I sat at our kitchen table this morning having a quiet breakfast with Bear, and I noticed leaves falling from the trees outside.  On the way to the store, I saw that some of the trees had begun their annual change from green to orange and yellow.  Fall is officially here!

My intended one-month blog vacation somehow grew into two.  In early August, my husband was given a two-week vacation from work, and I worked extra hours at my job to make up for taking so much time off.  We spent a few days in West Virginia visiting family and then traveled to Bermuda for our first real family vacation (and probably the last for a long while)!

Bear was exceptionally cranky for the first few days in Bermuda.  When we were at the pool, she would cry that she wanted to go to the beach.  When we were at the beach, she would cry that she wanted to go to the pool.  Several times, she asked to go home.  After a few days, she began complaining about her feet and a sore mouth.   I eventually realized that she probably had another version of hand-foot-and-mouth disease, despite the fact that she it last year as well.

Once she recovered, she was much more interested in swimming.  We developed a routine of spending our days in the sun at the pool and at the beach.  She learned to build sand castles (or Rapunzel towers, as she preferred), and she took over the resort game room so she could use the pool balls and Chinese checker marbles to pretend that she was making muffins.

We chose the small resort where we stayed based on their assurances that they could accommodate Bear’s food allergies.  The resort is owned and run by a family and their communication seemed much more genuine than the form responses I received from other hotels and resorts on the island.  When we arrived, we met with the chef and discussed various foods that Bear could have.  At first, he seemed very confident that there was no soy in anything that he prepared.  I explained that everything – from pastry to hamburger buns to broths to dressings – had soy in it, unless it was made from scratch and without soy-containing ingredients.  After a quick trip to the kitchen, he returned to agree that most of his supplies did have soy, but he said that they would make homemade meals for Bear.

We had great luck with food the entire week we were there.  We ate at the resort for every meal, and Bear did well.  She enjoyed having sorbet after dinner every evening.  On the last day that we were there, we decided to have lunch at the resort before leaving for the airport.  We had the server re-heat Bear’s leftovers from dinner, and we handed off her sippy cup to be filled with milk.  Once Bear got her food, she took a few bites and a sip or two of milk, and then she pushed back her food and refused to eat anything else.  She kept dipping her finger in ketchup on her plate and coughing every time she put it into her mouth.  Then, her face turned bright red, and she started crying.

We quickly gave her some Benadryl and tried to figure out what was causing her problems.  She had eaten all of the food the night before without issue.  She began crying hysterically for more medicine and while I was trying to console her, she began vomiting.  At this point, we knew that this was serious.  I unscrewed her sippy cup and smelled a sweet smell inside.  I handed it to my husband, and he confirmed that it contained soy milk.

We quickly left the restaurant and went into the lobby to change Bear’s clothes and so I could call Bear’s allergist.  At this point, I started crying because I realized that what we had tried so hard to prevent had actually happened.  The nurse at the allergist’s office told us to give her more Benadryl, and we did, but within a few minutes, Bear was throwing it up too (on the nice rug in the lobby).  Once we got her clothes off, we discovered a rash quickly moving down her body.   Her face was dark red, and when she wasn’t vomiting, she was leaning her head on one of our shoulders.  She looked awful.

I called back the allergist’s office, and they convinced me that since the Benadryl hadn’t stopped the reaction and since it was continuing to progress and in light of the anaphylaxis that she suffered a year ago from soy milk, that we needed to give her the Epi Pen.

I could hardly speak at this point, because I was so upset.  The nurse thought that my reluctance meant that I didn’t know how to use it.  I knew how to use, but I just didn’t want to!  The idea of jabbing a large needle into my daughter’s leg was a horrible one to me!

My husband held our poor little girl in his arms, and pulled off the top of the pen and put it up against her leg.  It snapped, and we counted to ten.  Bear screamed.  I pulled it back out of her leg, and held her tight while she cried while my husband told the hotel staff that we needed to go to the hospital (a requirement after an Epi injection).

They brought around this old hotel van (I’m sure because Bear had been throwing up on their nice rugs) and we climbed inside.  In hindsight, we should have called an ambulance, but we had been there long enough to know that it takes forever to get anywhere on that island, and the hotel staff thought that they could get us to the hospital more quickly.  We rolled around in the back of this van while an assistant manager did his best to quickly navigate the congested Bermudian roads.

Bear became very quiet and limp and would not keep her eyes open.  For a terrifying 25 minutes, we screamed at her to stay awake.  She seemed to rally by the time we reached the hospital, and after going through the slow registration process and having a nurse check Bear’s vitals, a very nice nurse informed a doctor that we were supposed to be on a plane in about two hours.  She listened to Bear’s lungs and thought that they sounded clear, and she ordered some steroids and more Benadryl for Bear.  Contrary to the normal procedure in the U.S., where Bear would have been admitted and watched for several hours, she told us that if anything seemed amiss with Bear that we should not get on the plane and she let us leave with more Benadryl to take with us.

Amazingly, we arrived at the airport a little more than an hour before our flight.  They allowed us to go through customs, and Bear seemed tired but OK by the time we boarded.  Once we exited the plane in Atlanta, I noticed that her rash seemed to be returning, so we gave her more Benadryl.  It quickly went away, and by the time we boarded our flight home, Bear was exhausted from the day’s events and the massive amount of Benadryl she had consumed.  When we got her home, she literally ran to her bed and threw the top half of her body onto it as though she were trying to hug her mattress.  I felt the same way!  I wanted to kiss our front door, but I was too tired.

The next day, Bear seemed mostly recovered.  She had a continuing cough and really disgusting, loose stools, but otherwise, she seemed well.  She now refuses to drink milk of any kind, however.  She requested it out of habit for several days after the event, and after a sip or two, she would push the cup away and tell me that it was “spicy.”

The experience really reaffirmed to us that all of the efforts that we have made over the past year to control her food were worthwhile.  I had almost convinced myself that her allergy must have disappeared.  Clearly it has not.  I also have no desire to travel anywhere again in the near future.  Home is a wonderful, safe place, and we’ll happily stay right here!

You aren’t going to hear from me for awhile.  August looks to be a very busy month with several trips and lots of extended working hours to make up for the time that I will be away, so that I can take a long maternity leave without guilt.

Lately, my days have been filled with reading up on potty training, searching for baby names, renewed pregnancy exhaustion, and in general, getting very little else accomplished.  My mind just has not been focused on reality.  I realized yesterday, after scheduling two different appointments at times when I had conflicts, that I need some real organization in my life.

So, while Bear sat in the front of the cart crying about the Shrek Band-aids that she had seen a few aisles back and that she desperately wanted, I searched for the perfect wall calendar for my kitchen.  I finally settled on two dry-erase calendars with notes sections and a small pocket organizer for my purse.

In the past, I have attempted various other organizational methods.  My mind loves the thought of order and organization.  My life, however, does not seem to lend itself to such, and I seem to lack the patience and follow-through to actually stick with any one method of staying organized.

But, I’ll try again.  I felt so good nailing the calendars to the back of my basement door, which opens to the kitchen and is always open.  Then, I began gleefully adding appointments and dates to my calendars.  When my husband came home from work last night, he didn’t even acknowledge my new system.  However, later in the evening, under his birth date, he wrote:  Gifts: (1) dinosaur (live), (2) winning lottery ticket, and (3) desert island for said dinosaur.  I’m glad to see that he is participating!

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

For weeks now, Bear has been telling friends and strangers alike that she is getting a baby sister.  It started with a text from daycare.  Bear is getting a baby sister?  At the time, they didn’t know that I was pregnant.  To the cashier at the grocery store, I’m getting a baby sister.  To the entire music class, I’m getting a baby sister.

Each time, person who Bear has shared the news with will look at me and say, Oh, you’re having a girl?  I should just nod, but instead, I feel compelled to explain that maybe we are or maybe we aren’t.  It seems that Bear’s baby sister is a manifestation of wishful thinking.

We’ve been wondering how we might explain to Bear that there is no baby sister, if in fact, we are having a boy.  Lately, we’ve been reminding her that we don’t yet know if she’s getting a baby sister or a baby brother.  Today, on the way to the doctor’s office, after cautiously correcting her, Bear yelled at me from the backseat, NO!  Baby Sister!

Maybe Bear knew something that we didn’t, because she is getting a baby sister!

We are so excited!  I have always wanted a sister – especially now as an adult without my mom – I would love to have the bond with another female.  I am so happy that my daughter will get that opportunity!

I experienced a rare burst of energy and inspiration to clean my house this morning.  Despite regular vacuuming and sweeping, our floors have been feeling very gritty lately thanks to summer and bare feet, and I decided that I could stand it no longer.  After our walk this morning, I cleared everything off of every rug in my house (i.e., three) and ran the vacuum.  The dog hid and Bear yelled Quiet! through the entire cleaning.  Then, I pulled out the product of one of my grandmother’s holiday QVC shopping sprees – a steam cleaner.

I may not have read the long-lost product manual well enough, or maybe I just don’t know how these things work, but I have a hard time understanding how piping steam into my carpets makes them clean.   Therefore, I have used the thing all of one time in the three years that I have had it.  However, our dog has recently returned to his nasty habit of pooping in the living room and peeing in the dining room while we are at work, and something had to be done (aside from using bottles of enzyme cleaner every work day, which we do, and shipping doggie of to boot camp, which we may yet do).  So, after another good spraying down of the two rugs with enzyme cleaner, I covered both of them with baking soda thinking that maybe this would help the steam actually do something.  Then, I gave both a solid steam cleaning and then used more enzyme cleaner assuming that the hot steam probably killed all of the enzymes that eat doggie by-products.

The dog watched woefully from the hallway throughout this endeavor, no doubt planning his next deposit when he is fortunate enough to be left alone.  Bear too was less than impressed.  Instead, while I cleaned, she unloaded every toy from her toy chest in the family room and dumped each into a huge pile on my newly “cleaned” floor.

I then tackled our bedroom and stripped the bed while Bear gleefully made another pile of toys next to my pile of blankets and pillows.  Since it was then time for lunch, I somehow convinced Bear (O.K., bribed her with PBS) to pick up the toys in the bedroom and to follow me to the kitchen where I further bribed her with milk while I made lunch.

After lunch, Bear actually seemed tired by our simultaneous cleaning/toy explosion affair, so she willingly went to her crib while I sat down and tackled the remaining piles of toys that I had not convinced (or successfully bribed) Bear to pick up.  Fortunately, I managed to box up about half of them to spend some quiet time in the basement for a few weeks.  The living areas of my house look pretty good.  Until Bear wakes up.

I’m afraid that the kitchen and the bathrooms will have to wait until later.  My energy and inspiration have faded.  Now, I need a nap too.

After last week, I was worried about how Bear would act in future music classes.

This morning, as I was getting ready, she asked me, Where we goin’?

When I told her that today was music class day, she responded with an enthusiastic YAAAAAY!

At that point, I bent down and said, But, do you remember what happened last time?

Before I could say anything else, she interrupted me, stumbling over her words, I won’t lick the mat.  I won’t lick the mat.

Good, I told her.  What happens if you do lick the mat?

I won’t lick the mat, she said.

But if you do, what happens?

I don’t want to go home.

I smiled.  Apparently my intervention last week had made a bigger impression than I realized.

We arrived at class a little earlier, and Bear happily ran around the mat while her teacher pulled out toys to occupy her until the other children arrived.  Aside from knocking over a few kids with her enthusiasm, and head-butting the teacher, she was pretty well-behaved.  Of course, she seemed like a hooligan compared to all of the other quiet children sitting on their mothers’ laps, but only once – at the end of class – did she lay on her stomach and with the tip of her tongue, ever-so-slightly touch the mat.  She immediately looked at me, and I shook my head at her and looked at her sternly.  She immediately sat upright and joined the rest of the kids.  I decided that this response was good enough.

After class, we talked about that one moment, and Bear sighed and said, OK, Mommy.  She seemed weary of the topic.

Unfortunately, the last class of the summer is next week, and my ultrasound and doctor’s appointment had to be rescheduled for the same time so my doctor can assist in a surgery.  I am both bummed and relieved.  Hopefully by the time the fall class starts, Bear will have gotten all of this licking out of her system and we can go back to enjoying music class again.

Bear learned a hard lesson today.  Mommy is still trying to figure out hers.

Bear has been purposefully defying me at music class for the past several weeks.  There are not a lot of rules at music class.  The kids sit in a circle on a large, gym mat with their mothers, and aside from the general prohibition against hurting each other, they are not required to stay in the circle or even to participate.  Most of the toddlers in Bear’s class do sit attentively with their mothers.  Several of the more spirited children – like Bear – often run around the circle or entertain themselves when their interest wanes in the activity.  Bear, however, has taken to lying on her stomach on the mat and licking it at various times throughout class.  After she licks this dirty mat that everyone walks on with their bare feet, she looks at me like Mommy, what are you going to do about it? 

I should know better than to engage in a battle of wills with a toddler, especially my toddler.  Bear does not have a lot of “rules” at home, and she is a fairly cooperative child most of the time.  When I ask her to help me pick up her toys or her books, she will help.  Mealtimes are not a battle ground.  Bear eats what she wants, and if she doesn’t want to eat anything, we don’t force her.  If she doesn’t want to sleep at nap time, I tell her that she doesn’t have to.  Instead, she can sit in her crib surrounded by books and entertain herself until inevitably, she falls asleep.

Discipline has not been an issue in our house.  I do not hit my child.  I do not enforce traditional time-outs.  Instead, we try to be consistent and set reasonable boundaries and try not to expect more than Bear is developmentally capable of.  For the most part, our ideas about acceptable behavior and Bear’s wants and desires seem to coincide.  Maybe we have just been lucky so far.

At home, if Bear wanted to lick the floor, I would explain why she shouldn’t, but I would not make a big deal about it.  However, at music class, I have a real issue with her licking the mat, not only because it is disgusting and it spreads germs, but because Bear is a very intelligent and capable little girl, and this behavior reminds me of something that you would see from a wild animal.  It seems completely uncharacteristic of her.   However, even beyond this, Bear is obviously testing me, and I have struggled to decide if this behavior calls for a response.

For the first several weeks, I calmly asked Bear to stop or attempted to redirect her back to the group activity.  Last week when the licking began, I pulled her onto my lap and whispered in her ear.  I did this several times, and the last time, I told her that if she did not stop that we would have to go sit outside of the class.  She stopped.

This week, she began licking the mat and then looking at me, inviting a response, and I silently picked her up and took her outside the class.  We sat on a bench for a few minutes and talked about why we shouldn’t lick the mat.  I reminded her that if she did it again, that we would leave the class again.  She did it again, and again, we left.  I let her return to the class with one more reminder.  If she continued to lick the mat, we would go home and she would miss her favorite part of the class where she gets stamps on both hands and her stomach.  She nodded her head and said that she understood.

Within a minute of returning to class, she was back on her stomach licking.  Without saying a word, I picked her up, grabbed my purse and our shoes, and we left.  Bear began howling NO as I carried her down the hall.  She began wailing in the car and crying for Daddy and even for the dog.  I was sad, because I knew that she was missing her favorite part of the class.  She waits for this class all week, and all weekend, she shows off her stamps.  It was hard to not want to take her back inside and let her stand in line for her stamps.

I called my husband on the way home, and he said that he agreed with my response.  Even so, I can’t help but wonder if I am making too big of deal out of this licking.  It is important to be consistent, but it is also important to pick your battles.  I am worried that I’ve chosen the wrong one to fight, and now that I have made my stance clear, I can’t drop it.  We may never make it through another music class again.

It is hard to know which lines are the ones that should be drawn.  If Bear had been repeatedly hitting another child, my response would have been unquestioned.  But, was this one of those moments?  I just don’t know.

I was brushing my teeth when my phone rang this morning.  My husband was calling so I picked it up with my toothbrush still buzzing in my mouth.  I mumbled a hello and listened.  Nothing.  I turned off my toothbrush and set it on the sink and listened again.  Honey?  Are you there?  This time I could hear a churning, mechanical noise in the background.

I listened for another minute, but my husband was clearly not on the other end.  What was that sound?  I couldn’t imagine where he would be that I would hear this chuggy, gluggy noise.  It almost sounded like the washing machine.  Actually, it sounded just like the washing machine that I had started a few minutes earlier when I put a load of Bear’s diapers into the wash.  And, my husband had carried the diapers to the basement for me the night before!

I threw down the phone and ran to the basement.  Opening the door of the washer, I peered inside.  Diapers submerged in dirty-diapery water stopped churning, but I could not see my husband’s phone floating anywhere near the surface.  Instead of reaching into the murky water, I decided to try calling my husband and before resorting to drastic measures.

I called his cell phone first.  It rang and then went to voicemail.  I called his work number next.  Nothing.  Drastic measures it would be.

I drained the water but before the washer could spin them dry, I reached inside and began pulling out wet, dirty diaper by wet, dirty diaper.   After visually inspecting each one while touching it as little as possible and finding no phone, I shut the washer lid.  The washer jumped into action but instead of spinning the diapers, it began sucking at a waterless washing tub and then began jerking and jumping about.  Cringing, I shut it off again.  I decided to start a new wash – and added plenty of soap – and hoped that the washer worked properly.  If my husband’s phone was somewhere inside, it was a lost cause.

My husband called me a few hours later from work.  Were you trying to get a hold of me?  I asked him if he had his phone.  Yeah, I’m holding onto it right here.  Why?  Um, no reason.

I finally gave in to the reality that pregnancy is changing my body, and yesterday, I pulled most of the regular clothes out of my drawers to make room for maternity wear.  At work, I have been rotating several stretchy dresses, and at home, I have been getting by with a pair of maternity shorts that I bought at Target, stretchy tank tops, and two dressier regular tops that are big enough for my growing belly.  But, I am getting tired of those two tops.

So, I found myself deep in the recesses of our basement, where I uncovered my maternity clothes from Bear’s pregnancy that have sat in darkness for the better part of two years.  How I hated those clothes at the end of that last pregnancy!  Since I was pregnant through the fall and winter, everything was black or gray and sweater-like.  By the time Bear was born in early May, I was sweating myself to death.  Even after Bear was born and I still had that six-months-pregnant shape, I refused to put them back on.  However, my ill feelings toward those clothes have dulled in the past two years, and opening the box yesterday was like saying “hello” to old friends. 

From that lot, I pulled out two short-sleeved dresses and the one – yes, only one – short-sleeved maternity shirt that I allowed myself to purchase before Bear came.  I carried those upstairs, along with the rest, but put the winter wear on a bottom shelf.

Since long shopping trips are not much fun with a toddler in tow, I have been ordering clothes online.  The UPS man must think that I have won the lottery with the number of boxes that he has been delivering to my house lately, but in reality, I send most of the clothes back.  Maternity clothes that are both comfortable and cute are really few and far between.

I also cashed in my credit card reward points for a Gap gift card in hopes that I could fund my new maternity wardrobe that way, but I realized that $100 does not go very far when you need to buy a pair of Gap work pants and a pair of jeans.  Sadly, I made it through the last pregnancy with a pair of Target work pants (that didn’t make it to this one) and a pair of Gap work pants that were not comfortable at all.  I also have a pair of Gap maternity jeans that are in great shape, except these too were horribly uncomfortable near the end of my pregnancy.  This time, I ordered a size up with a full panel in both.  Fortunately, they do not look ridiculously big, and they seem comfortable.  I think that they’ll last until the end.

Now, if only I could find a pair of khaki maternity shorts that do not look like something my Grandma would wear, I would be set for this pregnancy.  Then, I could stop guiltily spending money on clothing that I will only wear for the next six months and then maybe never again after that!

Bear is getting old enough that we’re starting to think about potty training.  Some days, I could care less about the subject.  I don’t mind changing diapers.  I don’t even mind washing her cloth diapers.  But others – like today – make me think that Bear needs to get potty trained and quick!

Bear is no longer content to wear a wet or dirty diaper.  So, as soon as she goes to the bathroom, and usually before I can catch her, she takes off her pants and her diaper.  In the world of wet diapers, this isn’t a big deal.  However, when I find my toddler running through the house with a dirty behind that has touched many things in the few minutes since it left the safety of the diaper, the story changes.  And then, once I have cleaned Bear and diapered her again, she and I go on a diaper hunt to find the discarded dirty diaper that (if we’re lucky) still contains whatever was left in it.

It’s days like these that make me think that Bear needs to be potty trained.  Diapers don’t do anyone any good if they don’t stay on!  And, Bear’s are cloth, so they aren’t that easy to remove.  She has to undo snaps to get the things off.  Not to mention, she is interested in the potty thanks to her potty-trained friends at daycare.  She wants to go.

This said, we will be traveling in August, and this upcoming trip has me questioning whether now is a good time to start.  Once we return and Bear gets readjusted to life at home, we’ll be looking at early September before I can really jump us both into potty training, which is also just a few short months before the next baby comes along.  This has me hoping that Bear will catch on quickly and not regress once she sees a little baby wearing her diapers.  Not to mention, I just don’t know if I can last that long with a little bare-bottomed toddler running through my house!

What is new in your life?  I have been asked this question by various family members multiple times in the past few days of my life, and depending on who is asking, my answer changes.

My first response is usually “nothing.”

Then, depending on how well I know the person, I’ll follow up with:  Well, have you heard our big news?  Particularly since I seem to be the only one in the family with good news.

After answering questions about due dates and whether or not Bear wants a brother or a sister, we usually talk about my grandmother.  She has about a week left at the rehabilitation facility and then we hope that she will be well enough to move back to the assisted living facility where she was living before she broke her hip and had the strokes.  When I have spoken to her, she sounds upbeat, and my dad says that you cannot tell by looking at her that she has had a stroke.  She thinks that rehabilitation has also helped her wrist, which she broke after her back surgery last year.  The physical therapists are not working on her wrist, despite that it has not regained much mobility, but in some way, the physical act of walking with her new walker is requiring her to use her wrist more, and she says that this is a good thing.  I say, find rainbows wherever you can.

Conversation also often turns to my brother who recently moved home to help my father manage the family farm.  After his short marriage ended and learning that his ex-wife had quickly moved on to someone else, my brother re-evaluated what he wanted out of life and moved home.  His first harvest since returning has just now ended, and although I don’t frequently talk with my brother about his feelings, he seems happy enough.  Either this, or he is trying to convince everyone of this by posting humorous picture after humorous picture of harvest on Facebook.  My family seems to want confirmation of his happiness from me, so I always tell them what they want to hear.  I hope that what I say is true.

So far, it seems that very few of my extended family know about the divorce that I wrote about in my last post, and I am glad.  It seems too new and feelings are still too raw to talk about it in general conversation.  I spoke with the person in the middle of it today, and she still is in shock.  Because the divorce is uncontested, it is on the fast-track to finalization, and in a few short weeks, her marriage will be no more.  She told me this morning about how educational it has been to learn about her own finances and how good she feels about the idea of selling her house and starting over.  I am not certain that she completely believes it, but again, if she can find the rainbow in this, then we will all cling to it.

I thought about how I just want my family to happy as I took my morning walk today.  As I walked, I surveyed the damage of a strong storm from the night before.  Large tree limbs – almost as big as small trees – blocked one street near my house.  In other places, I could see the charred, blackened wood where lightening had forcefully removed entire sections of trees.  Small limbs and debris covered the streets everywhere that I walked.

As we returned from lunch this afternoon, someone had already chopped up the tree limbs blocking the street and had stacked them neatly in someone’s lawn waiting for the city to pick them up.  Electricians were working on the street lights outside of our neighborhood to make them functional again.  Somehow, the debris that had covered everything this morning was already gone as though someone had run a vacuum sweeper down our street.  I suspect that by tomorrow morning the only evidence of the storm will be the burn marks and bare spots on trees from the lightning strikes.

I hope that sometime in the near future, when someone asks about my family, that my answer will look like those trees.  Although the storm has come and left its mark, quickly enough, one cannot tell at first glance that anything was once wrong.

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