Author: <span class="vcard">thaoie</span>

I can’t believe my sweet Brandon is turning 2. His condition has kept him so purely innocent making every laugh, every smile, every little bit of progress he makes that much more joyous to see. Sure, his condition is in plain sight a handicap but it has taught us so many priceless life lessons that no money can buy, no textbook or professor can teach. We are better people because him and we want to thank God and Brandon for that.  We truly can’t wait to see what this next year has in store for him. Happiest of birthdays my darling!!

(if you’d like to read more detail on his condition and our thoughts on it you can catch it at the bottom of the blog post after the images)


Recap of the last year with Brandon. Video is strictly from cellphone footage.

LACMA Rain Room for Daddy’s birthday.

Photos with his cousins and grandpa.

Visiting with the Easter bunny.

Trying some ice cream at the beach.

Announcement that he’ll be a big brother to a little sister.

Trip to Japan. If he wasn’t in the stroller, he’d be forward facing in the carrier. Rob was a champ carrying him like that because he is not a light kid to be putting that kind of stress on your back but it had to be done.

Visited a cat cafe. We would be out all day so having the tablet with Little Baby Bum videos to entertain him was a lifesaver. Probably the most challenging thing was the food situation (Brandon still only eats pureed foods). We only packed enough baby food for half the trip. There was plenty of luggage allowance to pack for the entire trip but were there enough adult hands to push a stroller and roll an extra suitcase of food around for 2 weeks? NO. So we were constantly in search of Japanese baby food.

At the infamous Fushimi-Inari Shrine in Kyoto. A ton of steps means its not very stroller friendly so we only got to see a small portion of it.

Napping in a beautiful part of Kyoto and at the awesome Osaka Aquarium with the whale shark.

Annual holiday family photo session.

Annual visit to Tanaka Farms Pumpkin Patch. Always a ton of fun!


Wore his brother’s hand-me-down chicken costume from 2 years prior.

Holidays at Disneyland is a must.

Keeping with tradition we visited Santa at the Crystal Court.

Christmas Eve with mommy’s family featured again with grandparents and cousins.

Became a big brother to Harlow.

Valentine’s Day shenanigans.


Turning 2!!! And sitting better on my own.

Shortly after Brandon’s 1st birthday we found out from the neurologist that he has hypotonic cerebral palsy which explains exactly why at a year old he had yet to babble, sit, crawl or walk. Basically, Brandon seems to constantly be in a relaxed state because his cerebellum was damaged before birth. They describe it as a “rag doll” look so you’ll see that he has trouble sitting up straight and lack hand and leg coordination. Cognitively he is also behind and estimated to be at about a 6-7 month old and still eats pureed foods since his tongue and mouth control has yet to develop that far. His eye sight was also affected so at just 14 months old he already started wearing glasses.

For me, the gravity of the effect his condition would have on the rest of our lives did not totally hit until 6 months after his diagnosis. For the first 6 months I just thought he’d always eventually “catch-up” to all the other kids his age, but in reality he will progress at a snail’s pace and one day stop progressing altogether. Where will he stop? We won’t know until we get there because every case is unique, every child different in how this mystery illness affects them. Because his progress is so slow every little bit of progress he makes puts us in awe and has us jumping for joy. Now with a year of physical and occupational therapy gone by he has yet to get himself into a sitting position but when put there, can sit on his own for a few minutes; still doesn’t babble or crawl or walk. The professionals can’t give us an estimated age of when he ever will do these things because again, each case is so different. Brandon’s still light enough for me to carry but there will come a day when he will be too heavy for me so it will be his dad who carries him everywhere–his own personal Hodor if you will (Game of Thrones reference).

I’m not going to lie, every child I see his age (or younger even) I yearn for him to be doing the exact same thing: walk unsteadily up/down the aisles at the store, sit in a shopping cart, sip from a straw, say “mama” a million times to get my attention, crawl around the house getting into mischief, self feed a snack, wave hi/bye, hold his own bottle, sit unassisted on the carousel ride, flip pages of a book, use a spoon, blow out his birthday candle, share bath time with a sibling. Yes, we currently give 3 separate baths right now!! It’s kind of funny thinking back to when he was born 2 years ago I remember saying to myself in reassurance that “it’s only 2 baths for probably 6 months, then they can start bathing together.” Two years later I am thinking the same thing that in 6 months maybe he can start bathing with his brother, heck maybe we’ll go from 3 baths down to 1!! So like any mother, I have hopes and dreams for my child, but mine for Brandon are the most basic things that many of us take for granted on a daily basis.

I bet people wonder this all the time and can’t get themselves to ask us but knowing his condition, why did we choose to have a 3rd kid and why so soon? Remember that I got pregnant shortly after we got his diagnosis so the gravity of it didn’t quite hit me yet plus we’ve always wanted 3 or 4 kids AND I’m not getting any younger so we had to have kids now or never. Even with knowing Brandon’s diagnosis as we know it today, we’d still would have wanted a 3rd child. We accepted his condition pretty quickly, didn’t let the weight of it linger or drown us into depression and self pity, but instead took action to get him the help he needed right away. It does hold us back at times but we find ways to keep on doing what we would despite his condition (like travel to Japan with 2 kids and while I was pregnant). God also blessed us with Nolan who in our eyes stands to lose out on the most because our priority and focus is constantly on Brandon. He has been nothing but patient, sweet and loving with his baby brother. Gets him to laugh like no one else can, retrieves his pacifier when he’s crying; reads him books at bedtime, relinquishes tablet screen time for him. I don’t think any typical 3 year old would be able to stand thru the jealousy that would easily manifest from a situation like this–let alone now having to share time with 2 other siblings. Nolan has nothing but love for both his siblings–truly been a Godsend!

Our ultimate goal is that Brandon can be as independent as possible when he comes of age. Even if he can’t walk at least be able to feed himself, communicate to a certain degree and be able to perform tasks that can enable him to hold a job someday. For now, we will keep at his 4 therapy sessions per week to give him the best chances of progressing as far as possible. If anyone has any experience, thoughts or advice to share we’d love to hear it! Thanks for listening!

Events

Rob and I agreed that we would throw a one time grand party for each of our kids to mark their 1st birthday. It probably isn’t memorable or fun for them but we figured keeping them alive for a year is a huge achievement in itself. Totally open to throwing them large parties for their 16th, 18th or 21st birthdays but this is it for their childhood. Of course there’s the annual small family gathering (and photoshoot, of course) for each year that passes. For Brandon’s 1st birthday we had decided on hosting it at Zoomars nearly 6 months in advance. Why? For the value you’re paying, you get a lot out of it compared to other places. We had the place from 9AM to 5PM, got to serve alcohol, invite up to 250 guests and it included 20 pony rides, 20 train rides and 20 feed baskets. There was just plenty of things to do to keep everyone entertained and happy. All our guests offered positive feedback on the experience saying their kiddos enjoyed it all so much. A single family trip to Zoomars could be quite pricey but with a party package, in my opinion, makes it so worth it. We hope more of our friends will now host parties here for their children so we can in turn enjoy it since we were so focused on hosting duties. Check out all the details below!!

We made our own signs and got balloon pets for all the kiddos to adopt. You can’t see it but each animal has a name tag on their collar. I thought it’d make for a great adopting experience with each one already named.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed balloon chicken pets
Many people wandering by the party area stopped to admire the balloon pets. I felt a teeny bit bad seeing so many children wanting one. Sadly they are reserved for Brandon’s guests.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
I saw these super cute puffy tissue animals on another blog and had to recreate them.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Cake and desserts were all made by my cousin, Jenny, of Intricakes. She’s so awesome at what she does–book her for your next event!
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Yep, we made that gigantic B ourselves.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Check out the detailing on those fondant animals! We painted the #1 candle to look like a cow.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed intricakes
Each kid received a tin pail that included farm animal figurines, stickers, an animal mask and a treat. We paid only $.30 for each tin pail at Target’s after Christmas sale. This may be a grand party but we’re always looking for ways to keep costs low.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Robert designed the farm theme that’s seen on the bottle wrapper, toy bag tag, drink sign and photobooth template.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
I already had these vintage soda crates in my own collection for decorating.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed dessert table
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed dessert table
We also made the gigantic #1.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Corner Bakery pasta + salad! Mr. Hot Bunz tacos!
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed corner bakery catering
Wiki Wiki Shave Ice was on hand to keep us cool with some of their yummy goodies. Fresh hot dogs and quesadillas also by Mr. Hot Bunz.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed wiki wiki shaved ice mr hot bunz
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Nolan and Lorelai on their much anticipated pony rides.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed pony riding
Feeding basket at the ready to treat the animals.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Guinea pegs to pet and feed.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Some shots from the photobooth.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed instant party pix photobooth
Only decent family photo we captured that day.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Singing “happy birthday”. Nolan blew out the candle for his little brother.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Tony brought out his nifty 360 camera. Use the joystick toggle or your mouse on the video to move around to see the entire scene. If on your phone, rotate your body up, down, left and right to see all around you or use your finger to rotate the video. It’s so cool!!

Cake smash it, Brando!!
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Here’s the 360 view of the cake smash moment.

At this point it is now around 2pm and Brandon has not napped since waking at 8AM. He is super tired!! At least he got in one photo with some of his older buddies before knocking out.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Cousins with their balloon pets and masks.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Super happy to see the kids playing with their newly adopted farm pets.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed
Got in a photo of the entire Dang clan on their way out.
brandon's 1st birthday at zoomars san juan capistrano farmyard themed

We’d like to thank everyone who was able to make it out to celebrate with us and especially to our family who came early to help us set-up and stayed late to help us break-down and clean-up. We appreciate your time, all the wonderful gifts, but mostly for the beautiful memories made!

Events

I’ve got the all the typical mommy guilt for baby #2. Brandon doesn’t get a single blog post until he turns 1. For comparison, Nolan had weekly updates–even a 2nd birthday blog post AFTER Brandon was born. Anyhow, I digress–can’t remember the exact date of the appearance of his first tooth. I just know it was in August around 6 months of age–at a year old he’s got 4 teeth.  He dresses in pj’s on most days where older bro dressed up like a little person every day of his life. Brandon gets all the hand me downs though I have tried to buy him a few new pieces of clothing for special appearances. The biggest guilt by far is that Brandon’s clocked in more television watching time than Nolan ever has; mind you it’s not like a TON but it’s significantly more than Nolan. Life just got a bit crazy and we needed an easy “babysitter” during those tough times. All I have to say is, I’m sorry my sweet Brando. It’s not that we love you any less. Life is just so much harder to juggle with 2 little ones to care for. We can’t give you the same undivided attention we gave your big bro but rest assured we love you just as much. We may seem a little more excited when Nolan reaches new milestones since he’s the very first to do pretty much EVERYTHING, but we are just as excited and proud when you reach those same ones. You add more love, more excitement and more craziness to our lives and we couldn’t be any happier. We can’t wait for you to sit, to crawl and walk so you can interact and play with Nolan more. You two already have such a strong brotherly connection and it completely melts our hearts for us to watch the moments you two share in a day. Your dad loves you, your big bro loves you–WE ALL LOVE YOU! Happy 1st birthday my sweet Brandon!! Can’t wait to celebrate at your big party this weekend.

brandon_12months

Here’s a short video compilation of his first year of life. You’ll see that it is quite evident the bond Nolan and Brandon already share.

Brandon was so sick today! With a fever and cold it is quite arguably the worst birthday ever. We could not get him to smile or laugh for the camera, let alone enjoy his cake smash. Hoping he’ll be better for Sunday’s festivities. And if his first outfit looks familiar–it’s b/c it should! We thought it’d be neat to dress him in the same outfit Nolan did at his 1st birthday photoshoot.

brandon 1 year old birthday photoshoot
brandon 1 year old birthday photoshoot
brandon 1 year old birthday photoshoot
brandon 1st birthday
brandon 1st birthday
brandon 1st birthday cake smash

Let me address the elephant in the room: why is Brandon in a bumbo and not sitting on his own? He’s actually behind–unable to sit, crawl, stand or walk yet and is in physical therapy to help with that. He’s only recently started to do well rolling and playing on his belly. Our hope is to have him sitting in a couple months and perhaps walking by the time he turns 2. Thank you for your concerns and well wishes!!

Events

Nolan has advanced so much in the last 6 months it’s just AMAZING! Aside from becoming a big brother he continues to be super silly, laughs a ton, talks a ton more, sleeps in his own room in his own big boy bed, developed a major addiction to pacifiers, absolutely loves cars/trucks/vehicles of all sorts. Other favorites continue to be book reading, building blocks, eating vegetables and fruits.

Nolan’s a wonderful helper and retrieves for me what I ask (bottle, pacifier, phone, blanket) and even kisses & hugs his brother without being prompted. A couple weeks ago he truly amazed us when he said on his very own a total, complete sentence, “I see the moon.” His use of “the” was totally unexpected but what blew me away was after having sneezed a few times in a row the other day he said, “bless you, mommy.” Just a few simple things that he’s starting to comprehend has us stoked to see how much more he learns in the coming year. Needless to say at the tender age of 2 we are so very proud of him already.

Photos in this post showcase his intimate birthday celebration and a quick trip down to Zoomars a couple days later for a bit of fun.

nolan's 2nd birthday - balloons in room

nolan's 2nd birthday - balloons in room

Nolan on the morning of his 2nd birthday. Balloon madness!
Nolan on the morning of his 2nd birthday. Balloon madness!
nolan's 2nd birthday - balloons in room
Look at the happy birthday boy.
nolan's 2nd birthday
Playing with Baymax, one of his favorite characters.

nolan's 2nd birthday - opening gifts

nolan's 2nd birthday
LOVED all his new cars.
Partaking in his current fav breakfast: Lucky Charms.
Partaking in his current fav breakfast: Lucky Charms.
nolan's 2nd birthday
His “cheese” is so cheesy.

nolan's 2nd birthday

nolan's 2nd birthday - with daddy and brother
A few precious moments with dad and baby brother.
nolan's 2nd birthday
Happy Brandon on his big bro’s bday.
He's slowly growing out of that baby face.
He’s slowly growing out of that baby face.
nolan's 2nd birthday pacifier addiction
Pacifier addiction and with cousin Lorelai.
Loves hanging out with Lorelai most the time.
Loves hanging out with Lorelai most the time.
Quick family photo to commemorate the day.
Quick family photo to commemorate the day.

nolan's 2nd birthday

nolan's 2nd birthday

nolan's 2nd birthday

nolan's 2nd birthday

nolan 2nd birthday with mommy
Fun selfie with mommy.
nolan's 2nd birthday
Noly shares a birthday with Auntie Jujee.
nolan's 2nd birthday
For his love of trains we took the Amtrak down to SJC to Zoomars.

nolan's 2nd birthday

nolan's 2nd birthday

Was a bit scared to pet them.
Was a bit scared to pet them.
Enjoyed the pony ride. Zoomars
Enjoyed the pony ride.
Cousin Quinn joined in on the fun and was so proud of herself for petting the guinea pig. Zoomars
Cousin Quinn joined in on the fun and was so proud of herself for petting the guinea pig.
Adults had a bit of fun too. Zoomars
Adults had a bit of fun too.
Corn pit!! Zoomars
Corn pit!!

nolan's 2nd birthday

nolan's 2nd birthday train ride at Zoomars

nolan's 2nd birthday

Video recap of both days. Enjoy!!

Events

Nolan is growing up so fast but I guess he has to since he’ll be a big brother in just 2 short months. He’s learned so much in the last 6 months that I can’t even imagine what he’ll learn in the next 6 to come. I’m kind of sad that once baby #2 is here, I won’t be able to give him as much attention as I have in the last 18 months. At least he even got that much attention since any other siblings will not get the same amount of attention that he’s received. It will be divided between him and his siblings but I’m sure our love for our children will always be equal. Nolan’s pediatrician kind of scared me today saying having a 2nd child isn’t twice as much work but more like 3x! I guess we’re in for a big life changer real soon; too late, no looking back now.

Specs from today’s 18 month wellness visit:

Weight: 23 lbs 9 oz (46 percentile)
Height: 33.5 inches (84 percentile)
Head circumference: 19 inches (73 percentile)

Sourced from Child Growth Calculator.

Other notable things at this 18 month milestone:
*16 teeth (doubled in 6 months)
*fav foods: veggies of all kinds and fresh cut fruit
*loves: fish, puzzles, mega blocks, books, Elmo, music, bubbles
*fav words: no, moon, daddy, more, fish, Elmo, cici (for pacifier), bubble, ball, bird, wow, bye, cloud, cheese
*allergic to eggs and dogs (specifically their saliva)

I made a quick treat of a string of Snap Chats I saved in the last 6 months of Nolan doing “Noly” things. Be careful with the volume since one video could be louder than the next.

And lastly is a quick recap in photos of some of the things he’s done in the last 6 months.

8/29 – Beach Day
huntington beach 2014

9/7 – Palm Springs & Salvation Mountain for mommy’s birthday
palm springs salvation mountain

9/13 – Camping (in 100+ degree heat)
camping

Attended 3 weddings (7/4 + 10/4 + 10/11). I photographed the 2 weddings featured below.
wedding guest

10/17 – Tanaka Farms Pumpkin Patch
tanaka farms pumpkin patch 2014

10/31 – Halloween at Rancho Las Lomas
halloween 2014 at rancho las lomas

11/30 – Disneyland. It may have rained that day but he loved every ride he went on: Nemo, Rockets, Buzz Lightyear and Small World.
disneyland christmas 2014

12/5 – Visited Santa–didn’t go so well but it’s just as expected.
visiting santa 2014

12/7 – Aunt Mary’s executive MBA graduation from Pepperdine University. He photobombed his dad’s photo.
mary's pepperdine graduation 2014

Events