How Old is Hallie?

Lilypie Fifth Birthday tickers

How Old is Lea?

Lilypie Second Birthday tickers

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ready to Break Outta Here

The kids and I are cooped up at home once again after a non-snow event shut down Philadelphia (and Hallie's school) today. I think we're a bit snow shy at this point (who wouldn't be given the number of inches of the dreaded white stuff we've received over the past few weeks) and so the city tends to close the schools a bit preemptively.

We did not get too much in the way of snow (maybe 4 or 5 inches, which used to seem like a lot) but the winds were fierce and it was quite frigid this morning.

Anyway, Hallie's been going a bit stir crazy given that she was home from school on Wednesday after she began to run a low-grade temperature on Tuesday night. That has resolved, but we're pretty certain that she is not feeling terribly good right now. Her sleep has been very interrupted (she woke up in the middle of the night or very early in the morning several times this week), her eating has been off, and she's been vomiting quite a bit lately. And it's not been just any vomit, but the old projectile, comes out of nowhere vomit. Our hunch is that she's not tolerating the chocolate milk that she's been drinking quite a bit of (for her---so several ounces a day) since last Friday or Saturday. As in the bad old days, it takes several days for her system to get overloaded, but when it does, look out. So we'll take her off of the milk and see if things get better/go back to the new, pretty tolerable normal.

Hallie did start back up in private OT this week and had her first speech therapy session with her new private speech therapist. Happily, both are in the same location (just a block from Sharon's office) and back-to-back appointments. But Tuesdays have ended up being crazy days for both Hallie and Sharon. They start out going to feeding therapy at 9am, then Sharon heads to work and Hallie stays at home until preschool at 3:15. Nadia picks up Hallie from school at 5:30 and takes her to Speech and OT at 6:00pm, Sharon meets them there (where she hangs out with Lea in the waiting room) and then everyone finally heads home when therapy is over at 7:30pm. What a crazy life! But if it helps Hallie with her pragmatic language, sensory integration, and fine motor skills, it's definitely worth it.

Meanwhile, Lea has begun to walk in earnest this week. Chasing after/seeking out Zen has been the big motivator for her. Apparently, on Tuesday, she walked about ten steps over to Zen to feed him a piece of bacon (she likes to feed all of us, Zen included). She's been toddling from one place to another pretty consistently and, while she still looks a bit wobbly and off kilter, she's definitely getting the hang of it. I can already tell that chasing after two kids running in two separate directions this spring/summer is going to be pretty challenging!

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Monday, February 22, 2010

March for Babies 2010

Team Hallie & Olivia will be proudly walking in the 2010 March for Babies.

As everyone who has been following this blog knows, our daughters, Hallie and Olivia, were born at 23 weeks and 4 days, on June 11, 2006. Olivia lost her struggle when she was 18 days old; Hallie was hospitalized for four months and, while not free of the consequences of prematurity, she is now a happy, active, and vibrant 3.5 year old. The research sponsored by the March of Dimes into surfactant -- a sticky substance that inflates the lungs of babies -- helped give our girls a fighting chance.

Research into preventing prematurity, including 17P (17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone), helped Sharon carry Lea to term. The March of Dimes helped get 17P approved by the FDA and getting insurance companies to cover this therapy, which prevents 10,000 premature births a year.

The March of Dimes is engaging in more efforts to support families of babies who are in the NICU or who have 'graduated' from neonatal intensive care units. We know how trying it is to have a baby who is hospitalized long term. And we also know how much support families need in dealing with the consequences of prematurity once they have left the NICU: many, like Hallie, have problems that persist throughout their lives.

We hope that the research that the March of Dimes is doing will prevent quite so many babies from being born so early and will assist the parents of preemies navigate the roller coaster ride that results from their babies' early birth.

We hope that you can join us for this year's March for Babies on April 25, 2010 or that you will sponsor our family team.

Thank you for helping us give all babies a healthy start!

To make a donation, visit my personal Web page here or click on the Team Hallie and Olivia widget off to the right.

And for those of you who have already contributed to our effort to support the March of Dimes: Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

And please remember that any amount will help; every five or ten dollars will help March of Dimes prevent prematurity and invest in research that will improve the outcomes of babies like Hallie and Olivia who were born way too early.

"Oh Cr@p!"

I have lots more to blog about, if I ever get the time. But this brief post takes preeminence over my more substantive musings.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon, I was trying to give Hallie her prilosec-in-applesauce before Hallie headed off to the Camden Seaquarium with her friend Alex. Most of the time, Hallie is fairly cooperative about taking her applesauce, even though she does like to negotiate about how much she needs to eat.

She is not a particularly good negotiator. Our conversations go something like this:

Mama: Hallie, all you need to take is seven bites.
Hallie: Two bites!
Mama: No, Hallie, there are more than two bites. I might be able to do it in six bites.
Hallie: TEN BITES!
Mama: You've got a deal

No real negotiating yesterday, alas. Hallie was super tired (she had a fun filled day with her cousins on Saturday and not enough sleep on Saturday night and no nap on Sunday). So she was relatively uncooperative and highly squirmy. All of that squirming, going limp, jello-legging resistance caused Hallie to get worked up and this, on top of the fact that we accidentally skipped the prilosec on Saturday (because Mama was remiss in her packing again) led to a bit of refluxing.

Hallie gagged a bit, coughed, spit up a mouthful of refluxed goop and exclaimed, in precisely the tone that I typically use: "OH CR@P!!!"

Sharon and I looked at one another in disbelief and cracked up.

Apparently, we really need to watch what we say around Hallie more carefully.

But on the upside, I think Hallie's pragmatic, spontaneous speech is coming along quite nicely, don't you?
On related note: the reflux/urp was a pretty unexpected event. Hallie has gone at least three weeks without visibly refluxing and, other than that bout at the beginning of the year following her pneumonia, there's been virtually no vomiting at all this year. We're at 45 vomit free days (out of a total of 52), which is pretty darned good. And she is eating a relatively large quantity (for her) of cow's milk at this point: she has taken a liking to chocolate milk and might have an ounce or two at a time (it helps to tell her that her cousin Hannah likes it, which is absolutely true, and chocolate milk gained even more cache when her friend Alex exclaimed that chocolate milk was delicious). She also has been consuming about a third of one of those small cups of Ben and Jerry's vanilla ice cream at a time (she did not, however, like the strawberry -- or pink stuff, as Hallie called it -- at all). And she voluntarily sat down at the table on Friday night when Taylor was over and consumed about several decent sized bites of spaghetti with a very cheesy tomato sauce and pronounced: "spaghetti is DEE-LICIOUS. I LOVE SPAGHETTI!" while doing so. Now, of course, what she loves is the routine of Taylor coming over to dinner and all of us sitting down and eating. But that's fine with me---that's a good thing to love, and if she takes a few bites of food with us, I am very happy.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Almost Walking

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Lea's been on the verge of walking for the past two weeks now. She's been getting herself up and standing in the middle of the room, holding on to nothing, for long stretches of time. And she's been shifting her weight from leg to leg, kind of testing things out. Whenever she calculates that the object/person whom she'd like to approach is near by enough to attempt a risk, she's even managed to take a couple of steps (usually just one or two, but as much as four or five on a couple of occasions).

But she isn't quite there yet. Like Hallie, Lea is going to do stuff in her own sweet time.

Here's a video I took of her yesterday, which should give you a closer idea of what she's up to at this point.

In other exciting developments, we've learned that Lea has a few more words. I've already blogged about how much she adores her first word, which was a very appropriate "uh oh". This remains her most used word to date.

But she's added a few more:

-"atch!" which seems to mean "catch" but is also used to get anyone's attention. I think she's generalizing from our penchant for trying to toss her a ball and asking her to "catch."

-cracker. To demand the food. The kid loves crackers.

-sissss. Which we think is her new word for 'kitty' or perhaps 'Zen' (our kitty's name). We're not sure how she developed this one.

-some attempt at "Lea" and some attempt at "Hallie."

And lots and lots of baby babble, which is new to us since Hallie never babbled. You can clearly hear some of this in the video above.

Also unlike Hallie is the fact that Lea LOVES green veggies. Her favorite is peas (she can eat a ton of these at one sitting and has been known to reject ice cream in favor of peas) but she also rather likes edamame (young soy beans, shelled, and then slipped out of their papery casings...there must be a name for those things) and green beans (especially roasted in olive oil). I introduced her to blueberries yesterday and she was fond of those two. Really, the only thing she does not like and is usually unwilling to try is any form of meat. Thus, those edamame and hummus will really come in handy in her diet.

Lea is incredibly cute, but so is Hallie (of course). And so the next blog post will be about her, and there is plenty (of very good stuff) to say. Sadly, it's back to work for me now!

Friday, February 12, 2010

snowstorm 2010

Here are a few of the images that Sharon took on her walk to work this past morning--on Thursday--after the huge snowfall that we received in Philly (which was Tuesday into Wednesday). The storm dumped around 16 inches of snow on Philadelphia, about two of which were in the form of ice/sleet/freezing rain. This, on top of the 28.5 inches we received over the past weekend has left an awesome coating on the City of Brotherly Love. These shots were all taken around Washington Square/Independence Hall, which, as you can see, was deserted at rush hour today (usually there is a ton of foot traffic). The buses going north to south (and vice versa) in the city were not running at all and South Philly (where we live, technically) was a huge mess and remained so throughout the day. We'll try to get some shots of our block tomorrow so that everyone can see what we mean. The city did a fabulous job of plowing after the first storm, but the two inches of ice underneath all that snow has made it really hard to remove the snow. Sidewalks are equally treacherous (my snow cleats came in handy on Sharon's walk to work, to say the least). Things are going to remain pretty bad around here for some time, I fear. The next week or so will be pretty cold and we are slated to get a little more snow on Monday into Tuesday, so who the heck knows when we'll dig out. That groundhog over in Western PA needs to go is what I think!

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The kids did okay today, but are suffering from extreme cabin fever. The schools are closed and, needless to say, our nanny could not make it in today, so things got a bit dicey around here when both kids decided that they were so off schedule that they no longer required naps, at all.

Hallie was a bit thrown off by not going to school yet again. This was the occasion of her very first "Why?" question. As Sharon was getting into her cold weather gear this morning, Hallie inquired, "we're going to school now?" Sharon replied, "no," and Hallie retorted, "Why?" This was awesome: it represents the beginning of logical thinking (which in Stanley Greenspan-speak is Stage 6 of the developmental scale). We were overcome with joy (I actually began to tear up). We don't know when Hallie will come out with her next "why?" but just knowing that she is capable of asking, and wants to know why things are the way they are gives us great hope for the future. And I promise to answer every one of those questions that come out of her mouth...explaining the "becauses" will just help her make those logical connections even more solidly.

After Sharon left, the kids and I played and played. Perhaps projecting their own desires, the kids spent quite some time with the Fisher Price Little People's playground set:

Then, later on, during one of my abortive attempts to put the kids down for a nap (I'd have settled for either of the kids, really, but was attempting a 2-for-1 deal), we went upstairs to the bedroom. I tried to coax Hallie to get into the bed while I rocked Lea in the glider, and initially the idea seemed like a good one. Alas, she just kept popping back up out of bed and asking for various of her "buddies" (which is what she calls her stuffed Sesame Street, Pooh, and other assorted animals/creatures) to join her. She dragged all of them off to the bed with her but was way to keyed up to sleep. So she came back into the smaller bedroom (which adjoins the larger one that is technically where the girls sleep; the big room holds the futon and the small room houses the crib-in-which-no-child-has-ever-spent-a-night and my desk and the glider). I put Lea down in the crib and turned on the mobile in the hopes that a miracle (of sleep) might happen, but no go. Then Hallie decided that she wanted to get into the crib, too, and had the great idea that her buddies should join her there. So the whole experience turned into one massive Floortime session with various buddies jumping into the crib, leaping into her arms, hugging her (she is especially fond of Cookie Monster's hugs---I do a fabulous Cookie imitation, if I may say so myself, and this has always captured Hallie's imagination and made her very, very happy).

Once Lea got to the point of extreme crankiness, the game ended, and we went back downstairs to play. Lea finally did fall asleep (for all of 25 minutes the first time, and for about 45 minutes the second time, two hours later). Hallie never did, but was asleep before 9:00pm tonight, which is almost unheard of in these here parts.

School is open tomorrow, thank heavens. And hopefully Nadia will make it in (that's the plan, at least) and I can get some of my own work done. And hopefully this was our last major storm of the season. But all in all, even as we dig ourselves out and struggle to return to normal schedules, Sharon, Hallie, Lea, and all of our "buddies" did manage to survive (most of) the week just fine. But Spring's arrival will be very much welcome around here just the same!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

All Terrain Vehicle

An ATV is exactly what we have needed around here lately; last weekend, we got 28.5 inches of snow and, over the past 24 hours, we've received another 17+ inches. Final tallies are not in yet, but suffice it to say that Philly has now broken the record for the number of inches of snow received in any one season--which used to be 65.5 inches, set back in 1996. They've been keeping records since 1882 and so this is quite a feat. And the winter's not over yet.

You can't use any old vehicle to transport kids under these sorts of conditions: strollers are not very snow-friendly and we've already seen how much the toboggan appealed to Lea. So thank goodness for Gina and Jake. Even though they were both sick and unable to make it Lea's birthday party, we received their excellent gifts just in the nick of time. In addition to getting a shopping cart that makes her very happy, Lea was the recipient of this fine wagon:

As you can see, both kids really enjoy its presence in our home. It's a two seater (with lots of cup holders) and they don't have much to fight over. Hallie tells us when she'd like to be in the "back seat" or the "front seat". And Lea is pretty much happy wherever she is.

Both kids helped Sharon put it together over the weekend when we were cooped up inside the house. They had snacks in the wagon, and its draw on Hallie was so great that she did not really notice or care that she consumed two whole cheddar cheese and peanut butter crackers while spending time in it.

But the kids were a bit bored and stir crazy, having been cooped up inside for so long. So Sharon got the brilliant idea of taking them for a ride in the snow/ice in their shiny new wagon.

This voyage thrilled them:

Lea thought it was great to go bumpity-bump and bopped up and down with glee as Sharon pulled the kids along the icy/snowy stretch on a tiny block around the corner from our house. And Hallie, as her broad smile indicates, of course had a blast.

Thank you, Jake and Gina, for making Lea's birthday and the (many) ensuing snow days such fun. And Radio Flyer might well have a new market for these wagons here in snowy Pennsylvania!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Blog Giveaway for Micropreemie Parents

Intrigued? Visit Stacy's blog.

And for more about Scott Wright, the author of Team Spectacular: Micropreemie Power, visit his store (where you can also procure your own copy of the comic, in the event that you don't win the giveaway).

This would make a great gift for new NICU parents, too.

Snow Fun!

It snowed here in Philly pretty much non-stop from about 7pm on Friday night until a little after 2pm on Saturday. And this was no wimpy snow, either: while the original forecast suggested that the snow would be on the wet side and with an equivalence of 10 inches of snow per 1 inch of rainfall, they reported last night that, since the temperature here had dropped quite precipitously over the course of the day yesterday, we actually received 15 inches of snow per 1 inch of rainfall. What that amounted to was 28.5 inches reported at the Philly airport.

I have no idea what we received on our block inch wise, but this is what it looked like when we bundled the kids into the toboggan and headed out to the park that is (mercifully) just down the street:

Hallie got the hang of sitting up in the sled as Sharon pulled it, but Lea was a bit perplexed at the whole thing. She ended up turning the toboggan ride into an opportunity to make snow angels:

Hallie thought that her little sister was being hilarious:

Ultimately (like after five minutes), however, it became apparent that Lea was not having a huge amount of fun in the toboggan and, when she ended up with a face full of snow (there were no real tracks carved through the park), I headed in with Lea and Sharon took Hallie for a few races around one of the tiny side streets in our neighborhood. Hallie, sensory-seeking speed demon that she is, kept wanting to go faster and faster and would have had Sharon at it all night.

When Sharon had had enough, they came back here and were playing in the snow a bit. Hallie pulled off her glove (she hates wearing them and the only thing that keeps her current pair united are the mitten clips I got for her). She grabbed some snow and it was so cold that it hurt her hand. And then she fell. So she came back inside in tears, but did have a mostly excellent time outside in the snow. And what's better, I think, at least on some level, is that she talked with Sharon at bedtime about how she was feeling when she fell. She also talked about how Zen (our kitten) made her feel scared when he got too close to her on the bed. All of this feelings talk is really excellent. Probably even better than the snow.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Sledding We Will Go!!!

Our sled crisis is now officially over.

There was a slight delay in getting Hallie off to preschool today, which was not our fault; the divine Miss Flora is having an arthritis flare up and has been out of work. She thought that she would be able to return today but, alas, was in too much pain. The preschool is fine if Hallie is on her own during the short (2 hour) days, but the long ones are a bit more challenging since they involve a lunch, a nap, and lots of going outside, etc. Hallie's teacher explained it this way: it's not that the teachers would find Hallie terribly challenging--typically, she is pretty good at following directions especially in more structured contexts. It's just that she'd get less out of her day given that she often follows directions without completely understanding why she's being asked to do something. Flora helps by explaining things to Hallie in terms that Hallie understands and keeping her engaged with her peers, etc. Anyway, the agency that hires PCAs found a fill-in for Miss Flora by 10:30, so I bundled both kids into the stroller and took Hallie to school.

That gave me a bit less time to do my own work, but a bit more time than I needed to do the shopping, even accounting for the crowds that, for whatever reason, are intent on buying up all the milk and bread. (What do you suppose they are doing with that stuff? Having french toast feasts while watching the snow pour down? Perhaps....)

Anyway, that's when I got the brilliant idea of seeking out a sled at a brick-and-mortar location. I don't drive, so I was using the stroller on my quest, which sort of complicated things, I later discovered. The first place I checked was City Sports, and while they had something snow related, they had nothing age-appropriate in the sled department. I couldn't imagine bundling the kids into an inflatable inner tube or onto a small round disc and pushing them down a hill or something. So that was out. Onto Modells. Apparently the saying, "gotta go to Mo's" actually is true. Because they had precisely what I needed: a purple long, hard plastic toboggan with a long pull rope that was lightweight enough jam into the rear seat of the Phil & Ted's stroller (where, alas, it kept whacking me in the crotch on the uncomfortable, long walk home. Note to self: grow longer arms next time you attempt this feat).

When Lea awoke from her nap in the stroller and saw it, she was thrilled. And of course she climbed right in. Hallie did the same thing when she saw it after she got home from preschool. She informed me that "Santa riding red sleigh. Hallie go sledding in purple one."

Of course, mommy-brain that I am, I did forget to pick up carrots at Whole Foods, so I had to stop at the store again (and witness yet more milk and bread buying) on the way home from preschool with the girls. I told Hal that we were going to the store to get carrots to build a snowman and she was thrilled. She also requested that the snowman wear a hat and that it be "very very big." From what they are predicting, I think we can pull that one off just fine....

Poor Planning

It was noon today when I realized that even Amazon Prime could not get us a sled in time for this weekend's major snow event. We have our milk, we have our bread, and we probably have some eggs that no one in our household will eat, but we have no sled. And no option for getting one in time for our next blizzard.

But we do have a 3 year old who longs to make snow angels and we do have some mitten clips that have prevented us from losing yet more gloves and we probably can scare up a hat, a scarf, and maybe even some rocks to build a proper snowman. So, as long as Whole Foods hasn't had a run on carrot (noses), all is not lost.

Stay tuned for some pics of snowfest 2010!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Irony of It All: The Not Quite Lake Woebegone Life we Lead

Lea had her 1 year check up today, and, as it turns out, she is perfectly average, which in our world is a very good thing. She is at the 50th percentile for pretty much everything, and weighed in at about 20 lbs. 6 ounces and about 29 inches tall (please note: the inexactitude is related both to my not having been at the appointment and the fact that, at least where Lea is concerned, we've totally distanced ourselves from trying to make sure we have weights and heights down to the last gram and millimeter, respectively. She has looked fine to us, and that's what counts).

The ironic part: Hallie was bigger both in terms of height (at above the 75th percentile) and weight (at around the 60th) at the same [adjusted] age as Lea is now. Our pediatrician, of course, remembered this little factoid, and so did we. Who'd have thunk?

Of course, Hallie still remains taller than average, at over 40.25 inches (putting her between the 75th and 90th percentiles for height) and at pretty much average for weight, at about 33 lbs. 8 ounces as of last week (meaning that she's put on over a pound in the month of January, during her post pneumonia recovery). We're not sure how this happened, but there you have it.

Clearly, though, where Lea is concerned, we just don't have to work as hard (and consequently don't work as hard) to keep her at average: we don't worry about whether she eats 2 cheerios or 20; a couple of tablespoons of yogurt or none at all; etcetera. She just does what we does and we do it with her. We follow her lead and she knows where she wants to go.

With Hallie, honestly, most of the time we do the same thing: Hallie's therapies are, for the most part, very much Hallie-directed and that is a good thing. Even her eating is mostly Hallie directed, with the exception of our feeding-therapy directed 'snacks' (which now incorporate tiny bites of banana, much to Hallie's chagrin. But she's pretty much doing it, and that's important since we need to push her a bit out of the comfort zone on the eating front, even if we try not to go too far and only stay within the parameters of the excellent instructions provided to us by her wonderful feeding psychologist). And, of course, we still fortify those darned bottles, but whatever I'm putting in that goat milk really is doing the trick, and for that (and Hallie's decision to eat toast, fries, pizza, cheese, bacon, and now McDonald's hash brown) I am very grateful.

Anyway, we love living here in what is not quite Lake Woebegone: not everyone is above average, and, you know, that's a good thing. Average is just fine with us.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Happy First Birthday Lea!

Today was Lea's first birthday. It's hard to believe that an entire year has passed since she was born and that she's now such a big girl.

Of course, we celebrated in style with close friends and family. We decided, mostly for the benefit of the kids to forgo the adult-oriented party at home in favor of a (less labor intensive, much more outsourced) party at a local gym.

Here are a few highlights of the afternoon, in no particular order:

Lea blowing out the candles on her cake (Hallie has been practicing for days and really had a great time helping her little sister with this one):

Lea hanging out with her favorite green ball (she was chasing this one around for quite a bit of the party):

Lea loves balls as much as Hallie does and has really mastered the art of a game of catch:

Being pushed around in a little tub (kind of a mini ball pit) was one of the highlights of Lea's afternoon):

Lea hanging out in the center of the parachute while the big kids and adults gave her a ride:

Then all the kids got to get in on the action:

Are Eliza, Taylor, and Hallie in jail or the zoo? You decide...

Hallie and two of her favorite buddies, Eliza and Taylor:

Lea making a grand entrance to her party in a golf cart:

Princess Lea in her tiara:

And, finally, out of her dress and into her jammies playing with her blue balloon. What could be a better, more fitting end to a very happy birthday?

Happy Birthday, little Lea! You are such an amazing girl and wonderful sister to 'your Hallie' and our favorite one year old! This next year is going to bring more greate things in your life (and ours)!