Thursday, March 26, 2009

Croup Cloths, Regurgitated Carrots, and Lessons from the Cat

That about sums up this week so far, and I'm happy to say that it's passing quickly. I really need a weekend so I can rest my little head.

Ella turned 9 months old yesterday and we celebrated at the doctor's office where we found out she has croup. Her watery eyes and runny nose started turning into a yucky cough on Tuesday, and then she barked like a seal all night. The doctor sent us home with a prescription for 5 days worth of steroids to reduce the inflammation in her trachea and instructions to use all the "old home remedies." To Dave's delight, this meant that she actually needed a croup cloth. (Whenever she is snotty from teething, he tells me to give her a croup cloth because that's what Nana did when he was a kid.) After her bath last night I rubbed her chest with vapor rub and put her t-shirt on her. When we came out of the bedroom, he asked where the croup cloth was. I told him that her shirt was the cloth; I had smeared Vick's on her chest. That was unacceptable. She needed a cloth. He asked me what the doctor said about a croup cloth, and I told him he said she could have a little bit of vapor rub on her chest and he didn't say anything about an actual cloth. He said, "We are changing doctors." Silly man. I've explained to him that I'm certain Nana used a cloth to keep vapor rub from getting all over the sheets, but he insists that since Nana did it that way, it must be important.

Croup is a virus that will take 5 - 7 days to go away, so now we wait. She does seem to be feeling much better today after a better night's sleep (with a tiny bit of doctor instructed cough medicine that made me a little nervous) and two doses of steroids in her system. I told her last night that she might start growing muscles and facial hair, but she doesn't care. She has been really pitiful, but when she talks in her hoarse, little froggy voice, I have to laugh. It's really funny.

Because she's been coughing so hard that she sometimes gags, it's no surprise that she threw up water and undigested bits of carrot while eating supper the other night. The coughing fits scare her a bit, so I grabbed her out of the highchair, and held her over the tray, patting her back while she caught her breath. Sincse she wasn't actually finished eating supper, she just reached down and grabbed a bite of carrot and put it in her mouth. I'm pretty sure it was a piece that had just come out of her, but she's quick and it was too late to stop her. Though it was a bit disgusting, Dave and I both couldn't help but laugh at her resourcefulness.

While it could be, eating vomit is not the lesson she learned from the cat. (At least I don't think she learned it from the cat.) My back was hurting the other night, so I was lying in the floor with my feet propped on the couch to straighten out the kinks. Ella was playing in her baskets behind me and Georgia was sitting on the ottoman with her tail hanging down beside me. Ella crawled over and touched her forehead to mine. I thought it was really cute and sweet, then she crawled over to Georgia and rubbed her head on Georgia's tail. Then she came back and touched her head to mine again. At that point, I realized that she was loving on us the way the cat loves on her. Whenever Jewel E. comes into a room where Ella is crawling around, she walks right up and rubs heads and touches noses with her.

The child is a sponge, soaking up everything around her and then imitating it later. After having her hands and face wiped, she will now take the rag and wipe your hands or face, or her toys. Reports from Grandma's house tell me she grabbed the long (safety-locked) lighter and held it to the (unlit) heater on the porch because that's how Grandpop does it. She has been seen crawling around, holding things in her mouth like the dogs. She doesn't miss a thing, and you should not assume that just because she isn't verbally communicating she doesn't understand what you are are saying or doing. I assure you that she understands way more than we think, and when she's ready, she makes herself crystal clear - even without words.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Planting Spring Flowers

Life isn't just about looking cute at Grandpop's house; he makes her work for her money. I hear it took running water and soap to get those hands clean rather than the standard wet paper towel treatment.
Amazingly, she didn't eat any of that dirt. Yes, she is one of those babies who puts everything in her mouth. Over the weekend alone I fished out a piece of leaf, a rock, a paint chip, and a bite of dog food. That doesn't include all the other things she puts in her mouth that don't require fishing, or the things I didn't catch before they went down. Now when she's about to eat something nasty, the cheeky kid looks at me sideways to see if I'm watching. When I tell her, "Don't put that in your mouth," she turns her back to me and starts kicking her legs. Then she puts it in her mouth if I don't get there fast enough.
We spent several hours on a blanket in the front yard over the weekend, and compared to me, Ella looks like she's been tanning all summer. She definitely has her father's skin tone. Of course, I knew that when she was born with a darker tan than mine at the end of June. We are both suffering this infusion of pollen in the air, and her fourth tooth still hasn't broken through the skin. She feels so yucky that she keeps laying her little head down to rest. I can relate; I'd like to lay my little head down, too.
Now that she has mastered the art of crawling, standing up is starting to look effortless, too. She is starting to hold on to things with only one hand or let go and stand by herself for a few seconds. I can see her thinking about what to do next when she gets into standing position, so it probably won't be long before she starts taking some steps. I can't believe how fast this is happening.
I don't know if teething was our issue or if she's just too busy, but she preferred her milk from a cup over the weekend. After trying unsuccessfully to nurse her for several hours, I finally gave up and pumped for her. I handed her the cup of milk, and she drank it down and belched like a man. At one point, she was crawling and dragging the cup along behind her with her foot. Apparently she needed her milk to go. I'm not sure if we are on the fast track to self-weaning, or if this was a fluke, but it was certainly a change for us. She nursed well at nap time and bed time, but she just couldn't be bothered to be still long enough otherwise. I tried all the tricks - nursing in her bedroom with no distractions, nursing while she sat upright on my lap, etc but she wiggled and squirmed and had a little fit until I let her go (this is after she asked to nurse). It is very rare for babies to self-wean before the age of one, and most don't until 18 months or later, so I'm not sure what's up. I guess we'll roll with it and she can just have milk in a cup if she insists. I have decided that even if she quits nursing, I will keep pumping for her for quite a while. The immunological benefits of breastmilk increase after the first year, plus my milk will close any nutritional gaps in her diet so I don't have to worry as much about what she eats.
One thing I do know is that she is a busy little soul. There is a whole world to explore and conquer, and she is on a mission to do just that - one bit of fuzz and blade of grass at a time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New Pictures

Ella is one week shy of nine months old and her first two teeth are finally showing up in pictures. She's showing them off in this one.

Hats off to you!
Would you like a drink?

Building a fire with Grandpop. She loves fire. That is her very own "fire stick" she's holding. She has gnawed the bark off one end of it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tooth #3 and Stayed Tuned for #4

As the little monkey hung upside down in my lap yesterday evening, I got a good look at tooth number three! It had just broken through the skin on the top right side. In fact, it looked pretty jagged and painful with a nasty, little, scabby thing around it. No wonder we’ve been sleepless and snotty for three days. She hasn’t been guarding this one like she did the first two, but she has constantly had her finger in there playing with it. I can see number four just under the skin on the left side. Hopefully it will come through in the next day or two so we can have a few days respite before whatever comes next in this great adventure.

On that note, I cautiously want to report that for the past few weeks, she has slept 4 – 5 uninterrupted hours at least one night a week. *Insert Happy Dance here.* I’m really hoping this trend is about to become a consistent habit. (FYI – 5 uninterrupted hours is considered sleeping through the night, which is a milestone that every baby achieves in his or her own timeframe). The drawback of 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep is that she thinks she is recharged and ready to play – at 3:30 in the morning. That’s okay; I’ll take it. I can usually get her back to sleep pretty quickly by putting her in bed with me to nurse. Once she realizes we aren’t going to get up, she gives up the fight pretty easily. It’s funny to watch her sit up on her knees and then fall over into the pillow because she really isn’t awake enough to play, but she feels like she has to make the effort. She’s just like her father in that respect.

In addition to crawling wherever she wants to go, she has now mastered the two steps up into Grandmother’s dining room. She makes no bones about scurrying right up them. Going down is another issue entirely, and I’m sure she’ll be working on that straight away. While navigating the stairs, she realized that she can pull up and stand on her own two feet, so she’s practicing that on everything. The first night she did it, I had to undress her for her bath while she stood hanging on to the edge of the tub, watching it fill up because she couldn’t be bothered with lying in the floor.

She is now consistently telling us when she has a dirty diaper by pointing to it and fussing. She was playing in the floor this morning while I did my last minute, headless chicken run through the house. As I passed by, she was crawling after me this way and that, trying to get my attention. When I stopped to check on her, she sat down with a very serious face, muttered some gibberish, and pointed to her diaper. We changed it right away and she was good to go. I think I need to start reading up on potty training.

Speaking of gibberish, I believe we were all glad we couldn’t understand her last night when she cursed her Grandpop. He was trying to step over her as she played in the floor and she moved her head just in time to hit his foot. Oh, how it hurt her feelings, and she let us know it. I picked her up to cuddle her and she stopped crying to sternly say, “Bababababbabab!” Her point could not have been clearer if she had shaken her fist and spoken plain words. It’s not all gibberish she mutters; I’ve heard her say “Hey!” twice this week while waving.

All this baby movement has changed the dynamics of our household. Gypsy got a quick lesson in staying out of reach Saturday morning when Ella took a notion to chase her. I heard a gleeful cackle, and then the race was on. It ended when Gypsy finally decided to get on the back of the couch. Since Ella can go where she wants to go, she’s definitely testing her boundaries. An increased use of the N word (“No!”) has Georgia a little unnerved. The poor dog doesn’t like it when any person/pet gets scolded, so she’s acting very clingy right now and staying far away from that trouble-making baby.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Nursing Adventures

The older Ella gets, the more fun she is to nurse. She has cut back drastically now that she demands to eat when and what we eat, but when she does nurse I’m almost always amused. She is so busy that she often finds herself torn between wanting to nurse and wanting to play and see what’s happening in the room. In order to accommodate her in the mornings before I leave for work, one of two things has to happen: 1) Every person/animal has to leave the room so she can focus or 2) Grandma or Grandmother has to sit beside me on the couch so she can look at her while she nurses. It also helps if I wear a pretty necklace to keep those very busy hands focused.
She likes to work out with a session of leg lifts while she nurses, and this is particularly true when she is trying not to nap or go to bed. When she does decide to go to sleep, she must prop her top foot up on my shoulder. I think this is a hold over from her harness wearing days when I always propped that top leg on my arm so it wasn’t dangling uncomfortably. She has always liked to have her hands and toes kissed while nursing, so she routinely holds them in front of my face. She plays with her own toes, too.

Last night she finally accomplished something she’s been working on for a while now. She managed to nurse and suck on a finger at the same time. I’m really not sure how that worked, but it did – and amazingly she didn’t get milk everywhere. Because she is so busy, she occasionally nurses while sitting up on my leg so that she can see around her (and stay awake!). Well, she realized that it might be fun to ride the horsey too, while nursing, so now she nurses, bounces up and down on my leg, and sings the horsey song all at the same time.

We had a pretty smooth start with just a couple of small bumps along the way, and I have enjoyed nursing her since the beginning. It is even more enjoyable now that she is older and has more control of her body. I don’t need as many hands to get her latched on correctly and hold her in position; she can do all that herself now and it makes it so much easier. Her budding personality makes it fun. It will be a bittersweet time when she weans – exciting because it means she’s growing into an independent person but sad because it means she's growing into an independent person.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Fierce Killer of Snakes

In appreciation for the warm weather, we had our first Grill Meal of the season Saturday evening. Few warm weather activities are better than sitting on the front porch while supper cooks over a fire. Even Ella likes the fire. We did learn that the experience can be enhanced with the killing of a snake.

Yes, the snakes were also out enjoying the warm weather. Thanks to Jewel E. Cat, we had live entertainment for our porch sitting. Just as the evening was fading into dusk, I saw her trotting over to the neighbor’s flower bed, where she regularly provides extermination services. A few minutes later, she returned home with a gift for us. I’m sure it was an expression of, “Happy Spring! I’m glad to have you playing outside again. Oh, and here’s a snake for your enjoyment!”

It was a small snake – maybe a foot long and half the width of my pinkie finger. Not a tiny baby, but not big enough to discern what kind either. It was coiled up while she was carrying it and she dropped it belly up. Then it moved. She stood guard while Dave ran for the shovel.

The scene that followed has me erupting into a fit of giggles as I write this. As background, you should know that to say that Dave is scared of snakes is a grossly, negligent understatement of his true feelings. This is a man who left me in his dust when I told him I’d just heard a rattlesnake in our yard in Gardendale. I didn’t even get the words out of my mouth and he was no where to be found. The snapping of twigs and rustling of leaves strikes fear in his heart.

Back to Saturday evening. Intending to chop the snake in half, Dave swung the blade of the shovel in a great downward chop! He missed. The snake began slithering for his life, Jewel fled the area for fear of the shovel, and Dave chopped and chopped until sparks were flying up from the ground and there were white marks all over the pavement. The snake was still moving. Dave adopted a new approached. He lifted the shovel over his head and swung it with all his might, hitting the snake with the flat, backside of the shovel again and again. The noise was incredible! Ella’s eyes were huge and her arm was locked around mine in a death grip. The animals were scattered and unnerved. I’m not sure what the snake looked like at this point because Dave immediately started grinding the flat side of the shovel back and forth over it. When he finished, chest heaving and breath puffing, he pronounced, “I think it’s dead.”

As I am right now, I was doubled over with laughter. I went inside, laughing all the way, to turn on the flood lights so we could examine the snake to find out what kind it was. Wouldn’t you know we couldn’t tell?

He’s come a long way since that day in Gardendale. I only wish now that I had taken a picture of him proudly holding his shovel full of snake pulp so you could all celebrate his triumph over one of God’s more bone-chilling creatures.

Friday, March 06, 2009

This week I've learned..

... mac and cheese vomit is way smellier than milk vomit.

... Febreeze doesn't always get rid of the mac and cheese vomit smell.

... when babies learn to crawl, they really do wake up at all hours of the night to practice.

... if you sleep with a sick baby, you will wake up with boogers stuck to your clothes and skin.

What did you learn this week?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Snow Day Pictures

This is Jewel E. Cat grudgingly tip-toeing up the snow-free gutter to find us at the neighbor's house. She doesn't care for the snow (if you could see the look on her face, that would be clear), but she feels obliged to keep track of her family's outside activities.
The snow piglet with Daddy in our front yard. She didn't mind being out in it, but she would bury her face in our chests when the wind blew.
She did not enjoy the bundling process, and she was fussing at me in this picture.
Finally, Daddy built her two snow babies on the front porch . I'm thinking the one on the right looks a little like E.T.

She got to feel and taste the snow, but it was too cold and she made faces about it.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Farm Day

Saturday was FFA Farm Day at the high school, so we checked it out. I think Ella enjoyed it.

She really liked Betsy the cow. Note Betsy's crazy eye.

I didn't let her touch this little piggy because it was trying to bite another kid. However, when the little piggies ran out during the show, she got really excited. So did I.
On the big tractor with Daddy.

Posing on a horsey. There was no way I was getting a smile for this picture. The fact that she wasn't screaming because a strange man was holding her should be considered an accomplishment. She's very leary of "strangers" right now. I put that in quotation marks because a stranger could be someone she knows but only sees once a week.

Finally, my favorite Farm Day picture. It looks like there might be a John Deere in her future.

She also saw ponies, goats (with nursling babies), and she got to pet a baby bunny. I think the highlight for her was watching all the kids running around everywhere; she was having a hard time keeping up with them all.
After Farm Day, we went out to lunch and shopping at Target. She fed herself, and left a gigantic mess under the high chair.
Sunday we played in the snow - stay tuned for pictures of that. She played wide open all weekend. It's amazing the difference crawling has made in her life. Her level of daily frustration has dramatically decreased. I think she played in the floor for an hour or more Saturday afternoon while I read a magazine on the couch. Amazing.

Georgia is feeling much better now. There's still some coughing, but not as much snot everywhere. She was able to find the energy to catch snowballs yesterday. Jewel's wound is completely closed now, too.