Thursday, March 25, 2010

Going Under... and resurfacing...

Phew. The week is over. Well, at least it's over for all intents and purposes. Too many procedures, too many appointments, too much stress. Tomorrow, we breathe.

Our day started at 4:45 this morning. That was the time we set the alarm to go off, because Oliver couldn't nurse beyond 5:00 AM. You see, today was his dreaded endoscopy. We got to New York Presbyterian around 8:00 AM for paperwork and consultations with the anesthesiologist and the gastroenterologist. Oliver was given super cute scrubs to wear. We tried to keep him happy. And we started to panic. With each passing minute, I just wanted to get it over with. We hadn't anticipated that he would have to be on a respirator during the procedure. The idea of my little boy being put under anesthesia was enough for me to digest, but the fact that his body couldn't breathe on its own while he was under? Terrifying.

9 AM, they were ready. Was I ready? I felt like we were marching to the gallows as we walked back to the procedure room. They put monitor sticky pads on his back and chest. They put an oxygen monitor on his toe. They asked me to lay my baby boy down on an inflated, heated pad on the bed. They put a mask on his face and he started to cry. And then he stopped and became eerily calm. And then his eyes grew blurry and rolled back. And they told me to kiss him and leave the room. And I cried.

And we waited. 30 minutes. 35 minutes. They came to get us to bring us back to the recovery room. And we waited. Then I heard his cries. The anesthesiologist carried him to me and placed him in my arms. He flailed and cried, all the while his eyes were closed. They brought a warm blanket and wrapped it around his little body, and he fell into a deep, calm sleep in my arms.

So, nothing really to report. We survived it, he survived it. The waking up process was pretty grueling, with more tears, vomit, and some blood, but the good news is there are no major obstructions in his digestive tract. We should get the pathology report in another week. So no real answers as to why my otherwise healthy 25 pound 10 month old won't eat, but also no real bad news... so do we call it a draw?

Tonight, he splashed around in his bath, happy as a clam. The bruises on his foot from his IV and the red square marks on his chest and back from the monitors stuck to his tender skin were the only reminders of our morning. But PHEW. It's over.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How do people do it all?

How do people do it all? I know there are people who manage to look put together, have children who are clean and eat organic, home-cooked meals every day, keep on top of laundry, errands, cleaning, take the time to exercise and do things for themselves and also spend quality, engaging time with their children. HOW?

My uniform every day is jeans and a sweater. If I apply make-up, it's because I have a funeral to attend. Moreoften than not, I have some errant body fluid on me - spit up, poop, drool... Lookin' good Mama. I spend little time without one or two children hanging off me and demanding things from me. Time for me? What's that?

At home, I feel like I spend the majority of my life moving things. Moving things from one point in my apartment to another - much of this migration is caused by my four year-old, who brings things out of her play area or bedroom and then leaves them elsewhere, but there is also the clutter of things that are dropped somewhere in the moment when we arrive home and there is a bathroom emergency or a nursing emergency, etc... and then they stay there.

Since Oliver was born 10 months ago, our laundry has EXPLODED. There is ALWAYS something in the washer and dryer, and I would venture that we probably do about 10+ loads of laundry a week. That's 10+ loads of washing, drying, folding, sorting, and putting away.

Because of Oliver's food sensitivities, we have to go to two different grocery stores each week - Trader Joe's and then an organic health food store that carries milk free / soy free alternatives to a lot of products so I can actually eat more than twigs and berries. I have to bake my own bread each week, because almost EVERY major brand of bread on the market has soy flour or soybean oil or soy lecithin in it.

And then there is the shuttling - pick ups, drop offs, etc. School, German School, ballet, tumbling, playdates, etc. etc. etc. It feels like we always should have left for somewhere about 5 minutes ago.

This morning as I was walking to Julia's room with a huge basket of laundry to put away, I noticed the clutter in other parts of the apartment, the tumbleweeds rolling underneath the bookshelf, the layer of dust on the television cabinet. Don't get me wrong - I am not sitting around eating bon bons and watching TV all day, but HOW do people get it all done without support staff? Or do we just resign ourselves to the fact that this time, this time when my children are small is a very intense time and that SOME day I will go back to being able to accomplish it all? Do I lower the bar and my expectations, or is it actually within reach and I am just doing a poor job of time management?

Well, off to punch down the bread dough and scarf down some lunch in the time I have while Oliver is napping. And yes, there is a basket of laundry calling my name... sigh.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Now... or later...

I know she is asleep in there. There is precious little noise coming from Julia's bedroom, and it is her 'rest' period. And to tell you the truth, I am ambivalent about that fact. On the one hand... Ahhhhhhhhhhh... a momentary break, I can exhale, and drink a cup of desperately needed coffee - normally I am not an afternoon coffee drinker, but it's been a hectic crazy day. I started the day at a funeral for a colleague, and came home to find out Oliver had only napped 30 minutes for his morning nap... suffice it to say that ain't enough.

Friday right after school, Julia has a yoga class taught by one of her teachers who is also yoga certified. That means I pick up, take her to yoga, figure out what to do with the boy for an hour smack during his nap when he is exhausted, go pick her up, and everyone gets home at 2, WAY later than usual. Because of the funeral this morning and worried I wouldn't make it to pick up, I asked a friend if she could grab Julia if she didn't see me in the lobby at dismissal and I would catch up with them. I prepared Julia that this could be a possibility. Well, I got there a moment after my friend did, and Julia PITCHED A FIT. A HUGE one in the lobby, which then continued up on the sidewalk where she ran away from me screaming I could walk by myself and she wanted to walk with my friend. She almost got a 1 1/4 mile schlep home for that Oscar-worthy performance.

While Julia was in yoga, my little man decided he wasn't going to nap in the stroller, wasn't going to nap in the carrier, and fought sleep until we were almost home, and THEN, after a 30 minute nap this morning, took a 17 minute afternoon nap. A SEVENTEEN MINUTE NAP. AND THEN, it took me another hour to get him back to sleep in his crib, FINALLY at 3:15.

As a side note, ironically, my teaching contract for the fall arrived in the mail today. After the day I have had, I might just drag the two kids into Manhattan and personally hand my contract to the principal TODAY.

Sooooooooooooo... I know she is asleep in there. But I am going to enjoy this cup of coffee, and know I will pay for this later at bedtime - but for now, a moment of peace.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


It's predictable. By February every year, I start to question why we ever left the sunny south. Pummeled by one snow storm after another, exposed to the elements, walking (as Julia's former sitter puts it) the 'Bhutan Death March' - AKA 1 1/4 miles - to pick her up from school three times a week in sub freezing temperatures and being housebound with two young children is enough to make you crazy.

However, sitting on the lawn with friends overlooking the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges today and basking in the 70 degree spring sunshine, I fell in love with Brooklyn all over again. It's a relationship that waxes and wanes with the seasons, but my love always returns with the spring sunshine. And, it appears spring is returning to the Big Apple.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Taking Nothing For Granted

Oliver is a terrible sleeper. We were sure we would get a champ of a sleeper this go-round because we put in more than two years in the trenches with his sister. He duped us at the beginning. As a newborn he consistently woke up twice a night, around 1 AM and 4 AM every night. We thought we had hit the jackpot in the sleep department. Julia was waking 5, 6, 7 times a night as a newborn. The only place she would sleep any substantial amount of time was on her Daddy's chest. We were spent, and felt like we had been hit by a mack truck.

As Oliver has gotten older, his sleep has gotten worse and worse and worse and worse... ultimately as a survival tactic, he ends up in bed with us every night... just because it is easier to just nurse him lying down than it is to get out of bed and sit in the glider 5 times a night. And if we were cry-it-out kind of people (which I don't think I have the heart to do... thus the 2+ years in the trenches with his sister) we couldn't really do it anyhow because he is still in our bedroom, YAY tiny New York City apartments. Last night he went to bed at 7:45, woke at 9:15, again at 10:45, again at 12:30 and at that time decided it would be a good idea to hang out with Mommy and Daddy. For two hours and 15 minutes. In fact, I just got off the phone with Eddie, from Wall-2-Wall, a company that installs temporary tension walls to cordon off a room into two separate spaces. Will it help? Who knows, but it helps me to think we might have a plan.

Now I have perspective. I know that at some point he will go to bed and SLEEP. Despite her AWFUL sleep beginnings, Julia now goes down around 7:30 and SLEEPS until about 7 in the morning. I also have a different perspective as I head down the path of x-rays and endoscopies. Is his poor sleep caused by some sort of a physical challenge? Is he waking because he is truly hungry and needs to nurse? I know it must take a terrific amount of calories to sustain his 25 pound body weight on a liquid diet. And he is just nursing. Period. So as a result, I am loathe to night wean a 25-pound exclusively nursing baby, even though we are heading to about the time I forced the issue with his sister.

But taking these two things into account, somehow I muddle through and somehow I find myself far more compassionate and far less frustrated at 2 in the morning when he has been in our bed, in his bed, rocked in the glider and back in our bed over the course of 1 1/2 hours and still is WIDE AWAKE. And I dig deeper. And I find patience. And I get out of bed and rock with him once again.

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's all okay... until it isn't...

Funny how you coast through life, making your grand plans and dreaming your big dreams. It's easy to do that when all the pieces are in place... when the bills are being paid, when the family is happy, and when everyone is HEALTHY.

About 3 months ago, Oliver started exhibiting the same food sensitivity symptoms as his sister did when she was 6 months old (read: blood in his diaper). We started down the road of pediatric gastroenterology, Mama had to give up all dairy and soy, and we thought that was the end of it. Here we are at 9 1/2 months, and I spent the morning at Cornell Medical Center with Oliver doing a swallow assessment, following up with the pediatric GI, and subjecting my little man to a barium esophageal x-ray. What a sad sight that was - Oliver screaming at the top of his lungs, chalky white liquid staining his face as they tried to pump it into his mouth with a syringe, and tears staining his little cheeks. The esophageal x-ray was to rule out any obstructions to doing a (GASP) endoscopy on my little guy to see if there are any obstructions impeding his solid food intake. I am getting anxious just writing the word and thinking about it.

Words were thrown around this morning - ones that I hadn't anticipated hearing... therapy... services... early intervention... I feel like I am just at the tip of the iceberg here, and starting a looooooooooooong road ahead.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sibling Sweetness

I will not say the first 4-6 months of having Oliver around we easy in terms of Julia's behavior. We had some SERIOUS testing and some HORRIBLE tantrums. One in particular that comes to mind happened about a week after Oliver was born. Dave was still home on paternity leave and we had to go to a local baby/kids' store to get a couple of new covers for the changing table, because poor Oliver hosed himself and the changing table down every time a little air hit his package during a diaper change.

We were in the store and Julia saw some sparkly red shoes she wanted. I told her she didn't need shoes at that moment in time, especially not $50 sparkly red shoes. She stood her ground, refusing to leave the store. Finally, Dave had to pick her and take her outside. He gave her the benefit of the doubt. It was late afternoon. Was she hungry? Did we need to stop for a bagel or something on the way home? Julia glowered at him and ran back into the store. What followed was a 15 block walk home where Dave carried a flailing and screaming child, all the while she was smacking him in the face. Good times.

However, this post is not about the hellacious time we had at the beginning. The one thing that has been true since day one is how much Julia ADORES her baby brother. Yesterday we were walking to German school, a language immersion program Julia does every Thursday afternoon to help support our decision to raise her bilingually. We were talking about a friend who is pregnant with her second baby. This friend was part of a moms' group I met when Julia was a baby. We were six women who all sought out a formal support group because we were having a difficult time with one baby / parenting issue or another. Ironically, we all had little girls. Three of us have gone on to have second children, ironically all boys. This fourth mom is pregnant with her second, a girl. Julia was remarking how funny it is that all of her other little friends from that group have little brothers and how Thalia is going to have a little sister.

I reminded Julia of something she said about 2 weeks before Oliver was born. We didn't know what we were going to have, a boy or a girl. Julia said to me, "Mama, if this baby is a boy I am going to be SO FRUSTRATED." Julia looked at me and was quiet for about a block. Then she turned to me and said, "Mama, you know what? Oliver is EXACTLY the baby I wished for."

I about cried. What an incredibly sweet sentiment from his big sister. He is one lucky little boy, to have a sister who loves him so completely. I know there will be bumps in the road, but her love and adoration for him have been present since the day he was born. He's in good hands.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Princess and Rock Star

Gender roles are alive and well among the preschool set. Just listen to any four year-old, and s/he will tell you the interests of children are already clearly divided. Boys like superheroes and Star Wars. Girls like princesses, fairies and dolls. The lines have already been drawn, and few children cross back and forth across the gender barrier.

Well, Julia has figured out a creative way to navigate the already rigid gender expectations of the four year-old preschool world: create two separate personas. Julia has two fashions / personalities if you will - princess and rock star. She has explained it to me, as best a four year-old can.

Princess: hair has barrettes, ponytails or a head band
Clothing is dress or skirt, tights or leggings
Mary janes are princess shoes
Princess colors include pink, purple, white
Princesses also move very gracefully and calmly

Rock Star: Jeans are a must
Wild hair - i.e., nothing in the hair "Because rock stars have wild hair"
t-shirt, or long sleeved shirt with a t-shirt over it
Rock star colors include black (if the shirt has a guitar on it, it is AWESOME), blue, red, and green
Vans sneakers are required to complete the rock star look
Rock stars are wild, often using the furniture as a playground

I think this is a pretty creative solution to the increasingly inflexible gender expectations. While Julia moves back and forth between the boys and the girls, she doesn't always talk the talk, so to speak. One day she came home from school emphatically saying she LOVED superheroes. When I asked her who her favorite superhero was, she hesitated and said, "Ummm... Star Wars?" Clearly we need to brush up on some superhero terminology.

I think it is great to have kids who can move back and forth from group to group, particularly kids who can debunk gender stereotypes as they start to form in the minds of young kids. Julia was the only girl in her soccer class for the better part of a year, and she kept up with little boys, some of whom were far more aggressive than she. Her ballet class had one little boy in it for about 6 months. When they had their last recital in June, the teacher said she would see some of them in the summer and some in the fall. Sadly, the little boy raised his hand and said, "Ummmmm... I'm doing soccer." It's hard to be a pioneer. However, when you have a little girl in your soccer class or a little boy in your ballet class, it's much more difficult for kids to say, "Girls don't play soccer," or "Boys don't do ballet."

Yeah, Julia's a bit of a ground-breaker at school. She even came home the other day and said she had played "Superhero Princess" with a little boy on the playground. Now that's a compromise.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sending her to the couch...

One of the things I have been struck with since becoming a mother almost 4 1/2 years ago, is how complex parental emotions can be. You love love love love love your newborn baby, but feel saddened by your own personal loss of identity. Before baby I was a wife, a runner, a teacher, a graduate student, a traveler of the world... all of that was superseded by MOMMY. You desperately want some time to yourself, but then feel guilty, indulgent and selfish when you actually find yourself alone. You love the fact that your 9 month-old son prefers you over every other person on the planet, but also feel smothered and suffocated by his whining for you when he is in his father's arms.

This past week Julia had an AWFUL week. She lost her television and computer privileges for the entire week (read: no break for Mama all week) due to poor choices and bad behavior. The real crescendo of the week happened at the YMCA when we went to have Julia observed so an instructor could identify an appropriate swim class level for her. After her observation, I told her we could swim for a bit in the family recreation lane: That is, until Oliver got fussy. That seems to be the qualifier for everything these days. Sure we can do ANYTHING you want... until your brother gets fussy.

Well, as expected, he got fussy about 20 minutes after we got into the pool. I compromised with Julia. No, we don't have to leave right now. I will sit on the edge of the pool with Oliver and you can continue to paddle around RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF ME, if you choose not to wear a floatation device. She was content to do that for a bit, and then she started playing with a couple of kids her age who were swimming nearby. They were clearly stronger swimmers than she was, as they were diving underwater and swimming underwater. Well, the next thing I knew, Julia had TAKEN OFF for the other end of the pool racing the little boy, doggy-paddling as fast as her little arms would go.

I was TICKED. And SCARED. And damn was I PROUD. I walked the length of the pool demanding that Julia come to the side RIGHT NOW. She defiantly kept her eyes on me as she continued paddling furiously to the other end of the pool. I watched as her pace slowed and started to get really fearful. What if she goes under water? I am walking the periphery with a 9 month-old on my hip! Do I leap in the water with him? Do I signal the lifeguard? Do I lay him down on the side of the pool and jump in after her? And of course as she was swimming the FULL LENGTH of that Olympic pool, I was overwhelmed with pride. Here was a little girl who just learned to swim about a month ago, and she was frantically swimming the full length of that pool, racing a much stronger swimmer than herself... and keeping pace.

At the far end of the pool, she finally touched the wall and I snatched her out of the pool by one arm before she even know what was happening. That was the end of her swim for the day, and any parent of a strong-willed four year old knows what happened next. Tantrum in the locker room, naked child refusing to get dressed, stepping back and forth over her baby brother who was lying on the floor and almost squashing him, well intentioned strangers offering to help by putting our wet towels in the laundry, Julia ripping clothing off her body as it was put on her... and sadly, the loss of swimming lessons. I told her if she couldn't make safe decisions in the pool and be independent in the locker room, she couldn't do swimming lessons and I couldn't bring her to the pool by myself with Oliver.

We got home and after a glass of pinot grigio, my rage had diminished to a dull roar. I was no longer ready to spit nails at my daughter, and ready to talk to her about what had happened at the pool. I decided to explain my complex emotions to her, and let her in on a little secret: adult emotions are not cut and dried, they are multi-layered and often contradictory. I told her she had made me so ANGRY at the pool by not following my clear instructions and then choosing not to listen when I told her to come to the edge. She had made me very SCARED when I watched her tire and I was afraid she was going to go under water. And she had made me so very PROUD that her swimming had improved so much that she could swim the whole length of the pool. But most of all I was scared. That water was dangerous and if you go underwater because you are too tired to keep your body above water, you can even die.

Julia looked at me, and responded in a way only a four year-old can. "I'm sorry I didn't listen to you Mommy. I didn't know it was a dangerous choice. You didn't tell me that." Great. So what Julia took away from this whole experience is not

1) I should listen to Mama.
2) Mama makes choices that keep me safe
3) Mama was proud of me because my swimming has gotten so much better.

No. Our lesson of the day is water is dangerous and it can kill you. This is CLEARLY going to be brought up on a psychiatrist's couch in about 20 years...