We had a very busy, very lovely day today.
It started out with Renee and Kim's baby shower. Kim is due to have a baby girl (Taylor Ruth) on July 5th, and her sister hosted a shower for them down in Delaware with assistance from us. We harnessed all of our creative juices around here to produce a very nice looking diaper cake and a fabulous piggy bank that featured a limited edition Taylor guitar (for whom Taylor is being named) and Taylor's name printed in the Taylor logo font and colors. I took care of most of the diaper cake production, but the sole credit for the piggy goes to Sharon; as an architect, she not only has a steady hand and an artistic bent but is also a perfectionist. This meant that she was up way past 2:00am producing this masterpiece that we hope Taylor will cherish for years. Alas, there are no pictures of these lovely creations (or the pasta and fruit salads I made), or indeed of anything that we did today. We know that Aunt Renee has some on her camera and hope that she'll forward them to us so that we can edit this post to add pics later.
Hallie was marvelously well behaved at the shower. She got up on the right side of the bed today, had a great breakfast, a tiny snooze on the way down, and was cheerful the entire time we were at the shower. She wandered from room to room, never made more than the briefest attempts to reach for highly fragile and dangerous objets in the as-yet-unbabyproofed home of Kim's sister, and was most content to suck on ice cubes we pulled out of the coolers on the porch (where ice was much needed, since it was in the high 90s and terribly humid and sticky today). She lent a helping hand in opening the shower gifts and did not insist on appropriating any of them for herself.
After the shower, we headed back to Philly to help Sam, Elisabeth and TJ's little boy, celebrate his first birthday. Hallie once more fell asleep in the car, drank a decent amount of her bottle, and had a brief catnap. At Sam's, she quickly realized that there was another cooler on the porch with ice in it (we sense that Hallie will check for coolers on porches everywhere she goes from here on in) and again contentedly sucked on ice, wandered around new spaces, and expressed guarded interest in Carmen the dog.
We got home around 7:30 tonight, and not once did Hallie express an iota of fussiness, which is amazing given that we'd left home over eight hours earlier and this represented a major Sesame Street drought for Hal---on the car ride home, she kept shouting out "Ernie AND BERT" and "Elmo" and such, among other huge amounts of babbling she was doing.
Speaking of which, Hallie's babbling/talking is really exploding. She now says (and signs) "Done" and "All Done"; lets us know that she wants to go home from the park (or Sam's party) by saying and signing "home"; happily screams out "jump" whenever we see people jumping or kids jumping rope or what have you; says the words "bath tub" and "bottle" when preparing to embark on her evening ritual of taking a bath and having her "bottle" and says "hi mama", "grammy". All but the last two words are unprompted and what's interesting is that she is now using language and sign to communicate with us, and not just to label things that she finds interesting. She will also say and sign numerous colors ("blue", "green," "red," "yellow", and "purple" and she is learning the signs for and trying to say the names of more letters. Given her capacity to repeat words and this recent language explosion, we're pretty certain that Hallie does not have apraxia, which is a great relief. She does have low muscle tone in her face, so her articulation is indistinct at times (though at other times she comes out with words that sound perfectly clear to everyone). We will still pursue getting Hallie some additional private speech therapy, but are not nearly as panicked as we were back in February and sense that we can take a bit of breath here while we figure out the insurance thing (since we're pretty sure that insurance will balk at yet another speech evaluation and might need an explanation about why we terminated our relationship with our private speech therapist) and to shop around for a speech therapist with whom we have a better rapport (not that I can imagine having much worse of an experience, short of Hallie having a systemic anaphylactic reaction to an allergen).
In addition to everything else, Hallie has also acquired some rather mature behavior patterns this past week. Beginning on Tuesday, she expressed interest (finally) in brushing her teeth. On her prompting, our evening ritual now involves her climbing up the stairs to the bathroom with me, getting up on her step stool near the sink, and asking for her toothbrush and toothpaste (this involves pointing and saying "some"). I put training toothpaste on her brush, real toothpaste on mine, and we stand there side by side quite happily brushing. Well, I brush my teeth and she sort of sucks the toothpaste off of hers and may swish it around in her mouth a bit. Still, this is major progress from a girl who would not let you at her with a toothbrush until now.
We've also been working on getting Hallie to help clean up her colossal mess every evening. We ask her, and help her, complete one cleanup task (she also says "clean" and "dirty" now). Usually this amounts to loading train tracks and pieces into a bucket, or putting away her Megablocks (with which she just started playing appropriately) or something of that nature. Clean up time is not her favorite time by any stretch of the imagination, but we're going to get her to a point where she can take care of this mess by herself, or at least really help us manage to debris field. And she might well surprise us by doing this sooner than we can imagine: tonight, for the first time ever, Hallie independently decided to put a book back on her bookshelf in the dining room. She had trouble standing it up, but she kept trying.
Finally, Hallie's no longer just interested in taking off her own clothing, but also helping to put some of it on. She's very focused on shoes and she can get her crocs on herself (and knows which foot goes where), and she's a champ at putting on our shoes.
Eating-wise and GI-system wise, Hallie has been doing really well. The rice seems to have gotten out of her system by Wednesday and since then, things have been looking good. We have two more completely vomit free days to report (Thursday and Saturday), making it 52 out of the year so far, and I am not even sure that I would count the tiny bit of vomit that came up on Friday as significant. Hallie had been climbing on the slide in the playground and, uncharacteristically for her, bumped her knee as she went up the steps. She was more surprised than hurt, but she cried nevertheless. Jenine (her OT) and I tried to calm her down but lacked the ever-important ice distraction. So she did end up spitting up a mouthful or two of yogurt, but nothing else (certainly not the gut-emptying purges Hallie was doing on Monday and Tuesday), and that was that. Additionally, the small patches of eczema that Hallie had on her upper arms and thighs are now gone and Hallie is sleeping a whole lot better. This in part could be due to the periactin that Hallie's allergist just prescribed--it's an antihistamine that replaces the zyrtec Hallie had been taking and has the possible added benefit of being an appetite stimulant. We're not sure it's really enhancing Hallie's desire to eat, but she is certainly not refusing food the way she was doing on Tuesday and Wednesday. And tonight she tried tiny pieces of diced canned pears (they are quite soft and almost meltable) and did fine with them. She only ate six to eight chunks, but chewed nicely and swallowed without gagging. Tomorrow we begin a soy trial, which I'm sort of dreading because it may set off the same kind of cycle we had last week (if Hallie doesn't tolerate soy---the patch test came back negative but this does not mean she's clear to eat soy so much as clear to try it). But we will forge ahead and see what happens.
All of this makes us very happy. As we close in on her second birthday, we feel a certain nostalgia about how our little baby is being replaced by the little girl that Hallie is quickly becoming, but we heartened and very proud of how far she's come in such a short period.