Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Beginning of the End

There are a lot of things changing around here lately. I'm working, our schedule has done lots of shifting, and Michael is increasingly mobile and increasingly irritable. I have been noticing a big change in Michael's personality these days - he seems much more frustrated than usual.

I think this is normal and it really does make developmental sense. If babies never got frustrated with being plonked down in one place on the floor, they'd never learn to move. So there is the movement that is looking more and more like actual crawling, and then there is the climbing. Michael is able to use just about any surface or object to pull himself up to his knees. There are two problems with this 1) he is not a reliable judge of object stability and 2) his record of returning to the floor without face-planting is not in his favor.


Our wonderful physical therapist has told me over and over that preemies are often lacking in upper arm strength. It does seem that the thought of using his arms to, I don't know, catch himself has not yet occurred to the boy. And he has the forehead bruises to prove it.


As a result of this new found ability to raise himself high enough from the ground to get hurt, I can no longer leave him alone for even a few moments. We all know it is not possible to spend your entire day within arm's reach of your child - which is why God invented pack-n-plays and other containment devices.

While I am greatly appreciative of the pack-n-play, Michael is not.


How about some video evidence?

video

That's right, my sweet little boy has learned how to throw a tantrum. He's a champ already, proving he can scream louder and longer than even the drama queen of the house.

I try to relegate him to the pack-n-play sparingly, but it is sometimes necessary. The other day I tried to let him play on the kitchen floor while I made dinner. He cried because I wouldn't pick him up, tried to climb up my legs, and bit me on the back of the leg - twice!

Over time I am sure he'll either get used to the pack-n-play or he'll learn to play at my feet without trying to eat them.

In case you're keeping track, other things which are tantrum inducing include:

  • putting the Cheerios away
  • putting him in his crib
  • an empty bowl of food
  • attempting to wipe his face
  • placing a sippy cup anywhere within a 12 inch radius of his head

Wee! Isn't motherhood fun?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Success!

Once more, thank you thank you thank you to everyone who supported us in the March for Babies walk. AND thank you to all of you who've donated to March of Dimes, even if you didn't donate for me specifically - because it all goes to the same good cause and I'm grateful for all the bloggers out there who are raising their voices and walking.

I would love to tell you that Saturday was this wonderful, magical event and that I spent the entire walk thinking about how lucky I was with my beautiful healthy children and that I also thought quietly about the families who have faced struggles and losses I can't even being to fathom.

Well there was some of that.

It was a glorious day, complete with warm sunshine and questionable mascots.




Harper was fine before the walk, but wasn't such a fan of the actual three-mile stroll. She had a birthday party to go to later in the afternoon and kept turning around in the stroller, asking when we could go home.

The combination of the volume of people and the narrow sidewalks meant we moved at a snail's pace for at least the first half of the walk. The entire route ended up taking us about two hours to shuffle along. Which might explain some of Harper's boredom in the stroller. She did walk a couple of small portions, but I think the whole walking thing was soured for her when she tripped and fell within the first ten minutes.


It was a fairly windy day, which means every other thing someone said as we walked was, "What?! I can't hear you!"

Auntie M and Matt were able to walk with the children and I, though I would like it noted that I was the only one who pushed the stroller with 60 pounds of children inside.

I will definitely walk again next year, if at all possible, but may stick to the shorter "Family Fun Walk" if the children come along again. It wasn't exactly the family bonding experience I'd imagined.

Despite the day feeling a little less magical than I'd hoped, I did feel grateful for my healthy children and I was mindful of families traveling a more difficult road than ours.

AND we raised about $1,200 for March of Dimes, which is the very best news of all.


Here are the kiddos, back at home, with the "magic wand" (Harper's term) that had our team name on it - the stars had lined the sidewalk leading up to the start.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Big Day

I know a three-mile walk isn't exactly the Ironman or anything, but I'm feeling excited about the March for Babies tomorrow morning.

Matt and Auntie M will be walking with the kiddos and I - the weather looks like it will be perfect, now I'm adding a meltdown-free stroll to my wish list for tomorrow morning!

I will wait until late tonight to print out my sponsor form, so it isn't too late to give a dollar or two to support the good work of the March of Dimes organization.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Touched

It was only about twelve days ago that I decided, at what felt like the last minute, to participate in this year's March for Babies. Matt and I reached out, through this blog, through Facebook, through email, to our friends and family, asking for support. I nervously set $200 as my personal goal on our March for Babies team website and it was surpassed in the first 48 hours. So I decided to up my goal a little, afraid to seem too bold or ask for too much, and I held my breathe as I typed in $5oo.

And here we are, four days before the walk, just a hair shy of $1,000!



I am beyond grateful for the amazing and generous support of the communities we've reached out to. And now I'm fairly confident, with four days left, that our total will exceed the $1,000. Which, whoa, I just don't even know what to say about that. Thank you.

And it looks like the weather will be gorgeous here on Saturday - so thank you to everyone who is sending us good weather vibes - it's working! I tried to explain to Harper what we were going to be doing and how we were raising money to help babies like Michael and families like ours. She listened attentively, waited for me to finish, looked up, and said, "I just don't understand what you're talking about." Then she skipped away and came out of her room later with bathing suit bottoms on her head.


Thank you for all the wonderful ways you support our goofy family.

Mmmmm-wah!
(That's us, blowing you a kiss.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Back to the Arboretum

Most years, in the spring, I've taken a trip to the arboretum specifically to get pictures of the early flowers. Last year that portion of the arboretum was being "improved" and we did not get our usual tulip pictures. When today came up gorgeous I knew we'd better go!

For the record Harper had a blast, Michael was not necessarily impressed.


I often have trouble refraining from adding a ridiculous number of photos to my posts, but the outdoor excursion ones are the worst - kids look so nice in natural light!

Matt was coaching today, but his dad, Dziatku, joined us at the arboretum. This explains the presence of the Tigers cap in the above photo! Did you know Matt was born in Detroit?


I spoke briefly with my own dad today, who was quick to point out that I hadn't updated the blog in over a week! I was quick to point out that it has actually only been six days. The subbing job is going well, but getting out of the house so early every morning is kicking my butt. I am managing to go to be early (for me, anyway) some nights, but not all nights. I'm working on it. I have a feeling this blog may continue to be a little neglected for the next several weeks, as well as my email, and commenting on/reading other blogs. How do you full-time working people find time for this stuff without staying up all night?!


Things are going a lot better with Michael at the babysitter's -whew! After the Easter weekend ER trip I suspect at least some of his distress was that he really wasn't feeling well. The ER doc told us that the croupy cough gets really bad about three days into being sick. Which would mean he was already sick when we started leaving him with Miss R.

The last two days of this work week I went to pick him up and he was sitting out in the front yard happily playing with Miss R and her son. Michael's been a little clingier than usual this past week, but I am much less worried that we are traumatizing him with the whole babysitter set-up.


I'm excited to get out more with the kids this year. Harper is old enough that I don't have panic about being close to a bathroom at all times. And she is old enough that I (mostly) trust her not to run away from me. Michael is young enough to still be in diapers and be (mostly) contained in the stroller. I think this summer and next summer will be good ones for outings. I find age three, Michael in two years, a very difficult age for outings because children are still relatively clueless about big dangers (busy streets, falling from high places, etc.), are willing to run far away from you and NOT willing to be trapped in a stroller, and are likely to need to be whisked away to the bathroom with thirty seconds notice.


With the exception of last year, when I was worried we'd never leave the house again, I always thrill with the possibility of outdoor adventures this time of year. Then again, I got sunburned today (I remembered to protect the kids at least!) and as soon as the temperature gets close to eighty degrees it will feel HOT and I will be less excited about being out of the air conditioning... I'm a weather wuss for sure.


You may have noticed this before now, but I think cohesiveness is a highly overrated quality in blog posts.


Especially when they end with money shots of the children!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Year Ago

In all the hustle and bustle of beginning my sub job and getting ready to head out of town this weekend, a very important day went by without mention. One year ago, on April 8, we brought Michael home from the hospital, 30 days after his birth. Our sweet boy spent the first 30 days of his life in the NICU, instead of home with us, and it was a very long 30 days.

Michael was in the NICU to give him time to grow and to learn the skills babies need to survive. How to coordinate sucking, swallowing, and breathing in order to eat and maintaining their own body temperatures are two things preemies are generally not born able to do. Michael's difficulties as a preemie were mild compared to many, but it was still one of the most difficult times of my life and of our life as a family.

Throughout our experience with a pregnancy that became difficult and Michael's early birth, we were mindful of those who'd come before us to inspire research and discover ways to help babies be born healthy or rise to meet the challenges they face as a result of being born too soon. We are especially grateful for the work of March of Dimes on behalf of babies like Michael.

Last year I was too shell-shocked to participate in our local March for Babies walk, but it has been in the back of my mind that our family needed to get involved. Some difficult events in the past week or two have helped me decide to take action. This year I am walking. I am walking for Michael. I am walking for other babies like Michael. I am walking for families whose stories don't have happy endings. And I am walking for all the babies and families March of Dimes has yet to help.

You may be reading here today because someone directed you to us as Michael's story was unfolding. You may be here because you are a long time friend or part of our family. You may have landed here by accident, but feel you know us a bit because you kept reading. However you came to be here, I invite you to support our family and families like ours. You can send wishes for good weather so I can share the March for Babies walk with my children (I'm not taking them in the rain!). You can offer a positive thought that I meet my fund raising goal. You can make a small donation to March of Dimes by sponsoring me - just click the link on the right.

Oh, and for those of you who read about our most recent ER adventure, Michael is feeling much better. I suspect he'll be very happy to be back home tomorrow. As I type he is thrashing around in his pack-n-play, apparently attempting to stay up all night. We left Wisconsin and are spending the night in an Indiana hotel room - an effort to shorten tomorrow's drive!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Over the River and Through the Woods

To Grandmother's ER we go!

What a 24 hours we've had. After very little sleep Thursday night (up late packing, fretting about that I'd forgotten to pack - pull ups and deodorant, it turns out) and an early work day Friday, we headed for Wisconsin around 1:15 Friday afternoon.

The trip ended up taking us about eight hours - during which Michael slept a total of about 45 minutes. At least he was pleasant in the car, babbling, playing with toys, and watching the cars and trucks pass on the freeway.

We got to my parents' house and took our time getting the kids in bed, knowing their schedules were pretty much out the window for the weekend. Michael screamed and screamed and screamed before finally falling asleep around 11 p.m. (midnight, Ohio time!). And then he woke up shortly before 2 a.m. fussing and coughing that awful barking cough. It took me a few minutes to get my head around the fact that he was really having some trouble breathing. We tried using his inhaler (the one we got the last time we were here) and it gave him no relief at all. Clearly we were going to have to take him to the hospital at some point today and we finally decided that we may as well just go in the middle of the night, rather than fretting for hours first.

The people at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin were wonderful and it was a little easier this time because we were already in their computer system. The doctors diagnosed croup pretty quickly. They determined he sounded bad enough that he needed a hefty dose of steroids, as well as a breathing treatment. Unfortunately the breathing treatment meant he had to be monitored for a couple of hours. The meds they were using sent his heart rate pretty high, which was expected. Between that and the alburterol we'd given him at home he was WILD. He screamed his (large) head off during the breathing treatment, Matt and I both had to get involved to keep him from tearing the mask from his face. Then I tried to lay down with him on my chest so we could get a little rest - he slept about another 45 minutes. (For those keeping track, between waking up at 6:30 Friday morning and going down for a nap at 10 a.m. this morning, Michael had slept for a total of about five hours - this from a kid who normally sleeps closer to 14 hours in a 24 hour period.) We were finally sent back home little after six-thirty this morning.

As we left the ER one of the nurses working at the desk joked that they'd go ahead and make a reservation for us for our return to Wisconsin in June.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Details

So we survived the first day of work.

I'm not sure we'll ever get used to the morning rush, but it was awfully nice to be settled in at home by noon-ish.

Unfortunately Michael cried nearly the entire time he was at the babysitter's this morning. (Pardon me while I remove the knife from my heart.)

I realize I didn't really address our childcare situation when I posted yesterday. Here's what is happening:

I'm subbing at the elementary school where Harper is in preschool Monday-Thursday we have it worked out so she can come to school with me and leave with me. On Fridays one or both of Matt's parents will watch her.

Michael is going to a babysitter's - a wonderful woman who lives in the neighborhood just a couple of blocks from the school.

We felt it was unreasonable to ask Matt's parents to watch Michael full time and decided it would be easier on him if things were consistent. So he is it the sitter's five mornings a week and Harper will get some special time with Matt's parents on Fridays - which is great for her, as adult attention all to herself has been in short supply.

We have left Michael before, with Matt's parents, and with the high school girl who helped us when I tutored this summer, but it's always been at our house. I think being left with a stranger in a strange place was just a little much for him this morning. I don't expect a 100% turn-around tomorrow, but I think he'll be a much happier camper by the end of next week.

I don't know what this says about me as a mother, but when I am teaching I find it pretty difficult to think about anything other than the task at hand, so I didn't spend my whole morning fretting about Michael. Although, knowing how today went, I'll probably worry a little more tomorrow.

We're headed up to Wisconsin to celebrate Easter with my side of the family. We'll leave tomorrow afternoon and return Monday (yes, they needed to find a sub for the sub!). In case I don't get to the computer while we're up there - I hope you all have wonderful weekends!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho

It's off to work I go!

So tomorrow morning I'm going to get up early (EARLY!), get the kids ready, and go to work.

And then I'm going to do it again the next day.

And again.

And again.

Every weekday for about the next eight weeks.

Huh?

It is a bit of a long story, how this all came to be, and I'm not going into it tonight because I should probably be sleeping already. . .

I have taken a long term substitute teaching job that will begin tomorrow and last until the end of the school year. However, it isn't quite as dramatic as it sounds because. . .

I'll only be working half days!

I've known about this for maybe a month now? And every time I start to freak out about what a huge, despite being temporary, change this will be for us, I take a step back and remind myself that the kids and I will be home by noon every day.

I have been reluctant to write about the situation because I was a little fearful of offending someone by bringing up the whole stay-at-home vs. work outside the home debate. Right now I have many thoughts about the stay-at-home or not situation and what it means for our family specifically. Part of the reason I took this job was to get a little taste of what my returning to work might be like for us.

I am subbing for the maternity leave of an elementary intervention specialist, working with small groups of fourth graders on reading, writing, and math. I'll be working right up to the end of the school year. Kind of wild to think that summer vacation is only about eight weeks away!

Wish me luck.

Please.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Milestones

The first:

Michael's first birthday was a smashing success. You should be able to click on the collage to see larger images. We had a smallish, calmish party that was laid back and wonderful. It happened to involve only a handful of close family and friends, all people I am comfortable enough with not to have worried terribly about a sparkling house or fancy food.

Michael received a bounty of gifts, including summer clothes, some new toys and books, and some change for his college fund. (No pressure kid.) He also enjoyed his first dessert, an angel food cupcake. The frosting didn't take to the cupcake very well, sliding off onto his chin in one sugary motion. Michael did not mind.

I have a small bit of mommy guilt because his cake didn't look like anything - Harper's first was a dog. Here's my reasoning. . . he really hadn't shown a particular interest in any animal or object just yet. I did frost the cake yellow because "You are My Sunshine" seems to be his favorite song when I'm singing to him. It wasn't totally devoid of meaning!


The second:

Harper has shown and increasing interest in letters/words throughout this school year and has started doing some reading. She's had lots of practice "sounding out" words. Her interest in reading has tumbled over into an interest in writing her own words. We talk about stretching the words out and listening to the sounds they make. She's had lots of "spelling" practice playing with the fridge phonics while I make lunch or dinner.

So she was playing with some happy meal toys at the kitchen table a couple of weeks ago and acting out some drama with good guys and bad guys who were fighting. (Oh - it's the recipe for a campfire skit!) She wanted the good guys to remember to kill the bad guys and asked if she could write some "'structions" on a napkin.

(Sidebar: I was a little freaked out to hear her talking so enthusiastically about things killing! each other. That's silly though, right? It was just play and she's not overly violent as a rule. . . )

I tried and tried to scan the resulting instructions so you could see them, but the crayon on napkin writing was just not dark enough. So I will transcribe for you, the only help I gave her was when she asked me whether kill began with c or k. She wrote:

"kil the sptr and geng"

Harper's first sentence! It was supposed to say, "Kill the spider and Green Gobbler." It probably doesn't seem like she came that close, but if you look at her writing and think about the words she intended she actually hit many of the important sounds.

My favorite part of teaching first grade was helping kids grow as readers and writers. To witness and support my own child going through this process is just blowing my mind!

Way to go kid.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Proud

Yesterday Harper was scheduled to return to the dentist. You may remember that the last time we went a) Michael screamed his head off for the entire visit and b) Harper had herself a little pukefest in the backseat on the way home.

Our local school system is on spring break this week, which means Auntie M was on hand to keep track of Michael while Harper and I took care of the dentist appointment. Harper was good as gold, just like last time, until we got to the fluoride part. This would be an instance when her incredible imagination is not such a blessing. We brought the "throw-up bowl" for the car ride, just in case we had a repeat situation on the way home. Once the cleaning was over I asked the hygienist about whether a fluoride treatment could be done once a year, instead of every six months. Rookie mistake!

Once Harper thought the treatment was optional her eyes welled up with tears and she started to say, "I want to go home now Mommy. Can we please go home? I want to be finished." Poor thing.

The hygienist we had this visit was the same as Harper's first visit, when she hadn't had fluoride. She was shocked when she learned they had used the tray to administer fluoride last time. She told me she could brush it on instead, she could control the amount that went in Harper's mouth, and that Harper could use the suction whenever she felt like she needed to swallow.

Harper was still panicking a bit, so I sat down on the chair in front of her and offered to sing her "Little Bunny Foo Foo" (I learned a version at summer camp that totally cracks her up, but I LOATHE singing it over and over and over.) too take her mind off of what was happening. She finally agreed. Other than claiming she needed to swallow about every half a second, Harper got through the treatment just fine and picked a paddle ball toy out of the treasure chest.

So we got home without incident and Harper was showing off her paddle ball to Auntie M when Auntie M broke it. Accidentally of course, it was cheaper than cheap, but she felt awful. And Harper could tell she felt awful. And even after having been through the fluoride trauma and being so excited about her cheapo toy, she looked at Auntie M and said, "That's okay. I have lots of other fun toys to play with." That's what's made me a proud mama this week.

Harper has plenty of moments when I silently pray I'm not raising some sort of psychopath, but every once in a while she really comes through. As she grows I think that's the part that will stick.



Photo of Harper after she got into her top dresser drawer and put on a headband and a too small swimming suit with too small tights on top of it! I guess I need to clean out her drawers again.