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Monday, July 28, 2008

Our Weekend

It's been a crazy week, so forgive me for being remiss about posting.

Hallie was reacting to beef until Friday, we think, and this made us all very very unhappy. My theory is that it takes her longest to clear protein from her system because it is denser and harder to break down (and obviously harder for her to digest). So this week was mostly devoted to cleaning up after the reflux-related, congested-related, allergy-originated mess and praying hard for her to get the awful stuff that was making all of us (but particularly her) unhappy out of her system.

Fortunately, by Saturday, things were a lot better and we could all go on with our lives. Hallie--with playing hard, and us mommy types with contemplating Hallie's future as a fruititarian. We are not sure that the word exists (blogger seems to be dubious on this count), but we're pretty sure that we're trying blueberries next and then grapes. We need to have a few good weeks under our belt before we attempt anything more challenging (perhaps black beans, which have iron and protein, but are not related to soybeans and peanuts. Alas, chickpeas, which might give us a flour and hummus and falafel, are). Anyway, we also need a few good weeks to help her work on her chewing and food acceptance skills. It's no wonder that she has food aversions: most of her life has been spent being sick because food was hurting her. We need a nice extended period of freedom from this to re-teach her that some foods can be her friends.

It's not that we had *no* fun this week...just less than we'd been having.

Here, Hallie is hanging out with Mommy in the wading pool:

And here she is singing "I Love Trash" with me: she is the puppeteer and I am the singer...she has yet to really sing along with anything, though she loves songs, particularly when sung by her favorite Sesame Street characters:

Anyway, this post isn't about food but about our weekend. Sharon and I started out the weekend in a nice way by going out to dinner and a movie on Friday night. Fabulous food at a local and relatively inexpensive Mexican place (I so hope that Hallie gets to enjoy guacamole and carnitas some day) followed by Wall-e, which was really good. It's totally not a kid's movie, but was a very good movie from the perspective of its underlying message (conservation of the planet Earth) and its fabulous Pixar animation. Nonetheless, I wondered if the message wouldn't end up being diluted by the fact that Disney (and Pixar by association and relationship) are marketing plastic thingamabobs that no one needs in the various merchandising campaigns underway for the film. It seems to me that we could all do more to conserve resources than end up with a million action figures no one truly needs that will end up in some future landfill should we not destroy ourselves by the time some robotic trash compactor of the future gets around to making the material with which to fill them...

OK, enough with my diatribe about our need to do something about our world's condition, and fast.

On Saturday, after another early awakening (7 am at the latest) and similarly early nap (1 pm), we headed down to Grammy's. We never arrive terribly early, and we are very apologetic about this, but let's face it, it's not easy for us to get out of the house and at least we sometimes do so. I was going to stay home to work this weekend but given that our house now seems to be the free residence of a colony of mice that we are picking off one by one (we'd like to evict them en masse but this is not going as planned), I decided that it would be far nicer to try to get some work done at Grammy's, spend time with the cousins and Aunt Laura, and do something other than wonder if it was safe to enter my kitchen.

I am very glad that I did. Hallie had a really lovely time and it's fabulous to see her have fun like this.

She spent the late afternoon at the wading pool with Adam and Hannah, whom she loves, and only part of the way through realized that there was a big grown up pool that we barred her from entering (she thinks she can swim but cannot, which presents all sorts of problems). She tried to find a way through the fence that separates the wading pool from the big person pool, but fortunately did not (it helps that we have neither taught her how to use wire cutters nor provided her with any!).

Saturday was vomit-free day number 88, and so this added to our collective parental happiness.

Today ended up being rather stormy, and Hallie took another early nap (again around 1pm) so we did not get out of the house until close to 4:30pm. We headed over to Aunt Laura's, met up with her and the little kids, and took off for Ocean City (which is about ten minutes from where they live).

Here she is in the lovely sweatshirt that Aunt Ellen got her for her birthday for hanging out on the Ocean City boardwalk:

First we had dinner at Mack and Manco's (Hallie had some potato sticks, milk and then a long walk up and down the boardwalk with me). Then it was off to take in the rides at Wonderland. The last time Hallie did this (the only time she did this!) was last summer, and she was far too small to enjoy the rides, and certainly too small to go on them unsupervised. This time, as always, we began with the Merry-go-round, and fortunately, the horsies did not frighten her.

Then, we sent her off with Adam (who is three and whom we put in charge) to enjoy the firetrucks. The kids had such a great time that they requested a second round. Hallie even enjoyed clanging the fire bell and steering a bit.

After that, we placed them on the boat ride. As I predicted, Hallie was very interested in the water---too interested, really. She had her hands in the water from the get-go (I was advised by Sharon, between her guffaws, that it was not, indeed, electrified). Then she threw her shoe into the water. Sharon retrieved that, and Hallie and I sat there wondering if they were going to post her mugshot and bar her from future rides.

They did not. So she went on later to take a boat ride with Hannah. Hannah is five and did her very best to try to restrain her youngest cousin, but to no avail. Hallie ended up trying to scoot out of Hannah's grasp to get back into the water. I banned her from that ride forthwith.

Before we left, Hallie took a ride on the flying dumbo with Mommy and after that we called it a night.

She slept in the car all the way home and I expect another early awakening from our girl, so I should call it a night, too.

But first, I just want to say that Hallie is not only speaking a lot more (she now regularly says "I" "I sit", "I fly" and "I up" and "I down" but also sophisticated multisyllabic words like "upstairs" and "bathroom." I'm not sure that others can comprehend her speech, but we can most of the time. And on the bathroom front, it seems like Hallie is beginning to send out signals that we should, perhaps, begin that toilet training process we've been sort of dreading. Most of the time now when she needs to poop she seeks entry into a bathroom and does what she needs to do and tells us so by saying "Yes" (and signing it, too) when we ask her if she's pooped. She's done this about 85% of the time over the last four or five days. This is great. We're sort of terrified by the process, but Hallie is sending us signals, and we need to respect them. And of course I'll be thrilled to have her out of diapers soon...not only will it save us a few landfills, but a bunch of dollars each month, too. Not to mention help us deal with the squirming kiddo who hates having her diaper changed!

Finally, it will be very nice to just have one kid in diapers at a time...though I know that toddlers often do regress when their younger siblings arrive....

No, it's not Hallie who is expecting...she just plays a pregnant person in our house when she is being silly with Ami... Drumroll please: Sharon is 12 weeks, 2 days pregnant with our next, hopefully full term kiddo. We're doing everything we can to monitor this pregnancy as closely as humanly possible, and so far so good... It's quite a leap to take, and if you are the praying/contemplating/finger crossing type, please send your prayers, mantras, and good wishes our way. But I figured that, sooner or later we'd announce this to the blogosphere, and Hallie's pic gave me a great opportunity to do so. We are going into this armed with a lot of research and a bit of craziness, but hopefully, come February 7th, give or take just a week or two, Hallie will be a big sister and we'll be embarking on an even more exciting journey.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Beef Has Moved into the Failure Column

Well, after all that, it's pretty darned clear that Hallie failed her beef trial. Sharon was out with a client for dinner, and I was home giving Hallie her dinner. Lately, that's not been too traumatic, and Hallie and I were having a nice time watching Elmo & co. while she ate bananas and prunes. She was just about done with her six ounce serving when she gagged (not on anything...just gagged), coughed, and spewed. And spewed. And spewed. She was covered, her high chair was covered, the floor was covered, and it just kept coming up. This is the typical pattern with her food allergies: she has very delayed reactions to many foods, but when they come, they just keep coming.

I ran out of paper towels up here (there are lots more in the basement, but I won't leave her unattended to fetch them) so I resorted to wipes and napkins, and Hallie is generally well behaved in these situations and cooperates with shirt removal and cleanup. I got her relatively clean, gave her some drinkable Yo Goat (thank goodness that Whole Foods is carrying it again!), changed her into a clean diaper (it's rare that the outside is more soiled than the inside, but tonight was one of those nights) and gave her a bottle. She clearly felt better, drank some bottle for me as I cleaned up as much as I could up here, and then went upstairs for her bath. Sharon came home mid-bath (Hallie was thrilled to see her) and got Hallie settled down with more goat milk formula. We managed to get about 12 ounces of formula into the kiddo, so she's not in any danger of dehydration.

Meanwhile, my excellent mommy friends over at the Preemie Blog Moms were very supportive about my venting. A couple of them independently raised the question of whether Hallie has Eosinophilic Esophagitis and not just FPIES. This is a great question, and actually one that came up yesterday during our Pulmonology appointment. Liz asked whether Hallie might have EE, at which point I noted that her scope last August came up clean. Liz said that her sense is that this might be inconclusive because Hallie's gut might not yet have been mature enough to show Eosinophils (pronounces EE-OH-SIN-OH-FILS---I have trouble saying this word, too!). The vomiting plus dysphagia (inability to or difficulty swallowing) is a decent indicator that tis is what we may be facing. The only thing that suggests otherwise is Hallie's nearly-miraculous capacity to put on weight in the face of all of this. She has only really lost weight twice in her life, and that was back in April 2007 when we ran out of breast milk and January 2008 when we stopped adding all of the extra stuff to her goat milk (which also was, probably not coincidentally, the only two week period when she stopped vomiting entirely....I suspect that stripping away the Enfamil AR and possibly the Karo Syrup was responsible for her complete symptomatic resolution at that point).

So, given all of this, I quickly shot off an email to our team---our ped, our allergist, our GI, and Liz. I'm not sure what this will mean in terms of testing, but it will probably mean little in terms of treatment (a few hours of research on POFAK and other websites suggests this). It's clear that the safe foods are safe, and we probably risk very little trying new foods, except that we would need to avoid the top 8 (milk, soy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, shellfish, and wheat). We already know that she is not okay on milk, soy, eggs, and wheat, and we were avoiding peanuts and shellfish as well. The question is whether we can get another protein on board, and chicken/turkey/poultry were big no-nos for FPIES. Anyway, I suspect we may just try to add more fruit and rely on our nanny goat formula until who knows when. The big kicker for EE, though, is that there is a lot less of a chance that Hallie will outgrow things, and that would stink.

The upshot is that we're still on six foods and we still have a mystery on our hands and I still need to continue my training and research in the medical/pediatric field.

We did get one more vomit free day out of this week, though, so that makes it 86 for the year. But given tonight's happenings, I'm once more in that glass-is-half-full kind of place. I'm really tired of research, but more importantly, I'm real tired of Hallie having to experience so much pain. It seems so unfair that she has been through so much, and so amazing that, despite it all, she is such a sweet, good-natured, and wonderful little kid. Our OT, Jenine, who was here for the first time in a three weeks was utterly impressed by Hallie's growth and development over this period. Jenine noted that Hallie still has some low tone issues, but her stance (more close-legged) is much more stable and her speech development has been utterly phenomenal. It was nice to hear that a few hours ago, and is very good for me to think about this, right now, as I ponder the future and the things/conditions that Hallie has yet to face.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tipping the Scales At...

....a whopping 27 lbs, 8 ounces (12.5 kilos on the nose). That's what Hallie weighs as of today, and while I think the scale at the pulmonologist runs heavy, even if we subtract 8 ounces for that and the poop that she produced a few minutes after we got to the examination room, that's still phenomenal.

Turns out that french fries, supercharged goat milk, and a variety of fruits is NOT a good diet for a super model after all. Just a super toddler.

She is about 34 inches, so 40th percentile for height. This accounts for the recent chubbiness that we've perceived.

More importantly, her lungs so clear as a bell. Our excellent pulmo fellow agrees that the dietary changes are what have made all the difference in Hallie's case. She looked at the growth curve, which totally took off in December (our last visit) and listened to her lungs very carefully and heard nothing out of the ordinary, even when she squeezed them to try to elicit a wheeze. She and her attending did say that down the road, when Hallie starts cardiovascular sports, she may get winded more quickly than other kids, but that, right now it seems like we've skirted asthma and no longer even have a Reactive Airways Disease diagnosis. This is nothing short of miraculous.

We'll keep the flovent and atrovent on hand for now in case we need it if she gets sick or something, but we're continuining to tick off the things we don't need to worry about.

Hallie was very cute, after she got over her raging blood-pressure-cuff related meltdown (she hates those things with a passion). She had a lot of fun running around the exam room and even more fun once Liz (the fellow) arrived. She showed off for Liz by saying "Liz" (I'd been coaching her: it really helped this time to tell her that she had a doctor's visit today and that the doctor, who is named Liz, is very nice and loves her and likes playing with her) and signing "Doctor." She was extremely social, very well behaved, and other than the aforementioned meltdown, was a model patient. She offered her ear to Liz when Liz grabbed the otoscope and opened her mouth wide when asked and sat still for the stethescope (she loves these). She even let Liz use the portable pulse ox on her (they needed to repeat this since the first pulse ox, which immediately followed the blood pressure check, registered 83-88 but this was all meltdown related. Her real sats were at 97%; when Sharon heard this, she queried: "Why not 100%". Sheesh!!!!

A Remembrance of Things (that you wish were in the) Past

So this evening, Hallie had another one of her famous cough-cough-bottle-vomit episodes. We were a bit out of practice so Sharon didn't have the famous bucket nearby (it's been a long time since one of these events) and consequently the mess (which included dinner) was fairly spectacular. I was also unprepared so I needed to call in the paper towel reinforcements from the basement (haven't been using many of these lately, so I didn't have my typical stash of two extra rolls upstairs). Hallie, of course, was asleep when all of this happened, but woke up from the coughing and vomiting and then had to be put back to bed.

This comes on the heels of her swallowing some water from the wading pool this afternoon and vomiting as a result of that. She still cannot handle thin liquids (we still thicken pretty much everything to a consistency that's between nectar and honey; she does take little sips of unthickened juice, but not much and not often). Clearly she isn't ready for thins, yet, but my sense (and my sense about things tends to be pretty good) is that this episode tonight was not about the pool water but something else.

Possible culprits?

1. Beef, after all (especially since I jinxed us with the last post).
2. Hot dogs, but not beef in particular. The ones we use are gluten and casein free, and the only ingredients listed are celery juice, paprika, onion and garlic powder, lactic acid from beets, and salt and pepper. Still, that does leave an awful lot beside beef.
3. The Gerber plums and apples she ate at dinner. A long shot, but Gerber is known for more cross-contamination problems than is Beech Nut (which she's been eating quite happily without incident and whose food contains some iron, as opposed to Earth's Best)

Of course I responded by googling and searching the POFAK site frantically and don't have any conclusive answers. I think we just have to wait and see. If the vomiting keeps up, we will know she is responding to something in the hot dogs (beef or something else). That's the typical pattern with Hallie. If it is a food allergy or intolerance, she's taken longer than average to respond (she responds very quickly to rice and other grains and milk but took a few days to respond to soy, for example). But a delay of four days is not unheard of, especially given the very small quantities of hot dogs she's eating (never more than a third to half a hot dog at any sitting, and more typically that's been over the course of a day). Today she only had a few bites of hot dog and mostly safe pureed foods so that makes the hot dogs a less likely culprit, but these food allergy things are so capricious and weird that it can make your head spin.

Anyway, that all means that we're still at 85 vomit free days and that we had 6 vomit free days this week. I was so hoping for seven, but that was not to be.

It's way late right now and I've just finished cleaning up for the cleaning folks coming tomorrow (let's hope that they do a better job than the ones we used to have come in twice a month) and making the kiddo's bottles. I am hoping that Hallie sleeps through the night---between the no naps (and no bottle) in the car home and the major vomit after eating a decent dinner and drinking over 6 ounces of her bottle, she's down in terms of quantity consumed today. When Sharon was finally able to settle Hallie down around 11:30, the girl only drank about 4.5 ounces of her milk, so she's had maybe a total of 10 ounces of milk today and perhaps as much as 600 calories, but certainly no more than that. I deeply hope that she sleeps through the night and that tomorrow ends up being a better day.

To end on a more upbeat note: it turns out that Hallie can not only identify most (over 20 for sure) letters of the alphabet (only upper case) when they are written/printed, but that she can identify all letters of the alphabet until "P" when they are signed to her. She was refusing to nap on the way home from our meetup with Eliza Grace and her mom in Princeton, so I was amusing her in the back seat of the car. I started to sign to see whether she could get my alphabet signs, and amazingly enough she did. She got bored at "P" so she may know Q through Z as well, but just suffers from a raging case of a toddler's limited attention span.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Pigeon Ate a Hotdog

So I'm pretty certain that Hallie is passing her beef challenge, which is great, since it turns out that she does love hot dogs. Maybe it's the power of Mo Willem's suggestion (in the fabulous and often-read The Pigeon Finds A Hot Dog and maybe it is the sheer taste sensation, but the kid has been craving her beef lately, and, even more importantly, feeding it to herself. In the hierarchy of foods, there is no doubt that french fries win out, but tonight Hallie downed about a third to half a hotdog with gusto and relish ( relish. We haven't conducted a pickle relish, or for that matter, mustard trial yet!).

Naturally, since it's so wonderful to chronicle good eating experiences, I pulled out the camera. Hallie can tell when the camera is being whipped out and hears the noise that it makes when it is turned on, so she looked up. I said "smile" to her as I got ready to snap a shot, and while she didn't quite smile (as is evident in the photo), she said "cheese" back to us. How cool!

The weather, alas, today, was anything but, so we stayed indoors (or, more correctly, she stayed indoors, while Sharon went to her final day of jury duty and I went in search of goat milk provisions and stuff for the moms to eat, too).

Then again, we were all probably too exhausted to play outside with her anyway because our kiddo decided that 3:40am Thursday-into-Friday morning was the perfect time to wake us up with a (for her) resounding "mama!" and "mommy!" and an effort to crawl off the bed to grab some books and a bit of playing. We were neither thrilled nor impressed, so I ran downstairs to grab a bottle. The bottle got her right back to sleep. Alas, it slipped from her lovely little mouth and proceeded to dribble all over the bed and I woke up in a soggy pool of goat milk. Yuck.

As promised, here's a couple of shots of Hallie's body art (a daily routine) from the other night. Note that in the second picture she is lying upside down watching TV. This is a new thing, and slightly odd. But she does seem to enjoy it, and she's a toddler, which is an odd stage of human development in any event.

Final note: five weekdays in a row of spew free existence. I think we're up to 84 days now, but honestly, I'm beginning to lose count. And this is a very good thing indeed.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Where's the Beef?

So we're doing a beef challenge this week with Hallie. It would be excellent to have an additional protein source (her only protein source thus far being goat milk products; she's great with these, but her diet doesn't afford her a lot of variety). She doesn't seem to like the taste of those little jars of beech nut baby beef terribly much (can you blame her?) but has done okay on the two ounces of it that she's had so far (one yesterday and the other today). So, after a bit of research on Applegate Farms (an organic brand carried by Whole Foods) that yielded information about a very good set of policies concerning their lack of use of gluten, their dedicated practices to avoid cross contamination with dairy products, and the like, I decided to pick up a package of their organic hot dogs tonight and try them out on Hallie. Worst comes to worst, I figured, we'd actually eat these (unlike the many jars of rejected baby food that we have stacked in our cabinet). We do like our hot dogs around here (pretty occasionally, but still) and I insist on organic ones, and since I do most of the shopping, Sharon has to put up with these (which actually are quite tasty) in lieu of her preferred Oscar Mayer ones (side note: Hallie's pulmonologist *is* actually Oscar Mayer...grandson, I think, of the lunch meat-hot dog guy, and a fabulous doctor all around. I'm not sure if we'll see him or someone else on Monday for our 6 month checkup that is about 3 months late, but we are looking forward to hanging out with the pulmo fellow, Liz, whom we actually miss. She loves Hallie, and the feeling is quite mutual. I am sure that Liz will be surprised at how big Hallie's gotten).

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: I brought them home, boiled up about a third of one, skinned it, let it cool, and chunked it up pretty small. We weren't sure what to expect because Hallie gave me the mother of all food averse I'm-not-eating-no-way-no-how-you-cannot-make-me-so-there tantrums last night. So much so that I gave up (trying not to show my exasperation) and handed over the feeding reins to Sharon, who managed somehow to get four 'sticks' of goat mozarella, two slices of banana cut up into sixths, and a few sticks of pear into the kid over the next hour and a half. It's very clear to us that our toddler knows how to chew and can chew and swallow safe foods, but that she is as stubborn as a mule and that food is her controlling mechanism of desire (or lack thereof), probably because of her long history of hating it and it hurting her. In any event, tonight she was pretty good and, once she deemed the hotdog both safe and tasty, chowed it down pretty nicely. A couple of chunks did end up in her high chair, but this appeared to be more related to toddler lack of eating coordination than to an effort to hide and bury them and fool us on her part. (It is pretty interesting that she inspects her food the way she does. Her initial response to chunks of food that do not appear to be french fries or potato sticks is to say 'all done' and swat at and clear them. But she stopped doing this with the hot dogs once she actually tasted their yummy salty goodness and realized that this was indeed what the famous pigeon was talking about when he found a hot dog and deemed it a taste sensation and splendor in a bun. Just hold the bun for Hallie, unless of course we can figure out how to make a bun from potato, goat milk, pears, apples, bananas and prunes or some subset thereof).

We'll see if Hallie's pro-hot dog stance continues tomorrow and how she fares with beef more generally. She usually begins reacting to a food to which she turns out to be non IgE allergic by the third or fourth day of a trial, and tomorrow is day three. We certainly are hopeful that she is not one of those rare FPIES kids who is so allergic to cow milk that they are also allergic to the cow that produces it.

In related news: today is day 82 of the year that is vomit free, and the only day in the past 10 that she did vomit was Sunday, when she hit her head on the wooden frame of the futon. This is spectacular (not the head hitting part) and gives us great hope.

Her language is also progressing nicely. Tonight she brought her Baby's First Colors book over to Sharon and both signed and said (quite clearly, to us, at least) "colors." She says "upstairs" when she wants to go up, and "outside" and a bunch of other multisyllabic words. And she is internalizing the need to be polite. Now she almost always says and signs "Please" (she says "Pleasy") if she wants something and without fail says and signs "thank you", which sounds much closer to how it is supposed to sound---it used to sound like 't---oo" and now sounds like "tank-ooo". She has also been saying "hello" quite clearly into phones---both real and perceived---and yesterday evening had her first real phone conversation with Grammy. She said "Hello", "Grammy", "Doggie" and "Bye Bye" pretty much in that order. Grammy was quite thrilled. She is still probably only 25% comprehensible (maybe a bit less) to others, but this is quite impressive progress given that Hallie hardly babbled at all until November/December, had nary a word back in January, and only about 40 words or so at the beginning of June. Now she has so many words or word attempts that we've kind of lost count.

Hallie has also refined her sense of style. I call the first picture "The girl with the go-go boots" (her favorite item of clothing). Note that she is only wearing a diaper since she has become quite adept at removing her pants.

The second picture is Hallie's updated Russian peasant girl look. She insisted on undoing one of the straps of her Elmo/Cookie overalls and walked around with them that way most of the day. The rest of the day she decided that overalls were too much to wear altogether so she stripped them off and just hung out in her t-shirt.

I have some pics on the camera of Hallie's impressive attempt tonight at body art (using washable markers; she's mastered taking off and replacing the flip top on her new ones, but still insists on using her teeth instead of her hands...does this count as fine motor skills?) but I am too tired and lazy to upload them right now, so these will have to wait until my next post.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Blissfully Uneventful Week

Summer weeks have a way of flying by all too quickly, and this was one of those that got away before I knew it.

When time flies, you know you are having fun, and that was certainly the case this week. After a somewhat inclement weekend last week and changeable weather on Monday (which had me caught out in the rain several times, unfortunately....Hallie didn't seem to mind and was happily trying to dislodge the rain shield on her stroller during one particular brisk walk home when I distinctly remember feeling as if the next deluge was imminent and that I was about to be swept away by it), the weather has turned out to be quite nice this week, which has meant a decent amount of time in the playground and a venture into our $7.99 Toys-r-Us wading pool and some sessions with the water table (the sand half of it still being deemed less than a fun thing by our girl). That, and a couple of play sessions with Karina, dinners with her and Uncle Mark and Aunt Vanessa, when Vanessa wasn't on the road for work, one fun session at the kids gym, and lots and lots of books, signing, and talking has been what occupied Hallie this week (as for the moms: both of us have been doing work, I said, my summer is ending all too soon and lots of stuff remains on the table that requires completion between then and now).

A week that flies by is also a week of good eating (and as a result of that, good sleeping, good moods, less toy throwing, and more talking). All of those things were true this week and Hallie now officially has six foods: she just added prunes/plums to her diet of goat milk products, bananas, apples, pears, and potatoes. We have also found that she likes Goat Milk mozzarella more than goat milk cheddar (apparently she is not Sharon's daughter: Sharon hates both goat cheese and mozzarella...sorry honey, but she takes after me on this one!) and that she is totally able to eat bananas in their un-pureed form when we cut slices of them up into 6 pie shaped wedges (I don't think the pie shape is essential, just logical) and spear them onto toddler forks and hand them to her to feed herself. She tries to do the spearing herself and sometimes this works, and sometimes leads to some frustration because she cannot get the slightly slimy bananas to go along with her less-than-accurate toddler poking. In any event, this is major progress and, while it still takes her a lot more time to feed herself finger foods than it does for us to spoon jars of stage 2s into her, and while we still are not yet at the point where finger foods alone can provide her with sufficient calories and nutrition, we're getting there on the chewing thing and slowly advancing our kiddo out of babyhood. Plus, the concept that we might be able to just buy a banana somewhere, cut it up, and have Hallie eat it seems frightfully normal. So what if she eats two slices and we eat the rest? Heck, it's still healthier than finishing up her fries for her!

The key to a good eating week is that it only happens when Hallie is not reacting to something. Back a few weeks ago when we tried and failed rice and then tried and failed soy immediately thereafter, Hallie could handle no solids at all. The way her allergies work is that they enflame her entire GI tract, from her throat to her tummy (and possibly her intestine, too---we never scoped down there so we don't really know what was going on with it). So she cannot comfortably swallow anything and things that she does get down into her stomach (even safe purees and drinks) tend to come up again, which leads to further inflammation. In her case, these symptoms seem to last about three days, regardless of how little of an allergen she has ingested, and then resolve. That's why our food trials are going so painfully slowly. Our allergist wants us to wait 7-10 days after a food failure to try anything new because Hallie needs to come back to baseline and become comfortable again after taking in an allergenic substance. If she doesn't then it becomes pretty hard to tell if her system is going to be okay on the new food we are trying. We also give it a full week with a new food to confirm a pass, though Sharon and I are usually pretty sure it's okay after the third or fourth day: we know the symptoms to look for now (these are painfully obvious when we are at baseline with Hallie---gagging, retching, vomiting of course, but also restlessness, moodiness, less talking---which seems totally related to the allergies---and a tendency to destroy anything and everything around her). Anyway, no allergies this week, no vomiting this week (unless you count the gagging on the too-big pieces of banana on Thursday when Ami was feeding her; this was before the new fork system was devised by me), and just one happy little kid. Consequently, we are now at 79 days entirely vomit free (I didn't count Thursday since she did hack up that banana) out of 192...and closing in quite quickly on a 50% no-return rate this year. Yippeee! We now use our paper towels for more mundane things and our eco-rating is improving. Woo hoo!

On other happy news: Hallie now exclusively calls me 'mama' and 'mom' and exclusively calls Sharon 'mommy' and woke up this morning with a big happy face and said "Mommy!" when she turned and saw Sharon and "Mama!" when she turned and saw me. This melts our hearts and we are so happy to hear both words tons of times each day coming out of the mouth of our little girl.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hangin' with the Cousins on the Fourth of July

Hallie got to see her little cousins (with brief cameos by the big cousins) two weekends in a row. She was thrilled to pieces and loved every minute of it. The cousins were equally enthralled, and not only because Hallie has perfected saying their names and enjoys having them push her on the swings, in the baby carriage, and is very amenable to being hugged, kissed, loved on, read to, instructed in the fine art of using a stroller, and chased. They just adore each other plain and simple, and this is very wonderful to watch.

Hannah, who is a beginning reader, loved telling her own version of Hallie's current favorite books, which, of course, we brought with us. These include The Velveteen Rabbit (RAAAAAH-BIT is how Hallie asks for it), One Duck Stuck (DUUUUUCCCCCK is what Hallie screeches when she needs it read, now!) and anything Pigeon by Mo Willems (whose books are wonderful...I adore the naughty and conniving Pigeon who is frequently outsmarted by duck and bus driver alike).

Hallie also relished in sharing her love for Sesame Street (which was always on-demand) and Signing Time with the kids, and Hannah was very proud of herself for learning some signs this weekend.

Adam spent much of the time racing around the house with Hallie in one of the play baby carriages (and sometimes racing around the house after her as they both careened around corners with their own carriages). There's a lot more space in the suburbs for running around, and Hallie had a blast doing so.

Between this, and heading outside at every opportune moment for fifteen minutes of swinging, Hallie had her fill of inside and outside activities, despite the fact that this weekend ended up being quite rainy and afforded little opportunity for beachgoing and the like.

Hallie did get a chance to savor the pool for a bit, though, and worked on floating and kicking (she is especially good at the latter) with mommy:

And, of course, Aunt Laura loved having Hallie around for scooping up and hugging. But, as you can see, our kid is way to busy to be hugged and cuddled unless she is on the verge of falling asleep, so, as soon as she gets into Aunt Laura's arms (or our arms, for that matter), she wants down (and says so, quite clearly) so that she can go, go, go.

Hallie did enjoy some quiet time activities, like doing the puzzles that the kids brought down for her from their room (she is a master puzzler) and playing with Hannah's letter flash cards. We discovered this weekend that Hallie knows most of the letters of the alphabet and loves to study the cards and pick out the right one when asked. She even says some of their names (EEEEEE!, for example or EMMMMM!). Needless to say, she has her own set of flashcards on their way as I type.

Speaking of cousins, Hallie has a brand new one whom she has never even met. Allow me to introduce to you Taylor Ruth, the gorgeous new daughter of my best friend Renee and her partner Kim, who made her entry into the world on June 30th at around 2:30pm weighing in at 7 lbs. 7 ounces. I got to visit with Taylor in the hospital on her first full day in the world, and, as soon as her parents adjusted to never again sleeping (or Taylor decides to sleep for more than two hours at a stretch), I'll introduce her to Hallie (who will no doubt screech "DAYYYY-DEEEE" at the top of her micropreemie lungs and wake the sleeping baby.

And, speaking of screeching, or more appropriately, squealing, Hallie had a blast today in the park in the brief periods of sunshine that erupted between some pretty major downpours. The playground down the block has a few grading problems in its landscaping, so water tends to collect in sizeable puddles in a couple of places whenever there is a significant rainfall. After her usual swinging and sliding, Hallie raced over to one of the larger puddles this afternoon and realized that she could splash through it and make quite a commotion in it. So she spent the better part of half an hour racing through it, then racing back, then stopping to stomp and splash her hands in feet in it, all the while giggling hysterically (she has a very charming, very funny laugh). She did this over and over again until she was soaked through. I gave her a bath before lunch (she needed it anyway since she still had some banana---from a chunk of real banana---not puree---that she ate yesterday stuck in her hair and some odd pink markings around her nose that were the consequence of exploring what happens when you not only write on your face with a pink marker but drill that marker into your nostril). Then, after I got soaked on the way home from Whole Foods during another downpour, Hallie decided she was jealous (she was covered by the rain canopy and I fought her efforts of removing it on that walk home) and she and Karina, who followed my girl's rather poor example, splashed and sploshed through the puddle again prior to dinner. Karina kept jumping up and down in the puddle, and Hallie kept trying to jump---she'd bend her knees but never lifted up off the ground---screaming "JUMP!" which is another of her favorite words ("Hop!" is another one---she learned both from Signing Time). One of these days she will lift off, but not just yet. Anyway, the jumping and puddle running led to a second bath (which was also handy for removing yet more marker from her face, this time orange).

Hallie had a great day and a lovely weekend, despite the rain, and fell asleep bright and early (which in our world means by 10:30 or so).

She also had a lovely eating day, breaking 1000 calories (I least that's what my fairly meticulous record keeping suggests) and it seems that prunes are good, so far at least. And they are keeping her regular. Amazingly enough, nothing kept her regular before when she was ingesting so many allergens (not prunes, not miralax, and not reglan). Now, when she's not eating stuff that provokes enterocolitis, she's fine. She is able to eat solids (though she is tentative about this, she is now eating strips of hard goat cheeses, apples that are peeled and sliced, banana chunks and gerber fruit leather, which is sort of the consistency of the inside of a fig newton, as well as potato sticks and french fries, all without incident. She only eats largish quantities of the last two, but the progress she's made in just a few weeks is remarkable). And she is able to get things through her system better, so they come out the bottom and not the top. Other than times when she's been hurt (nipped by a shutting door, fingers caught in sliding door), she's given up vomiting altogether. We're now up to 76 vomit free days (and has thus far surpassed the goal we had initially set of 1 out of every 3 days being vomit free...we're going to now try for 1 out of every 2 and see how we do with that goal). And she is playful, sleeps well, happy, well-adjusted, and her speech improves every day.

On that note, gotta get to bed so I can take our kiddo to gym class tomorrow for some more balance beam practicing and such.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

One Cute (and Very Funny) Kid

Hallie is a very funny little girl. Right now she is all into her hats, as long as you don't insist that she wear them in the sun. She loves to put on Sharon's orange Grover cap that we purchased last summer at Sesame Place. First she puts it on forward, and then backwards and it's quite big on her little head (Sharon has a tiny head, but Hallie's is even smaller. We know she's got a lot crammed in there, but her head is on its own growth curve, which just kind of, sort of, depending on who is doing the measuring hit the actual chart at about maybe 10% on a good day and if you hit the right bumps and stuff). So the cap obviously falls down over her eyes, but when she is wearing it backwards, she likes to peer through the crescent-shaped hole made by the strap that adjusts the hat's size. She also quite enjoys wearing her brand spanking new tricycle helmet (we had to purchase the one for 1 year olds since the age 3-5 size was far too big on her) around the house. Hopefully she'll enjoy wearing it while she rides her trike too, but we're not counting on this!

Hallie also LOVES to brush her teeth with me....about fifty times a day. She has to have 'some' put on her toothbrush (the 'some' in question is toddler toothpaste) over and over again during each tooth brushing, so the Oral B stock should be going up any day now.

And she loves to call out 'doggie' and 'baby' (she pronounces the former "DAAAAAAWWWWW-GEEEEEE' and the latter "DAY-DEEEEEEEEEEE") everywhere we go. We live in an urban downtown area that is a fine mix of residential and commercial establishment (I love our neighborhood--two grocery stores, an organic food store, the Italian market and two once-a-week farmers' markets, plus a slew of cafes, restaurants, and five toddler parks all within ten blocks of home). There are always lots of dogs and strollers around and so Hallie gets to exercise her right of free labeling speech quite frequently. The other day, though, a postman was about a block and a half ahead of our stroller (Hallie is still pretty far-sighted) and Hallie screeched out, in her Grouchetta (Oscar's female friend from Sesame Street; we've decided that it is most likely that Hallie will sound like her when she grows up, largely due to the vocal cord paralysis) voice: "DAYYYYYYY-DEEEEE" and I could not disabuse her of the notion that the postal cart the postman was wheeling did not, in fact, contain a baby.

The other thing that Hallie now does is call bubbles "ouse". I am not sure where she got this, but I pretty much think this is a lazy toddler thing. She demands "ouse" about thirty five thousand times a day and is trying to control the "ousing" process by holding the bubble container (we own seven million of these) and even forcing me to lick the wand....yuck. It's gotten so bad that I've begun calling them "ouse" (a big no-no) but the word "ouse" is very cute (as is any word that slips out of my daughter's mouth) so what the heck. She knows that they are bubbles and even says bubbles when I insist on it. Let her be two is what I think about the whole thing.

And two she is. No real tantrums. Just an incredibly independent little girl who is growing more independent every day. She loves to approach kids on the playground and throw balls at them or interact with them in other ways (she loves saying "Hi!" and "Bye!" to all and sundry). And the other day, during speech therapy, we were out in the nearest of the aforementioned toddler parks, which was filled with kids (from a local daycare or two). As per Hallie's routine, we swung (well, I pushed) first, and then she signed and said (clear as day) "All Done" and "Up!" I took her out of the swing and she made a beeline for the slides, which were at that moment occupied by 20-40 (you sort of lose count when there are so many people under four feet tall) toddlers and preschoolers. I was a bit apprehensive about whether our girl would be able to muscle her way into the fray, but darn it, I was wrong: she negotiated the toddler throngs with aplomb, waited until other kids slid down or climbed up the slides, and took her turn. And then did it again.

Speaking of age-appropriate behavior, Hallie is also alleged to have eaten 6 SLICES of fresh apple today. The intrepid Ami (whom Hallie is now calling by name) peeled and sliced up an apple for Hallie today, and Hallie fed it to herself. No gagging, no choking, no vomiting (we are now, incidentally up to 74 vomit-free days in 2008; there was a minor setback this weekend when we fed her Terra Yukon Gold chips. She is either allergic to sunflower/safflower oil---we always use canola or olive for her---or they were cross-contaminated, probably with rice starch). Anyway, we are eager to see this for ourselves, and even more eager to be done with jars of food. Hopefully this will happen in 2008, or at least before Hallie turns 3.

Anyway, it's been a good couple of days for the kiddo, and we are astounded, impressed, and amazed at how well she is doing and at what she knows and how she shows it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Swimming at Sarah's Party

On Sunday, Aunt Laura and Uncle Bryan hosted a party for Hallie's oldest cousin, the newly-minted 8th grade graduate Sarah. (We would have included a picture of Sarah on the blog but we never got one! But we did want to say that we are incredibly proud of how well she did and all of the seven fabulous awards she won at graduation).

Really it was two parties, the first of which was a staid get together for family and the little kids who had a great time swimming in the pool, and the second of which was a much more boisterous event geared toward a gaggle of 14 year old girls and a few boys. Needless to say, the music was both of a different genre and at much varied decibel levels at each of the shindigs.

Given our track record of never being able to get out of the house with all of our gear before around 2 or 3pm, we stayed the night with Sharon's mom, which allowed us to be on time for once. Of course, we had to feed Hallie lunch pretty much upon our arrival, and, though she had the usual distraction of Sesame Street, she watched the kids playing in the pool on the deck longingly. As soon as her lunch settled in her tummy (very important because her system had been upset since Saturday evening when we fed her a potato chip that had probably been cross-contaminated by rice starch---who knew that this was used in a lot of commercial chips?---we changed her into her swimsuit and Sharon got in the pool with her. What's very funny, or at least surprising, is that Hallie kind of thought that she knew how to swim (the pool is around 3 feet deep). Perhaps swimming is a reflexive skill. In any event, she doesn't know how to swim, even if she got into doggie paddle position very instinctively. but it's nice to know that she's not afraid of the water. Indeed, she had a blast, as these pictures demonstrate:

We definitely will look into getting Hallie swim lessons this fall/winter!

All that swimming is pretty hard work, so Hallie and Sharon jumped in the hammock for a nap:

How blissful!

Remembering Olivia Skye

Saturday was June 28th, the day that Hallie's twin sister, Olivia Skye, lost her battle against microprematurity.

Despite our joy at celebrating Hallie's birthday, June is a hard month for our family. It opens with the painful memories of the shock and trauma associated with our visit to Labor & Delivery when Sharon hit 23 weeks when we found out that Sharon was already in hard labor, mostly dilated and effaced, and that the twins' birth was imminent and seemingly inevitable. Its middle is punctuated by the girls' arrival and the horrific and desperate feelings with which we were awash as we hoped and prayed that the girls would somehow pull through and thrive despite the earliness of their birth and the precariousness of their condition. Those sleepless, restless days are as fresh in my mind as they were back then. And the month ends with our loss of Olivia and Hallie's own ongoing struggle to live.

It's hard to believe that two years have passed already, but they have. And, like last year, we visited Olivia's Grove in Pastorius Park to commemorate the occasion. We love that the park is a place of new life and ongoing life---the trees we planted there are young ones still, but the park itself, which has been around for about a 100 years and the trees in it for far longer (some probably date back to colonial America).

Like last year, the early evening threatened to bring a major downpour, but this time it did not actually rain (though the grass was wet which suggested that it had rained out in Chestnut Hill earlier on Saturday). We spread out our blanket not far from the grove, where we laid a bouquet of wild flowers; fed Hallie a late lunch; and then let her run around. She had a very nice time chasing Sharon, chasing a ball (and even kicking it), and engaging in her favorite activity: running with, and loving on, the dogs who come to the park for their own recreation.

We hope that Olivia's spirit was able to visit with Hallie on Saturday and frolic with her, even for just a bit, as she enjoyed the flora and fauna. And we hope someday that Hallie will realize what this park, and what this grove, means to us as a family, and how important it is that we have a living memorial for her sister.