Saturday, June 27, 2009

My Elephants- #4 Bad Baby at the Lake

My fourth child, third daughter, is Charlotte. She is a bad baby.

Now, don't get me wrong, I adore her and she can be very sweet! However, she doesn't like being a baby! She is dying to be big. She hates reclining anything, she wants to sit UP, thank you very much! She was 2 months old when I dug out a Johnny Jump Up, which she loves! She is 3 and 1/2 months old now and hates her baby car seat. She was trying to stand before she had full head-control!

Charlotte gets happier as she gets older. At this rate she will be at her most placid when she owns her own business!

We have battled colic AND reflux (not just spitting up, but full-fledged poltergeist throwing up)! I didn't know you could have both. There is a light at the end of the tunnel with the colic....for which I am thankful. I slept sitting up with her on my chest for about the first month...then we discovered swaddling...the tighter, the better...verging on child abuse...but it makes her happy!

We are currently fighting thrush. Nystatin is all very well and good, but there is this natural stuff called Gentian Violet...VIOLET is its name for a reason!!!!! It is the most violently purple stuff I have ever seen!!! But it works unlike anything I have ever used! It is magic!!! In less than 12 hours, it cleared up 80% of the thrush. We have some holdouts on her tongue, for which I am using Nystatin...as it works better when your child does spit up constantly...because, you know, spit-up comes out through your mouth....and it will pick up said purple coloring as it comes through!!! It was funny...she would grin all toothless through dark purple lips and you could see her purple tongue...she chews on her hands...so all around her mouth and on her hands were all purple, too. She looked like she had hypothermia!

I will admit, I was hoping for bookend boys. Or even bookend brown eyes and it isn't looking good...But I am smitten. She is even more intense than Amelia. I have been told by so many mothers that the kids got more easy-going as they went along. Not here. Sometimes I wonder if my kids have gotten more opinionated down the line because they have to compete on some level with the older ones. Truly, none of my kids are without very definitive ideas!

She looks remarkably like my other kids. If you hold up baby pictures of Gabriel, Amelia and Charlotte, it is shocking how much they look alike. But Gabriel turned out chocolate and Amelia golden...who knows what coloring Charlotte will end up, I admit now I am hoping for red hair...For all she looks like the others, she does favor Elise. (To the point, during my sleep-deprived early months, I wanted to run genetic testing on poor Charlotte. I was afraid we had missed Downs again!) I think she may be the missing link between the kids...it is interesting how that should be...

Charlotte is even more of a pocket baby than my others. She isn't the biggest fan of strollers. She likes being worn in carriers that put her in the thick of the action. I think she likes deluding herself into believing that she is an adult.

This last weekend, we went to our Sunday School's Annual Summer Beach Day. It was grand! Gabriel had a fabulous time, of course! Water, Jet-Ski, Swimming, what is there not to like??? Amelia loved it, was a little fish and actually got angry when I took her on her boat ride. She wanted to keep swimming! Elise did better than I thought she would...LOVED her motor boat ride!!! Charlotte was a bit of a surprise. She is a solar-powered baby. She loves the sun, really! She had to be in it for jaundice, and through that we discovered if she was having a nasty day, take her out!! She calms down nicely! She also loves water, she kicks and coos in the bath and the swimming pool. At the lake this weekend, however, she had to wear a life-jacket. So she squawked a bit. BUT she calmed down pretty quickly. She ultimately ended up SLEEPING in her life jacket, floating in the lake. I am so not kidding! I was holding on to her a little bit and making sure she was safe, but she was not really being held much at all...She fell ASLEEP! It was so crazy, there were people everywhere, boats, motors, kids splashing near her, and she is sleeping in the water...it was utterly bizarre!

So, I am very curious to see how she turns out! I need to make sure she gets her water and sun...and she likes to read...She is a lovely girl trapped in a misleadingly tiny body...I look forward to her escaping the baby shackles!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Elephants - #3 and Fabulous

Amelia is my third. She is also the oldest, somehow. She is such a tiny woman. She is my daughter, she is my mother. She is very needy. She is very giving.

She was a bit of a pendulum when she was a baby. She would be super social. She would need to hide in an upstairs room to regroup. She would be the perfect breast-feeding baby. Then she would turn around and demand to receive bottles exclusively.

As she has gotten older, she has continued to passionately pursue her whims. She is the most stubborn toddler. She is passive-aggressive, she will go toe-to-toe. It really is amazing how she can so embrace such extremes.

She loves her brother and sisters. She worries them and mothers them. She takes Elise's worst and she supports her and accepts Elise's advice. She loves sharing her room with Elise. She looks forward to Gabriel coming home from sports or school with an enthusiasm bordering on a concert groupie. She adores Charlotte. She mothers her and fights to take care of her...she elbows me out of the way to wipe up her spit...she would probably change her diapers if I let her!


Amelia is funny, she likes to clean! She gets upset when things are messy, sticky, or spilled. She loves to unload the dish-washer. She loves to sweep. I am actually in the process of looking for a real, workable short broom. They used to be everywhere...now I can't find any! But I figure if she thinks this is a good time, then I would love the help! :)

She is very intense and always has been! She loves hard and fights hard!

Amelia will make a great woman...I look forward to her taking over the world. She has the personality for an incredible leader. It gives me great peace, that she thrives in caring for others, because, realistically, Elise may need her in the future.

She is very resourceful. If given the opportunity, she will go from person to person asking for things. If you listen carefully, you will notice that she will couch the requests differently for different people. The request is no different, but the way in which she asks, is tailored for you. She used to sidle up to Elise and tuck her hand into the crook of Elise's elbow and say, "Come on, Elise! Help!" And Elise is putty in her hands. They'll go pick out snacks and then eat them under the tables!

She loves to read! She loves the outside! She needs sunshine. If it is overcast or we stay inside for too long, she gets snarly. (Much like her Daddy and Charlotte!) We HAVE to schedule outside time in this house, or the walls will close in!

I laugh sometimes and say she is not my child! I am not a pink, frilly, dress-up ball of emotions. She loves to dress up! She will gladly suffer blisters and bloodied feet for cute shoes. She will hobble around and wear uncomfortable things to look beautiful! "I NEED princess shoes!" Is a regular refrain from her. She much prefers skirts and dresses to any other clothing choice! I had to go out and buy some pink and purple play clothes to sell her on shorts for the playset! And let's not even get into what I have to do to get her into sneakers!! And she always notices what you are wearing, and compliments you on the little touches! I, on the other hand, would be happy if I never had to look at a dress again! Jeans are my uniform of choice and I would rather be beaten than be uncomfortable! I can only get Amelia into jeans if she gets to wear crazy shoes and jewelry....or a skirt over top! It is hard to wrap my mind around!

Elise eased me into being a mother of girls. Amelia sunk me into all my fears! But, she is an amazing girl. I have come to appreciate the skills that make up a woman. It can be scary...the emotions that pour from her tiny frame can terrify me, but I can see why God made the extremes...beyond the entertainment factor...it can be an amazing force that accomplishes so much...and wraps around you and supports and gives with such an openness! I am still not looking forward to her teenage years, but by then, I hope to have had more experience with the emotional rollercoaster that is my Amelia!

Who will she become? I cannot say. I am looking forward to discovering more about her. I can, however, guarantee that it will not be boring. I can guarantee that she will put her all into whatever she chooses. And I know that I will be stretched as a person because of it! AND she will look fabulous doing it, Dahling! :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Elephants - #2 and the lake

Wow, okay! Elise. So if you've met her you will never forget her.

Elise is my first introduction to girls. Ironically, she is bigger than life and still doesn't fit the whole "girl" mold. Maybe God knew I needed something bigger to fear and enjoy. I definitely got a closer look at God through her, and let me tell you, He is more than you ever could imagine!

Well, I had an eventful pregnancy. We passed all the screenings and I had 2 ultra sounds with her. One to confirm the pregnancy, and one to check her sex and make sure she was growing...in retrospect, they should have caught some stuff...knowing what I know now, however, I am thankful that they dropped the ball. The knowledge is different with a baby in your arms than as a bundle of medical theory. I had preterm labor. I got to spend time in the hospital and I was on medicine and bedrest to keep her in to cook. I spent time high as a kite and trapped on the sofa watching movies...not a great time...whatever you may think while at work, there are worse things.

The short version is that they thought everything was normal. They were wrong.

Elise has Down Syndrome. They didn't know that. She also had some serious heart defects. They didn't know that either.

When she was born, she came out scowling at being ripped out. She was ANGRY at being born, and ran her lip all out. She didn't look like her brother. BUT maybe it was because she was a girl...my brain knew better, but I didn't want to think any further. But when the doctor came to chat with us, I wasn't surprised...devastated, but not surprised.

Me being me, I did homework...ALL the homework! I read everything. I mourned the normal. I didn't realizw how much I counted on normal. I never made plans for my kids...I looked forward to meeting them and seeing what they would become, but I saw a truly limitless future for them. Their opportunities were to be lessened ONLY by their choices.

I finally accepted it. Just in time to discover that she would need heart surgery. She was in Cardiac Failure within 3 months. She was scheduled for open heart surgery within 3 and 1/2. During the open heart surgery, we discovered just how much needed to be repaired. She had more and worse holes in her heart than we knew, she was operating with half a heart. It was repaired. We were blessed. Because of the surgery, she was put on a diuretic. She had a couple of runny pants and was dehydrated and turned blue. She was rushed to the emergency room. That day, we learned that she had virtually no platelets. The platelets are the clotting agents in the blood. It was an indicator for cancer. She was less than 5 months old and was in a pre-cancerous condition. It was coming, we just didn't know when.

We watched it for a full year. She was diagnosed with the pre-cancerous conditon March 6, 2003. She was diagnosed with AML leukemia February 26, 2004. She never "presented" in her bone marrow. She presented in the form of "liquid tumors" in her sinuses. If we had not caught it, it was weeks away from her optic nerve. If she had not had the heart problems and the corresponding medication, we would not have had the blue baby incident. If we had not had the blue baby incident, we would not have known to watch for the cancer. If we had not been watching the cancer, she probably would have lost her eyesight and her cancer would have been a lot further along. The sinuses can regenerate, the optic nerve does not.

AML is an aggressive form of leukemia. Typical kids who get this have a less than 30% survival rate. Kids with Down Syndrome have a better than 98% survival rate. In less than a year, we went from struggling with the Downs, to "YES! We have Downs!!!"

We are almost 5 years from the end of her chemo, it will be official in September. The mark from being in remission. YAY, GOD!!! The 5 year mark is a big mark!

Because of the Chemo, she had a internal line port for the chemo to be delivered. Because of the line, Elise did not take a true bath for 8 months. She wasn't a big fan of baths to begin with, and after dodging the bullet for so long made baths a nightmare. We are only just to the point that she realizes baths CAN be fun!

We went to the lake today and played on my parents boat. I actually talked her into going tubing (VERY slowly). We got thrown off, she and I. Shockingly, she got back in the lake to swim before we left. What a change. That's my girl though. You can't buck that girl off of life! She has lived with more gusto than anyone I have ever met. She lives with a joy that is unquenchable. She dances and parties for no other reason than the opportunity to live life. Everything is a party for her! I feel humbled to have the opportunity to live with her. She has given to me, more than I could have imagined.

I still have sad moments when I am tired. I was hit pretty hard when a girl at church who was younger than Elise went to the front of the church and gave her profession of faith. I honestly forget that she isn't where she should be.

Elise is tiny for her age. She is 6. She is head and shoulders shorter than her peers. She is probably on a 2 to 3 year old level of speech and thought. She can do more than a typical 2 year old which is what leads to problems...many scrapes get short-circuited by physical limitations...many of which she doesn't have. (We refer to it as the good idea/bad idea factor.) I am thankful for every milestone she hits...there are a lot of "Wow, good job, don't ever do that again!" moments where I am thankful for the what was done, but not happy with the consequences... :)

I look forward to seeing what she ends up accomplishing. I am sure it will be more than anyone will expect. She is a carrier for miracles...so I am beginning to recognized them more quickly! There are more daily miracles than I could have ever fathomed...for which I am ever more thankful...

Boring is good. Boring is a miracle...but you don't get that until you get to dance through the valley of the shadows.

I look forward to seeing what else she has to teach me.

I read somewhere that the term "touched in the head" (defined as crazy or not all there) was based on the belief that the imperfect came as a protection. That those who were not whole had been touched by God without the "veil" drawn between...and the consequence was a barrier between them and everybody else. We could not comprehend God in all his glory and the intimacy would overwhelm us...so those who could and had, were kept separate from others by a disability...There are many days that I absolutely believe that! Elise sees God more purely than the rest of us....I look forward to seeing how she professes her faith...I am sure it will be joyful and a throw-down party! YAY, God!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Elephants - Let's Meet Them #1

I have had some fun stuff on the kids lately, and so haven't really introduced my crazys properly! So, since everybody is behaving themselves (sorta) I thought I'd do a who's who batch this week...

Gabriel - This is my oldest, he is my ONLY boy...thank God gave him to me, I think I'd have thrown up if I had had a girl first. (I was scared of them!) He is also my only chocolate-eyed baby! He is the baby that you prayed for...he was so EASY! He slept through the night within a month, could be taken anywhere, he was happy with everyone, and would taste anything...it actually became a bit of a parlor trick: here, eat this...He is still very laid back, but this quality is now slightly worrisome. I am now praying for a driving passion that he will fight for!

He is a top-notch swimmer! He is doggedly persistant in his practices. He doesn't like to miss them. Amazingly he was for his wrestling season (not his strength) too. Very proud of that!

I enjoy him very much! Gabriel is a reader, but surprisingly, not a writer. (Somehow I always thought they came hand-in-hand.) We are currently working through the Eragon books together. (I'm glad he made me, I actually like them!) I set him up a blog to practice writing...I guess we will see if that one works out!

He did phenomenally well with his Robotics Team this winter. I was so impressed how he worked under pressure, very calm and assured! He was very worried about not having an opportunity to do it again this year...but discovered that he will recently and was thrilled! I look forward to seeing what he'll get to do this year in middle school!

He was disappointed that he didn't get a baby brother this last go 'round. But he realized that he will eventually get brothers when his sisters marry, this last week! He now wants to get involved with his sister's choices and get guys he likes into the family. You should have seen his eyes when he thought about it...it was too funny!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Helpful Friends

Love my new banner! My friend Lynn did it! Don't you love knowing people who can do anything?!?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Syrup and Nursing

These are just funny stories that I thought you'd get a kick out of! Sunday night giggles!

Elise is faster than you could even fathom when it comes the pantry and fridge...which is ironic when you consider how little she will actually eat. She likes crackers, oatmeal, yogurt, and cake. Everything else is a little trickier to get her eat. She also loves to look at cook books. She'll ooh and ahh and make "yum" sounds. However, if you actually tried to get her to eat any of it, she'd turn you down flat!

Anyway, I was feeding Charlotte and Elise broke into the kitchen...she didn't make as much noise as usual and I guess I got a little too comfortable...Until she came into the living room...shiney! Buck naked. Oh! I came over to her, concerned, of course. The level of concern sky-rocketed when I drew closer and a stout smell of syrup wafted toward me! I started crying inside when I took her into the bathroom to clean her up and found syrup smeared all over the sink. and door. and floor. and door knob....and in all sorts of nooks and crannies. I put her in the tub to go assess the damage elsewhere. I went to the kitchen and found about 3/4 of a bottle of syrup all over the kitchen...all over the table, chairs, and an American Girl doll...as I look up I see that the windows appear ripple-y, she had carefully wiped each window pane with it! Thankfully, Ethan was home, and he scrubbed Elise down. It took me the better part of 2 hours to get the kitchen unsticky. Surpisingly, it only took about 1/2 hour to clean the doll, and she really is not the worse for her body spa treatment. This is why we get these dolls...we HAVE to be able to save them from our girls!

Later the same day, she came to me with her hair wet and told me that she had taken a bath! (Again, if you knew what an ordeal it was to give her a bath, you would know how utterly bizarre this situation is!) Her hair was wet, nothing else. I asked her if she had washed her hair in the sink or the toilet. She shrugged and said she didn't know. Gabriel sniffed her and said she smelled like the blue goo in the toilet. Rats!!! After THAT bath, she celebrated by eating half the cake on the counter!

Needless to say, I am a little more jumpy when Elise breaks into the kitchen! When Charlotte is busy nursing, or having "baby snacks", I have started trying to let her watch Tom and Jerry.

Amelia likes to quiz me about what "baby snacks" Charlotte is having. Milk wasn't enough answer for her. I have just started listing off what I've eaten during the day. For whatever reason, she finds this amazing! "Baby snacks" is much easier to discuss in public than Gabriel's description. He referred to it as "letting the baby bite your nipples". (He also called bras: "the little T-shirt you keep your nipples in." ) Nursing really is a crazy wierd thought to toddlers...it is quite odd for anyone, I guess. A bit of a miracle really. And yet another awareness raised by toddlers...Love them, don't you? Funny AND useful! HA!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

big!

SO! Today is the day. Gabriel just noticed a girl. Not to say that he hasn't been overly aware of girls since he was an infant.

Just so you know about Gabriel and girls...He blacked his eye when he was about 2. He walked into a support column BECAUSE he was busy gawking at the Victoria's Secret Poster/Display. Yeah, really.

Okay, back to today. This is partially hear-say. Gabriel went to a dance recital dress-rehearsal for a friend (she's a girl). Really just because he was curious. He got into the car with the girl, and this is the reaction. He looked at her and starts looking really hard and says "Wow! You look nice! Hey! Have your eyelashes always looked like that? You look really pretty!" This was all said while he looked closer and closer, finally ending about 2 inches from her face. (Her mama is laughing in the rear-view mirror.) Notice the shock. This was apparently so impactful that he came home and told me about it! "She looked really pretty, Mama! For dancing, I mean. She had all kinds of make-up on. She had stuff on her eyes and face and lipstick on. Her hair was all slicked back, but she was really pretty." Oh, save us! Is this the beginning of the end?

Elise managed to break her bed today, from jumping on it. I hope I can fix it...

There we have it, Folks, the 2 ways we grow up. In one day...Can't we slow them down? Keep them our babies, just a tiny bit longer?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bread

When I was little my momma made EVERYTHING from scratch!!! Dried fruit, yogurt, stews, you name it! Let me tell you these are some serious shoes to fill! I loved the smell and the sounds of her cooking, but I really wanted to read books more than I wanted to read recipes.

My folks are vegetarians....so when I married a serious meat eater, the little I had learned about cooking was worthless, because I had to learn to "cook southern"...meat; fried; scary, odd-looking veggies; etc. I was treading to stay above water as far as cooking. I started teaching and came home so tired, that cooking made me sick just to think about it. I took the easy way out, Hamburger Helper anybody? Gabriel was happy with that!

As I had Little Miss Picky-Picky (Elise), cooking became even more of a labor.

I am only just now getting my kitchen legs. I have finally figured out how to make meals and not just food.

My MOST favorite smells and sounds of the kitchen were when my momma baked bread. It was the only thing my mother made that caused me to leave my beloved books. I loved kneading and EATING bread!

When I was pregnant with Elise I wanted bread, the more homemade (*expensive*) the better. So I decided that I would try it. I failed miserably! I threw away every batch I made. They were gross. I even went home and got my mother to tutor me. Still didn't take. I gave up.

My friend makes it. I was so jealous. She shared her secret. Her bread-maker does the first half...mixing...then she does every thing else. Apparently, I have a mixing disability. I used her secret...and it was fabulous! I felt like I ought to swing my legs from the counter while eating it so hot that jelly melts.

Maybe my mother can start to believe that she hasn't failed with me...there is hope! Maybe my kids won't die from nutritional deficit!

Insights

When Gabriel was little, somewhere between 18 months and 2 years, I caught him sitting on the couch pulling at his hair, really hard! As I watched, he would tug and tug mumbling to himself...finally I had to ask, "Gabriel, what are you doing?" He responded with, "It's stuck! It's stuck! It's STUCK!" "What is stuck?" "My HAIR!" I told him, of course it was stuck, it was supposed to be! God made it that way. I admit, I wasn't sure what I was expecting...but when he says "Oh!" and turned to keep playing, I got so tickled! He was worried when he didn't know God had it planned...as soon as he realized that God was taking care of it, he was at peace!

We should take notes!

Speaking of taking notes...This weekend, we took a whirl-wind trip to Cincinnati for my cousin's graduation...8 hours each way between Friday evening and Monday morning. We decided that the big girls should stay with their grandparents so we didn't all pull our hair out. We were discussing my aunt Linda and Ethan's grandmother, both of whom we have lost in the last few months. Elise over hears us and pops out with "Where Mamaw?" Ethan's mother tells her that she died and is living with Jesus now. And Elise looks at us and says "Oh! Yay!!!" It really should be that way, shouldn't it?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Gabriel's First JOB

Gabriel is very excited tonight! He has been hired for his very first paying job outside the family!

He "landed" a dog-sitting gig for a neighbor and church friend! He biked over tonight to receive instructions. He brought a tiny notebook and wrote down all the info! I was impressed! He may grow up to be responsible after all! After all the 10 year-old stuff lately, it really does give a certain measure of peace.

Speaking of jobs...Amelia is working Elise pretty hard lately...she will beg Elise to come and help her do pretty much everything! Elise has been pretty cooperative and will collect as many potty gummies as Amelia asks for, telling me it is for her. She also scaled the toilet to get the jelly beans off the shelf for her this week. I am thankful for their camaraderie, I just wish it wasn't based in illegal activity! :) (All the candy in weird places is due to potty training...Sorry, I know it's kinda icky. But anything to get her out of diapers, right?!?)

Charlotte is still the rock-star. Both girls adore her and want to play with her all the time. I am to "make her happy" ASAP. Gabriel is such a helper, too. He will collect her and talk to her until I can get to her! How lucky am I?!?

Dryers

Maybe I should devote an entire blog to Elise...but, a friend blogged about the frustration of the things that get caught in dryers. I could so totally relate! I have washed several hundreds of chapsticks, gum (argh!), crayons and colored pencils (did you know that they melt in the dryer, only to harden/transfer on the dryer walls to transfer/ruin even MORE loads?), the key chain computer memory sticks (sometimes they can dry out and work again!), kleenex (worse than cat hair), and so very many lovely things...

Elise compulsively runs away, so we keep key bolts on all the doors to the outside! I worry when we go to other people's houses because she CAN get out and see what there is to see around their neighborhoods. She left my in-law's house a while back to play on someone else's swing set 2 blocks over! Nausea and fear. Now quite a bit OCD about her whereabouts! So when I don't hear her for a while, I will call around and see what she is up to...usually nothing good! Several months ago, I went looking for her. I called her...no answer. I called her again, and I hear a tiny "yes?" It was not in her room, the basement, kitchen, bathroom...of course I start to panic a little...I call again, she answers again...It seriously sounds like it should be the kitchen, but she's not there. I call her again, and I hear a knocking...seriously could not figure out where it was coming from! Maybe she got inside the walls, I begin to wonder! (If it could be done, it would be her!) "Elise? Are you in the kitchen?" "YES!" I hear knocking again, it sounds metallic..."Elise, are you in the dryer?" "yes." "Would you like out?" "YES!" So, she put herself in the dryer. I check there now in my list of places when she goes missing!