25 July 2013

Our Last Day as Chicagoans

I didn't want to blog about moving. I even wrote another blog post, a "how we met" post joining the bandwagon of everyone else "how we met"ing, but the writing was choppy. And the story boring. It didn't flow. And I'm moving tomorrow. Tomorrow. So you get a moving post. Sorry.

Everything echoes. Abigail locked herself in her empty room and yelled into the echo-y void today. In between naps, the cats have commenced freak-out mode. We took a farewell stroll through the neighbor and said goodbye to everything we liked and didn't like about living here.

I am really, really sick of moving. This is our 7th move in five years of marriage. This is Abigail's 4th bedroom in her two short years. For me personally, this is my 15th move, not counting all the dorm, home-for-the-summer, dorm-again moves during the college years. I am very honestly burnt out. I want to live in our next apartment for at least two years. Maybe three or even four if it means our next move is into our dream home. I wanna spend two Christmases under the same roof. Celebrate two birthdays in one city. Buy a specific shelf to fit in a certain space. Unpack my fine china.

I love Chicago, I really do. I never saw it coming. I didn't think I'd fall in love so hard and fast. I wish we could live here forever. I've done urban, suburban, and rural. I've done mid-west, I've done sub-tropics, I've done beach town, college town, farming town, rich town, poor town. And lost my heart to Chicago.

Tomorrow morning at 8am, we'll pick up a Uhaul. At 9am, movers will arrive. Somewhere around 12pm, Matt will drive a Uhaul and I will drive two kitties and a toddler in a manual Focus back to Michigan. Somewhere in between 5-7pm (depending on how many times we have to stop, plus the lost hour), we will arrive in Michigan, unload the Uhaul, set up only our bed and the crib. We'll lay in our new room and stare at our new ceiling. Our future in our new world will be exciting and unknown, therefore it will come with a hint of scary.

I know it will take a little while, but eventually that foreign ceiling will start to look familiar, and then become home.

22 July 2013

The Last-Evers

Thank goodness the heat broke. It was getting quite intense. It was 90 degrees inside our apartment and even with two fans and 16 windows, we barely made it through. We did a lot of sweating, spent every spare moment in the cold Lake Michigan waters, and struggled through a daily mid-afternoon "today is going to be the end of me" meltdown.

But now we're back to enjoying the pleasant 80 degree days in these final four days until we move.

Our final week put us well into the Chicago last-evers.
"This is the last time we'll ever walk to this church."
"This is the last time we'll ever shop here."
"This is the last Saturday we'll be in Chicago."

Packing is going smoothly on this here last-ever week of life in Chicago. I spend the mornings packing, nap time relaxing, and post-nap time catching up on other non-packing moving tasks, like arranging Abigail's therapies in Michigan. I love having Matt's help, unlike most of our other moves when he needed to be studying for finals, and delegate him tasks he can do during his lunch break or in the evenings. I do try to reserve evenings and weekends for family time, though. (a two-year-old can only handle so much packing). On our last-ever Saturday, the day before Ernest Hemingway's 114th birthday, we decided to take a drive out into the suburbs to his birthplace to visit the Hemingway museum and family home. It took us 60 minutes to drive 15 miles.

I'm wearing Abigail in an Ergo on my back, but you can't see her as she's totally conked out.

Despite the birthday celebrations, there were no lines or crowds to get into any exhibits. The curators had quite a collection on their hands, everything from "Ernest Hemingway's typewriter" to "Ernest Hemingway's high school's graduation invitation" to "Ernest Hemingway's mother's drawing of the Hemingways' dream home."

Here is Abigail in front of Ernest Hemingway's family home until he was 7:

Abigail and Matt having a conversation in front of Ernest Hemingway's family home's oak tree:

Abigail sitting on Ernest Hemingway's family home's oak tree's acorns:

I'm still in love with the man, though. And while we didn't visit his vacation home in Key West when were in Florida, I will one day.

Other fun-time things in between packing this box and packing that box include Abigail sobbing because she didn't think she could climb off Matt's briefcase:

And Abigail desperately trying to feed kitty some treats she found.

It wasn't for lack of trying that kitty went without.

Hopefully that'll be enough Abigail pictures to tide everyone over. Another post coming this week, but it'll probably the last one until we get Internet in our new place.

Moving day in T-minus 4 days.

19 July 2013

5 Minute Friday: Belong

5 Minute Friday hosted by Lisa-Jo Baker.

Five Minute Friday

Today's topic: Belong


We all have groups of friends with whom we feel we belong. But the older I get and the more complicated my life gets, the more I realize that I don't belong with just one group of people. I have my Ds community friends, and we all have in common a child with Down syndrome, but that's about the only running theme. I have my Catholic girl friends, and we get together and have girls' nights and hangouts. Some of us are married, some aren't, some have lots of kids, some don't. Then I have my book club friends and the only thing we all have in common is enjoy reading and drinking. Back when we were still in law school, I had my "law school wives" friends. These girls were usually all religious, since our hubbies went to a Catholic law school, but some were Mormon and some just called themselves "Christians." If you cut out any one of my groups, I'm a bit lost. I belong with all of them, but not solely with any one of them. We don't talk books at girls' nights and we don't talk Ds at book club.

Life has gotten more complicated and to whom I belong has gotten more diverse, but even as we move around the country, I try to keep in touch with friends from my old groups and find new groups to join. Because we all belong somewhere.


17 July 2013

Without A/C

You know how good the food tastes at a wedding reception when you're the last table to be served? After sitting through the ceremony, the long line to hug the bride and groom, the drive to the reception hall, the grand entrance of every. single. member. of the wedding party, then the bride and groom, then the toasts. By the time the servers hit the wedding party's table, you're practically ready to shout, "I DON'T CARE IF THE FISH IS RAW, I NEED FOOD." But you sit. And wait. For all 20 (30?)-some tables to be served and it's finally your turn. And even though the portions are tiny, the beef is overcooked and the cake tastes like gummy plastic, you scarf it down like a little kid in grandma's candy cupboard. The food tastes good because you had to wait, to "suffer," in a sense.

The same is true with the summer. Summer-fun-things are so much more enjoyable, and I feel so much more connected with nature and history without a/c.

My apartment was built by rich folk before before a/c was invented - with high ceilings, wood floors, and 16 windows. When we add a few fans and keep the lights and stove off, summer is downright enjoyable around here! Hot, but manageable. So we didn't buy or rent a window a/c unit, we're just learning how to deal and how to enjoy.

The beach is amazing when you've just spent the entire night sweating and the entire morning packing. The breeze coming off the lake and the cold great lakes waters feel a-maz-ing when you're drenched in sweat. Back in the days when I had a/c, I'd be doing something outside and think to myself, "It's so hot, I should totally go swimming!" But by the time I got inside, changed, and put on sunscreen, I was actually cold. Matt and I would joke that we'd need to go sit outside and get hot again before going swimming! Ice cream for lunch is so much more delicious when it actually does cool you off. Ice water only lasts a few sips before it becomes luke warm, which makes those first few sips incredible every. single. time. At the end of the day, my skin smells like salt (from sweating - the water around here is of the fresh variety) and sun and water. Like summer. My hair has that kind of frizzy volume you only get after a day of sweat and lake water and sun screen. It's reminds me of summer as a kid, when it was the greatest event of the year behind Christmas.

But when these heat waves hit - with the heat index we're brushing 100, hot, humid degrees - we do start to feel the pain. We start making twice-daily trips to the beach (thankfully it's within walking distance), finding excuses to go to the store 2-3 times a week, sticking our heads in the freezer. But the more intense heat makes me feel more in touch with nature. The breeze, the sun, the air. It all impacts me so much more than when I had a/c. And I ponder what life must have been like for earlier residents of Chicago. When people had summer kitchens and sleeping porches. I get, now, why the rich had summer homes by the water. It's kickass in the way that going on vacation and giving up your cell phone and Facebook are. You feel amazing, centered, freed, like you finally got your priorities right. You wish you could live that way forever, but you know you can't.

It's like that scene in The Notebook when Allie's mom takes her to see the man she once loved.

What are we doing here, Mama?
Do you see that man, there?
Doesn't look like it now, but 25 years ago...oh my goodness, he was really something. We were out of our minds in love, let me tell you. Wow. Well, naturally, your grandfather was furious, so...we decided to run away. We didn't even make the next town before the police picked us up. But that was then. You know sometimes when I'm in the area, I just stop here and I watch him, trying to picture how different my life might have been...

That's like me and this a/c-free, Chicago life. One day we'll come back to visit and I'll wonder what life would have been like if we'd gone down this different road.

To put it more humorously, there is this bit in Good Will Hunting where Will is arguing with Skylar and he says to her: "I mean you just wanna have your fling with like the guy from the other side of town. Then you're going to go off to Stanford, you're going to marry some rich prick who your parents will approve of and just sit around with the other trust fund babies and talk about how you went slumming too, once."

We're slumming. In the heat. With our swim suits on.

Whatever. I'm blabbering - the heat must be getting to me. 9 days to go.

14 July 2013

In which I swear humorously

Next week, I'll be blogging from Michigan.

Yes, next week.

We are within the two-week mark; one week from this Friday. Not this Friday, but next Friday.

At some point during the first year of law school, I didn't recognize my life anymore, and I had a complete meltdown. I can't remember if I had blogged or Facebook-status-updated about my meltdown, but a wise friend pointed out (something to the effect of) I was just being struck all-at-once by the hugeness of all our huge life changes. Sometimes I feel like that again.

Sometimes, believe it or not, I still get struck by the fact that Abigail has Down syndrome! The other day, I was reading something about Ds, and I turned to myself with an incredulous look and asked, "Holy shit, Jacqueline, did you know you have a kid with Down syndrome?" Sometimes I even tell myself, "Holy shit, you have a kid." It's a weird feeling. It's probably weirder for my parents, I mean, they have a kid who has a kid. That'll be a weird day for me.

In the spring and in the fall, someone will reference a holiday and I find myself trying to remember what month it is now. "Oh, we got it at Christmas!" I paste a polite smile on my face while I try to figure out if that was a long time or short time ago. Christmas is in December, this is ... trying to remember what my planner said the last time I checked it ... May, right, May! So that was ... five months ago, which is almost half a year. That was a little while ago. Phew! Then I update my facial expression and add some related verbal commentary. Spring and fall in the midwest is like winter in Florida because the weather is nice and you can open the windows and go for walks outside. Winter in Florida is like summer in the midwest because you never. go. outside. It gets a little confusing.

The other thing that catches me off guard is when I can't remember which state I'm in. This usually happens when I'm trying to remember how to get to a store at which I don't usually shop. Office Max is at the corner of ... different intersections start flashing through my mind ... which one, which one?! Wait - what state am I in again? FL, no, IL, right, I'm in Chicago .... it's on the tip of my tongue ... what's that one street? Oh yeah, Howard and McCormick!

Moving back to Michigan is weirding me out too. Back home. After 4 years - that's most of my married life. Home has this weird "everything's the same, but everything's different" feel to it, like when you come back home to visit over Christmas break after you've moved away to college. Every one is still the same, but they've all moved on. Matt and I talk about the weird things. He's in a friend's wedding this September and we'll talk about the logistics.
"So we're going to wake up in the morning in our own bed."
"And I'm going to have all my shoes and hair accessories and makeup, so I can change my mind and try new things on if I don't like the way something looks."
"And we're going to get dressed without worrying if anything got wrinkled in a suitcase."
"And we're going to drive there in our car."
"And we're going to drive home."
"To our house."
"And put our clothes away in our closet."
"And go to bed in our bed."
We just kind of look at one another.
"That'll be weird. But nice too."
"Yeah, it'll be convenient."

We'll see friends, it won't be all "Oh my gosh, she's gotten so big, can you believe it, wait - is that couch new, no - we bought it two years ago, I haven't seen you in two years."
And when we part ways, it won't be all "Oh my gosh, have a safe drive, we totally miss you guys, we can't wait to see you again, yeah - but it'll probably be two Christmases from now, holy shit - it snows in this state."

Well, it snows in Chicago too, but they actually plow roads in the city. And we don't drive much here.

In 13 days, I'll be sitting on this couch in a different state.

Holy shit, did you know I'm moving?

12 July 2013

5 Minute Friday: Present

5 Minute Friday hosted by Lisa-Jo Baker.

Five Minute Friday

Today's topic: Present


Okay, so I'm going to get a lot of hate mail for this, but here goes.

For the first time in my 26 years of life, I watched Mary Poppins today.

Yes, yes, the outrage. You see, I grew up in a Disney Princess household, not a  classic movies house, so I've got a lot of catching up to do.

Anyway, Abigail was feeling tired and clingy today, but in the past, hasn't enjoyed The Little Mermaid or Ratatouille or even Thomas the Train. In fact, to be honest, she usually can't even sit still through an entire episode of Blues Clues. But I'd let her watch a few of the song scenes from Mary Poppins on You Tube and she'd always been mesmerized. So we rented it on Amazon and curled up before her nap.

My usually energetic, kicking, wiggly two-year-old cuddled up next to me, head on my arm and giggled adorably to the move. For an hour straight. She would have kept going, but it was nap time! I felt connected to Abigail as my arm went numb in a way I haven't since she started scooting. She looked up at me when I laughed and laughed with me, even though she didn't understand the jokes. She pointed to the screen when animals would appear and snuggled in deeper for the songs. And while she was focused on the screen, I couldn't stop focusing on her. The way she smells like baby soap. The way her hair is practically the same color as mine. The way we're here, together in our present. Now.


Happy Friday, my friends.

11 July 2013

Nature v. Nurture - T21 Edition

I just want to dedicated one more post to Down syndrome for the time being. Talk, theorize, vent. And then I'm going to shut up about it for a while, because, to be honest, I'm a little Down syndrome-d out. I'm sick of talking about it, reading articles about it, explaining it. I want to pretend for a few weeks at least, that I have a cranky cute little two-year-old who honest-to-goodness learned how to sign "please" and "ice cream" after the first try.

Bueno? Bueno.

First, a disclaimer. I meet a lot of people in the Ds community, people with Ds, but also their family and friends. I can very explicitly say that parents of children with Ds and siblings/relatives of Ds have very different perspectives. When I meet another mother of a child with Ds, there is a sense of love, community, and support that I do not experience in nearly the same way when I meet a sibling/relative of someone with Down syndrome.

Okay, so. I hear a mind-blowingly number of times that Abigail is going to be happy, innocent, and naive her entire life. I hear about how Abigail is going to have an innate ability to socialize and love others - miraculously seeing past their physical appearance to their broken hearts and heal them with her unconditional love. "These kids just know," I hear from the well-intentioned middle aged woman at the grocery store whose sister with Ds passed away in grade school.

It is a well-established fact that every aspect of who we are comes from either our genes (nature) or our environment (nurture). (New research is indicating a combination of the two - epigenetics.) These people I meet on the street are clearly in Camp Nature - with complete disregard to their families and lifestyles, all children with Ds are destined to have the demeanor of a golden retriever. Therefore, it must be genetic. The only thing that separates Abigail genetically from me is one extra chromosome. One extra 21st chromosome. So we can safely conclude based on this logic that happy, loving emotions are located on the 21st chromosome and have three copies some how overpowers most all negative emotions, the ability to judge people, and that feeling in your gut that holds you back from hugging complete strangers.

Okay, somehow in someway, having Ds makes a person an ideal Saint on Earth. Lets call it Super Love, and it encompasses all the stereotypical traits society assigns to people like my daughter. Nature! These people are shouting at me. Maybe. But maybe its a nurture thing too. Just stick with me here for a minute. Let me play devil's advocate.

You know how people who are blind have superior hearing? Do you think whatever causes blindness also causes Super Hearing? Or what about the stereotypical patient dying of cancer - calm, at peace with their future, spending more time comforting family and friends than worrying themselves. Do you think while the cancer is in their body mutating away the genes, it somehow morphs a few into Super At Peace cells? Or what about the man who lost his legs in a terrible accident, but comes back to run marathons. Do you think maybe whatever holds you back in life is ironically stored in your legs and when you replace them with prosthetics, you get Super Mental Strength?

Of. Course. Not. To suggest such things is degrading to the strength and courage it takes to overcome, or come to terms with, overwhelming odds. It takes away from the achievements of the man who learned to navigate the world with a white cane, or stayed positive under several rounds of debilitating drugs, or run 26 miles strapped to plastic legs.

Yes, it's possible that God gave Abigail Super Love and she's a special gift to special parents. It's also possible that God made people the most learn-able, adaptable creatures on earth. We know that Down syndrome affects the brain, so I'll compromise that it's possible she's preconditioned to acceptance and optimism. But maybe her environment caused the rest. Maybe Abigail will have amazing social language skills because for the first few years of her life, she couldn't walk and was stuck to her mama's hip at the adult table at dinner instead of running around outside with her cousins. Maybe she'll be more naive because she won't have the same move-away-to-college, weekend-road-trip-with-friends, date-an-asshole experiences that you and I have. Maybe she'll be extra loving because she spent a lot of time sick at the hospital hanging out with other, sicker people - constantly exposed to end-of-life issues.

Maybe, just maybe there is some truth to what I'm saying. Maybe Abigail will grow up and I'll be back on here when I'm in my 50s - "No, I was wrong, Down's kids* just know!"

Maybe. But based on my life experiences to date, I still have the suppress the urge to either sucker punch or run away screaming from the next stereotyper who meanders my way.

*Saying "Down's kids" is also very degrading and I'm using it sarcastically here to prove a point.

08 July 2013

Packing. Again.

We have a little over two weeks before we make yet another cross-state trek and just to spice things up, temps have been in the upper 80s in my not-airconditioned apartment. I'm reminded of our first months here when we unpacked in the sweltering heat. But when I pause for a moment and remember what Florida is like this time of year, the humidity so thick we joked you could swim through it, I realize this isn't that bad. But I'm glad our Michigan apartment will have air.

I added a few more boxes to the pile stacking up in the dining room. Mount Kittymanjaro is sufficiently high enough for the cats to sprawl out on without worry of a toddler intrusion.

In a bitter and frustrating twist of fate, we decided to throw all the boxes and newspapers we'd been storing up for this move in the trash. These are the same boxes we've used the last few moves, the ones I stash in closets and under beds, the very reasons why I have no closet space - all in the trash. After the bug guy sprayed, we found a few large, dark red bed bugs dead on our boxes. Their bodies get darker after a recent meal. We aren't sure if they were fleeing the couch after ingesting poison or if they always lived there, but we decided $150 in brand new packing supplies (there was no chance I was going to buy some used off Craigslist) was better than the risk of bringing bed bugs to Michigan. I'm still bitter about the whole thing, but the OCD side of me is delighted by the stack of coordinated, matching boxes in the corner.

In a second twist of fate, my very pregnant sister-in-law (overdue and waiting to be induced now) asked Matt and I to be her new baby's Godparents and scheduled the Baptism for the day we arrive in Michigan. Matt and I decided to give ourselves a bit of a cushion, so we'll be leaving the big city a day ahead of schedule instead. Our new lease begins July 19th, but we'll arrive in Michigan on Friday 26 July.

In other, not-very-surprising news, packing with a two-year-old is rather difficult. It's really a "pack two boxes, unpack one box" type situation. I've officially bowed out of all remaining therapy sessions and plan to pack the things for which I certainly do not want a toddler's help while I have someone else around. I'm still in the "decorations-winter-clothes-and-odd-kitchen-appliances" stage of packing, when I can still take evenings to cool off in Lake Michigan. As much as I love Chicago and wish we didn't have to leave, I've formally turned off my emotions surrounding the move and am just anxious to get it all over with and get unpacked. One day we're gonna stop. One day we're gonna buy a house we love in a place we love and settle down. Maybe have another kid or two.

That last part was my bitter sense of humor kicking in. Guess I haven't shut down all emotion, eh?

07 July 2013

A Brief, Non-Accusatory Post

On Saturday after running errands, the three of us decided to swing by and get some ice cream before we headed home to our non-airconditioned apartment on a steamy 83 degree summer day in July. We were the only ones in the store as we ordered our ice cream, found seats, and dug in. It was a slow day as the ice cream place had just opened and the two people on staff were mostly just standing around. I ordered Abigail her own personal kiddie-sized ice cream (a big day for her ; ) and she was contentedly eating when a mom with twins somewhere in the 2-4 age range walked in. They ordered and sat down on the other side of the shoppe from us. A few minutes into their ice cream, one of the employees blew up two balloons, one pink, one blue, and walked them over to the kids. Their mom ordered them to thank the employee and tied the balloons to her kids' wrists. The guy returned to his bored-looking stance behind the counter while the family finished their ice cream and left.

And that was that.

No balloon for Abigail.

I didn't march over to the counter and put up a stink. It's a freaking balloon. Maybe he thinks Abigail is too young for a balloon (she's pretty little). Her mistaken age has never stopped her from getting a sparkly star sticker at the library or a free munchkin at Dunkin Donuts, and it's not like a balloon is a choking hazard. Who the hell knows. What I am certain of is that, no matter what the Oberweis employee's intentions, things like this are going to happen again and again to my daughter; there will be countless battles to fight, and I plan to choose them wisely. Anyway, when I got home, I posted this to my Facebook page:

"The other kids at the ice cream store get a balloon, but Abigail doesn't...it makes me want to assume the worst."

And do you know what the troops did? My friends and family who are supposed to love us through thick and thin? Almost nothing. I had four solid responses from people - four responses that listened, felt my pain, and responded. But if I post a picture of Abigail happy and smiling, I'll end up with Facebook notification alerts for a few days. Dozens of "likes," maybe a dozen or so comments. When life is good, the troops are solid. But when things are bad...I felt deserted.

It's a well-studied fact. When things are going your way, when you win the lottery, when you're on top of the competition, people come out of the woodwork to be your friend. People are drawn to happy, successful people. But when tragedy hits, everyone gets uncomfortable and leaves. Like Job in the Bible. You know, the "fair-weather friends effect" we'll call it for the lack of a better name. Maybe no one was online over the holiday weekend. Maybe everyone thought I was over-reacting. Maybe no one knew what to say. Maybe the ice cream scooper didn't like my "different" daughter. Who knows. I'm not trying to be confrontational. I hate confrontation. If we're friends on Facebook and you saw my status and you ignored it, I'm not trying to insult you or call you out or make you uncomfortable. I'm just talking, just mulling over the "what ifs." I had friends jump ship when Abigail was diagnosed with Ds, I know what it feels like. But I never thought about more people jumping ship if things get worse again. How many people will jump ship if Abigail is diagnosed with leukemia? How many people will jump ship as Abigail ages if she is "low functioning" cognitively? Who is in our lives now but will abandon us if she gets Alzheimer's in her 30s or 40s?

Correlation does not always equal causation, but my two facts are that I posted the bad parts of Abigail's life online and I heard the crickets chirp.

And I dread the day she's old enough to care about a fucking balloon.

05 July 2013

5 Minute Friday: Beautiful

5 Minute Friday hosted by Lisa-Jo Baker.

Five Minute Friday

Today's topic: Beautiful


I'm a goal-oriented person who (usually) finishes everything she puts down on her to-do list. I'm one of those people who can cook dinner and do the dishes while switching the laundry and taking out the trash. (Don't worry, to compensate for it, I'm very socially awkward and not very smart). Anyway, I get on these streaks where even things I enjoy become just another thing on the list to check off. It seriously gets in the way of me bonding with Abigail. Far too often, I just give her "the forbidden toy" (Blues Clues, a "big girl book") so that I can just finish one more thing. But the problem is that the one more thing is never finished. Either I'll have to do it again tomorrow (sweeping, for example), or I'll find another chore to do while I'm finishing up the first. And so it goes that some days, I feel like I barely see Abigail except for the Chica-related to-dos.

So I have to make a conscious point to freaking turn off "productive, OCD Jacqueline" to be a good mom. To seriously spend 15 minutes pretending to eat the same dozen things out of her little grocery cart because it makes her laugh. Or to cuddle her to sleep at night even when she doesn't need it. Those 20 minutes spent staring in Abigail's eyes, tracing the lines of her eyebrows and check bones and she stares at me so lovingly, trustingly bring tears to my eyes (And they she looks at me confusedly). Those moments are beautiful. Soul-calming. Soul-building. Those moments build beautiful memories. Much more important ones than the memory of a kitchen table that is always clean.


03 July 2013

3 Abigail Updates

My magic rock dust is scheduled to arrive today, and once it does, I'll unleash "mad packing Jacqueline," but as we're in between bed bugs and packing, I thought I'd blog about our latest time occupier: Abigail's orthotics. 

The particular type that Abigail has (SMOs) are designed to help stabilize her ankles (her ankles, especially her right one, are weak) and force her to keep her feet flat instead of rolling inward (putting too much weight on her instep/big toe side). They are fully customizable from the color of the foam inserts to the color of the straps to the design sewn on top. (Note to all people ordering SMOs: consider doing without the extra design as it adds additional bulk and makes shoe fittings that much harder. Hindsight, doncha know).

Abigail loves taking them on and off, but hates wearing them. She refuses to stand or walk in them just yet. Abigail's physical therapist assured us that her behavior is normal. They probably feel restrictive on her feet, and they are forcing her to use the proper muscles instead of compensating, so even just standing and walking probably feels different and harder than before. Plus, they are pretty huge on her tiny feet. Well, they fit properly, but properly includes growing room. Which means the shoes are about a size and a half bigger than her normal shoe size (one has to wear shoes whenever they are wearing orthotics). Poor kid walks like her feet are encased in cement blocks.

She started out wearing them for 30 mins on day, then one hour the next. Today they are on for two hours and we'll increase by one hour each day until we hit five hours. Once we arrive at that point, on Saturday, she'll just wear them all day every day. Whenever she might be walking, she needs to be wearing them for an indefinite period of time. Some kids only need them for a year or two, other kids keep them on for much longer.

She doesn't have the finger dexterity yet to take them off, so the best she can do is un-velcro the shoes and they remain on her feet for the proper duration of time.

Other bits of news related to Abigail's progress include this fancy new change to her crib during the day:

We put the side back on for naptime and bedtime right now. I think it's a good transition to a big-girl bed. We decided to give it a go it because she often has the desire to crawl in her crib during the day to get a blanket or stuffed animal or to read a book in it. She gets a kick out of having free access, but, even though she has the skillset and physical strength to climb out, she gets very nervous about even slight heights and often finds herself trapped inside like a kitten in a tree. Being two is way harder than people give it credit.

Third, and lastly for now, we are trying to wean Abigail from her pacifier. I used to be an anti-pacifier mom when Abigail was born, but her inability to breastfeed (because of the heart condition, not the Down syndrome! Never let someone tell you that your child with Ds can't breastfeed!) forced us to turn to bottles, which made it less important to keep the artificial and the natural distinct. Then when she was on a feeding tube in the hospital during heart surgery, she had a strong desire to suck, so we gave in a bought her a pacifier and she's been hooked ever since. For quite a while now, she only uses it when she's sleeping or sick, but we recently starting sneaking it out of her mouth after she falls asleep. So far she's been great about staying asleep/falling back asleep without it. I've put in a TON of work with Abigail to establish healthy sleeping habits without using the cry-it-out method and I think our rock-solid foundation facilities easy removal of the pacifier. I have no pressing reason to get rid of them other than they are expensive and I'm sick of buying them.

Sorry if this is more boring than the usual mind-blowing, edge-of-your-seat posts you're used to reading from me. The next time you hear from me, it will be for a 5 Minute Friday post and then again next week in the throes of packing.

01 July 2013

Bug Hell

I'm pretty sure bed bugs are spawns of the devil. I bet before the fall of mankind, bed bugs were butterflies, like angels who then durned to demons. Bed bugs are the worst outbreak one can have, I think. Worse than roaches and fleas, for certain. Not sure about termites. One of the worst things about bed bugs is that you can have three of them and you still have to react as if your entire living space is one giant cesspool of bed bug demon hell.

There were about three half days worth of prep work for the 21-point check list. Matt and I realized as we worked late into the evenings that we were doing "last resort" work for a very minor outbreak. The bug guy is just trying to cover his ass - his company has all kinds of guarantees and they don't want to have to come back for free. So they require me to do as much work as possible. But we can use logic. Demon bugs first entered our apartment somewhere between 2-4 weeks ago, very recent in demon bed bug world. So they probably hadn't left the soft, fabricy mattress for the cool, dark closets to scale the walls, scout boxes, tunnel inside, and make a home in Abigail's 12-18 month clothing. So we didn't wash the clothes in those boxes. We also didn't empty our bookshelves or the desk. We were judicious about what we broke our backs cleaning.

It's pretty much like moving. Packing things, moving furniture, un-hanging pictures. Then unpacking, moving furniture back, rehanging pictures. It's moving but instead of carrying furniture down flights of stairs, you do 16 loads of laundry (not counting the dry cleaning). I flip flopped back and forth between anger and bitterness at this heavy extra burden on top of our move and thankfulness that this wasn't scarlet fever and we didn't have to destroy all of Abigail's favorite stuffed animals without exception. All demon bug removal eve, I told myself: Don't stress now, tomorrow will be the worst day. Tomorrow will be hell.

It pretty much was. But maybe like just the first few circles. The technician was scheduled to arrive on Friday afternoon, so on Friday morning, I made the final preparations, including stripping the bed and standing mattresses up against walls.

There was so much chaos everywhere that I had to keep Abigail contained to either her crib (which I didn't strip until last minute) or her high chair. Most of her toys were packed in boxes or in plastic bags in the car, which was parked in the sun (on the bug guy's advice, we "cooked" all the non-washable toys to kill all bed bugs). I'm embarrassed to admit how much tv we let her watch on Friday.

That's a Baby Signing Time DVD she's watching above.

The bug guy arrived at 2pm - smack in the middle of Abigail's 1-3pm nap (demon bug's last revenge, I'm sure). He briefly viewed our apartment and confirmed that the dining room was probably safe (as in, no need to empty everything and spray!) and that our outbreak was very "low." As I stripped Abigail's crib, I asked how long the spraying would take.

"About an hour. But she can't be here for it. Or for two hours while it dries," he replied a bit surprised.

I didn't know it was possible for my ridiculously pale skin to get any paler. My stomach dropped. The cats. My cats in the car is a terrible experience I wouldn't wish on anyone. Except a demon bed bug. I really didn't want to do it on a moment's notice. For three hours. In Chicago.

"The cats too?" I barely eked out.

"No, we can lock them in the bathroom."

That line saved that man's life that day.

It was still inconvenient, though, and leaving in a hurry meant that I forgot a few key things. Like shoes for Abigail and a post-nap snack for us both. But we're girls - killing a few hours at Target and grabbing an ice cream on the way home isn't exactly a burden, although it was weird to be milling around wasting time when I knew we had so much work to do at home.

And boy did we ever. The technician literally turned my apartment upside-down. Couches, beds, cribs. Thankfully not the dressers, though. It was like we'd been robbed by tidy robbers.

Matt was home from work at this point (the good man brought pizza), so we strapped Abigail back into the high chair, turned on more Blues Clues and went to town. It took us about 5 hours of non-stop work to get everything back to normal. My feet are a bit swollen, my back is killing me, but other than a faintly sweet smell of pesticide, you'd never know this place looked like the above photos this afternoon. I even managed to do the dishes.

Now for my favorite part. The absolutely best thing about this entire experience. We get to do it all again in two weeks! You heard me - the washing, the furniture moving, the 3 days worth of work. Cause nothing makes me want to pull a Tom Cruise couching-jumping stunt like packing and unpacking 1000 square feet of space three times in four weeks!

You see, bed bug eggs are impervious to pesticides and can take up to two weeks to hatch. So he has to come back to spray any new hatchlings. Heat kills eggs, so the clothes are safe but we have to re-wash everything too - I'm guessing in case the bugs migrate to the dresser after hatching?

No fucking way. Let's be judicious again: it's all cleaned and fresh and washed and dried. I'm not doing this again right before I move. So why can't I just pack all non-essential fabric-based items and put them in the bed bug free dining room? When I ran this by the exterminator, he gave me a sigh, studied the ground for a moment, and then told me to keep as much clean stuff in garbage bags as possible and spritz everything with rubbing alcohol before we pack it. I don't know about the garbage bag thing (could you imagine how awkward that would make packing a box?) but we can all agree on the spritzing.

I also did some online research (okay, my mom did) and found something called diatomaceous earth. It's a soft rock that crumbles easily. It's very abrasive to anything with an exoskeleton and causes it to dehydrate to death. Anyway, they make a food grade version. Yes, food grade bed bug killer. It's commonly fed to live stock to kill off pest problems, but safe enough for human ingestion. I bought a bag off Amazon and will sprinkle it in all our boxes as I pack as a backup. The last thing I want to do is bring this infestation to Michigan. You see, right now our apartment complex is footing the bill, but I don't know if our new apartment will if we bring them with us. Bed bug extermination runs in the thousands. That's not a bill with which I want to deal. Plus, I don't want to visit this version of hell again.

My friends, there is one thing you could do for me. GO BUY YOURSELF BED BUG INDICATOR STRIPS. Seriously, they sell them cheap at hardware stores. Buy some. Follow the directions. I can't imagine how much worse off we'd be if this infestation had time to spread. If we really did have to sanitize our books and double our laundry burden or had enough stuff to fill a house. Only 30% of people react to bed bug bites, so lots of stories circulate of people who had bed bugs for years but didn't realize it because they were never looking under their mattresses at 4am. If you have to go head-to-head with demon bed bugs, make sure you aren't outnumbered.