How Old is Hallie?

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

I'm sort of typing with one hand here, the other wrapped around an ice-cold diet coke can after an unfortunate run-in that my left hand had with a hot grill pan following a mommy-brain-fart that led me to try to pick up the falling pan with my un-potholdered appendage. Doesn't help that I'm a lefty, either. Anyway, I think it'll be okay but suffice it to say that even a mild second degree burn on several of your fingertips does not a happy ending (or at least a comfortable one) to my Memorial Day make.

Oh well. Hopefully my fingerprints will remain intact and my coke can will stay cold enough to let me get to sleep pain free imminently.

Meanwhile, a brief post, with pictures, about how we spent the day.

Hallie was up at 6am (after not falling asleep much before midnight; she spent the two hours prior to this redecorating her room, which involves dumping all of her clothing baskets out all over her floor). Sharon gave up on trying to get her to go back down after an hour, so I fed her prilosec and breakfast, which was finished (with some fussing) before 9am. She didn't want to drink her milk from a cup, so I grabbed her a bottle. I went back into the kitchen to put away excess pears and applesauce and came back to find our girl fast asleep in her high chair. I laid her down on the couch and she took a nice pre-9am nap:



After she woke up, Sharon and Hallie headed off to the playground but her friend Isiah, an older boy of around 4, whom she just met yesterday but who indulged her in numerous games of peek-a-boo and races down the slides, wasn't there, so she got bored quickly and they came back home. A bit later, following an early lunch, Sharon and I decided to give Hallie an early birthday present---the Step 2 Sand and Water Table. Alas the promise of pre-drilled holes was a false one, so assembly took more time than we thought, but the thing did go together pretty easily.

We then headed out to Lowe's for some play sand and to Whole Food for some meat for the grill (the OFFENDING grill) for our impromptu barbecue with Renee and Kim. Hallie had another good, long nap in the car and was ready to play when we got home.

We stripped her down to her diaper and let her explore the sensory joys of water and sand (she vastly prefers the former to the latter):



The diaper did not, however, last long:



And here's a nice, gratuitous closeup of adorable naked toddler butt:



Hallie ended her outdoor experience by slathering herself with "some" (we've determined that this is a catch-all word she uses when she wants to color herself with crayons, washable markers, finger paints, or bathtub paints, which is what she's wearing in this shot) and eating her beloved sticks in the buff while seated in mommy' chair:



Meanwhile, here's one shot of the plantings I arranged this week after I had finished cleaning up all of the detritus and debris from last summer (including several dead tomato plants, my blueberry bushes that managed to succumb this winter after surviving the last three, and lots of slug carcasses and leaves...ewww). The perennials (two roses, one planted last year in memory of Olivia, and Nan's rose bush; a few astilbes; two clematis; a hydrangea; a bleeding heart; and a lilac bush that should flower next year) all managed to overwinter, no doubt insulated by lots of dried leaves and such):

Anyway, we hope everyone out there had a lovely Memorial Day and that you had weather as lovely as ours was and that you were spared all kinds of burns, sunburns included!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

No Small Potatoes

Well, I think we've passed a food trial here. Seems that Hallie does fine with VERY thin (no lumps) potato puree made with goat milk but not goat butter, which is too rich for her (anyone out there need any goat butter? We have four pounds in our freezer!). This may sound like small potatoes, but it's pretty huge to us, given that our kid is otherwise confined to goat milk, goat yogurt, and pureed pears. There is so much you can do with potatoes and of course this opens the potential for the beloved french fry down the road, not to mention oh-so-delicious passover baking mixes (I suspect that some of the gluten free varieties are just as scrumptious).

This milestone also makes it possible for the immediate reintroduction of the "sticks" -- Sea Salt flavored Krinkle Sticks from A Lesser Evil. Of course, this opens up a new complication: our local branch of Whole Foods, which was where I discovered this bland-tasting-baked-but-not-fried snack food, no longer carries them. And the Sea Salt flavor is out of stock at the Wegman's. So, of course, being a resourceful mom willing to suspend disbelief in utter defiance of all the evidence of food products we have stacked to the rafters in our basement, on top of the fridge, and in the aforementioned freezer, I purchased a CASE of the sticks from Amazon last week. At the rate at which Hallie consumes them (no more than eight at a time, and more typically three or four), we will have enough to last us through kindergarten.

Anyway, we're thrilled, regardless.

The other nice thing about mashed potatoes is that Hallie can feed them to herself, sort of. Unlike pureed pears from Earth's Best, which are runny, which makes handing Hallie a bowl and spoon a messy prospect that is sure to leave us guessing about her actual consumption, potatoes not only stick to your ribs but also to the spoon. Hallie loves self-feeding, so this works out for all of us and may at some point in the future allow us all to eat together at the table without one of us moms feeding our kiddo.

Anyway, potato being a success, we're ready to move on...apples here we come.I leave you with a cute pic of Hallie looking like a little kid...and a brief mention of her new milestones: she is now really saying Elmo (over and over), her own name (very cutely), 'mama', and otherwise babbling like crazy. It seems like she's really hit her stride language-wise these past couple of weeks and we could not be more thrilled. Oh, and we have one more vomit-free day to add to the list...45 days this year so far, and some of our less than stellar days were a result of a certain toddler hitting her head on various objects or not getting her way 100% of the time, so I am not sure that they really count.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Entropy, Climbing, and Giving Moms Grey Hair

This is going to be a primarily picture post because I'm too exhausted for much more!

Hallie's full of personality and spunk these days and, for her, is talking up a storm (new words: day, play, 'is it' (as in "What time is it?"), is signing and saying a bunch of letters of the alphabet and numbers, and probably lots more that my toddler-addled and sleep-deprived brain cannot think of right now). But she's a total handful. She's been refusing to eat for me (I can't really blame her--she must be a bit bored of strained pears and goat yogurt, but still the kid does need to eat) and has been refusing naps for Sharon and often for me, too. It doesn't help that she's cooped up because the weather has been quite crappy (lots of rainy days, intermixed with partially rainy days) and she's teething and has major allergies and congestion. She hasn't gone to sleep easily at night for Sharon for a while now, and that's not making things any easier.

When she's awake (most of the time!), she's an exercise in entropy:


My sense is that a swiffer is not enough for this mess!

And she's been climbing, climbing, climbing. This is fine (well sort of fine) at the playground, where she is busily mastering the monkey bars. But not so good at home, where she climbs from the floor to the table next to the sofa, from the sofa to the aforementioned table, and from the sofa to the pack-and-play. She's also been standing on the sofa table, which has us having conniptions (especially since she fell off of it this weekend, either in the mounting or dismounting phase---it happened too fast for us to tell which). Finally, she's been sitting in her doll stroller. Me thinks she is a bit too big for it:




Alas, she has also been using the stroller as a foothold for climbing into the pack and play. We caught her doing this once
yesterday just as it was about to roll out from under her. Good thing she has a pretty decent sense of balance. And, needless to say, it's a good thing she's cute!

Friday, May 16, 2008

GI Update

We saw the GI today for the first time since December.

First good piece of news is that Hallie hasn't lost too much weight. We knew she's slimmed down a little, but were afraid that her newly-restricted diet of goat cheese and pears (if only I could turn this into a salad with crunchy fried prosciutto, walnuts, and a nice orange-raspberry vinaigrette, it wouldn't be too bad of a diet, really) had led to a major drop in weight. People kept telling us that she looked 'great' and 'huge', but you know how us micropreemie moms are---we have been calculating calories and running spreadsheets all week about this. Anyway, Hallie weighed in at 11.82 kilos, or 25 lbs. 15 ounces, so the most she lost is 2 or 3 ounces, and that's not too bad. She's still at the 50th percentile for weight.

She did shrink though! Not really...it never ceases to amaze me how wildly different heights and head circumferences are when we get different people doing the measurements. Doing them on a screaming kid (you'd have thought it was an RSV shot, the way our kiddo yelled) doesn't help any, either. I can't wait until next year, when she's three, and they can get her height while standing. Given the number of times our girl has been pinned down for all sorts of procedures, can you really blame her for screaming?

Second piece of good news is that the GI fellow didn't really recognize Hallie. She has hair now, and more importantly, she looks like a toddler and acts like one, too. (That's both good and bad, obviously) Anyway, Hallie behaved really well for Dr. J and he was quite impressed by her. Nothing new to us, but it's nice to hear.

Third piece of good news: We don't need to go back for six whole months! Woo-hoo. The GIs agree that a lot of Hallie's tummy issues are allergic responses, so if we see progress on that front, we can start reducing the Reglan and Prilosec. We'll take it slow, obviously. But we've already gotten rid of the miralax, and honestly, we see no negative change where pooping is concerned. We have added a new probiotic (Lactobacillus GG, which is sold under the brand name Culturelle) and this has perhaps added some help to her GI system, but so has getting rid of some probable allergens.

Anyway, not a terrible appointment all around, even if we did have to wait for the GI (we saw the fellow very quickly, but then had to hang out and see his supervisor) for a while. We were in and out in two hours, though, which all things considered isn't too bad. And since the weather here is cold and rainy today, it's not like we missed much park playtime.

On the park front: Hallie is not only more independent in the playground, but also is more interactive. She had a nice game of catch with an almost-three-year-old neighbor yesterday, and stole a ball from a 14 month old (in her defense, she did try to engage him in a game of catch, too) and wanted desperately to partake in a fast-paced soccer game in which some 8 to 10 year olds were engaged (at least she wanted to steal their soccer ball; she has a fetish for them---I can't wait until we can sign her up for a soccer league). I hope the weather improves some soon because Hallie really does relish her playground time!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mother's Day Post No. 3

I know I'm a bit late in posting this, but it's taken me a few days to upload pictures and such.

Anyway, we ended up having quite a nice, and for us, quite jam-packed Mother's Day. It started out with brunch. Amazingly enough, even though we left our house around 10:30 or so and needed to be at speech therapy at noon, and even though everyone and his or her mother was out celebrating over Eggs Benedict, we managed to actually get seated, served, and eat and on and over the Ben Franklin Bridge in time for Hallie's session.

The restaurant, a Brady-Bunch themed place called Jones, is a pretty popular spot and it doesn't take reservations for parties under 12 (people...not age 12, unfortunately). But the day was bright, sunny, and warm, and no one was seated at the outdoor tables (a bit wobbly, but this just added an interest factor when Hallie banged it from her high-chair perch). We decided to avoid the interior madhouse (which really was quite crazy; the hostess was completely overwhelmed and the staff was practically juggling menus, entrees, and drinks and hoping they landed in the right place). This was a good plan: Hallie got to watch the street festivities (which included passing buses, horse-drawn carriages bearing tourists, and her favorite -- strollers with babies in them). She was very, very well behaved, and the server was super: he got Sharon her eggs benedict (which she proclaimed delicious and perhaps even better than those served up by our erstwhile favorite restaurant, Judy's Cafe, which sadly is no more) and I had a lovely toasted bagel (almost as good as the ones of my NY childhood and early adulthood) with whitefish salad. Hallie ate and retained her pears and goat yogurt and we toasted our success with mimosas and coffee. All consumed within 45 minutes. No parking ticket, either. Quite a feat really.



Hallie did well at her speech therapy appointment (she really is talking a whole lot more, trying to imitate or approximate imitation, and has about one new word a day. Words of the week include "silly"--which she simultaneously signs, or tries to sign; "belly"; "down" (sounds like "eee-dow"), an approximation of "blue"; an approximation of "Jenny" (her EI speech therapist); an attempt at "bye-bye", and something that sounds an awful lot like "yeah". She also consistently says "boo" (rather than moo) for the sound that cows make; "aaaah" for a sheep's baaah; and "hooo" for the sound made by an owl.

We then drove home from NJ; Hallie fell asleep in the car and napped for a bit in her carseat after we returned to Philly (Sharon stayed in the car with her) and then had lunch. She refunded some of her lunch, but this was, I think, related to getting a piece of goat cheese (soft chevre) lodged somewhere uncomfortable.

After that, we headed out to visit Pastorius Park and Olivia's Grove, which is our Mother's Day tradition. We brought some balls and frisbees with which to amuse Hallie.

The trees in Olivia's Grove looked lush and fuller than they had this time last year. The biggest of the trees (Chinese Hemlocks) was fairly sizable to begin with, but the others were quite small when they first were planted. Now they're filling out some and this is very nice to see. The first shot is a close up of Hallie in front of the big tree; the second shot gives you a sense of the larger grove.




After spending some time at the grove, Hallie ran around on the grass. She played catch with both of us (I have a video of this that I will upload later; the kid really can catch), picked up sticks and twigs, pulled out some grass, and crushed a whole lot of butter cups.



But her favorite activity was running with the dogs: Pastorius Park has a pretty large dog run and the dogs have a great time chasing balls, frisbees, their owners, and mostly each other. Hallie was intrigued.

What's interesting about Hallie is that, even though she clearly has an adventurous spirit and is not easily intimidated, she is nevertheless quite cautious in new settings and likes to hang back and take things in a bit before diving into a situation. We see this a lot at the playground where she observes and only then imitates the actions of other kids and is careful not to eceed her comfort limits. So, while she courted the dogs and chased after them, the second they turned and expressed an interest in her, Hallie backed off and shied away from them.

Still, she couldn't help but be interested in the doggies, and kept returning for more. She ran toward them, with them, and watched the action.






She was the littlest spectator at the dog run and a couple of dog owners took note of her and introduced her to a super friendly dog, whom Hallie hugged (in her signature way, which involves resting her head on an object of love) and kissed. I didn't get a great shot of this, but this is what she looked like:



Anyway, Hallie had a wonderful and stimulating time at the park, and fell asleep very quickly once strapped into her carseat for the ride home.

It's a good thing we got out on Sunday, because later in the evening it began to rain and it poured all day long on Monday. Hallie could not quite understand why we had to stay indoors. I took her to the front stoop to show her it was raining outside and very raw, but this rational explanation did not much help.

So I decided to break out the finger paints to see if this would improve her mood. She had no problem getting down and dirty with them, but she was not all that into painting honestly. What she was into was "some" (her favorite word), which translated into me pouring more and more paints out for her. This was our final product:



While I am not too sure that she's a creative soul when it comes to drawing and painting (she is more interested in her body as a canvas than paper, and she is much more intrigued at the prospect of taking caps off and putting them on markers than at actually using the markers, unless it's on her skin or clothing), she definitely is exhibiting a wild fashion sense. When I was getting her dressed on Monday, I chose the shirt and jeans, she opted to add the polka dot leggings. This was our final product (note: she kept socks on as long as she had on the leggings. The second we lost the leggings during a diaper change, the socks were off, and soon thereafter the pants):



Otherwise, with the exception of the fact that we are pretty sure that the eye teeth (or one of them at least) have broken through and that the canines are well on their way, we've had an uneventful few days. No vomiting on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, despite teething. So that adds four more days to our 2008 total, which I believe now stands at 44. I am beginning to lose track, and that is a good sign indeed. So this elimination diet (she eats pears, goat yogurt and goat milk right now) is working. Saturday we will try avocado and, if that works, or even if it doesn't, we will try rice five days from then. Maybe then I'll have half a chance of baking this kiddo a birthday cake for the big 2 in less than four weeks from now!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day Post No. 2

Sharon got us these awesome necklaces for Mother's Day this year:




The backs of the pendants are sort of hard to make out in the photo, but they give the girls' birthdays, birth weights and times, and Hallie's reads "IN MY ARMS" and Olivia's "IN MY HEART." Sharon's choice of wording is lovely.

It feels good to hold tokens representing both of our girls around our necks all the time, and we'll be adding two birthstones--one for June (when the girls were born) and one for October (when they should have been born) as soon as they arrive.

The necklaces are from Julian & Co., which specializes in custom birth necklaces and other jewelry for moms and dads and has a line of NICU-parent and preemie jewelry, as well as medical alert bracelets and such for babies and toddlers. The owners are parents of a 29 weeker who was a NICU grad, and making jewelry small enough for kids their son's size is what got them started in the business. Their selection is understated and simple in an elegant sort of way. Check them out!

I made a photo triptych of three of the "sleeping Hallie" photographs (from back in January) that I framed for Sharon. We'll put it up on the wall as soon as we figure out how we're reconfiguring the living room now that we're downsizing from the huge media cabinet to a less space-hogging corner media unit.

Meanwhile, I hope all the moms reading this have a Happy Mother's Day! You all deserve it!

Parenting. Mother's Day Post No. 1

I have been thinking a lot about parenting, or mothering (to be more celebratory today) lately. In part this is because mothering is a lot of what I am doing right now (let me assure you that it is much more fun to be a parent than it is to, say, grade blue books, even when the students whom you are grading have done a pretty good job. Blue books are still a tedious medium and, as a teacher, I'd prefer it if we could do away with testing memorized/rote knowledge and instead all agree to have a genuine intellectual conversation sparked by the reading and learning we are doing. Sadly, that often means very few students would do the reading and learning, so I feel myself compelled to do some testing to make sure that the work gets done. Anyway, I digress).

Good mothering is an involved process that forces a person to engage all of her senses to help her little one or little ones negotiate their universe, which is always a place of wonder but often can be a threatening environment, too. This is especially true when you are the parent of a NICU graduate who came close to dying rather too frequently and who has the odds stacked against her in all sorts of palpable ways. It doesn't help matters when you actually do lose one or more of your kids to prematurity.

These sorts of experiences turn one into a hard-boiled parent: you learn very quickly to assimilate the sense that you need to fight, and keep fighting, in order to enhance the chances that your little one has. You see your baby, all 1 or 2 pounds of her or him, hooked up to machines and wires, at the mercy of human and technical assistance, struggling to survive and you can do nothing but stand vigil. And so that's what we do, but in the process, a lot of us try like heck to learn as much as we possibly can about what our child or children are experiencing and assimilate all the medical lingo and technological jargon that we can wrap our brains around. So you learn about ventilator settings, MAPS, and PEEPS; you learn to make out a clump of yeast balls in the center of an echocardiogram; you develop a sense when an air leak is forming around a breathing tube; and you learn the ins and outs of why it's so important to check little tummies for feeding residuals.

That kind of knowledge and research often pays off: since you are watching your kid like a hawk, you know when she's doing something that's atypical before the nurses even figure this stuff out. And so you push, you pry, you query, you pester, and bug and you make the people who potentially possess the knowledge to do something about whatever is ailing your kid DO SOMETHING about it. More than once this helped us enormously: among other things, we figured out that Hallie was OD'd on steroids while in the NICU and we got the docs to take her reflux more seriously than they initially did. Even if we couldn't actually do anything much to help our little survivor, we could at least amass knowledge that would give us the capacity to weigh in on her treatment plan. (Please remember that we had very little in the way of conventional parenting experiences those first four months; even once we were able to hold Hallie, she was still hooked up to a breathing tube and would regularly crash out by experiencing a low heart rate--bradycardia--or she would just stop breathing--apnea.

There's nothing quite like the sight of watching your partner hold your baby while the nurses and respiratory therapists are manually bagging her to get her breathing again.) We loved--and love--the nurses, neonatologists, NPs, Respiratory Therapists etc who work in our NICU and have the utmost admiration and awe for everything that they do. We could not do their jobs. But it's hard as "type-A" parents to not have control over what's happening with your child. The way we dealt with it was by learning as much as we possibly could about what was going on. And we're still doing that now.

This approach to parenting--engaged and medicalized--carried over beyond the NICU and kept coming in handy. It helped us figure out Hallie's reflux issue, it helped us figure out that she was aspirating on thin liquids, it helped us figure out that she was allergic to dairy, and it helped us avoid the G-tube that doctors threatened to surgically insert into her tummy when she was resisting eating. It got her early intervention services within a month of coming home; it got speech added to that service portfolio even though there is a shocking lack of Speech Therapists in our city and countrywide--and an even bigger shortage where services for babies and toddlers are concerned; it got her speech added back in even after it was cut because the average of her receptive skills plus her expressive skills meant she was on target even though the kid couldn't say more than a few words at 18 months or so; and it got us an outside evaluation and private speech therapy services when more conventional approaches still weren't helping. Finally, it got us onto this path of trying desperately to figure out Hallie's immature digestive and allergic/immunologic systems and *may* get us to a point where we can finally resolve some stuff.

This is taking time, and it is frustrating, and in our frustration we become bristly people. We are trying so desperately to help our child feel better---and while I know this is the goal of any reasonable, decent parent (see below for counterexamples), it attains an even greater urgency when you feel like your kid has all the forces in the world ranged against him or her. In a lot of ways we are lucky parents of a NICU grad: Hallie has no mobility issues and her fine motor skills and cognitive/receptive skills seem intact. She doesn't even have too much in the way of sensory issues (though her board books and puzzle pieces, who have been chewed to pieces, might disagree). Her vision and hearing are fine. She looks typical, and while a bit slower on the playground to engage with other kids and more likely at first to be an observer, she does chime in and kids don't single her out as a target (and hopefully never will). (More on this, later, too). So we are very hesitant to call ourselves Special Needs Parents, because the needs that our kid has---speech issues and allergy/GI issues and feeding issues---seem so slight in comparison to many of the needs of some of the kids we have met along the way of this microprematurity journey. But we are Special Parents: parents who have been through a war and who have a pretty hefty dose of PTSD. And parents whose war is not over and whose war has no end in sight: we fight for coverage, we fight to get the right referrals, we challenge all of our practitioners if the things they are doing don't seem to be helping or do seem to be hurting our kid. And we try like heck not to fight with each other after hellish weeks of never ending vomit and never ending re-feeding, even though that's better than getting frustrated at our kid, and we end up pissing off people and pissing off ourselves when we stand firm on whatever ground we find ourselves because this seems to us--who have been through so much and who have figured out a few things along the way--to be in the best interest of our child. But hopefully the people we piss off will understand why we are so bristly and why we fight so hard: it's not a matter of being difficult, but a matter of figuring out a puzzle whose pieces don't quite fit together and the contours of which are constantly changing and which may, in the end, be unsolvable. But no one can ever say we didn't give it a good fight.

***
OK, so that's my view of good--if somewhat abrasive at times--parenting, NICU-graduate style. I hope that this year I can figure out how to be less bristly (it'll be nice if Hallie's allergic/gastrointestinal tract would grant me a mother's day wish of behaving themselves from here on in), but I do think that, in the end, advocating for your kid is a good parenting style. It doesn't matter if you have been through the NICU or not; in one way or another, taking little for granted and making sure that your kid gets what he or she needs is a very good thing for a parent to do.

But so is teaching your kid to be an empathetic and polite human being. This past week, a discussion that has raged on my micropreemie online support group revolved around the experience of a mom of another 23 weeker who took her surviving twin to a doctor's appointment that represented the absolute opposite of good parenting. Two boys who were seated opposite the family of the 23 weeker in the waiting room (around 6 to 7) started pointing to, making fun of, and name calling the 23 weeker (who is around Hallie's age). The boys' mom--who saw it all go down--actually encouraged the boys to generate more and more reasons why they did not like the 23 weeker ("she looks funny, etc") rather than do what any sane, good mother would do, which is make them apologize and give them a huge lesson in tolerance as soon as they were out of there.

We feel so awful that S. and her mom and dad had to experience this sort of thing and wish that people would think about what their kids were saying, how they respond to the 'darndest things' that come out of their mouths and how to turn these occasions into teaching moments and not egg on their kids this way. Honestly, folks!

Speaking of bad parenting, yesterday, we were down to visit Sharon's mom (a very good parent), sister Laura (a paradigm of good parenthood) and the cousins (all very good, tolerant, and largely well-behaved kids who are extra polite. Indeed, Hannah actually calls you out if you are not polite enough!). After some fun playtime at Grammy's condo, we headed off to Chuck E. Cheese (a frightening prospect, but it was kind of nasty out, and so playgrounds and Storybook Land were out of the question, and it was good to give the kids somewhere to work off their energy.

Hallie had a blast and really enjoyed playing in the Toddler area:






I found it a bit annoying (and somewhat dangerous) that older kids (10 or so years old) were playing a very fast game of tag in the toddler zone and kept racing up and down the slides and getting in the way of the little ones, but we managed to keep Hallie safe (and no other little kid was hurt). Still, I wondered: where are these tweens' parents?

But sometimes it wouldn't matter whether the parents were there, or not. Hallie closed out her Chuck E. Cheese session with a few dozen go-rounds on the Merry-go-Round. Cousin Adam was thrilled because he could hug and kiss and entertain Hallie and, even though Hallie held onto the wall (or whatever you call the inside of the merry-go-round) for dear life most of the time, she did seem to be enjoying herself more than the last time she was on one. When it came time to go, Sharon walked over to Hallie to get her off of the horse. But not before a four or five year old little girl (who was not much bigger than Hallie) went over to do so first. The kid began to push Hallie off of her mount and Hallie was kind of hanging on by one leg. Fortunately, Sharon swooped down and grabbed Hallie before she could tumble, but was stunned by the whole thing: where was this kid's parents? what was a five year old doing pushing a toddler off of a ride?

Turns out that mom was right there the whole time. So I decided to go up and speak to her about the incident. I tried to be nice (which is a bit of a stretch for me at times, particularly when my kid is at risk): "Excuse me, Miss. But I just wanted to let you know that your daughter just pushed mine off of a ride and you might want to just keep a bit of an eye on her. I am sure she didn't mean anything by this, but still...". Mom looked at me like I was from Mars or something and responded: "I know she did. She was getting her off the horse." WTF???? And that's OK???? Now I was stunned, and could do nothing but stare at the woman, slack-jawed, and walk away.

So much for parenting. I have nothing else to say. (Well, actually, I do, but that'll be in its own separate post)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bathing Beauty

Hallie loves her bath. She does a lot of pretend play in the bathtub these days: she washes her dolls and does a great Jackson Pollak painting imitation (I have yet to get this on camera, but will try: this involves having us squirt her with Sesame Street multicolored bathtub finger paints; I swear I poured about a half a bottle on her today, and she kept asking for more). She also does her best Jackie O impression:



The kid won't wear her shades outside in the sun, but loves to have us put them on her in the bathroom so that she can admire herself in the mirror. Very cute, though not terribly functional. Like getting her to wear hats, this is clearly a work in progress.

And speaking of works in progress, Hallie's tummy seems to be doing better today. She had a good day overall and ate a ton (for her, at least), including a lot (probably an ounce or two) of fresh goat cheese, 8 ounces of goat yogurt, upwards of 22 ounces of various 'safe' baby foods, about 14 ounces of milk, and some juice. She visited Cosi, Starbucks, the park, and played in the dirt outside. She used her words, among which are her current favorites: bubbles, go, diaper, ready (which she also uses for the color red), and oopsie. And she ended the day with a great big poop, a word which she just added to her vocabulary today. And she is signing 'want' and 'love.' Finally, no vomit. This makes it day 41 of the year so far. We're holding steady and not changing anything up food-wise tomorrow, though we'll probably add something to the mix to see what happens on Thursday.

Hallie does probably have a touch of seasonal allergies (I am really feeling their impact now) but as of this moment, unless things become difficult for her, we're going to avoid adding new meds (like zyrtec or claritin or whatever). We'd prefer to have her on as few meds as possible, for all of the obvious reasons.

Hallie's cousin, Megan, has a scope today to see if she has celiac disease or any other evidence of a wheat allergy. Megan, who is about to turn 13, is our family's sign language devoteƩ---she has probably learned more signs than Sharon, even---and she's doing a great job of teaching Adam, Hallie's youngest cousin, how to sign, too. We really love that about her. But she also has a raging case of eczema and tummy aches all the time. We hope the scope goes well and that the ENT or allergist or whoever is performing it gets some answers that provide Megan with relief. Between Megan, and cousins Sarah and Adam and Aunt Laura, who all have asthma, there's clear evidence that there's a significant allergy history in our family. As the lore goes, the only thing that Sharon and Laura's dad was not allergic to and could tolerate was bottled water. This, above everything else, is what has made it clear to me (at least) that what we're dealing with here is not necessarily a preemie-specific issue but something hereditary. Anyway, back to Megan: we wish her luck today and think she is very brave. We've watched scopes and they are no fun, but maybe whatever they discover will make Meg feel better, and that would be a good thing.

PS: Thanks, Elisabeth, for the great Passover pics! I promise to post them (belatedly) soon.

And, on the March of Dimes March for Babies front--we've raised even more money than we had at the time of the march---we're up to $2960...thanks Aunt Ellen and Marc and Jorge!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Name That Allergen

Yes, we have a new game show over here. Not one we like playing, either.

As those of you who keenly follow the vicissitudes (really, I should say 'downs and ups') of Hallie's vomiting know, we had a great week last week. A nearly unprecedented one, really: other than a woops moment on Monday (coincidentally following speech/feeding therapy?), we had 4 glorious days where we could claim to be living up to the credo of Earth Day by not using more than our fair share of paper towels. Hallie sounded clear, felt good, was talkative, and was doing nicely. We added a couple of foods back into her diet (flax seed meal and oil and avocado) on Thursday (that should never have happened this way---we should and will hold faithful to the one-food-at-a-time for three days rule here on in). BUt nothing untoward happened on Thursday or Friday. She was a bit fussy with me at mealtime on Friday, but everything stayed down and on Saturday, her only incident was not food related but related to ingesting a wood chip from one of her puzzles.

Sunday and Monday: back to old patterns for us. What happened that was different? Well, on Saturday and Sunday, she did have avocado at every meal and flax seed at about half of her meals. She had both this morning, too. But the real problems seem to have started after speech/feeding therapy yesterday. Hallie's therapist, in her well-motivated but not terribly respectful of what we parents have to say kind of way, insisted that Hallie try some dried fruit (the sort of stuff that you put on top of cereal when, for some reason, you don't wish to eat the much better tasting fresh stuff). The flavor she had was strawberry/banana. Hallie happily consumed her fresh chevre but refused to eat any of these chips and kept pushing them away. The therapist was not satisfied, so she snuck one in to the middle of the goat cheese and was thrilled when Hallie ingested it. Hallie of course noticed it right away and began coughing and gagging but nothing came up. The therapist considered this a victory.

Us, not so much: thereafter, Hallie was congested, sneezy and fussier than she had been in the morning. After lunch (avocado, carrot and flax meal, and goat yogurt), she upchucked and was okay when we refed her. She was also sneezy and wheezy last night and was fussy this morning and seemed to have an edemous, certainly itchy eye and a sneezing jag at breakfast, after I gave her avocado (preceded once more by carrot and flax). But everything stayed down. Hallie did not take a morning nap today, but instead just had some milk, followed by some time in the park, her reglan, and a couple of ounces of goat yogurt. After we got home, I gave her a proper meal of prunes, pears, and carrots, this time nothing added (Sharon and I had talked and decided to return to square one, let her system clear out, and then try avocado and flax meal/oil independent of one another later this week). Hallie fought me during lunch, but I mostly attributed this to her being overly tired. Right after lunch, she settled down on the couch and Classical Baby for a nap, drank a couple of ounces of her milk, and fell fast asleep. But she sounded junky---that old, awful upper airway noise she had last spring. And about twenty or thirty minutes into the nap, she coughed that terrible cough, I ran over to her from the dining room, and by then she was upright, with that look on her face. Since we are a bit out of practice, no vessel for vomit catching was nearby and instead she projectile vomited several times in a row (that stomach emptying kind with which we are all too familiar) across the room. Thankfully she hit the floor (and the entertainment cabinet a good three feet away) and not the couch. She was remarkably well behaved during my solo cleanup act (it's MUCH easier when this happens with two of us at home rather than one) and stayed out of the goo. I stripped her down, changed her diaper (she pooped at the same time as all this happened; this happened yesterday, too) and cleaned her up and got her into fresh clothing (though she still stinks) and put her down again with another bottle. She has feeding/speech therapy at 6:30 and we need to get her rested. It took her a good hour to fall asleep and lots of cuddling from me. But she sounds clearer now, and is asleep, thank goodness.

Me, I'm a bit restless: is it the strawberry (also snuck in, but rejected by Hallie last Monday night)? Is it the banana? Is it the avocado? Is it the flax seed meal? All can be major allergens and Hallie had a rough time with bananas when we tried them, and a similarly rough time with avocados. The first few attempts all involved vomiting, though she has not vomited consistently with these foods. Still, given the frequency of vomiting and that the vomiting need not be immediate but can happen two or more hours after ingestion (I think because everything inside her GI and respiratory tract gets inflamed after the ingestion of a food that releases histamines), we don't really know that these are OK foods. Flax seed meal could also be the culprit. So, we need to trial all of these things one at a time and hope that at least one of them DOES NOT provoke an allergic response in our girl. And we need to prevent the therapist from giving Hallie anything not mama and mommy approved. And, finally, we need to respect Hallie: she knows when her system hurts and when she cannot eat something. We need to heed these signals and not see them as some sort of perverse food aversion but rather the sensible response of a very attuned to her own system little girl with an extremely strong survival mechanism but without the speech she needs to convey precisely what's going on. Hallie is perfectly eager to eat when she is hungry at this point, but is also clearly telling us something when she is not. Sharon and I both realize that we need to do a better job of listening to those messages.

Meanwhile, we know that Hallie is already allergic to cow milk, egg, wheat, barley, and buckwheat. We think she's okay with pear, plum, prune, apple, carrot, potato, and of course, goat milk. And we know that we are just at the beginning of discovering the extent of our kid's allergies. And we are all praying for her to get over at least some of these at some point.

So, back to the beginning of the post: if anyone out there cares to guess which food or foods are triggering Hallie's allergies, please do so. I promise to mail a box or bag of a favorite (hypoallergenic) snack to the first correct responder!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Language Explosion?

Ever since the acquisition of "whoa!" the other night, Hallie seems to be going through something of a language explosion, apparently related to her recognition that consonants and vowels can be linked together to form words.

As I noted, it started with "whoa" and Hallie remains fascinated by saying this over and over. Because the original "whoa" (prompted by me) was related to me knocking over the stroller, Hallie likes to go over to her Maclaren stroller, knock it over, and say "whoa." Then it's my job to stand it upright again, and her job to knock it over and say "whoa" again. You can see how this might provide hours and hours of endless fun.

We didn't get this on video yet, but we have been promoting the broader use of the word "whoa" and Hallie's complied by exporting this to other situations (especially when prompted to imitate us). In this lovely video of Sharon swinging Hallie, Hallie uses "again" and "whoa":



But "whoa" was just the beginning. Last night, Hallie was all about words. She followed me into the kitchen as I was getting her dinner put away and spied the bubbles in the cabinet under the sink. I'm not sure how she saw them (it was a very tiny bottle, nested among a huge number of poorly-organized larger bottles and boxes of wraps and such) or how she recognized them (this is not a bottle of bubbles we use much; she has seven or eight other bottles in circulation in the living room and dining room that we do use), but she noticed them and called out "Bubble". Not "b," or even "bu" or "bu-bu" but "bubble." Well, with that kind of speaking, you know we were going to indulge the kid. So, while this is not the best video ever taken in the history of the universe, this is what we got:



On top of this, Hallie seems to be able to "bird" now (with reference to the red bird in Brown Bear, Brown Bear and is doing a better job of attempting to say "dog" and "fishie". She has also said "teacher" when we got to the teacher page in that book, too. That's useful, since that's what I do (when not blogging). "Architect" might be a ways off so she might have to refer to Sharon as a "builder." But, heck, we'll take plain old "mommy" which we hope is forthcoming one of these days. (Hallie still says "um-ah!" in a very long, drawn-out kind of way when we ask her to say "mama." Yesterday, though, I did hear one regular-sounding "mama" and a few whiny ones from our girl, so there's still hope that she might master this skill by Mother's Day.

But even if she doesn't master that skill, we do have an advanced Mother's Day gift from our girl: 2 more vomit free days...making it 4 days in a row without vomit and a whopping 5 out of 6 of the most recent days that have been spew-free. Amazing how much more peaceful the house feels without us rushing about cleaning up upchuck.

Biker Babe

Hallie is fascinated by Sharon's scooter, and especially by the helmet. We've decided it's time to graduate from the Fisher Price bus: