Saturday, July 30, 2011

Precious Moments

We don't get a lot of moments like these anymore.  So precious.

Jesus Loves Me, verse 203.

This week McKenna and I went to visit our friends Lil, Karl, Lorinda, and Karlisse at their lake house on Lake Champlain.  It was fantastic!  We missed Brett and Charlie (hard-working men, back at home, while we all got to play...) but McKenna loved all the fresh air and the extra attention from Karlisse and other kids who were around, and she slept like a hundred hours a day.  Insane night sleeping and naps.  Apparently Brett could just bottle lake air and use it to knock out his pediatric cases.... 
The weather didn't really cooperate for water activities, but we relaxed and played outside and had fun anyway.  The big kids flew kites and fished and entertained Mickey during the day.  Karl caught a ridiculously large fish.  Lil fileted it.  I didn't gag or puke while documenting it on camera.  We were all successful in our tasks.
My friend Shannon from Casey Family Services now lives in VT, across the lake, and she was able to spend an afternoon with us.  She brought her two darling kiddos, Brennan and Kieran, and it was fun to see the kids all playing together while we caught up.
It was a great time with great friends, and we were so thankful for the chance to spend a few beautiful days there.
Always with the rocks in the mouth...

BIG fish.

Hanging out in the swing with Karlisse
Swinging with Uncle Karl
A storm rolling in
Kieran, McKenna, Brennan, and Karlisse
Karlisse loved helping feed McKenna

Me, Kieran, and Shannon
The lake after the storm

McKenna liked petting Karlisse's bunny, Snowflake

So proud to be sitting in her own chair
Great memories with great friends!

Auntie Lil
Lorinda and Karl

McKenna has entered a new phase in which she hates riding in the backseat of the car alone.  So unless she is sleeping, she is usually whining or fussing in some way back there.  We were lucky to have Lil with us on the trip up, so that went pretty well.  On the 2 1/2 hour trip back, though, it was just us.  She slept for the first hour and was then awake the rest of the way.  Her fussing escalated to crying, and I tried valiantly to entertain her from the front seat.  She was clearly very annoyed and hurt and insulted that I wouldn't take her out of the car seat.  We sang Old MacDonald a thousand times.  Usually on our shorter journeys, this helps get us from point A to point B.  But this was a longer and more insulting trip for her, apparently.  Sometimes she responded with her "Ee-Oh" line and other times she ignored me and continued to wail.  Sometimes she would tearfully respond with a pathetic "Ee-oh", as if she HAD to do it even though she didn't want to.  That was adorable. 
Eventually, Old MacDonald lost its charm, so I moved on to our other favorite wail-stopping song, Jesus Loves Me.  It worked.  For quite a while.  I sang it for about 45 minutes.  Every time I stopped, she wailed.  So I just kept on singing.  To make it more interesting (mostly for myself), I made up lots of new verses.  "Jesus loves it when I ride, quietly without a cry, He thinks I am very strong, listening to mommy's song."  Etc.  There were verses about crying, and traveling, and playing with friends, and sleeping, and going for walks.  There might have even been a verse about Jesus making mommy lots of wine to drink.  If so, that would have been towards the end of the trip......
We made it, not without having to pull over on the Northway because she was tired of Jesus Loves Me and was infuriated with me for ignoring her pleas, and she cried so hard she made herself gag and then puke all over the place.  Sigh.  She is a strong-willed girl, that's for sure.  Life is going to be a series of interesting rides, I believe.
Thankfully we have Jesus.  And wine.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Why Twila Paris gives me heart palpitations, or The "Bad" Baby

       Last night, to be funny, Brett opened his computer and started playing a lullaby by Twila Paris.  I immediately felt like I could not breathe, my heart started beating faster, and my stomach got knots.  I tensely laughed and only somewhat kiddingly told him to turn it off before I had a panic attack.
       You see, when McKenna was a newborn, she was a "bad" baby.  I know that's a horrible thing to say, and I don't really mean it as it sounds.  Bear with me.  My friend has five kids, and we joke about "good" and "bad" babies all the time.  Her five were all basically "good" babies.  They slept, a lot, as newborns.  They napped.  Regularly.  For long periods of time.  They slept through the night at relatively early ages.  They were good-natured.  They could be toted around in carriers to church, restaurants, and assorted other locations with confidence and grace, because they were "good".  They could be put down on the floor or in a swing or a bouncy seat, wide awake, and would lay there, cooing and smiling and generally being, well, "good".  And thus, she has five of them. 
        McKenna was not a "good" baby.  She was adorable and cherished and it was not her fault, but she was not "good."  As a newborn, she hardly ever slept.  And if she did sleep, it was in someone's arms.  She wouldn't sleep in a bassinet until she was about three months old.  Brett and I took turns holding her in bed with us while we slept for three months.  Not kidding.  It was the only way any of us could get even a few hours of sleep.  And even with that, she woke up all the time.  We knew we were breaking all parenting safety rules, and we were somewhat afraid one of us would drop her or smother her, but we were just so tired....
        In addition, she hardly ever napped during the day.  And again, if she did, it was in someone's arms.  So we held her.  ALL DAY LONG.  We mocked all of parenting books that gave us estimates of how long our child should be sleeping (16 or more hours, in stretches of 3-4 hours at a time, even during the day????)  Ha.  McKenna was hard-core.  She might occasionally fall asleep in her swing, but that didn't usually last very long.  And we could sometimes get about five or ten minutes out of the bouncy seat...  As first time parents, we tried everything we could think of to help her calm down and sleep.  One of those things was the Twila Paris lullaby CD.  We played it all the time, during the day and in the middle of the night while we paced around holding her as she wailed and screamed and didn't sleep.  For months.   
        Pretty much she just cried.  And fussed.  And cried some more.  The poor girl had horrible reflux which caused her to puke constantly.  And I mean constantly.  We tried gripe water and mylicon drops and Zantac and I went off milk for two weeks, and none of it seemed to help much.  They didn't officially say she had "colic" but the word kept coming up in conversations.  Apparently colic and reflux are thought to overlap considerably these days.  Whatever you want to call it, it was terrible.  She puked non-stop for five months.  We went through about 20 bibs a day during the worst of it, and probably 3-4 outfits for her and 2-3 for me.  No one ever saw her cute little clothes, because she had to have a bib on 24-7.  I finally gave up and just walked around covered in puke for a few months.  The laundry was just too hard to keep up with.
       We didn't even bother going to church for several months, because we knew she would just be screaming and we would have to leave and so what was the point?  We tried to go out for dinner with her and some friends once.  We took turns holding her in the outer foyer of the restaurant while she screamed at the top of her lungs for an hour.  Gee, that was fun.  Same scenario during dinner with our parents at a restaurant.  We took her to a Christmas party too- and she was held by one of us or one of our friends in the basement for about an hour and a half as she cried and cried and cried.  So, when I say she was a "bad" baby, you see what I mean.
         We had tried for a relatively long time to get pregnant and it didn't come easily for us.  We had prayed to be blessed with a child and God had finally answered our prayers.  So to have our long-awaited precious baby here with us and to have her be miserable and in pain and unhappy all the time was so sad and frustrating.  It just wasn't what we expected.  Brett and I would take turns holding her during the screaming periods, and we wouldn't even really talk about it, except to sometimes say, "I just wish she was happy..."  We would mostly just exchange appalled, exhausted, resigned glances and shake our heads, wondering what the heck we had done and how we were going to survive.  We loved her with every bit of our souls, and we were so incredibly grateful for her, but it was just hard.  This was not the newborn stage we had envisioned in our minds.  I kinda wanted to smack everyone I knew who had a "good" baby and then had the nerve to complain about stuff.  Whining about their babies "only" taking two hour naps or "only" sleeping 7 hours at a time at night.  Puh-lease.
        And all the books about sleep schedules, etc. just added insult to injury, because, in my opinion, (I put that phrase in there to ward off insulted comments from people who drank the Kool-Aid...) they convince people with easy babies that they have somehow created their "good" babies, thus inferring that we had created our "bad" one.  And let me tell you, all the attempts at scheduling and crying it out and trying to force her into our routine was a complete joke.  Those books were clearly not written for babies like ours, and I certainly didn't need to be made to feel like a failure because I couldn't get her to happily drift off to sleep every three and a half hours.  As if.           
        And then, sometime between five and six months, in the midst of being sick with Kawasaki Disease, her reflux started to get better.  And she stopped crying all the time.  And she smiled more and played more and didn't need to wear bibs all the time.  And she started sleeping better, and sometimes even slept through the night and napped in her crib.  And we started to feel more human.  We went to church and took her out to public places with less fear of having to run out the door due to a complete baby meltdown.  And now we are blessed with our playful, fun, busy girl, who is still pretty intense and still doesn't nap much, but is much easier to manage and rarely cries.  We wouldn't trade her for anything, but I'll take these days over the newborn days, thank you very much...
         So, Twila, I'm so sorry, but when I hear your lovely songs, I am transported back to the "bad" baby days, a time in which I was lucky if I got a total of four hours of sleep at night and our days were full of screaming, painful, stressful, anxiety-producing angst.  They trigger symptoms of my own personal PTSD.
       Brett isn't home...  Maybe I can just delete that album from his computer.  Somehow, I don't think we'll be using it again.  Even if we have another "bad" baby.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My First Blog

      In an attempt to better document life in our family, I am starting a blog.  I wish I had done it two years ago, and captured my pregnancy and McKenna's birth and first ten months of life, but I didn't.  With the complete insanity of our lives for the past two years, I really hardly had time to shower or watch Glee (I think I still have four unwatched episodes on my DVR) or even breathe.  All I did was work and pack and unpack and sometimes see my husband, so blogging didn't make it to the top of the priority list, and well, wishing doesn't change anything, so enough of that.  Instead, I will be proactive and try to take better notes of our life from now on.  I don't know that anyone will really want to read it, but that's ok.  Its for us, really, and if anyone else wants to use it to keep tabs on us and our crazy, wonderful life, then that's fine too.
       Our sweet baby girl is almost 11 months old.  Its unbelievable.  I spent the day today planning her birthday party- ocean theme.  We just got back from our first family vacation in Cape Cod, and she loved the beach.  And her favorite video as a baby has been Baby Neptune.  So, ocean theme it is.  And I have to say, it is so much fun.  I am loving every minute of it.  I have ordered the most adorable pink ocean-themed decorations and today I found all of our plates and napkins and a bunch of things for the kids' favors.  Its going to be adorable, if I do say so myself. I just can't believe that she is almost a year old.
        Her first year certainly hasn't been typical.  She has endured living in two different states and constant drives back and forth, a daddy who works crazy hours in hospitals in various states and studies like mad and couldn't be home with us during the week due to finishing his Master's in NY, a mommy who left home at 6:30am every day (sometimes dragging her out the door with me at 6 when dropping her off at Alicia's for the day), and spending her days with her two wonderful Grandmas and Miss Alicia while I was at work, (not that that was a hardship!).  And besides all of that insanity, which would be a lot for any baby, she has persevered through being hospitalized twice (for a total of about eight days) for her Flu/Kawasaki Disease disaster, being poked and prodded countless times (seriously, countless, we lost track) for IV attempts/injections/blood draws, dealing with monthly several-hour-long follow up visits at Yale and Boston Childrens' Hospital, and suffering through twice daily Lovenox injections (and the constant bleeding and leg bruising as a result) for the past five months.  I cannot imagine going through all that she has been through in her brief little life.           
       And yet through it all, she continues to smile and play and be a diva and learn new things, like standing without holding onto anything for 5-6 seconds at a time, exploring the stairs, crawling at the speed of light, saying Hello ("ayo") and "dadadadadada" and singing Old MacDonald Has a Farm ("Ee-Oh").  She loves to eat pretty much everything, except avocado (which she shouts at).  She loves chunks of banana and nectarine and pear and melon and green beans and cheese.  She gets mad when we feed her baby-food with a spoon because, frankly, she wants to do it herself.  She weighs about 21 pounds now.  (And each of her adorably kissable cheeks and thighs weigh about four pounds).  She now sleeps almost twelve hours every night, and sometimes she takes two naps (when she isn't too busy doing other things and refusing to waste time sleeping).  She squeals and giggles in swings and is fantastic at rearranging bookcases and shelves.  She can tear up a napkin like nobody's business.  She lets you know in no uncertain terms how she is feeling at any given moment, and she is ridiculously expressive.  Recently she has decided she is "shy" when new people are around.  She might be an actress.  Her initials are MGM, after all...  She is strong and brave and intense and resilient and smart and wonderful and absolutely adored.  Strangers stop us all the time to tell us how adorable she is, and we cannot disagree.  I mean, look at her:

      And so, despite swearing forever that we would not overdo a one-year old's birthday party, we probably are.  I have ordered custom invitations.  We are inviting a gazillion people.  I just bought 19 sand pails to hold kids' favors. 
      We have a lot to celebrate.  And I don't think anyone would blame us.  Not one bit.