Monday, January 28, 2008

Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain

Just diddling around, trying things out. Don't mind me...

Template Update!

So last fall, I won a new blog design in the Fall Y'all Bloggy Giveaway carnival over at Bloggy Giveaways. After much discussion, Linda from RS Designs made me a lovely banner, background, and divider. Being my usual self, I have yet to install it. But today's the day! So apologies to both of my RSS feed readers if you get like five hundred "new posts" from me today and to anyone else to sees this while I'm trying to figure out how to make it work.

In the mean time, if you're bored, hop on over to the new giveaway carnival over at Bloggy Giveaways (this is now officially a quarterly thing) and spend an infinite amount of time signing up to win free stuff! Last time I walked away with a new blog design, a book, and a lavender-scented rice "heating" pad.

I have no plans at this point to host another giveaway of my own...but you never know what I might come up with before the week is out.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Getting Old, Quick

So yesterday, AJ added a new sign to his vocabulary - hungry. I was so excited when, after I'd helped him climb up next to me, he started rubbing his hands across his chest. Since that's pretty far from the actual sign (you trace your esophagus with one hand), I went out on a limb to ask if he was hungry. He responded with his affirmative "huh, huh," so it was off to the high chair for us.

He didn't really seem all that interested in any of the food I offered him except for his "crunchies" that he's been getting the last couple of days, but we tried valiantly and with great frustration all around.

After a while, we cleaned up (including him "helping" me wipe down his tray) and went back to play.

The same sequence was repeated roughly 52 times yesterday.

And so far it's been about four times today. It probably would have been more, but we went out for a while. Plus, he ate almost half of what he normally eats in a day during first and second breakfasts. One would hope that he'd be mostly full from that. He's also had most of a banana today in addition to lots of crunchies, steamed squash, steamed zucchini, freeze-dried apple bits, and his Os. Oh...and he had most of what he eats for lunch too.

So, either I've been starving my son (which could explain his off-the-charts low weight) and he's finally figured out how to get his stupid mom to feed him more, or he's in a growth spurt.

I'm hoping it's the growth spurt.

But seriously...while it's adorable to see him pounding his chest like Tarzan (which is what his sign for hungry looks like most often)...or doing the "hungry" sign on _my_ chest when I don't respond fast enough to him, it's really getting old, REALLY fast when he signs it every half hour or so.

Forget "wolf," my kid cries "hungry."

Monday, January 14, 2008

Nature Documentary

I feel like the Discovery channel should have had a camera crew in my living room over the past few minutes. One of AJ's many Christmas/Birthday presents from his Nana and Grandaddy (VNB's parents) was a box of alphabet flashcards. As they are on relatively thick card stock, we left the box of them out in the living room with his other board books.

Before now, he's occasionally chewed on the box a little. This morning, he found the box and was just playing with it while sitting amidst all of his other books. Next thing I knew, he'd managed to get the box open and had the letter "C" card out of the box. That's when I really started paying attention.

He then directed his efforts at getting another card out of the box, but they were too tightly packed in there. It was during this time that I decided to blog about this. I briefly toyed with the idea of trying to get video of it, but we all know that a) the camera distracts him from what he's doing causing him to stop the very thing I'm trying to get on video, and b) it'd take me three weeks to actually download the video and post it.

Well, in the time that it took for me to load the blogger page, he'd managed to pick up the "C" card, and one-handed, dump some of the other cards out of the box. Since then, he's reached into the box repeatedly and pulled more cards out, then played with them briefly before returning to the box for more (he just pulled out "W" and "X" which are on the same card for some reason).

I really wish I _could_ get this on video because you can just _see_ the wheels turning in his little mind as he figures out how to get things to do what he wants them to do. He doesn't just scatter the cards either (not to say that they don't end up scattered, but he doesn't just toss things all over the place). He sits and picks up each card individually and studies it - turning it over and over in his hands.

I seriously feel like Jacques Cousteau or someone should be narrating this for me.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

For Breakfast: Cream of Cat Foot with Brown Sugar and Raisins

So I was in my normal position - reclined on the couch with my laptop propped up on my knees, writing an email to a friend when the cat decided that she just HAD to take that moment to jump up onto my chest (she's been doing that a lot lately. It's especially fun at night when I'm trying to go to sleep...and even more so when she decides to knead her little claws into every exposed piece of skin she can find).

Little did she know that I had protection today. Sitting on my chest already was my breakfast - instant cream of wheat with brown sugar and raisins.

In one mighty leap, she jumped from the floor to what would have been her favorite set of pillows...but instead was a bowl of warm mush. She instantly rebounded back to the floor, spraying me with cream of wheat in the process. Fortunately, the glob that found the laptop hit the one spot devoid of any moving parts (bottom, left corner, next to (but thankfully not on) the glidepoint), but there were plenty of other globs in my hair and on my clothes.

Now there are probably little kitty paw prints all over my house. And I, who had actually gotten a shower last night and was CLEAN! am clean no longer. Neither is my favorite hoodie that I had just put on.

Stupid cat.

She's already eyeing her spot again.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Our Little Man

So this time last year I was resting (uncomfortably) in a hospital bed with a wee little man by my side. I think VNB had just returned after going home for some sleep and a shower, and friends were stopping by after work.

It's hard to imagine how much our lives have changed since that day. I certainly haven't had a full night's sleep since then. I just feel so blessed when I sit here and look over to see AJ playing. He's so inquisitive and active and vibrant. He's got so much personality. His little grin can melt the coldest of hearts, and his _hugs_....there's nothing sweeter in the world than being hugged by him...except _maybe_ watching him hug his daddy...but that's mostly because of the look that VNB gets in his eyes when it happens - complete surrender to the love he has for our little man.

But to know the special privilege that I've been given. To be able to be home with him every day. To watch him grow and learn. To hear him talk and sing. To see him play. To have him feed me his gluten, nut, and soy-free Os (that taste like cardboard made with a touch of molasses) all afternoon.

And to recognize the intelligence that he has as he sits and plays with his little bead roller coaster, pushing the beads back and forth along the tracks...then turning the whole thing on its side and watching them all move on their own. To see him pick up objects and examine them in great detail (prior to putting them in his mouth for further "examination").

To hear him laugh and giggle. To watch him sleep. To see him toddle around with growing boldness.

And yes, even to consider four hours of uninterrupted sleep to be as close to Heaven as you can get on Earth...and to be constantly aware of every gas bubble and the color and consistency of every diaper. It's a joy and a blessing to get to suck the snot out of his little nose.

It's also an awesome responsibility. One that I love and wouldn't give up for anything.

So happy birthday, little man!

We're certainly not putting you back where we found you!

Monday, January 07, 2008

This Time Last Year

This time last year, I'd just received my epidural after spending about four hours screaming with every contraction and not dilating any. Around 11, I was able to get a much-needed hour of sleep. Just thought you'd want to know. Now I think I'll celebrate by going to sleep again - this time with no drugs, and no recently-breech baby unwillingly making his way into the world.

I do _not_ plan on commemorating the actual event of pushing him out of my body as that occurred at 4:58 in the morning. Hopefully _he_ will not wish to commemorate it either.

A Breastfeeding Miracle

So in January of 2000, I was sitting in my cubicle at work on a Friday afternoon. Most everyone else had gone home. As I was sitting there, I was attempting to massage some odd soreness out from under my right arm when I found something that would change my life - a lump. I was 23, and the only person on either side of my family who had ever had any kind of cancer was my grandmother who had a _TINY_ spot of lung cancer after living with my life-long smoker grandfather for 50 years, but I had a distinctive, can't-ignore-it lump in my right breast.

I called my doctor and they fit me in the next day. It was _probably_ a swollen lymph node, so he set me up with a course of antibiotics. When that did nothing, we tried an anti-viral next. When that didn't do anything, we tried an anti-parasitic with similar results (except that now I know exactly how foul Flaggyl or metronidazole tastes. Please believe me and avoid it at all costs). With each visit, my somewhat granola-crunchy doc also prescribed various vitamins. By the end, I was taking vitamins A (in a liquid suspension), B (B-50s to be particular), C, and E, in addition to some stuff for my thyroid and oil of evening primrose. He also sent me first for a mammogram, then for a CT scan. Also, with each passing day, the pain that the lump was causing increased. There were days when it was hard to breathe. It was next-to-impossible to do things like mow my lawn.

So in June or July of that year, my doc sent me to a surgeon whose primary response to me was "you're too young!" After another course of antibiotics, a sonogram, and the cessation of all things caffeinated (including chocolate), they finally scheduled me for surgery. The first time, on the day of the surgery, amazingly, the doc couldn't find the lump. So they rescheduled me and on Sept 10, 2000, they took out a "reactive follicular hyperplasia." Basically, an abnormal number of normal cells. Not cancer or even "pre-cancerous." Completely benign.

It was over. It took till January to get the full range of motion back in my arm and I expected to be caffeine-less (and taking a boat-load of vitamins daily) for the rest of my life, but it was over.

Until the next March when the pain came back. And I found another one. And it all started over. Again with the function-robbing pain and the rounds and rounds of doctors visits. And another surgery. This time it was a "fibrosis" - scar or connective tissue. Also completely benign.

And again, it was over. Recovery was much quicker and less painful that time too. Eventually I even stopped taking all of the vitamins (because I just got tired of feeling like I was a "sick" person who had to take tons of medicine daily), although I kept off the caffeine.

Until three years later. I'd been in Kuwait and/or Iraq for just over six months when, in January of 2004, I found another one. To be polite, I'd had to drink a whole lot of Iraqi tea and a small amount (thankfully) of Turkish coffee...which meant _FAR_ more caffeine than my body had seen in many years. So that March, when I was passing through Amman on my way to Cyprus for a vacation, I stopped in at a radiologist's office for another round of mammograms and sonograms. Since I had the history of benign lumps, had a reasonable explanation for this one (Iraqi tea), and wasn't in any pain this time, we decided to just keep an eye on it. The following September when we came out of Iraq for some training (and I unexpectedly never got to go back), I got it checked again. It hadn't grown any and I still wasn't in any pain, so we left it. The doc gave me assurances that it would be there for the rest of my life, but it was "probably" benign like the others.

It's been there ever since then - _PROBABLY_ benign - but with that little cloud of "what if" always floating behind the "probably." I made sure I was always aware of it, but mostly was too busy meeting VNB, finishing my MS, getting married, getting pregnant, and having a baby to worry too much about it.

About nine weeks after AJ was born, we were in for a check-up with the midwives when I brought it up again. She checked me out, felt what I was concerned about, and offered to write an order for a sonogram for me, but I turned it down. At that point, I think I was too worried that they'd find something serious to do what was probably the best thing. I didn't want anything to interfere with breastfeeding AJ. Granted, me dying from breast cancer "probably" would have interfered, but then again, it'd been there innocuously for years. A few more months wouldn't make a difference.

But I went to the gyn for something else, and I was getting kinda antsy about getting it checked out again, so, even though he couldn't find what I was talking about, he wrote me an order for a sonogram. Eventually I called and set up the appointment.

It was today.

And despite her best efforts, the sonogram tech couldn't find anything except normal breast tissue.


The lump...and the nagging fear that went with it...that was supposed to be with me for the rest of my life is gone.

I named my first lump "Bartholomew" because its meaning (little hill) was the closest I could find to "lump," and somehow talking about "Bart" was easier than talking about my breast lump. The second I named "Thaddeus Yair" (which means "Praise, God will teach") because I wanted each thought of my lump to refocus me on praising God and learning what I needed to be taught through the experience rather than worrying about the "what ifs."

This last one was named "Evan Hoai" which means "God is good, Always," partly because it reminded me of a song I love ("God is good all the time..."), and partly because it was what I felt I needed to be reminded of every time I thought of this lump.

Now, medically, this can potentially be explained by the fact that a woman's breasts don't fully develop until she's produced milk for a baby. It took a little while for it to work, but breastfeeding was not only the healthiest thing for my son, it also "fixed" me. It's "a breastfeeding miracle."

Or I can give the praise to the One who formed my breasts and who has taught me so much over the years through this. The One who is good - all the time.

Maybe it was a breastfeeding miracle. Or maybe it was "just" a miracle. All I know is that after eight years of the dark cloud hanging over my head, it's gone! Praise the Lord, it's gone!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year

I apologize for the lack of posting this past month. I think NaBloPoMo broke me...but also, so much has been happening that it's been difficult sometimes just to process it. Taking the time to put words to all of it was beyond me. So here is an update covering the past month or so:

  1. My car should be home today! The cost increased almost to the point of being totaled, but by then they'd already done so much work that it wasn't worth their effort to stop in the middle. So yay! But while GEICO (not our insurance, but that of the guy who hit VNB) did GREAT the time that our blazer was side-swiped, this time they weren't so great. Like at all. They haven't contacted us since the day after the accident. They didn't tell us that _we_ had to arrange to move the car, they didn't tell us the adjustor's findings, and most importantly, they didn't tell us that our car was ready last Friday before they turned off the rental car. Enterprise finally called on Monday morning to let us know. But we got it all straightened out and should have my almost new again car this evening. :)
  2. AJ is officially among the "walkers" now. A few days shy of him being 11 months old, he took a couple of steps at his dad's office holiday party. A little over a week later (with _both_ of us present) he took a few more. Since then, he's been gradually getting bolder and bolder. Now, he's off to the races. His longest stretch unaided was probably 10 ft. across half of my parents' family room (carpet) and well into their kitchen (vinyl).
  3. He has now said the following words (not necessarily in this order, but really, I'm not crazy - he says all of them): Dada, Mama, AJ, Fish, Star, Peek-a-boo, Cat/Kitty, Woof, Choo-choo, Hey/Hi, Bye, Juice. (Keep in mind that "advanced" 12-mo-olds usually say 1-2 words other than Mama and Dada.)
  4. He understands the following signs: hungry, finished, thirsty/juice, more, sleepy
  5. He "says" the following signs: finished, more, sleepy (well, that last one might be cheating since the sign for sleepy very much resembles rubbing your eyes)
  6. He "drives" anything with wheels _on_ its wheels (and I do mean _anything_ - stuffed trains, books about cars that have wheels on them, not to mention actual vehicles). VNB claims that he knows to do this without having been taught because he's a boy. I think it's because he's been playing with his daddy's trains so much lately.
  7. By the end of his first Christmas (which really hasn't ended yet as VNB's mom and dad are coming up with the Jones portion this weekend), he had mostly learned to unwrap gifts. He still liked playing with the paper more than anything else and screamed when we made him move on to the next thing, but he had at least learned to rip the paper off. I wonder if he'll feel cheated someday when he's older and he learns that he got a new car seat for his first Christmas/birthday (well, primarily...he got other stuff too, even from us...what can I say? We're suckers.).
  8. He dances to music whenever possible.
  9. He points to things that he wants...and also points out eyes, mouths, and noses on other people.
  10. He hugs people (including the 10-mo-old daughter of some friends of ours...she wasn't so sure what to make of it all).
  11. He "pets" the kitty rather than just pulling her hair (and by "pet" I mean pounds on her with an open hand).
  12. He turns pages in board books.
  13. He has five teeth, including his two (top) front teeth (but he still can't say "sister susie sitting on a thistle" or whatever it is that Nat sings about).
  14. He still chews on anything and everything he can get into his mouth, but he's also starting to just play with things, so we're hoping we see the light at the end of _that_ tunnel.
  15. He sleeps most nights from about 8 until about 3 or 4 (very occasionally 5), then can be put back to sleep most mornings for a couple of hours at a time with the final wake up usually occurring between 7 and 8. What that means is that I'm MUCH happier. :)
  16. He can actually sit still without restraint in order to watch his daddy's trains.

And right now he's screaming as he tries to get my attention by pulling my arm away from the computer because he needs a clean diaper and a nap. Pictures of some of the above to know...someday...