Monday, December 29, 2008

Oh, the weather outside is...

Here's the forecast for today in Homer:


Translation? Brrrrrr. 15 below with a gust of 30 is really, really cold.

Liam and Thea and I went out with some friends a couple days ago in similar weather and it is what I would call a gear-tester. No fairweather gear allowed. Our friend's kid's hands got too cold in about 15 minutes.

The good news? Thea was snug and happy in the polk. And Liam blazed a trail with his new ski boots. Good stuff. Sorry, no pictures this time.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas hangover

Before I forget - or develop a helpful form of amnesia - about Christmas 2008, I'd better get it down on paper... er, screen.
Matt flew in on Saturday the 20th, snagging the last plane out of Seattle before the Pacific Northwest was shut down for several days. We drove up to Anchorage on Friday to meet him, staying in a lovely hotel with the smartest feature a mother of two can ask for - a door on the bedroom that closes and allows you to have some time to yourself after your children fall asleep - yah!
So when Matt finally arrived, he went back to the hotel with the kids and I hit Target. I left at 11 p.m., by which time my brain had turned to mush. The next morning, after breakfast, I did another several hours of store-hopping. All in all, it was pretty successful, with perhaps the biggest success finding second-hand ski boots for Liam with a tracing of his foot in hand.
So back to Homer we drove in the icy cold, avoiding a storm that was just heading in, and making it most of the way home before Thea got cranky. I wound up at one point sitting between her and Liam in the back seat and trying to keep them both happy while Matt navigated the final 75 miles home - fun!
Then we were home, and it was almost Christmas. A couple days of madness and boom - there it was. Christmas Eve. And as a preview to the big day, Thea began walking. Really walking. Walking everywhere. Fast. Yikes.

We made cookies on Tuesday for our friends in Homer, and after making the holiday bread and setting it aside to rise (which it never does), Liam, Thea and I set out to deliver the cookies while Matt stayed home on wrapping duty. Nothing like delivering cookies to put you in the holiday spirit.

We have a couple Christmas traditions, one of which is singing carols on Christmas eve. This year, Raspberry Lane had Liam a bunch of carols, so he knew the words to many of my favorites. We lit candles in the creche and turned out the rest of the lights and sang away. It was pretty nice.

Then after a couple of holiday stories from my childhood, it was off to bed for Liam and off to wrapping duty for mom. What a lot of work. Oh, and that holiday bread? It didn't rise, again, so I just braided it up and stuck it in the oven and as usual, it was glorious.

What was not glorious was the fact that Thea woke up four times that night, so by 6 a.m. when she got up for good, I was in need of an IV caffeine drip. Liam didn't get up for another hour and a half, despite Thea's hollers and squeals. He quickly managed to get up to speed, however, honing in on his stocking with military-like precision. 15 minutes later, he had hit the orange in the toe. Then it was a matter of waiting the hour or two until our friend Karyn arrived before opening the rest of the loot, and that was almost too much for Liam, but he managed to focus on constructing his bionicle and inhaling some pancakes.

Then,Karyn arrived and madness ensued. Paper flew. Bows practically exploded off the packages. Unlike past years, Liam barely paused on each gift before moving on to the next. Typical, I know, but it was still surprising to me. Thea liked the ripping and crunching of paper, but actually focused more on her toys than I thought she would. She sat for a good half-hour playing with a fish bowl shape sorter. Good stuff.

Matt had a good Christmas, and while he got lots of good presents, he said his favorite was a painting I did for our living room of a surfer riding a wave in the sunset. I'm pretty happy with it, too. Haven't painted in more than a decade, so this was as much as a surprise for me as it was for him.

After some leftover Christmas tacos (Matt had been craving them since returning form Baja) we set out for my sister's house. There we had a feast that couldn't be beat, topped off with chocolate fondue (I think that's going to be a holiday tradition from now on) and more presents. At this point, Liam had a full-blown case of present addiction. It was pretty bad. So we opened quickly, then shooed him off to play.

Then, thankfully, Christmas was over for another year. I've got to say, the best days have been the aftermath - Liam is still trying out toys for the first time, and there are dozens of books to read. We went skiing with his new ski boots, and Thea has happily been playing with her toys ever since.

As for me, I'll be happy when my bedroom stops looking like a wrapping-paper factory, and I've sent out all my ornaments. But it has been a happy holiday, no doubt.

Now, on to Thea's birthday! Gahhhhh!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ebb and flow

I know I'm jumping the gun, but my mind has wandered a lot lately to where I was at this time last year, and what an amazingly hard year it has been. And for all the agonizing I do on this blog, I am so incredibly happy to be here and not there, where I was a year ago.

Thea may have difficulties with food, but so many other parts of her life are developing nicely. Both Liam and Thea have made these huge leaps lately - Liam with reading and Thea with mobility and communication (sign language). It is so refreshing to see her signal that she wants more blueberries, then tell me that she is all done. What a concept.

I've also had this tremendous feeling of peace the past few days. The house is in order. Much of my manic workload has lifted. It's just me and the kids and times like now, when both Liam and Thea are playing in the living room with Legos - completely absorbed in their play - I feel, just for a second, like I have truly made it. It was a tough, tough year, but at least it all makes more sense now.

In other news, Thea figured out how to take off her Robeeze and her socks today. Perhaps it doesn't seem like a big deal to you, but you should have seen her smile. Success is what you make it, right?

Matt is in Mexico by now, I believe. Spent two days surfing and sitting in a hot tub in San Diego before heading south. Called twice and I've rarely heard him so relaxed in the past few years. I'm sure glad he went.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Terrifying love

I'm watching this program about this kid who is sick, and I just should never watch programs like that. Matt wonders why I watch home improvement shows all the time. It's partly because I like to dream, but also because I don't get sideswiped by the image of a little kid rolling off to ER.

What is it about motherhood that turns you into such a pessimist? Or is it just me? It's terrifying. I don't remember if it was this way with Liam - I do recall worrying about things, and being stressed out at about 6 months. And even now, I have a constant loop of every disaster story I've ever heard or seen with kids. But with Thea, it just seems so much more because she isn't "perfectly healthy." And given my family's immune system issues (diabetes, ms....) it's easy to go down that road.

Thea's having a horrible something-or-other right now. Constant runny nose, coughing a lot, and more. It's so hard because I don't REALLY know what it is. If she didn't have allergies, I'd figure it was a common cold. But none of the rest of us have it, which is suspicious. If it is allergy, I don't have a clue what it is. I took a drink out of Liam's glass by mistake a week ago and had milk ... could that be making her this miserable? That's totally terrifying. And if it's not that, then what? Is it pork? Soy? some random veggie?

Today, we went to a baby shower and she was crawling around and I saw her put something in her mouth out of the corner of my eye. I rushed over, but I think it was one of her cookies. But it's that easy. One bite, it would seem, and at least a week of symptoms.

I'm bracing for a manic week, but feeling much better about it now that I have daycare lined up for two out of two out of three events as well as the board meeting that happens this week. Gah! Matt leaves Wednesday, not back until the 20th. I've been working on getting Thea to go to bed without the boob - I nurse her downstairs and then go up and read books with her and put her down. She's pretty pissed about it, but hopefully it will help when I'm not there to put her down. Either way, it's going to be a wild week, but at the end, things should mellow a bit.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Don't hate me cuz I'm skinny

So for most people, the holidays fill them with scale dread. But last night proved that I had no such worries in store. There is almost nothing at a Thanksgiving Dinner without some sort of dairy in it - butter, condensed milk, whip cream, you name it, it all comes from a cow. Last night I was able to eat turkey, cranberry sauce, and some hummus that I brought. That's it. Oh, and an apple pie that I made with margarine instead of butter in the crust, which was pretty freakin' good, if I do say so myself. So this morning I jumped on the scale and I've lost another couple pounds thanks to hockey practice. Silver linings, right? Sort of. Any more and I'm going to be jeans shopping again. I wonder if Levi's had a frequent shopper discount?

Normally, I might have treated myself to a night off from this dairy/beef-free diet, but Thea hasn't been doing so well with the allergy thing lately. I think there is a new allergy in the mix, or else I ate something inadvertently that had dairy in it and she's just really that sensitive. Anyway, she has rash all over her stomach and in some other areas, too. And let's not even talk about the diaper issues she's had of late. I'm pretty sure she has a reaction to tomatoes, but she also had real problems with an exposure to some jimmy dean turkey sausage, so it could be an additive thing. Hard to tell. Harder to cope with since we can't take her to the doctor until we have insurance again for the month of January thanks to a 4-day forestry class. Those tests aren't cheap, even locally. If she were acting like it was bothering her more, we would just do it, but she's pretty cheerful and seems to be developing OK, so we'll just wait and keep trying to figure it out on our own. But it is hard.

Thea has her first word. Doh - which translates into dog. And cat. And a few other things she points at randomly. But always dog, so that's a word in my book. Liam's was Cah for cat. Different strokes. She's still not walking, though she could. She prefers to trail after you with a firm pant-leg grasp. I had a dream yesterday night that she started walking when I was in pursuit of her somewhere - she just let go and started running away. Let's nope it's not a preview.

The other BIG thing that is happening this week is Liam is learning to read. Every six months or so, I've tried working with him on reading, and he would always get discouraged and lose interest. Not this time. He's doing it. He's really getting it - though he occasionally tries guessing instead of sounding things out phonetically. But he's getting a lot of words through memorization, as I predicted he would. "The" for example, is solidly in there. He has a tough time with vowels and J vs G, but he's excited about it, and so am I. I think it will be a fast learning curve. I bet he's reading small books by Hawaii at this rate.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I'm not blogging nearly as much as I should right now given the number of beautiful, amazing things my children are doing on a daily basis that will be forgotten forever in the blink of an eye.
Thea is on the cusp of walking. She takes a few steps, then sits down with a giggle, like it is all a big joke. She will stand up while holding onto that obnoxious bouncing-ball vacuum cleaner thingy.
But more, perhaps, is the personal interaction. She is coy, she is charming, she is full of eagerness to communicate. She will take this world by a storm if she can keep this amazing sparkle she has now for the rest of her life. That's my goal now - to guard the spark.
Liam, on the other hand, seems to have a raging flame these days. He's got so much energy, often taking to literally running in circles around the house. I guess this is why parents opt to get their kids into sports. Burn off some of that energy. He's in swimming and we're working on skiing, too.
We are still struggling with allergy stuff - and a crazy string of sickness. But the holidays are coming, Matt's off to Mexico soon for his surf trip, and I'm currently tasked with decorating a 17,000-square-foot building for the holidays without irritating anyone with a misplaced star.
More soon.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wild days

How is it possible that it has been two weeks since I posted to this blog. Is it really true that I only have time to sit and write once every 14 days or so now??? Scary thought, since I sit in front of a computer most of the time. Actually, I can write fine, it's getting the pictures moved from my camera to my computer that becomes a problem from time to time.

It's been a wild couple weeks, with tons of events at the library, and lots of driving up and down the hill trying to get the process right with multiple schedules. We also installed a wood stove, complete with a slate-tile hearth, and warmed up as the first serious winter weather descended.

Thea has been tiptoeing on the edge of walking for several days now. She took two steps this morning, and is getting braver. It's kind of a joke to her. She knows she's going to get it, likes the rush of trying, and laughs when she "outsmarts" Mommy by getting down and crawling to you instead. It's a great game.

She's also had some rough nights, waking up and crying so hard for so long that I finally gave in and nursed her. And since we all have colds, that probably wasn't unexpected. I've got a humidifier going in her room all the time to keep her nose happy, and that seems to help.

Halloween was a wild ride, with events all over the place. The library hosted a spooky story hour - my second event as coordinator - and we had lots of kids and happy parents, too. I made dozens of little peanut-butter-cracker spiders with pretzel legs and raisin eyes, and these cream-cheese cookies with eyes sticking out of them. Funny, and well received. Then we went trick-or-treating with a large group of friends. It was a sugar-fest for sure. Liam was a knight with an outfit specially sized to fit OVER his jacket this year so he could be warm despite the cold weather (we often have blizzards on Halloween, though this year was calm.)

I lost my voice and went as a mime. Thea opted out of dressing up, due to unforseen circumstances - we were too busy to get her dressed up. She did not seem to mind at all.

Liam started swimming lessons, which are going well. It is amazing as a parent to sit outside the pool area and look in on your child learning to swim. It seems impossible, and then you see them slowly becoming more comfortable in the water, splashing around and getting the hang of it, and it is like watching a miracle happening.

Thea has started shaking her head. I'm not sure if she knows what it means or not, but I'm pretty sure she is saying Mama and Dada and knows what they mean, so why not shaking her head? It's cute, regardless.

I go to Anchorage this weekend with my friend Andrea and her little girl, Kayah, who is 2 weeks older than Thea and has been walking for a couple months. I cannot begin to express how excited I am. But I'd better get some photos up and wrap this up before some disaster strikes and I am pulled away once again.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

winter swirl

My friends claim that with windchill it was minus 20 yesterday. In contrast, today's mid-20s feel balmy, and I'm not just saying that. It's hard to believe it is only October, not even yet the last week of October.

This was a crazy work week for me, and I feel like a wet noodle, but the upside has been that Matt and Thea have had a little immersion course that finished up the week much better than it started. The big problem has been getting Thea to sleep without a certain part of the female anatomy. But the ladies at the childcare place where Thea has been going have managed it, so I finally asked them what they did. The swaddle her, apparently, and hold her till she falls asleep. It sounds strange, but on the other hand, which is worse, an hour or more of hollering, or a few minutes of swaddling.

However, this didn't seem to help Matt much. And I haven't tried it, but I'm willing to bet it's a full-contact sport. She's no light-weight and when she doesn't get what she wants, she sure lets you know.

So Matt had several days and a couple nights of hell, thanks to board meetings, etc. Until I thought of the swingy chair - my savior from days gone by that has been mothballed since she fell asleep and her head lolled out and clonked on the bar. But when faced with a napless child.... so he gave it a whirl and she slept wonderfully and I came home Thursday to a happy house. Yay. Sometimes, it would seem, you have to hit rock bottom before things turn around.

Monday, October 20, 2008

First step

Thea took her first step yesterday, although I must say it was coerced. She was standing in the middle of the livingroom holding on to my pant leg, her latest favorite thing (so cliche!)I stepped back and she stayed put, standing on her own. Then, she lifted a leg and took a wobbly step, then another, in an effort to get back to the mothership. I cheered - Matt and Liam were both watching and they cheered, too. She looked both shocked and proud - I swear you could almost see the synapses firing inside her head. Good stuff.

Yesterday was a busy one - I cleaned up my desk after months of neglect, creating what I hope is a filing system that actually works, and discarding two garbage bags of junk. I also started work on a freelance project, cut and installed the trim for the hearth, and bought a set of hockey gear. Now, if I can just learn offsides. All this was done with a very mild hangover, thanks to three cosmopolitans at my friend's house the night before. She had just moved into a new space and was celebrating before moving in her home-filling quilting machine. It was a fun night - cocktail dresses or hot pants were the required dress code. Don't get that much here.

Matt and Liam finished his tree-top clubhouse yesterday, much to his glee (Liam's, though Matt was feeling pretty proud of himself, too). It is in the side of the yard in a cluster of trees that we recently limbed up to make for a better fire-safety situation around out property.

Friday, October 17, 2008

new days, new phase

Thea spent several hours pushing a laundry basket around today. She still prefers the low-tech walker over the one with wheels I borrowed from the local B23 office. At least, I heard she spent several hours doing that - I wasn't here to see it.

Today was Matt's second day off for the season, and I seized the day to get some Homer Foundation work out of the way - I have an annual report cover due on Monday. It had been a long time since I ran around with a camera - I must say it felt kind of good, though I didn't get much progress made on the cover. Back home, Thea slept for an hour, just long enough to mess around with several different versions and send them off.

Then she was up again, though not very happy about it. She's working on her second front tooth this week and it seems to be taking forever to come through. In the mean time, she's gnawing on anything she can get her hands on. What a great word gnaw is - it the true verbal equivalent of its meaning.

At the end of the day, trouble brewed. I had been off working and didn't think about the fact that Friday is usually my shopping day. We had nothing planned and nothing thawed, and not much motivation. And since we'd eaten out once and had burgers last night, I was resistant to Matt's breakfast idea. So we ended up eating three different things, late, and none with much in the way of nutrition. Oops. Transitions suck.

There are a lot more to come. The seasonal switch-up means Matt and Thea are spending two or three mornings together each week (he has chosen to keep her going to daycare two mornings a week so he can have time to work on his pottery.) That will be the first consistent time he has spent with Thea and dealt with the whole allergy issue. I think they are both ready for it, but it will be interesting to see how it goes at first.

For me, I'm looking forward to cutting in half the number of days I have to get two kids out the door, and am planning to start hockey again, too. And there might be a trip to Anchorage in my future, too. It's time, and it's been a long time coming. Plus, Target has finally arrived in Anchorage and I've got to go see that.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Yesterday I watched as Thea made it almost around the entire living space downstairs without crawling - moving from walls to chairs to table legs. Such diligence is admirable and fear inspiring, too.

Liam spent last night at his Auntie Santa's for his birthday sleepover. When I arrived to drop him off, the table was set with all sorts of birthday stuff, hamburgers were being made and Liam was in heaven. The birthday week continues. What craziness. He also got a package in the mail today - a box from Grandma Jan with a soccer suit, money toward swim lessons and a new Skippyjon Jones book, which he looooved.

The house seemed so quiet without Liam in it last night. Funny how having just one kid, even for a few hours, seems so amazingly different. It's like someone turned down the music so low you can barely hear it. Until 5:30 a.m. when Thea howled for 45 minutes until I gave in and fed her.

It seems she is notching down the nursing quite considerably these days. Yesterday, I had to almost force-feed her at one point because it was that or pump. It's funny - Liam stopped nursing altogether at this age, but with Thea, I was surprised to see her scale back (during the day, at least.) But she's there - already.

I was reading back through those early posts today, and reflecting on how hard that all was. Now I'm sure she was in true pain, and so sad I didn't really know what was going on enough to make changes that would have almost certainly helped.

But at least now it feels like Thea and I are getting a handle on life with allergies. It's a lot of work, but she seems to be doing well - no runny noses, etc. Hopefully, her system will sort out all these allergy issues in the next couple years, and she won't have to spend her life without ice cream. On the other hand, I don't really miss it anymore.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

alternate universe

This is one of those weeks where that extra hand I've been lobbying for would have really come in ... handy.

Sorry. Old habits die hard.

Five years ago today, I was laying in a hospital room, drunk on the after-emotion of giving birth, and trying to come to terms with this small, pink bundle that was now entrusted to my care.

It seems like an eternity ago. It cannot have been a mere five years ago. It feels more like half my life has been mothering, not one-seventh, though I guess if you figure adult life, it is a third.

I turned 35 on Thursday, which was OK with me, no major identity crisis, but a couple of resolutions which I haven't managed to keep as yet... idealistic stuff about relaxing and taking time for myself - candle time, I like to call it.

This week, the workload of motherhood got completely out of control. Birthday cakes, party invitations, shopping, not to mention preschool being closed for all of last week and Monday as well - deadly. And then we had a party on Sunday - sorry, camera battery was not charged so I missed taking pictures of the bonanza - and then today was his real b-day, so I had to bake cupcakes for his class only his teacher wasn't ready to celebrate his birthday today, so now I have to go in and help him celebrate it tomorrow ..... aaaaahhhhgg.

On top of all that was finishing the living room cabinet and our first snow, all adding static to the mix and throwing off my routine. I think I made it out of the house before 8:30 once in the past seven days. Baaad.

But even without birthdays that go on forever, it is really challenging right now. I'm cooking a meal for Thea pretty much every morning because I haven't gotten a food schedule really going for her yet. If I would just take the time to get it figured out, it could work pretty smoothly, but I haven't had that time. I fed her halibut tonight for the first time and it seemed to go well - she gobbled it up with no runny nose. Her face got pretty blotchy after the chocolate cake - dairy free, mind you - but you've got to live a little, right. Probably won't do the chocolate thing again.

OK - so silver lining time. Liam had his friend Sam over today and for most of the day they played on their own. It is fascinating to listen to two five-year-olds interact. They were talking about all kinds of things - their hair, (why it grows and what it is made of) - what planets were, and what happens when cats die (Liam's lecture on the subject consisted of his opinion that their hearts keep working but their stomachs die, and their eyes stay closed, but they still love you.) Really, it was priceless stuff, and I only heard it because I was upstairs nursing Thea while they ate lunch below me and there was this flurry of information flowing between them - some accurate, some not so much, but it didn't really matter because their take on it all was far more interesting than the nuts and bolts details of the world. I wish I still lived in that reality. It sounded much more interesting.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

through the night

It's 7 a.m. and Thea slept through the night last night without nursing. OK, she woke a few times but went right back to sleep each time, and I put her to sleep at 7 p.m. and didn't feed her till 6 a.m. That, my friends, is substantial progress. I'll take it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I'm always posting about the harrowing days. Yesterday was a superstar day. It took a lot of planning, but I pulled off the impossible - a day-long shopping trip with no meltdowns.

I've been wanting for quite some time to take a trip to Home Depot and get some cabinets and wood to build shelving in the living room. When we built the addition on the house, we designed it with cabinets in mind on one wall - even had a special light figured into the plan. But like everything else, we stopped all progress the second Liam came into the world. Long enough, say I.

So off to Kenai we went - after packing a zillion snacks, lunch, iPod charged with Henry Huggins book on tape, etc, etc. Thea slept the whole way up - an hour and a half - and woke about 10 minutes before we got to the store, so she was well charged and ready to go. I loaded her into the backpack and Liam onto a cart and we went in search of cabinets. After a couple false starts, we actually found them! Cabinets for not a million dollars. I even found someone to help me load them on my cart and find the right doors. Yay.

Then it was off to look at carpet to try to find a little piece to fill in a missing spot in the living room. Then I looked at tile, but opted out of purchasing it. Then it was shelving material - seven 8-foot pine boards - and trim. And still, the kids were going strong.

I got ambitious. I found a new sink faucet for $35 and a light for that hole in the ceiling I've lived with for how many years? Kids still going strong. Made it through the checkout - gulp. Got someone to help me load really heavy cabinet on top of the car, and spent a good 1/2 hour roping everything down. Kids start to get antsy. So, we head to the park... first I had to find the park, but I did, and into the sunshine we go. Kept Thea from destroying Liam's dragon lair and eating her body weight in sand, snacked everyone, bathroom break, new diaper, and we're off to mission No. 2 - the bulk food store.

An hour later, Thea is starting to wiggle, and we're done with the food shop. But there's one more stop I want to make - the fabric store for several yards of fabric to make an ottoman out of. Thea, of course, fell asleep before we got to the store. But I was determined, so I went to pluck her out of her car seat and thought, well, I'll put a blanket on my shoulder and just see if she stays out. Would you believe she slept the whole time? Me neither. But it happened. We got our fabric, and out of the store, and back in the car without her waking. And all the way home, too.

Now, I've got the cabinets all put together (that took some brainpower, trust me) and just need a few more things to build the shelves. Success! Sometimes it is possible to actually function with children. Not often, but sometimes.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

riding the waves

The elation I felt earlier in the week at getting a diagnosis has amped down just a bit these last few days as the reality of the "rotation diet" starts to hit home. Tomorrow, I go to the store to get colored stickers for all the food and liquid Thea eats. Then I will color up the calendar so anyone watching her can see it is a "pink day" which means rice milk, rice cakes-type snacks, rice and chicken as dinner, etc. Yellow will be corn and beans and almond milk. Red will be potatoes, oats (oat milk) and red meat (buffalo, bison, elk, moose) and blue will be wheat, oat milk again and turkey or pork. Daunting as it may seem, I think I will figure this out and it will get easier. But right now it is exhausting.

And worst of all is the realization that all this effort will never keep her from exposures. She's had a running nose all week (not drippy, like a cold, but more like flooding ) and today she broke out in a rash. I was trying to figure it out until I remembered that I caught her chewing on one of my sister's dog's chew toys under the table yesterday - a cow hoof. Gaaaahhhhh.

Today was a big home-work day. We worked on the rental, trying to keep water out and warm air in. We also mapped out on the floor how much space our stove and hearth will take. Then we tried rearranging the furniture to fit that space. I was inspired after we moved the dining table. So I started moving living room furniture around, too, since once we build the cabinet wall it will change the position of the tv and the couch - I thought we should try it out. I actually really like it. It somehow makes the whole house more cohesive - your back isn't to the rest of the house when you are on the couch.

Liam was most impressed when he came home and found the furniture moved around. He instantly suggested we move this one chair "just a bit this way." Control freak, already? I know - apples and trees, right? Anyway, Matt had no comments, other than to say I must be on meth because I keep cleaning, which I take to mean either that he doesn't like the furniture position but is going along with it, or that he just doesn't care.

The other thing that happened today was that Liam went on a hunger strike. I'm trying really hard to be tougher and not cater to his picky eating habits. Right now, he will eat only three things for lunch - PB&J, mac and cheese, and tuna sandwiches. I told him he could have soup for lunch - even gave him two options for what kind. He opted for door No. 3... don't eat anything, the consequence of which is that he doesn't get any other food until dinner. Which of course makes him nutty and grouchy. Which lands him in his room. It was a long day, but he sure did eat a bunch of dinner.

My camera is acting up, but I'll try to get some new shots on soon. I promise.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I knew it!

Today we spent two hours in the doctor's office to find out what I already knew, that Thea was severely allergic to milk. And yet, somehow knowing that definitively is wonderfully uplifting.

It's funny how as mothers - parents - we have gut instincts about things, but our society isn't really set up to indulge gut instincts. I knew back when Thea was an infant that she had a problem after I ate milk products - cheesecake, milk shakes, ice cream - they all produced the same result. Nights of writhing pain and 30-minute naps followed by hour-long cryfests. And then the extreme response to her own ingestion of dairy, I knew for sure but still didn't know. And then when she smeared cheese all over her face and got red blotches all over, I knew again, but still didn't know.

Today, I knew.

They tested her back with little pin pricks of everything from dust to feathers to roaches and pollen. And the one that swelled up like crazy? Milk.

But, also swelling pretty substantially was beef. And swelling very slightly was wheat.

But not swelling: Soy! Dust! Cats! Dogs! Mold! Not that I'm going to let my house fall into a dusty, hair-ridden place now, but I'm just happy to narrow things down a bit.

The biggest challenge I walk away from this with is the fact that if I don't offer her a varied diet, she will likely develop other allergies. And I can't feed her beef and fish is off limits until they are a year old, so that leaves ... chicken and pork, right? Well, we are going to start some new things now - buffalo, for example. The goal is to not feed her the same thing on a four-day cycle. Quail? Duck?

Anyway, I am overjoyed and energized by the things I now know, and trusting of my instincts more than ever about the things I knew all along.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Week one done

Our first week getting out of the house each morning with two kids, three lunches, jackets, hats, computers, breast milk, snacks, mail, and the rest of the kitchen sink have concluded, and wow, am I tired. Matt leaves the house at 7:45, so Liam is just barely up and Thea's often still asleep, so there's not much help there. What a circus. But by today, we were starting to get some pattern to it all. And I'm hopeful it will only get easier.

Thea has done very well at daycare. She seems happy or asleep every time when I come to get her, and we all know she's not one to mince words if she isn't getting what she needs, so I can only assume that the stimulation of all those kids is enough to keep her going sans boobs. Quite a liberating feeling to go through my morning with no kids and no guilt, I gotta tell you. And such a contrast to the first time around, when being away from Liam was agony.

The other big thing that is happening is I am shrinking. This dairy-free diet has me at a size I can only remember from years gone by. Actually, my weight is that low, but my dimensions ... not so much. It is certainly not exercise that is doing this. And now I've gone from enjoying being able to fit into my clothes to not really fitting any of them because they are all for someone 15 pounds heavier. And last of all, I can't help this nagging feeling of what if - what if it isn't the dairy free thing that is doing this.

At the same time, I am zooming around removing carloads of crap from the house daily. My purge continues to swirl through the house, and I'm starting to feel like I'm making progress, though there are plenty of corners yet untouched. But, trying to take it one day at a time - or rather, one nap at a time.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Thea's first day

Today was Thea's first day of daycare. She entered the room and was instantly enveloped in appreciating 2-year-old girls, who kissed her (a couple knew her, to make things even better) and hugged her and let her pull their hair. After I left, she apparently went down for her morning nap with little fuss, then slept for hours. I went to pick her up at 12:30 and she was still down, so I went and got Liam, who had his first day back at Raspberry Lane (thank yee gods) and ran a couple errands. It was funny how liberating it felt to go to the grocery store with just my big kid and know that Thea was well cared for and comfortable. A new day, to be sure.

Thea's other big accomplishment for the day was cruising. She crawled over to the coffee table, pulled herself up to standing, and began inching around the table - then transitioned to the couch and moved around it. Yikes.

I had another cleaning frenzy today. I can't seem to stop shining things and picking up crap, and yet there is so much left to do - I noticed today how much fuzz my plants have on them. It's like my bar has been raised and I cannot settle for less. I'll post a picture of the inspiration room in Victoria.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

whirlwind of days

Since we got home, it has been a whirlwind. I suppose it has really only been a few days, but it feels like a long time. The trip home from Victoria was not bad - first to Vancouver for an epic gathering of Baddeck folks, as well as a fabulous late-night conversation with Anika, which reminded me that next time, it needs to be four days in Vancouver - no question.

Perhaps the most comical part came when we tried to figure out how to get me to the airport - cabs don't have car seats in Vancouver and I didn't bring Thea's and had too much stuff to use public transportation. So we finally figured we would use Anika's then pay for the cab fare back to her place to return it. Later we found a friend who had one I could take home with me - which wound up costing me $25 because I had an "extra bag" in the eyes of the airlines - you just can't win. And then at the last minute we realized Liam's booster had taken off with the cab on the way to her house.....
There was also the moment when we arrived downtown at the bus depot in Vancouver and I tried to use my debit and visa cards to get money, but for some reason the ATM in the station didn't accept Visa - so I had to carry all the stuff, which was sizeable - Thea on my back in the backpack, the stroller loaded with bags, and my rolling suitcase behind me - around a whole block until I found an atm that worked enough to give me $20 for the cab ride to Anika's house. It probably took me a 1/2 hour - I should have just sat down on the sidewalk and panhandled. Would have surely got the money quicker. That's the way it seems to always be when traveling with kids - a swirling mass of logistical mayhem.

We got back to Anchorage after a mellow flight around 3 p.m. and found a cab right away with car seats (YAH AK) and off to the car repair shop, where the car was ready to go. Then to the store in search of kid gates, and another store, and finally giving up and heading to Jerzy and Paula's to pick up my shoes and a sleeping bag and then off on down the road, where we found a nutty storm with rain and gusting winds, but the kids slept most of the way, and we got home at 9:30 p.m. and collapsed.

Matt oggled a bit as he watched Thea move around with her new confidence and I oggled a bit as I watched her nose start to flow from the moment she entered the house. Cat? Dog? Dust? Mold? Combined with the experience of staying in Tiffany's pristine apartment, I am now obsessed with cleaning the house and getting rid of junk. I've been at it for several days now and show no signs of slowing, though I am getting a little tired of it all - overwhelmed. But it is really grossing me out - the dust, the grime, the junk that has built up over the years. It doesn't need to be there, and I want it all gone.

Thea has proceeded to learn to pull up on things, and eat furniture (she especially likes the wicker coffee table) and take lots of falls and so forth. She is changing so fast, I can't keep up. And today, when we went to see the new baby Lukas, I couldn't believe how big she seemed in comparison. And it's time for another round of clothing swapping, too, and didn't I just get her 12-month stuff in there????

Oh, yeah, and I started a new job and on Monday, Thea goes to daycare for the first time. Does it ever stop? And the freelance work is WAY backed up, too.

The thing is - all that chaos, I think, is a result of moving too fast - rushing. Don't have time to get dressed so you rush and dump your pjs on the floor. Don't have time to put away the dishes properly, and all of a sudden your tupperware looks like a mosh pit. Shoes dumped at the door - papers pile up - it's all about time, rushing, and the mess is just the byproduct. So . I . am . trying . to . slow . down.

Camera is having battery issues, so pics will have to wait. Sorry - but good video coming soon - stay tuned.

Friday, August 29, 2008

almost off

Tonight we said goodbye to my grandparents who will be catching a very early bus to Vancouver and then a plane back to the east coast. It has been a crazy visit - 11 of us crammed around the table - three generations ranging from 8 months to nearly 90 years old in one room.

I had a moment of reflection as I put Thea to bed and laid my head on hers while she fell asleep - here I am helping this little person get her start in the world and hopefully, someday if I am lucky, I could be looking at her children and even her grandchildren and wondering at how it all happened. It is an extraordinary thing, family.

Tomorrow is our last day in Victoria, and hopefully I won't stress out as much as I did when I left Anchorage. I spend two nights in Vancouver visiting Anika, then off to Anchorage and drive back to Homer. Matt flew home tonight, so he will have been home several days before I get there. And then I'm starting my new job at the library the next day - yeehaw. Going to be a big week.

Big for Thea, too. She's signed up for three mornings a week of daycare. That will be a big switch for her - no doubt. We'll see how it goes. If she can stop teething so hard, that would help. Her poor little face is so often clenched right now - sad, sad. But she pushes through and is more often cheerful than not. So maybe it will work out without issue. Time will tell! It's a brave new day.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Today was my mother's 65 birthday, and 11 of us have gathered in one place to celebrate it. It is extraordinary that we are all here, and even more so that none of us have stomped out yet. Do we all love each other? Yes. Do we want what is best for each other. Mostly. Do we all see the world through very different eyes? Absolutely. Is it an incredible amount of work to feed 11 people around one table twice a day. Holy cow, you bethca, and that's not even taking into consideration the no dairy, no wheat factors.

But, we are muddling through. And in the middle of it all, Thea is exploding.

Two days ago, she didn't crawl and now she happily motors all over the place. And today, she took it a step further, literally. She found an overturned laundry basket, hoisted herself up onto it and started pushing it around the room like a walker. She traveled from the kitchen to the living room and back before she got hung up on a rug. The end, my friends, is near. She was so delighted with herself, but by the end of the day, that was already old hat. You could tell she was hungry for mobility, and she wasn't stopping until she got all she could get.

Having a fully mobile child is such a lot more work - my goodness. Especially since Liam is having trouble adjusting to it, as I predicted. "Mom, she's getting into the books again." "Found a magazine. Ripped it. The end."

On the other hand, he is so insanely happy to have his cousins in close range that he almost doesn't notice, so that is a saving grace.

On my end, I got the keys to the upstairs apartment last night and am now in simplistic, clean heaven. The woman who lives here has a design aesthetic that absolutely makes me sing. So simple, clean, uncluttered - it is literally like a spa. It is inspiring. I'm taking pictures and bringing them home with me. Very cool. And I got six hours uninterrupted sleep last night. Joy, joy.

As my present to Suzy, I got some baskets and organizers and made her painting materials, which are in the middle of the living room, look pleasant. I think it actually went over well. It sure made my day doing it. Not to mention that I got to go to Pier One.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

mobility part II

I had a hunch that Thea would start moving around on this trip, and knew it would be a challenge, but had no idea really what I was up against. In a matter of days, she has gone from a squiggling mass of unproductive motion to a moving machine - able to crawl with determination from one side of the room to the other in minutes.

Along with that mobility has come the daunting issue of Liam and Thea and stuff. Thea ate a magazine today, and there was a realization by Liam that now, she could really do some damage. She also got into his toy soldiers, and we had to for the first time institute a "on the table only" rule with his toys.

As for me, I have pulled more things out of her mouth in the past couple days than I think I ever did with Liam during this phase, and tonight, while I ate half a salad, she managed to shred two newspaper clippings and break a wooden toy that Suzy had stashed on the bottom shelf - complaining the whole time at top volume.

The other major thing that is happening is teeth - two on top are coming in (not the front ones, but the next ones back, oddly - and she is sooo miserable. Tonight at bed she cried for upwards of an hour and finally passed out but not before I hit my wall in the patience department.

The upside is, however, that Liam has had a very good couple days playing with his grandpa and harassing the chickens for eggs. Today they had a garage sale and Liam sold some baskets. Very proud. Good stuff. Now - to bed.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

mobility exlposion

Three days ago, when I set out for Victoria, Thea was not crawling. Now, just a few days later, I am watching her expand her world from one foot to two feet to three feet on an hourly basis.

It is intimidating when your baby starts moving freely in your own home, but in my parents' home, where precious books line the walls, jars of spices fill the cabinets and a wide variety of small-sized items lie within her grasp, it is daunting to say the least.

But it is beautiful, sunny weather, and it is at least 60 degrees, and we will survive. Wine, anyone?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

trio of teeth

Matt said today that I need to mention in this blog that Thea is a very happy baby. I think happy doesn't quite cover it. Thea's personality isn't just pleasant in a laid-back, mellow-baby sort of way. She's the kind of person who compels those around her to smile, too. In fact, I've seen many times when she starts doing her adore-me routine with someone who ignores her, she is truly shocked. She stares at them as if to say, "How can you possibly resist smiling back at me???"

It has been a wild week here on Rancho Jamesland. Matt got home on Friday, much to the glee of Liam and eventually, after she got over the scruff-face factor, Thea. After a couple of days of reintegration, gifts, etc, things settled down to the new normal with Dad home and Mom scheduled for a zillion appointments all over town.

Both Thea and I began to adjust to life without milk products, which goes so far beyond avoiding cheese, butter, milk and ice cream, it isn't even funny. Not funny, and not cheap. The second you walk into the "you-name-it-free" aisle of the grocery store, you add an extra $50 to your grocery bill. But her nose completely stopped flowing by Sunday, and her other symptoms have decreased as well.

But on Tuesday or Wednesday, she popped up two new symptoms - eczema on her upper arms and, more disturbingly, a whooping sound when she cries. The whooping sound really freaked me out, and made it so I couldn't let her cry it out at night at all, because she got all chokey and I just couldn't hack it, no pun intended. And of course all my reading about allergies and the links to asthma didn't help.

So I took her in to the doc again, and he said she had some stuff in her chest, but not asthma. He gave us an inhaler, but the thing that made the biggest difference was putting a humidifier in her room. It's always so frustrating to me when the easy fix is the answer and I didn't think of it.

But all told, we are surviving this tumultuous and insane week, and stabilizing after all these changes. Which is good, as so much more are to come. I got a job as volunteer coordinator at the library, which means Thea will be going to daycare soon. And on Monday, Thea, Liam and I head out for our trip to Victoria to meet the grandparents. And when we get back, preschool starts again and hopefully, Matt will be home from his last assignment of the year. Wild, wild stuff, this life business.
Oh, and Thea got her first top tooth on Friday. Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Milk mahem

I didn't get to write about the events of earlier in the day yesterday after last night's drama took center stage. But the doctor said Thea probably did have a milk allergy - or some sort of allergy or allergies - soy and rice are also biggies, he said. Then again, there's dust, pets, and other allergens.

But as far as it being the kind of allergy that can make your throat close, etc., he said that wasn't likely. Her growth is still literally off the charts, and she is otherwise developing well, so he wasn't too worried about it. I asked him about whether I should stop eating things with milk in them while I am nursing, and he said no, it doesn't really pass through. That's when the red flag went up for me because I know it does. I asked him to research that a little because I had talked to his own nurse-practitioner when Thea was little about her experience eliminating milk from her diet with her twins. It took her three weeks before it was out of her breast milk, she had told me.

So while I think the doc is on the right track, it makes me wonder about all the hell Thea and I went through earlier on and if that could have been avoided by a strict diet on my part. And for now, I'm cutting it all out for a month and then will experiment a bit to see if I can push it a bit without the faucet nose factor starting up again in her.

It's been a crazy sort of day. I've walked through it in a haze, part because of Thea's brush with death and part because of a lousy night's sleep thanks to a kitten in search of male companionship at 2 a.m. But I made it through. And tomorrow's another day, right?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

No warning

No one warns you about the real problem with parenting. They tell you about the diapers and the spitup and the crying. They even warn you about the dangers of grapes, electrical sockets and stairs. But what they don't tell you is the terror you can feel when you love something that much - so much you aren't sure if you will continue to exist if something horrible were to happen to them.

Tonight, it nearly did. I put Thea to bed as usual around 8 p.m. and she cried and cried. So I went up to check on her, and when I did, I fixed her bed a bit because the sheets were pulling up a little. I held her for a while, and put her back down, which made her really upset, so she hollered and hollered and I knew I just needed to let her work it out.

Then, somehow I heard the tempo turn just a bit.

So I went upstairs.

I walked in the room and she was completely covered.

The sheets and mattress pad had come up off the bottom and were wrapped tightly around her head.

She was drenched with sweat.


But still breathing.

We sat in the rocker, both trying to breath. Adrenalin rushed through me.

I nursed her.

Her eyes were wide for a long time, the first time I've seen her scared.

She finally fell asleep in my arms, but startled awake several times.

I spent about a half-hour remaking the bed, checking those sheets again and again. I laid her down in that crib, so beautiful, sleeping, and tried to pry myself away. It almost made me want to throw up, walking away.

But the thing is, that's not the end of it. It was just a lucky break - a moment of instinct that saved us both. Just as easily, I could have resolved to let her cry it out, and felt relief when she stopped..... and while I made it past this disaster, it just makes me more aware of the likelihood of more around the corner.

There is no way you can protect them from all that could hurt them. There are endless things - the wrong leaf they chew on in the lawn, a chunk of food just a bit too big, the rock under their fall. And if it isn't one of those, it could be the inner demons - the immune system that rejects milk products, like Thea's, or Liam's irrepressible fears that narrow his world.

And that is the most terrifying about this motherhood thing - loving something so much, and knowing your never-ending love sometimes isn't enough.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Crying over spilt milk

Today I'm pretty sure I got confirmation that Thea has a milk allergy. A friend was over and we fed all the kids mac and cheese - the organic kind, mind you, but still. Thea didn't seem too into it, choosing instead to chew on a cracker, but she took a few bites, and of course, the sauce got all over the place.
A few minutes later, I looked at her and she had bloches all over her face and a pimply rash spreading around her chin. I panicked a bit but since I had a friend here, we just waited a bit to make sure she didn't exhibit any other symptoms and within an half-hour the rash had mellowed. But I called the medical clinic and made an appointment for tomorrow.
Ever since Thea was born, I suspected milk was an issue. I'd have a big bowl of ice cream and the next day, she would be miserable. Somewhere around month two I stopped eating most large-dose milk products like drinking milk, milkshakes, ice cream, and even cheese for a while. I've relaxed a bit, but still avoid most of that stuff.
We started feeding Thea solids months ago, but it has only been recently that things have really taken off variety-wise. Since she loves to feed herself, I've been looking for things to feed her. And about a month ago, maybe a little more, she got a bad cold, then a low fever for several days, then a rash, and the trots. It cleared up for a couple days, then the river of snot reappeared. It's not like a regular cold - she is just pouring snot. And neither Liam or I got anything. And on and off, she has the runs. Also, I tried to feed her yogurt for the first time right before she got really sick the first time. And she never really liked it and if you've seen Thea eat, you know that's unusual.

So, I'm trying not to freak out too bad but wow, that's a big thing. I've been doing some reading, and often these milk allergies in infants mellow by around 2 or 3 years of age. But I've watched my sister struggle through life with a kid who has an allergy, and it's not easy. So the prospect of trying to find foods to feed this ever-hungry little thing that are milk-free, not to mention another five months of completely avoiding milk products myself is daunting.
I've got a little Charlie Brown going on right now. This has been some month.