Oliver Update 2013-07-22

First, I’m going to set the record straight since I’ve had a few people email me to ask me how much trouble Shawna got in as a result of her crazy driving. My last post (Shawna Dwyer – NASCAR Superstar) was completely true except the last paragraph where I stated that the Durham police showed up at the door and showed me a video of Shawna driving recklessly. The video perfectly illustrates how I envisioned Shawna driving in that situation, but in truth it was nothing more than a Youtube video I found after typing “crazy driving” and “almost accident” into the search bar. Still hilarious, though.

I understand that I’m slowing down with my blogging frequency. Don’t worry; I can assure you that no news is good news in this particular situation, and I haven’t run out of things to write. I actually started a journal about 3 years ago, and finding the time to write in both places is proving to be difficult, especially when Shawna expects me to help out around the house, which is lame. 🙂 Just kidding, honey, I live to serve.

As hinted at above, Oliver continues to do really well. He continues to be a big, smiley, happy baby who still loves to be held and is starting to explore the world with his eyes. I watched him stare at his hands for a few minutes today before he decided his left one looked too delicious not to try.

My parents also came down last week, and my dad got to meet Oliver for the first time. Here they are at the Durham Museum of Life and Science.


One more story… when Clara was an infant, we did the co-sleeping thing. It has some nice benefits for both mom and baby, and I honestly don’t mind it. If you have babies that like to snuggle close, however, you end up sleeping in all sorts of awkward, sometimes uncomfortable positions to make sure the baby stays sleeping and doesn’t get crushed. The biggest hurdle is discontinuing the practice. It took us a while to transition Clara out of our bed and into her crib, so I suggested we not use the same method with Oliver. As you probably guessed, I’m not the boss of these things, and Oliver makes his way into our bed most nights. I chuckled this morning when I woke up and saw how Shawna and Oliver, aka “Bed Hog”, had been sleeping.

2013-07-22 07.07.36

It’s a little hard to tell from the picture, but Shawna is sleeping on an 8 inch sliver allowed to her by Oliver. The old me would wake Shawna up to say, “see I told you so”, but the new me apparently thinks the better approach is to take a picture and post it on the internet. I’m not sure if I’m getting smarter or dumber, but I’m sure I’ll find out. 🙂


Shawna Dwyer – NASCAR Superstar


It’s been great that Oliver hasn’t been showing any symptoms of his condition. What that means, however, is that he acts just like any other infant… sleeping, eating, pooping, crying, and the occasional full blown, unadulterated meltdown. Not very often, just often and severe enough to warrant my deep respect. Prevention is key, but even the most vigilant and proactive among us cannot stop mother nature when she decides to unleash her fury.

Oliver’s biggest meltdowns typically occur in the van. He hates his car seat, he immediately knows when he’s in it, and he couldn’t care less about where we’re going. It’s better if there is both a driver and a full-time entertainer on hand, but that isn’t always possible. As a result, Shawna chooses her trips carefully. Mornings are better. Short trips are better. If you put him in his car seat while he’s napping, there’s a 20 percent chance he stays sleeping, which is the best-case scenario. There is a zero percent chance he goes to sleep if he happens to be awake at the time he’s strapped into his portable prison.

Anyway, two days ago I came home from work, and Shawna had been in the house all day and wanted to run an errand by herself. Oliver appeared to be sleeping peacefully. I now believe he was simply waiting patiently. I said, “Sure, honey, go take a break. I’ll watch Ollie.”

So Shawna left. The first 5 minutes went off without a hitch. Then, like a North Dakota thunderstorm, the skies darkened and the heavens erupted without warning, and I was caught off guard. I tried bouncing him. I warmed up his milk and offered him some food. I swaddled him. I unswaddled him. I changed his diaper. I burped him. I sang to him. I did my patented daddy dance, a complicated waltz that involves jumps, squats, shuffle steps, and stutter steps, and a few really cool moves that nobody even knows about. It used to work every time with Clara, but Oliver was unimpressed. As a last resort, I called Shawna, got no answer, and chose not to leave a message that would only stress her out.

Approximately 5 minutes later Shawna called back and could hear her upset baby in the background. The conversation went like this:
“What’s wrong with Oliver?”
“I’m not sure. I can’t get him to stop crying.”
“Ok, I’m on my way home.” – Click.

About 37 seconds later, I heard the distant sound of tires squealing. I then heard the front bumper of our car grinding against the pavement, which can easily happen when you hit the driveway going 65 mph. I had just gotten Oliver calmed down when Shawna burst through the door. After a thorough inspection, he was declared fine, although overly tired.

A little later, the Durham police showed up at our door and asked to speak to my wife. I asked why. They showed me the following video:


All Static

I’m going to throw out just one more post about those first few days after we found out about Oliver’s condition, and specifically thank my mom for her huge help and positive spirit. But first, I’ll share a couple stories from my younger years on our family’s farm, because I think they’ll help explain what my mom did for me.


When I was little, my dad started spending a few months every summer helping his dad on the farm in northwest North Dakota, which was about 3 hours from our home in Bismarck. My dad had a little land of his own, and he and my grandpa worked out a deal where Dad would help my grandpa on his farm in exchange for being able to use some of Grandpa’s equipment for planting, spraying, and harvesting his own land. Over time, my dad has purchased his own equipment and established his own farm. (Side note: My brother Dan is now taking over that farm, and my sister Rachel writes about life as a teacher in that area on her blog, Boomtown Diaries. I can’t promise it’s a must read, but sometimes there is a worthwhile nugget. Don’t hold your breath, though.). When I was around 12, I started going on extended trips to the farm and helping as much as I could. I learned how to drive on an old red and white dodge grain truck that we called the “Coke Truck”. I remember the sensitive clutch, the raw horsepower, the holes in the floor boards, and the permanent smell of mouse poison and mouse poop, evidence that the Coke Truck mice (of Nimh, probably) were a genetically superior strain of mice that actually had poison eating parties just to prove they weren’t going anywhere.

During my first few summers, we didn’t have radios or cell phones. If anything broke down or didn’t go as planned, you might be stranded for an entire day. Starting when I was 13, my grandpa used to drop me off, lunch pail and water jug in hand, at his open-cab Versatile swather, and I would swath most of the day without seeing or talking to a soul. He would check up on me once or twice just to make sure things were going all right (and bring me a coke or an ice cream sandwich), but depending on what he had going on, it could be a long time between visits. On several occasions my machine would break down and I would sit there for hours, nervously waiting for someone to show up and diagnose the problem, hoping that operator error was not the suspected cause of the breakdown.

Then we got two-way radios installed in our vehicles, trucks, tractors, combines, etc… and it changed farm life dramatically, much like cell phones have changed the way we all do things today. Suddenly we were always connected, never more than a radio click away when plans changed or someone needed help. Huge efficiency gains ensued, but just like with cell phones, there were drawbacks to being always connected.

For example, when you’re sitting in an air-conditioned combine on a 95-degree day and someone calls you on the radio to tell you that they spilled a bunch of barley and they need help shoveling it back into the truck, at that moment you wish your radio didn’t work.

In truth, the radios didn’t always work right. I overheard many conversations like this,

“Dad, you copy?”
“Yeah, I copy.”
“I think this tractor is overheating.”
“I didn’t hear that… it was all static.”
“Still static. Turn your radio off and on and then try it.”
“Still static.”
“Still static. Maybe pull your radio out of the mount and then slam it back in.”
(longer pause)
“Can you hear me now?”
“Yeah, that’s better.”

But sometimes, I’d hear conversations like this,

“Jack, you copy?”
“Go ahead, Dad.”
“I just plugged this combine, and I need you to climb in there and pull out the weeds while I try to turn the rotor.” (translation: I have a really really miserable job waiting for you)
“All static”.
“Can you hear me now?”
“Yeah, all clear, what’s up?”
“I plugged this combine and I need some help.”
“Sorry, still didn’t hear that… all static.”
“How about now?”
“Yep, go ahead.”
“I need you to drive over here; I need your help unplugging this combine.”
“All static.”
“Get your butt over here.”
(long pause)
“All static.”

I also heard this one several times.

“Dad, it’s quitting time… I’m going to shut down.”
“Sounds good, Rachel, but how about we all just make one more round?” (Translation: let’s all work for another hour)
“All static.”
“Very funny. Just make one more round.”
“Still static. You might want to get that radio checked.”


Getting back to Oliver’s arrival, I’ve already mentioned that those first few days were difficult. Monday, the day we were first told about Oliver’s condition, however, was by far the worst for me. For several reasons, I’m not going to share all the thoughts I was having at the time, but they were really depressing. I’ll share one example, which was that I remember thinking about how I didn’t want to spend time with or bond with a baby who was just going to be taken away in a week or month or year. Like I said… bad stuff.

I called my mom shortly after we were told about Oliver’s heart (around noon on Monday), and she hopped on a flight and arrived late Monday evening. I picked her up at RDU airport, and right away she started talking about how Oliver was going to be ok. It was nice to hear some positive thinking, but I still couldn’t shake the darkness, and I found myself arguing with her and verbalizing some of my depressing comments. Mom’s responses to any dark comments were consistent, and just what I needed.

“All static.”

She didn’t actually say that, of course, but she more or less ignored any dispiriting comments and kept highlighting reasons for optimism. We talked for quite a while Monday night, and I know I kept saying things during our conversation that I’m now ashamed to even think about. But my mom didn’t really try to debate me or my faulty logic (and if you know my mom and I, you know it’s easy for us to slip into some pretty unconstructive debates), and she didn’t let my comments get her down. She just ignored me and stuck to her message.

Later that night, on my drive back to the hospital, I started replaying our conversation, and I had what I’ll call an epiphany that snapped me out of my funk. By the time I reached the hospital, I had made a resolution that has changed my entire outlook regarding Oliver:

I’m this little boy’s dad. Period. Even if he has a lifetime of surgeries, and even if it’s difficult, I’m going to love him and do whatever I can to give him the best chance at achieving his own successes in life.

I’m not kidding that that one resolution has changed my outlook and made everything about this situation more bearable, including those first few days even when every bit of new we received was worse than the previous news. Once I had made up my mind that my job and my role wasn’t going to change no matter what was wrong or how severe the issue, it was easy to sort of let go and say, “I’m just going to love my son and do what I can.”

I’m thankful it’s been an easy resolution to keep so far, and I think a lot of that has to do with the continued prayers and support we’ve received from everyone. Oliver continues to do really well, and as I’ve said many times, there actually ARE many reasons for optimism. I keep hoping and praying that that first day was as bad as it will ever get. But I do have to give a shout out to my mom for helping me get to a positive place faster than I think I would have if left to my own thoughts.

Thanks, Mom.

Here’s Oliver’s 1 month picture that Shawna took and edited last week.

Oliver 1 month

Take care of yourself

It’s funny, because I was sitting right there. And I’m pretty sure I was just as concerned for Oliver as Shawna, although maybe I didn’t quite look like it. In the days after we found out about Oliver’s condition, we heard lots of variations of this message from a number of sources.

“You need to make sure you’re eating and sleeping and taking care of yourself. I know it’s hard, but you can’t help your son if you’re not looking after yourself.”

It’s sound advice, and in all cases, it was delivered from a place of compassion. Still, Shawna was definitely the primary target, and I was definitely not.

As I mentioned in my first post, those first few days after we found out were the darkest. We were tired and and our nerves were shaken. So I wasn’t that surprised when Shawna reacted a bit negatively when one of the (seriously awesome) UNC midwives who helped deliver Oliver stopped by to see how we were handling everything and, right before leaving, gave us (i.e., Shawna) yet another version of that same message.

Shawna’s response was something to the effect of, “Does everyone think I’m an idiot and I can’t take care of myself? Doctors, nurses, my mom, everyone keeps telling me to take care of myself.”

Like any good husband, I moved closer and responded, “Let me ask you a question. Why do you think people keep reminding you to look after yourself? It’s because everyone can see that you are the type of selfless person who would put aside your own needs for the needs of your children. It’s actually a compliment.” Then it hit me. “Wait… should I be offended that nobody is directing that message at me?”

Shawna and I got a good laugh out of the notion that people were refraining from preaching that message to me as a way to prevent my apparent selfishness. Clearly, if anyone should be offended, it’s the guy who ISN’T being told to take care of himself, as if it isn’t really necessary. Do I come across as a guy who has no problem looking after number one? Do I look like a dad who would would make his almost 2-year-old daughter a delicious grilled cheese sandwich for lunch and then eat it and give her the suspicious looking leftover fish from last week instead? That may or may not have happened, but even if it did, these people don’t know that, and I’m still offended.

I’m sure I’ll get over it quickly. My daughter knows what a good dad I am, and that’s all that counts. I give the best horsey rides around the living room (as long as all her chores are done). And the special fish lunches I nuke are probably delicious. 🙂

Notables with TOF

Did just a little googling, and did you know that Shaun White had tetralogy of fallot?


Remember this commercial from the 2012 SuperBowl? The kid playing Darth Vader also had tetralogy of fallot.

And last, but certainly not least, my cousin Will Rice also had tetralogy of Fallot.


All had surgery as infants, and all are doing awesome. Maybe in the future we’ll see Oliver doing this…


Or maybe this…


Or maybe this… 🙂

obama_takes oath of office