How Old is Hallie?

Lilypie Fifth Birthday tickers

How Old is Lea?

Lilypie Second Birthday tickers

Thursday, December 31, 2009


Well, they don't like what they see or hear (her left lung looks pretty bad) and want to keep Hallie at CHOP for at least 24 hours. They suspect it's a bacterial infection and have started her on IV antibiotics. Her pulse ox is hovering around 95, as long as she is not crying, and then it's in the 80s. Unfortunately, the sound of the monitor beeping is all too resonant for her and scares her, so she was whimpering in the background while Sharon updated me on Hallie's status. Come to think of it, monitors scare me, too.

I can't believe that Hallie gets to usher in the New Year in the hospital. Poor kid.

Out with a Bang....

Hallie had a very nice Christmas eve and day with her cousins (more about this later, I hope) and a lovely time with Eliza Grace on Boxing Day (which extended Christmas for the two of them...both are entirely enamored of opening presents...She is still asking us to "do Chanukah" every night because that means more presents to open). Sadly, though, she came down with a fever while at Eliza's Nana's house (we didn't know this until we got home; the condo was warm and the oven was on and so it didn't seem so concerning that Hallie was flushed but, in retrospect, flushed=fever in Hallie's world). She cried and vomited in the car on the way home from the greater Princeton area and was clearly sick by Sunday morning. She ran a pretty high fever all day on Sunday, topping out at a troubling 104 F + (we take her temperature under her arm and axillary temps are none too reliable). We called the after hours practice and the very cautious doctor on call (whom we like a lot) had us bring her into the ER at CHOP. It seemed like a garden variety viral infection to the ER docs and so, as long as she could stay hydrated (and she could, since the vomiting was not persistent), she was free to go. Monday was more of the same. Tuesday she seemed better by the afternoon and had not been running a fever all day but the fever had returned by the evening, though less virulently than it presented the day before. Today, Wednesday, she seemed totally normal and so the virus seemed to have abated. She even wanted to eat (ate about a slice of bacon and a slice of buttered toast, which is more than she's consumed the past three days combined). So the worst was over...

...or so we thought. Tonight the fever returned. Our axillary reading (100.7) was lower than what her fever turned out to be (at least a couple hours later, when it read 104, rectally, at CHOP). But more troublesome was her grey/blue ashen color, which seemed very off to me, and her rapid, labored breathing. We called the after hours practice and the nurse had us count her respiratory rate. Over 40 breaths per minute is troublesome; Hallie was at 57 by our reckoning. So Sharon brought her back in. At triage, her pulse ox was reading 90-92 and never went above 95. Her chest sounded 'squeaky'. And her heart rate was over 160.

Of course, Hallie, being Hallie, was a charming patient who was very engaged with her doctors and nurses and teasing and playing with them. She has a bit of an appetite, so she ate a saltine and at last update was working on a graham cracker. She acted fine. But her chest xray indicates otherwise.

The upshot: pneumonia.

They are trying to figure out whether she gets to stay at CHOP for New Years Eve (oh joy!) or come home and recuperate here. I haven't heard anything from Sharon for a bit, but my sense is that it will depend on whether she needs to receive any oxygen therapy (or at least be in close range of nasal cannula...what a horrific thought, given that she came off the Os 3 years ago now).

So 2009 is going out with a bang. And not a festive one, either.

Friday, December 25, 2009

All About Lea

Suddenly, over the past couple of months (and particularly over the past few weeks), Lea's spitfire personality has emerged full force. She was always a spirited baby who made her needs known to us -- for instance, we've known for quite some time that she doesn't really enjoy sleeping as much as she enjoys playing and being in the thick of things, and that she's very determined to do things in her own way. But, recently, we've discovered that Lea is a very, very good communicator.

A couple of examples: When Lea likes something and wants it, she clucks like a duck. It's sort of amazing to hear. If you don't give her the desired item (usually food or drink), she'll start clucking louder and faster and also reaching for whatever it is that she wants. When Lea wants to do something, she'll also let us know what it is quite effectively. If she wants to get into her swing (usually to chill out with a bottle of formula or her new favorite beverage, Yo Baby drinkable peach flavored yogurt), she will crawl over to the swing, pull to stand, and begin to swing the swing back and forth. If she wants her diaper changed, she will crawl over to the diaper pad, grab the wipes, or, if there is a diaper in her reach, she'll grab that and bring it over to you, waving it until you get the message.

Lea is also a highly skilled baby who learns new stuff quite quickly. This past week, after I showed her how to use her walker to get around, she began to walk around the room using her walker, which she thinks is great fun.

When I showed her how to stack two blocks on top of one another, she mimicked my moves very effectively. And she knows that socks and shoes belong on her feet and sweaters on her torso and tries quite hard to get them on and in the right place. She doesn't quite have the fine motor skills to perform these tasks, but that doesn't stop her from trying. And, like Hallie, she seems eager to try on everyone's shoes and not just her own and even said the word "shoe" today while trying to put on one of Hallie's.

Lea always keeps an eye on what Hallie is doing and wants to do it, too. So she often pulls to stand at the easel and attempts to draw; grabs Hallie's cars and trains and wants to play with them too; and will get in the middle of our puzzling, castle-building, and game-playing quite reliably. Hallie is almost always happy to play with Lea and often initiates games of "more silly" with Lea, but isn't always thrilled to share her toys, especially when she's doing a puzzle or building a structure and continually admonishes her sister quite emphatically, "No, Lea! That's my toy!"

Lea also keeps an eye on Zen and adores him. Zen is a great cat and puts up with all of Lea's attention, which not only involves gentle patting but some eager swatting and pulling. Lea is equally enamored with Zen's stuff. We have to watch her like a hawk or she'll end up grabbing food out of his bowl, playing in his water, or lying in his bed. (Truth be told, though, Zen doesn't really use his bed--he prefers the dining room table--so we're not too vigilant about this). Here's a cute shot of Lea curled up in the cat bed:

Lea remains an adventurous eater who is willing to try most new foods presented to her but, like Hallie, seems to prefer snacking to eating a full meal. We're not too concerned about this just yet because Lea tends to drink a lot of milk, formula, and yogurt and is growing quite effortlessly. And, in contrast to Hallie, Lea is an adventurous eater who will try (and often like) pretty much everything we offer her, especially if it comes from our plate. She and I often share a snack of hummus and pita and, the other night, she tried and loved smoked gouda; horseradish cheddar cheese and crackers; and crab and avocado dip. Veggies liked peas, carrots, and green beans are some of her favorites and she will cluck furiously for Earth's Best pear and mango whenever I'm giving Hallie her prilosec, which is often mixed into this fruit puree. We've started giving her a fruit snack at the same time to stave off the clucking, which otherwise escalates into whining. Of course, she also clucks for wine, which we are less indulgent about! We do hope that Lea begins to eat more at any one sitting so that her tummy is full and so that she eventually replaces her liquid (breast milk and formula) consumption with solids, but she is still under a year old so we're not going to push her to eat a full solid meal just yet.

Amazingly, however, we never had to push her to learn how to use a straw. Hallie showed her once, about five months ago, and Lea picked up this skill immediately. Here she's chilling with her Yo Baby treat:

We did have a bit of a medical scare with Lea last month but are hoping that all's well that ends well. Lea often seemed to us to run warm and her head was nearly always a bit hot, but she did not seem feverish so we merely attributed this to her being an extra sweaty baby and attributed her slight temperature elevation to continual teething (Lea now has six very sharp, big teeth and more on the way). But when she began to have trouble going to sleep and staying asleep and then started being very cranky, we grew a little more concerned. Like Hallie, she seems to have a perpetual runny nose (we blame preschool for this) and so we thought she had a cold on top of teething. But after she began spiking high temps--her highest was 104.5 but she'd been running around 102 or 103 for a 24 hour period. Tylenol or Motrin brought it down to about 100 but she was clearly not doing great. On top of this, Lea was refusing to eat and drink and I was worried that she was beginning to get dehydrated. Finally, I noticed that her pee smelled off, I began to worry about Lea having a urinary tract infection (UTI). She is at high risk of these because of labial adhesions (sorry about revealing too much information here) and so we brought her into the ped's office two Fridays ago to check out the situation. Of course, it's not possible for babies to pee into a cup, so getting a urine sample from Lea was a pretty traumatic affair that involved taping a plastic bag to her, which failed miserably, followed by two failed attempts to catheterize her (her anatomy made this hard), followed by sending us home two hours later with another bag attached to her. This, combined with Sharon coming home early from work to nurse Lea, finally yielded the necessary pee, which Sharon raced over to our excellent pediatrician's office just before they closed on Friday evening. One dip stick later and Lea was confirmed as having a raging UTI. They started her on antibiotics immediately (about which she was none too pleased; unlike Hallie, who, thankfully, is great about taking medicine, Lea is never happy about this at all and even fights things that taste relatively good like Tylenol).

Unfortunately, Lea did not appear to improve much on Saturday and remained reluctant to eat and slept away the day while Sharon and Hallie went to hippotherapy and then to a Chanukah party at Grandma Sandy's and Poppy Jack's. While she did seem better on Saturday evening, she was still running a low grade fever on Sunday and so, as per the recommendation of our ped's office, we took her in to the ER at CHOP on Sunday. I stayed home with Hallie while Grammy and Sharon brought her to the hospital (since there was no use exposing Hallie to a long wait and lots of germs in the hospital). There they confirmed that the original antibiotics were not ideal based upon the culture that had just come back and started her on a different antibiotic, which seems to have done the trick.

The big questions, however, were whether this was a chronic UTI that had caused kidney damage and whether Lea was experiencing bladder reflux. To figure out all of this required yet more testing, which Sharon and I completed last Tuesday. Fortunately, we can rule out those problems.

Still, Lea had been through a lot and she deserved a cheerful pick me up. It's long been our tradition that, if Hallie ends up at CHOP for something other than routine specialist care, we buy her a little gift to reward her for putting her through the wringer. Unfortunately, Sharon was unable to visit the gift shop after the ER but we made sure to get her a present after her testing was completed. Here's Lea playing with her smiley face balloon bouquet:

She is quite the little character and now that she's feeling better, she's even more of one. I am sure that, once she begins to walk, Lea will definitely give us a run for our money.

I'm still working on a Christmas post, so check back soon!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Social Stories and the Importance of Experiencing Rituals

Chanukah is behind us and Christmas is right around the corner. We are a sort-of hybrid family: I was raised in the Orthodox Jewish tradition but have always loved the holiday decorations we were never permitted to have; hence, I am a big fan of Christmas trees, jack-o-lanterns and spooky spiders, and could be easily convinced to array our home in turkeys and bunny rabbits, too. Sharon is a 'mutt' (her phrasing, not mine) whose ancestors include Ukrainian Jews, Anabaptists from Germany, and Catholics from Ireland. Her dad was raised Protestant (his family was not a big fan of either Jews or Catholics); her mom was raised Catholic but by a Jewish mother who never converted; and she and her sister attended Catholic school as kids, celebrated Chanukah and Passover with their Jewish cousins as kids and Christmas at home, and both now identify as Jewish but this is more of a cultural (read: food) identity than a purely religious one. Anyway, since holiday traditions are important to the family, we are interested in sharing these with our children.

The sticky part is that children on the spectrum (or at least Hallie; as the old adage goes, if you know one autistic person, you know one autistic person) don't always 'get it' when you discuss traditions with them. Indeed, it's sometimes unclear to us what Hallie understands when we tell her stuff. She is clearly bright, and she clearly knows so much (to recap again, well before she turned two she identified all letters of the alphabet; could match colors and shapes and identify them by name--though not speak their names; could count to twenty (some of her first words were numbers); and is okay with following simple directions when you ask her to do something tangible (as long as she 'hears' you and doesn't get distracted). But she has auditory processing issues, is a visual learner, and most likely has some variety of Semantic Pragmatic Language Disorder. She still cannot answer simple questions effectively and it's not clear that she gets abstract concepts at all. So, for example, if you ask Hallie what her favorite color is, she'll just tell you what color she is wearing that day. And, if you have just explained to her the entire Santa story (Santa brings toys for good girls and boys; he comes down the chimney on a sleigh that is pulled by reindeers; he eats cookies and milk; and he leaves the presents under the tree) she might a. bring you a stuffed Santa; b. bring you a stuffed reindeer; c. point to the Christmas tree in our living room and say "My tree! I love my tree!" and d. unwrap a present if you are unwise enough to have one under the tree already.

What she will not do is put it all together. So, if you ask her, 'who pulls Santa's sleigh?' she'll echo "Santa!" If you ask her what she wants Santa to bring her, she'll answer "Christmas!" She makes connections, and she knows all the words ('present' is a favorite of hers and she loves opening packages and boxes and thinks that all of their contents are hers), but she has no sense of how these things work together and cannot grasp the abstract concept of the Santa Claus story. I suppose that this means that she will avoid the trauma of finding out that none of this is real and that mommy and mama ate all the cookies, but the problem is that we so want her to believe. This is a rite of childhood, of innocence.

I talked with her preschool teacher about this last week. Kristen brought it up with me, and not the other way around. She had the kids make some reindeer food for Rudolph & co. and Hallie had a great time playing in the oatmeal. But she had no idea what she was doing. And both of us sensed that this is a global problem, not a localized, reindeer-related one. She happily and cheerfully follows directions and transitions beautifully from one activity to the next; she loves doing what the other kids are doing during group activities and is an avid listener to stories during circle time. But she has no idea why she is doing what she is doing; she merely goes with the flow because this is what is expected of her and Hallie, if nothing else, is an aspirant teachers' pet who would like to make a good impression (except for when she wants to test her limits with us, her moms, or with Miss Flaura, her guardian angel/PCA at school). But we would like her to understand what she is doing, and not just do it.

Not understanding stuff often leads to sensory overload for Hallie once an activity is no longer quite so structured. For example, she loves music time at school beyond imaginable belief and knows all the words to songs and will sing them when she is comfortable. But she has no idea that they are planning to have the kids perform Christmas songs at the church where preschool is located in front of an audience of all the kids' families and that there is a Christmas pageant followed by a dinner. I am sure that this has been explained to all the kids, but Hallie cannot process this information. So, on Tuesday night, when this event happens, she will once more come un-moored and look for some corner in which to hide.

How do we deal with this as parents? The only thing that I think can work is constructing a very concrete social story for Hallie and using her peers (props, I suppose) to act this stuff out. I have been telling her about the performance, but I know she isn't understanding me. On Monday, should school not be canceled due to snow, I will walk her to the church where the performance will be, and will show her the dais, and have her go up on it, and will sing a couple of the songs with her there (we have a list of songs provided to us parents in the preschool family newsletter and they're pretty standard fare). I will talk to her teachers and Miss Flaura about the need to explain this social story to her, too. Maybe, if things are concrete enough (she will have been in the church, on the stage, singing) she will feel less lost this time around and won't be quite as overwhelmed as she was at the Summer Camp musical and the Hallowe'en costume parade).

Enacting the Santa ritual will be harder. It would be most helpful to be at our own home and show it to her, preferably in the company of a couple of other children who already know what they are doing, so that she has a body memory of this event. That's what really helped with Halloween. While the teachers had been talking about Halloween and had the kids make various holiday-themed crafts (they picked and decorated their own pumpkins and fashioned jack-o-lanterns out of paper bags and orange paint and spiders out of egg cartons and pipe cleaners) and had the kids parade around in costume, the significance of all of this eluded Hallie who just thought of these as regular old craft making/art and pretend play. What really worked for her was having Eliza Grace here and experiencing the magic of getting into costume and trick-or-treating alongside the other kids on our block, who were similarly decked out. That made things real for Hallie and lent them significance, and she continued to talk (in her own word-economizing fashion) about trick-or-treating with Eliza Grace for weeks after the event.

We'd love to replicate this sort of body memory production where Christmas is concerned but we don't have other kids with whom we can do this. It is kind of socially unacceptable to lure a couple of Santa-believing children to our home with promises of presents provided to them on Christmas morning just so we can make this part of things come alive for Hallie. Lea is obviously far too young to understand anything right now, though I suspect that, later on in life, Lea will probably do a lot of translating of ritual and abstraction for her big sister. And Christmas is one of those holidays where it is difficult to get people to alter their particular family practices, particularly when no one quite understands that your child, who is on the autism spectrum, isn't going to just figure this stuff out for herself because, after all, the other 99% of all children have done so with no special parental effort.

It's sometimes hard to be a parent of a kid who doesn't quite fit in to the typical world. It makes you empathize with your kid on the spectrum: it's a weird world out there with a ton of social codes and rituals that seem odd and that moves at a very fast pace. Figuring out how to slow this down and make sense of it for your child so that they can mind meaning in this bizarre universe is our job as Hallie's parents. We'll figure something out; Sharon and I always do. But there's no question that it could be, and should be, easier.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!!!!

I'm not sure whether it's officially being called a blizzard, but, over the past 24 hours, Philadelphia did receive the largest amount of snow in a single event in December since 1909. According to the official sources, there's 16 inches of the white stuff on the ground at the airport. (***EDITED: The official snowfall now is over 22 inches and this is now the biggest December storm on record, surpassing the aforementioned 1909 one by about an inch).

By the time the kids woke up this morning at 9am, we had at least four inches of the stuff. Hallie was thrilled and came running to me announcing "It's snowing!" This is the first time, I think, that we've had enough snow for it to have actually made an impression on her. Last year, we had hardly any at all. And, while I took her outside while it was flurrying a few weeks ago, nothing stuck and she found it kind of a non-event (which it was).

We monitored the situation over a lazy breakfast (half a piece of toast for Hallie and homemade blueberry pancakes for Sharon and me....Lea grazed on all sorts of stuff) and then, fortified with a couple of cups of coffee, I went out to shovel. Hallie wasn't interested in staying behind, so she decided to help me:

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Karina was outside, too, helping with snow removal from her parents' car by eating it, as well as shoveling it, and the two kids had a fun time making snow angels:

Hallie was out for a good forty five minutes enjoying the snow event. By the end, her cheeks matched her snowsuit:

Had she been willing to try some hot chocolate, this would have been the perfect time for it!!! Hallie, being Hallie, settled for removing her cold wet clothing and warming up with a bowl of cheerios instead. By all accounts, she had a great time.

Lea did not make it outside today, but this is what she looked like all bundled up for our trip to pick up Hallie from preschool yesterday:

She had on a oneside, fleece pants and a jacket, a fleece snowsuit, and her quilted snowsuit. Needless to say, she was too bundled up to move. We kept her in today because 1. she doesn't have real boots; 2. she isn't walking yet and cruising while sinking into snow that came up to her chest didn't sound terribly pleasant; and 3. crawling in 8-10 inches of snow really isn't an option. She will have to go outside in it on Monday when we venture forth to get her a whole series of medical tests (this deserves a post in its own right, but she's been plagued with a miserable UTI which likely accounts for the crying, moaning, and lack of sleep that we experienced last month) so she'll get to see the snow even if she doesn't get to shovel it or eat it.

Provided that there is sufficient moisture in the snow (it's very cold out--was in the 20s all day--and the snow was quite dry), we're going to try to make a snowman in the morning. That is, after I shovel yet again!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Real Super Heroes Wear Tights

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Spider Man Legs: that's what Hallie calls tights.

Since both Sharon and I kind of hate tights, we never dreamed of tormenting her by forcing her to wear them and instead have been buying Hallie cute leggings to wear under dresses and skirts. Thus, we had no idea that Hallie adored wearing tights until Saturday, when we put her in a pair of brick red tights in honor of her annual holiday card photo shoot. She was very excited by her "Spider Man legs" and insisted on wearing them all day, even when we changed her back out of her dress. (She was just as excited by her new black patent leather shoes, which amazingly took us all of ten minutes to purchase at Olly's on the way to the picture taking appointment. Even once she gave up her tights, she continued to wear her black shoes and could be seen prancing through our house in nothing but black patent leather shoes and a pull up late into the evening. We both sense that she would have been happy to give up the pull up, too).

Anyway, back to the Spider Man Legs: neither of us could figure out why Hallie was calling tights by this name until it dawned on us: Real super heroes wear tights. Now if only I could convince Hallie that they also eat quiche....

Candy Cane Kids

Here's a picture of Hallie and Lea getting into the holiday spirit. Sadly, Lea is grimacing because her first year molars are coming in (this would also account for the bags under her eyes). And Hallie may look like she is making a silly face but what she's really doing is saying "Cheese." She does this a lot now during picture taking, which is why her mouth always seems askew.

Happy Holiday Season everyone!
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Lea as Narcissus

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Amazed and Surprised: Feeding Psychology and Who is Really in Control

Sometimes Hallie does stuff that we find confounding, in a good way. It then becomes clear to us how on the ball she really is, how much she follows even when it's not clear that she's listening, and how smart she is. Here's what happened:

Yesterday, we trekked over to CHOP for our first real session with the psychologist who is part of the Feeding Team. We're always a bit conflicted about the feeding stuff since we never really seem to get very far before we hit another roadblock but we were heartened that the psychologist listened to us when we met with her a couple of weeks ago to go over Hallie's case and figure out some sort of strategy. Our aim was to take it slow (always a good thing in our book since shock tactics backfire terribly around here); use a behavioral approach but one that did not involve force feeding, which is something with which neither of us are comfortable; and, most importantly, create a ritual around eating for Hallie that she could assimilate and then work from there to advance family mealtimes. Rituals really work for Hallie--she likes routines a lot and, while she's never prone to tantrums when routines are disrupted, we do know that whenever we switch things up on her, she tends to withdraw more into herself because she gets overloaded. We absolutely hate it when Hallie shuts down for all of the pretty obvious reasons.

Anyway, the plan was to begin with a snack at the table that did not involve television. We've used TV as a mealtime distraction/reward for pretty much as long as Hallie has been "eating" solids. We find it disruptive and, in the end, counterproductive. Ultimately, we'd like to get away from using it this way even if Hallie does a pretty good job, for her, of eating OK meals while wandering around watching the Wonder Pets and Yo Gabba Gabba. We don't envision living a life where everyone eats meals in front of the TV and TV-watching, while pretty interactive in our world, tends to be anti-social and the last thing we want to do is to stoke Hallie's already proclivity toward preferring electronic friends to real life interaction. Still, the psychologist understood why we can't afford to go 'cold turkey' and change everything up at once. The last time we did this with feeding, when we insisted that Hallie eat at the table and gave her the power to decide how much and whether she ate, Hallie responded by going on a full-fledged eating strike. She's eating pretty well right now and we don't really want to disrupt that entirely.

So we got to the doctor's office, after learning that Hallie grew another quarter inch in the last two weeks but lost about 4 ounces---we're not too concerned with this because she was, after all, pretty sick for about a week and her weight, 31 lbs. 11.5 ounces, and especially her height, which is 39.75 inches, are quite good. I pulled out the preferred snack--a small slice of chocolate cake--and the psychologist plated it up. She told Hallie what was happening: that she was going to sit and take a bite and then get to play with a toy. That if she did not take a bite herself, that V. would help her. And then she'd get to play. And that if she didn't take a bite at all, she would not get to play." Hallie, who is in a hungry phase right now (she seems to compensate for illness-related weight loss by experiencing a burst of hunger that helps her make up those calories she's lost), grabbed the fork and fed herself a bite of cake. Then she played for 30 seconds. And then repeated this process, quite happily and without a shred of protest, another nine times. That was it. The process was over in about fifteen minutes and then the psychologist and I went over the "rules" and how the goals of the process was a. to reinforce that we are in charge; b. get her comfortable with the ritual and craving it (or at least the playing between bites even if not the cake itself); and c. to ultimately generalize from this to bigger things, like getting Hallie to eat non-preferred foods, or more foods, or meals, or whatever we decide we want to do.

One critical feature is that, during this process, whoever is feeding Hallie needs to be able to devote complete attention to her and to the process so that it is basically the same all the time. This is awfully hard to do when one parent is watching both kids, but the reality is that Sharon gets home a bit too late for the snack to be successful once there are two parents in the room. Sharon and I talked over this whole issue on the phone this afternoon and we decided that, around 6:30, immediately upon Sharon's arrival home and after Hallie had already eaten something for dinner, we'd do the cake snack ritual thing.

Well, apparently, Hallie wasn't going to let us take complete charge of the situation. Around 6 o'clock or so, she went up to her high chair at the table and said to me, "Chocolate cake please mama!" Fortunately, Lea was in her swing (during an abortive attempt at a nap) and I was able to drop what I was doing and slice off a piece of cake for Hallie. I recited the rules to Hallie, who was eyeing the cake the entire time and who gobbled up that first piece very fast. Then she played for 30 seconds, handed the toy back to me, ate the next bite of cake, and repeated the process for seven bites. It took a bit -- but just a bit -- of prodding to get her to eat bites eight and nine, but she returned to her eager eater self for bite number ten when I told her that she was "taking the last bite." And that was it. Ten minutes or less from start to finish.

I have no idea how it will go tomorrow or the next day or whenever Hallie returns to her non-eating self.

But what was clear to us is how much she understood of the process and what the expectations we had for her were. It's also clear to us that we need to give her more credit (and be careful what we say around her) because she really does take everything in. And it was also clear to us that, even though this is supposed to be our ritual, our super smart three year old is really the one who is in charge. This doesn't surprise me in the least. And Hallie being in charge is part of the solution, yet also part of the problem.

For those still counting, we are up to 253 vomit free days and hope to make it to the 270s this year. Thanksgiving complicated matters: Hallie went to bed with the beginnings of laryngitis on Thanksgiving eve and woke up with a fever on the big day itself. She was very sick all day, which led to two bouts of vomiting and lots of lying on the couch lethargically all day on Thursday and Friday. By Saturday afternoon she was on the mend and, other than a residual cough, she's fine now. I had the same thing, without the vomiting, earlier in the week so I felt a particular sense of empathy for Hallie. This was a short lived but miserable little cold and I know that I wanted to consume nothing but tea and soup all week. Given all of this, we stayed home on Thanksgiving (we are thankful for Whole Foods which was open until 1pm and provided Sharon and me with turkey and all the trimmings at the last minute). Sadly, we missed out on fun times with cousins, but it's better to have spared them this malady and clearly Hallie wasn't really up to playing anyway. Ultimately, we are thankful that Hallie weathers these little colds so well. It will never cease to surprise us, or her doctors, that Hallie's lungs are as strong as they are.

OK--off to bed. Gotta get up early so that we can go find some shoes for the girls (Lea needs to graduate from Robeez to something that doesn't leave indentations in her little fat feet) in preparation for the holiday card pictures we plan on taking tomorrow.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


This past weekend, we decided that it was time to add to our family. Sharon and I had been eager to get the girls a cat for some time now and the virtues of this decision were underscored by the absolutely fabulous time that they--and epecially Lea--had when chasing around Aunt Laura and Uncle Bryan's cat, Rocky.

Anyway, two weekends ago Sharon and the girls visited a shelter to see a couple of cats and none of them were terribly impressed. This probably wasn't the cats' fault; it's hard to tell what a cat's personality might be like when it's cooped up in a cage all of the time.

After that unfruitful effort, we decided to try to find a kitty that had been foster-cared. This was pretty easy to do. So, Saturday night, after it was clear that Hallie was on the mend (she had fallen ill with the laryngitis/fever virus that had struck me earlier in the week), we took a drive over to the Art Museum area to visit a woman who fosters quite a few cats (she is living with 15 right now, and three of them are hers). All of the cats scattered except for one: a pretty black boy cat who is about a year old. He followed us from room to room and seemed quite happy with us, despite Lea's over-eager overtures. The other cats were quite lovely, but this little black one was special. He had chosen us.

So, not an hour later, we ended up taking him home. The name he had in foster care was Nelson, but his new name, Zen, fits him so much better. He's been living with us for the better part of a week now and seems quite content here. He is the gentlest, most easy going cat you can imagine. And this is a good thing because Lea is neither of those things. She can't get enough of Zen and relentlessly follows him from space to space, intoning "Kitty!" the entire time. She loves to smooch with him, lay her head down on his tummy, and cuddle up with him. He basically tolerates all of this (and when he's had enough, he lets Lea know with a playful swat that has yet to lead her to incur substantial damage). Lea also loves his food and water bowls and is hearing a lot of stern "No, Lea, NOs" these days.

Hallie loves the idea of Zen but is much more cautious around him than her younger sister is. Zen likes to come up to Hallie and rub against her leg. When he does this, Hallie says "I sorry, Zen! Excuse me!" This is totally cute. But Hallie is warming up to him and trying to pet him (gingerly). And she was completely thrilled to give him catnip this morning and watch him go completely crazy for it.

Anyway, Zen is part of our family now and we love having him here. Welcome to our nutty world, Zenny!