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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!

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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.

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!

This post was written a week ago, but my computer problems were not as resolved as I thought.

* * * *

I’m back in business!  Our computer problem was not caused by a virus.  On the contrary, it was caused by too much security! A very helpful IT guru named Gunnar determined that we had too many security programs running at once, and they were so effective that our computer would not even function.  That is certainly one way to keep viruses away!

In the spirit of offering a quick update, I am almost out of my first trimester.  I’ve been doing lots of sleeping, eating, and throwing up.  In other words, this seems like a completely normal pregnancy, and so far, an easier one than my first.

I am knocking on wood as I write those words, though, because yesterday, I received a call at work from Bear’s daycare to say that several children had been sent home with suspected Fifth Disease, and they were concerned about Bear’s bright red cheeks.

That morning, she woke up with cheeks that were flaming red, but not hot to the touch.  I thought that she must have been hot at night, and I took off her sleeper and dressed her in cooler clothes for daycare, but still, the color did not fade.  I mentioned her cheeks to her teacher as I dropped her off, and I told her that I thought that the color was related to an irritation from another child’s sunscreen that I was fairly certain Bear was wearing when I picked her up the day before.  Along with Bear’s food allergies, she also has eczema, and several times this winter, she developed a bright spot on her cheek after being exposed to something her skin didn’t like.  Considering that Bear was wearing someone else’s pants and her diaper was on backwards when I picked her up the day before, it didn’t seem like a stretch to think that someone had applied the wrong sunscreen.

However, the call from daycare that afternoon concerned me.  If other children also had a rash, then Bear very well could have Fifth Disease.  Although Fifth Disease is a common and fairly mild illness, it can cause complications with a fetus in pregnancy.  As my doctor put it to me this morning, “the good thing about getting Fifth Disease early in pregnancy is that either you go on to have a perfectly normal pregnancy or you don’t.”  I must have given her a look with that remark, and she explained that the alternative is a rough pregnancy with complications to the fetus.  I wanted to ask what was good about the “you don’t” alternative, but I decided to keep my mouth shut.

Regardless, by the time I picked up Bear, she looked completely normal.  Her cheeks were not red at all.  If it weren’t for the signs warning parents about a “viral rash” going around the building and the city, I wouldn’t be concerned at all.

This morning, I had blood drawn to see if I am immune to Fifth Disease, meaning that I have had it previously.  If I am immune, then I have nothing to worry about.  If I am not, we’ll learn from the test if I have recently become infected, and if not, we’ll test again in a few weeks to be certain.  Hopefully, I’ll just be immune.  I’d rather not learn what could possibly be good about my doctor’s “you don’t” comment.

* * * *

Update:  I am still waiting for those test results!

Bear’s two-year molars have started coming in.  She is still a few weeks away from her 2nd birthday, but they don’t seem to know this.

All week, I watched her perform all manner of tasks with one or two index fingers hanging from her mouth.  She’s developed a rash around her mouth, and for the past two days, she has moped around the house with a low-grade fever.

Owie, Mama, she has been saying all week.  Then, she asks for apple.  I’ve been giving her frozen pineapple cut into small bits for her to chew on, and she seems to agree that the cold helps.  Yesterday, she even let me put my finger into her mouth to feel her sore gums.  The small, sharp corner of her lower, right molar had already cut through.

Last night, she woke up crying.  I went to her and found her standing in her crib with her fingers in her mouth.  I held her for a little bit and told her that if she slept, her mouth would feel better.  I put her back to bed, but a few minutes later, she began crying again.  This time, my husband went to her with our tiny bottle of compounded, non-soy containing pain reliever, which cost us nearly $100.  When he came back to bed, I asked him if she took the medicine.  Yeah, he said, and I gave her a drum stick.  Not the chicken-kind, mind you, but apparently he handed her a plastic toy drum stick from the floor and she plopped it into her mouth.

Either the medicine or the drum stick did the trick, because she slept the rest of the night.  Unfortunately, she woke up this morning feeling just a poorly as she did when she went to bed, and several days of pain has put her in a bad mood.

She asked for a morning snack, and when I insisted that she sit at the table to eat it, she responded by twisting and turning in her new booster seat.  I told her that I was worried that she was going to fall on her head, and she replied, Thank. You.

Then, she told me to eat her foot.

She clocked me in the head this morning, when she was upset with me for some reason.  My glasses went flying and left a red mark on the side of my face.  When I picked her up to explain why we don’t hit, she hit me again.  So, I put her down until her daddy came inside when she ran to him looking for the good guy.

I decided to let her stay with The Good Guy while I went to the grocery store.  When I returned an hour later, she was watching a movie on the couch (another reason why he is The Good Guy), and when she saw me, she got off the couch, and ran and hit me on the leg.

Sigh.

Let’s hope that all four of those two-year molars bust through in the next several days.  Otherwise, I am fearful that none of us are going to survive.

Spooky Moon, originally uploaded by rcbodden, Flickr, Creative Commons.

I had just put Bear down to sleep for the night, and closed her door behind me, when she started screaming. At first, I thought that these were her typical, I-don’t-want-to-go-to-bed screams, but they quickly escalated in pitch, so I turned around and went back into her bedroom.

She stopped crying as soon as she saw me. She was hot – a damp hot. In a few minutes, she had soaked through her fleece sleeper, and her hair felt wet with sweat. She sat straight up in her crib looking at me, whimpering and gasping for air.

What is wrong?

She looked at her bedroom window, the blinds closed tightly against the night outside, and pointed. Her whimpering got louder.

Outside? Did you see something that scared you?

She nodded, and I picked her up. She curved her hot little body against mine and closed her eyes. I sat down in her chair and began rocking her.Bear twisted her body in my arms toward the window and pointed again. She wasn’t going to forget whatever had happened, and I felt a little prick of fear inside of me. What if she really did see something? What if someone was outside her window? I decided that I had to be brave, even though my little toddler pointing insistently at her bedroom window was starting to freak me out.

Do you want me to check to make sure nothing is there?

She nodded again. So, from where I sat, I reached over and quickly pulled back the blinds. Nothing. Either nothing was there, or nothing was there now.

See, honey? There isn’t anything there. You’re fine.

I rocked her for a little while longer, and she seemed to relax. I carried her to her crib and began to lay her down amongst her babies. Her eyes popped open. I assured her that I would be right outside her room, and if she needed me, I would be there. I told her not to worry anymore. She closed her eyes again and rubbed her cheek against her blanket.

But, I was still a little worried. When my husband got home, I asked him to go outside to check. He scoffed at my concerns. She saw a light, or a sweet gum ball probably hit the window, he said. Maybe.

Since that night, about twice a week, Bear will start screaming in the middle of the night. I’ll go into her room, and she’ll be sitting up pointing at the window. I’m fairly convinced that nothing is there, but her insistence is starting to spook me. What if she knows something that we don’t?

Bear has been asking for things lately, and I am having a hard time resisting.

Last week, after someone mentioned ice cream, she kept saying I want ice cream over and over until I agreed.  She’s never had ice cream for obvious reasons, but I was able to find some sorbet that was soy and dairy free.  It was an amazingly warm day, and we took it outside to eat.  Bear sat in a chair like a big girl and let me spoon feed mouthfuls of the stuff into her waiting mouth.  At that moment, her reaction of pure joy seemed reason enough to give her all that she requests.

Last Sunday, Bear watched as I spent an hour and a half untangling two hopelessly tangled necklaces.  When I finished, I put one on, and Bear was immediately fascinated.   She ran her chubby fingers around the chain.   I want a necklace.  My husband overheard her request and suggested getting her one for her birthday.  I began to explain the reasons why she wasn’t old enough, but her little ears overheard.  Pink? she requested.  A pink necklace?  Purple too? 

Aw, the stuff little girl’s dreams are made of.

After some brainstorming, I decided that I could make a necklace for Bear sturdy-enough that she couldn’t choke on it.  Of course, the mere act of her wearing a necklace is somewhat of a choking hazard, but perhaps, I thought, a necklace would be safe enough during supervised dress-up.

Yesterday, Bear and I went to a nearby craft store searching for some unfinished wooden beads that would be so large that she couldn’t put them in her mouth.  We found wooden doll heads, multitudes of small beads, various stones, colored pom-poms, and sheets of felt, but no large wooden beads that wouldn’t pose a choking-hazard.

After entirely too much contemplation, I bought a ball of yarn and two bags of good-sized felt heart stickers, both in Bear’s favorite colors.

At home, I stuck the stickers together so the hearts would be double-sided.  Then, I pulled out the largest needle that I could find, and using a pair of needle-nosed pliers, I began sewing the hearts together.

Sometimes, my imagination is bigger than reality, and while the end-product is cute, I was not sure that it was worth the effort.  That is, until I gave it to Bear.

Now, Bear is asking for a baby, but I think that just like her mommy, she’s going to have to wait for one of those.  Maybe for her birthday?