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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pull to Stand!!!!

Alas, I have no pictures of this one, but HALLIE PULLED HERSELF UP BY HERSELF TODAY.

We had just gotten back from hanging out at a neighborhood cafe with Aunt Renee. Hallie was super duper tired but, at the same time, oddly energized. She's had a pretty good couple of days with minimal vomiting and lots and lots of teething (I swear that she's getting six to eight teeth at once. She has a prodigious amount of snot and drool and this would be quite comical except for the fact that she has this nagging and really painful seeming wet cough). Anyway, I had planted her in the living room on the carpet to crawl around and play with her numerous toys and was pouring myself a soda. I had turned away from her for perhaps thirty seconds to one minute and when I turned back, she was standing and holding onto her Fisher Price Little Peoples Bus. I was amazed and thrilled. I could have run upstairs and found the camera but this seemed rather inprudent. Instead, I spotted Hallie as she held on and explored the world from her new, independent vantage point.

On top of this (and probably related to it), Hallie is increasingly good at crawling. Now, you can leave her in one place and two minutes later find her halfway across the room. We have an IKEA bookshelf in her room that is set up sort of tic-tac toe board style (with individual cubbies; please don't ask me what the ersatz Swedish name of this product is because I am certain that I never knew it). Hallie's onesies, pants, socks, shirts, towels, etc are in wicker bins that slide into
each of the cubbies. This morning she crawled over to her pants bin and began to pull it out. I immediately planted her back in the middle of her rug (perhaps five feet or so away) and a minute later she was one bin over trying to pull out the nasal canula stored in the pulse ox carry bag (I guess he misses her beloved cannula!). Everything is now new and exciting to our little girl and this is thrilling to watch and somehow vaguely terrifying. But we're much more thrilled than terrified.

On the weight issue: she's put back all the weight she lost and so she's back where she was three or four weeks ago. She's also a bunch taller (27 inches or so). We're not at all unhappy about the weight because, frankly, we thought that she was going to be in the 14 lb something range and she weighed in at 15 lbs. 7.3 ounces. So there's still some hope for her being over 16 lbs by her birthday. This does not by any means put her on the actual growth chart, but at least it would keep her around the 25th percentile of the corrected chart.

Hallie does seem more enthusiastic about food these days, though it's still a relatively low level of enthusiasm that she is exhibiting. She likes frozen food above all else (she most certainly does not need Lean Cuisines, though the occasional quart of Haagen Dazs seems like a good choice to us!). We've been freezing baby yogurt (Stonyfield farm brand) with added Carnation Instant Breakfast and Pediasure so that we can feed her this by spoon at least once a day, if not three.

We also met with our new Speech Therapist, Kristi, this week. We're hoping that she's able to make feeding Hallie while she's awake and coaxing consonants like "b", "M", and "L" out of her much easier.

That's all for now and I'll try to get soem pics up tomorrow!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Leaving Las Vegas

It was a crazy idea to begin with, and one that had a lot of risk attached to it: Sharon and I were going to take a vacation and leave Hallie with Aunt Laura and the cousins and Grammy, who would watch her during the day when Aunt Laura and Uncle Bryan were off in school teaching and the big cousins were off in school learning and the little cousins were off in daycare playing. Somehow, we had lulled ourselves into believing that Hallie would not only be fine, but that the break would do her good, too.

Our friends were impressed---they hadn't even left their full term babies for a week for a vacation before said babies were a year old. In some cases, they waited until the kids were off to college before vacationing. Not us: we were intrepid. Plus, we really needed the break.

Needless to say, we STILL really need the break. Our seven days of debauchery in Vegas became a two-day whirlwind tour. Thankfully, we did manage to jam a lot in during those two days and thankfully almost none of this involved gambling. It was bad enough to lose the cost of the vacation itself; we really weren't there long enough to recoup gambling debts in the long run. (For the record, I lost 15 dollars on slots and roulette; Sharon won 10 dollars at blackjack).

From the start, things were a bit dicey (so to speak) with this vacation. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 8 am. We got to the airport in plenty of time and were not concerned about having to rush; indeed, we were more concerned that Josh, Nancie, and Ethan would make their flight since they left their house later than they should have and their plane took off a half hour ahead of our scheduled departure. Indeed, the morning had a bit of an Amazing Race quality to it---we were neck and neck on 95 and arrived at the parking valet within minutes of one another, raced each other back to the airport to check in, etc. Josh and Nancie made their plane -- but only just. We were thrilled to hear this.

Less thrilling was the fact that our plane had mechanical difficulties. We waited and waited and then they announced that the plane needed a part that had to be flown in from Atlanta and that we would take off at 12:30pm at the latest. Since this was Air Tran and since we're talking about contemporary US flying practices, where snack foods and comfort items have been replaced by multiple stopovers (I guess so you can buy your own food) that take you in directions that make no sense to anyone but the airline, we were supposed to fly through Atlanta to Vegas. A delay meant that we'd miss our connection, the airline could not promise to get us on the next connecting flight out, and that would have gotten us into Vegas at 9pm, instead of noon. As it turns out, time was more of the essence than we had thought, but even without that hindsight, missing an entire day seemed wrong. Air Tran was less than cooperative in terms of trying to get us on another flight (READ: they were awful to deal with and miserable and I will try to avoid them, especially since now we have to wrangle a refund out of them). To make a long story short, we ended up cancelling that flight (with a promise of a full refund, not a refund of 100 dollars to person, which is what they now have given me!) and we rebooked a direct flight on Southwest, which was a pleasure to fly. Our new time of arrival: 2pm. We were still going to lose the amazing race, but at least not as badly as we thought!

However, before we could make our way over to the Southwest gates (and pass through terminal after terminal, while singing the Royskopp tune from the Geico Caveman Commercial, we had to retrieve our bags from Air Tran.

This was no easy feat. The counterperson at the gate had taken our baggage claims (and all other information linking us to the flight. The counterperson told us to go down to the baggage claim and that our bags would be there in fifteen minutes. We raced around the airport while singing the Royskopp tune and actually believed our bags would be there waiting for us. We were so, so wrong. We waited and waited: no bags. We went to the very helpful Air Tran baggage claim worker (the only worker we found helpful, as it turns out) and she looked us up. It was as if we were had never existed---computer records on us vanished. Our identities as erstwhile potential Air Tran passengers vaporized. There was no us, there were no bags. We began to panic. We had checked most everything (at least I was wearing shorts!) and our new flight took off in an hour and a half and no one that the baggage claim lady called was willing to help. Others got their bags, but not us.

Our stress level was mounting.

Fortunately, before I could bust a major vein in my body, the baggage claim lady found someone willing to go out there and get our bags and retrieve them. Fifteen more minutes passed, but at least we had our bags.

The Amazing Race could resume. We careened our way through the airport, lugging heavy bags and wheely suitcases (remember: we had packed for seven days. For me, this means seven days of pool reading material and not just shorts and shirts and the like. Sharon, alas, ended up lugging the reading material bag. My apologies!) Amazingly, the security line was short and cooperative and we made it to the gate with a few minutes to spare. Of course, we had "C" tickets, so we got crappy seats, but at least we were on our way.

We arrived in Vegas to this lovely lush skyline:

This was my first time in Vegas, and as a former New Yorker who loves Europe, I am happy to report that I was not in the least offended by the post modern nature of this town. Indeed, I found it intriguing: who could have imagined building an oasis in the middle of the desert that serves as a timecapsule for our conception of "culture" (Roman Palazzos, the Eiffel Tower, the NY skyline), danger (pirates, wild tigers and lions and bears, OH MY!), and decadence and excess (bachelor parties with shots, frat house life at its finest, gambling and free booze) and mixes them all together in a kitschy way that actually works. Yes, it's fake, but in the most fun possible sense.

Then again, what the hell do I know: I only spent 60 hours in Vegas and the last five were panic filled. But I get ahead of our story.

Anyway, we were pleased to find that Treasure Island's rooms were spacious and comfy (though I'd have loved more time in this bed):

And after dropping our stuff, even though we suffered (and still do) from a chronic lack of sleep, we began to take in the excitement of our vacation. Dinner was spent at Kahunaville---a Hawai'in themed tiki bar type place with pretty decent food and a raucous evening environment. This is Sharon partying at the bar on Wednesday night:

And here's one of Josh doing a "bottle shot." He also danced with a lovely bride-to-be while very pregnant Nancie was upstairs with their 18 month old, Ethan. Way to go, Josh! (Actually, Josh was very well behaved and really, what happens in Vegas does need to stay in Vegas):

In addition to time by the lovely pool, the four of us plus Ethan had breakfast in Paris; saw some lions and tigers resting in their oh so contrived habitats, ate an In-N-Out burger (Sharon likes Five Guys burgers better but prefers the fries at In-N-Out), went to a couple of cheesy casinos, and visited a nature preserve at Flamingo:

It was beautiful, albeit quite hot, out and everyone, including the turtles, enjoyed basking in the sun:

We were thrilled to see a family of ducks. Notice there are two little ducklings in the picture; a third had swum off and was enjoying its newfound independence:

Looking at the little ducklings really made us miss Hallie. We were calling home all the time to see how she was and managed to skype with her once. She had a runny nose but we were aware of no other problems so we continued to enjoy our time in Vegas.

Here's a picture of us at the nature preserve that proves that we actually did manage to get to Vegas:

And here's a nice shot of Nancie, Josh, and Ethan. We hope that we can manage to take a family vacation with Hallie and stage this sort of shot at some time in the future:

But, as it turns out, all was not well in the land of New Jersey. Hallie was actually getting pretty sick and had been snuffly, vomiting, and unable or unwilling to eat since at least some time on Tuesday. Aunt Laura performed feats of heroism that involved staying up all night and feeding Hallie around the clock to make up for the fact that she ate a whole 1.5 ounces on Wednesday during the day, but by some time on Thursday, the situation had taken a turn for the worse. Aunt Laura let us know what was up in the middle of the day on Thursday, and we kept the communication channels open, but while we were out enjoying dinner at a wonderful Thai restaurant (Lotus of Siam, I believe it is called) off the beaten track (in a strip mall, actually, and apparently in an Asian area of Vegas because the other things in the mall were two other Asian restaurants, an Asian massage parlor and a karaoke bar), Hallie was melting down.

This ended up being the last site we took in while in Vegas. It's a picture of the stratosphere taken from a 7-11 parking lot (where we stopped to buy milk for Ethan and Karina, who had just arrived in town with Mark and Vanessa):

Mark, Vanessa, and Karina were only able to join us for a few days, but were very excited about it. The prospect of hanging out and partying in Vegas literally had Karina dancing on the table.

They should not have been so excited. As soon as they got there, while we were getting them a bite to eat in the deli, we got a call from Aunt Laura. Hallie was running a fever, was unable to eat, was getting dehydrated and was miserable. They had not told us this earlier, but she had been impossible to put down the night before and had to be driven all over town for hours. She slept fitfully in her carseat. She was no longer our happy sweet girl who never cries, but a sick little baby who was inconsolable.

We asked them to take her to CHOP in Philly, which is about 45 minutes to an hour away. It was three am in NJ and Aunt Laura needed to be up for a fieldtrip with her first grade class in the morning, Jan couldn't make the drive to Philadelphia and offered to take Hallie to Shore Memorial--a hospital that is not known for its high standard of pediatric care even if some CHOP doctors rotate through there. This wasn't okay with us, so we called my best friend, Aunt Renee, who got into the car with her partner, Kim, and they drove to pick up Hallie and Jan and Jan's car and drive them all to CHOP. Meanwhile, Vanessa got on the phone with Southwest Airlines and rebooked us (SWest was great--a note from CHOP was all they needed to waive any rebooking fees) and we packed up all of our stuff. Josh drove us to the airport at 4am for our 6am flight and by 4pm the next day, we were back in Philly.

Sharon did get some artsy shots in from the airplane, but it was not the same as taking pictures in Vegas:

By the time we got back home, Hallie had been released from the hospital. Her diagnosis was an acute Upper Respiratory Infection, but it was viral so antibiotics wouldn't be of any use. We just needed to keep her hydrated, get as much food into her as possible and wait it out.

As it turns out, there was little in the way of waiting it out at home. She was relatively okay on Saturday, but by Sunday had gotten worse. She was possibly working on an ear infection. And on top of everything else, she started to have diarrhea. Did I also mention she was teething? This conglomerate of symptoms had us at her pediatrician's office on Monday. Monday was also a day of chronic vomiting: we put food in her and she projectile vomited it back at us. This went on until Tuesday, and she was clearly getting sicker. To make a long story short, on Tuesday evening we ended up back in the ER, where Hallie conveniently bumped us ahead of about 25 other sick kids (most with similar symptoms) by vomiting three times in the short span of time we were awaiting a room. Her inability to keep down even 5 ml of pedialyte administered by syringe combined with no wet diapers and lots of runny poop ended up getting her hospitalized and on an IV in the extended care unit. It was there that we learned the trick of cutting her formula (pediasure) with pedialyte to help keep it down and using chocolate syrup as the base through which to administer her zantac and prilosec. This is Hallie with her hershey's syrup moustache:

To make what is now an excruciating long story only somewhat shorter, we were finally sprung from the EDECU at CHOP on Thursday afternoon. Hallie did OK on Friday, managed to projectile vomit directly at me twice and pee on me once before 9am yesterday, and is seeming to be on the mend. She even was back to her playful smiley self by yesterday afternoon:

Yesterday, our friend Kat came to help out with Hallie and assist her moms in getting the house in order (it was a total mess since we dropped our bags and ran, and had tons of laundry to do and things to organize). Here, Hallie is happily hanging out with Kat, and if you look really closely, you'll see that Hallie is pointing to her very first two teeth.

Later on, I'll try to get a shot of the scars said teeth have left on my finger!

Anyway, this post is certainly long enough, so I will end here. Let's hope for a less dramatic week ahead. Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ten Grand...or We've Been Tagged...

Not our Vegas winnings, alas... (we'll have a separate post on this one)...but our response to being tagged by Laura over at Adventures in Juggling.

The goal of this meme is to focus on the here and now, so here we go:

1 and 2. Hallie's breathtaking smile and delightful squeal.

Even when she's sick (which alas she is right now), she's a happy baby who enjoys smiling. I just love it when I walk in the room and she sees me; she smiles from ear to ear and coos and, if we're lucky, she lets out this great squeal. No matter what other nonsense we've faced in any given day, this smile and squeal combo lifts our moods.

3. Our neighbors. We're raising Hallie in a sort of commune/harem (the guys like to think of it this way) with our friends Mark and Vanessa (parents of gorgeous Karina) and Josh and Nancy (parents of handsome Ethan, soon to be a big brother). We eat at one another's houses two to four times a week, and the kids have come to think of themselves as belonging with the others; it's very cute to see them reach out to hug and kiss each other when they haven't seen each other in a while. We even tried to vacation communally; more on this later too (have I piqued your curiousity yet?).

4. Friends who come to our rescue. We couldn't make it without them. Our network has been and is spectacular. This is what got us through Sharon's pre-term labor, the super early delivery, our NICU days, losing Olivia, our vigil for Hallie, our hibernation at home during RSV season, and, most recently, this past weekend. More on this later (yet again), but let's give a huge shout out to Renee and Kim, in addition to the aforementioned commune/harem members to coming to our (and Hallie's) aid this past 72 hours or so. Of course our family is always there for us, and we don't take that for granted at all and certainly appreciate it, but it's nice to know that there are those in this world who are not related to us who care enough to go that extra mile (or even 100 miles) to help us out when we really need them.

5. Our Simmons Beauty Rest pillow top queen sized bed. We love it and miss it and want to visit it again soon.

6. Whole Foods Market. I love being within walking distance of it and Hallie likes the bright colors and fresh smells. So what if they take our Whole Paycheck?

7. Sony Cyber Shot DSC T-100 Camera.

This is our new digital that replaces the battery-eating, space-taking Canon that we used to use. Much clearer pictures, teensy-weensy profile, fast connection and downloading to our computers, and cheaper battery costs. Who could ask for much more?

8. Pediasure Strawberry and Vanilla. This one we're conflicted about but it has saved our butts the past few days. It's super sweet smelling with a cloying, lingering aroma and is super sticky to the touch and costs a total fortune but at least Hallie will sort of willingly eat it while awake. And it's 30 calories an ounce. Neither of us is thrilled with serving her so much sugar, but the alternatives being what they are, we're happy that Pediasure is out there for us to use.

9. Our garden (in particular, Nan's Rose Bush).

We have a small brick garden in the back of our house with two raised beds and room for a table, four chairs, a grill, and a bunch of free standing pots. Even though the space is minimal, I've been able to do a lot with it. Right now, in addition to the famous rosebush, we have a lilac bush--a purple Muscovite variety (that I put in two years ago; it will hopefully bear flowers next season); two clematis; three grape vines (native Concord Grapes) that are threatening to overtake everything); two blueberry bushes; two tomato plants (I finally caved in and limited the numbers under pressure from Sharon who finds them unsightly in late summer); a slew of herbs--basil, mint, oregano and thyme that overwintered in our recently warmer climate, lavender, and sage (rosemary fails to thrive in my care or I'd have a nice song in there somewhere); a hydrangea bush; and numerous flowers (pansies, impatiens, wildflowers, etc). Years ago, someone planted boston ivy in the garden and it's lovely because it grows super quickly each spring to create a canopy that provides an illusion of privacy and dies off in the fall so that we get some winter sunlight in the back. I love our garden.

10. Gold Peak Diet Iced Tea. This brand (marketed and bottled by Coca Cola and only recently, it seems, growing increasingly available) rocks. It's the best tasting bottled iced tea I've ever had (and I've been known to drink a lot of iced tea in my time, though this pales in comparison to my diet coke (aka 'bubbly') consumption. Is it utterly ridiculous to pay between 1.35 and 1.69 a bottle for a beverage I can make myself? Absolutely. Is it worth it on a hot day when you have no time to make a pot of tea and cool it off sufficiently? Absolutely. Anyway, this tea had me and Vanessa trolling the 'net for someone who might sell it to us by the case. We didn't find anyone out there willing to do that, but we did buy some nifty 2-for-1 coupons on Ebay that should satisfy our habit for about a week.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Happy Mothers' Day

Yesterday, Hallie woke up grinning ear to ear. It was an important day for her (and us): it was her first Mothers' Day (plural...this is going to end up being an expensive holiday for Miss Hallie Rose - but we are worth it, right?!).

I swear that in this next shot (taken right after the big smile), our little girl was winking at me:

Yesterday morning was also the first time this season that the rose bush in our backyard was in full bloom. Here's a shot of that very first rose:

This is a pretty special rose bush. Sharon got it for her Nana years and years ago for Mother's Day and Nana planted it in her garden in Somers Point New Jersey. Every time the rose bush was in bloom, Nana would call up Sharon and report on how beautiful the roses looked. Sharon was touched by this but thought that it was a little odd that Nana was so taken by the small but sweet gesture of her granddaughter buying her a rose bush.

That was until we acquired the rose bush and planted it in our own garden. Nana's health was failing by the time I had the pleasure of meeting her (and Sharon); she was already past 80 and unable to live on her own. Her daughter (Jan, also known on this blog as Grammy) and granddaughters (Sharon and Aunt Laura) agonized over the decision, but eventually realized that Nan would be much safer living in an Assisted Living situation than in her own home--she had simply grown too frail and too unable to take care of herself any longer. The facility they chose was right around the corner from Aunt Laura's, and the kids (Megan and Sarah) could bike over after school to visit their great grammy.

When Jan set about to sell Nan's home, the one stipulation in the contract was that the family could dig up the rosebush and take it with them. And that is how it came to pass that Nan's Rose ended up in our Philly backyard.

Right after we transplanted the rose, we had to have the bricks in the back of our house repointed. Now this is not just any repointing--our house is very old (c. 1820s) and the kitchen/bath addition (which is where the work needed to be done) dates back to the 1880s. Back then, the bricks they used were softer and so was the mortar. We needed good masons with backgrounds in Historic Preservation (fortunately Sharon's architectural specialty) and they needed to use high-lime mortar.

A lot of that mortar ended up in the bed where the rose was planted and Sharon nearly went ballistic.

Little did we know that roses love lime and that this (plus a few miraculous touches from Nan) is why it's such a prolific bloomer.

Two years ago, due to a combination of old age, frailty and a variety of illnesses, Nan died. On the day she died, June 28th, the rosebush bloomed like it never had before: it had over 35 perfect, full roses and it looked gorgeous.

Last year, a year to the day from Nan's death, we lost our precious Olivia Skye, who was named for the great grammy she never knew. On that day, once again, our rosebush was in full bloom.

And yesterday, our first Mothers' Day, once more it was in bloom (there are another 15 or 20 roses getting ready to pop right now).

Nan's rosebush serves as a guide to us: it provides us with beauty at times of deepest sorrow and reminds us that life goes on, and that life is fleeting, all at once. It is strong and full and faithful and graces us with shade and color. And its roses are the most amazing thing I've ever seen: they start out tight and yellow tipped with flame red; they open to a soft buttery yellow color, turn hot pink as they begin to pass, and then finally turn white before they die.

So I went out in the morning with my pruning shears and, after capturing an image of that very first rose of the season, cut the rose and removed its thorns and wrapped its stem in a wet paper towel so that it would stay moist and fresh, and brought it and Hallie's card to Sharon as she began to wake from sleep.

Later on, the three of us went to Pastorius Park to picnic near Olivia's Grove. The trees were planted last fall (Sharon helped) and they have gotten a lot bigger already:

We brought a lovely lunch for ourselves and a can for Hallie to suck on. Seriously. The kid loves nothing better than grabbing at my diet coke cans and shoving the cool metal in her mouth. Unfortunately, when they are open (which they are often open since I do enjoy drinking out of them and not just licking the cans myself), this leads to spillage and the potential for cutting little fingers. So I bought Hallie her own can of soda and she seemed to enjoy it just as much:

Here's a nice couple of shots of Hallie with Sharon in the park:

Hallie's still clapping:

Hallie also enjoyed playing with (mauling, really) the pinwheel I bought her the other day:

We brought a pinwheel for Olivia to the park and Sharon planted it in front of the biggest tree in the grove:

All in all, we had a lovely yet bittersweet day on our very first Mothers' Day. It was wonderful to spend it as a family and to watch Hallie having so much fun and taking in everything but we missed Olivia even more than we usually do (which is sort of hard to imagine since neither of us ever has a moment when we don't miss Olivia Skye). It was nice to go to her grove and feel her presence and talk about her and, when Hallie is older, this will be a place where we can share our thoughts and memories of her sister with her. And it is a beautiful, peaceful park that is so full of life and I am glad that we chose it as a site for memorializing Olivia.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

And Let's Give a Big Hand To...

Hallie Rose, who has learned how to clap.

We've been working on this for a week or two but Hallie redirected the clapping project into the "gimme five" project. Last week, she was givin' us skin whenever she could (something that no doubt will thrill her daytime primary nurse, Meghan, since Meghan was always giving Hallie high-fives in the ICN). Anyway, yesterday, for some unknown reason, she decided that she was ready to become a full-fledged audience member.

Here's Hallie posing in her Phillies' cap (she has a whole toddler uniform; us Philadelphians are suckers for losing teams that break our hearts every season and I want her to get started early on this).

Click on Hallie Clapping Hands to see for yourself how well Hallie claps hands.

Needless to say, Hallie is very proud of herself and we're very proud of her!

For those of you eager for a feeding update: it's going better. We're mixing pediasure and enfamil AR ready to feed at a 3:1 ratio (the ER doc assured us that this was okay) and she's keeping it down. She's now back up to 20-23 ounces a day and seems well hydrated.

And, finally, yes, those rumors that Hallie is moving forward with her crawling are true; we just don't have video proof of it yet but I'll try to capture some images and post them later...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Food Update, Etc.

No pictures tonight, I'm afraid! We're getting a nifty new camera and I think I may hold out until it arrives. Sharon did take some video of Hallie today on the grass, but I'm not sure how one uploads video to blogger.

Anyway, I just wanted to provide a brief update on how Hallie is doing. So, Sharon took her to the pediatrician on Monday for a sick visit after Hallie had thrown up around 10 times in 3 days. This was our ped's office but not the pediatrician whom we regularly see (he is on vacation but weighed in on email; I love it that he's electronically on top of things and that we don't need to go through the office and leave messages with nurses. Less gets lost in translation even though, as Sharon pointed out to me, I need to learn how to provide bullet pointed sound bites. That means losing my long winded style!

The pediatrician whom Hallie saw thought that the problem was not a stomach bug. She also thought that our dose of Prilosec is fine (as did the GI whom we cc'd on correspondence to our doc) . Besides, prilosec doesn't prevent vomiting, it just makes it less painful. So we're not really sure what is causing this vomiting (which is ongoing; it has slowed down some, but we are now hyper vigilant about providing Hallie with many many small meals, and not trying to cram 4 or 5 ounces into her at all sittings). Hence, it's four am nearly and I am up blogging waiting for our next two ounce feed.

If anyone out there experienced anything like this, please weigh in. Hallie has had reflux from the very beginning, but things seem to be getting worse. Or, alternatively, this is some other as yet undiagnosed issue.

The good news in all of this is twofold: first, despite the vomiting, Hallie keeps growing. She put on a whole pound in the past month and weighs what seems like a whopping 15 lbs. 8 ounces. She's still on her personal growth curve---80th percentile or so for height and 25th for weight for her corrected age. Not bad.

Second, we discovered something that Hallie LOVES to drink: pediasure. In desperation, we tried the vanilla flavor. To our noses, it's sickly sweet and it's certainly sticky to clean up, but this is the first thing we've ever put in her bottle (other than juice) that Hallie has sucked down eagerly while awake. This is very exciting. It means fewer attempts to put her to sleep so that she'll eat, a much more pleasant feeding experience generally, and less stress for the moms. We've also found that Hallie loves chicken (and especially chicken gravy). We put some into the mesh feeders but she prefered to suck on an actual piece. In any event, we can hold onto the idea that someday Hallie will eat pineapple chicken and wash it down with a super sweet vanilla milkshake.

So, to sum up: the kid is growing despite vomiting, the vomiting continues, but there is hope on the feeding aversion front.

I'm exhausted, so that's all for now!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Feeding Frenzy

Thursday was a bittersweet day for us around here. It was the day that I defrosted the final bottle of frozen breastmilk.

When the babies were born, Sharon started pumping like crazy because it was one of the few things she could do for the girls that was real, even if they weren't able to drink her milk yet. And, over the tumultuous next three weeks, as the girls first did well for 23 weekers and then embarked on the downward swing of the awful rollercoaster that is NICU life and did so much worse, Sharon kept pumping. Neither Hallie nor Olivia could have more than TPN (total parenteral nutrition) because they had open PDAs and it would be unsafe to feed them just yet. And so the pumping went on and, every day, we'd come into the ICN with bottles and bottles of milk for the freezer in East Nursery. After we lost Olivia on day 18, it was emotionally difficult for Sharon to keep pumping, but she kept on keepin' on because Hallie needed her milk. And so, even through our worry and our sorrow, knowing that Hallie had pulled through her PDA surgery just fine and would soon be "eating" was enough to keep the Medela humming in our household. On her third week birthday, Hallie started to be fed, and she completed her 10 day feeding cycle in 10 days (this is where you increase the amount gavaged through a tube into the babies stomach incrimentally and make sure that digestion is working and that the baby is tolerating things well). At first they only syringed a couple of cc's of milk at a time; then we moved up to a whopping third of an ounce every two or three hours. This was not sufficient to wear down the incredible stash that just kept growing and growing as Sharon kept pumping and pumping.

On one day in July, it looked like this:

Eble milk filled up several shelves of a deep freezer and we were asked to take some home with us to make room for all the milk being produced by all the other micropreemie moms in the unit (remarkably, 3 sets of 23 weekers, several 24 weekers including multiple multiples, and lots and lots of 25 and 26 weekers were in the ICN all at the same time this summer).

That's when we went out and got a second fridge for the basement and started freezing some of Sharon's milk at home.

We were all very hopeful that the stash would diminish quickly once Hallie started to bottle feed. But no such luck. Hallie turned out to have reflux even back then (though she wasn't placed on meds for it until after she came home). After a while, she started to push away the bottle of Sharon's milk, which was very hard for all of us to take emotionally. It's clear to me now that it must have been totally painful for her to eat, and I wish that we would have pushed for her to get on prilosec back then. Well, hindsight is great, and I know that the neonatologists and PAs were worried about the side effects of zantac and prilosec and that, given that Hallie never vomited back then, her reflux did not seem 'that bad.'

Anyway, Hallie was put on enfamil AR, which she tolerated though didn't love, and began to embark on her oh-so-fun bad eating habits. She might suck a bit and take part of a bottle sometimes, but most of the time did not bottle feed completely. This, plus her oxygen requirements, probably led to her being hospitalized a week or two longer than she might have been otherwise.

When we brought home Hallie, we also brought home 200 or so bottles of milk. We weren't sure what the hell we were going to do with them, but they ended up in our basement freezer because we could not bear to throw things out.

At about the same time, Hallie's feeding issues got worse and we lost a lot of sleep around here trying to get her to take any food and keep it in her system. The vomiting started, and so did a serious bout of bottle aversion. After numerous visits to the pediatrician, the GI specialist and many, many sleepless nights, we finally came up with a system that sort of worked. We started to mix ready to feed AR with some powdered AR, with some breastmilk (to thin out the powder and make it a good drinking consistency) and some corn syrup. And so began the gradual decline of our stash of breastmilk. Hallie never did become a great eater, but she ate enough of her super-charged formula to keep growing and growing and we just seemed to all the docs to be another set of munchhausen moms complaining about the bad eating habits of a kid who had no trouble staying on her growth chart.

And this brings us to this past weekend. With the breast milk gone, the formula had to change. On top of this, as Hallie has gotten bigger (she is currently somewhere between 15 lbs. 3 ounces and 15 lbs. 8 ounces---we don't have a precise weight from this past week but she was the former last Monday), her calorie needs have mounted and she has gotten physically stronger and more capable of pushing away the bottle and causing her mommies real physical damage (I say this staring at a Hallie-induced black and blue mark on my thigh; Sharon has a lovely gash on her face where an over eager soon-to-be-toddler 'stroked' her mommy). Anyway, it was time for a switch. But what to do?

The first thing I tried was vanilla and sugar. Bleh. It must not have been sweet enough for our kiddo.

Next, came the fruity cocktail trials.

Coconut cream and coconut milk added to the bottle worked really well the first time around. I had dreams of Hallie kicking back and drinking this:

Alas, what works once does not always work twice.

Next, staying in the fruity drink genre, we added some sorbet (passion fruit and mango) to the bottles and got so-so results. It was a bit messy to mix and I am not sure all the powder got dissolved, and I am not sure that Hallie liked it. Let's face it: it is hard to tell what a kiddo likes when most of the time you have to 'sleep feed' her. (For those of you without preemies without feeding problems, this involves putting your child to sleep and then introducing the bottle. For whatever perverse reason, the child does often start sucking. Hallie almost never has a decent suck while awake, but when asleep often does. I attribute some of this to the fact that she was intubated for so long and that she never associated eating with feeling full---the bottle is an evil invention designed to put her to sleep, not comfort her and certainly not provide her with the energy she needs to be her active little self).

I digress. After the sorbet trials, we changed things up again. Since our issue was getting the consistency of the bottle smooth enough to take while adding extra calories, we thought it might be nice to try adding nectars to her bottle. So I went out and got some organic pear nectar. The baby loves pear juice (she will drink this, just not her bottle!) so I figured that this was a good flavor choice. Little did I know that this was a poor idea. The first time we tried it, Hallie vomited all over herself and her crib. The second time she vomited all over Sharon. The third time we just marginally spared the cute little party dress she was wearing for her two (yes, two) preemie birthday parties yesterday. This seemed too coincidental and we decided that the new bottles had a lot to do with the bout of barfing. When I got home and checked the bottles in the fridge that I had made up yesterday morning, they seemed to have clumps and curdles suggestive of spoiled milk. I was poisoning our child. Great.

So we tossed out all that food and are now back to the drawing board. We're trying to coconut milk and a little AR powder added to the Ready-to-Feed stuff again. Hallie did fine for the 13 ounces we crammed into her between 8pm and 1am yesterday (she was hungry and sleepy---up until that point she had eaten 4 or 5 ounces of formula, 3/4 of a baby food jar---which was amazing in its own right, 2 ounces of juice, and 3 chunks of pineapple that she sucked the hell out of. Pineapple is her favorite food and she would gladly suck on it all day and we'd be happy to serve her vast quantities of it were it not for the obvious choking hazard that it currently poses to our little girl).

So all was well in Hallie feeding land, or at least back to the quasi normal state that feeding Hallie amounts to. Or so we thought. But then came the 3am bottle, and once more, Hallie barfed. I woke up this morning to find Hallie next to Sharon on the futon in our office and, just like yesterday, Hallie's crib sheet (thank god for the miracle sheets that prevent seepage) covered in vomit. Great.

It is possible that we tried to get too much into the kid at one time and that her system could not tolerate it. It is also possible that her reflux meds require adjustment. And it is possible that her tummy is irritated from the assaults of the past few days.

We hope that this was it on the vomitting (we are running low on miracle sheets for the crib). If not, I guess it's back to the doctor's office for us. Of course, our pediatrician is on vacation this week and we go on vacation (we hope!) next week. And we don't have a GI visit scheduled until mid June. So please keep your fingers crossed for us.

Anyway, on other happier notes, Hallie is really getting ready to crawl. She's been flipping over in her crib and getting up on all fours and rocking:

And she has been rolling around like crazy and has figured out how to sometimes make it from a crawling position to a sitting position. This is all very cool and, feeding issues aside, she is a joy to be around. I leave you with one last cute image taken earlier this week:

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Walk America 2007: Team Hallie & Olivia

I'm finally getting a chance to post about our experience at Walk America this past weekend. First, the weather was great. This cannot be taken for granted---we've had miserable weather much of the (alleged) spring here in Philly and finally, finally, something went in our favor. This made getting up at the right early hour of 6 am marginally tolerable (this seemed especially early since we had about 10 people over for an elaborate dinner the previous night. Even with using paper plates and grilling, a dinner party still leaves more dishes than I am eager to do). Anyway, we all got up early, donned our Team Hallie and Olivia t-shirts and headed off (in a three car caravan) for the Art Museum district. There we met up with the other 30 or so members of our team (thank goodness for cell phones!) that included two of Hallie's primary nurses, Grammy, Bubbe Jean (my mom), Grandma Sandy (Hallie's honorary grandmother and Aunt Laura's mother in law), Aunt Laura and all the kids, our friends the Zagurskys and Barags (we were walking not only for Hallie and Olivia but also for Maya and Elana), three of our neighbors and their kids, and numerous friends from all over Philly. It was quite a crowd and, sadly, my photos do not do it justice.

We took off at a nice clip but the team kind of dissolved not long into the walk--it turns out that nurses *are* quick on their feet. Some of us surged ahead, others of us lagged behind, and many of us took advantage of the sunshine during some well deserved breaks:

Others enjoyed the sun while striding along. Here's a nice pic of our friends Carmen and Vicky and their granddaughter Mia:

And here's a lovely shot of adorable Maya Zagursky looking ultra hip in her shades:

Hallie definitely needed her baby bans in this shot:

As I said, these pictures don't do the event justice. And most importantly, beyond walking for our health and to raise awareness about prematurity, we were walking to raise a lot of money to help save babies. And raise money we did: we ended up surpassing our (ever more ambitious) goal -- the tally so far is a whopping $4388. Way to go Team Hallie & Olivia. And hopefully we'll raise even more next year!