Thursday, May 31, 2012

Babywearing Just Makes Life Easier

I've had conversations this week about babywearing with two different friends who have young babies. It took me back. I still wear Luke with some regularity, though that phase is coming to an end as fast as his babyhood. I wore him in the Spring during soccer games to keep him contained. I wear him at the grocery store if he's sleepy or anytime we are out if he falls asleep in the car. That's about all he will tolerate at this point because he is very busy. And he likes to "balk"  - that means "walk", if you don't speak Luke. He still likes the cuddliness of the Babyhawk, but he likes to "balk" more.

When they were tiny babies, I hated lugging the carseat everywhere. It takes up too much room and it was too heavy. When Ella was less than 6 weeks, I wore her in an Infantino sling. I wanted to love it, but I didn't. It didn't fit me right; then it got recalled because it didn't fit the babies right either. I stopped putting her in it at 6 weeks because she had to wear the Pavlik harness to correct her hip dysplasia. That's when I started working in earnest on learning to tie and put her into my homemade Moby-style wrap. I wore her everywhere in that thing until she was 6 months old. At that point, she was getting a little heavy for it and Dave gave me a Babyhawk mei tai for Christmas. I wore her everywhere in the Babyhawk until I was 5 months pregnant with Luke and it got uncomfortable to tie it around my belly (because we know how large I get when I'm gestating).

I didn't wear Luke in the Moby-style wrap as much because I learned how to put a newborn into the Babyhawk safely, and I just found that easier. However, I did resurrect the Moby-style wrap for his first beach trip. I bought 5 yards of chiffon off the clearance rack at the fabric store, tied it on, put him in it, and strolled into the ocean - baby contained safely on my body and able to play in the water. The chiffon was lightweight and dried super fast. It was perfect. I still keep my Babyhawk in the car so I always have it if there's a babywearing emergency (i.e. an energetic toddler in a crowd of people).

Here's my real-life list of reasons for wearing my kids.
1. Inconsolable crying - wearing and walking was often the only thing that made Ella stop crying.
2. To facilitate naps and bedtime. Sometimes I wore them just until they were asleep and sometimes I wore them for the entire nap.
3. While shopping.
4. Instead of holding - at events, church, parties, anywhere I would have been holding them or would have had them in the carseat or stroller.
5. On walks instead of pushing a stroller.
6. While cooking, cleaning, working.
7. To contain them in crowds or at the pool/beach.
8. To get through the witching hour - it's why I call it the Grouch Pouch.

I think that generally covers everything.

Since retiring the Infantino sling, I've stuck to alternative carriers (things you couldn't find at Target - though now they carry Moby!), because of the way the baby fits in them. I learned with Ella that it's much better for their hip development if the fabric of the carrier spreads their hips wide, as if they are sitting with their legs wrapped around your waist, rather than letting them dangle straight down, like some of the more mainstream carriers hold them. I also very much prefer a carrier that goes over both shoulders instead of a sling that just uses one shoulder. Double shoulder carriers are just more comfortable for me.  I love both my Moby-style wrap and my Babyhawk so much that they are of the few things I'll be keeping so I can wear my grandchildren one day.

My favorite resource for information and instructions for different types of carriers is The Babywearer. There's even a forum where you can swap or buy used carriers and ask questions. You can also find patterns for making your own carriers. It's a wealth of information.

For fun, I rounded up all the pictures I could find of my kids being worn. Sadly, I don't have one of Luke as a toddler in the pouch. I'll have to get one ASAP, before this phase is gone completely.

Luke, 6 months old, at Ladies' Night Out

Luke, 8ish months old, during the witching hour

Ella, 2.5 years, wearing her baby

Luke, 3ish months old, when he was fussy.

Ella, 4 months old, ready for a walk to the park.
Ella, probably 8 weeks old.

Ella, 6 months old, during Night In Bethlehem.

Ella, 14 months, in the museum at Ft. Morgan

Ella, 14 months, on top of Ft. Morgan

I made Aunt Becca a babywearing believer before she even knew there would be a Jake. This is her very first babywearing experience. She loved it. She wears Jake everywhere now.
Luke, 2 months, at Target.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Halfway There

Round three of chemo is over, I guess. He has energy and has already developed the week 2 side effects even though he didn't have the second crash first. That messes with my head. I was expecting the crash Monday or Tuesday of this week, even had meals lined up for those days, and it didn't come. So I'm calling round three finished.

This one hit him hard and fast but he recovered more quickly, too. I'm certain that's because he had no choice but to sleep in the two days following the treatment and that's what his body has been needing. I'm hoping he can arrange his schedule so that he has time to sleep like that for the next three rounds.

This round was hard on me. I haven't been about to lose my mind, but I'm feeling less like, "Let's do this thing" and more like "How am I going to make it through three more rounds?" He told me after the first round that he thought it might take all of his willpower to survive six rounds of chemo. I'm thinking it might take all of mine, too, and I'm not the one being poisoned every three weeks. We are living in a bizarre world right now.

I was laying in bed with Ella the last week and she kept asking me when we were going to eat at a certain restaurant. It was taking me forever to figure out which restaurant she was talking about and I asked her when we had been there before. She said, "You know, that day we walked around and passed out fingernail files." And I did know. She was talking about a restaurant we stopped in one day when we were handing out campaign literature for one of the local elections. It was Sunday, February 26, two days before I took Dave to the ER. It was all I could do not to lay in her bed and cry, thinking about how drastically our lives changed two days later. Not for the worse, but never to be the same again. Having a new normal thrust upon you without warning takes some getting used to. I occasionally find myself in situations like this one with Ella where old normal and new normal collide in my mind at the same time and I struggle to process everything that's happened since the end of February. Some days it's hard to believe it's been three months already and some days it's hard to believe it hasn't been three years.

I've come to realize that cancer has a time warp similar to the one that happens at the end of a pregnancy. All at once, time is flying and standing still. And, cancer is a line of demarkation in our lives together. Just like having kids. In the timeline of us, there are periods of time I think of as Before Kids and After Kids, and now I've added Before Cancer. There's no After yet because this isn't over. I'm not sure it will even be over at the end of chemo. I'm thinking there will be other time periods known as During Chemo and After Chemo, but I don't know when After Cancer will happen. Will there be another line of demarkation or will we just ease into it without realizing it until we're well on the other side? Now I'm rambling, but at least it's cathartic.

Anyway, three rounds down and three to go. With my whole body and soul I'm looking forward to this long weekend of playing in backyards with my family, to soaking up the sun and fun and laughter, to restocking my mental facilities in preparation for round four. And Lynyrd Skynyrd's Tuesday's Gone in my ears has mellowed me out just in time for the weekend. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Around the House

More random quotes, from our house to yours!

"Iwanna baby geese! Iwanna baby geese!" - Luke's response to the goslings we saw in the office park one day when they came to have lunch with me. He was very excited about the babies. And very upset that we did not stop to kidnap one.

"Not today, devil. Git on outta here in the name of Jesus!" - Me, giving the devil my most Southern rebuke when our sign suddenly fell off the front door, scaring me and the dog.

Through the baby monitor in the middle of the night one night I heard, "Halp! Haaaalp!" - Luke was tied up in his frog blanket and could not get untangled.

"Does this wash my sins away?" - Ella, while dunking herself backward into the pool. It led to a great teaching moment where we explained the difference between making a decision to accept Jesus (that's the part that washes the sins away) and baptism (the public expression of that acceptance).

"... and they will start spelling 'eye patch' like i-P-a-t-c-h." - Dave, in conclusion to a rather lengthy dissertation on his vision of future iPhone technology. There was something about plugging it into the side of your head and having a display right in front of your eye, thus, the iPatch. He is now an iPhone user, but he didn't love it until I installed the I Heart Radio app for him.

"Iwanna bite." - Luke's counterargument whenever I tell him he has his own drink/snack and cannot have mine or that he has to wait until later to nurse. I believe it translates to, "Just a little?"

"Ungratulations, Mommy! I pooped!" - Ella, after a traumatic few days of not pooping. I'm adopting this one into my daily snarkasm. She meant "congratulations" of course, but given the situation and her perfect mispronunciation, I'm redefining it to mean the opposite (i.e. "You just found out all the work you did for three days was for nothing? Well, ungratulations."). You are welcome to use it, too, but remember, you heard it here first!

After taking a bite of chicken pot pie, Luke looked at me in confusion, removed it from his mouth, and said, "Pie?" Apparently he thought we were having chocolate pie for supper; after I clarified that it was chicken pie, he ate it.

"Mommy! It's SpongeBob Underpants!" - Ella, about a yellow starfish beach toy she found that has a face remarkably similar to Mr. Underpants. No, we don't watch SpongeBob, and yes, he will forever be known in our house as SpongeBob Underpants.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Photographic Evidence: He does eat.

We don't know how Luke got to be such a skinny little thing, but he is. He's skinny enough that our pediatrician wonders if we feed him. We do. 

And he eats.
At Petrucelli's he ate half of my fettucine alfredo.
I was planning to bring home leftovers. I didn't.
And eats.
Luke knows Moe's knows how to make a quesadilla.
He ate every bite and tried to lick the queso drips off the table.
And eats.
At home, he often stands while eating, because he is so busy.

 And he still looks like this.
Long, lean, Luke.
We feed him the same things we feed Ella, but she has entirely different body type - much more what Dave and I looked like as kids. Lately, he eats more than her and we find ourselves waiting for him to finish. He's becoming a bottomless pit. It's amazing to watch how much food he can put away in one meal. I'm kind of worried about what it will be like to feed the teenage version of him. And I'm sure he's about to grow two more inches.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day... Sometimes I hate it.

I have a love-hate relationship with Mother's Day. Mostly, I love to hate it. I resent the commercialism around it and the implication that I want or need expensive gifts to feel appreciated. I don't. I don't need a steak lunch; I don't even need a special day. I would hate it if I only felt appreciated on one day of the year. I would hate it if my mothers only felt like I appreciated them on one day of the year. I try to make sure they know how much I appreciate them regularly. I celebrate Mother's Day every day of the year - sure, sometimes it's with a prayer of thanksgiving that the monkeys are finally asleep at night, but if every day was fabulous, I would take it for granted. Dave does a great job of recognizing the work I do and thanking me for it regularly. I'd much rather find all of the laundry washed and folded and the dishwasher emptied on random days of the year than wait an hour and a half on a special day at an overcrowded restaurant to receive an expensive present that some radio commercial says I need. I also struggle to balance the pressure to recognize my mothers (with food and gifts and time) and the desire to claim the day for myself. Because, even though I'd rather be appreciated all of the days of the year, I still want to be appreciated on the made up holiday that's supposed to be for me. See? Love-hate. I thank the greeting card and jewelry industries for making me irrational about it.

Maybe it's just me. But luckily, I have a baby daddy who knows how to speak to my heart.

My Mother's Day started Saturday morning at 6:30ish when Ella came out of her bedroom fully dressed, asking me to button her shorts. I did so, gladly, thankful that I didn't have to get up to help her put her clothes on. This was the very first time she's gotten up, picked her clothes, and put them on with no prompting at all.

Luke was in our bed, so he woke up when Ella came in. Dave asked them if they wanted to load up and go somewhere and they consented. He dressed Luke and took them out of the house.

I never had to leave the bed. This has never happened before.

I went back to sleep until almost 8 (!). Then I got up and showered all by myself without anyone playing in the water, asking me questions, or yelling through the locked bathroom door. Then I sat on the back porch and read and drank two cups of coffee. I had the pleasure of listening to Dave and the kids unload from the car when they got home. I love to hear them talking to each other when they don't know I'm listening.

We spent a low key day at the house. Ella and I took our recycling to the recycling center (she loves to help with that job), then we picked up Luke and went to the grocery store. After that, Ella helped me make lasagna for our Sunday night supper. She was in charge of the cheese layers and she helped clean up the mess. She has gotten to be quite helpful around the house - taking her laundry to the hamper, feeding the animals, putting our recyclables in the bins, cleaning up messes, and occasionally helping distract Luke when I really need to finish something and he's needing attention.

I thought I had gotten the best Mother's Day present in the three hours to myself first thing in the morning, but I was wrong. It came Saturday evening when I had the pleasure of watching Ella and Luke walking across the porch with presents they had picked for me in their hands. They each had a card and a gift and they were so excited about it. Luke handed me his and told me, "Tank choo, Mommy!" Such sweetness. They had been to Target that morning to shop for me. Ella picked a hilarious necklace that I told her I will wear around the house but not to church and a card that she loved so much she's been carrying it around with her. She signed it herself, so I'll have to confiscate it at some point to put in her keep box. Luke had help picking his gift and he also gave me a card that he "signed". It makes monkey sounds; it's completely appropriate. I hope I never lose that image of them coming across the porch with their presents, so excited to give them to me.

Dave cooked breakfast for us Sunday morning and then we had a full day of church followed by lunch at Aunt Becca's with Grandmother and supper at our house with Grandma. Dave did most of the kitchen clean up after supper.

That man is amazing. I had a great day celebrating my mothers on Sunday, and he did things that were just for me throughout the weekend.

So, Mother's Day. Sometimes I hate it, but not this year.

Friday, May 11, 2012

It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Breaks a Nose

It's not broken, but we thought it might be for a few minutes.

We were all assembled in a circle for game time in Grandmother's living room last night - criss-cross applesauce, hands in our lap, mouths closed, eyes watching, ears listening. Shoes to the side. Ella was giving instructions.

Luke was wearing her purple Tinkerbell crocs and jumping like they were jet-powered moon shoes. Over and over again. Landing hard on his butt/back every time. Ella was slightly put out that he would not follow her instructions and sit quietly.

When it was time for our water party, we needed a slide. There was some discussion of using the little plastic slide as the water slide or - we could just use Mommy. Naturally, because I was on the floor, Luke started climbing me. Immediately the game changed.

No longer were we sitting quietly in our circle. The wanted to play Mommy Mule. (That's our version of riding a horse where I try to buck them off while they count loudly and laugh hysterically. It really should be called Mommy Bull Riding.) Because I was sitting criss-cross applesauce with my hands in my lap, I wasn't prepared for giving Mule rides, so I just flipped Luke over my shoulder instead.

The game was on.

Ella lined up for her turn, climbed on my back and I flipped her.

She's too tall for that game.

She landed on her nose.

It was dramatic. I felt horrible. She cried until she managed to choke up a little vomit. I held her and tried to convince her to breathe.

When she finally calmed down a little, Aunt Becca said, "Is it turning blue?" It was. We iced it and gave her a cold rag to wipe her face - and because cold rags make everything better. It wasn't crooked or bumpy, so I knew it wasn't broken.

It was a little swollen but no longer blue when I left her at Grandmother's house to spend the night. (A plan she had already put in place before I almost broke her nose). When I came back a few minutes later to drop off her pajamas, she was running back and forth accross the living room so that Papa could catch her and trap her in his arms so she could use her super strength to break free. The nose was forgotten.

This morning, it looked fine. I was certain she would have two black eyes, but they looked normal.

We play hard around here. Sometimes we get hurt. Then we count teeth, clean up the vomit, and play some more.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Thinking Back, Living Forward

It’s been just over 2 months since Dave’s surgery. There are still unknowns, but we are in a much better place now. We know that the surgeon got all of the tumors, that the surrounding tissue did not show evidence of cancer. We know that his PET scan showed “no measurable amount” of cancer left in his body after the surgery. We know that his type of lymphoma generally responds well to chemotherapy and that the majority of the time chemo will cure it. We know what the chemo does to his body and how to manage the side effects. We know how long he will feel bad and when he will feel good again after a round of chemo.

We are very optimistic that this is just another episode in our lives to be survived rather than an ending.

I am glad to be in this place, where we know what is going on and we have some reassurance for the future. But occasionally I flash back to the lowest moments immediately following his surgery and I’m consumed with the emotion all over again. Sometimes I’m overcome with the feelings I had while I sat beside him in the dark each night in the hospital, wondering what this meant for us, where we would go from there, if he would be alive the same time next year. I was so scared. For him, because I had no idea what he would have to endure and for us because I didn’t know if we’d still have him.

Sometimes I think back over the sadness of a conversation we had one Friday afternoon, after his first oncology appointment, before we had any real information about his diagnosis and treatment plan. I told him that I truly didn’t believe he was going to die, but that I knew that I would be okay if he did. That I didn’t want to think about my life without him in it because he is my best friend in this world, but that if he came to a point where he was holding on to life for me when he needed to say goodbye, I would be able to let him go. Because I would rather he be in Heaven waiting for me than suffering on earth with me.

He has no intention of dying this year and we are planning for his full recovery, but it’s important for me to capture the low points in words to help me process those feelings that bubble up and to help me remember how far we’ve come in two months.

This was a life event that changed me. While the process is sometimes painful, I’m confident that the results will be worth it. If nothing else, my life was brought into razor sharp focus and my perspective was adjusted. The things that don’t matter are clear and so are the things that do.

God is in the forefront of my mind most of the time now in a way He wasn’t before. I find myself considering my words and actions with the questions, “Does what I’m about to write/say/do reflect God’s glory? Does it make it evident that I’ve been with Jesus?” My humanity still gets the best of me, often, but I am trying to take that breath and consider the testimony I’m living. I’m a work in progress.

My nucleus, the man that God made for me and the little souls He put into my care, they teach me new things every single day and they constantly remind me of the importance of time. They are infinite sources of joy and laughter. They keep me busy living.

My family, those outside of my household – both of my blood and of my heart, has bound itself around us and lifted us up, held us together when I could not. It’s a surprisingly extensive family. I’m awestruck and humbled by it. It’s one of the things that matters a lot.

I was asked recently if I wanted to go back to the fall of last year, before any of this happened, when everything was still normal. My answer was unequivocally, “No.”

I have grown and I have been richly blessed through this trial. I would not undo it. This is our normal now.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

We Survived Round Two

Dave's second chemo treatment was last Monday, and last night, ten days later, he gave me the clue that it was over: "It feels good to feel good again." Also, he went to bed at normal time - that is to say that he fell asleep in the chair, watching TV in the 8:00 hour. That's normal.

I think this round went smoother for both of us, mentally speaking. I didn't lose my mind and I successfully fended off the devil the few times he tried to hijack me (thanks for the prayers and Bible verses to help me handle that bit of business). Luke was pitifully sick for a couple of those days, so between him hanging on me like a baby monkey and his inability to sleep through the fever, I was ripe for losing it. But I didn't. I take absolutely zero credit for that. That was God working as a result of you praying. And when I was able to leave Dave on Thursday and go back to my office, I rejoiced all the way there for the hour of alone time I have during my drive to work. By Thursday of last week, I desperately needed some alone time.

And that night, Grandmother kept both kids so I got to sleep. I was in my bed at 7:58 that night and asleep before 9. I didn't get up again until it was my turn to shower the next morning. It's amazing what a full night of sleep will do for your soul. Friday, Grandma and Pop the Pop cleaned the house for us. Monday, Rebecca brought supper. All those things made Chemo Week easier for us this time.

I've already consulted My Favorite Sister about organizing meals for us for the future rounds, because having food show up at the house already ready to eat is a lifesaver on the days that Dave is out of commission and the howler monkeys are screeching. I didn't realize how much I need that until this week, when it happened twice. Also, some of you who brought food after Dave came home from the hospital? That's still helping us because I was packing some of those meals away in the freezer like a mouse storing up grain for winter. 

Dave probably worked too hard the first couple of days after chemo this time, but he had a busy schedule and he was insistent that he keep it. So we did. I just went to work with him so I could drive if he needed me to, and just be there with him. I think that helps. Physically, he says he thinks it affected him about the same as the first treatment, and he followed pretty much the same up and down pattern that I mentioned after the first treatment. That's encouraging because it means we should have about a week and a half of fun days before round three.

Finally, the update I know you've all been waiting for: His eyebrows are still hanging in there.