Monday, December 31, 2007

Year in Review

Best year ever, so far. Some highs:

January 3rd, 2007. Monito's first photo at the amnio which proved him healthy:

May 5 - 6: Homestead Mama and I celebrate our 7th anniversary. We picked a weekend instead of a day - always guaranteed a Saturday night. Things just keep getting better. I am ever assured that I waited for the right woman.

June 14th, 2007. Monito is born.
Pequita turned 1 year old, with tutu.
Some lows:

C-section instead of natural birth. Six weeks of no picking up my hefty daughter = awful.

I lost an old friend of 14 years.
Other bloggers are tallying their picks and pans from the year. I'll play.

Best Movies: Are you kidding, with two babies? Do CSI reruns count? Homestead Mama and I are going to live on the wild side tomorrow and ring in the new year by renting the DVD of the latest Harry Potter movie. I wonder if it is out on DVD.
Best books: The Time Traveler's Wife, Playful Parenting, Siblings Without Rivalry.
Best Music: Steve Earle's Washington Street Serenade, Rough Guide's African Music for Children, Cuban Lullaby.
Best new recipe: Penne pasta with a sun dried tomato garlic sauce served over steamed spinach. Takes only minutes, all pantry items, and delicious.
Best new skill: Breastfeeding. Hands down.

Good Morning

I feel like I have just awakened from a long winter's nap. The holidays - a full three weeks for us - were wonderful and rich with family & friends, traditions old and new, and much love and consumption of chocolate and egg nog. I was also overtired, overstimulated, overly sick, all of which hampered my abilities to fully embrace it all. The Thanksgiving cold will go down in infamy for us. The whole family got it, and we are all still getting over it.

I have been too (pick an adjective - any adjective) to blog. Over the past few days, though, the ideas and inspirations for posts have returned. I'll be back in full swing shortly.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a story from the holidays. It is copied from an email my dad sent out - sorry for the copyright infringement, Pops. In the picture you can see the gift I gave him - a t-shirt with the Pint symbol on it, and little t-shirts with the half-pint symbol for each of the three grandbabies to wear. It was a hit.

From Grandpa:

We had an event that will enter into family folklore started by young Monito. For 40 years, I’ve been throwing young babies around and their mothers (and grandmothers) have sternly admonished me that the baby would spit up. I’ve always laughed it off and rarely had any spit up on me. People seem to recall that when I hand the baby back, it promptly spits up on the mother, although I usually hold them and play for many minutes so I’m thinking this is random.

However yesterday, Monito, at six months, was gleefully jumping on my lap – having just started to really use his legs – when he spit up his occasional 4-6 ounces of partially digested milk. [Editor's note: that would be the equivalent of a full bottle. Perhaps it was closer to a couple of ounces, max. I'm sure, coming at him in 3-D, it seemed like 6 ounces to Grandpa.] Caught me square in the face, I ingested some, got some down my neck inside my shirt, and soaked up some in my lap. He was grinning all through this and the mothers and grandmothers were hooting and laughing. I gasped out for a couple of chocolate-covered liquor candies from my stocking and got the gag reflex suppressed. At the end of the event, it was more like slightly sour yogurt. The washer/dryer solved the clothing problem and a couple new shirts and sweaters were immediately pressed into service. Monito went on smiling at everyone and I got my appetite back after a few minutes.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dwindling Pack

When I moved in with Homestead Mama, we had a combined total of four large dogs, seven cats and four parrots. It was nuts, but the pack was peaceful and well behaved. My goal was always to get down to two dogs, at least one of which was a mouser/ratter to keep the yard clear of small furry things with designs on wintering over inside our farmhouse.

All of my pets from Before (before meeting Homestead Mama, that is) have died. My lovely lab shepherd mix, Maggie, was a huge black sweetheart. She survived Parvo virus at 5 months old, getting hit by two cars and being lost for a week. She picked and ate raspberries off the bush by herself - I'd find her wandered off in our old yard grazing at the garden berry bushes, deftly avoiding the thorns. She slept with a part of her body touching mine at all possible times, and guarded me and my house with a ferocity that made me feel safer than at any other time in my life.

Misha, my cat who raised Maggie like a father and was one of a very few cats I liked, died at 22 years old a couple years ago. He was an amazing hunter, and could grab a fly out of the air three feet off the ground with his paw. He preferred to sleep in the bowl of cast iron sinks in the summer for the cool comfort.

Moody, my frisky little Cattle dog mix just died last year. I miss him daily. He was a funny little dog, nicknamed 'the mayor' for his habit of greeting each person in a room/ park/ car/ wherever he went. Now that Pequita is eating solid foods, he would be kept busy. He is the only pooch I've met who preferred veggies and fruit to meat; all the grapes and bit of banana that I find squashing under my slippers he would have eaten. He was the most gentle of all the dogs, and would have slept next to the baby, letting his fur be pulled as much as Monito wanted. He was the kind of dog that would have tolerated Pequita dressing him up in outfits. He died of a mix of old dog ailments.

Homestead Mama lost her shepherd mix Cherokee a few winters ago, to a freakish autoimmune disruption when Cherry was five. She was the smartest dog I've ever known, Cherry would patrol the house after we went to sleep and eat everything that she could find - pies on the counter, crumbs on the couch, feminine products in the trash can. She defended the car with everything she had - if we passed another animal, she would bark and paw at the window as if trying to dig her way out of the car - she was 80 lbs, so her pawing would sound like the window was going to pop out of the car, frequently startling passers-by and scaring the animal in question. While Cherry was very social and not at all bloodthirsty, she chased a deer across our property until it experienced death-by-Ford on our street. Cherry sat proudly by her 'kill' while H-mama returned to the house for the tools she needed to gut the deer and bring home the venison. (Growing up in the Adirondacks had advantages.)

Homestead Mama has also lost four cats in the years since I moved in. Bubelah, Dr. Seuss, Sasha and Marlena. I don't like cats much, and never really warmed up to these. She also finally agreed to find new homes for all four parrots in the last couple years.

Yes, our house was full of beating hearts when we first got together. I am most pleased that attrition has shrunk our numbers, because even though we love animals we had way too many. I'm even more pleased to be replacing the pets with babies.

We are left with two aging cats and two wonderful dogs, Cody, who has been with H-mama for nine years, and Luna who we rescued together. We found out on Thursday that Cody has a malignant carcinoma in her thyroid. We cannot justify spending the $3000+ that it would cost to try to save her, so we're giving her an NSAID that could slow the growth of the tumor and keep her more comfortable for her last weeks/ months. It is a huge blow to H-mama, and will be very difficult for Luna who is an extremely social three years old. We'll end up getting another dog as a companion for Luna, but this is going to be a very hard transition. I waffle between teary and sad at the thought of the hole Cody will leave in our household, and worried about house training another dog if we decide we need to get one right away. I barely have time now to feed the pets we have. Wait and see, I suppose. I have a bad habit of trying to count chickens before they are hatched.

Holidays are here

And here I am, awake and blogging at 1:08 am. My Thanksgiving cold is still with me in the form of a raspy tickley cough that I dosed an hour ago with H-mama's Vicodin cough medicine; our OB said it is one of the safer alternatives for pregnant and nursing women with very bad coughs. It makes me loopy and disrupts my deep sleep a bit, leaving me happy, fuzzy and warm-feeling all night but then exhausted the next day. After the third time I woke up the kids coughing, though, I needed to do something. H-mama is still much worse than me, having started a week later. She is exhausted and her voice comes and goes; today was her last day of work until January 3rd, thank goodness. She needs the rest!

My parents arrived this past Tuesday, and the time has really rushed by. I had very little done for the holidays before they got here. I had decorated a bit and baked 150 sugar cookies, and tidied up. Since they've arrived we've cleaned, shopped, wrapped presents, and put up a tree - a concolor fir, H-Mama's favorite, with its tangerine-scented needles - with rudimentary decorations and the single string of lights I could find after major searching. I swear, somewhere in the house or garage I have thousands of linear feet of white twinkle lights, but I could only find a single 30-foot strand. Thankfully it is enough, and combined with the blue shiny & sparkly unbreakable ball ornaments we bought a few years back, the tree looks lovely. Pequita is enchanted, and is quite respectful of the ornaments. She touches them, and pull one off every now and then, but it is all so pretty and new that she is happy to just look. There are scant few nice ornaments for interest. One thing on the tree is a small glow-in-the-dark frog that Pequita was carrying around when we put up the tree. I tucked in on a strong inner branch where you can see it easily, and she loves to peek at Froggy. She asks to hold him then to have me replace him in his cozy home repeatedly all day long. She loves to hold him, but clearly get some satisfaction from knowing where he is on the tree. Last Thursday she finally understood and started using our question gesture, upturned hands about shoulder level, head tilted and a "Huh?" word to indicate that she can't find something. Today she looked at the tree and saw no frog. She did her "Huh?" thing, and I knew exactly what she wanted - where's Froggy? I said, "I don't know where you left him. Do you want help finding Froggy?" and she grabbed my hand and pulled me after her to look for him. She's 14 months old, and we are having short wordless conversations. It is thrilling. Makes my heart well up.

Monito likes very much to nurse down for his nap gazing at the twinkling lights. They make him giggle and point. He started turning his head away with his eyes following the tree until he can barely see it, then rushing his face back into a full view of the tree and hooting with pleasure. He is a real treat, this kid. My mom cannot believe how peaceful, smiley and complacent he is in general.

With my extremely helpful mom here visiting, I am realizing how many more routines I have in place than I thought. I have systems for everything, and they are faster a lot of times than when other folks try to help. It is, however, lovely to have company. My mom is willing to rise early just to take the kids so I can sleep in. I haven't taken her up on it yet (foolish, I know) but I intend to eke out all the naps I can before all our company leaves. Dad is busy working on a project on his new computer which he set up on a card table in the nursery, but he come out for meals and some socializing here and there. He says he'll stop working tomorrow when my sister and her partner and my adorable nephew arrive on Saturday or Sunday, which is fine. I did manage to get him to come down for a movie last night, Big Eden, a very sweet gay movie. Tonight Dad saw his first episode of The Girls Next Door and he thought it was a hoot. Homestead Mama and I watch it once in a while for the cheesecake and to marvel at the sweetness of Bridget and the stupidity of Kendra. That girl is really dumb as a post - I don't think any amount of cruel editing could make her look as bad as she does on her own. She's very lucky to have the physical attributes she was blessed with; a job at the Dairy Queen would tax her brain.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No Time For Games

Except maybe this one.  (Thanks, J!)

Chat Noir
Kitty can't pass dark colored dots; Kitty escapes and you lose if he makes it to an edge. Click the light dots to turn them dark and try to make a wall to keep Kitty in; Kitty gets one move for each click you make. Good luck.

http://www.gamedesign.jp/flash/chatnoir/chatnoir.html

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ooops...sorry

So sorry for leaving the blog unattended for so long. I have been a bit busy. House guests, holiday prep, illness, you know, regular Christmas things. I actually had to visit my own blog to see where I left off. Pitiful.

Breathing update - with only two nebulizer treatments and time to heal, Monito is just fine. I am irritated with my doctor still. He could have said, "Let's treat Monito's wheezing with some asthma meds and keep an eye on it. We'll watch in future to see if it develops into anything worse than situational wheezing."

So our visit with Canadian Friend & family went well. She was my favorite housemate from years back, and even with our two and her toddler added to the mix it is still easy to have her around. I find it infinitely pleasant to wake up and have a good friend sitting across the table from me while we drink tea and gently welcome the day with companionship. Or welcome the day with hot cereal being smeared in a 13-month old's hair and screaming, but at least with a friendly face across the table. Homestead Mama is lovely to wake to as well, but the weekend mornings when we get to linger over food and hot drinks are over too quickly. Canadian Friend's partner handed in her dissertation (Yeah! Way to go!) and they were off for a Midwestern holiday with their family.

In the past, we've put electric candle lights in each window for the holidays. Not so last year or this year - too much work, too many cords for babies to suck the lead off, and I just can't imagine the putting back of it all. This is a problem, as we are hosting the holidays for my family this year, and our contractor can't come and install our new window trim until after the holidays. This means we have ugly jagged holes in which our windows sit (granted, they've been like this for the six years it has taken me to realize that I won't do it myself, but once I got excited to have it done I wanted it done NOW). The candles drew the eye away from the unpleasing aspects. To accommodate my need for a semblance of beauty and holiday spirit, I took on a craft project and I was gifted an hour of non-crying time by our kids during which I made buntings for each and every first floor window. Monito enjoyed the sound of the sewing machine quite a bit. You can see my old sewing machine, a Viking 150, in the shadow on the table. I received it as a high school graduation present from my parents 20 years ago, and it finally needed a tune up, only being willing to sew in a straight line. A girl needs her zigzag stitch, so I was willing to be without it for a couple weeks while she got fixed. I had a spot of trouble at the shop, though. I must have been in a caffeine-induced fugue state upon entering, and when I came to I was loading the Viking #1 into the back of my car. Wha? It was top of the line a few years ago, and some poor idiot traded it in for a new top of the line machine to the tune of $6000. That's right, a new Viking sewing machine costs as much as a nice used car. I got it for about the same cost as a nice outfit, top-to-toe. (All right, I wear expensive shoes.) I am still getting used to the new addition to the house. I'm calling her Brunhilda, since it is that seems a good Viking name. Sews like a dream, and so many stitches built into it! So Brunhilda and I managed to change our house from a holiday cheer-free trimless construction zone:
into this joyous beautified holiday wonderland:Well, wonderland may be a bit strong, but we're not done yet, and my mother (the Hostess with the actual Mostess, not one of the myriad knockoffs out there) is arriving on Tuesday in the wake of the predicted Nor'easter. She'll whip us into shape.

The babes are actually playing together now. Monito is so much more animated & grabby that if Pequita hands him a toy, he takes it and won't let go. This is the beginning of many a rowdy game of tug of war, much to their delight. Pequita persists in her desire to sit on him, as evidenced below. I am expecting this to last their whole lives, even when he is far bigger than she.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Pequita's new play space

Before: Just this past October (Pequita's birthday) antiques mounded in the right corner, birdcage on the left, choking hazards abounding (pellet food & pistachio shells scattered by the bird around the base of the cage.) After: Tall shelving on left with space for slings, tote bags and mommy stuff on top, and baskets for all the kids stuff in the lower shelves. Pequita's special rocker from Auntie M, their table and chairs, and a low shelf for toys and books on the right. Pequita loves it, even though the real etate is sketchy. (That is the diaper changing station to the right, diaper pail and all.)

And our living room has begun to be dealt with as well. Homestead Mama gave me a triptych of prints from this blogger for Christmas. (Well, I found it, liked it, ordered it, and H-Mama paid for it.) A few frames & mats later and we have this view from the other couch:

Catching up

A turbo post, in case Pequita wakes up from her nap early:

We have been without internet, phone, and a second car in various combinations in the past week. All is back up/ online/ on the road. We are all still sick - Homestead Mama just got it on Wed in earnest, I just entered what seems to be phase two, with swollen glands and MORE fatigue, along with the requisite massive cold sore to alert me to my immune system's battle. (Because the fevers, chills, aches and the like were inconclusive.) Pequita is still very congested, but getting better. Monito is holding steady - no improvement, but no real down turn either. Still wheezing and coughing, still very cranky. We've only used the albuterol and nebulizer a few times - it is a stimulant (no one warned me; took me two nights to discover why we were up EVERY 45 MINUTES) and makes him very very jittery. The homeopathy and head steaming are helping him breathe, and I have to trust that his little body will shake the virus. And just THINK how strong his immune system will be after beating this!

Monday, Canadian Friend and her family arrive for a few days visit with their young daughter - I can't wait! My parents arrive for a pre-Christmas visit the following Monday, my sister & family arrive the weekend before Christmas. We're feverishly cleaning and putting the house to rights. We had really sunk into a bit of squalor with all four of us so sick for so long.

We managed to make a massive run with an overladen station wagon to the auction house with all our antiques - they'll sell them at the monthly auction and send us a check. I would have given them all away at this point, just to reclaim the space they've been taking up. We also decided to adopt out the last parrot, Peaches, a Goffin cockatoo who is bald of feathers all over her body due to self-plucking. She was hand raised, and is very tame and sweet. She is also incredibly loud and demanding of our attention. She's doing very well where she is, and I have started putting together the kid's space of my dreams in the alcove off the dining room. Homestead Mama is so pleased with how nice it looks, how well it will work, and how much Pequita likes to just be in her own space that it is taking the sting out of having gotten rid of her last bird.

And she's awake. More later, now that I'm back online.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Sleep of the Childless

We received our new mattress - it is a base of organic latex, wrapped in a heavenly and healthy pouf of pure grow wool and cotton. It was delivered last Saturday, and is heavenly. In a moderately annoying move, the owner of the eco/green furniture store in town delivered the mattress only, forgot the pure grow wool mattress pad (absorbs ounce after ounce of baby pee/ooze/ etc, we were promised, thereby protecting our investment in aforementioned organic latex mattress) and only after loading our old mattress and box spring into his truck told us that the 4" thick wool topper we ordered hadn't come in yet, he'd deliver it in a week or two. (All at once now - PUTZ!) Come to find out, it doesn't matter that we don't have the topper yet. Both H-Mama and I have slept better on this mattress than we have in years. It is so very comfortable, we both look forward to crawling into bed. When I sleep, it is the sound and deep sleep of a normal person. This is good, since our nights have been chopped up into 2 hour increments with all the people hacking, coughing and wheezing in our bedroom.
Monito loves it so much he loses balance.
video

*Public service announcement: HannaAndersson.com has started their sale season. Note Monito's new hat & slippers. Selection is good now, but prices will keep going down until their after Christmas sale; it is when I stock up on staples for the comiong 12 months for both kids. Their clothing is hand's down my favorite. Much of it is organic cotton, their finishing techniques are superior (which tranlates into no opening seams, lost buttons or wearing out) and they are unbelievably sturdy. I know other boutiquey brands (Zutano et al) are supposed to be the epitome of fabulous, but as fiber person & seamstress, you cannot beat the Swedes.
a

Woe is Monito

We all have a cold. I'm in the end stages, H-Mama is dabbling but not succumbing, Pequita is snotty and coughs to the point of gagging in the night. We are all better than my poor teeny tiny baby (um, if teeny tiny means over the 100th percentile.) Monito is SICK. He hacks, coughs, can't breathe out of his nose for the snot, and wheezes. H-Mama (who was home from work yesterday and again today) and I took them both to the doc yesterday in hopes there was a magic medicine that would make them sleep better so we could sleep better. No such luck. Pequita was deemed healthy but cold-stricken, and was told to wait it out. Monito had a detectable wheeze (no shit - I had been sleeping next to that sound for two nights, which was why we were at the pediatricians.) The doc wanted to find out what was what so had him hooked up to a nebulizer (a small, loud machine that aerosolizes* medicine for inhalation) full of albuterol and a tiny baby-sized plastic face mask. H-Mama took Pequita to the play area in the waiting room so she could lick all the toys the other sickies have played with while I stayed in the exam room clutching a crying unhappy baby to my chest singing to him with the lights turned off, the only way he would tolerate the treatment. It was a long 7 minutes. Since his wheeze was lessened after the albuterol, the doc on call diagnosed asthma. Said this could be his only instance of it, it could last throughout his childhood or could be a lifelong affliction, there's no way to know. Three hours later, we were home with a box of albuterol and our very own $199 nebulizer (thank you, Huge Insurance Company) with which to torture our boy every four hours.
And torture we did. At his first treatment, he started crying upon hearing the loud thumping engine of the super-tiny neb machine, and graduated to a full-on angry/scared scream upon application of the mask to his face. And continued to scream for the full 10 minutes. Pequita looked on in horror and got increasingly upset, until H-Mama removed her from the room and distracted her. The boy and I sat and cried on the couch until it was over. He then collapsed into a feverish lump of clinging baby, and slept for over an hour. We were instructed to repeat this every four hours when he was wheezing. I made an executive decision to skip the nighttime treatments, judging that sleep was AS important as not wheezing. H-Mama concurred. This morning he was no worse, and on my sister's advice I called our Lovely Acupuncturist. (My sis is in the process of getting her degree in Acupuncture in a different city, and said that there is much to be done to help with asthma with needles, acupressure and herbs. I've been getting treatments from my in-town Lovely Acupuncturist for over 8 years for arthritis and most other ailments; I use Western Medicine as a last resort. She is fitting us in at noon. I am so grateful!
* I believe I made that word up. Sorry.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Dress up

Today was a dress day for Pequita. There are few dresses that I feel the need to clothe her in - this one from Baby Gap is exceptionally cute and very much to our taste. She rebelled when I put her in dresses a couple months ago, since they got in her way crawling. Now, they are only in her way if she is climbing stairs, but I just gather the skirt part all up in a bunch and shove it in the back of her leggings while she is climbing.

Yes, I know we need to refinish our stairs. We'll have to do it in warm weather when we can not use them for a couple days. Not bloody likely, eh? Maybe we'll hire someone to do them while we are on vacation this summer.

He sits!

I was browsing back through the baby book (blog) to see what Pequita was doing at 5 months to see how Monito compares. Hmm. She was quite a bit more physical than he has been, but also I was more physical with her. I tossed her around, stood her up, hung her upside down. I don't really do a lot of that with Monito because he spits up, and every time I lifted him up over my head in his early weeks he puked on me.

I decided to start trying again. He has been going through a bit of a developmental surge lately, and can kick his sturdy little leg and flip himself over easily, if he wants to. He can do a sit up if I anchor his feet. He can sit up, too - I never checked, can you believe it? Talk about second child syndrome.Come to find out, I can lift him over my head by holding his thighs, which means that his core strength is good. He can stand up when holding my fingers - he isn't as adept at this as his sister was, but he is much bigger than she was at this age and it has to be harder to do things. He is also grabbing at things & immediately shoving them in his mouth, and totally grooves on people's faces. We met up with Hottie Friend today at the burrito joint in town, and he cackled, giggled and patted her cheeks with excitement at her mere presence. He is morphing from a potato who sits and watches what happens around him to a very active presence in the house - this is such an exciting time! Driving downtown today he broke from his usual silent-with-soothie-in-his-mouth or crying; he babbled at his own face in the mirror, saying da da da da da in his funny high pitched voice. I just love him.

Duh

We are teaching Pequita sign language as fast as we can learn it - it seems to bring her a lot of pleasure to know the sign for something, and her frustration with miscommunication is growing quickly. I have been taping Signing Time, which our local PBS station airs each Sunday morning. It is an excellent way to learn signing, and the songs & kid images are interesting to Pequita even now, when she is clearly too young to get most of what they are teaching.

Grapes are the big hit for mealtime these days. Pequita runs over to the counter under the fruit bowl and jumps up and down making her summoning noise - a pleasantly upbeat grunt - while pointing to the grapes. The best time to teach her a sign is when she is really excited about something, so instead of calling Hottie Friend on the phone and having her describe the sign for grape, I googled 'ASL dictionary'. Duh! There is a fantastic one, ASL Pro, with video of the signs and a huge compendium of all words we will need. I excitedly called to H-Mama in the next room that we now can look up things as we want. She immediately asked if it has cadaver. Then morgue. Then autopsy. It had all those words. She is a bit nutty, but in her defense, she's been listening to this book on CD that I got her for Christmas last year on her commute to and from work. We now sign grape on each trip to the fruit bowl.