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Thursday, June 26, 2008

In a New York State of Mind

Hallie made her first trip to the Big Apple (which is where I am from) this past weekend. The main reason was for my brother's wedding, but we managed to jam in a fun-packed and eventful few days.

First stop was to visit my best friend from college, Steve, and his lovely wife Sarah and their no-longer newborn daughter, Nina (who is about five months old). Raising a micropreemie who even just has minimal issues is a challenge: we were at six therapy appointments, plus doctors visits (thankfully these have tapered off to two to three times a year for most specialists, but still we end up at CHOP a lot, particularly during May/June, October, and January/February), plus weeks of chronic vomiting, and you get one hard to transport kid. Add on top of this two full time jobs and the need to transport all of your kid's food in a gianormous cooler and your mobility becomes severely impaired. Anyway, all this is to say that the three of us have been desperately wanting to get up to see Steve and Sarah and meet the lovely Nina, and this was the first chance we had to do so.

Hallie had a blast. She got to hang out with her two favorite creatures in the world (if you don't count Elmo and Ernie, of course): dogs and babies. What could be better?

Here's the only picture I got of Steve, who is hanging out with us at Au Bon Pain down the block from the midtown apartment in which he and the family temporarily live while their West End Avenue digs are renovated:

Sharon and Nina really hit it off and Nina loved playing with Sharon's face and getting cuddles from her:

In this one, Sarah is reading to Nina, and Hallie just had to get in on the action:

And here's an odd shot of Friday the dog; she just loves this fluffy puppy, which is the same dog toy that so enthralled Samantha (Kim Cattrall's) pooch in Sex and the City. Yes, Friday uses it for the same purpose as Samantha's doggie, if you know what I mean.

On Saturday, we were all up bright and early (much to Sharon's chagrin) and Steve and his family headed out of the city to their place in Connecticut. We headed to the Upper West Side for Hallie's first haircut and to see another one of my college friends who lives up there.

As is typical for Manhattan on a summer Saturday, there was a parade being held, which we only discovered after waiting and waiting and waiting for the M7. After a bit, we just decided to walk up Central Park West (which is how we discovered that the buses were all re-routed to some other location).

Instead of meeting up with Shelly and her two kids for a quick brunch, we ended up going straight to the hair salon. Hallie, of course, fell asleep in the stroller en route, and continued to nap at Cozy Cuts for Kids Westuntil it was time for her cut. Meanwhile, Sharon and I developed strategies (that included, of course, buying toys and bubbles and such and devising clever dances, ditties, and songs to use as distractions) because we assumed that Hallie would have a total meltdown during the hair cut (and would potentially start crying and bring up her breakfast and bottle. Such is the sad reality for parents whose kids vomit at the drop of a hairpin). As is getting more and more typical these days, boy did we overreact; Hallie's first haircut ended up being the most fabulous, trauma-free experience anyone could have possibly imagined. It really helped that Michelle, the stylist, was great with her, but to be truthful, it really helps to have a kid who has an insatiable appetite for Elmo and all things Sesame Street. We popped in a DVD of Elmo's World and Michelle could have done anything at all to Hallie and Hallie would have been fine. To think that all of those hours of eating in front of the DVD player were practice for this!

First, Michelle got rid of the mullet in back and gave Hallie a cute bob that makes her hair look a lot thicker instead:

Then she evened out the fringe we called bangs (keeping them long would not work for our kid, who tolerates a barrette for about 2.2 seconds---just long enough to check out her visage in the mirror, the dishwasher, or some other reflective surface and then pulls it out):

A few parts, a couple of snips, and a bunch of combs later, Michelle was ready to finish up:

Hallie even sat still and enjoyed being 'blown out':

This fabulous behavior earned Hallie an enormous kiss from Mommy:

And Michelle ended our spa kids-cut experience by taking a family portrait of the three of us.

Balloon, new toys, and first haircut certificate in tow, we all headed out for a quick bite to eat at a BBQ joint on Columbus. Sharon was bowled over by how kid-friendly the city is. I've been trying to tell her for years that NY is a GREAT place to raise kids, but she didn't believe me until the relatively hole-in-the-wallish bar we popped into had a kid's menu (not that it was relevant for us, but still), gave Hallie crayons, another balloon (which she promptly popped), a toy crocodile, and all the ice she could eat or toss on the floor. Hallie, for her part, was very well behaved for the first forty-five minutes of lunch, which was great for us.

Hallie only got antsy towards the end of lunch, so I walked her around the neighborhood while Sharon finished up lunch and paid the check. Then the three of us headed over to the Great Lawn at Central Park to meet up with Shelly, Diana, and Jeremy.

Jeremy and his friend happily shared their ball and Spider Man bat with Hallie, who ran around with both while I chased after her.

She had a great time, but displayed approximately zero interest in settling down for an afternoon nap that would prepare her for the evening's festivities. Nonetheless, her mood throughout was fabulous (and she did catnap a bit in the stroller on
our way back to Steve's apartment).

We all got changed for the wedding, checked into the hotel, and went off to the ceremony. Since it was in an outdoor courtyard, Hallie had a lot of room in which to run around safely and Sharon got a ton of exercise chasing after her.

At the reception, Hallie had her first ever dance, checked out the disco ball close up (very fun), and took a very long nap while some extremely loud (yet soothing) music blared. Oddly enough, she only woke up when the music stopped so that the best man could offer up a toast.

The next day, on our way out of town, the three of us got a chance to catch up with Eliza Grace and her mom, Anne, at a great park on the Upper East Side. The two girls literally hung out (and checked each other out) on the swings after Eliza awoke from a rare nap in her stroller.

They ran around a bit, Hallie climbed on the jungle gym and played in the sprinkler (thankfully we always travel with a change or two of clothing), and then the three moms headed off for a small bite before we took to the road. Hallie decided to take this chance to nap, which was great for lunch, and not too bad for the ride home, either. Once more, our DVD distraction came in handy, and the only thing minutely negative about it was that my wrist ached from holding up the portable player for so long. I hope that they plan to build these units in to tiny little electricity-powered smart cars in the future (and I hope that, despite their seemingly Lilliputian size, they also have room for a cooler that allows one to tailgate with three days' worth of goat milk formula).

Anyway, we were all exhausted by the time we got home on Sunday, and we're still catching up on our energy around here (which is part of why it's taken me so long to post; the other part is that it is a major pain in the butt to upload a million pictures to Blogger). It's pretty amazing to me that we actually made it on time (sort of) for Hallie's gym class on Tuesday, given that I had to wake our girl (she slept until 11:15am on Monday, and needed to be up by 9 on Tuesday for breakfast before class). Since Ami was off, I was the one taking her to the gym, and it was interesting to me to see what she could and could not, and did and did not wish to do. She loved climbing, of course, and took off for the mats immediately.

She also expressed a huge amount of interest in tumbling and was happy to have Bridget, her instructor, tumble her over forms and even roll her on the mat. This time around, unlike the first gym class, Hallie was fine on the balance beam and even let me walk her across it while holding her under the arms.

What she was not too great at doing was following directions. There were all of three kids in the class, and the other two, who are also two years old, were fine with sitting in a circle during circle time and singing and following directions. In contrast, Hallie kind of wandered off, ended up in the middle of the circle and enjoyed herself by getting twisted in a brightly colored parachute. Since her speech is delayed and her voice is so creaky, she doesn't really sing, so our rendition of Wheels on the Bus was kind of lost on her.

Finally, she doesn't seem to have the same interpersonal social skills as the other kids. While she has recently taken to waving hello and goodbye (in a way that is suspiciously reminiscent of Rachel Coleman from SIgning Time) and even saying "Hi!" and "Bye!", she doesn't really know to answer "Hallie" when asked her name. This means we need to redouble our efforts at teaching social graces in the way that we find most effective around here; namely, we'll be watching a lot of Signing Time: Nice to Meet You in the hopes that some of this will rub off on our girl. Given her propensity to learn by watching and sign-and-say, we expect this will work pretty well.

Meanwhile, on other fronts, eating and speech are really coming along. We did not trial a new food last week since Hallie was still working the soy out of her system. She had a GREAT week, and this made both Sharon and I want NOT to try any more new foods. We're not doing that, of course, since Hallie really does need to expand her repertoire, but we do want to report that we had FIVE vomit free days in a row last week, and that the only vomits we had (Sunday of last week, and Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of this week) were NOT in the least related to food. Rather, each incident involved falling, hitting her head, getting her hand caught in a hamper, and other such events that could be chalked up to normal toddler stuff with a decent dose of mama negligence or carelessness thrown in for good measure. None of them concern us (even if they are still annoying because they deprived Hallie of much needed calories). And this week we've had two more vomit free days in a row (yesterday and today) during our most recent food trial of bananas. That's a whopping 60 vomit free days this year for those of you who are keeping count with us, and we've now surpassed our goal of having one third of the year being vomit-free).

Now it's still too soon to tell if bananas are totally safe, but today we've stepped up her intake from two ounces per day (which she ate on Monday and Tuesday) to four ounces. We expect that we'd be seeing a reaction already, or at least soon, if bananas are a problem. So, once more, we are hopeful.

And speaking of hopeful, I'd like to report that Hallie not only ate some lightly mashed very soft-cooked potato cubes today for breakfast and goat cheddar cheese sticks for lunch and dinner, but also had a snack of SIX french fries (Whole Foods brand, which are rice- and gluten-free) cooked in olive oil. These HAVE to have some calories in them, right? Anyway, she chews and swallows nicely when her throat and GI tract aren't inflamed, and this is very heartening.

On the speech front, Hallie is now asking for particular colors by name. What she does is sign (or approximate a sign---we understand her just fine) and speak a word approximation (pink-ie; eeeeen; oooh; ellow; owwwwn and the like). She also says 'up' and 'down' and 'in' really well and is naming particular letters of the alphabet when she sees them. While she is still mostly dropping first consonants, Hallie's speech therapist isn't too concerned because this is developmentally typical of a child of about 18 months old, which is where Hallie's speech seems to be right now. She is obviously still delayed by about 6 months in terms of her expressive speech but is making a huge amount of progress on a regular basis. Given that she was at the 12 month level back in February, she seems to be keeping pace and not falling further behind. So, while she does not have two-word utterances that are on target for age 2, one might expect that she'll have these by sometime late in 2008 or early 2009. That's fine with us, because Hallie will do what Hallie will do when Hallie will do it, and we moms will be helping her as much as we can along the way.

Whew! That was quite a marathon post, and if anyone is still reading this, I promise that I will be uncharacteristically terse next time around!


Niki said...

OMGoodness! I don't even know where to begin.

She's grown so much and made so much progress!

I love the new haircut and if her fancy dress is not the prettiest I have ever seen then I don't know what is.

I'm really happy to read all this. You guys are amazing parents.

23wktwinsmommy said...

Love to hear updates on Hallie! Sounds like you guys had a blast in NYC!
Love all the pictures of Hallie. She is looking so grown these days!

Sabrina said...

I posted to you on the chasing babies blog, but thought I'd drop by here as well. My daughter also had problems with low iron, and we found something called SPIRULINA through my Sister In Law's neuropath practitioner. It has done WONDERS for our daughter's Iron, and we have not had an issue since her 9 month visit (She's 21 mo now). We sprinkle it on her dinner, and have to avoid milk at that meal, but so far, she's doing great! Thought I'd drop it as a suggestion in case you're not crazy about iron pills, or worse. Hallie is gorgeous, an I can't believe how well she sits for a haircut! Awesome!

BusyLizzyMom said...

These kids surpise us at the best if times. I thought taking my orally aversive child to the Dentist would be a vomit/screaming fest but instead she smiled open her mouth and let them work. Hallie looks so pretty in her little dress with her new haircut. Don't worry I found Elizabeth to be a bit socially behind, she is catching up and is now too social.

BusyLizzyMom said...

These kids surpise us at the best if times. I thought taking my orally aversive child to the Dentist would be a vomit/screaming fest but instead she smiled open her mouth and let them work. Hallie looks so pretty in her little dress with her new haircut. Don't worry I found Elizabeth to be a bit socially behind, she is catching up and is now too social.