How Old is Hallie?

Lilypie Fifth Birthday tickers

How Old is Lea?

Lilypie Second Birthday tickers

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Welcome Lea Paxton Eble-Schrader!

Introducing the newest addition to the blogosphere:

Lea Paxton Eble-Schrader
6 lbs. 7.6 ounces, 19.75 inches
January 31, 2009, 8:23am

39 Weeks Gestation!!!

After a long day and night of regular contractions, Sharon finally began to feel some significant pain (she has an acutely high threshold for this, which did her well in subsequent hours) at about 2am. We woke up Grammy (Sharon's mom) who had come in from the Jersey Shore earlier in the day and had her switch places with us in the futon (where we practice a significant amount of attachment parenting by co-sleeping with Hallie) and we called ourselves a cab, whose arrival was amazingly fast. On the way to the hospital, we called Aunt Laura, who jumped out of bed, into the car, and managed (thank goodness) to arrive safely in Philly by four am (without having stopped for coffee on the not try this at home, folks!).

Laura got there in time to help us pace the halls of Pennsylvania Hospital for a couple of hours. By six am, the contractions were more intense and coming one to two minutes apart and our room in Labor and Delivery was ready (we managed to score the newly-renovated birthing suite, but did not have time to enjoy its amenities). Things happened very quickly from there on out. By seven am, Sharon began to transition into hard labor and by a quarter or a half an hour later, she went from six to ten centimeters dilated in a matter of seconds. We remain ever grateful to her nurse for recognizing this and re-checking Sharon herself after the resident toodled off, assuming we still had a lot of time, to do something else. At that point, Sharon's water had broken, but no one but Sharon had evidence of this, and things began in earnest. And less than an hour later, Lea made her debut.

The irony of the whole event? At six centimeters, and operating under the assumption that the resident was correct in her assessment that we still had a ways to go, Sharon called for an epidural. But anesthesia was held up with a C-Section. Lea did not receive the memo, though, and decided to come before the epidural. Thus, Sharon had a natural childbirth, without any drugs at all. Until after the delivery, that is. It turns out that the pushing was so intense that Sharon needed a spinal block AFTER Lea was delivered so that they could patch her up (and not cause her excruciating pain to intensify even further).

Anyway, all of that was well worth this:

I am also happy to report that Lea, living up to the acronym G.E., which not only stands for Great Expectation but also Great Eater, came out hungry and ready to nurse. She was rooting and smacking her lips very loudly while I held her in L&D as they finished sewing up Sharon's tears. Lea was relieved to nurse for the first time and we were thrilled that Sharon's milk had already become to come in (truth be told, Sharon's milk has been coming in for weeks now and its flow had intensified over the past three days when all of the pre-labor hormone changes began to kick in). Thus, I have little doubt that little Lea has taken in more milk today than did big sister Hallie who set some sort of record today by drinking fewer than four ounces, total, of goat milk.

Before I go, a few more pictures of our little girl with some of the important people in her life:

Here's a picture of Aunt Laura holding Lea. None of this would have been possible without Aunt Laura's assistance in the delivery room and inspiration more generally. We are all so grateful for your presence there and are sorry that we needed to wake you in the middle of the night!

And here's a shot of Grammy holding Lea. In the background is Dr. Abbasi, one of the neonatalogists from the ICN/CHOP who took care of our twins and who always encouraged us to have another baby. Her motto: if one mommy is good, then two mommies are better. Thank you Soraya! We are so happy that it was you who had the opportunity to assess Lea today after she was born.

Grammy's role in all of this was really significant. She dropped everything to come down and take care of Hallie for us and make this event possible.

In the same vein, we are grateful for Sheila and Brett, who came over today and relieved Ami (who made it possible for Grammy to get to the hospital to meet Lea sooner rather than later). We could not have done it without them, since they not only hung out with Hal, but were also the prime movers of our furniture and de-clutterers of our mess.

And, here's a picture of your's truly with her little girl. I don't look great after an evening of labor coaching, but I'm glad that I managed to stay upright for the whole thing, help Sharon through it (even if I did have the tendency to continue grasping her leg AFTER a contraction was over and while she was trying to relax...hey, at least I didn't break it...and only managed to burst into tears once during the whole process:

Finally, I want to thank all of our friends, virtual and real, who have supported us through this pregnancy. It was no easy matter to decide that we were brave or crazy enough to do this again. We were inspired by the many micropreemie moms (you know who you are) who carried their subsequent pregnancies a lot longer than their micropreemie ones and whose strategies for coping with things (psychologically, perinatalogically, etc) were so important to us. We are thrilled to have everyone out there rooting for our family, offering to drop everything to come lend a hand, and just being there with us on this journey.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Still Waiting...

Last night, Sharon stopped in at the PETU for monitoring since she was feeling contractions more and the baby less. They hooked her up to a monitor and, as on Wednesday, she was contracting every three or four minutes. But this time she had dilated some more (from 2cm to 3cm). They pulled over an ultrasound, checked the fluid around the baby and found it to be okay, and called our OB. The OB had her stay for monitoring for an hour and when labor hadn't progressed further, Sharon was sent home.

Sharon had a few more intense contractions last night but they subsided with a change in position. And she woke up today contracting. And she has been contracting ever since. (She decided to take the day off, thinking this was IT). Every three or four minutes kind of like clock-work with a few of them being more intense than they have been, and definitely lower down and more in her back (as in back labor).

But none of those double-me-over-so-I-can't-breathe,-let-alone-talk contractions that we read/hear about. Just continual contractions (I guess like the ones last time that the monitor had never picked up). And an awful headache which went away after she ate something substantial.

So, what would you do? Would you go in for another check up at the PETU? Would you stay put? Let us know (especially if you've been through this before; remember, the only labor experience Sharon has ever had was quite a bit out of the ordinary so we are not really able to use that for a gauge).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No News is...

No News.

Sharon had her third non-stress test today and it turns out that she is having contractions every three to four minutes. However, not only is she not feeling these, but they also appear not to be having any further effect on her cervix. She was dilated two centimeters and 70% effaced last week and so she remained this week. So now we wait and see.

Our bag is packed, of course, and we've finished assembling all the furniture, washing and sorting 90% of the clothing for the baby, etc. I would have bet that she would have gone into hard labor last night, if only because we had a bit of an ice storm (followed by a rain storm, so now we just have a mess) around here. And no child care. That should have added up to a perfect, Murphy-inspired storm, but it did not. The weather reports for the next few days, happily, are not too bad, so if she does go into labor soon, at least we won't have to consider calling an ambulance to take us eight blocks to the hospital because the roads are too treacherous (and the wait is too long) for a taxi.

Otherwise; Hallie still has a runny nose but is otherwise doing fine. She's getting more adventurous in her toast-consumption (I think she's now up to chomping 1/6 of a slice of toast at a time) and has been in a very sweet and cuddly phase lately. No more vomiting either, so we are now 21 days spew-free this year. And counting.

Keep your fingers crossed for an easy, pain-free (or low pain) labor. And I promise to try to update regularly. The blogosphere will be the first to know (well, maybe not the FIRST, but still...)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Lovely Day at the Zoo

Hallie, Sharon, and I had the most wonderful Sunday. These are very satisfying words to type.

It's been a busy week or two around here, as you can tell from my previous posts and from my lack of regular posting. Much of this has involved preparing our home for the Great Expectation, who really might arrive any day now (Sharon was 2 cm dilated and 70% effaced as of last Wednesday). So we've been moving, cleaning, doing laundry, building new toy-storage furniture, cleaning and installing carseats and the like. Hallie clearly knows something is up, but we're not sure how much she understands about what is about to happen.

Given this, we really wanted to do something nice for Hallie and for the whole family. Back a few months ago, we joined the
Philadelphia Zoo, which, like many other things, is the first of its kind established in the nation (Hallie and Olivia were born in the US's first hospital, for example. It's kind of cool, but I'm sure glad that they installed running water and electricity since Pennsylvania Hospital opened its doors in 1751). Anyway, the Zoo runs a lot of programs oriented at kids and we decided to enroll Hallie in their early readers series (which is aimed at 2 and 3 year olds). Hallie loves books intensely and we thought this would give her good exposure to reading in a circle with other kids, meeting some animals close up in a controlled setting, and perhaps socializing with her peers. The first book the Zoo teachers featured was none other than one of Hallie's most beloved volumes, Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?. Even though Hallie has read this book a million times (easily) and has committed it to memory and even though we own not one but two copies of it (one board book, quite worn, and one regular hard back book, untouched), we thought that these factors recommended the class and did not detract from our interest in attending it. Given Hallie's lack of social and classroom experience, our goal was to make the event comfortable for her. What's more comforting for a toddler than knowing what comes next and having some sense of routine? Hallie knew all the animals, could say their names and make their sounds, could clap and cheer at the appropriate places in the book. In other words, she could be an equal participant in the activity and not hang back (as is her usual style in settings that are unfamiliar to her) to take a cue from others.

The Zoo gave us atrocious directions. This is a massive understatement. They told us to go to one building, next to which we parked, and it turned out that the program was a very long hike away from that building, clear across the grounds of the Zoo. While this afforded us the opportunity to see from very cool penguins (they were one of the few animals out there that found the chill in the air to their liking), this meant that, although we were running early for once (practically unheard of in our household), we ended up getting to the building where the readers group was meeting quite late. We were not the only lost souls; we encountered others searching for an elusive classroom in the Tiger Theater when we arrived there. Sharon saved the day by calling the Zoo hotline; the hotline folks alerted the classroom teacher who came to retrieve all of us.

Anyway, following this minor SNAFU, all went quite smoothly. Hallie had a great time reading, meeting a red parrot and a yellowish duck, petting a black bear, a striped zebra, and a leopard skin (which she appropriately identified and distinguished from the tiger skin she also petted. Apropos of this, yesterday at Whole Foods, Hallie was very cute---she pointed to a woman and said "Tiger. Roar." At first I was a bit puzzled, but then noticed that the woman had on a fake fur plush leopard skin coat).

Following the reading and the petting, the kids made their own brown bear masks (featured above; the only help Hallie received was the gluing of ears onto the mask by yours truly).

By this time, it was after noon and Sharon and I needed a snack (leaving the house early meant not taking the time to eat breakfast). We stopped into the cafe at the Zoo and ordered a couple of cheeseburger meals for ourselves. Sharon offered Hallie some animal crackers (I figured that they were thematically appropriate and Hallie has taken a liking to the vanilla flavored ones). Hallie was quite content to munch on these until she saw our fries. The fries that came with the burgers were, the counter folks confirmed, made only of potatoes and so, even though they were a lot thicker than the ones Hallie gets at home, we figured we'd take our chances. By the end of our meal, Hallie had eaten at least ten and probably quite a few more than that fries and had contentedly enjoyed lunch with us without becoming overly antsy.

We were thrilled. It seemed so, well, normal. There we were, along with pretty much every other family that had attended the program, eating lunch with our kid, who was actually eating lunch and feeding herself. No baby food jars were opened, no bottles appeared (Hallie drank out of her juice box with a straw) and no vomiting followed the meal. I know this seems so mundane, but that's kind of the point. We like mundane. We crave mundane.

After our lovely lunch with Hallie, we went off to the Tree House, which is an indoor playground, to let Hallie climb and explore. I was a bit skeptical at first (I am the skeptic in the family more generally). After all, Hallie has had a couple of rough days in a row (read: she vomited on both Friday and Saturday of this week) and I was concerned that running and jumping and horsing around would undo the special feeling Sharon and I had about the day. Happily, I was proven wrong (I love to be proven wrong when I get into the glass-is-half-full mode).

Hallie had a great time. And, even though we were silly enough to leave our camera home, it turns out that the built in camera on the iPhone is pretty darned good and we were able to capture the moment.

Here are some lovely shots from Hallie's exploration of the tree house:

And this has to be our absolute favorite. Hallie was having a blast jumping and making percussive sounds (read: banging the heck out of) the giant beehive. She also loved racing back and forth across the honeycomb to kiss me, and then Sharon, and then me and then Sharon.

We love this little girl! And we look forward to many more splendid days like today (which finished up with an impromptu play date over at Karina's. Ethan and little brother Cole and Sophia--who is also about to be a big sister--were all over (with their parents) and Hallie had a grand time.

No post would be complete, of course, without our tally of days. So far, in 2009, we've had 19 spew-free days. Today was the nicest of them all. And, so, even though it was a few hours late, I consider this to be a very lovely birthday present from my girls.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hallie's Cuteness

At dinner yesterday evening, Hallie was watching one of her favorite DVDs, Elmo in Grouchland. She really gets a kick out of Grizzy and her bad attitude (which slowly transforms into one of cheerful cooperation, something that Grizzy is loathe to admit because this might, after all, incur her the loss of her grouch identity card or something). Hallie loves all of the songs (the video features some of Hallie's favorites, like C Is For Cookie and Rubber Ducky and Sing, and who can resist the extended remix of Elmo's Song? Certainly not me; I have this thing running through my head most of the time. Anyway, one of the songs is the Nightbug Boogie. Hallie seems to love bugs (and snakes and all sorts of animals, really). When the song came on, Hallie stuck her finger up her nose. As usual, I said: "Hallie, don't stick your finger up your nose." She retorted: "Boogie." And it was then that I realized that she had linked her boogie (which she was busy excavating) to the Nightbug Boogie. Very smart. And quite appropriate given that grouches love slimy, yucky, grungy things so much.

Since I don't sit there with my camera at dinner (often, at least), I have neither a video nor a picture of this. But one thing that we did manage to get on film (or digital medium) is this:

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It would seem that Hallie and Karina had zonked out on the couch after a very active play session. Not so! Earlier last week, Sharon had taught Hallie how to pretend sleep (complete with side effects that are sadly lost on a digital still). Hallie loves to lie down and do her snore (which kind of sounds like a cappuccino maker if you ask me) and close her eyes. Hallie taught this to Karina and the two of them did it on command for us on the couch the other night when Karina was over (for what was, indeed, a very active play session that led Hallie to zonk out quickly once she did go upstairs to bed).

Hallie has also been experimenting with couture of various kinds. This is her Super Hallie look, which is composed of various components of different Disney Princess outfits:

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Here Hallie is practicing her drums (I have threatened to buy her congas...Sharon was not terribly amused, though) in a very adorable hoodie:

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Lately, Hallie's also been enjoying playing with her playdough (which is now safe since we're pretty sure that she is okay with wheat products, which playdough contains). Sharon took this cute video where Hallie is playing and watching herself play in the fisher price video karaoke thing that Aunt Laura, Uncle Bryan, and the cousins got Hallie for Chanukah:

I think this qualifies as pretend play, so take that EI evaluators!

Otherwise, the busy-ness around here continues. Our wonderful friends Brett and Sheila swooped in this weekend and helped us get both Hallie's room and the nursery in order. The crib is now in its place and the futon--rebuilt with skill and craft by Brett so that we did not have to use the car jacks to keep it from falling apart (please don't ask!)--is in the bigger of the two bedrooms on the second floor. This is Hallie's room, and also doubles as the family sleeping room. Sheila helped me lend some order to the basement so that we can both find things and not trip over debris and kill ourselves when doing so. Kim brought back the last of the baby items (the car seat, baby bath, bouncy chair, and more clothing that Taylor has outgrown) so those things need to be sorted and put away. But otherwise, we're good to go.

And that is a good thing, because Sharon is now FULL term. The momentous milestone was reached on Saturday but I'm even more excited that a. the baby will be an Aquarian and b. the baby, unless she's fast tracking it out of Sharon in the next nine and a half hours or so, will be born under a new president (and one whom I respect, who also happens to be the first US president to have graduated from Columbia College in the City of New York, which is where I went. Oh and let's not forget that Obama is the first African American president. His oath of office tomorrow will be a very nice, but sadly posthumous gift to Dr. Martin Luther King). So, for lots of reasons, both personal and political, I am very happy that the Great Expectation has hung in for the long haul.

Finally, for those of you keeping tally, we're up to 16 days without vomit in 2009. This is way cool. (But please note that this post, which I began on the 16th was only just completed on the's tragic when life gets in the way of blogging!)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Getting our Act Together

Well, things are in full-throttle organizational mode around here. Which, of course, translates into stuff exploding everywhere and covering every available surface as I sort through, categorize, discard, and organize things. The kids' clothes are completely in order (probably for the first and last time ever; I was a bit appalled at how much 2T-3T stuff we have). I have begun to tackle the crib issue and can now see the mattress at least. The pack-and-play, sadly, remains jam packed with junk and will be a total nightmare to clear out, so I'm avoiding this task for now.

I am also the proud owner of a million plastic bins from Target. Alas, some of them are too big for the space at the top of the closet and four of them are cracked. I had to scale the shelves to pull down. There was not a sales associate anywhere remotely near the rubbermaid aisle so I grabbed one of those snow-ball maker and thrower gizmos that no one ever buys and swatted at them until I could reach them from the shelf upon which I was perched. I was so relieved that I managed to get a hold of the lip of the stack of seven containers I wanted without toppling them on myself that I never did check them for cracks. So now I have to go back to Target to return these and get some others. I hate doing things twice.

Anyway, the big news on the Great Expectation is that Sharon was 1 cm dilated and 50% effaced at her weekly Wednesday check. We're not sure what this means but things have begun to get underway. There's still a bit of time to vote on due dates and size (or re-vote!).

Other news: Hallie has weathered her cold really well and seems nearly completely recovered. Oddly enough she has not had a major upsurge in vomiting with this cold and we are grateful for this. So her total vomit free days of the year stand at 12. Yes, 12 out of 14. Super. And she is otherwise doing nicely with eating new textures: graham crackers, her beloved Lays potato chips, and a few wheat thins here and there. She even tried a bit of toasted frozen waffle and seemed okay with it. I don't think she thought it had sufficient taste, though, so we might try maple syrup, although I suspect salt might be more to her liking. Anyway, all of this represents major progress.

We met with her new EI feeding therapist this Monday and we REALLY like her. She is neurotic (a virtue to others of us who are also neurotic) and very certain that medical stuff needs to be under control before feeding progress can happen (which we also believe) and that delayed gastric emptying is evil (so do we!) and that feeding needs to involve trust and that no one should EVER sneak food into a child (did I mention we love this woman already?). She knows that Hallie is a bit complicated on the eating front and warned us that there will be setbacks (like when we have her teeth done. Sigh) but that the goal is progress overall. In any event, we really look forward to working with Barbara and getting tips from her. She has won our trust and that is not something that is easy to do where feeding our kid is concerned.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I must admit that I've got a wee bit lazy about blogging this year. I am not sure where the year has gone (OK--we're only 11 days into it, but still) but, even without my regular teaching and grading duties, I find myself with hardly a free moment to compose an update.

No doubt, a bunch of time has been eaten up by the preparations involved in readying our home for the Great Expectation. We live in a very small rowhouse (that's what they call homes that are attached to one another in Philly). Our living room/dining room--which we've decorated in what I like to think of as Nouveau OT Gym--doubles as our playroom and we've been ever so slowly replacing our furniture with Hallie's stuff. We have a pack-and-play abutting a very lovely bookshelf (and hence protecting the few books still on it from Hallie--the rest are hidden away or in my office at school or in the basement here at home). But we have never used this pack and play in any conventional sense: rather than function as a safe haven for our baby and then toddler, the thing has turned into a repository of things -- mostly toys with little pieces that are very annoying to locate at the end of a long day of playing. Of course, Hallie is bright enough to realize that we are trying to keep her out of the thing, so she has learned to climb into it. She'll just drag her little chair over to the pack and play and hoist herself in, or will ask to be put into the makeshift ball pit (it's one of those pop up mesh hampers from Target that we load the balls into at the end of the day) and then climb up onto the changing table portion of the thing and reach into the bowels of the pack and play to see what she can find. This obviously presents a bunch of issues for parents trying to make room for the new baby. First, we need to get the crap out of the thing so that we can safely put the baby in it and, second, we need to find a way of breaking Hallie of the habit of getting into the pack and play herself so that it can function as a means of protecting the wee one from her well-meaning but curious older sister. And both of these things need to happen soon.

One way we're handling the second of these tasks is by re-introducing Hallie's playhut, which we purchased about a year ago, In contrast to her response to it when we first bought it, Hallie loves this thing now. It seems to satisfy her need to be in an enclosed space (perhaps because it provides boundaries?) and she is especially fond of lying in it when I fill it up with her ball collection. I imagine that it simulates a ball pit, which Hallie adores rolling around in. From what Jenine, her OT, says, it provides her with the kind of sensory input that she needs; there is no question at this point that Hallie is a sensory-seeking kid, for the most part. We much prefer this kind of sensory seeking to the kind that she practices when she opens all of her containers of blocks or knocks down all of her puzzles and rolls around on the floor covered by the little pieces. If nothing else, a dozen balls are a whole lot easier to clean up and it's much less likely that one will wound oneself in a particularly painful way if one steps on them (though I have been known to nearly twist my ankle and go flying when tripping over one of the smaller balls).

Speaking of balls, I just bought Hallie a football and she was thrilled with it. She actually has a pretty decent throw (and has also been interested in throwing the ball through her basketball net, and not just in placing it in it) and a very nice catch. Here's Hallie pretending to be Donovan McNabb (GO IGGLES! Can you believe they beat the Giants today?). Notice the fetching high heels with this outfit that add a nice feminine flare:

And when she's not scoring a toddler touchdown, Hallie likes to groove to some tunes. Well, at least walk around in an old pair of discarded headphones:

The other task I am in the midst of tackling is organizing Hallie's closet to make way for the little one. I'll try to get a picture of this, but suffice it to say that I have found that we have sufficient clothing in the 2T-3T range to open up a well-stocked toddler apparel store. Nevertheless, and even with limited storage space, we have somehow managed to make room for the million swaddling blankets and sleep sacks that we never really used for Hallie and probably won't use for the little one. Also obvious to me is that this baby will be living in nothing but onesies and sleepers for the first three months or so. I am not sure if this is true of all new babies or only of ones that never go out in public (because of RSV risks) for their entire first winter. We'll see if I have to start investing in coordinated outfits in which this kiddo can appear in public or if we can make due with just bedtime apparel for her first winter season. I am kind of hoping for the latter because, otherwise I will need to purge those swaddling blankets pronto!

In any event, this is going to be another one of those busy weeks. I am going to devote most of the time that Ami is here to digging out a couple of closets, emptying Hallie's crib (who is kidding whom? Hallie hardly ever slept in that crib! "The baby's crib" is what I should start calling it, if only in the hopes that she, unlike her older sister, makes some use of it, and cleaning out that pack and play. We've invested in a couple of nice wooden storage bins for downstairs and a small storage cube thing for upstairs and I am hoping these will handle most of the toys and allow us to have a bit more organization around here. Hopefully they will get here pronto.

But the weekend was not all about work. We had a lovely visit from Anne and Eliza Grace on Saturday afternoon. Hallie really adores Eliza and kept trying to hug and kiss her. The kids did a lot of parallel play for the most part but did share some toys off an on. In any event, there was no repeat of the meltdown that Hallie the other night had when our friend Elisabeth and her little boy, Sam, came over to play and Sam tried to play with Hallie's toys. We were mortified at our girl's behavior and tried to model good sharing practices to no real avail. We're not sure if Hallie was just in a mood that night or if she prefers playing with older kids (Eliza is about three months older than Hallie) or what the deal was. We just hope that this was a one-time performance on the part of Hallie, who usually is a very good-natured little girl. Anyway, I didn't manage to capture a good shot of the two girls at play (perhaps Anne did and we'll see this on her blog) but I did get a lovely shot of Anne with both of the girls:

Otherwise: 2009 is turning out to be okay food and GI system-wise so far. Hallie had a long run of no problems at the beginning of the year, followed by a negative response to berries (which we have pulled). And this weekend she seems to have developed a bit of a cold (came on Saturday night; here's hoping that Eliza avoids getting it) but nothing dreadful. She did have one vomiting incident (related to excessive rolling and laughing and getting winded) just as Anne and Eliza walked in the door and one very small incident after dinner (related to being overly full on top of the snarfliness, but so far has logged 7 vomit-free days this year so far. We're hoping she gets over her cold soon (which has her milk consumption way down) and that we get back on track but we're not seeing any adverse reactions to wheat (which she is eating a bit of in the form of graham crackers and wheat thins) yet and so far indications are that sweet potatoes and carrots are fine.

Also, we set the surgery date for Hallie's teeth/ear tubes/GI scope for the end of February. The dental school was fully booked through most of February, so it's going to happen at the end of the month (on the 24th) but at least we will probably both be able to be there for the awful-yet-necessary event (since we are assuming that Sharon's OB will under no circumstances allow her to go that late should Sharon not deliver by then).

And, finally, I've been talking to Hallie's OT Jenine about Hallie's left side. It's not obvious when she walks or anything, but Hallie's left leg is considerably weaker than her right. Jenine, who is doing a lot of PT stuff with Hallie these days, is helping us figure out how to strengthen it. This involves helping Hallie walk up the stairs in our house (which are pretty treacherous and hence very good for building strength in quads and hamstrings). Hallie still creeps up and down the stairs and needs to learn how to walk up and down them by holding onto the bannisters (or our hands, since she can't always reach these. Like I said, the stairs are treacherous). She likes to lead with her right leg exclusively and then drag her left leg up to the next one. We have to hold down her right thigh and provide some hip support and make her lead with her left. This sometimes has Hallie in tears, or at least whimpering, but Hallie understands what we want and has begun to comply willingly. It's just such hard work for her and tires her out easily but we know that we need to do this for our kiddo. (And for those of you interested in such things, Hallie's brain bleed -- a level one IVH -- was on her left side, so it's not clear why her left side is effected this way). Anyway, it's something to keep an eye on down the road.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Polls are Now Open!

Okay, I am planning a real, substantive post, but for all of you survey junkies, please see the left sidebar. I just added polls on the Great Expectation's arrival date (her due date is February 7th) and birth weight. She was running a couple of days ahead of schedule at the last (34 week) ultrasound and was in the head down position and weighed approximately 5 lbs 5 ounces (give or take a pound). That's all the info we have until tomorrow's first-ever non-stress test (Sharon was appalled to discover that she is having these weekly due to advanced maternal age, but is looking forward to a nice nap or session with an E-book on her iPhone--what's with letters before words these days, anyway?).

Also, in potentially big news, we MAY have a name. Then again we may not have a name. But we have come closer than ever before to naming this little girl. A big priority for us is making sure that Hallie can pronounce her little sister's first name, at least. And we know that she can say this one. One big clue: it's NOT Elmo.

So vote away and check back soon-ish for a real post and some pics.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year (and Happy Bloggiversary)

Well, I never did get around to doing that last-post-in-2008 thing the other night, but as promised, I do have a whole bunch of photos stored up from this holiday season.

This year, Hallie got into celebrating Chanukah by helping us light the menorah and sing the blessings and songs. She was very excited about the whole thing. First, we'd read a bit from her My First Hanukkah Board Book (who the heck knows how to spell the name of the holiday in English!) and count the number of candles we were lighting. Then we'd sing, and Hallie would clap along or punctuate our singing with a few carefully-syncopated thumps on her drums or cymbals. We didn't do the whole gift thing in the way that we probably will from here on out (one gift per night, with the big one coming on the last night); the arrival of the tumbling mat a bit early, coupled with the fact that even we don't have sufficient wrapping paper stored up to cover that thing, kind of set an informal tone to our gift giving early on. But between our gifts to Hallie and those she received from friends and family, I can assure you that she more than exceeded the stipulated eight.

Sharon's fears that Hallie will grow up not knowing or believing in Santa Claus seem misplaced at this juncture. Sharon purchased a very inexpensive stuffed Santa at Target for Hallie a couple of days before our visit to Macy's and told Hallie that this was Santa Claus and that she was going to meet the real Santa soon. Hallie appears to have internalized this message and now likes to grab hold of Santa and tell us who he is. Here she is introducing Santa to her rubber duck:

And this year, much more than last, Hallie was very into opening the numerous presents that she received:

Last year, Hallie was all about the paper. This year, she was very much into the bows:

We're not sure where she learned the word 'bow' but discovered that she knew it when she encountered them on her gifts. This has turned out to be one of the many many words that Hallie knows that she learned somewhere but not, as far as we can tell, from us. (We are hoping that she doesn't learn a few choice words that occasionally slip out of our otherwise dainty lips, but that's another story altogether).

Since we're trying to encourage pretend play and since we know that Hallie already knows the proper function of stethoscopes and otoscopes, what better gift could there possibly be than a very elaborate doctor's set? Thank you, Aunt Laura, Uncle Bryan and cousins!

And Grammy is responsible for our latest attempt to encourage Hallie's creative side whilst breaking her of the rather annoying habit of wall-drawing:

In the end, it was a lovely holiday season and we're very grateful to have been able to spend part of it with our family and friends. Here's Hallie engaged in a fun game of peek-a-boo with Uncle Bryan:

On New Years, Aunt Laura and cousins Sarah, Hannah, and Adam came back down to our house to spend the night and welcome in the New Year with me, Sharon, and our friends Sheila, Brett, and their little girl, Alex. Hallie was thrilled to have the company of her younger cousins and Alex and played, and played, and played.

Here's Hallie having fun coaxing Sharon to blow a noisemaker:

Alas, all of that playing yielded one very tired little two-and-a-half-year-old. Our girl ended up falling asleep at about 10:30pm. The other kids (little and big) did stay up in time to greet 2009 with a toast (though not much beyond that):

Hallie was thrilled though to wake the next morning to find that her cousins were still here. The kids had a great time until Aunt Laura needed to pack up the posse and return home to South Jersey. I know that I'm not the only one who hopes that we see them soon!

On other news: first, Happy bloggiversary to me! I can hardly believe that it's two years since we started this, does time fly.

Hallie ended the year with 173 vomit free days and has begun this year with 2 days sans spitting. She has also discovered that she adores 'zips' (lays potato chips) and, for the first time, has begun to express some interest in food more generally. Ami fed Hallie some exotic food (though not nearly as exotic as the wheat thins and lays chips she's gotten from us) for a couple of days this week. A jar of sweet potatoes seems to have gone down fine but the attempt at various berry mixes of baby food (pears and raspberries, pears and strawberries, and apples and blueberries) haven't gone nearly as well. These all seem to have led to an upsurge in reflux. So we'll move on from those and see how she does with other stuff when Ami takes over food experimentation next week. Our goal is to rotate in the new foods--never give them two days in a row and perhaps even wait three days between reintroducing a new flavor after its first ingestion. This might help Hallie adjust to the new food and prevent things that are hard for her to handle from reaching a critical mass in her tummy. And everything we try is going to be pureed in order to take the question of texture off of the table. We'll see, but 2 days in 2009 so far does make us rather hopeful.

And, speaking of hopeful, I would be remiss not to mention that we had a 34 week ultrasound on the 31st that checked on the size and position of the no longer little bean. The baby is head down and about 5 lbs 5 ounces, which is tremendous (to put this in a bit of perspective, let's just remember that Hallie and Olivia were 1 lb 5 ounces apiece). As per today's OB appointment, everything looks good: Sharon's cervix has not yet effaced and we're hoping that we have a few weeks still to go. Sharon is feeling a bit more achy and her sciatic nerve is painful (the baby is head butting her or something in a very uncomfortable spot) but for now the baby is staying put. Which is a good thing given that we are in no way prepared for our Great Expectation's arrival!

Anyway, I hope that 2009 has gotten off to a good start for everyone!