over and over and over and over and over… and over… and over again.

This past weekend we were hanging around in our bedroom constructing our most recent IKEA expense, and Nolan was quietly and contently browsing his recent favorite topic: toy reviews. The kid will watch someone unwrap and talk about a toy for HOURS if we would let him. It is crazy! If you haven’t ever seen one of these, here is one that I hear Nolan watching all of the time (don’t watch all 10 minutes, or even 2 minutes): Lots of DinoTrux Toys!
It has even gotten to the point where when he plays with his own toys he talks in the same tone and inflection as these reviewers…. Hey, if you ever questioned the impressionability of a kid. Josie and I continue to be amazed by what Nolan has – and I don’t use this term lightly here – learned thru these videos. Skills he has picked up vary from songs to how to work a certain toy to just how toys could possibly interact.

Suddenly Nolan bolts upright on our bed, his attention torn away from his current YouTube video.
“Dad, Dad… Dad. Dad. Daaaaaad!”
“Yes Bubba?” – I had tried responding after the first Dad but he insists on at least 5 times saying anything regardless of your acknowledgement or not.

“I wanna make a video. Can we make a video?”

Absolutely, kid! The next half hour epitomized the reason that you become a parent. Watching him just naturally talk about his favorite toys, to himself, on his little tablet made my heart swell. The look of pride on his face as he talked about the features of each toy was unmistakable and deserved. He totally rocked it. He gets so excited that his words garble together and at times become nothing short of jibberish – sorry bud, but you come by that honestly.
And instead of me trying to put in words how amazing my kid is, you can just watch it for yourself. My absolute favorite part starts at ~ 1:30. I can assure you, I no longer have any regrets over allowing Nolan to use electronic devices. Watching his imagination explode and his creative side expand is worth far more than whatever harm someone may argue is being done. And a fire-breathing dragon.

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