How Old is Hallie?

Lilypie Fifth Birthday tickers

How Old is Lea?

Lilypie Second Birthday tickers

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Catching Up With Friends from the ICN

On Tuesday, we had our first really warm day since January (yes, that's correct: January. Global warming has wreaked havoc with our climate here--as everywhere else). It was simply gorgeous out and, unlike a couple of months ago, I'm relatively certain that we're not going to descend into the frozen tundra like hellishness again this season. Anyway, it was quite warm and sunny and Hallie--who is teething furiously--was fussier than average, even after a lovely lavender-infused (and purportedly calming) bath. So I decided that it was time to put her in her stroller and take her out for a nap. Within seconds she was asleep and I was having a grand time navigating the various potholes wrought by a combination of an overly zealous demolition crew for Philadelphia Gas Works (and an underly zealous road paving crew related to the same notoriously corrupt and poorly run institution that claimed most of my salary this past winter). We sped through the park, up and down the streets, and had a good snooze. Then I headed off in the general direction of Whole Foods Markets (which claims the portion of my salary that does not go directly to PGW). While speeding along 8th street, I had that familiar old feeling: this was part of my twice or thrice daily walk to Pennsylvania Hospital from the house all summer and now that it's sort of summer again, the route was evocative of all sorts of emotions. I decided to give the ICN a call to see whether Hallie's daytime primaries were on, and to use their presence (or lack thereof) as a sign of how far of a walk down memory lane I wished to embark.

It turns out that both of Hallie's daytime primaries--Meghan, whom we last saw in February at Hallie's home-longer-than-hospitalized party and Brie, whom we hadn't see since discharge--were working that day. This sealed the deal and it was off to the ICN. We arrived at the hospital a few minutes later and it seemed as if the security/front desk folks who used to see us daily did not recognize us anymore. While waiting for the pathetically slow elevator, several nurse-types (at least scrubs-wearing personnel) wondered if we were off to visit a baby in the regular nursery. I said no--we were off to visit the place where this baby spent the first four months of her life.

We got off on 2 and immediately ran into one of the moms to whom we grew close this summer. Shelly was back with baby Suhaila, a former 24 weeker who is now a robust and extremely cute 10 lbs. 6 ounces, for a developmental followup. She had just gotten done visiting with Suhaila's primaries and showing them how big their little girl had grown. It was great to see them and we are going to be in touch to set up a playdate now that RSV season is almost over.

While I was catching up with Shelly and Suhaila, Meghan and Brie came out front (they hadn't yet been informed of our presence, so this was sort of by chance). They were amazed and thrilled to see their baby and, for the next half hour or so, we all hung out in the lobby (since I wasn't scrubbing in and had no intention of seeing whether Hallie still fit into a giraffe bed, let alone expose her to infections!). We saw lots and lots of old friends---Dagmar and Stacy, who spent more sleepless on-call nights trying to figure out how to stabilize Hallie; Bonnie, who was responsible for tweaking her vent settings for a very long time and then fighting with Hallie over the administration of her albuterol puffs; and tons of nurses who took care of her (I am pretty sure that only one nurse never had Hallie, and he was the one recruited to administer chest compressions to her on her one month birthday, when she decided to celebrate by bradying in a particularly bad way). Everyone was impressed by how round Hallie's head is (they turned her regularly, like you would a rotisserie chicken, in the hopes of avoiding preemie head, and all that hard work paid off, even if it pissed off Hallie at the time). And it was also nice to see a bunch of moms whom I did not know, because, as one of them put it to me, somewhat wistfully, 'it's good to see that they do get bigger.'

If that wasn't enough, Hallie had another playdate today with Maya and her mom, Rachel. They went to the park, swung on the swings, and napped in the sun. They also played a fierce game of tug-o-war with the Skwishy Manhattan Baby Toy. Hallie apparently won, but hopefully we'll be able to get Maya one of her own before her birthday next month (there's a back order on them right now, but we have ways....)

Anyway, it was great catching up and now that spring is here I hope that we get to see some of our ICN friends more often.

This is, of course, a perfect lead-in to a shameless plug for all of Hallie's ICN friends to join us to walk in Walk America for the March of Dimes in exactly one month from today. Many of you have been very generous in your support and we are vastly grateful to you. But we'd like some more walkers on our team (and hope that the ICN mommies and medical staff, in particular, would consider joining us). Here's the URL again-- Team Hallie and Olivia ---please consider walking with us because we would like nothing better than to put the Pennsylvania Hospital Intensive Care Nursery out of business. Barring that, let's just get some more research money earmarked to help save kids like Hallie and Olivia (and Suhaila and Maya and Elana) and help improve the outcomes of preemies and micropreemies everywhere!

Sorry about the utter lack of pictures in this post---I promise to be better about this really soon

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Observations on Micropreemie Physical Development and Other Late Night Thoughts

I promised some more cute pictures of Hallie, and I am sure that there were ample opportuntiies for us to take some yesterday. This was especially the case since Hallie's Grammy was here visiting and Hallie had a lot of fun with her--they went to the park, ate a few excellent and successful meals that consisted of butter plus a few additional low-calorie filler ingredients like pears and peas, and had a splashing good time in the bath tub. But somehow her mommies were remiss and the camera remained in its case all day and we have no new images. I'll post a few more from Saturday but I just wanted to assure those of you who are particularly observant that we do, indeed, change her onesie regularly (at least once a day and often considerably more frequently than that, depending on the circumstances---you can fill in the details here).

Anyway, we've been fixated on figuring out how to promote active rolling on Hallie's part. It's not that she's particularly delayed--she's not (at least, not yet). She's a week shy of six months adjusted, and that's certainly within the normal range of beginning to roll over. The problem is that she's been trying and trying to heave her body over, can get to her side, but then sort of just falls back onto her back (or her stomach, depending on where she started). A few months ago she did manage to toss herself over, but now that she's a lot heavier (well, relatively speaking, anyway), this has become impossible for her to achieve. So we've been interested in diagnosing the problem and helping her figure out how to accomplish this milestone. I talked to Amy, Hallie's Occupational Therapist, about this on Thursday and she noted that we need to encourage Hallie to get out of her habit of staying within a single plane--essentially, in a standing or prone stretched out position. Hallie bears weight well and loves to stand (and to jump in her Jumperoo) but this just exacerbates the problem. Because she's reluctant to curl inwards and lean forward, she's having trouble rolling over, sitting up, and doing a whole host of other really important stuff. Because she's frustrated by her immobility, she arches her back further and uses her very strong legs to propel herself forward (often off of our laps to avoid her bottle). This needs to stop.

Our first observation (and for picky grammarians, I am purposely using the plural first person here since Sharon and I thought of the same thing at about the same time): one of the reasons that Hallie likes to exist in a single plane is that she never knew anything else. Most babies eventually run out of room in utero and have no recourse but to curl themselves up into little balls (that beloved fetal position) for a couple of months. Not our girls. All the ultrasounds showed lounging, stretching fetuses (especially Hallie) who had no space concerns whatsoever. There's one shot of Hallie with her arms clasped behind her head, legs stretched out, etc. It's a great picture and she still loves that position. So our goal has become teaching Hallie how to curl herself up and that curling herself up is fun.

First, she lost sock and shoe privileges. My reasoning on this is that it's a whole lot more fun to grab your toes when your toes are naked, and that they are probably a lot tastier than shoes and socks are, too. So we got rid of the footwear and started to curl Hallies legs and toes up towards her chest (and put them in her mouth a couple of times to give her the idea that she needn't look too far for an object to suck on when she required a teething ring). We did this on the changing table (which she loves) and in her crib (turns out that she loves her crib, too) and on the floor. We kept doing this for a day and a half, and by this weekend, Hallie started doing it herself:

Now she's doing this all the time and it's really helped with her rolling and sitting. She seems to be a pretty quick study where this sort of stuff is concerned and we feel very lucky about this.

So the next observation is: how do you get the baby who is ready to roll but a bit nervous about this (she kept catching herself as she was about to go over) to actually learn that rolling is fun. Here, Hallie's love of particular objects really came in handy. The first object is the Symphony in Motion mobile that hangs over her crib. She loves that thing. We're going stark raving mad listening to metallic Bach and Mozart, but Hallie can't get enough of it. She loves the music (and whines or thumps when it goes off), loves the colors and patterns, and loves to reach out for it and pull on it (either whens she's lying under it or standing next to it). What she does not love is not being able to see it if it is on. So, on Friday, I put her on her tummy in her crib, and though she loves being on her tummy, she was positioned in such a way that the mobile was just out of sight, even when she was craning her neck and her head. In order to see the mobile, she needed to look way up and over her shoulder. This is when she rolled from her stomach to her back. We then did this another twenty times to turn it into a game. It was a lot of fun until the mobile (which was a hand-me-down from cousins Adam and Hannah) had the audacity to up and die on Saturday afternoon. We were in the car within hours and trekking over the Ben Franklin Bridge to Babies-R-Us for a new one. Crisis averted.

The second object that gets her to roll over--this time on her rug and play mat--is the most excellent Manhattan Baby Toy Skwish Classic that our friends Sonja, Rickie, and Simmie bought Hallie for our shower. When I first saw the toy, I was a bit reluctant to offer it to Hallie--it's a bunch of brightly colored long wooden beads, round wooden beads, and stretchy wiry stuff connecting them in a fetching pattern. The colors are great, and the toy squishes up in an appealing way, but I was worried about how she would do with this toy because it's not soft. It turns out that my fears were totally unfounded: the toy ROCKS. She loves it to pieces---it makes clanky noises, the colors are wonderful, and it keeps her interested for hours on end. Even when she's got easy access to dozens of toys, she'll go out of her way to get a hold of the Skwish toy. Hence, we decided to entice her into rolling with this most beloved object. It worked like a charm.

Here's an image of the toy itself:

Finally, as you have no doubt noticed, the kid is not wearing any pants. This is quite purposeful. It's been warm around her (and Hallie's room is a nice cozy 75 or so) and we think it's a lot easier for her to roll around and curl up and such when not confined in tight clothing.

Besides, if she were wearing pants, we wouldn't be able to see the great little giraffe on Hallie's cute little butt:

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Last RSV Shot of the Season

Bright and early on Friday morning, Auntie Neystice (my best friend, Renee) came toodling on over to take us to the pediatrician's office for Hallie's last RSV shot of the season. Ney has been present for every single one of Hallie's RSV shots, and Hallie hates them (who wouldn't? The needles are as long as the ones that they use for horses and the medicine they contain are not vaccines in the classical sense but live antibodies. As the baby gets bigger, so does the dose -- we were within ten grams of having to have it broken up into two shots, something that I am sure that, holographic bandaids or no holographic bandaids, Hallie would have NOT at all enjoyed). Nonetheless, Hallie's has most certainly not projected her loathing of the needle onto Auntie Neystice. Indeed, she thinks Renee is a blast and they have a lot of fun giggling together. This is especially the case in the doctor's office because the examining rooms contain fun crackly paper. Yesterday, Hallie shredded the whole sheet during the twenty or so minutes we were in the exam room.

This shredding is caused mostly by the thump-thump-thumping of Hallie's legs. This has earned her the new nickname "Thumper." Hallie thumped on the exam table, thumped on the scale (it took a long time to get an accurate weight--which is 14 lbs. 2 ounces, or 6405 grams), thumped on the couch when we got home, thumped in her crib, and most recently thumped on the playmat in her room:

The image is a bit blurry (even on the sports setting) but that just reinforces how thumpy our thumper can be.

Tomorrow, I'll post some observations on our attempts to get Hallie to roll.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes evil rejected binkies.

In the old days (at the ICN), Sharon and I and pretty much every other member of the Hallie Rose fan club marvelled at how much Hallie loved her binky. She was a veritable Maggie Simpson: she'd suck suck suck, and the binky would go in-out, in-out, in-out in the most hilarious, cartoon-like way.

Oh, how the times change. Now we can't do anything to get her to take her binky. Never mind that we invest hours and hours in color coordinating the binky and binky holder to her outfits (trust me, it's awful on Queen Street when the pink binky leash goes a-missing). Never mind that the kid has dozens of binkies, each in little containers or pouches so that they are clean and fresh. And never mind that I just bought her the cutest binky purse that we can loop to her jeans' belt loops for a seriously sophisticated baby fashion statement:

No, Hallie won't take her binky anymore. Why not, you might ask? Because binkies--like bottles--mean one thing and one thing only....SLEEP. And Hallie hates to sleep, particularly during the day when she might miss some sort of activity (like her moms pulling out their hair trying to get her to go to sleep and yawning from constant exhaustion). The other day, Sharon tried to get Hallie to nap by putting her into her crib to watch her mobile. She snuck the pacifier in her mouth, hoping that it might do the trick, seal the deal, and calm the child down into a brilliantly somniferous state that would last, say, anything over ten minutes. Sharon sat down in the glider to contemplate getting something done when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a flying object sailing out of the crib and across the room.

It was the binky, of course.

So, as it turns out, Hallie wins (again). She may never take to taking her binky again, but at least she'll be ready for the Phillies' spring opener in a couple of weeks.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Our Visit with the Teacher of the Year...And Other Crazy Antics of the Week

...Who is also the Aunt of the Year.

Today, Hallie had her first ever non-medically-related crossing of the stateline into New Jersey (back in November when she was in the middle of her food strike we needed to go to Vorhees, NJ to visit a nutritionist). We piled Hallie, her six bags (we're not exagerrating!) and our two selves into the car and headed towards the Shore and Aunt Laura. Aunt Laura's birthday was this week and we wanted to celebrate in style, with all of us in attendance, none of us on oxygen, and most of us eating cake (we're pretty sure that Hallie's ever so yummy dinner of oatmeal, butter, and pureed pears does not qualify as cake). Hallie reasoned that, since Aunt Laura was there for her three times a week at the very least (and during the worst of the roller coaster days, considerably more often than that) and had devised all sorts of celebrations in her honor while she was cooped up in the Intensive Care Nursery at Pennsylvania Hospital (including the fabulous double-your-weight gift bags that contained double mint gum, double chocolate pudding, and a few other dynamic duos; the breathe-right gift bags to celebrate a week off of the vent--you guessed correctly: breathsavers were a prominently featured candy; and eentsy-teentsy, teeny-weeny baby bottles filled with pastel colored m-and-m's to mark Hallie's first bottle), the least Hallie could do is show up at Aunt Laura's birthday dinner. This is especially because Aunt Laura, who is a first grade teacher, just made Teacher of the Year for her school. This doesn't surprise Hallie--she was a first-hand beneficiary of Aunt Laura's considerable pedagogical skills. Way to go, Aunt Laura! We are so proud of her.

Hallie was held a lot by Aunt Laura and her Grammy, but she also got some fun playtime in with her big little cousins Hannah (who is almost-four-going-on-fourteen) and Adam, who just turned two. The three of them had a ton of fun together, sharing toys, squeals, and hugs and kisses. We were really thrilled by how gentle Hannah (who gave Hallie one of her stuffed animals and wanted nothing more than to hold and kiss her little girl cousin) and Adam, who 'played nice' and exhibited his softer side, were with Hallie:

This wasn't Hallie's first play-date of the week. She spent a considerable amount of it in the presence of her two best buddies, Karina and Ethan, who are members of what is quickly becoming known as the "Queen Street Commune." Her mommies have dinner with Karina's and Ethan's parents about three times a week, including the night of the evil ice storm (as the past Friday night has become known in these here parts). When we were over on Friday, Karina's mommy (Vanessa) was holding Hallie and all of us were a bit afraid when Karina (who is highly mobile) made a bee-line for them. It wouldn't be out of place for a one year old to be a bit jealous of a baby snuggled up in mommy's lap. But not Karina: Karina headed over to Hallie, put her arm around her, and gave her a kiss. It was very sweet to watch but happened way too quickly for any of us to capture the moment on virtual film.

Hallie also shared more than a few sweet moments with Maya on Wednesday of this past week. Sharon brought Hallie over to play at Maya's house. At first the kids were more interested in one another's toys than they were in each other, but as the hours unfolded, they became increasingly aware of one another's presence and inched towards one another on the floor. Finally, they made contact and grabbed hold of each other's hands and looked up at their moms for approval:

The moms (Sharon and Rachel) loved every minute of it. Once the warm weather is here to stay (clearly not this week!) we're going to have another play date at the park. Hallie told Maya all about the fun swings and now Maya can't wait to try it out too.

And if that was not all, Hallie also had a visit from Aunt Ellen and Uncle Bob this week. Uncle Bob had never met Hallie and had merely heard tell of the many wonders of his wife's primary: Hallie was Ellen's first Labor and Delivery baby, first 23 Weeker, and probably several other firsts. Her mommies were perhaps not her first absolutely neurotic, anxiety ridden parents, but most likely the first to have moved into the ICN: we literally had our own pillows and chenille throws in the hospital with us and on more than one occasion, Ellen threatened to have us sent home. Anyway, we adore Ellen and love having her over at every opportunity. This time we got to share the joy of Hallie with Bob, too. Alas, Hallie was a bit over-tired on Wednesday (she is teething, had been out of the house since before 10 that morning, and spent a whole bunch of time melting down in a parking lot that was gridlocked not long before the appointed dinner hour). So she wasn't her usual flirty self, but hopefully Uncle Bob will be back to visit again when Hallie is more well rested.

Hallie is making great strides towards fulfilling this goal of sleep induced bliss; not only does she spend each and every night in her own crib, but she also takes lovely languid naps with Sharon (AKA Sleeping Mommy) in between. And so I leave you with one inspirational last image for the day:
Nighty Night, All!

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Swinging Good Time

This weekend was the first really nice weekend we've had here in Philly. No snow, no ice, no threat of 'weather', just two lovely fifty-degree or so days in a row.

Sharon and I decided that it was time to flip Hallie's excellent stroller from its pram position to its stroller position and take Hallie out to the park down the block and for a nice spin around the neighborhood.

Of course, this involved bathing our lovely girl, who got to experience the tub without the infant sling for the first time. She enjoyed it immensely and was not nearly as prone to slipping down into the soapy water as she had been with the sling. Hallie had a great time splashing away with us.

Then we got her dressed up in one of her (okay...our) favorite little kid outfits and had her model the lovely strawberry hat knitted for her by cousin Jennifer:

Then we bundled her all up and headed down to the park. At first, Hallie wasn't sure what to make of the new apparatus in which we placed her:

But it didn't take her long to get into some fast and high swinging:

Of course, all of this activity tuckered her out and she couldn't keep herself from yawning:

And, in spite of the fact that our little girl hates, hates, hates to sleep, in a matter of fifteen minutes or so, she was out like a light:

But this didn't keep her from returning to the park today for some more excellent swinging adventures:

After all, not only was today the first-year birthday party of Hallie's best friend Karina, but also Hallie's actual nine month (actual) birthday. And we can assure you that Hallie Rose had a swinging good time!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Happy Belated 5 Month Corrected Birthday, Hallie!

Once again, I've fallen behind on posting this week. Hallie was none too thrilled when she checked her blog earlier in the week and noticed it had not been updated at all this month:

So she tried to do it herself. But while she seems to have mastered using the trackpad, she found that the keyboard on my Mac was simply too far away for her to reach comfortably.

Until we come up with some sort of device which will allow her to express herself directly, she will have to put up with a mom (or moms) who always seem to get behind on updating the broader community of Hallie devotees.

OK, so what IS new with Hallie?

First, she continues to grow. As of her GI appointment a week ago, she is 13 lbs. 8 ounces and 24.5 inches tall. We suspect that she has put on a good amount of weight this week. Even with some recurrent 'refunding' of feedings (perhaps related to reflux, and perhaps related to teething, and perhaps related to excessive phlegm from her date with the croup), she has gone up a lot on her volume. She took the most at one time ever last night (6.5 ounces---amazing for Hallie) and generally has managed to get 20-22 ounces of high-cal formula into her system each day. She also snacks on pear juice, a little bit of solids (her new favorites are chicken and broth and homemade chicken gravy with lots of butter---don't ask!). These things don't add much in the way of calories (well, maybe the chicken gravy does) but they spice up her life. She seems fond of eating at the table with the big people (broadly defined to include her two toddler pals, Karina--who turned one this week--and Ethan--who is a very mature 1.5). While we couldn't feed Hallie cake and icing at Karina's low-key birthday dinner, she did have a fun time with the organic applesauce. In a word, our Little Cupcake is SO big:

Second, she is getting even stronger where sitting is concerned. Her new personal best is around a minute or so without any propping and she is putting out her hands and otherwise correcting herself when she loses balance. She's still not rolling without assistance (I've chalked up the four rolls she did a couple of months ago to a fluke) but she does go over with ease with a tiny bit of a push. We'll be working on this (and on her hip muscles which appear to be really well flexed for Pilates but not for rolling) this weekend.

Finally, and most momentously, Hallie actually SLEPT IN HER CRIB last night. Up until last night, she's gone to bed and gone down for naps in her bouncy chair. She's really beginning to outgrow it and she needs to get used to her crib being something more than a playpen. And so last night the moms took the plunge. We put her into her crib after her last bottle and Hallie happily remained asleep in it until around six this morning (and, no, we did not put her down at 5:45 am--it was more like 1:00am). This is real progress and we hope to repeat the experiment and make it part of Miss Hallie Rose's regular routine.