Friday, November 29, 2013

Endearing at Eight Months

There were all sorts of things that I could have done today, with Tom home and no pressing errands to run or appointments to make. However, I did none of them. From the moment I woke, I felt that I just needed a lazy day, and I got one.

I really want to say it was worth it- it pretty much felt like it was at the time- but I know I'll soon be wishing I'd made "better" use of the time. Mental health days are important too, however, so I'm trying to keep that in mind.

Needless to say, I did not redo Amelia's eight-month pictures, so I've had to work with what I got yesterday. I've also been desperately unable to come up with an interesting album name, as you've likely noted.

It's a real shame that she was so reluctant to smile, given that she has five teeth to show off now. However, I suppose that the pictures are indicative of where she's at right now. She's a happy, laid-back baby, but the bulk of her energy lately has been spent on observation and exploration. She has some pretty serious stuff to take in and consider every waking moment of the day.

When I first started out she seemed somewhat cooperative, but I was having issues with the white balance due to the lighting and reflective quality of the loveseat material. I edited this picture (one of the first that I took) quite a bit and improved it somewhat, but it still looks a little strange.

After I moved her to the sofa, she seemed intrigued, initially.

Though the white balance appeared more natural in the new location, the sofa fabric was also reflecting too much light back from the flash, and I found that  most of the photos were ending up somewhat overexposed. In the meantime, Mia quickly began to fade out. She clearly wasn't "feelin' it."

Mei Mei, Mima, and I all tried valiantly to capture her attention, while Pooh unabashedly managed to steal my focus for every picture going forward. All the three of us got for our efforts was a blank stare.

Ultimately, Mia decided that Tigger's tag was far more entertaining than we could ever be.

At that point, I decided that perhaps it was time to get some shots of Mia by herself. (Well, almost. Pooh and Piglet were photo-bombing with their feet until I noticed the encroachment and moved them further away.)

Finally, something approaching a smile!

She no longer looks bored or depressed, at least.

Then she broke out a half-sneer...

... but, eventually, we did get some teeth (and a lot of skirt-lifting, as well).

What can I say? That's my girl, all eight months' worth of her. I've no doubt I'll get my share of chances to capture her beaming smile over the next few weeks, so I'll let these particular pictures stand as the official record of just how far she's come.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Reluctant Thanksgiving

I wasn't reluctant to give thanks, I promise. I try to do that every day, especially on those days when I really have to think past the horrible to recognize the good.

However, the crazier my life gets on a day-to-day basis, the more I've come to dread holidays, or any day that takes us wildly off any semblance of schedule. The hard just gets harder when we change things up.

This year, on top of having to drag three babies, some amount of food and drink, and various required baby items along with us on our day trip to my parents', I had other worries to attend to. There were Mia's Eight Month pictures, which were forgotten in the Thanksgiving prep chaos of yesterday. There were the thank-you cards that I've been desperate to find a time to work on, and hoped to try to squeeze in during our visit, while extra hands were available for child care. There was the camera to pack, for the "month" pictures I hoped to take. There were all-new potty concerns, and a nearly-forgotten special potty chair that we had to turn around and retrieve five minutes into our drive.

Tom had to talk me out of a near-meltdown before I could face the overwhelmingness of it all and get moving on All The Things That Needed Doing.

Suffice it to say, though we got a later start than either of us really wanted, we made it and are all the better for having done so. The food was excellent, the family- well, family- but it's always wonderful to have an occasion to bring everyone together. Today was no exception.

As we went around the table declaring what we were thankful for, I had trouble deciding what to highlight. I have many blessings in my life for which I am profoundly grateful. Ultimately, Mia's eight-month milestone got me thinking about the unique circumstances of her birth, and how incredibly lucky we were that despite being wholly unprepared and without medical support, she came through healthy, strong, and without complication. I also, as I try to do often, had to give props to Tom, who helps me get through just about everything.

Left unsaid, but always on my mind, were these three darlings, without whom I cannot imagine my life at all.

I did attempt those pictures, but I'm still deciding if I want to do them over, since I elected not to post them all tonight, anyway (that's one of them, above). Some were decent, but most were overexposed and/or lacking in sharpness, and for the most part Mia refused to smile for me. Ah, well. I guess I'll see how I feel tomorrow, when I'm not quite so full and sleepy...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Leaps and Bounds

Big changes are happening for Mia as she approaches her eight-monthiversary. She's still army crawling/dragging, refusing to roll from back to belly, taking a break from popping out new teeth, and struggling with working out how to sit herself up, but it's only because her focus has been on other things.

Like- praise God- learning how to sleep.

I've been hesitant to mention it because Mia is now famous (in my mind) for being completely unpredictable in her slumbering habits. Some nights she wakes once, some twice, some three times, and rarely, none at all. However, we've now had three consecutive nights with no midnight to 2am feeding, so I think it might be safe to call it a trend. Her schedule is shaping up to be a bedtime of 8pm and a wake-up of about 6:45am, which is earlier than I'd like but if it means no more sleep interruptions then- hey- I'll take it.

Of course, the sleep interruptions are continuing for now, while Michael takes up residence in our bedroom and spends some amount of time coughing through the night. Early wakings are also unavoidable in this arrangement; he seems to think that being in our bedroom gives him license to wake us up at 6:00am (or earlier).

Mia has also been showing a sudden, keen, interest in food, but only of the table variety. I've gotten braver about just letting her go ahead and try foods with multiple ingredients, since (as I found with Michael) skipping the purees makes it difficult to try to parse things out. I did give the purees one last shot the other day, however, and she seemed to take to it better that time than ever before.

The deep suspicion that she holds for mushy, unrecognizable food remains, however. (Paper and trash? Those are another matter entirely.)

Meh. I can't say I blame her. They don't look particularly appetizing to me, either.

Tangentially, all of this big-girl eating is making her feel pretty sure of herself, it seems. Today I caught her on her knees with her bum in the air, hands reaching for the seat of one of her siblings' little chairs. Much like Abby, she's prematurely attracted to the notion of pulling up and cruising, proper crawling technique and unassisted sitting milestones be darned.

I'll be interested to see if she actually pulls it all off out of order.

In the meantime, here's hoping Michael hurries up and gets well. I need a bedroom to myself again for the desperate, last-ditch attempt I've been planning to catch up on sleep now that Mia's cancelled her overnight room service requests. I'm not sure how much more time I have before she starts getting to her feet; my days will really be numbered, then.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Artist Known as Abby

Among the various lovely things that Abby got for her birthday, she received some art supplies in the form of paper, paint, a drop cloth, and a smock. I've been holding off on making them available to her because the last thing I wanted in the middle of an already-messy activity was to have to deal with a potty mess that occurred because we didn't have the training down yet. However, as she proved herself more and more capable of keeping track of her own needs, I began to encourage her by talking about the "big girl" things that we could do together once we learned to use the potty.

On Sunday, she finally asked me, point-blank, if she could use her paints, and she's been doing so well lately that I couldn't say no. She requested the blue paint and the blue-handled paint brush, and was instantly mesmerized.

She didn't seem to know quite what to do with the paint, however, apart from totally coating the surface of the paper. When she got a chance to try her hand with purple later in the afternoon, she approached it in basically the same way. However, she did identify what she made that time: a purple cloud.

Today, she wanted brown, so while Michael was sleeping I got her set up.

I marveled at how quickly she seemed to have caught on as she rationed the paint more carefully this time. She started off with single strokes, attempting to make numbers. "This is a one," she said. "This is a two, a three." She managed the straight line required for one, but was only guessing at the others, so I guided her hand all the way through to ten. She loved it.

Then, she totally painted over what we did.

However, she didn't let the color saturation stop her from experimenting again. Over top of an overly-generous layer of paint, she drew a circle above a line. "Ten," she said. "Almost," I corrected. "The one should be before the zero. But, you know, that looks like a person."

"A person?" She was intrigued, then excited. As I watched in awe, she added an arm on either side. Then, before I could take a picture, she began scribbling again. I was momentarily disappointed, but let her do her thing. Then, she explained.

"Hair," she said.

And- wouldn't you know it- that's just what it looked like.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mobile Moments, 11/18-11/24

Michael turned 22 months on Monday, and celebrated the occasion by coming down with croup overnight. The week has been one long exercise in sleep deprivation since, between Michael's frequent illness-related wakings and Mia's unpredictable hunger-related ones. The bulk of the inflammation in his throat cleared up by the third day, but a lingering wet cough remains, providing an unfortunate soundtrack to our slumber.

Feeling fatigued beyond compare, Tom and I collapsed into bed by 9:00 pm last night, only to endure a crying/coughing session around midnight which required thirty minutes and our combined efforts to cease. Mia, meanwhile, went ahead and slept all the way through the night even though us grown-ups could not.

Potty-training efforts have continued on, come rain or shine, and I'm happy to report no accidents and (mostly) fewer fights at the end of it all. I even managed to juggle potty field trips in amidst the horribleness that was Tuesday morning with a very sick Michael and with no Tom, and bravely brought Abby to her three-year doctor visit in big-girl panties that she kept clean and dry for the trip and beyond.

While I must admit to being a worse parent for the wear as a result of everything, I've done what I can to cope, including exposing my children to far more television than I ever intended to do. Per my darlings' preferences, this has come in the form of Dora the Explorer episodes and Disney movies. Now, spending a few minutes with Abby would leave you in no doubt about where her focus has been, of late.

While I'll be sorry to toss out the last vestiges of Abby's party by trash night tomorrow, I won't be feeling nearly so sentimental about the last several days. They're not of the sort that I'd ever love to experience again, though like every day around here, they did have their moments.

The saddest little boy in the world.

Peeking at Mommy while Mommy peeks at Abby (on the potty).

Abby's first BP reading.

Mia gets creative on her quest to find the perfect teether.

Thank goodness for stroller walks, to soothe the sourpuss sickie.

All that remains of Michael's little pumpkin (thanks to hungry squirrels).

Mia tries to prove that she's ready for a big-girl cup.

Afternoon pre-walk meltdown (my poor, sick baby).

"I'm Mr. Potatohead!"

"There's no way to reach the handle, but maybe if I pull out the hinge?"

Study in Blue

Purple Cloud

"Does someone want to show me how to work this thing?"

"With pleasure."

Overheard this week:


As Mia fussed in her father's arms: "Mia's saying, 'Daaaaad...'"

(Abby has begun to attempt speaking for Michael, as well.) 

After reading about Sister and Brother Bear's (of the Berenstain Bears) favorite books: "You should get them from the library. You should get The Three Little Kittens (Sister's favorite) for me and The Billy Goats Gruff (Brother's favorite) for Michael."


"puzzle, art"


{nom nom}: Nibbled on beef, risotto, and potato- yum!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Farewell, Balloons

Abby received several helium balloons to spruce up the place for her birthday, two of which were mylar. The non-mylar ones were tossed the very next day, but the Mylar have remained, quietly haunting the halls of the house like friendly spirits. Though they doggedly press on nearly two weeks later, they're running dangerously low on air now, dragging closer and closer to the terminal floor.

Around the main floor and up the attic staircase they've traveled, bouyed by the warm air circulating from the heating system. I've barred them from the downstairs playroom due to the fights that always ensue in their presence, but they're a constant source of joy when spied on the trips downstairs for breakfast, upstairs for lunch, or out to the living room to leave for the day.

Michael had a jubilant jaunt on Sunday morning, just before church, as he chased a stray into our bedroom.

I knew of Michael and Abby's obvious fondness for the new occupants of our household, but I (wrongly) assumed that they were the only fans.

Not so.

A couple of days ago, Mia spied one hanging out by the base of the attic stairs and snatched its string out of the air as I turned the corner. She carried it with her all the way to our joint destination, and clung to it even as I placed her in her high chair.

Adorable hijinks ensued.

I always have mixed feelings about the introduction of balloons into the household. I have an irrational fear of the sound they make when they pop (though I can put my mind at ease about that when it comes to the mylar variety); I seem always to be breaking up fights when there aren't enough to go around (and sometimes even when there are); and I've been startled one too many times by the unexpected and eerie noises they make when hitting against ceilings and walls, and the freakish feeling of one hitting up against me as I walk by, unaware of its proximity.

That being said, I think I'll be genuinely sad to see these two go. The look of unbridled excitement that now appears on Mia's face every time she notices one hovering will be sorely missed, indeed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Abbyisms, Disney-Style

I've got to be completely honest: for many, many years I absolutely loved Disney's slew of princess movies, from Snow White on up to Aladdin. I favored the most recent ones in that list- of course- and pretty much lost interest after the latter. By then I was a young adult, rather than a teen, and never seemed to have the time to keep up with the latest incarnation.

I still held a special place for Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine in my heart for a time, particularly after having spent so much time lovingly drawing them during my brief daydream of becoming a Disney animator when I "grew up." However, somewhere in the midst of growing older, becoming a parent, reading one too many feminist-slanted articles on the matter, and being made hyper-aware of the insidious nature of the marketing of All Things Princess, my viewpoint has been colored, and it's hard to recapture those same feelings of fondness.

Don't get me wrong: I neither wholly disagree with the arguments made against the reverence of princesses in little girl culture nor firmly believe that princess lore has no place. I don't have a problem with my daughters going through a phase (one of many, many brief ones) in which they truly wish to be/believe they will be one some day. It will be one of a million silly, unrealistic fantasies of childhood. I have more of a problem with the potential for them being totally sucked into some parallel reality in which every aspect of their lives screams Princess and Pink, because there are more than enough products on the market to make that possible.

So, it's been with mixed emotion that I've taken the first step towards princess introduction via two Disney movies: The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. I felt sure that Abby would prefer the latter (Be Our Guest is one of her favorite songs), but the former is the one she saw first and has now seen on more occasions, largely per her request. It also ended up being the theme of her third birthday party. 

Interestingly, the last couple of times that we have viewed it have been upon Michael's insistence, and I've caved because he's been so very sick. As a result, I've been seeing a lot of new behaviors emerge from Abby, and I finally pieced together where they've been coming from.

It seems she's been learning quite a bit from The Little Mermaid. Here are the Top Five Take-aways:

  1. That pleasant (for the first couple of times, not so pleasant for the next several and beyond) little ditty that Ariel warbles to Ursula.
  2. A highly-repetitive and not-entirely-accurate rendition of Part of Your World (to be sung multiple times daily).
  3. Inspiration to begin using the non-word Snarfblatt in sentences.
  4. The knowledge that "sing" can be a command.
  5. Appropriate application of the teen-worthy phrase, "Just go away. Leave me alone."
The first four are par for the course, I suppose, and it was obvious to me where they came from. But that last one? After hearing her say it three or four times I finally asked Abby where she'd heard it. "Ariel," she said, matter-of-factly. The realization made me tempted to "accidentally" lose the thing someday soon. I'm not sure that Abby needs a teenaged Ariel teaching her how to better act like a typical one at the tender age of three...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Well-Visits and Well(er) Days

As you may have surmised from last night's post, yesterday was pretty rough. Michael's temperature lingered on the high end of normal, and his breathing was mostly okay, but he, himself, clearly was not. Following a surprisingly uneventful night, he awoke in a pretty good mood, but things went quickly downhill from there. Of course, the downturn coincided with Tom's departure for the day.

I texted Tom in a panic during one of Michael's seemingly non-stop and inconsolable fits of hysterical crying, and he made arrangements to come home early. Of course, Michael was much improved by the time he made it back. This was just as well, given that he ended up tied up in phone conferences for the rest of the afternoon.

By evening, I thought we'd gotten through the worst of it, (the second night was supposed to be the bad one, supposedly), but I was quickly proven wrong. Multiple wakings, covered in sweat and drool, until we finally took him into a steamy shower and then wrapped him up tight for a ten minute midnight walk in the cool air.

After the steam/cold treatment, he improved a bit, but still spent a great deal of the rest of the night coughing, which meant that Tom and I spent that last half listening to and worrying about him. I also had the happy task of going upstairs to nurse Amelia three times instead of just one. Between a recurrence of teething irritation and cough/congestion issues of her own, she's not been excelling at sleeping lately, either.

Through it all, Abby has been regressing a bit with potty training. So long as I really, really keep on her, we avoid accidents. However, the goal is obviously to get her initiating potty trips herself, and my reminding has only resulted in her getting increasingly resistant. It's been a war zone around here.

Therefore, discussion about potty-training made up the bulk of my conversation with her doctor today when I took her in for the Three-Year Wellness Assessment. He suggested that we take a break for awhile, which I've been considering. Then, he asked Abby what she thought about that idea. She was firmly against it. "You don't want to wear diapers again?" I confirmed. Vigorous head-shake.

All-in-all, she seemed to enjoy herself. She got her height measured (39.5 inches) and her weight taken (41 lbs); her ears and mouth examined. Most interesting of all, she had her blood pressure taken for the very first time. Thankfully, there were no vaccines due today so I should be able to bring her back next year without resistance.

Michael, in the meantime, was taking a long stroller walk with Tom back at home, and was looking himself again when we were all reunited for lunch. He took a decent nap and woke up cheerful. We haven't needed any Advil all day long.

After our conversation at the doctor's office, I resolved to stay out of Abby's business and let her do her thing- resulting messes be darned. However, I seem to be incapable. It just makes me want to crawl out of my skin when I see her dancing and hear her grunting and moaning from discomfort that could so easily be rectified (and that could- at any moment- devolve into an accident). However, I knew that I had to change tactics, because I couldn't go on fighting with her like we've been doing for almost two weeks now.

I decided to test Abby's resolve from earlier. "Abby, " I asked. "I see that you need to go pee-pee. Do you want to put the pee-pee in the potty or in a diaper?"

"I don't want to go on the potty!" (Nothing unexpected there.)

I should probably have let it go at that, but I just couldn't. I reached for a diaper. "Okay, Abby. I guess you want to use a diaper, then. Let's put one on."

"No, no. I want to go to the potty."

And she did.

I know it's probably not an approved method. After all, I'm kind of blackmailing her. But in the end- though I've cornered her into it- she's been making the choice herself, and when she does things have been happening quickly and painlessly.

For today, anyway.

Who ever knows about tomorrow?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

One Kid Two Kid Tough Kid Blue Kid

Today was bad.
It was no fun.
Tomorrow is another one.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Baby on Board

There's a baby sleeping in the master bedroom again, though it's not who you might think.

A new horror has presented itself to me overnight, and its name is Croup.

For some reason, I'd always thought of croup as a generations-before-me illness, likely because the only mention I ever heard of it growing up was in the novel, Anne of Green Gables. Indeed, the circumstances in which it appeared in the narrative were sufficiently nerve-racking that I was all too happy to assume it a thing of the past. Certainly, it was not something I ever wished to encounter personally.

Fast-forward to now, when talk on the parenting boards that I frequent has made me aware that croup is actually rather common, and identifiable by a barking cough. Seeing other moms talk about it eased my fear of it somewhat- apparently it was not some mysterious, always-near-fatal malady- however I wished and hoped I could get by without.

It was not to be so. Like a scene out of Madeline, Tom and I awoke in the middle of last night realizing that something was not right. Michael was crying, which he sometimes does, but it sounded very odd. At first, I thought it was a problem with the monitor. It seemed like every cry was creating a buzzing feedback. Tom went up to return the lost binky, and I questioned him about the noise.

Tom responded that Michael was coughing as he cried, and I was mortified. Whatever kind of cough was that? There were a few moments of silence before the fussing began again, and I insisted that Tom bring Michael down so that I could hear him for myself. It sounded worse in person.Though I knew that things were likely fine (even after consulting with Dr. Google to confirm my suspicions), it was terrifying to see and hear my baby boy like that. So, after giving him a bit of Advil, I tried to lay him down between Tom and me in our bed. I wanted to have his breath against my ear all night.

Michael wasn't having it, so I did the next best thing. I had Tom adjust the mini-crib (which is still in our room) to the lowest setting and placed Michael in it for the night. He was unhappy at first, but settled down quickly and slept soundly through until morning. I was amazed that he was able to breathe so quietly once he was asleep, after all the of the rattling and wheezing that I'd heard up to that point.

As I've discovered, he generally sounds fine until he starts doing things (like crying) that further irritate the inflammation in his larynx. He was even acting fine, apart from a bit of fatigue, through the early part of the day. He was a trooper at his doctor's appointment, where it was determined that his case is sufficiently mild that we should probably try to wait it out rather than put him on oral steroids. He had a decent appetite at lunch. He went down for his nap without issue.

However, he didn't sleep long and woke up uber-cranky. The crankiness continued to increase until I gave in and settled him in my lap with a bit of streaming video on the smartphone. He felt a little warm at that point, but the ear thermometer (which I've found to be irritatingly unreliable) insisted otherwise. He must have been feeling pretty badly, though, because he fell asleep that way- something he's not prone to doing outside of his crib.

When he awoke, there was no question that he was too warm to not be running a temperature, and his behavior- misery personified- confirmed it.

So, too, did a second temperature reading, of 102.1. We brought out the Advil again and Tom agreed to entertain the other two in the kitchen while I brought Michael into the bedroom for some peace and quiet in which to burn off his fever.

Pretty shortly, he began to act himself again, and was looking the picture of health and energy by bedtime. However, I've been warned that the second night will likely be worse than the first, so I'm bracing myself.

Also, I've put him back in the bedroom again, where I'll spend half the night just listening to him breathe.

If we make it through the night, we'll have come through the worst of it. That is, unless Amelia catches it next...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mobile Moments, 11/11-11/17

We made it through the week, though I'm still unsure how. I am sure that I'm failing on a lot of levels in my latest challenge, but somehow we manage to be making slow progress all the same. In fact, we got to a point today that makes me tempted to claim we've turned a corner (five successful hits, executed in less than five minutes each, instead of a day-long holding session), but for now I'll just say that maybe turning a corner is in the realm of possibility very, very soon.

And what could that challenge possibly be? None other than potty training, which I could swear has been the only subject of my latest posts (certainly, it's been nearly the only thing on my mind), but which- in actuality, I've only dedicated about half of my content to, in the form of a long complaint reluctantly filtered through rose-colored glasses, post that started in a whine and ended in a story about rain gutter shelving, and a song parody that has become my new anthem, of late.

Though Michael has been simultaneously as outrageously adorable and unbearably difficult as ever, most of the rest of my attention has drifted to Mia; her true, easy-going personality suddenly revealed from beneath the dark shroud of teething that has been smothering us for months. Though she's still having minor issues here and there, the bulk of the tough stuff is behind us (for now), which has allowed her to focus on things like extending the length of her naps and overnight sleep shifts, improving her crawl, mastering her sitting posture, and even attempting (though she can't do much without a great deal of help) to pull herself up to standing. Not included on that list, for whatever reason, is rolling to her tummy from her back. She seems quite content to let me work that out for her.

Through it all, I've been greatly comforted by the addition of family prayer to our bedtime routine, which gives the children great pleasure, and provides us all with a sense of togetherness and peace before we tuck ourselves in for the night.

Puffs: she hasn't quite figured out how to eat them, but she did manage to stick one to her nose.

Always on the forefront of fashion, my little guy.

A big fan of the telephone, as well (though he'll likely never actually use a real one that looks like that).

Perfectly Mia-sized.

He loves the new Children's Bible. Those gold-edged pages are pretty fancy-looking...

Living the dream, if only for a moment. (Yes, I was the one who put her like that.)

Ready for storytime.

Play date fun (our first, and only, outing sans diapers).

A tired little boy and his rosary.

Michael's latest stolen-phone art: Self-portrait of a Foot.

It seems that Abby likes sweater-vests. Who knew?

Overheard this week:


To her brother, as they were cleaning up for the night: "Michael, that's very polite of you, trying to pick up the blocks."

While playing by herself after lunch: "That's what princesses do: They sit on princess potties, they go poo-poo, they get princess candy..."

Between Tom and Abby

T: "You should go pee-pee in the potty."
A: "Actually, you should put on a video."

T: "Why don't you sit down and pee and get some candy?"
A: "That's not the idea."

T: "Abby, is that your apple?"
A: "Indeed, it's mine."


"upstairs, downstairs"


{nom nom}
She's tried apple and chicken this week, and though she only nibbled, she seemed to like them both.