So much has happened since my last writing that I haven’t had time to update everyone. If you follow us on any of our social media pages then you’re at least getting a hint of what’s going on but now I will try to go into more detail.

Isabella’s Health Update

As of our last visit to Seattle Children’s Hospital we are very pleased to announce that for the first time since her last heart operation her condition is improving! This is encouraging however, we are not out of the woods yet. Izzy’s doctor is being very careful by cautioning us that just because we are seeing an improvement, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will continue as much as we need it to which is why she will continue her monthly echogram with her cardiologist until doctors are certain that she will be okay for a while. One thing’s for sure is that even if all goes well, Isabella will always have yearly checkups on her heart. Neither Daya nor I have any known family history of heart conditions so it could just be one of life’s many surprises. Despite the fact that there are still so many unknowns yet, we are taking the moment to celebrate and thank God for the current improvements. Just looking at that precious angel you couldn’t even tell there was anything wrong with her.

Cassidy’s Thanksgiving Visit

We had one of the most unconventional Thanksgivings on the Otto family books. For one, we knew in advance that we weren’t going to cook nor eat at home. That allowed for us to be mobile and explore more as a family. We picked up Cassidy from Sea-Tac International Airport on Saturday. Since the airport is close to Daya’s favorite places to get Filipino food, Seafood City and Jollibee, it is our normal routine to let mama get her fix. Those places are connected to the Southcenter Mall in Tukwila so Cassidy and I usually branch off into our direction (the arcade) until Daya finishes shopping.

On Sunday we were all able to attend church together which Cassidy loves doing. If there’s ever a conflict in schedule that forces us to miss church you can see how bummed out she is so we do our best to not disrupt our routine as best as we can.

On Monday we watched the movie, Wonder which was an incredible story about a kid with facial differences who enters public school for the first time in the 5th grade and faces bullies, makes friends and adapts into a world where he was made to stand out. I love movies like this that allow for deep and meaningful conversations for the family to have together.

After the movie the four of us took pictures on Santa’s lap. It was Izzy’s first year meeting Santa! Add one more picture to the Otto Memory Book. The picture is nearly perfect. Izzy is fully alert, Cassidy is right next to Santa, momma is on the other side and I’m standing there with a wide smile feeling extremely proud of my family. It was picture perfect and will be in our photo album for years to come.

On Tuesday we revealed the first of two surprises for Cassidy, a trip to the Funko Headquarters in Everett. If you haven’t heard of Funko Pops!, they are a very popular toy right now that in my opinion appears to be the new bobblehead doll. For whatever reason millions of people like them and the Funko HQ happens to be in our backyard. Cassidy finally got her Beast, Grinch, a few others and was even able to make her own custom Pop!. I’m not into them as much but I still got my Russell Wilson Pop!. Daya wasn’t into it as much either but Izzy found a cute little plush Pennywise doll that she liked. Isn’t that precious?

On Wednesday, Daya scheduled our first ever family portraits with Izzy. We coordinated our outfits and offered our best cheese eating grins and followed the commands of the photographer. For an hour we switched poses and tried our best to keep Izzy’s attention on the camera. Anyone who tries to take group pictures with babies knows darn well what I’m talking about. It was a great experience and we can’t wait for our photos to arrive. We can’t wait to send out our many family and friends holiday cards! After that we headed to Bellevue for Cassidy’s last surprise and made reservations at the sugar-lover’s dream spot, The Sugar Factory. It’s an exhilarating experience for the kids especially but pretty fun for adults as well. They are known for their over-the-top sugary drinks which in our case included a carbonated watermelon flavored beverage in a fishbowl-of-a-glass topped with watermelon gummy candies. What makes this drink exquisite is that when they bring the glass to your table there are just ice cubes, candy and a small chunk of dry ice inside. Then, while cameras are rolling, the waiter will pour the watermelon soda in and suddenly your drink is “smoking”. It is loved by all. Not one to be outdone, Daya ordered the most magnificent milkshake I’ve ever witnessed and tasted. It was a Snickers milkshake where they actually dip half of your stein glass in chocolate and then put in chunks of the tasty candy bar along the outside of the glass. The Sugar Factory is a world where art, fine dining and entertainment collide and the customer is left with the feeling of having experienced something quite extraordinary. The Otto’s were no different. For those of you that joined us on my Instagram Live Feed, you got to get a glimpse of what I’m talking about.

Thursday was Thanksgiving and knowing in advance how busy our week was going to be, we opted out of preparing a turkey and all the fixin’s at home and instead decided to go to one of Daya’s favorite buffets where they were offering the traditional holiday entrées. Apparently we weren’t the only ones that planned on attending because to our surprise, there was, I kid you not, a three and a half hour line. It was about 4:30 and there was no way we were going to wait that long to eat so we began scrambling and calling other restaurants in the area to see what our options were. Luckily, a waitress saw that we had a baby and recommended a very nice restaurant very close in proximity to us. The wait was only about an hour or so and we jumped all over it. When our table was ready we looked at the menu and I asked Daya and Cassidy if they were interested in the Thanksgiving Feast they were offering. Neither one was and I chuckled to myself at how unconventional this whole experience was and joined them. Daya had steak and vegetables, Cassidy had corndogs and mac-n-cheese and I had filet mignon wrapped in bacon. The dinner was perfect. When it was time to pay Cassidy noticed that I was paying way over what the bill showed and asked why. I told her to look around at how many people were waiting to eat. Our server, the other servers, the hostess and all the cooks were making it possible for other families to have a memorable Thanksgiving dinner together but had to sacrifice being with their own families to allow that to happen. I told her the extra money was our family’s appreciation of that sacrifice. She nodded her head as if she understood and agreed and we quietly left the restaurant to head home for a restful night of sleep.

Friday was our most “normal” day as we followed our usual routine of spending the first few hours of the day playing Monopoly in the spare room (someday to be Izzy’s). Cassidy asked if she could invite a friend to stay the night which was met with a resounding yes by Daya and I so that finally her and I could spend some quiet minutes together. “Together time” has been something of a rarity these days and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t affecting our marriage. It’s something we both need but life threw so many things at us in such a short amount of time that we’ve found it a challenge to keep up with the sudden changes. I will devote a more detailed writing on this and I need for Daya’s perspective to be present to give the most accurate telling of this portion of our experience.

On Saturday we let Cassidy choose what she wanted to do for her last full day here in Washington. She chose to visit the Imagine Children’s Museum and brought her friend that stayed the night. Isabella loved the commotion of the children and activities going on all around her. She appears to be a very bright little baby and we are constantly amazed at her progression. It might be weird but I like to have “regular” conversations with Isabella. What I mean by that is I can’t stand baby talk and having to raise the pitch of my voice and talk in a manner that makes me feel like I’m talking to a dog. I talked like a normal human being with Cassidy when she was a baby and she was able to talk at a young age. That’s my plan with Izzy as well. That’s not to say I don’t ever baby talk with Izzy but for the most part, I try to talk to her as I do to any normal person because children seem to catch on very quickly when you do that.

After our trip to the children’s museum we dropped Cassidy’s friend off at her house and spent our last night together. Daya helped pack her bags and had to cram everything tight because of all the Funko Pops! she planned to take home. As hard as it is to go to bed early, we had to because she had a morning flight which forced us to leave the house at 6 a.m.

On Sunday we headed out with a trunk full of luggage, a backseat with a sleepy nine-year-old and a cup of french pressed coffee. Departures are always rough but we do our very best to make our last moments together fun. When we arrived to her gate we still had a couple hours to go. We have to leave early because you never know how packed the airport is going to be. During her spring visit this year it took us two and a half hours to get her unaccompanied minor ticket and through security because it was spring break and the airport was jam packed. We ended up missing her flight and had to remain at the airport for another two hours to jump on a different flight that took Cassidy to a town two hours away from her original destination. Luckily her mom was understanding of the situation and made that two hour trip to pick her up. Now though, we treat every flight like it’s spring break and arrive three hours early and spend whatever free time at the airport playing games such as Uno, drink coffee and cocoa and look for new reads at the bookstore. At 9:20 her flight started boarding. We gave each other a big hug (I always get a lump in my throat at this point) and I wished her a safe flight. Per routine, I took a picture of her and sent it to her mother to tell her she was on the airplane and upon arrival I’d get a picture in return showing that she made it safely. This time was no different and on the way home from the airport with no one around to see me I let the tears fall freely. They are a mixture of sadness that she had to leave but also in joy that this is exactly the family life I always dreamed of- full of love, trust, compassion and abundance. I pulled up to the driveway about the same time Cassidy’s flight landed. We were both home. I walked inside to find Daya and Izzy still sleeping and I leaned over to give my wife a big hug. As much as we hate saying farewell to Cassidy, it’s the only way but we know that the three of us will continue to make memories in her absence.

Temporary Promotion

In the first part of November I was offered an unexpected temporary promotion at work. It’s an opportunity that had been talked about as a possibility but nothing was ever set in stone. It’s been over a month now and most days I come home exhausted from working long hours but that was expected. Really it’s not really all that bad, it’s just an adjustment but certainly an opportunity I am most thankful for.

All in all, things have been going great for our family. As our journey forges ahead we will continue to keep everyone posted through our blog, social media and my podcast. Thank you all for the continued support and encouragement of our family. It means a lot to us when we meet people in public and they tell us they’ve been supporting us from the beginning. Despite my intense work schedule and busy family life we will continue to provided updates on our crazy lives together.

We hope you are enjoying the holiday season and from our home to yours, God Bless.