29 September 2014

Life, in strides

Sometimes PPD comes bounding up like a St. Bernard: big and loud and slobbery; he hits you all at once, and before you know it, he's sitting on top of you, all 100+lbs of him, right on your chest, making it hard to draw a breath. But last week the PPD was more like a sauntering cat. He sat down across the room from me in that "I see you but I won't acknowledge you" kind of way, like a warning. Eventually he got up, strolled over, and sat on my lap. A light, warm pressure, one that you can kind of forget about sometimes, but is always there. It made fun weekend plans feel overwhelming. The empty skies and tall cornfields made me claustrophobic. The apartment felt cluttered, the walls closing in on me until I wanted to throw everything away. The world wasn't crashing down around me, just slipping out of control. I'll be stuck 8 lbs away from my pre-pregnancy weight forever, Abigail will never learn impulse control, Eleanor will never sleep through the night. I'm doing rituals.

Deep breath, deep breath, deep breath. Go for a run, take a shower, go to bed early, do all three.

* * * * *

Wanna see my kidney stone? Don't worry, it's not graphic. I went in for a CT scan and they gave me the images on a cd. Now, I'm kind of just assuming where the kidney stone is; no one pointed it out to me, but it appears to be rather obvious:

I highlighted it in pink below. It's the size of a gum ball. One inch big.

I find this sorta stuff so interesting.

Surgery in a little over two weeks. I'm sorta looking forward to spending a few guilt-free days in bed, eating a meal I didn't have to cook and don't have to clean up afterward.

* * * * *

I was just reading an article the other day about Indian villages in which girls are considered a curse. It's heartbreaking to know that so much joy and so many blessings are destroyed, both in India and America, every day. 


Let it be known, my friends, that this is what will befall you when you ignore your big sister's commands to "stop [touching]!"

* * * * *
Maybe kids are a curse, though. Because one day they'll strap on a pink backpack and walk away to preschool with your heart in their hands. They grow up and learn new things and decide they don't want to take naps or give you hugs. And while you're bursting with pride at the person she is, your heart is also breaking that the baby she was is now gone.

Everyday that she goes away to school, she leaves one lonely Baybee sitting at home.

The cat, however, takes an excessive amount of pleasure in sleeping all over Abigail's toys in her absence.

Whenever I make the mistake of calling her "Baby," she always makes a point of showing me where Baybee actually is. Baby Abigail is not.

* * * * *

28 September 2014


Sorry, kid, but this is what happens when your mom's a crocheter and it's a crisp fall morning and you're a girl baby.

25 September 2014

The Cross-dressing Baby

"They're going to think she's a boy."
"What?! The shirt has a princess on it and she's wearing a hair clip!"
"I'm telling you, Matt, she's in a gray shirt with blue jeans. They're going to think she's a boy."
"Girls can wear jeans. And the shirt has pink on it. Plus the car seat and the blanket are purple."
"I agree. I'm just telling you."

How many people asked me if it was a boy or a girl?
Three. Three people weren't sure.

20 September 2014

C'est La Vie

Eleanor does not sleep unless she is being held. Put her down? Tears. Pick her up? Sleeping. As you can imagine never ever putting Eleanor down interferes with my ability to parent Abigail. Who, if you'll recall, is mad at me. And then there is night fall. Eleanor likes to go to bed for the night around 7 or 7:30pm, about when Abigail goes down. But again we have insta-tears the moment my hands leave her body. Except at night, Eleanor's fuse is about .3 seconds long. Oh man, she goes to furious, outraged, bloody-murder scream so freakin' fast. And she has zero patience for Daddy-time at night. It makes it hard to even go to the bathroom, let alone do a few dishes, finish some laundry, play a board game with the husband. Tonight was one of those nights where I just didn't have the patience for Eleanor's angry scream. I'm feeling a bit stretched-out, a bit drained. I don't have enough fuel in the system to power calm, patient mom. So Matt stepped in and for the first time possibly ever, she accepted him. So he is now trapped in the bedroom with the tablet and a sleeping child, probably playing a few guilt-free rounds of Kingdom Rush and I am out here with the Dr Sears Baby Sleep Book and the Internet. And I Googled everything:

Four month sleep regression
Four month old sleep habits
Four month old won't sleep unless held
Baby won't sleep unless held
Ferber method
Dr Sears four month old sleep alone
Bouncer vs swing
White noise machine Dr Sears
Are white noise machines worth it?
Babywearing while sitting?
Juggling toddler and baby
Why the hell is this so hard?

And at some point, it dawn on me: There is no answer. You can't fix this. This is what having small children is like. No shit, it's hard. C'est la vie.

Babies are needy. They like to snuggle with their mommies. There is no magic swing-bouncer-white noise machine combo that will make her sleep by herself. And no bedtime routine in the world is going to get an infant to peacefully drift off into dreamland. And I'm batting 0 for 2 in the "children who eventually stop screaming when left in their cozy beds alone" category. And while, "Enjoy this because one day you'll miss it" is not really easy to hear right now, it's true. One day I will be sitting in a nursing home with tremors in my hands or in adult diapers I can't change by myself and I will give anything to be a strong, healthy 27-year-old mother cuddled up in bed with my newborn daughter.

Right now is not the time in life where I get to go out for drinks with the girls or paint my nails a pretty fall color or snuggle up with my husband on a Friday night. And that's okay. Because one day it will not be the time in life when I get to dress up babies in frilly dresses or feel little baby breaths on my neck or hear Abigail say "pwetty, Meemee!" One day I won't be the most important person in their lives. C'est la vie.

So when I feel a bit too stretched out, call in Matt. Take an hour to myself. But don't waste my hour trying to find a solution to an unsolvable problem. Just enjoy the peace, let myself re-fuel. But I can't waste my hour bemoaning my lot and searching for a solution to the problem of babies who love their mommies.

18 September 2014

A Day in My...Where Was I?

Shhh...don't tell my children I am blogging. Surely one of them will poop on me (like E did during the writing of my last post) or some such deal. Abigail is currently in her room reading and chucking books. She reads one, then hurls it with full strength into Eleanor's crib. The wall behind the crib is very dented. Some battles just aren't worth fighting. I've lost hope that we'll see our security deposit on the other side of this. Children and security deposits are diametrically opposed, or, at least, my children are.

So after a few days home sick, Abigail had her first day of preschool level 2 yesterday. She is doing amazingly well, progressing super quickly. Since starting, she's far more patient and helpful when it comes to changing her diaper and getting her dressed. Each and every venture was turning into a shouting fest before, but now she's actually trying to help most days. She's also more interested in being independent. Yesterday she pulled a cup off the counter and went to the fridge. Thinking to myself, "Yeah, right," I opened up the fridge and stepped back to see what she'd do. She pulled out the half gallon of full-fat milk, closed the fridge door, and sat down in the middle of the kitchen to try to twist the lid off. In complete shock, I assisted her with the lid removal and she assisted me with the pouring. I set the cup on the counter and assisted her with the lid replacement. She picked up the half gallon and went to stand at the fridge door. I opened it, she set the milk back where she got it, closed the door, and walked to the counter where I'd set her milk.

[Pause. The natives are getting restless.]

[About 10 mins later. A is reading a book on the couch, E is sitting on my lap, and I'm typing one-handed.]

Anyway, the above scene

[Pause. A just chucked the book across the living room. Battle worth fighting.]

[About 10 mins later. A was clearly throwing the book because she wanted my attention, so we played together for a few minutes. Eleanor got hungry. I pulled out a play tunnel from her closet and am nursing E. The sun is now positioned such that there is a massive glare on the computer, but I'm not getting up to close the blinds. Moving might disrupt this tenuous balance.]

Anyway, the above scene filled my sleep-deprived heart with joy. Before school, it would have looked something like this: A grabs her cup off the counter and runs around the kitchen laughing hysterically, hoping I'll chase her. Eventually we end at the fridge because now she's thirsty and she'll yell, "Mamamamamama!" progressively louder until I come see what the deal is. I'll put Eleanor down and open the fridge to see what she wants, but she'll get distracted by the yogurt c-u-ps, the water bottles, the avocado. Eleanor starts crying, so I impatiently steer A to the milk. She grabs it out, I let her walk across the kitchen with it, then pull it out of her hands, pour the milk on the counter so there is zero risk of her grabbing the full cup and throwing it - which is a very common occurrence around here. I move to put the milk back, Abigail darts in front of me, and as soon as I open the door, her little hands are in there, pulling things off the shelves.

[Loud crash in Abigail's room. As I put a very tired Eleanor down, she promptly starts crying. A's fine, I clean up her mess while E screams hysterically and pray the guy upstairs doesn't come down to complain. I look at the clock. Is it seriously only 9:23?]

[Two hours later. The natives were restless; it was clearly a bad time to blog. I ask Abigail if she wants to go for a walk. "Go!" she shouts and runs in her adorable stiff-legged way to grab my shoes. Once Eleanor realizes what's going on, even she calms down and waits patiently while I get everything ready - a first for her. Stroller, shoes, sweatshirts, blankets, a quick where/when text to Matt and we're off. This hour-long walk will count for my exercise for the day, but I'm okay with that because my arms are still pretty sore from the chaturanga pushups in Jillian Michael's yoga DVD I did the other day. When we get home, I'd love to continue blogging, but I decide the regular morning routine should be our priority. Snacks, laundry, vacuuming, start making bread - three of Abigail's favorite chores - most while holding Eleanor. Abigail wants some independent play, so I leave her in her room and settle down to nurse Eleanor and continue blogging].

So where was I? Milk, independence? See, this is why I hardly blog anymore. When I re-read what I wrote this morning, it just sounds boring; a silly thing to post on the Internet and I don't even know if I'm going to get any pictures up on this post. But I'm determined today.

So Abigail is doing really well in preschool. And right before the first day, she had a vocabulary explosion, so she's coming home from preschool with all kinds of words to verbalize what she's doing: juice, dance, fun, friends on the bus. She added hair, shirt, hands, pants, and socks to her list of things on the body she can identify. 

[Pause. The yeast has proofed, so I finish mixing ingredients and get the bread machine started.]7,yy]

y7u86o;ppo  -[
;j km

[About 45 minutes later. I sat back down at the computer to hear another crash coming from A's room. She's tall enough to reach door handles and has been getting into her closet. This time she emptied an entire container of bubbles all over the floor. In cleaning her up, I decide to just get her ready for preschool. Switch her into a disposable diaper, freshen up her hair, wash her hands. I clean up her room and remember friends of ours who invented a brilliant yet simple tool to prevent kids from getting in the closet. While Eleanor screams bloody murder from the pack n play and Abigail climbs up onto the desk chair and types the randomness you see above, I scrounge the house trying to fashion something. It fails. I pick up Eleanor. This is not a good time to blog either. I prop Eleanor up on the Boppy Pillow with a teething toy and draw "shies" (fishie) pictures on the Mangadoodle with Abigail. Before I know it, it's time to head out to wait for the bus. We saw a few prayers while we wait. She gets very excited when she sees it turn in to our complex. I load her up and away she drives. My little baby bird off to her flying lessons. When she's gone, my heart aches and I forget about all the times my baby bird pecked me and squawked at me and made me want to feed her birdie tranquilizers until I could regain my composer with a hot cup of coffee and a quiet house. Within 60 seconds, Eleanor is asleep on the Boppy pillow around my waist and I get my silent house. But it's bittersweet].

I don't even remember where I was going with my blog post anymore. While Abigail's away and Eleanor's asleep (she'll only sleep when I'm holding her. Abigail was like that for a long time too), I'll work on a project I'm crocheting for a Christmas gift. When she wakes up, I'll make some lunch and try to squeeze in a shower. Matt's having company over tonight, so if I can't get it in during the day, it probably isn't going to happen. I'm not going to interrupt his guy time and ask him to hold Eleanor and I'm going to risk her sobbing in the background while I'm in the bathroom. Anyway, then Abigail will probably get home and we'll have to evaluate her attitude.

My mother-in-law stopped by for an impromptu visit yesterday and figured out what's up with Abigail's rotten attitude lately. She's mad at me. It makes perfect sense and I can't believe I didn't think of it myself. That's why she's been hitting, crying, carrying on. She was so angry with me for days after I was in the hospital with Eleanor and when she gets home, I can't even give her undivided attention. The first day she made it through school without spilling her cup on herself, I took her to McDonald's and bought her a strawberry milkshake to celebrate. She didn't even want it and I thought she was just being bratty, but I realize now that she was mad at me. So when she gets home today, I'm going to tell her how much I missed her and remind her that I love her. Even if she doesn't understand me, it's worth a shot. Then I'll do my best to give her my attention until dinner time.

I'm determined to get dinner made today. It would be a first this week. It's kind of been a difficult week with both girls being sick, so we've been eating leftovers, getting pizza, and poor Matt ended up making himself eggs after he got home late yesterday. We're having what I've been planning to make since Monday: bean and rice burritos with salad. Then tonight I'll do my daily Bible readings, kill off a few more chapters of my book, and fall asleep early. Eleanor's cold has meant she isn't sleeping well at night, and when baby isn't sleeping well, Mommy isn't sleeping well.

I know, I live a truly glamorous life. It takes a lot of patience, love, and grace to make it through each day. But at least once a day I look at my two little birdies and remember why it's important to keep trying.

15 September 2014

Those Gosh Darn Kidneys

My kidneys, I tell ya, they're pretty terrible. Thank the Lord for modern medicine. Last fall I learned that one of the traitors kidneys was harboring a stone 4 times bigger than could safely be passed. The behemoth had blocked important passageways and was causing the kidney to swell. Nothing could be done until I had the baby. Well, I had her. Now I have to care about the dang kidneys again.

This morning's appointment led me to one big discovery: said stone has gotten bigger. A 5mm stone is about as big as a person can safely pass. Mine's now about 25mms now. That's an inch. That's the size of a gumball. My only option is surgery.

It's a procedure that will have me in the hospital overnight, and there is talk of another stent (which I'll be refusing unless it's medically necessary to avoid certain death and destruction). My biggest concern (aside from the damn stent) is the breastfeeding. I'm already pulling up Le Leche League articles to be sure I'm still breastfeeding on the other side of this. My poor husband, it's going to be a rough night for him - a clingy, breastfed baby without a mommy all night long.

Surgery is penciled in for mid-October - the scheduler has to coordinate with the OR before we can write it in pen. It'll be after my birthday and give me enough time to build up a milk stash, but far enough away from the holidays that I should be fully healed before Thanksgiving.

Prayers as we approach surgery date are appreciated! I'd also love advice about breastfeeding through this. I don't mind if Eleanor is supplemented with formula, but my biggest goal is to make sure this doesn't end the breastfeeding.

09 September 2014

Blog Therapy

I desperately need to blog. We have been going non-stop over here since Friday and I really, really should be doing laundry, the dishes, or the daily Bible readings I'm a week behind in, but I really desperately need to blog. I have so many thoughts going crazy in my head and I just need to get them out there in my supportive little community of readers.

Eleanor is - in general - a rather fussy, clingy baby who vastly prefers to be held and you cannot sit still while you are holding her. It's a no-exceptions kind of rule. Between the busyness and the Chubs, I get practically no time on the computer. I honest-to-goodness had to put her down in our room, close the door, and let her scream in order to send a somewhat short email to Abigail's preschool teacher today.

Anyway, I want to talk about preschool. So Abigail loves it. She's excited to go every morning, she's excited to hold her teacher's hand, and she's eager help her classmates off the bus. And I did well myself on the first day, but it turns out that you have to get past more than just the first week. I'm having a hard time with it emotionally. Abigail's time in preschool is a black hole to me. While I know the activities that the teacher schedules, I don't know exactly when each event happens and I don't know how Abigail does during them. If she eats the snack, if she throws a toy, if she has a dirty diaper. I have no idea. It's very hard for me to handle this black hole because she is very vulnerable, both due to her age and her special needs. As much as I trust her teacher, it is very hard for me to not know every detail about her life anymore.

The other day she was making hand motions that were obviously (to me) from a little nursery rhyme. But I had no idea what the song was. When she tried to teach the hand motions to Eleanor, I burst into tears. I just felt so sad that I couldn't understand what my little girl was thinking in her head.

And then there is her change in behavior. It's a two-prong thing. First, Abigail has also decided to formally quit napping. She doesn't quite have the stamina to make it through the day, though, and so everyday around dinner time she has a meltdown.

Secondly, I think she's having a hard time transitioning to being at home after a stimulating morning in school and it's showing in her bratty behavior. When I first pick her up from school, she's usually in a great mood, but as soon as we get home, she turns into a complete brat. She's angry, throwing herself on the floor, hitting people, and throwing things. She also cries a lot over really little things. I've tried everything I can think of to help: structured play, independent play, cuddle time, story time, snack time, chores, but nothing has worked. I even let her watch music videos on Youtube on our tablet by herself in the rocking chair while I folded laundry and that didn't help her attitude. Finally, finally, I broke through the attitude when I got Eleanor stable and propped up on the couch next to us while I held Abigail and watched a few runs on American Ninja Warrior. I feel so lost and frustrated with Abigail's behavior and with the chaos that has become my schedule since Abigail started preschool and quit napping all in the same week.

I emailed her teacher this afternoon to ask for ideas, but the response included a bit of a surprise. She thinks Abigail would do better in her afternoon class - which is like preschool level 2. You see, the special ed preschool's morning class is where kids start - they spend a year or two in that class, then transition to the afternoon class for another year, then move into Kindergarden (either the special ed or the mainstream class). All of Abigail's therapists predicted that Abigail would be the highest functioning individual in the morning class. I guess they were right. She still needs to run it by the school's bureaucracy (she'll be a three-year-old in a four- and five-year-old's classroom), but yeah. That's where we are. After giving it some thought, I think the afternoon class will be much more conducive to our routine at home. Of course, it doesn't help me deal with my turbulent emotions.

Bleh, bleh, bleh. Okay, second topic of the day. The walk for Down syndrome I posted about the other day! It's not too late to donate, by the way!

Well it turned out that two of the three families who were interested in walking with us bailed on me, BUT, one faithful family did show up to offer Abigail their support.

And it was a lot of fun. I was so worried before the event, because I seem to like to stress about things, but it was actually felt like huge weight off my shoulders. I was kind of giddy afterward from the release.

I never realized how much people stare at us in public until I was at an event full of people who all wear the same sociality-damned physical features of a person with Down syndrome. No one stared at us. No one did double takes. No one got up in my face about how special and happy my daughter is.

My favorite moment is when we were standing in line for the face painting. Abigail smoked another little girl on the head (Ms. N. thinks Abigail hits as a way to initiate cooperative play. Yeah.). "Abigail! Be gentle!" I chastised. The other little girl's mom brushed us off, "Don't worry about it, she's just as mean."

It was wonderfully stress-relieving to be in a place where the shit that goes on in my world is the same shit that goes on in everyone else's world. And no one batted an eye.

Okay, well that felt good. I wish I could blog about a hundred other things. Abigail cut out grilled cheese and Cheerios from her diet and is loosing weight! But we got her to eat four chicken nuggets the other day, which is the first time in two years that she's eaten meat. I went wedding dress shopping with my sister-in-law and I loved it. I'm a mere 10 lbs away from my pre-pregnancy weight and Eleanor will be four-months-old tomorrow. I'm not eating another bite of chocolate until I hit that weight, which is a huge motivator for me. The guy upstairs has two little black kittens that look exactly like mini-versions of my black cat and I'm kind of desperately scanning his windows for a peak of his kitties every time I walk outside, which probably makes me a creeper. (But they're so cute!) But I don't even have time to proofread this post, let alone ramble on about all those other topics. So I leave you with these cheeks and those eyelashes. 

Yes, the really did make matching onesies for the Ds walk in Eleanor's size.

02 September 2014

Preschool: Day 1

The first day of school went blissfully well. It didn't go exactly as planned - I was hoping for a quiet Mommy-daughter breakfast, a smoother walk, less humidity, and for Abigail to cling to my leg, or at least look at me, when we parted ways to clearly demonstrate to all the other moms what a great bond we have - but it went really well anyway.

I am completely confident that we're making the right call for Abigail.

I spent days mulling over her first day of school outfit and months hunting for the right backpack. We spent some time acclimating Abigail to her new bag and making sure she was a confident walker even with the extra weight of a folder and some diapers. I tried out new hairstyles on Abigail week to see if we could find something she wouldn't pull out, and made sure to trim her bangs. My friends, I poured all of my nervous energy into making sure each and every detail was perfect.

We arrived at the school at exactly the moment the teacher - the great and talented Ms. N - and her aides were unloading the other students from the bus and were able to walk Abigail back to her classroom. As soon as Abigail saw the open door and the familiar room we visited last week during the open house, she bolted in. "Bye!" I called, a bit desperate. She didn't even hear me. Just like that, she was gone.

One of my favorite parts about the special ed preschool program is how much care is given to the vulnerability of the students. For example, there are specific busses that only pick up the kids in Abigail's class. The day starts and ends at a slightly different time than the rest of the preschool classes, the drop off/pick up location is at a different door than the rest of the students, and the hallways we take to get back to the classroom are not the ones the rest of the students take. In sum, we walked with Abigail to her classroom, but the only other people we passed were a janitor and another teacher. If we didn't know better, we would have guessed that the school was completely empty. Whether your child has sensory issues, stimulation issues, is a runner, or has medical equipment, there is almost no risk posed by a rush of kids and teachers and loud, obnoxious bells.

When I picked up Abigail, she bolted from her teacher and ran straight into my arms. Ms. N told me three things about the first day: Abigail was a big helper, she looked out for the other students, and she loves her baby sister.

When we got home, Abigail was in a great mood. She repeatedly hugged me, she refused to leave Eleanor's side, she was calm, peaceful, focused. It was pretty incredible. But never fear, she woke up from her afternoon nap her old self. I guess Rome wasn't built in a day.

I would be lying if I said I didn't immensely enjoy the silence that reigned over the apartment when I was down to just one little baby. At first I was worried that if I enjoyed my time alone, it would be tantamount to saying I didn't love Abigail. But of course I can love my child and enjoy time away from her. I enjoyed the morning as much as any mother would if someone swooped down and ferried away her toddler for a few hours. I worked out, took a shower, did the dishes, started the laundry, fed and cuddled with Eleanor. It was pretty amazing.

This preschool stuff is really good for her. Her therapists kept telling me time and time again how much she would thrive in that environment and with the great and talented Ms. N. It took me a long time to come to that same conclusion. Lots of prayer, thought, and discussion. And finally I realized that she would thrive too, but I felt like I was admitting failure and defeat as a parent. A vast majority of our family and friends homeschool and we had thought we'd give homeschool and chance as well, but here I was, sending her away at age three. But for lots of reasons that I never shut up about, we chose to give this school a chance. First impression? It was a good choice.

01 September 2014

Family Cold

This weekend is not only a long, holiday weekend, it's also the last weekend before my first born goes away to school for the first time ever. I had grandiose plans, my friends, but hikes, parks, splash pads, and ice cream were replaced with tissues, Tylenol and Frozen when Abigail woke up on Thursday with a runny nose. And then I went to bed that night with a sore throat. And then Eleanor started sneezing on Friday. By the time Matt joined the party on Saturday morning, I finally gave up my last thread of hope. A family-wide cold on our last holiday weekend before our first-ever year of school. At least "strong to severe" storms are expected today. I like stormy days when everyone is snug at home. And who knows, maybe it'll knock out power and extend our holiday weekend by a day.