"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

preschool diaries: here we go again. Gulp.

Okay. So, we apparently have issues with starting school. Last year, the Big First Day was postponed because of Evan's missing kneecap. Today's Open House was missed because of an illness double-whammy at our house. Evan is dealing with yet another round of a fever virus and Max has a barking cough that I'm afraid is going to settle in for yet another round of bronchiolitis. In to the doctor we go, first thing tomorrow.

But first...
Isn't it really interesting that EVERY time Evan gets sick, whether it's an ear infection, strep throat, or just a random virus, that it presents as a really high fever? And isn't it strange that EVERY time Max gets sick, it settles into his lungs and develops into RSV or bronchiolitis? I think it's really true that kids have their immune system weak points. I remember it very clearly from growing up in a family of eight kids. One of my sisters always got strep throat; a brother contracted pneumonia every single winter; another brother was The Puker; and me, I was the kid with the stomachaches. (But they were psychosomatic. I had school anxiety. Some things never change, huh?)

And the apple doesn't fall too far, does it? So could it be that Evan's fevers are psychosomatic, too? I mean, probably not in this case....Max is clearly fighting something pretty hard, too, which indicates that they both got hit with the same bug. But Evan gets sick either before or after just about every life transition he encounters. He's been sick immediately before or following every vacation we've ever taken. He struggled with the post-Christmas return-to-school with fever viruses striking every three weeks or so for MONTHS. It just makes me wonder....

Anyway. Back to school!

I'm excited for him...I think he's really ready this year. He's been talking a lot about what he wants to learn in school. (Animals. It's all about animals. In his latest imaginary world, he has been cast as An Animal Rescuer who travels the globe saving animals in danger--from environmental woes, poachers, accidents, and, sometimes, even their own rascally hijinx.) And he seems legitimately excited to talk about school...as long as we don't talk about riding the bus on field trips, the fact that school will be providing the snacks this year, the art or handwriting centers, or, well, really anything other than what he'll be learning about.

But, damn. I'm going to miss him.

Last year was tough for me, and he was only away for six hours a week. This year, he'll be At School from 9:30-3, THREE days a week. Gulp.

We chose this. We want this for him. He will benefit from this, not only this year, but in thinking of it as preparation for Kindergarten. But it's a lot. And it's going to be hard....because he's my buddy. And I'm going to miss him.

This is going to give Max and I some really good together time before the baby arrives. My little Maxwell, who is happy to go along with whatever Evan dictates just about all the time, is finally going to have a chance to be the decision maker. And Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are going to be all about him. (And the grocery store and Target, but for the most part, it'll be Max's choice.)

Deep breaths. Relax. We have one more week. Let's get healthy and make the most of these last few days of summer...

Lesson Learned:
Does the first day of school EVER get easier? I mean, for the mommy...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

allergy set-back

And we had been doing so well....

Evan's been tolerating baked milk in cookies, cupcakes, and even pancakes ever since he technically passed his milk challenge a few months ago. Read about it here and here.

And then, with the recent success in testing for tree nuts, fish, and shellfish (here), I had been feeling pretty confident about his allergies. Too confident, I suppose.

During quiet time today, as we took turns playing Cut the Rope on my iPad (what?), I grabbed a snack bar for me and some veggie chips for Ev. Evan was eyeing my bar so I offered him a bite. Like a good allergy mom, I prefaced my offer with: "Let me check the label first, bud." It specifically said that it contained MILK, but I wasn't worried since he's successfully eaten pancakes with milk in the batter AND real chocolate chips. It also said that it was processed on equipment that also manufactures products with tree nuts. But it didn't list peanuts and he tests non-allergic to tree nuts (and we've had products with similar warning labels before with no issue).

He took a bite. "Yum!" he said, "That's delicious!" I offered him another bite.  As he chewed and swallowed, a weird look came over his face. "That's not good after all," he said, "it's too spicy." Spicy? It's a fruit bar. Uh oh. He started gagging as if he was going to get sick so I brought him into the bathroom and gave him some water. He swished and spit for about 10 minutes, during which time I called his allergist. I left a message on the nurse hotline and, by the time I was finished, he seemed better. He said his tummy and mouth felt fine, he drank some (hemp) milk and he got back to Cutting the Rope.

When the nurse called back, I explained the symptoms of his reaction and told her how I "treated" it. I asked if, in the future, a "spicy" feeling and spitting (but no vomiting) should warrant further treatment. "You definitely should have immediately given him Benadryl to de-escalate a potentially serious reaction." Whoops.  "Okay," I responded, "so I know now to NOT feed him those snack bars, of course, and I know what to do if he says something bland tastes 'spicy,' is there anything else I should know?"

"I'm going to talk to Dr. B, but he may recommend that you cut all milk from his diet again."

Which sucks.

I didn't hear back from Dr. B today. To be fair, it was after office hours by the time I talked to the nurse. He's a pretty liberal doctor, so I'm really hoping that he'll say that I can continue to give him baked milk in products that he's successfully eaten before today (such as the baked goods I've made containing milk). And Evan doesn't *need* to be eating processed foods containing milk, anyway, so it won't be a huge loss....but it still feels like a step backwards. And that's frustrating.

Lesson Learned:
The good news? This happened at home. And now I know that I can't get too comfortable with just letting him eat whatever he wants. We may have made some huge strides in the last year or so, but Evan still has food allergies and food allergies are unpredictable. His sensitivity to certain foods may come and go. He may safely eat something once and react to it the next time. I need to be careful. And better to learn that lesson in our kitchen and not at school or a birthday party.

Monday, August 29, 2011

survival guide

Based on our recent experience with a certain Irene...and the fact that this hurricane season is just getting into its groove...I thought I'd pass along some tips we learned along the way this weekend. Tips to help maintain your comfort, safety, and sanity while weathering a massive storm and the subsequent power outages it brings.

Tip #1: Before the storm *really* hits, bring your kids to an indoor play space where they can burn off the energy they would otherwise be taking out on your couch, and each other, while the weather wreaks havoc on your trees. While you're out, allow them to each pick out a Brand New Toy. Yes, those Thomas the Tank Engine trains may have been $14 each, and no, we don't even have a Thomas the Tank Engine set, but that was the best $28 we've spent in a long time. Those over-priced, "cheeky" engines kept the boys happily occupied All Day Long.

Tip #2: Also, make sure they each have their own flashlight with plenty of spare Double As. Even before the lights go out, they'll need them. And they'll serve as Excellent night-lights when the power is out in the middle of the night.

Tip #3: Which reminds me: If your kid is dependent on white noise machines, get ones with battery back-up. And if they don't make them, I call dibs on that patent because we were Seriously Wanting One Saturday night.

Tip #4: Live next door to a really generous guy who owns a generator and is willing to share an outlet. You'll owe him big time when you're the only ones in the 'hood not throwing out the contents of your fridge when the lights come back on.

Tip #5: When the going gets real tough (which for us hit at about hour 19) pack up and head to your sister's brand-new house a couple of hours outside the path of destruction. You'll appreciate the hot coffee and white noise at bedtime. Your kids will appreciate the Disney channel. But mostly, they'll appreciate the Cousins Time, as evidenced by the adorable impromptu dance show the four littlest ones put on for us this afternoon.

Lesson Learned:
I am not cut out for roughing it. Luckily, I get by with a little help from my friends. And family. But we had it Real Easy. I hope all of my power-less friends get back on the grid ASAP.  I hope my friends and family in the north get out from underwater even faster. And I hope my friends who are dealing with loss and destruction of property from falling trees have really good insurance and agents who are working around the clock to make things right, Now. Hurricanes suck.

Monday, August 15, 2011

and then there were two. JUST TWO!!!

A while back, I posted about Evan's (and Max's) recent skin prick allergy tests. Following the results (all negatives, except for Evan's stubborn milk intolerance), it was recommended that Evan have blood drawn for RAST testing, which is a more trusted test of true allergies. We've done it before. Based on his RAST numbers, it would be determined if Evan is still in fact allergic to some of these foods (peanuts, all tree nuts, all fish and shellfish, and sesame) or if it was time for some food challenges.

Today I called for the results.....[drumroll...]. He's still allergic to peanuts (level 3 RAST, which indicates a high level of allergic response) and to raw milk (I didn't get the level, but he's still demonstrating a response to raw milk protein. He's been consuming small amounts of baked milk...in cookies, cupcakes, etc. but has not consumed any other dairy like cheese or yogurt. We still need to avoid these.). But he's negative to ALL of the rest! And not just negative as in "a statistically insignificant number," but negative as in ZERO, as in NO CHANCE of allergic reaction if ingested.

This is so huge.

It's huge because it basically eliminates the fear I've carried around with me for the past 3+ years of watching my baby experience anaphylaxis again. And it's huge because a zero, as opposed to "a statistically insignificant number" means NO FOOD CHALLENGES!!

Can you imagine if we had had to challenge EACH individual tree nut, and fish, and shellfish?! It would have probably gone something like this or this or worse. No, definitely worse.

I would have gone crazy. Or we would have just continued to avoid because the prospect of putting Evan through that (or me, or the nurses, for that matter) would have seemed nightmarish.

I literally cannot think of a better outcome to the testing. (Well, technically zeroes on milk and peanut would have been better, but raw milk and peanuts are so easy to avoid. I mean, who doesn't know a kid allergic to peanuts?!)

Lesson Learned:
So, I get off the phone with the nurse and tell Evan the good news. "It doesn't matter," he says, "I'm not eating that stuff anyway." Just as I suspected, my love. But considering we are down to just two little allergies after an initial diagnosis of 13+, I'll just be happy enough for the two of us.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

conquering fears

Sam and I went away for a night. Without the kids. For the first time ever. 

I have never been away from both of my children at the same time for more than a couple of hours at a time. I've never been away from Max. I've only ever left Evan at preschool and, except for the two days I was in the hospital after having Max, never over night.

But....I noticed an opportunity....Evan and Max are at such "independent" ages: easy to put to bed, on a relatively predictable schedule, and easily distracted from separation anxiety. And this window of opportunity is rapidly coming to a close (for the next couple of years, anyway), come February and the arrival of the new baby.

And so, I put on my Big Girl Pants and planned a trip for me and Sam. Albeit a quick one....and pretty close to home. But a trip nonetheless. 

The leaving was hard....Not for Evan....he was captivated by a conversation with Grandpop about the forest fire on the North Carolina border. But Max was pretty sad and clingy, "Coming! I coming! Max coming! Home time! Mommy home time!" And there were tears...Max's and, subsequently, mine. But Max's were soothed by Grandmother's idea to decorate cupcakes. And mine were soothed once I heard that he had stopped crying before we even left the garage.

And then we were off! With this special green leaf in hand that Evan gave to me with the following instructions: "Here's your leaf, Mommy. I got it just for you in case you miss me. If you miss me you can just look at it and it'll make you happy." My sweet, thoughtful boy.

So we went to Charlottesville and stayed at a beautiful hotel with gorgeous views.

And then went for a walk on the Downtown Mall, for some shopping....people watching...leisurely conversation....

...and some chalk drawing....this is a huge slate wall open for public drawing, graffiti, and political sentiments....

...along with some timely reminders...

...and love notes....

We also enjoyed some free live music. I wonder where this cellist came from....what his story is...and if he's happy. His music sounded sad....

And then, to top off the evening, we ate at one of my absolute Charlottesville favorites (of which there are many. So many. I dream about Charlottesville restaurants. In my pregnancies, I crave Charlottesville restaurants...coincidence that I planned a trip here mid-pregnancy? Hmmmmm.).

This is not the menu. This is just the BEER menu. And it's not even ALL the beer, just the bottled beer. Here, there are 66 different kinds of bottled beer. Plus a dozen or so on tap.

The waiter asked what I'd like and looked honestly shocked when I answered, "Just water." I patted my big, round tummy and said, "Until February, anyway." His face lit up and he said, "Congratulations! My son's due date is today!" !!! He seemed full of nervous energy all night, and was just about the giddiest tattooed tap-house waiter I've ever seen. I loved it. And I loved talking babies with this first-time dad-to-be, who had no idea just how amazing and beautiful his life was about to become.

And so we sat on the balcony, drinking beer and water, and watching the world go by beneath us.

My thai chicken curry was just okay. 

Yeah, right. It was so delicious (and spicy) in fact, that when I finished I got the sweetest thing....the very first baby kicks!! It was in perfect comedic ba-dum CHING! rhythm. And at just 12 weeks and 5 days, it was a very welcome and very happy surprise. Is there anything better?

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel. We congratulated ourselves on being such brave parents. And then Sam said, "But I'm glad we're heading back tomorrow. I want to see the kids." And that's why I married him...because as much as we loved our grown-up time, we're a family. We belong together. 

We enjoyed a leisurely wake-up at 7 am, without our daily alarm clock of pitter-pattering, not-so-little feet and a "whispering" voice loudly asking, "Is it time to go downstairs yet?" And with only ourselves to get ready for the day, arrived at breakfast half an hour before our reservation. After breakfast, we hit the road, eager to get home to our kiddos. Our family.

We spent the afternoon at the park and, even though it had only been 24-hours away, I basked in this.... 

....and this...

....and this.

But especially, This....

....and This.

Lesson Learned:
I'm glad we did it. We'll do it again. But not anytime soon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Today, I am thankful.....

that I had the opportunity to see my size-of-a-lime baby wave tiny baby arms, cross tiny baby legs, and suck tiny baby fists during an ultrasound.

for an OB who gets as excited as I do when we hear the baby's heartbeat on the Doppler monitor. Each and every time.

to be 12 weeks and 1 day pregnant. With the worst of the sickness behind me (knocking vigorously on wood) and with the beginning of the happy/comfortable/relaxed/energetic/glow-worthy second trimester within sight.

to still have my hair intact and healthy (albeit completely devoid of style....suggestions?). And to know that the Horrendous Hair Loss Fiasco of my second pregnancy's first trimester is not my forever-after fate for current or future pregnancies.

to have two young kiddos who were kind and patient enough with me throughout my most on-the-floor sick days. Who surprised me, and probably themselves, with their ability to entertain themselves and each other when Mommy needed a little extra time in the morning.

for pbskids.com and specifically, The Wild Kratts, which has occupied my 4-year old's Quiet Time and allowed me to "Rest My Eyes" on the couch just about every afternoon. Also, for teaching him even more about animals than he already knew. He has regularly been donning Creature Power Suits, which give him the power to run like a cheetah, jump like a caracal, swim like a remora, glide like a draco, and more.  Fuel for the imagination of a very imaginative and creature-loving kiddo.

for my husband who, at this very moment, and for the billionth time already this pregnancy, has gone to pick up take-out (soup and fish tacos!) after getting dinner for the boys....and who will, no doubt, continue to do so happily and without complaint many times over the course of the next 28 weeks (year?).

for my volley-ball-sized belly, which, despite the fact that this baby is only 6.1 cm long, and at only 12 weeks, is making this pregnancy impossible to conceal. Which just allows me to shout the good news from the rooftop all the easier. And what pregnant woman doesn't just bask in the belly-glance-smiles that strangers everywhere just can't help but to give?

for my great big family. With so much to celebrate....new jobs, new homes, weddings, babies, success in school, success in sports....and so much to look forward to as our family continues to achieve important and grown-up milestones and continues to grow and multiply....and so much love, support, and pride between and among us.

Lesson Learned:
Don't blame it on the pregnancy hormones, this gratitude sappiness is always present. I'm the nerd who insists that we go around the table and Give Thanks at Thanksgiving Dinner. And I call re-do for the people who say lame things like "Air to breathe." But I know they secretly love it.....because when I'm not there, someone steps in and says it for me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

all you need is *more* love

As we sat down to eat dinner the other night, Max spotted the sliced olives topping my pasta and began shouting: "Oliees! Max's pwate! Oliees Max's pwate NOW! Peeeees OLIEES!" So, I stood up to get some olives for Max's plate. Now. Evan asked what I was doing.

"Max wants olives on his pasta just like me. Max likes olives," I said.
"I think Max likes you, Mommy."
"Well, I sure hope so, buddy. I love Max."
"I like you, Mommy."
"I'm so glad that you do, Ev. I LOVE you."

And then it started....as it does every few weeks.....the I Love You More Debate. We have an adorable board book, I Love You More, that a friend gave to Max when he was born. It's the story of a Mom and a little boy deciding who loves whom more. "I love you higher than the highest bird ever flew." "I love you taller than the tallest tree ever grew," etc.  It makes a perfect baby gift. The recipient will read it over and over and over to her babies. I promise.

Every so often, after one of us has said, "I love you," Evan begins to come up with his own version of the story...to which we, of course, add our own....each of us trying to out-love the last. He's getting pretty creative.....here are some of my favorites of Evan's contributions:

I love you farther than the farthest away star.
I love you bigger than the biggest planet.
I love you deeper than the deepest hole.
I love you faster than the fastest jet.
I love you bigger than the biggest ocean.
I love you stronger than the strongest bulldozer.
I love you louder than the loudest thunder boom.
I love you bigger than the biggest skyscraper.
I love you higher than a really tall tree can reach.
I love you faster than the fastest cheetah.
I love you sweeter than the sweetest song a bird sings.
I love you more powerful than the most powerful elk.

You know what, kiddo? I love you more.

Lesson Learned:
And I'm filing this away for those moments (like this morning) (and this evening) when I need a reminder of the sweetness that IS always there behind the whiny stubbornness.