30 December 2015

Theodore's First Cold. And first ER visit.

Theodore is crazy sick, guys.

It started on the 19th with what I think was the croup. Then it morphed into something else. Something involving coughing/choking fits bad enough to leave his lips, eyelids, and fingers blue; and projectile vomiting several times a day, and about two times per day, it's bad enough to completely soak his sleeper and require a bath.

I wish having seen an infant through open-heart surgery, I was a pro at this sick kid stuff. But I'm not. So at 4:00 in the morning on December 26th, after a particularly bad night, I called the pediatrician, who, after hearing his cough over the phone, recommended the ER. He tested negatively for the flu, RSV, and whooping cough. The doctors thought he probably just has a viral cold, but his blood oxygenation level was some cause for concern. The nurse was sure we'd be admitted. The resident was sure we'd be sent home. After much discussion, the pediatric team sent us home. Apparently RSV is really bad this year and the risk of him catching it from someone in the hospital was greater than the risks of sending him home. So home we went, with a nose suctioning kit.

After a few more days, Theodore wasn't doing any better, so we scheduled an appointment with his pediatrician for tomorrow morning. But last night was pretty bad and this morning was just awful, so I placed a somewhat panicked call to the pediatrician's office again. The triage nurse thinks he's stable enough to wait until tomorrow's appointment.

I'm still panicking. My mommy instincts are sounding sirens and waving bright red flags around. Everyone keeps saying that since he's still producing enough wet diapers to prove a lack of hydration, has no fever, and is breathing fine in between coughing spells that he's okay for right now. He is weirdly normal in between fits. He'll nap in perfect silence for two to three hours spells.

Ugh. I can't wait until tomorrow's appointment. I just thought the poor baby had a rough first cold, but this has been going on for too long now. I have really grown to love my pediatrician and I am confident that she will not send us home without answers tomorrow. Please pray for my baby, guys.

27 December 2015

Cotton Muslin Swaddling Blanket Comparison

We are still blissfully enjoying Christmas over here. I'm not ready for reflection; the idea of sorting through memories and recording experiences seems too premature right now. Like it would end Christmas vacation before I'm ready for closure. But I really wanted to blog, so today I bring you a silly little post in which I compare three different brands of 100% muslin swaddling blankets.

All three brands are 100% cotton muslin, can go in the washer and dryer, are large in size, and promise to be very breatheable.

First up, we have Falls Creek Baby; purchased at Meijer, my local superstore. They come in packs of 2 for $12.99 (or $6.50 each) and are 40in x 40in.

Next up we have CuddleBug, which I purchased on Amazon for $33 for a 4 pack of 47in x 47in blankets. (Making them $8.25 each.)

Lastly, we have the heavy hitter. I was dying to try Aden + Anais, the king of the cotton muslin swaddling blanket market. They are wildly popular and many people claim they are worth the price, but I just couldn't stomach $50 for 4 blankets ($12.50 each.) I found a few discontinued styles on Amazon sold in singles for $16. Even though the per blanket price is higher, the overall price was lower, so Theodore found himself with one Aden + Anais for Christmas. These guys are 47in x 47in as well.

All seven blankets made up of three brands have been washed and used for swaddling, cleaning up spit up, and as nursing covers. I used the Falls Creek brand with Eleanor and Theodore, but the other two are new since Theodore. My conclusion? They are all pretty much the same.

The Falls Creek brand is the smallest and lightest weight, but only just barely. As I mentioned earlier, I used this brand with Eleanor and the blankets (both color and softness) held up well over time. Despite claiming to be the same size, Aden + Anais is bigger than CuddleBug, but not by much.

Falls Creek on top, then Cuddlebug, then Aden + Anais on the bottom.

Falls Creek offers the fewest designs, plus the two Meijer stores nearest me have been out of the boy blankets for two months now! (The yellow and gray ones we have are the gender neutral option.) Cuddlebug and Aden + Anais have lots of designs, although the colors and prints each company offers are remarkably similar to one another.

The Aden + Anais brand was slightly softer initially, but after a few uses and washes, they are all now equally soft. In order to test the blankets to be sure I wasn't biased, I sat on the floor blindfolded and felt each blanket one-by-one. I then repeated the experiment a second time. The blankets all felt almost identical, although when forced to make a decision, the same brand won both blind feels: Cuddlebug.

My ultimate conclusion is that all the blankets are - for all intents and purposes - identical.

I have discovered throughout my testing, though, that muslin swaddlers kick the pants off receiving blankets and having seven - one for each day of the week - is perfect. They are big enough to swaddle larger babies and use as nursing covers and much lighter in weight, which is good when swaddling a fleece-wearing baby. Which is perfect, because some winter babies only sleep when swaddled.

21 December 2015

The Stuff They Mean When They Say, "Enjoy This Time!"

I wish my memory could record all these moments like a video camera. The cozy, dimly light room as Matt gets up to take a shower. Theodore's hungry little grunts. Pulling him from his rock n' sleeper into the soft, warm, comfy bed and snuggling up, nose to breast, his little legs, perfectly shaped, laying so cutely lethargic as he nurses himself into oblivion.

How, as soon as I get up, he makes a face and stretches before he falls back to sleep on the warm sheets that smell like mommy and daddy. Cat meows a greeting and follows me around the room, delight to be an only cat for a few minutes while the girls are still tucked away in their beds.

Quiet mornings mean I get to start the day with a nice warm shower, and when I'm finished, I follow the smell of brewing coffee down the snowflake-covered, Christmas light-lit hallway. The world feels safe and cozy.

But memories, in league with time, will fail us as we get older. One day everyone will have their own families and I will be by myself. I record these memories on paper. With photos, with words. They give me the ability to record my life and review it over and over again. The book I'll take with me to the nursing home when I am too old to depend on my body. It will tell stories of blinky-eyed toddlers with excited shouts of, "Mommy!" Messy hair styles and cute pajama-ed feet.

Of a sweet, little preschool voice reaching into the hallway from the Forbidden Bathroom. "No touching, boys!" I hear. But instead of trouble, she's merely lining up her diapers. "Abigail, 4," she says confidently.

But maybe it's better to record my life in this way. Video cameras catch everything, but with words and photos we can easily erase the bad moments. Only record the good ones - the ones worth remembering. Like her serious face when she drinks milk from an open cup - her eyebrows scrunched, her eyes determined, her two tiny hands firmly gripping, her pinky finger sticking out - just like daddy.

Or the days when everyone wakes up on the good side of the bed. When there is both bagels in the cupboard and cream cheese in the fridge. The morning jokes, the going-to-work kisses.

The way she tries to mother her little brother and sister when I clean up the kitchen and do the dishes. Giving gentle pats to the swing, adjusting the music so only the best songs play.

How she's always, always, always willing to hug her sister and hold her hand.

And how ridiculously adorable she looks in the fitted shirt and the ripped jeans. Her tiny body, her blonde hair. She looks good in everything.

And how Eleanor does everything Abigail does. Says what she says, goes where she goes, plays with what she plays with.

This way, I will only reminisce about the good mornings. When the sun rose, and we opened the curtains and the girls ran off into their room together, giggling cutely and taking turns nicely.

I'll remember what a good sleeper Theodore is. How he loves his rock n' sleeper and he would take a nap in it in the morning while the girls played nicely together. I'll remember how I would sit in the small living room of my tiny apartment. I'll probably be ready to romanticize it when I'm 80 - recalling how simple my life while I snuck in a few minutes of reading.

I get to read three pages before it's snack time. Then a half a page of my book and two renditions of Sparkling Princess ABCs and one of Curious George in the Big City, Curious George Goes Camping, and The Biggest Snowman Ever.

Before Theodore wakes up - he's a really good sleeper - we had a special lunch. A lunch with juice boxes leftover from Theodore's Baptism and Doritos. Two items mommy almost never buys. And we'll eat them with special "birthdays" (ie candles) on the doily I handmade. As I made it, I wondered if one of my kids would want it when they had their own house. If they'd tell my grandkids their grandmother made it after I die. If it will one day become a family heirloom. My legacy of crochet.

I want to remember how Theodore started fussing in his swing, that distinct newborn cry that makes clear his vulnerability - and makes my milk letdown - and Abigail turned on the music setting. And when I turned around, she was dancing. For Theodore.

"Eggcorn! Dance. Baby." She commanded Eleanor, who responded with a firm, "No." But Abigail leaves no baby to cry, so she kept dancing until Mommy arrived.

And for all the times they broke ornaments. And threw wooden cookies at my tree. And shoved each other. There were times they found the Jesus ornaments. And tried to pronounce angel. And peaked at me cutely between the branches while asking me to identify a zebra.

And beneath the gentle lighting of the Christmas tree, we played "Hippos." Theodore enjoyed tummy time, Cat purred on my lap, Eleanor lifted up the hippo's mouth and shoved the balls in manually. The rain fell softly outside, the furnace filled the room with a delicious warmth, and everyone felt safe and loved.

These are the times worth remembering. How Abigail always wants to hold Theodore and always wants me to take a picture when she does.

How Eleanor wants to take a turn because Abigail had a turn.

His karate chop kicky feet that Abigail declared, "Oh, cute!"

And the Mommy-Chica afternoons when Cat and Theodore and Eleanor all go down for naps at the same time and it's just me and my firstborn.

These afternoons are really special to her. She gets to play on the tablet while Mommy checks email, then we watch a show together, this time it was Shark Tank, while I crochet and she plays with her cookies. She wants to snack on whatever I'm snacking on, she takes a sip of her water whenever I take a sip of my water, and she periodically states, "Abigail," while pointing herself, then "Mommy," and points to me and smiles. She hits the pause button when I get up to refill our waters. The house is quiet and everything is good.

It's the time between the nap and dinner that my day is usually the most stressful; the Witching Hour. But when strangers at the grocery store say, "Enjoy this time!" They don't mean the stuff that gives the Witching Hour its name, they mean the stuff in between the toddler meltdowns. Like when they take turns nicely spinning each other on the chair.

And when they stop arguing about who gets which cart and just start racing up and down the hall together. "Eggcorn, 'mon!" The high pitched shrieks as Eleanor struggles to catch up with her sister, "Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

The moment before they shove each other, when they are adorably in cahoots in the corner of the room, their tiny heads bowed, their messy ponytails high in the air.

Tucked deep into the Witching Hour are the good moments. The moments that are easy to enjoy and important to remember. The smells, the soft skin, his milky exhales against my cheek. The baby snuggles amidst the girly giggles while the rain falls gently outside.

As the sun sets and the night sinks in, the blankets and stuffed animals come out. The Roar (Eleanor named him) that Eleanor insisted wear bracelets.

The dinner I made that tasted amazing.

The cookies we surprised Daddy with when he got home from work.

One-by-one the kids sink into sleep and are tucked away in their beds. Mommy and Daddy scoop up the precious remaining evening hours and cuddle together on the couch to read a few good books, enjoying the gentle patter of rain, a soft, thick blanket, and the comforting safety of a wonderful life.