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.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Introducing Jezebelle

OK - yes, it was impulsive, but home didn't seem like home without a cat roaming around. So to the shelter Liam and I went and fell in love with a torty cat. Liam named her after a character in a book. She is young, but had a litter, so she's mellow. She sniffed around for about an hour, then settled down on the couch like she's always been here. Didn't even bat an eyelash at the dogs. It's amazing.
And tonight, she settled in at the end of Liam's bed. A darn good fit, I'd say.

good with the bad

Today was a good day - the capper to a rough week. It was not a good morning - Liam claimed that the background theme music to the npr news program was making him worried that daddy wasn't going to come home. Comments like that have been coming fast and furious lately, and I'm trying so hard to be understanding, but it is challenging to know what to say - to walk the fine line between compassionate and indulgent.

Luckily, we got a call from Daddy this morning, which put the smile back on Liam's face. Matt was a little worked up about Jojo's passing - to me it was such a relief to no longer have her suffering, and not have to keep wondering when was the right time... it is done, it is sad, it is over, I'm glad she shared her life, and her death, with me.

Liam went to Kachemak Kids for the morning and I got Thea back to sleep by 9 a.m. Then it was deep into FireWise data entry for a couple hours, and then off to the toy store on a mission. I've been doing some reading about play therapy, and it apparently is very successful when kids are dealing with anxiety - the kind of anxiety that sends you climbing the curtains when you see a mosquito or coming to sleep in Mommy's bed for the first time in 3 years. So I got some special toys, and am planning to give it a go tomorrow or Sunday during Thea's morning nap.

Then it was grocery shopping, bank, post office, etc, where Liam got a POSTCARD from Daddy - very exciting. He loved it. Showed it off all over town.

Home to collapse and Thea took the world's shortest nap before getting up and grumbling about the world for a good hour before I realized - duh, she's hungry. She ate a whole banana and about half a cup of stars.

A friend came by and we went for a walk until about 5:30, at what point, I found myself yet again staring into the fridge. Then I had a brainstorm - campfire. It's been beauuutiful here lately, maybe 65, and today wasn't too windy. There are only a couple days like this every year in Alaska. So out we went, where I tried for a good half hour to get a fire going, but finally got enough coals - put the bbq grill on the fire ring, and actually grilled a couple burgers plein air.

It was pleasant out there - Liam had a great time, bouncing around, slaying fireweed, playing soccer, terrorizing the dogs. Then I dragged Thea's high chair outside and she happily stuffed chicken leftovers all over her face, forehead, hair, etc. The dogs were positively gleeful at the waterfall of food coming off her chair.

Liam went to sleep tonight without a single grouchy, sad, frustrated or anxious word. That's success in my book.