Monday, March 30, 2009

The Progression of Hives, Mixed Blessings, Etc.

I was just reading my last post and thinking it feels like a year ago. We just got home last night from the hospital, where we had been since Sunday afternoon.
Prednisolone did nothing. That, or it kept the Kittyboy from developing anaphylaxis, for which we would be quite grateful if that's the case, but did nothing we could SEE. Saturday night, his back looked like this first picture.
Sunday morning, he woke up quite irritable (yup, steroids! is what we thought) and so we gave him his morning's dose and he stayed home from church with daddy while I went. I got home, and those suckers were BIG, had greatly multiplied, and looked very, very ANGRY. His hands, feet, elbows and knees were swollen, and he was not happy. He went back to Dr. Hendricks (I love having a doctor whose clinic hours are on Sunday) and he said it was the worst case by far he had EVER seen on a toddler, and that since the steroids weren't having the desired effect, go to the hospital. Here is how Kittyboy's back looked in the ER, laying on Husband's chest, and below that picture is one from the front.
The ER doctors were QUITE alarmed, in particular because he wasn't scratching. Their minds would have been greatly at ease were he scratching up a storm, because there are diseases which make the skin look spectacularly freakish but do NOT cause itching, all of which are bad things to have. We did keep mentioning that he completely ignored mosquito bites last year, he has this surprisingly high pain tolerance for certain types of pain and discomfort... I don't think they bought the idea that he could have hives like that and truly not feel it ("really, he probably doesn't know it's there" I told them). So they put in an IV port (took about two and a half tries) and drew a heck of a lot of blood (three tries). A full blood panel along with many other things showed that he didn't have anything exotic or vascular. They really were "just hives". Hives that didn't react to steroids and barely reacted to intravenous Benadryl. Poor precious has my veins - tiny, sneaky, and playful - hence the numerous sticks from nurses experienced with toddler blood-drawing. And needles are NOT a type of pain he ignores, he had Husband holding legs, me holding chest, and a nurse on each arm as a third nurse was trying with the needle. After that, he started crying every time a nurse came near him.
So Sunday afternoon we were admitted, and around 5, moved into a room. I seriously erred in my preparations for our overnight stay. I had gone home for his Elmo, Pooh, and musical seahorse, but I did NOT bring back his weighted pillowcase. I really, really should have. Apparently I am an idiot.
He finally gave up about 10 p.m. and went to sleep (mostly). I fell asleep on the couch sometime after 11, and woke about 12:30 to the sound of fierce combat in his bed, as a nurse was trying in vain to get his vitals. He was not about to surrender so much as a pulse rate to anyone in scrubs without a fight. Poor nurse had been trying not to wake me. I got him back to sleep sometime after 1. Quarter to three, he was up - for the day, he seemed to think. He went down again by 4, until 7 a.m. at which time he really WAS up for the day.
Husband, who had spent the night at home in our nice comfy bed with peace and quiet (not that I'm jealous, of course) was back at the hospital by 8, with coffee. We spent the morning holding Kittyboy for nurses, who still couldn't get vitals or administer medication without a struggle, telling him NOT TO SCRATCH, as he was starting to, and around 10, the long awaited allergist Dr. Lehman arrived. He felt that in the first place, it wasn't food or plant/bug/animal related. A reaction to the amoxicillin Kittyboy had been on for an ear infection was possible, but not probable. He said it was most likely a virus! Viruses can cause hives, and be resistant to treatment, as they tend to develop and then leave on their own timetable regardless of whatever you do. Food, pet, plant and other standard allergies can develop suddenly at the age of two, but not THAT dramatically out of the blue, and he also said it didn't "look" allergic. I assume when one is the Go-to Allergy Dude of a major hospital, one has developed a feel for what is likely to be caused by what.
So Kittyboy probably has a virus (we'll also be very cautious about "cillin" antibiotics in the future, as that was the next most likely suspect). Dr. L also said that the grayish blueish centers developing in the larger spots, which looked QUITE alarming by then, were not cause for alarm. They were bruises surfacing as the hives were receding. Bad hives will do that. He had seen much, much worse caused by a virus (he interned at St. Jude's), and all you can do is treat the symptoms (i.e. Benadryl for itching, rest, etc). If lunch went well, we'd be discharged soon after. We watched Monsters Inc and ordered lunch. Here's a picture of the start of the bruises on his back. That's basically what every large hive turned into!
Lunch did NOT go well. He took five little bites of pizza, drank an ounce of milk, and rejected everything else. We saw that the bruised areas were getting much darker in places, and he seemed unable to get comfortable in any position. The nurse got a resident for us, who left messages for our doctor and the allergist. He (resident) asked me if it was a matter of discomfort, or of pain, the distinction being that discomfort can be dealt with at home and may be alleviated by BEING home, whereas pain would be cause to stay in the hospital, both for managing it as closely as possible and to make certain that there's no other cause for the pain. I couldn't say either way, as he does have this sporadically high tolerance - was it just a discomfort of a type he couldn't ignore, or was something hurting so badly even HE was in pain from it? I told the resident that's a really hard call to make with this boy, and I couldn't make it. Kittyboy just lay on Husband's chest making unhappy noises. Around three, I grabbed my purse and cell phone and went for a walk, because my nerves were just a bit shredded. I found a comfy chair outside the gift shop and talked through my nerves on the cell phone (thank you, Carey!).
I came back to the room probably an hour later with a teddybear wearing scrubs. It was so cute, I couldn't resist, and Kittyboy's quite fond of bears. Happily, he was sitting upright, had eaten some cottage cheese, drunk some milk, and seemed to be feeling much better! The time spent horizontal had evened out the bruising, and it was more obviously just that - the bruises are bad, they make him sore and achey, but they really are just bruises, not internal bleeding or anything truly serious. And he grabbed for that teddybear!
The next nurse who came in was old enough to have given birth to every nurse we had had up to that point - not to say that she was old, but that all our other nurses had looked my age or younger. And SHE, having possibly been a nurse as long as our other nurses had been able to walk, got vitals with no fuss whatsoever. "Oh, I like that bear! His clothes look just like mine, don't they? Can I listen to your bear's chest? Oh, what a good boy he is. Yup, everything sounds good! Can I listen to you now?" The same for temp, the same for blood pressure. Not a PEEP from Kittyboy. Easy as pie. I first thought, "Oh duh, we've had Elmo and Pooh here all along, we should have thought of that!" but this nurse had been around the block far more times than we OR our other nurses had.
And, she said we could start packing up, because she'd been told to start on discharge papers!
So here we are, home as of about six last night - he slept twelve hours straight, has watched two Veggie Tales videos and two Pooh videos this morning, drank juice, ate applesauce, and seems to be slowly mending. Any movement is slow and uncomfortable. His back is an even color and texture (not quite a HEALED color and texture, but getting there), his front, arms, legs and face are very mottled. Some places look bruised, the overall effect is that he got scalded or burned. But he is napping, and reasonably comfortable.
The first picture, Saturday night, had been just so we could so grandparents before it faded, which we assumed it'd be doing soon. Sunday afternoon, Husband pulled out his phone on which he'd taken the pictures, to show the doctors, "Look, here's what it was last night," and they were so impressed and glad to be able to see it, that we just kept photographing each stage so that each shift of residents who came on duty could see how it started, what it turned into next, etc. And now, they're proof of what hives can do, because I never would have believed it if I hadn't seen them myself!
God is very, very good! Our little guy is on the mend!

Saturday, March 28, 2009


My son is a Dalmatian. A peach and red Dalmatian. He is allergic to something, we know not what. Poison ivy doesn't look like this, and there's no rhyme or reason to the spots, they're ALL OVER. His spots have spots, in places. And they're still coming and growing, he had spots on his face when I put him down for his nap that he did not have when I took him to the doctor this morning.
"What is he in for today?"
Pulling up his shirt, "THIS!"
"Oh wow, how long has he had this?"
"To our knowledge..." checking time "two hours?"
It was a five-second diagnosis, he has hives. He was outside yesterday, he helped me pick up garbage down where we and our neighbors leave our cans (someone doesn't tie their bags well) and he went down in the ditch by the road. It could have been a plant, it could have been a bite (they're not bug bites, but an allergy to something that bit him could have caused it), he's eaten nothing new and I haven't changed any soaps or detergents. If it was a plant, it's not a rash from oils, it's a true allergic reaction. It's hives, plain and simple. What's not plain and simple is what caused it in the first place.
So now he's on prednisolone to get it GONE, and if it comes back, Dr. Hendricks already knows what allergist he'll send us to. I remembered only after getting the prescription and putting him down for a nap after his first dose, what he was like the last time he had steroids. It was when he was still in NICU, to give his lung development a boost. We went from having the happiest baby on the floor to having the angriest. Steroids can make children irritable, they say - this was infant 'roid rage. The second day of it, he screamed bloody murder for HOURS, apparently with circular breathing. "So do yah STILL think my lungs need help? What are you looking at? Huh?? HUH??" We didn't visit long that day. It was piercing. And we pitied the NICU nurses when we left, because they were stuck! So, um... this time WE might be stuck, if he reacts the same way! I guess we'll know by tomorrow... but we have to get rid of them completely to see if it was a one-time reaction or something that needs to be followed up and dealt with.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Paring Away at Separation Anxiety

When Kittyboy was coming up on his first birthday, he had me spoiled. Since he was not yet moving around all that well, I could put him on the floor with toys in the living room and do dishes in the kitchen, I could go to the bathroom, I could fix a bottle or fetch something I needed, and he was fine with that. Mommy go away - Mommy come back - it's all good.
Then, one morning in December '07, all that changed. It happened quite literally overnight. The previous day, he was fine - that morning, I set him down in the living room as I always did, stepped into the kitchen, and he began bawling. Crying and crying and crying, as if something were terribly wrong. I ran back in and NOTHING was wrong, he was fine, he had toys, nothing was wrong. I held him, I set him back down, I showed him his toys and made sure they were RIGHT next to him, and stepped away. I had not reached the door when the shrieks began again.
I set him down in the nursery and went to get a bottle, thinking he was hungry, and he screamed, hysterically. I fixed the bottle as fast as I could, ran back, and he had actually managed to drag himself to the nursery door, he was that frantic. The rest of the day, I would hold him for a while, then sloooowly ease him to the floor, then sloooowly step away, and if I did it slowly enough, I could then move around the same room. I just couldn't ever, ever step towards the door. We had a developmental therapist who was a Godsend and patiently answered every e-mail I sent, and I e-mailed Rhonda that afternoon to ask what on earth was wrong. She said he might have suddenly realized how big the house was because he was able to roll and scoot more, and to just roll with it for now. He should start regaining his confidence in a few days. When she and the PT came next, I stepped out of the room and once again he cried and cried - even with these women he'd been seeing weekly for months. Husband reported that he'd tried playing peekaboo with Kittyboy around a door frame - the result being screams. Their conclusion, when it was apparent this would not be a fly-by-night phenomenon, was that for some reason incomprehensible to us, his world did not feel safe to him - he was not secure in his world. And all we could do was just make him feel safe, whatever that took. Every week, as I tiredly apologized for the house, they assured me - "You can do housework when he goes to school."
What "making him feel safe" meant, for the next year, was never being separated. Ever. Fortunately Magic the kitty helped with nights for a while (see A Boy and His Cat), but during the day, unless Husband was home, I couldn't even go to the bathroom by myself. We made a play area in the kitchen so that something could occupy him while I fixed food. There was no more handing him off to someone during church, so I stopped chanting entirely, because he was getting too active to be held up at the chanter's stand, and he wouldn't go to anyone else (even in church, his "happy place"!). Baby gates were used to keep him out of rooms or provide cats with a refuge, but he couldn't be on the opposite side. He would scream for as long as he had any barrier between himself and a parent. The "unsafe feeling" was identified in April '08 as being caused by his sensory issues, so I've been hoping... and hoping... and hoping... that as we progressed in OT, it would get better.
And it has been, slowly. First he got to where he would leave the room I was in of his own accord and play elsewhere for a while, even though I was not "allowed" to leave the room myself. Then he got to the stage he's been at for at least a couple months now, where I could come and go and he could come and go and everything was fine so long as no one closed a door between us (or put up a baby gate, or so long as I was not on the other side of a mountain of laundry, etc). You can imagine the comments I've been getting on how I've "caused" this by never "letting" him be by himself! I have friends with whom I've limited my time because I just wasn't going to get into it with them about how I was coddling and encouraging his clinginess and how a few hours in a play pen would "teach him better". No, a few hours in a playpen would be hell. Pardon my language. We weren't going to get anywhere with encouraging his independence and helping him feel safe by himself if we gave him more reason to feel insecure. I'd tried every technique there is, and he would NOT stop crying after 10, or 15, or 20 minutes, or even half an hour - only a couple months ago, he cried for 45 minutes straight because I put up a baby gate. He only stopped after I took it down and held him for probably five to ten minutes. This was not a problem to be dealt with by letting him "cry it out".
Then, the last few weeks, I've actually gotten to close the door to the bathroom a couple times. Woohoo, feeling like a HUMAN! Then last Saturday, we went to a party and Kittyboy went down in the basement with his older friends while we adults sat upstairs and talked... no problem. Tuesday this week, we went to Walmart with my friend Alley, and he sat quietly in HER cart while I was all the way across the store temporarily. And he was fine. And naturally, I have praised him out the wazoo, gushed and cooed and generally went nuts over what a BIG BOY he's been.
This evening, he topped it all. We went to church for the 4th week of the Akathist service, my favorite service of Lent. I had been moping about not being able to chant it this year unless Husband had a Friday night off, and I just absolutely love the Akathist. So this evening, as Husband was working until late, we got a ride from Kittyboy's Baba Susan, and I remembered the Walmart trip as we walked in. I set all his things in the pew beside Susan, I told him, "You can sit with Baba Susan, can't you? Yes you can! You're Mommy's big independent boy!" I set him down on the pew, took a big breath, and walked up to the chanter's stand, just waiting for the wails. Nothing. Got up there, turned around, looked back, he was sitting there quiet as could be. Okay, worth a try...
He was good the WHOLE SERVICE. He spent the whole service down in the pew, not even the first pew but about halfway back, he didn't cry, he didn't fuss or whine, he played quietly the entire time. Oh my gosh, I could not believe it. I kept peeking at him, I didn't want to be too obvious in case I would "remind" him that "Holy cow, Mommy's all the way over THERE, this can't BE, WAAAH..." and he was perfectly happy.
Thank you, God! Thankyouthankyouthankyou.... and thank you Panagia Theotokos!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Life of Furniture

I am typing this sitting at our FIRST EVER REAL COMPUTER DESK. Not a bookcase with computer pieces precariously balanced, not a writing desk with monitor shoehorned into a corner, not a table. This is the sort of desk that actually has cut-outs in the back for cords, and in the back of shelves for cords to go between them. It even has doors - close them, and it looks like an armoire. It's beautiful. I love it.
Until yesterday, it was holding my friends' daughter's computer and ceramic dragons. But Squee, as she is called, got a laptop, and no longer needed the very large piece of furniture. We, on the other hand, NEEDED this very large piece of furniture. So we traded her some modular shelving for it. She has shelves to hold her dragons, as she sprawls in bed with her laptop. We have a desk for our computer that was actually meant for holding such a thing.
This desk is one of those pressed-board things you buy in a box, and for being pressed-board out of a box, it has weathered remarkably well. Squee's mother Alley told me, when I was squealing about having our first ever computer desk, that it was also the first piece of furniture SHE had ever bought new, making it special twice over. Her paycheck was $125, the desk cost $122, as the story goes. It's been assembled in her bedroom, disassembled completely to be moved by car to her apartment, reassembled in Squee's room, disassembled completely once again to come by car to our house, and has survived all that most excellently. The next time it moves will be in an actual moving van - we put in some nails when we reassembled it. Not because it needed them, but because once we had finally got all of the shelves where they went, we didn't want anything to shift while we moved it upright to put on the top. The top was what would hold the sides together and keep the shelves from shifting, it was a matter of holding everything together long enough to get it on! But now it's in place, in our family room, with chaos surrounding it from all the upheaval of furniture moving - still with some tiny stickers on the inside of the right door.
The same night that we brought the desk here, I took Squee to Lowe's to buy paint for the shelving we'd given her. Two sections of it need to be sanded before they would take paint, but the top part I had painted beforehand, so we got a can of spraypaint and set to.
Those shelves also had a story - I rescued them from sitting by our church's garage. They had been there a couple months, rained on, collected leaves, etc., and so one morning on the way to my car after church, I looked them over. Decent shape, for what the materials were and how long they'd been exposed to the elements. Someone had taken that fake wood wallboard, like you see in houses built in the sixties and seventies, and used it as the sides and back with particle board for shelves - the wallboard was chipping and warped, but overall it was still holding together. I walked back into church, found a parish council member to ask, and was told that probably no one wanted it if it was sitting out, and it was just a shelf someone had put together to hold pamphlets and bulletins long ago when the church was first built.
Well, that was a provenance that I, the history nut, could not resist. I dumped out the leaves, put it in the trunk, and took it home. It was begging for paint, so I obliged, but color mixing is not my forte, and my golden tan turned out light pink. It got pinker the more I tried to make it brown, so I gave up and had pink shelves on my counter in the kitchen. Then I had pink shelves in the family room. Then I gave pink shelves to Squee, in return for her mother's first piece of non-hand-me-down furniture!
Squee is not a "pink" sort of girl. Hence the trip to Lowe's, and the purchase of BLACK spraypaint. But to cover evenly and completely with spraypaint requires more experience than she has, and so her first few passes yielded a mottled effect. She contemplated it for a few seconds, pronounced it pink camoflage, and approved. Being an artistic sort, she then had great fun giving the whole thing a sort of scorched, fire-damaged look, which I must admit looks pretty cool. Her artistic endeavors have found a new medium.
I was thinking, as I watched her personalize the old church bulletin shelf, that all around us are pieces of furniture which have a story. Our computer desk may go to college with Kittyboy if we can take good care of it, adding another chapter to the story that begins with "Your Aunt Alley spent her whole paycheck on this many, many years ago..." The wallboard shelves that someone cobbled together for church bulletins a couple decades or more ago have held dishes, plants, and now a collection of dragons, with a mottled pink-and-black paint scheme. And what will the next adolescant whim color it? No one knows.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Things I have Learned About Parenting...

Now then, let's see - what valuable parenting lessons can one possibly learn in 27 months? Well, Kittyboy's only three months over two years old, and already I can think of several insights to share with those who have no children. Or whose children are boring.
1. Never ever set a precedent. Children learn that after X comes Y way sooner than you think. For a while after Kittyboy started walking, I made it a habit to step out of church after the morning gospel and after communion. Maybe not after the gospel, but always after communion. Then one morning, he was being just so good, and didn't seem to need a change or anything, so I figured we'd stay. The good behavior lasted only until it became apparent to him that we really were staying in. Even at 18 months, the complete lack of verbal communication did not stop him from loudly declaring "Mommyyyy, why are we still heeeerre, we ALWAYS go downstairs noooowwww, come ONNN..." My translation of "Mmmmmmm nnngggg nnggggg!" whined while he wiggled down and headed for the door. Yup, I'd taught him well. Same goes for figuring that you'll save a plate when it's just you and the toddler by feeding him off of yours - not, I repeat, NOT if you ever want your food to be your own ever ever again. We are in the middle of breaking that habit now - tooth and nail.
2. Some toddlers roll on the floor screaming and kicking when they don't get their way. Some just go limp. Mine has a creative, somewhat violent variation on going limp which involves throwing his arms up (makes it impossible to lift him with your hands under his armpits) and collapsing backwards with a melodramatic wail. And rolling around floppily, kicking, as you try to pick him up. There is ONE hold which can be executed no matter the position of limbs, and does not put you in direct danger of kicking or getting head-butted. It's called the airplane hold. They advise it for babies who have colic, but it's also excellent for transporting a raging toddler. Roll him onto his stomach, one arm underneath his torso from one end, one arm from the other. Google "airplane hold colic" for a better description. The kicking is all directed outward (do be aware of those around you and the position of store displays) and with one arm and one leg trapped against you, he really can't go anywhere, and he has no leverage to hit you with his head. I discovered this by accident - and out of desperation.
3. Try not to hold a toddler in your arms facing away from you, with his head at the level of your throat or face. Back of skull to the nose, mouth, or larynx is an experience you want to anticipate and avoid at all costs. A fat lip is bad enough, got one of those during church once, but protecting your Adam's apple is absolutely vital. A blow there will come close to making you drop the kid, as you clutch your throat hoping you can still breathe. Your sternum, on the other hand, can take a beating if necessary. Again, airplane hold - protects stuff you need to live.
4. When the baby is in the car and you're hoping he will sleep - DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT. Ever. Maybe it's just Kittyboy who has a thing about eye contact (eye contact also factors into various theories as to why he gets aggressive with other toddlers and not taller children), but if you sneak a glance back and he catches your eye, he wakes right back up. He could be almost asleep, but if he sees the whites of your eyes, back to square one. Don't know why this is - like I said, might just be Kittyboy.
5. "Uh oh" is VERY, VERY BAD. Worse than silence. Silence, whatever is going on is being relatively successful (whatever that may be - and it is probably not something you want). "Uh oh", on the other hand, means something went WRONG. Wrong enough that the toddler knows it. That's REALLY wrong.
More to follow if I think of anything else.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Good, Grand, Glorious News in the Speech Department

Kittyboy performed so marvelously in his Speech eval this morning, I think we'll probably lose Janna the SLT next month. We may hold onto her for another half-year, but I kind of doubt it. Not only is his expressive vocabulary growing by an average of a word a day, but he said "airplane" this morning! Okay, so it was more like "ay-pay" but it was a two syllable word, the two syllables of which are totally different from each other. It was obvious what he meant, we called the winged vehicle in his hand an airplane and he instantly responded with the word. THAT was amazing.
Janna said he obviously comprehends far, far more than he can express. We already knew this, but she was quite impressed at the extent to which that's true. And having gotten a taste of what communication - gestured or spoken - will get him, he's constantly looking to use it whenever possible. So he's sort of to the point of teaching himself! He's pushing his own boundaries now, of his own accord - eagerly and with gusto!
Ginny the OT, we will most likely have for another six months to practice sitting, completing tasks, and following instructions. Then we'll say goodbye to her too. Unless the school district has a concern they think warrants following, we will be completely sans therapists by November. How weird would THAT be? No one taking notes, evaluating, re-evaluating, checking things, asking questions, saying, "Here's what we're working on next..." Just us and a healthy, normal, scarily bright toddler.
Let's just hope God knows what He's doing, shall we? He's not SUPPOSED to give us more than we can handle. Would it be irreverent to say, I hope He remembers that?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Kittyboy and Puppygirl, the Indestructo-Children...

The weather was lovely today, and so we went to our friend Carey's house for a playdate. Carey's daughter rather resembles Kittyboy, were he six years older and a girl (does that make sense?), and so I call her Puppygirl. Puppygirl and Kittyboy, the superhero and super-sidekick, valiently saving the world from boredom - one adventure at a time!
They're both indestructo-children. You can tell the jaded, world-wise mothers of indestructo-children, by the fact that they stand at a distance saying, "Now, that looks dangerous, so be careful" rather than dashing over to help out. When the child falls, the mother of an indestructo-child looks first for misshapen limbs or flowing blood - seeing neither, she assumes all is well, which it generally is.
Carey's yard has the most wonderful swingset ever, so solid it may outlast the house. The ladder up to the slide has three or four rungs, a good foot apart from each other, and they're not steps, they really are rungs - dowels about an inch in diameter. It's a ladder, not a staircase. Kittyboy, naturally, wanted to conquor it. He's not much over two foot tall, so that was quite an ambitous endeavor. Puppygirl was behind him helping, and his itty-bitty feet kept slipping off the rungs, so what did she do but wrap her arms under his, around his ribcage, and hoist. Stubborn and strong, she actually dragged him all the way up the ladder with her. (We moms stood across the yard saying mom-things like "That looks dangerous, be careful"). They made it up just fine. Then WHEE down the slide, with her arms around his waist. They sent stuffed animals down the slide, they played catch up and down it, and then Kittyboy decided he was going down by himself - headfirst, on his stomach. There was only a drop of a couple inches at the bottom, and only dirt, no rocks. Nothing hazardous. I was expecting he'd get a mouthful of dirt, but instead he bounced off the stuffed monkey he'd sent down first, before landing on the grass. What FUN! In a few years he'll be the kid building ramps for his bike to see how high he can launch himself. Indestructo-child.
You can hover over him every moment, or you can make sure the bottom of the slide is free of rocks and clench your teeth and grimace when he goes down it headfirst, assuming that if he dislikes the result, he won't try again. Or he'll just learn how to catch himself. Either way, lesson learned.
I did help him learn how to negotiate the ladder. All he really needed was someone to hold his feet, and the first time went without incident. He can climb his dresser, after all. The second time, he was on the top rung getting ready to climb onto the platform, I had a hold of his feet and was ready for him to go either forwards or backwards. He decided to teach me the folly of assuming anything ever, by going sideways. He leaned sideways and did a sliding face-plant down the side of the ladder. I couldn't totally stop him without letting go of his feet, and I didn't want to do that completely because if his legs went through the ladder, THAT could have been a BIG problem, so I kept one hand on a foot and grabbed his arm with the other to slow his descent. Got him down to the ground, upright again, and gave my precious a hug. He cried for a few seconds, then wanted to go back up the ladder again. "Okay Mommy, let's try this again! Onwards and upwards!"
There really is a sort of laissez-faire mindset that goes along with having an incredibly brave daredevil child. It's the "well, that'll learn him" school of parenting. Scan for obvious actual dangers, and then just realize that the child is going to do what he's going to do. Some children only learn from experience, and ours is one. We've actually taken to placing him on the table or counter or such now and then, and then teaching him how to get down from it, because we can't stop him climbing - that would require impulse control - but we CAN make sure he has the skills to get down safely.
So yes, the next step was teaching him to back down once he was up! That went better than expected, too.
He and Puppygirl just had fun all over the place. They slid, they swung, they pushed stuffed animals in the swings, he chased her on her bike, she set him carefully over the lowest part of the frame and wheeled him slowly through the yard, and they got endless enjoyment from pushing stuffed animals back and forth through the cat-flap in the front door. Now that the weather is markedly better, we'll have to have playdates more often. Running and climbing in the sun and fresh air will encourage Kittyboy to continue napping!
I keep thinking, "Just wait, our next child will be a hot-house flower, afraid of everything, who cries when she trips." What parenting whiplash THAT would be! Although actually, the chances of that would be slim when she or he is watching Brother scale the walls and hang from the ceiling. My youngest brother was the No Fear Baby because he grew up watching three older siblings risking life and limb, and learned from it that risk is fun!

Friday, March 13, 2009

So Happy It's Friday!

It's also a very happy day because when I opened my blog this morning, I had a NINTH follower!! Wow! For me, that's a lot! Nine is my favorite number, not to mention I'm amazed so many people read what I write. I guess the number's higher when you add the people who asked me to subscribe them, but 9 is an exciting milestone for me. It's a perfect little 3x3 square on the side of my blog. I'm a big fan of threes (part of why my favorite number is 3x3 - it's just a perfect number!).
I've been reading this week about the fastest and easiest way to recycle stuff - it doesn't involve sorting, or a recycling bin, or dragging anything to the curb. It's as simple and basic as just reusing whatever it is. I have numerous salsa, tomato sauce, and peanut butter containers washed and stashed with my dwindling supply of plastic containers, to be used for leftovers, chopped ingredients for future meals, small pieces of things, whatever. I've noticed that jar lids come in mainly in two or three standard sizes, which makes mixing and matching easier than you'd think. Husband, long-suffering as he is, has taken his lunch to work in a washed, de-labeled mayo jar on a couple occasions, because that was the container for which I could find a lid. Plastic lids also can be switched around, as small mayo lids and some others seem about the size of peanut butter lids.
It makes sense, when you think of the fact that part of the price you pay for the item goes to the packaging. I always thought of it as paying for the food, and then hey, if you can use the container, free container! But that's backwards. From a business standpoint, you're paying the cost of the food - the shipping - the marketing - bunch of other stuff - AND the packaging. You paid for that jar, as well as what's in it - why get rid of the jar afterwards, and THEN go shopping for food containers? With that in mind, I'm starting to look at the worth of the packaging when I shop, particularly if I'm choosing between items that are otherwise equal - but one's sold in a can (only reusable as a pencil container) and one's sold in a jar (which could then hold the leftovers of the meal).
I'm not cheap. I'm frugal. :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sunday of Orthodoxy, Part Two

The Sunday of Orthodoxy celebrates the restoration of icons to the Church. Basically, icons are the images of Christ and of His saints (and of feastdays such as the Nativity, the Resurrection and such) which we venerate in church and in our homes. This had been the practice from the earliest - the Evangelist Luke painted the first icon of the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos. Icons aren't just for looking pretty on the wall, either, they take part in prayers and services. On a feast day, you would decorate the icon of the feast, or the icon of a saint on the day we remember them. The honor shown the icon goes to the person or event pictured - much as someone showing dishonor to the American flag is taken as dishonor towards our country (ever read the extensive regulations of flag etiquette?). The icon is also like a portrait - you might keep a picture of a relative who has passed on, in order to remember them, or a picture of an ancestor (or completely unrelated person, Abraham Lincoln for example) whose life was inspirational to you. The saints are our ancestors in the faith, the "cloud of witnesses" referenced by St. Paul (Heb. 12:1). Mothers whose children are having difficulty being left at a sitter's or at preschool are sometimes advised to send a picture of themselves with the child, because very young children instinctively equate the picture with the person in it (one of those things we "grow out of"). Well, as Orthodox, we don't "grow out of" that.
We don't "pray to" them - but we do ask for help sometimes from the person shown there. If you have a problem and want help with it, you might go to a priest (or pastor, minister, preacher, whatever your equivalent is) and ask him to pray FOR you - or some other person whose spirituality you admire. That is what we do with saints - they're not DEAD, after all, they're alive in heaven, so we are free to ask for prayers from them when we feel we need them. They are the cloud of witnesses surrounding us.
Example: When I was in the hospital a couple days before Kittyboy's birth, I was scared to death. I didn't know what was going on, I had no idea how things were going to turn out, all I knew was that it was WAY too early for me to be having this baby, and it seemed that the doctors were just preparing for whatever was going to happen, not that they really had any control OVER it. I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed, and when just saying "God, please HELP!!!" just didn't feel comforting, I started asking for help from St. Patrick, Kittyboy's patron saint, and the Theotokos. It's like the little boy afraid of the dark, who told his mother at bedtime, "I know Jesus is here - but I want someone with skin on!" Of the Theotokos, I asked also that she hold my son and comfort him while I couldn't (hmm, and she's his favorite saint). And to know that in addition to my parents, grandparents, church and friends, I also had intersession from Kittyboy's saint and the Mother of God made me feel better - especially the mental image of the one who held the Son of God as an infant holding my unborn son. THAT was an ENORMOUS comfort. That was my "someone with skin on", figuratively speaking.

Anyhow, in the 600s, there was a movement to ban icons on the grounds that it violated the commandment against graven images. Totally paraphrasing here, but one saint, I can't remember which, was arguing in the emperor's court that by honoring the image, you honored the person, not the wood and paint, and when the emperor said "That's not how it works" or words to that effect, the saint took a coin (bearing the emperor's IMAGE) and stepped on it - and was thrown in jail for showing disrespect for the emperor. Point made. Today's equivalent would be burning a flag (except in circumstances where flag etiquette calls for such action). St. John of Damascus wrote in 730 AD in his treatise, In Defense of Icons, "Of old, God the incorporeal and uncircumscribed was never depicted. Now, however, when God is seen clothed in flesh, and conversing with men, I make an image of the God whom I see. I do not worship matter, I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake, and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter."
On Sunday of Orthodoxy, people bring icons from home and carry them in a procession around the church. Kittyboy and I had been outdoors or in the basement most of the service, but our friend Beth, the Sunday School teacher, came down and asked if Kittyboy would like to carry St. Patrick. I told him quite firmly that he could hold this icon IF AND ONLY IF he behaved in line. If he tried to leave the line or tried to walk in front of people, he would have to give up the icon. "Got it?" "Uh huh." And what do you know, he was just good as gold.
The other time in church when he is good as gold is when he's in line for communion - because if he acts up, he won't get any! Having the bribe of "Do you want communion? Then you stand still, mister!" keeps him in line without fail. And the idea that he would lose the icon if he acted up kept him good in the procession! I'm thinking about getting a bunch of laminated icon cards and sticking different ones in the diaper bag every week, and he can hold one as long as he's in church.
Next year, we need to bring some of ours from home. Kittyboy could bring his own St. Patrick to carry. He got SO EXCITED when the children came into church and the boy right behind us was holding an icon of Jesus. Kittyboy knew who that was, and signed Jesus very happily, repeatedly. Then he made his Winnie the Pooh kiss the icon! Then his teddybear had to! Then his doggie had to! Then he did, repeatedly! Then he discovered the only facial feature he can say - "Eeeyyyyyessss!" LOUDLY. And repeatedly. "Suffer the little children to come unto Me" indeed!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sunday of Orthodoxy, Part One

"As the Prophets beheld,
As the Apostles taught,
As the Church received,
As the Teachers dogmatized,
As the Universe agreed,
As Grace illumined,
As the Truth revealed,
As falsehood passed away,
As Wisdom presented,
As Christ awarded,

Thus we declare,
Thus we assert,
Thus we proclaim Christ our true God
and honor His saints,

In words,
In writings,
In thoughts,
In sacrifices,
In churches,
In holy icons.

On the one hand, worshiping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord.
And on the other hand, honoring and venerating His Saints as true servants of the same Lord.

This is the Faith of the Apostles.
This is the Faith of the Fathers.
This is the Faith of the Orthodox.
This is the Faith which has established the Universe."

I love this selection from the Seventh Ecumenical Council. It's read at the end of church every Sunday of Orthodoxy, which is the first Sunday of Great Lent. It dates from 787 A.D., which tells you how old this writing is. More information on the Seventh Council and the issues resolved by it here (

Thursday, March 5, 2009

This Daredevil Child

It's one thing to baby-proof. It's another thing to toddler-proof. And for some toddlers, there is no such concept.
I must now assume that if anything is next to a taller thing, Kittyboy can reach whatever is on the taller thing, and may in fact be able to conquer the taller thing himself. He's been bringing us little things of which we would say, "OH! I thought I had put this beyond your reach! Must not have, la di da..." and we would put it up somewhere high again. This happened repeatedly...
Then one day, last week I think, I witnessed him climb onto the seat of my "kneeling chair", which is on wheels, climb from there over the arm of a dining room chair, and from there onto the dining room table.
Okay, so nothing on the table is safe. Note taken.
Then this week, he brought me something from the top of his bookcase - the corner away from his bed, which he shouldn't be able to reach. He was given all these porcelain or ceramic little pastel things when he was born, and they've all been on his book case, a little over three feet off the ground, and pushed to the far corner where he can't get them. Unless, of course, he tips the toybox over juuuust far enough, then balances on the slanted inner side against the bookcase - then he can reach all manner of breakable lovelies. He did this with deliberate intent - I know because when he brought me the Precious Moments bell, I said, "Oh - how pretty! Can you put it back where you got it from?" and he proceeded to do so as I watched and held my breath.
Okay, so we moved everything from the bookcase.
Then, this afternoon, he topped it all. I heard this long, involved, complicated crashing, ran into his room, and got there just in time to watch my one-and-only precious boy fall from an unknown height onto his rocking caterpillar, then backwards off of it to the floor, with his chewing toothbrush in his mouth. Oblivious to his dramatic defiance of death, he rolled over and picked up a Pooh videotape case and sat opening and closing it. Totally unfazed. Didn't care. Triumphant even - he had gotten what he wanted.
The long, involved and complicated crashing was the avalanche of STUFF from the top of his dresser. Dresser comes up to my shoulder, by the by. A lamp, two videotapes, an assortment of bottles, baby powders and whatnot, and a porcelain music box we had moved from the bookcase (how ironic). Working backwards, I deduced that he had pulled the middle drawer out a couple inches (I remembered hearing him tugging, I'd thought he was stashing a toy), climbed onto the back of his rocking caterpillar, stood on that, grabbed a drawer handle and stepped up onto the edge of the pulled out drawer, and after grabbing at something on the top of the dresser, lost his grip, balance or both, and caused an avalanche as he did whatever he did to slow his fall (considering I heard the crashing and then saw the fall). Down from drawer's edge to caterpillar, caterpillar is a soft, rounded surface, so backwards then onto his back.
Tomorrow, chewies with handles go up. He's got plastic tube chewies I can tie into loops with handles, so he can stick something in his mouth cigar-style that won't have disastrous consequences if he falls. And anything next to anything taller will be moved, so that he'll at least need to make noise moving it - no matter HOW improbable it looks as a stepstool.
Kid won't look where his feet are going when he's walking down stairs - but I have to move a rocking caterpillar because he has no problem using it as the base of a ladder. Un-be-lievable.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It may be bread, but is it food...?

I had killer heartburn last night, and Husband told me I had to eat something to absorb the acid (?), and got me a slice of bread. Last time I bought bread, I accidentally grabbed white. We haven't bought white since sometime in my pregnancy, and so I'd completely forgotten - that stuff has no flavor. None.
It worked for stopping the heartburn, so I'm guessing that bread is to stomach acid what sawdust is to grade-school vomit. The sawdust might have had more texture, though.
It has been about two and a half years since I bought white bread on purpose, because when I was pregnant, Kittyboy pressed on my stomach in such a way that after a few bites, I would feel full to the point of thinking I would throw up. Since I was eating so little at a time, I was trying to make every bite count for as much as possible, and the nutrition info on the generic wheat bread was marginally healthier than white. So we started buying only wheat, rye, oatmeal and multigrain breads, and stuck with that ever since, until last Saturday or whenever it was that I passed a display of bread with a sale sign and grabbed without reading. Kittyboy doesn't care WHAT bread he has, so long as it has peanut butter on it, so no big deal.
Except, have you ever taken apart a piece of white bread? It just doesn't look like food. Husband was laughing at me, as I sat in bed drowsily shredding my slice of bread and poking at it. It really had NO FLAVOR whatsoever, and something about the perfectly uniform and uniformly distributed little air holes just looked reeeeaaally fake. It was like eating a finely textured sponge, only a sponge might have had a flavor. It was very strange.
Next time I buy bread, I AM paying attention. Kittyboy might not care, but - ew - I do now.

Monday, March 2, 2009

It's a Lenten Miracle!! :) :) :)

This morning, I was going about doing dishes and laundry (yay me!) and there were a couple things we needed from the store for lunch, and I asked Husband if he would mind going to get them? Yep, he could do that, no problem. So I took a deep breath and casually mentioned, "You could take Kittyboy too..."
HE SAID YES - no protest whatsoever. "Sure honey, soon as I finish my coffee." Groceries and TAKING THE TWO-YEAR-OLD!! Pushing my luck, but I then asked, as I massaged my heart to restart it - "Can I send you with the WIC card...?" AND HE SAID YES!!!
He'll do some groceries if I ask. But he never takes Kittyboy. And he doesn't do WIC (it's "too complicated" and I'm "better at it"). And this morning he did all of that!!! OH MY GOSH I LOVE THIS MAN!!!
I did a load of laundry, straightened up the bathroom, collected dishes from the family room and kitchen table, got some things out of the fridge, poured drinks into smaller pitchers to free up space in there, put away dry dishes, put away laundry, fed the Freds (the worm bin), filled the dish drainer with more clean dishes, took out two big bags of garbage, took out all the recycling, and called my mom to scream, "He went to get groceries and TOOK KITTYBOY WITH HIM!!!" She said, "Wow, how did you do that?" and I screamed, "I HAVE NO IDEA!!!"
Lest you get the wrong impression, it's not that my husband is at all lacking, as Husband or Daddy. But taking along the toddler to the store is MY thing. I'm "better at it". Same with WIC, I don't think he's picked up that since it was "so many cans of Enfamil". Usually the compromise when he's home is that I leave Kittyboy with him and get to go grocery shopping all by myself without thirty pounds of squirming child to wrestle in and out of the cart. But as helpful as that is... it doesn't get the housework done.
I was one HAPPY Hausfrau this morning!! And I was a Good Wife afterwards, too - I said nothing about him not taking my reusable bags, the fact that I had to go outside after he left and pick up the stuffed animal Kittyboy dropped out of the car, the fact that Husband had said HE would do the garbage last night, or that he forgot vinegar. I didn't even say, "Just so you know..." or "next time you go to the store..." I kept my happy trap SHUT (and he doesn't read my blog). It's amazing what little things actually don't bother you in the slightest when your husband just went above and beyond anything you expected. I got over an hour to get done whatever I wanted with no little gremlin toddler undoing it behind me - I can take the trash out. I can wait on vinegar.
I think I'm learning - slowly, but I'm learning. If I want help around the house, I need to make it obvious I'm pulling my weight first. If I'd been sitting on the couch in my pjs with my coffee and asked him to go out, I'm sure that conversation would have gone differently. I need to NOT say to myself "Well, he's home, might as well relax with him before he goes to work," because in the first place, the 40 hours a week that he's gone at work is not enough (DUH), and in the second place, why should he "work" on his off-time if I'm not?
My third resolution for Lent has been to NOT ask him for help if I can avoid it. I am a grown woman with ONE child, I should be able to keep a house. Well, okay, so there's a ton (seriously, if you weighed it all...) of catching up to do. I'm not good at this. I'm really bad at this. But I think it's disrespectful of the time he puts in at work (at a job I'd rather be shot than do) to ask him to help out more than the standard litterbox/garbage stuff, so long as I can avoid it. And as I experienced this morning - context makes all the difference.
And yes, I was very appreciative this morning - I'm not all that expressive, but I lost count of how many times I squealed, "I love you!!!" after he got home. Literally, lost count. Must have been every few minutes. So hopefully he'll do it again! And even if he doesn't, he did it ONCE, and I'm thankful for that. With God's help, I will continue to be thankful for that - and will continue to become a Better Wife.
+ Only with His help!