12 Months

Dear Michael,

You are a 1 year old today.

You say duck (“uck!”), and what a duck says (“kak, kak, kak!”). That’s about it for words, although you’re working on other sound combinations. (It’s “ma” “ma”, baby.)

You walk in that endearing toddler leading-with-the-belly way. And you don’t really walk that much yet. You much prefer cruising, still, or crawling. Sometimes, you shuffle around on your knees, which is pretty damn cute, too.

You are the only baby I know who sleeps on his side.

You love your big sisters unreservedly. You are amazingly tolerant of rough-housing with Kate, and she better watch out, because I have a feeling you’re going to give as good as you get. Flora can make you belly laugh more than anyone else so far, except for when your daddy tickles your belly with his beard.

Generally speaking, you are a delight. Laid back, easy going, not terribly demanding. You are a total mama’s boy, though.

And now that you are sick, you are a whiny, clingy mess. Which is okay. You’re sick, and if I could, I would be with you again today. Letting you cling to me and wipe your snot on my shoulder.

For your birthday, we went to Children’s ER yesterday. You have a bi-lateral ear infection (that means in both ears, buddy), and you’ve been running temps ranging from 100 to 104 since Sunday. You also got a giant shot of antibiotics in the thigh.

Yeah, happy birthday. We’ll do better today. Maybe. I guess it’ll depend on what the doctor says later. You were very unhappy this morning, and you will be spending the day with Bella and Tadone.

Maybe I’ll get you a little cake for later.

Please, please, please feel better. You are breaking your parents’ heart being sick on such a happy occasion. As your Daddy tells you often, he’s been waiting 30 years for you. I haven’t been waiting quite that long. But I do know you are the baby that made our family complete. I want my easy-going mama’s boy back instead of the little bundle of snot, fever, and tears you’ve been this week. I love you no matter what, but I like your belly laughs a lot better.

Happy birthday, little boy. Feel better so we can have a big party!

All my love and hugs and kisses,
Mama

Ear, Ear: Revisited

It seems, five days into antibiotic treatment, that Dan and I have stumbled onto a new wrinkle in the whole 3-year-old behavioral pattern.

If you take an already strong-willed 3-year-old (is there any other kind?) and add a raging ear infection you get the human equivalent of a thermonuclear device.

I imagine, when you are a toddler/little girl, chronic ear pain is like having a beehive in your head. The incessant buzzing of pain must just short out all the circuits. So when, on top of the pain, things don’t go your way (i.e. your mom says ‘no’ or your dad asks you to say please) you just lose it. And that buzzing makes you a crazy, screaming monster for, oh, if you’re Kate, 30, 40 minutes. Until you’re pooped out, and still in pain, and you just want a big hug.

Thank goodness for Alexander Fleming.

Kate is sleeping through the night again. As a matter of fact, on Wednesday (two days into treatment), she fell asleep while I was singing lullabies. That is unprecedented.

The epic tantrums have tapered off. There is still some pouting and stomping, but much (much) less screaming and hitting. I haven’t had to put myself in timeout in days.

She is cheerful again. A tad overactive as bedtime approaches (I think that’s no naps + cabin fever), but laughing, not flipping out. She’s eating well again, too.

I don’t know how Dan feels, but I have been breathing a big sigh of relief. It looks like we’ll survive Kate’s terrifying 3s after all.

Knock wood.

Ear, Ear

After 10 months with tubes, Kate has an ear infection.

And her behavior tonight, after the diagnosis of said infection, makes me wonder how long she has been in pain.

It would explain so much: the poor sleep, the poor eating, the temper tantrums. I mean, not that last one 100% — she is 3, after all — but you would be cranky too if, after 10 months, that special hellish pain — pain that you had lived with for approximately 16 months of your 27-months-long life — pain that had wholly disappeared, was suddenly back. And with a vengeance if that goop draining out of her ear is any indication.

Dan and I have been taking turns talking her down from another epic tantrum. I would just put her to bed, but we have to get some medicine in her. Oral antibiotics AND drops. But we’re not doing anything until she chills the heck out.

Random Thoughts: Brief and Bad

I don’t really have much good news.

I’m at trouble at work because of how much time I have been home with sick children. And you know what? I think I did the right thing staying home with them. So that’s that.

****
Flora woke up SCREAMING at 11:30 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. with ear pain. Dan’s taking her back to the doctor this afternoon.

Guess those antibiotics aren’t working.

I had ear infections as a child, and I remember how very much they hurt. As hard as it was to be empathetic at 2 a.m., I think Dan and I did okay with Flora. We were a little crankier — all right, a lot — with each other. Really have to work on that.

****

Oh, wait, I do have good news. The plague of insects that has descended on the house in the past few months has been stemmed. Thank goodness for cold weather.

I still see the occasional G-D FRUIT FLY buzzing around the kitchen. I make it my priority to track it through the air and squash the life out of it. We’ve a few Asian lady beetle carcasses laying around, too. It’s amazing that some of those seemingly dead bugs will rediscover their will to live (and their tiny little feet) and crawl out of the pile of crumbs I have swept up.

They aren’t very fast. They get dumped with everything else.

****

I have a lot of baking to do in the next 10 to 14 days. This is bad news if you are on the receiving end as I’m not much of a baker. But Flora needs cookies for her class (she’s going to be 5 years old in less than a week) and I am attending the infamous Cookie Swap with Burgh moms on Nov. 14. I have a couple of pretty easy recipes on tap; the trick will be how I deal with the kids while baking.

If I suit them both up in hazmat uniforms, I guess I can let them help.

****

Our new back door won’t go in because of wood rot and other problems. Do we just do something half-assed for now (and not use the back door) or do we spend thousands of dollars to do the job right and make the payments? FUDGE.

****

Updated to add: Flora has infections in both ears, a temp of 102, a new, stronger Rx, and she threw up in the doctor’s office. This day is just going swimmingly!

Ear Update

Thursday the verdict came in: Bun needs ear tubes. The current infection she has must be the eighth one this winter (at least the eighth — I’ve lost track) and the antibiotic she is taking for it is not kicking it. She is scheduled to go in Monday.

I am having many emotions about the whole thing. The encouraging thing has been all the support I have gotten here and elsewhere from other parents, regardless of whether or not their kids have had tubes. To a woman and man, I’ve heard nothing but good things, most along the lines of: “He/she was a completely different child afterwards.”

Reading back over what I have written, I feel pretty defeated, resigned. I was dead set against them, and we tried some alternative remedies — albeit maybe not enough chiropractic visits — but nothing has worked. And now the antibiotics are on the verge of not working either.

Looking at the history here, tubes seem so inevitable. The constant running to the doctor and the pharmacy and the chiropractor (when I could — to say that the chiropractor was difficult to get to would be understating the case; his hours were hard for this working mama, and he didn’t accept my insurance; LOVED the guy, and I miss going with the girls, but it was HARD) and leaving work early or going in late and over and over and over again.

So: tubes. Monday. I’m trying not to freak out — it is a 15 minute surgery, the guy we’re going to comes highly recommended from several sources, it’s going to be fine. Freaking out anyway, a little bit. It’s my Bun, my little girl. The most encouraging mention about tubes I got is from my friend who is a nurse anesthestist who says these surgeries are the quickest, easiest, busiest days she has had.

I am on the mend; DearDR seems to be verging on unwell, although he hasn’t had the most physically easy week; Monkey has an ear infection, too. DearDR took her, so I don’t know if tubes were mentioned. I could have wished for a better Friday, but we’re all still here. And the weather is rocking, so today we’re going to the park.

Random Thoughts: Cranky Version II

I honestly wonder if there is an underlying problem.

Bun is sick again. Last week, she had no ear infection, and she was perfectly healthy when we left on Friday for a weekend out of town.

And now? Fever — over 100 for two days — coughing so hard she gags, congestion, and continuing constipation. Not eating well, not drinking well, not sleeping well.

I wonder if there is something that is making her vulnerable to every virus that comes along. I am seriously concerned, and I am not sure what to do.

When I called my pediatrician, I was told the cough could last for up to three weeks. To make her comfortable, I should run a humidifier in her room (done) and I could give her some OTC cough syrup like Delsym. If she runs a fever again today, I can take her to the office.

Yippee skippy.

I am thinking of taking her back to a chiropractor. And also of putting her on a dairy-free diet. I think that may help with the congestion and constipation.

I just don’t know what else to do. Surgery — ear tubes and/or an adenoidectomy — are only going to address the ear infections. Not that would be any small feat. But I don’t know if that’s going to stop the sick cycle.

I kind of doubt it.

Also, if someone could tell me where I put all the plastic eggs for Easter I would really appreciate it. We have about two dozen around this house somewhere, and if I have to run out at lunch tomorrow — especially if it’s during the wintry mix we’re supposed to be getting — someone is going to be very, very unhappy. Monkey is supposed to be doing an egg hunt at preschool on Thursday, and she can’t if she doesn’t have eggs.

I would like to put in for some spring. Thank you.

Miss Misery, and Down With the Mommy Wars

Bun has been sick since November.

She has had repeated ear infections, two visits to an ENT (a third is upcoming — this time, I’ll be advocating for tubes and/or removal of the adenoids), and I think she has picked up every virus that has come down the pike this winter. She’s had colds galore (hence, the ear infections), the puking version of the flu, constipation, hives, and now another cold or flu virus that has come complete with snot, coughing (no chest congestion, thank goodness), a fever over 100 degrees, and another ear infection.

I stayed home with her yesterday, and we had a difficult day. I don’t know why I do it to myself, but if I end up at home with a sick child, I actually think I will accomplish something: cleaning my room, for example, or doing laundry, or swapping out the girls’ clothes.

Bun would have none of it. Her usual 3-hour nap was only 1 hour and 45 minutes, and I spent the whole of it driving to and from Target to get her prescription filled (and do a little shopping, of course. On a completely unrelated side-note, I just want to say that I only bought the items on my shopping list — a mean feat in Target, as everyone knows — and that I spent under $100! Okay, so it took three coupons and a $10 gift card to come in under $100, but I did it.) When she wasn’t napping, she was sitting on my lap demanding to be read to, or sitting on my lap demanding to watch TV, or demanding food that she had no intention of actually eating, or straining pathetically to produce some poop.

Constipation is the worst in a toddler. She’s been suffering for about two weeks. I thought it was the last antibiotic she was on, but that’s a week behind her now. We have a pretty high-fiber diet (being vegetarians and all), and she’s good at taking in plenty of liquids, but I upped everything anyway, and cut back a bit on stuff like cheese. Now she’s on Augmentin, so her constipation will switch to the other end of the spectrum, and her diaper area will be inflicted in Biblical-plague proportions. My little girl cannot catch a break.

Part of my frustration, of course, is having a sick child, worrying about the continued use of antibiotics, losing time at work, etc., etc. Part of the frustration comes from the fact that I breastfed Bun and Monkey, and it hasn’t done jack to protect either of them from (at the least) ear infections. I have been reading a lot of articles this week about breastfeeding, and they’ve sparked some discussions on forums other than this blog, and I just couldn’t let them go unremarked.

First off, is this wonderful piece from the Atlantic by Hanna Rosin, a woman who also writes for Slate.com. (The title, I think, is misleading. Summary: All the science that “proves” breast is best may be more of a bill of goods than hard data. That said, breastfeeding does have immeasurable benefits.)

Then there’s this article from Slate.com, regarding the brain boost breastfeeding may or may not give to children. (Summary: There is a gene involved, and if your child doesn’t have it, it doesn’t matter how much boob milk he/she gets. That said, most children seem to have it.)

Then there is the lovely, intelligent discussion on Slate’s XX Factor blog regarding both these articles.

And lastly, here’s a viewpoint from someone I briefly tweeted with regarding that first article. This post is not about that article, although it is on the topic of BF’ing (pro, of course).

If you are inclined to read any or all of that — and it’s all good, thought-provoking stuff — then maybe you’ll read further. I’ve been ruminating on this all since Wednesday, so I apologize if I seem to be going on a bit. I hope you’ll stick with me.

Let me say first: I am pro-breastfeeding, and I did (as I said) nurse both of my girls. I also pumped and supplemented with formula. I did it all, baby! And this as a W/SAHM. If I do have another baby (never say never), I would do my best to breastfeed and/or provide him or her with breastmilk, too.

Did I make that choice because all the “science” that promotes BF’ing? Maybe that influenced my decision. I certainly derived a lot of information and support from external sources (from books and magazine articles to my mother and SILs). I feel extremely lucky that BF’ing was not a struggle for me. I put both my girls to my breast within an hour after they were born, and they pretty much took it from there.

Did I love the intangibles about BF’ing? To wit: the skin-on-skin contact. The rush of warmth and pride that I could do this, that I could nourish my baby with my body. The bone-deep feeling that what I was doing was natural. Yes, yes I did.

Was it always comfortable and convenient? Hell, no. Was I a sleep-deprived zombie mommy for six, eight, twelve weeks? Hell, yes. Did I in a desperate bid for sleep or freedom give my babies a couple ounces of formula to get them the heck off my boob already? Hell, yes! Do I feel bad about that? Hell, no.

Would I ever let another woman make me feel bad about that? Again: Hell, no.

And here’s the crux of all this rambling: Would I ever let another woman — mother or not — make me feel bad about any decision I made regarding my child? No. Would I ever, on purpose, make another woman question or feel bad for any decision she made regarding her child? No. Not if the end result was a healthy and thriving baby, and a happy and healthy mother. (Please note: Ain’t nobody happy if Mama ain’t happy.)

I hate Mommy Wars. Passionately. I hate the stay-at-home moms who insist that their decision is the best decision period. I hate work-outside-the-home moms who think SAHMs are a big waste of brains. I hate moms who make decisions for their children based on what their peers will think of them instead of making decisions based on what is best for their children. I hate the whole BF Brigade and the lactivists who insist that “breast is best” in such a way that it makes moms who turned to or chose formula feeding feel like bad moms. I hate mothers who insist that motherhood is the end-all-be-all of womanhood. I hate child-free women and couples who act like kids are such a drag and/or devastating to the environment, and women should be ashamed for even longing to perpetuate the species. I hate people who look cross-eyed at women BF’ing in public and get all offended. I hate lactivists who wave their BF’ing boobs around and say, “It’s natural! Suck it!” (Pun intended.)

All of these are deeply personal choices that women, that mothers have to make. From the private, personal decision to become a mother or not in the first place. What right do I have to stand in another woman’s shoes and tell her that she made the wrong choice? And what nerve!

If a soon-to-be mom asked me about breastfeeding, I would wholly and enthusiastically encourage her. If a new mom was struggling after two weeks, I would encourage her to continue to try. But at some point where mom’s health and mental stability were bumping up against the need of her child to be fed — whether it be five weeks or six months — I think a mom has to be left alone to make her own decision.

If a mom decided from the get-go that she was going to formula feed, I would be surprised, but I certainly wouldn’t presume to judge her. It’s not my decision.

It’s not my decision.

It was my decision to become a mother. It was my decision to breast feed. It was my decision to supplement with formula. It was my decision to go back to work full time. It was my decision to raise my girls as vegetarians. The only other person who gets to weigh in on my decisions regarding my children is my husband, DearDR. And even with his input, it is still, in the end, my decision as the primary caregiver in the family. (Things like joining a soccer team or a dance class and schooling are much more a team effort.)

Opinions are like bellybuttons: everybody has one. (I know the adult version of that, too, but this strives to be a family-friendly site.) If you cannot offer your opinion without insulting anyone, please keep it to yourself. If you cannot express your opinion without making another party feel shame or guilt, it has no place here.

Thanks for your time.

Could someone help me down off this soapbox, please?

Best Intentions

I was going to throw up a post later this morning. It was going to be quick and short and random, mostly about how having to do laundry next door is putting a drag on my evening computer activities (blogging, plurking).

But now, Monkey is crying about how much her ear hurts, and she just threw up a lot of spit — not vomit — on my rug. So I’ll just throw this up now — no pun intended — to still be in compliance with Blog365. And then take her to the doctor.

Incidentally, took Bun to the ENT yesterday. She has fluid in her ears, but no infection. The doctor advised waiting at least three months, and rechecking her ears at that time. Barring infection of course.

More later.

Update: Indeed, Monkey has a raging ear infection in her left ear. No fever, no cold symptoms, and no more volumes of spit on the floor. I got the prescription filled and took her to daycare.

Today’s doctor suggested maybe removing her tonsils and/or adenoids may help with the infections. She said that the effectiveness of tubes is under review — Children’s wants to do another study. She asked if Monkey snores at night, and I said yes, she does. Monkey snores very loudly at night; she gives her daddy a run for his money in the sawing logs department. So it’s something else to look into.

The Internet, of course, has a variety of information and opinions, for and against. I’ll have to do more research, and probably see another specialist. And I wonder what impact this will have on Bun.

I just want the ear infections to end, and I get queasy when I consider all the antibiotics my girls get. I thought that Monkey would have outgrown them by now, but she hasn’t. The only year she missed having infections was from 2 to 3 years old.

Coincidentally, the same year that I was a SAHM. Bring on the mommy guilt!

I am very tired of doing this year after year. And even if Monkey were to outgrow them this year, I would still have another two years to go with Bun. What to do?

Some days, being a mommy is harder than others.

Back on the Merry-Go-Round

Last Thursday was Bun’s 2-year-old check up. They now do an autism screening questionnaire at this check up (I don’t recall them doing it for Monkey). One of the questions is, “Do you sometimes think your child is deaf?”

And I confess to thinking, “Jeez, doesn’t every parent think his or her child is deaf on occasion??”

The good news is that Bun tests normal on that questionnaire. Additionally, she’s in the 90th percentile for height and the 50th percentile for weight, so unfortunately that toddler belly is not making a comeback anytime soon. Color me not surprised.

The bad news is we have been, once again, referred to an ENT. Bun and I are going in early February.

[Aside: I made the appointment in Wexford, because that office is much easier for me to get to. DCL — the redoubtable DCL — is urging me to make the appointment in Oakland at Children’s.

I do not want to drive to Oakland. This attitude primarily bums me out because it reveals what a suburbanite I’ve become. “Oh, the traffic, the parking, whine whine whine.” Should I suck it up, and if I can get in earlier, should I drive into Oakland?]

Back to the point: this go-’round is no fun. Bun is currently on her fifth antibiotic this winter alone (dating to before Thanksgiving). That’s two ear infections (the latest one of which seems to be lingering) and one sinus infection.

What was most alarming at this most recent appointment: the doctor (whom I think of as Hot Doc, with all apologies to my own hot doc, DearDR) took his time rechecking her ears. After looking in her left ear, he said, “That one’s clear. But, I can tell that she’s had repeated ear infections, just looking in there.”

Gah!

My pediatricians are not alarmists. They are all very calm, very cool. I really like almost every one of the docs at the practice, too. They are not dismissive; they do not condescend; the answer all my questions. They are awesome with my kids, to a man and woman.

So I felt that a statement like, “I can tell she’s had repeated infections” was scary. He went on to say, “You don’t want to get into scarring, and hearing problems, so if there’s an infection in the other ear, I’m going to refer you to an ENT again.”

The other ear was still infected.

Off we go. I really liked the doctor we saw last time in Wexford, so that was another deciding factor in heading that direction.

I don’t think this latest antibiotic is helping her, either. My poor Bun.

Maybe quitting the binky will help. I may also ask about a month of antibiotics before we go to tubes, see what the prevailing feeling is.

I just want Bun to be better. Maybe it is something she will outgrow — probably. But in the meantime, it’s tough on everyone. Especially Bun — and me!

‘Twas the Day Before Christmas…

…And all through the house roamed sick toddlers and a stressed out husband.

I came to work.

To clarify my last post: I was very, very ill on Sunday, not just sick about not having a Christmas tree. I spent most of the day on the couch, even napping during the first half of the Steelers’ game. (Should’ve napped through the rest of it.) Sore throat, very achy. DearDR spent most of the day with Monkey next door; Bun and I muddled through at home.

I managed to cook a very yummy lentil stew for dinner. I also put together gifts for my daughter’s kindergarten teachers (only two, thank goodness). I was going to bake cookies on Sunday, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen before… oh, the new year, probably. Too bad, because I have tons of flour, sugar, and butter at home now! (DearDR, bless him, did the grocery shopping.)

Also, bless DearDR for buying a Christmas tree. He brought home a pretty little Fraser fir last night. Now we just gotta throw some decorations on it.

Here is why DearDR is stressed out: My in-laws decided to take their car (the Cadillac) to the shop today. They want to use the station wagon. The children have to go to the doctor (Bun’s Rx does not seem to be helping her; Monkey is complaining about a sore throat — hey, wouldn’t it be hysterical if she had mono?? hahahaha! No). They are currently scheduled for back-to-back appointments at 10:15 (the doctor’s office is only open a half day today).

And DearDR has not bought one Christmas gift. For anyone. Well, no, that’s not true — he bought iTunes gift cards at the grocery store for his teenage cousin.

Do you know how many people DearDR has to buy for?

One. Me.

If he wants, he can also purchase gifts for his parents and his grandmother. But the past few years, we have primarily only purchased gifts for the kids in the family. It is too expensive to do otherwise. This year especially.

Sooooo, I am facing the reality that I may not get any gifts from my husband this year. I am having a difficult time with it. [See update below.]

I don’t want to be angry, but I am angry. After all, I’m the one over here trying to get my children to appreciate that Christmas is not about presents and Santa, but about Jesus’ birth.

(Had to review this last night with Monkey:
“What is Christmas about, Monkey?”
“Presents?”
“No, it’s Jesus’ birthday.”
“Oh, I thought it was about presents.”
“Well, Jesus was the best present of all.”
“…Okay.”
I could see in her little head she was thinking, “I am still getting presents, right?”)

Part of me feels really bad for DearDR. He loves Christmas shopping — he loves shopping for gifts in general, really — but he is stuck. He doesn’t plan well; he’s not very organized; he spends almost all of his time working. If he had thought ahead a little bit, he could have ordered gifts online, and he’d be done. And now, instead of going shopping, he’s got the kids all day; he has to take them to the doctor; he is stranded without a car until his parents get back from the garage. He doesn’t really know what to get me. We didn’t exchange lists this year, and he can’t spend that much money, anyway.

I am trying to let my sympathy and my Christian spirit carry me through or past my anger. I’m having uneven results. Besides, it’s not a foregone conclusion — after all, we get our prescriptions filled at Target, that mecca of shopping!

I just want to focus on making Christmas a fun day for my children. I want us to go to church as a family. I want them to enjoy the tree, and opening their presents. Maybe when Bun naps Christmas day, Monkey and I will try to bake a few cookies (note to self: must stop eating pistachios DearDR bought for recipe) before we go next door to my in-laws.

I need to find it in my heart to let DearDR off the hook. (This year, anyway!) And he has to do the same to himself. Yeah, it stinks. But DearDR is not a bad guy. He’s not a mean guy. He’s not out to hurt me.

He makes me laugh. He’s a good father. He makes awesome green beans. He works damn hard, too hard sometimes. He is good at doing things around the house — unstopping drains and fixing dryer vents and changing furnace filters.

This is the guy I married. And I love him.

Merry Christmas, DearDR. Take it easy on yourself, okay?

Edited to add: Monkey has an ear infection in her left ear. Bun has a sinus infection to go with her two ear infections.

At least he will be going to Target. I will be getting Christmas booty! And maybe some green beans later. Mmmm.

Merry Christmas Eve. Sigh.