NICU Gift Bags

Earlier this month I emailed and posted to our CaringBridge site this letter to friends & family:

Dear Family & Friends:

We first want to thank you all so very much for all of your love, support, thoughts and prayers during the last year. When Jack was born and spent eight weeks in the NICU many of you helped with meals and sent cards and gift cards. While I did my best to send out thank you notes, I know not all got sent. We very much appreciated all of your support during this difficult time. It was so very nice to come home from the NICU each evening and not worry about what to cook. Many times you sent nice surprises for KP and he loved those just as much!

When Jack experienced complications after surgery last month you all stepped up again with your support. We were so thankful for all you did. I am not sure who all donated to the PayPal account, but we were so grateful to have that financial support. Traveling to and from the hospital, staying in hotels and eating out each day was quite an expense. Again, thank you all so very much. We also thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers and Jack heals and adjusts to being home.

Before Jack was born, I saw some party supplies at Target with The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme. I envisioned a big first birthday party using this theme. In fact, each month we have taken Jack’s picture with the caterpillar to document his growth. Because Jack is still recovering and because we are in the middle of flu and RSV season we decided not to celebrate his birthday just yet. We also would love to wait when he can try some cake! I would love to have a big party in the spring where we can all celebrate Jack and thank all of you for your support.

So for now, in lieu of birthday gifts we would like to ask you to consider making a donation in Jack’s honor. Because it is the Christmas season, it’s also a good time to think about charitable donations. We have a few ideas that we hope you will consider.

We are in the first stages of starting a team for the Lafayette March of Dimes Walk. If you would like to donate to Jack’s team, you can visit the website listed below and make a donation. (Note this is our new team page) We would love for you to sign up and join our team! The walk is April 28 in Lafayette.

While Jack was in the PICU at Riley, we were fortunate enough to sleep in the Ronald McDonald house for three nights. I can’t explain how nice it was to actually sleep in a real bed and in a quiet room. If you would like to donate to the Ronald McDonald house, visit the website listed below. On the website, there is also a list of items the Ronald McDonald house is in need of for families.

Finally, I am working on gift bags for families of the St Elizabeth NICU. I would like to deliver the bags close to Christmas Day. Jack was in the NICU during Christmas last year and I received a gift bag full of nice goodies. I would like to give back by giving the families admitted during Christmas something this year. We plan on using some money donated to us we have left to pay for these bags. But, if you would like to help contribute with this project, please email me at

Thank you again for all of your love, support, thoughts and prayers. We are very grateful for all of you and I know Jack is too. We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a happy and health new year!

Love, The Peña Family

Henry, Abbi, Kendrick, & Jack

I was overwhelmed with responses and donations! Thank you to all who gave to the RMH, March of Dimes or contributed to the gift bag fund. We made ten bags and delivered them on Friday, December 23. Each gift bag had some personal care items such as tissues, toothbrush and toothpaste, hand lotion and hand sanitizer. The bags also included paper, pens, activity books and lots and lots of good snacks!

We also included a coupon to It’s A Preemie Thing. It’s a Preemie Thing is a site I found while Jack was in the NICU. Julie, the owner, is a preemie mom who started a business selling preemie gear and eventually making her own shirts. She also has a blog and lots of good links on her site. I have bought several onesies for Jack, including his “No Really, I’m One” onesie. You can find more information here Here is a peek in to a bag. This was before I added even more goodies that a friend dropped by!

You may have noticed the book inside the bag. Sticking with Jacks’ theme, each family received a mini The Very Hungry Caterpillar book. The back of the book included a special message.

The bags were definitely a success and I had so much fun putting them together. This is a tradition I would like to carry on each year. With more time to plan I can watch for good deals and buy things throughout the year. Shhhhh!! Don’t tell Henry! Really he wouldn’t care, but we are running out of room in our house and he might not like this idea! I would also like to work on more donations from businesses, etc.

Thank you again to all that helped contribute to the bags! I know we were able to make the holidays a bit brighter for some NICU families.


Mission Accomplished

My goal for today was to start a blog. Mission accomplished. Okay, actually I created this account on November 3, one week before Jack’s surgery. Because of the events that followed, I never got around to my first post or playing around with WordPress.

I wanted to start a blog so I can update on Jack’s progress as well as document our daily life raising two wild and crazy boys! I don’t scrapbook or even organize photos well, so hopefully this will work for us. Heck, Jack’s baby book is still in the package. I know, I’m terrible!  I do have plans to order photo books through Snapfish or Shutterfly for both of the boys. We don’t have a shortage of pictures, again it’s the organization that needs some work. Working full time, being a mom and wife and completing my master’s degree leaves me little time for these things! So, here is to hoping I’ll find time to update our blog (and work on those picture books)!

There are two posts I will definitely be working on this week. One will be a post about Jack’s first year. We have taken a picture with his caterpillar each month and I plan to upload those and show just how much he’s grown. I also want to share about the gift bags we recently gave to the NICU families.

Speaking of Jack, he had quite a big day. We visited his pediatrician, Dr. Emery, for his 12 month checkup.  Jack weighed 16lbs and was 27 inches long. To think he has grown 15 inches in one year is amazing to me!  He weighed right around 15lbs when he went in for his first surgery. I am not sure how low his weight got, but I do know it was around 13 lbs. So, he has gained weight back very nicely. We also spoke with the surgeon’s nurse today. Jack has had his gastric tube clamped for over a week. He has been taking small amounts of water and has nibbled on a few crackers. I knew it was time to start weaning from this J-tube feeding, so I called to get the plan in place. Starting tomorrow, Jack will have the J-tube clamped for 10 hours a day. During that time, he will take a bottle every two hours with 80ml of formula. For the other 14 hours (at night) he will have the J-tube running. We will then gradually increase his time off the tube and the amount of formula with each feed so we can space them out. Tonight, I clamped his J-tube for a few hours and gave him a bottle and he did very well. His tummy was making some loud and crazy noises, but so far, so good. I work at the Women’s Center tomorrow for my PRN job, so hopefully things go well with daddy as we start this new routine! Please keep Jack in your thoughts and prayers as we make this transition.

Stay tuned for updates on Jack and new picture posts this week!