Sunday, October 25, 2015

Seven Months

Seven months is fabulous.

She's the happiest baby on the block. Loves me, loves her sister, loves her nanny... Stranger anxiety has only happened a couple of times, when I've handed her to a stranger and left the room without warning. Today, I propped her in her boppy while I worked out. After my workout, I left her there to continue to play while I showered with her sister. It had been at least 45 minutes at that point. I anxiously stuck my head out of the bathroom as soon as we were done showering... to hear her cackling away to herself in the other room.

My silly girl, laughing at nothing in particular.

I am so blessed. And so is she. What a gift to be so content with life!

Her development is moving along nicely. Amelie learned to shake her head "no" on the day before turning seven months, and learned to wave "bye bye" the following day.

Her biggest interest right now is clapping. Can't get enough of it. But she can't actually clap herself -- those chubby little mitts won't stay open. But she loves holding my hands and clapping them together. At the first words of B-I-N-G-O she breaks into a huge grin.

Her newest accomplishment, as of just a couple days ago, is clapping plastic cups together. As you can see, she's exceedingly proud of herself.

She's not close to crawling but can pivot nicely on her belly and manages to move herself off a blanket rather quickly. I often find her in the crib a full 180 degrees turned from where she started out. Luckily she's just started to purposefully cuddle in the last couple of days, to make up for all this moving away.

First intentional cuddle

She's rolled once or twice from back to front but never does it anymore.

She's embraced solid foods wholeheartedly but still loves bottles and nursing.

She's going to the pediatrician on Monday for a growth check. Hoping she's stretched out nicely or else we are going to the endocrinologist to get things checked out. But there's no doubt she's blossoming...

As for me, it's been a rough couple of weeks. I came down with my first case of bronchitis. What an experience! The strangest part has been lying down at night and having my lungs start up a rattly, ratchety conversation, seemingly completely independently of me. It wasn't really wheezing. I had two days of fever, then was better for a day (I stayed home), then the next day I rode the subway with Calliope and thought I might just give up on breathing. I could. not. stop. coughing. even with an inhaler. I dropped her off at school, completed a half hearted pumping session (I didn't feel well enough to eat but hated to lose my milk supply) and walked slowly to urgent care. One chest x-ray, one nebulizer treatment, one prednisone and a handful of prescriptions later, I felt a little better. But it's been a slow recovery. Two steps forward, one step back. I did my first T25 workout yesterday, and felt good but took it easy. Today I was exhausted from that work out but pushed slowly through another. It's going to take a little while to get back to where I was.

Calliope is doing great. She continues to focus on writing letters, and on drawing face after face after face. We went to a class birthday party today, our first, and were both overwhelmed. It was quite posh and one mother, in particular, is just unfriendly. It's so weird to feel a person's eyes wash right over you. Our kids' birthday celebrations were mistakenly scheduled for the same day in September and I wonder if she resents me for some reason because of it? Lame. But slightly uncomfortable. Pre-kids, this would have bothered me so much more. The host mother, anyway, is gorgeous with this sexy Australian accent but went way out of her way to make sure Calliope and I (and Amelie) were comfortable -- she even took us up to her apartment (with jaw dropping views) so I could nurse the baby in private. But it made me aware of my economic differences from some folks in this community. Time will tell how that plays out.

Oh sorry, that was supposed to be about Calliope! Anyway, it was funny to see her so quiet and standoffish with these kids that she goes to school with every day. But I was kind of reserved too, so I didn't mind her being with me. While our little extrovert, Amelie, lurched and grinned at everyone from my lap. Silly baby!

Wednesday I took a vacation day so that I could travel with Calliope's pre-K class to "Forest School." Based on the example of a school in Vermont, the pre-K classes are spending every Wednesday in Prospect Park at the "natural playspace." There was lots of climbing, seed pod collecting and smashing, getting wet and dirty, and then a picnic lunch, Calliope's favorite. A little boy fell and cut his forehead pretty badly right in front of me, so I even got to be useful, pressing my cardigan against his gash until first aid supplies could be found, then keeping an eye on him until his parents arrived. He only got one stitch -- I sure hope he doesn't have an ugly scar, as it looked to me like he needed more, poor fellow. Unfortunately, I started to feel pretty sick after a couple of hours there -- I think I really needed another day in bed to let my lungs heal -- but it was a gorgeous day and I'm glad I got to see what Forest School was all about.

Dining al fresco with her best school chum, Maya

Getting to ride the school bus was a peak experience for these city girls

PreK lunch in the park

Friday, October 16, 2015

"Where Did They End Up For Haircuts?"

Calliope and I were headed home from school, silently lost in our own thoughts when suddenly from the backseat a smalll voice pipes up,

"Where did they end up for haircuts?"


Patiently, "Where did they end up for haircuts?"

"Who is 'they'?"

Frustrated now, "Where did they end up for haircuts?"

"Calliope, I hear you asking 'where did they end up for haircuts' but I don't know who you are asking about. Can you tell me what you were thinking about?"


I can't help it. I giggle. I say, "I'm sorry, I don't understand. Can you help me understand what you are asking?"

I hold my breath.

She giggles. For a moment. Then dissolves into sobs.

I turn my head away from her and try to choke down my laughter. It's so hard to not laugh at kids.

But I remember as a young adult, my relationship with my parents suddenly changed. It went from me depending on them for things -- and feeling like they actually liked to threaten to withhold these things from me -- to them suddenly wanting to spend time with me. The power had shifted.

And I was a little disgusted. They had [often] treated me without regard for my feelings, and suddenly they wanted me to regard theirs? To neglect my social calendar to hang out with these, frankly, jerks? No thanks. Not often, anyway.

I had a little more sympathy as we all grew older, but I certainly never felt like I wanted them to be my friends. I felt like that should have started long before, back when they had the power.

And so I think of this often with my own kids. That if I want to be friends with them when they are adults -- and I do want this, desperately so -- I have to start now. I have to treat them as I would want to be treated. Not to neglect my duties as a parent, but to do so gently and with respect. To not laugh at them. As much as possible, anyway. I fail at all my goals on a regular basis, but I'm trying.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Why I Try Never To Say "Well That Was Dumb"

I had just finished a twelve hour overnight shift in the NICU where I worked as a nurse. I was riding the bus home in the early Saturday morning hours, bone tired. It was sunny, I think, and I was feeling regretful of my need to sleep before the next night's shift, wishing I could be out in the land of the living, enjoying the beautiful weekend with my boyfriend instead of shut up in a dark room with a white noise machine.

I laid my phone down on the bus seat next to mine. Just for a moment, I thought.

But when I got home a few minutes later, I realized my phone was gone.


That evening, at a pre-work dinner with Scott, my then boyfriend and now dear friend, I confided in him about my lost phone. Although I had a full time job in the NICU, I was also a graduate student, and we were living far above my means. He happily helped support me, no strings attached. But I thought surely he would be frustrated with me, given that I would have to buy a new phone out of my limited funds, meaning I would be less able to pay for something else.

"Oh sweetheart," was all he said, in sympathetic tones.

I looked at him wide-eyed. "You mean you're not mad at me? You aren't going to yell at me that I should have been more careful?" '

After all, this was the model I grew up with. More recently, my mom's water bottle leaked in her purse and ruined her cell phone. My dad berated her for an hour... and she was fully middle aged, successfully running her own law firm while he was... at home, working on his photography, entirely dependent on her income. Yet he castigated her, going on and on, while she meekly absorbed it.

It was his turn to look at me wide-eyed. "Yell at you? Why would I be mad at you? That's about the meanest thing I can think of. You are already so mad at yourself."

And after a pause, he said kindly, "You should go buy yourself a new phone tomorrow. Get a nice one."

This simple conversation changed my thinking forever. I vowed to be that person for my own child someday. The one who was sympathetic when the child screwed up, who let the child figure out mistakes on her own -- after all, I didn't need Scott to tell me not to set my phone down on the bus seat, I could easily figure that out all by myself -- with loving support.

So, JennC, that is why I didn't tell my child, "well, that was stupid," when my child [stupidly] put her leg through the back of the chair, hopped up and down, and fell down. Even though I really wanted to.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Just a Marveling, or a Shameless Mommy Brag?

This is supposed to be at the bottom of the page but Blogger is a hater and won't let me control such things.
I hope this is just a marveling, but it may come across as a shameless Mommy brag...

PreK is rocking Calliope's world. She's transforming overnight. Such a small thing, but she's suddenly started referring to "going to the bathroom" instead of "using the potty." She's holding doors for me. Ever since I started offering a bribe, err, carrot for dressing herself in the mornings, she's been leaping out of bed and dressing herself at 6:30 am.

She continues to work on writing. I'm very proud of myself for almost entirely keeping out of her journey towards literacy. I know that in Finland, children aren't taught to read until age 7, and at 18, they have the highest standardized test scores in the world. So sometimes it causes a little nail biting, but I try to keep my mouth shut and neither compliment or critique her writing.

I do say things like, "Wow, you are working really hard on that" but that's it. She needs to do this for herself, not for me. But I'm still thrilled to see her sit down and practice writing letters of her own accord. A couple of days ago, she crowed, "Mommy, I made an "S"!" and I was able to get excited. She can now write all the letters in her name, but doesn't know how to put them together to spell her name... and I've only once succumbed to the desire to spell it for her. I really want her to figure it out on her own, or to ask on her own, at least. Mostly, she writes "CAE" on all her work -- the first two and last letter in her name. Yesterday, though, she wrote "CALL" so she's getting closer.

Most amazing of all is to see the changes in her artwork. Last school year, she mostly scribbled.

Since she started PreK, she's been making a lot of "pagishes." I think "pagish" is her word for project? It consists of interconnected blobs. She makes these over and over again.

Pagish plus a couple asterisks -- these represent flowers.
The teachers transcribe what Calliope tells them about the pictures. 

You can see the "CAE" signature on this one. (Pinky is her kangaroo. He goes to PreK every day, too.)

And then their art teacher had them do self portraits... with mirrors. I was stunned by the results.

I couldn't believe all the detail. The irises and pupils and eyelashes!
(plus the extra lump on her head... the bow on her headband.)

They were all amazing, not just hers. I never would have thought to give mirrors to four year olds. Incredible.

And then today, she sat down at did portraits of our family. All of her own accord. With zero input from me.
A more abstract rendering of me (yet with toes). Don't worry, that's not me pooping. It's "just" my pubic hair.
I feel better knowing that, don't you?

I'm in love with this drawing. The eyes slay me.

Amelie is busy, too. She's figured out how to successfully maneuver her pacifier into her mouth. And to sit in a grocery cart. 

And to splash. And to shake her head no. We both find that really funny. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Small Worry

We've gone back and forth between two pediatric practices since Amelie was born. The neighborhood one is way more convenient and the pediatrician from there saw us in the hospital. She was warm and lovely there, and spent lots of time  Like an hour with us. Each time.

Then we saw her in the office. And it was still an hour each time. It started to get annoying. She seemed disorganized and easily distractible. Her practice partner, Dr. G, has a terrible reputation -- prescribing twenty "hot steam" treatments a day for my friend's baby's pneumonia instead of antibiotics. And then I had a concern about Amelie's breathing -- she was making loud gasping noises with breathing (inspiratory stridor) from time to time. And I realized I didn't trust this pediatrician with this concern.

So we switched back to our former pediatric practice. Dr. Rita is smart and focused. And lets me text her cell phone with urgent concerns. I email her for less urgent issues. Unfortunately, she's an hour away by public transportation. Driving is faster but parking is pricey in downtown Brooklyn. So to take one of the kids to see Dr. Rita is at least a half day adventure. A full day of missed work.

My friend Amy still goes to the neighborhood practice. She saw the new NP, Kate, there and liked her. Amelie was scheduled to see a doctor in Dr. Rita's practice for her flu shot on a day I was off work for a Muslim holiday... but the practice didn't have their flu shots yet. But the neighborhood practice had flu shots in stock.

So off we went to see Kate. She was focused and caring. Efficient but thorough. Perfect. And she noticed that with their measurements of Amelie (newborn, one month, and now, six months), Amelie had fallen way off her growth curve for length. She told me, "If I were the parent, I wouldn't be worried yet. Let's check her again in a month."

This advice might work on some parents. But "don't worry yet" has yet to work on me.

So when we got home, I dug up Amelie's measurements from her visits to Dr. Rita. And plotted them all on a growth chart. Even more worrying.

See how her heigh measurements (the top graph) are more or less on the same curve, then
suddenly drop to the 2nd percentile line?

I faxed the measurements and the growth chart to Kate. She called me yesterday and is definitely concerned... but Dr. G. is insisting that I bring Amelie back so he can measure Amelie himself. Thing is, she was measured three times in their office last week. The final measurement, Kate did herself, with me helping. They have a special tool for measuring babies, not just lying her on the exam table and making marks on paper at her head and feet. So I am confident the measurement is correct. I'm not squeezing an extra visit to the pediatrician into my already crowded day to appease his ego. I said as much to Kate, though I tried to say it nicely.

So now I am waiting to hear back from Kate. I also emailed Dr. Rita with a copy of the growth chart and asking for recommendations. I'm hoping that Kate will be able to give me names of specialists to see even without my returning to their office... but given what I have heard about Dr. G, I am not confident. Ridiculous.

Meanwhile, I had extreme anxiety, bordering on panic, about this but have now settled into mild to moderate anxiety. Kate wants us to see genetics as well as a pediatric endocrinologist so of course I'm worried that she has some rare syndrome associated with short stature.

To be sure, when Kate mentioned sending her to genetics, I burst out with "Oh my god, you think she has a syndrome???" and she laughed. And said, "No, she's beautiful."

And now Amelie has learned to rock and so I'm worrying that she's autistic. Despite her love of faces and extreme social skills.

I had a bit of growth delay myself as a child, though it was never diagnosed as such. I was just always really short... until everyone stopped growing and I kept on growing. I didn't get my period until I was sixteen and a half! But I was never this short. (I'm 5'5" now; her donor is 6'2". Neither of us have short parents.) Luckily I have my own growth charts from childhood filed away -- I can pull them out and bring them with me to the specialists.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure she's fine but I'm worried nonetheless. I'm not sure I wish that she's "just" super short or that there's some easily solved problem, like needing to give her extra growth hormone.

The first ride in the grocery cart is a thrilling experience!

Early morning snuggles... we love our short baby!