Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Birthday to You: 23 Months Old

Dear Anabella,


Yesterday you turned 23 months old. And so, on this final day of the decade, we are into the final stretch of your 'ones'! Can't deal. Can. Not. Deal.

As always, I could sit here and write a novella about all the developments this month delivered. All the good times (Christmas! Santa! Family and friends!) and all the not so good (Hunger strike! Sleepless nights! TANTRUMS!) but alas, today is a busy day as we are preparing to leave on our very first international family vacation (read: airplane) early tomorrow morning.

Am in a FULL panic.

Instead, I'll leave you with just our 23 month pictures. As a side note, I think it's worth noting that this month, for the first time, when I asked you to get into your chair for the photos, you said, "OK Mommy," and just climbed on up. Just look, JUST LOOK, at how you are filling in that chair!


Can't deal.


I love you.
Mommy

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

Last year was Bella's first Christmas and I so badly wanted to freeze it in time with a traditional mall-Santa photo that we could laugh at for decades to come, but the protector in me kicked in and I didn't take her, knowing full well that placing her on that strange man's knee in the middle of that strange place would instantly send her into full cardiac arrest and probably scar her for life.

You see, my daughter, though charming, outgoing and funny as hell in private, suffers from more than her fair share of acute social anxiety. If she is placed in the vicinity of anyone that she has not known for her ENTIRE life she immediately retreats into herself, clutches onto my neck, and acts as if the world will end should this/these strange people so much as glance in her direction.

I always tell our guests, or any newish people who come near her, that it's best to avoid eye contact for at least one full hour and for GOD'S SAKE do NOT speak directly to her. Truly it's best to pretend as if she does not exist, until she's ready to come to you. This might take an hour, or it might take 3 days. Deal. With. It.

Last month, my employer had a company-wide children's Christmas party. It was technically for kids a little older than Bella, but they rented out an entire amusement park, and had gifts and of course, the Big Guy himself would be there, posing for pictures with the kids that would tolerate them. I so wanted her to go and though I didn't expect that she'd actually sit on his knee for a photo, this year she knows who Santa is and I secretly hoped that she'd be so awed in his presence that I could sneak her up there for a quick snap before all hell broke loose.

Well, hell broke loose at our house before we even left for the party. It started too late and her nap schedule was off and yadda yadda yadda a major meltdown/tantrum ensued. Plug was pulled on the mission and I resigned myself to another Santaless Christmas. Unlike last year, I was actually really disappointed this time around. I felt like she would have had a really good time at the party and even if she didn't get a photo with Santa, she would have loved to see him and to run around the park with the other little elves from the office.

Imagine my delight then when I realized that we'd get another chance!

Yesterday morning Bella's daycare had their annual Christmas sing-a-long. I think it used to be an actual concert until the caregivers realized that they were pretty much the only people doing any singing, while the all kids cried or stood frozen in stage-frightened silence.

The sing-a-long was fun, or would have been if it weren't for my anxiety-riddled child clinging to my neck and chest so tightly that I'm covered in claw marks today. There were moments, during her very favourite songs (Twinkle, Twinkle and Jingle Bells), where she loosed her grip on my throat a little and sang along, and in those moments I died and went to heaven. I'll never survive an actual school choir performance. Never.

But then, near the end of our sing-a-long, a tremor of excitement rippled through the room. A tremor that could only be caused by one man... that's right... tapping at the window with his candy cane cane and a full-on teen-aged, angst-ridden elf at his side. Santa. The kids went off like tweens at a Jonas Brothers concert, and my Bella? Oh my sweet, sweet little Bella. She looked up at me and took my cheeks in her little hands. Her eyes were wide as saucers and little body was literally reverberating with the sheer amazement of it all as she looked right into my eyes and whispered, "Mommy, it's Santa Clause." (Note, there's a video coming but I don't have time to upload it right now).

Of course I cried. I couldn't contain it. It was the magic of Christmas. The way that it should be. The pure, unadulterated, unspoiled, unrestrained joy of a child seeing Santa for the first time and not just believing it was him, but knowing it was him. It was a moment that I will remember and cherish for the rest of time.

Of course, Santa and his elf settled into pose with the children for pictures. Most kids were dragged over there against their will kicking and screaming all the way. The protector in me reared her head yet again and though I asked Bella several times if she wanted to go sit with Santa, she answered no each time and I didn't press the issue. She was happyish to watch from a distance, in the safety of my arms, as other kids sat on his knee for photos. Finally, once almost all the kids had their turns, I said to her, "Last chance Kiddo, do you want to go and see Santa?" And she, leaned into to me and in her breathy little voice said, "Yes."

So over we went, Cairn standing by with the camera at the ready. I stood with her for a minute or so while we said hi to Santa and she gave him a high five (super-cute) and then we went for it. Attempt one went something like this. I sat her down on his jolly old knee. She lasted a quarter of a section before she launched herself up into the air as if his leg was composed entirely of red hot coals, screaming and flailing all the while. It was quite the feat of strength and acrobatics, actually:

I think attempt number two wraps up this holiday post about as perfectly as anything ever could. It speaks volumes about how sometimes we think we want things for our kids, we think it's going to make the season special, or memorable, we think we're forging lifelong family traditions. But really? For the kids a chorus of jingle bells and that first glance of Santa Clause can make all their dreams come true. The rest of it? The dresses and the shopping and the pictures taken on Santa's knee? Well that stuff is mostly for us. And that's okay! We deserve to be happy too.


From my crazy little family to yours - a heartfelt Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Happy Birthday to You: 22 Months Old

Dear Anabella.


It's probably because of that protective hormone that makes mothers forget all about the horrors of labour and the newborn months 1 - 3 so that they will continue to reproduce and the world will not fall into barren ruins, but I am almost willing to say that your 22nd month has been one of our most challenging months yet.

It's difficult to explain exactly why this is, accept to say that you are developing quickly into exactly the kind of person I want you to be: independent, intelligent, hilarious... and it's killing me!

You've become tremendously independent this month preferring to feed yourself or dress yourself without help and choosing to walk places rather than have me carry you or push you in the stroller. If anything, you are adopting these habits quite late compared to most babies, and given that up 'til now you've preferred to be waited on and lugged about, you'd think I'd be thrilled at this new found ambition.

The thing is though? Not always that helpful.

For instance when you feed yourself yogurt and blueberries in the morning, it takes me twice as long to clean you and your high chair up before we can leave for daycare. Sometimes it requires a complete outfit change by the time you are done.

And now that you like to walk yourself into daycare, you'd think I'd be thrilled! No more dirty shoes brushing up on my dress coat. No more juggling gym bag and daycare stuff, plus a 30 lbs child and trying to open doors and get you inside.

The problem here? You are SLOW. You are as slow as a one-legged turtle. With a brick tied to his leg. You take these ity bitty shuffle steps and I swear you are practically going backwards and you look at me and laugh because you know you're being a brat but you also know that it's funny as hell and that I can't help but laugh with you! Do I dare try to pick you up to get you in before I miss my bus? OH NO. Because I am afraid of you and your explosive tantrums. They come on like a tsunami in the mornings - not a moment of notice and BAM! you've wiped out an entire village with your wrath.

There are other things that have made this a challenging month. You were sick with Roseola just after Halloween. There was the H1N1 madness to contend with (you got both your shots this month and while you weren't too happy about it, you weren't to awful about it either). It's getting colder, despite being blessed with an amazingly warm November, but you refuse to wear mittens or boots. You won't even let us put your blanket on you in the stroller anymore.

I could continue this list, it goes on and on, each little thing more bizarre and unexplainable that the next. Like why don't you like towels? Why to you insist on drying off after a bath like a little puppy dog, running naked and wet around the room? But you know what? I don't want to talk about all the things that made month 22 a challenge. I can't possibly complain about these little idiosyncrasies that make you so innately you. Because the fact remains (and I suspect it always will) that to me you are just amazingly, ridiculously, immaculately perfect.

And also, if I complain about your behaviour now, what will I have left when you turn fifteen? Just look at you... tell me this look isn't coming back to haunt me in your early teens:

Or this one:


Therefore, rather than whine for things I have no right to whine about, I give you 10 Reasons I Absolutely Loved Month 22:

1. "I love you Mommy." While you've been repeating this for a few months now, this month you started saying it without being prompted? Hello! Pinnacle of motherhood. Check.

2. Speaking in the first person.
For some time now it's been all about, "Bella's bottle." "Bella's Nana." "Bella's toys." All of a sudden, and completely out of nowhere, this month you started to say, "I." One of the cutest examples is "I can DO it." But you also gave me a doozy the other day when you woke up early and started calling me from your bed. You started out like normal with the basic, "Mommy? MOMMY? Mommmeeeee?" but you quickly realized that I was going to ignore you and try to steal a few more minutes of sleep so you went silent for a moment (I can only assume you were plotting) and then in the sweetest voice ever you called out to me with, "I need you Mommy." Um? I'm SCREWED. At 22 months old you have already learned the one phrase that I will never, ever be able to ignore.

3. The letter L. Suddenly you can insert into words where you never could before. You used to say "Pease!" and now you say, "PuhLease." You used to say, "Bankie" and now you say, "BahLanket." It's freakin' adorable because you over-pronounce the "L" sound now, as if you're making up for lost time.

4. You're funny and you know it. You've always been funny in your own way. A quiet, smart kind of funny that probably most people wouldn't notice. But I'm your mom and so I know. Remember that. I'll always know. Suddenly you're turning into a little ham. You'll do something really funny and say to me, "I silly, Mommy. I SILLY."

5. "Some mo'Wah." For months now you've been saying, "mo'" when you want more. "Mo'" was actually one of your very first words, you signed it for a long time, along with simple works like milk and help. But as soon as you started to speak, you gave up the sign and started saying "Mo'." "Mo' milk." "Mo' tickles." "Mo' bubbles." Suddenly this month you've changed it to, "Some mo'Wah." Essentially you have adopted a strong southern accent.

6. Little Miss Bossy. You know what you want and you're not afraid to make other people do it for you. You boss around Moet like crazy. "Moet, in your bed!" And me like crazy, "Mommy DO IT." I love it because I want you to grow up knowing that if you don't ask for what you want, you'll never get it.

7. Your teeth. You finally have a full set, minus your 2 year molars (not looking forward to those). They are beautiful. You are so beautiful.

8. That Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago that you came to my bed at 7a.m. and after you finished a bottle of milk the two of us fell back to sleep, snuggled together, until 9:30a.m. Need I say more?

9. Your brain and how it totally works. Sometimes even more than I give it credit for. One morning this month I was dressing you in a track suit and so I pulled out a t-shirt that you haven't worn in a couple of months so that you could use it as an undershirt. You looked at the shirt, which you hadn't seen since early fall, and said to me, "Uncle Philip's shirt." And you were right. It was a gift from your Uncle Philip, who you also haven't seen for a couple of month. Memory. Recognition. Comprehension. HOLY CRAP.

10. Kisses and snuggles and hugs. Oh my. While you've always been decent at giving up smooches and hugs on demand, albeit often begrudgingly, this month you started doling them out on your own terms. Like when I come home from work, usually at least half an hour after you and Daddy get home, and you'll run to the top of the stairs and call to me. "Hi Mommy!" Then, when I get up the stairs there you are, smiling, arms outstretched, waiting for me to scoop you up and you'll pull back just a little to you can look into my eyes, and then smiling, you'll lean in and kiss me gently on my mouth. I don't think that anything in my life has ever made me more joyful.

I love you,

Mommy

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Handsome Boy Modeling School

Oh Moet, we have not forgotten you. This post is dedicated to my delicious Lil'Boss, because before you I didn't believe that miracles were possible.




Author's note: It occurred to me after posting that this kind of makes it seem as though he's dead. He's not. Very much alive and thriving. That would be the miracle I speak of. Sorry if I temporarily upset you. Oops.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tiny Dancer

Or, as I like to call your Halloween costume this year: Bellarina. And could you have possibly been prettier? Biased or not, I'm thinking no.






Happy Birthday To You: 21 Months Old

Dear Anabella,


Last weekend you turned 21 months old. As per usual I am stunned by this amazing feat of amazingness. Every time the 30th of the month rolls around again, it hits me like a freight train, I HAVE A CHILD AND SHE IS XX MONTHS OLD. Just so happens that this month it's 21. Could be 25 years and I'd probably feel the same degree of shock and awe.

I have a million and one stories that I could tell about the crazy things you've done this month. The 200,000 ways you've made me laugh out loud. Or, I could list off all the accomplishments and milestones that you've crossed off the grand list of things that happen when you transform from an embryo into an actual walking talking human child . But I think this month I'll spare you the rambling, gushing, mother-is-so-proud speech. Instead, I'm going to let you do what you have learned to do best this month, speak for yourself.

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Don't judge me for the weird things I have you repeat. I swear that they are all words and phrases that you say on your own accord all the time (including "Mommy's coffee," which this entire family knows is the single most important thing that happens to Mommy each day). But these are a selection of my favourite words and a) I wanted them recorded so I'll always have that sweet little baby voice to go back to when you are 16 years old and mumbling obscenities at me under your breath and b) I needed something to do in order to distract you from throwing your entire lunch to the dog.

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In fact, these vids were recorded at the beginning of October. By now you are saying so many more words and phrases and singing so many songs that I'd be hard pressed to get a fraction of them on film. Besides, though you belt out songs and chatter up a storm on the regular, as soon as the camera appears you clam up and get a little shy and weird. This behaviour is not going to help you bring home the big bucks as a world famous movie/pop star. I'm just saying.

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So concludes another busy month. All of the growing and talking and singing and SCREAMING "NO NO NO" at the top of your lungs and chasing Moet and not brushing your teeth EVER and throwing all your Cheerios on the ground and jumping but only getting one leg off the ground and having your picture taken 376,080 times is clearly exhausting stuff. As evidenced by this happening during your 21 month photo shoot:


Guess that's a wrap.

I love you,

Mommy

Friday, October 02, 2009

Happy Birthday to You: 20 Months Old

Dear Anabella,



This week you turned 20 months old.

Sigh. I remember my 20's. They were fantastic.

September is one of my favourite months of the year for many reasons. First of all, it's my birthday month, though this one has crawled pretty far down the reasons-I-love-September ladder since I grew out of my aforementioned 20's.

Second, school starts! Even though I am no longer in school, haven't been for a long, long, long (you get the point) time, I still feel a little nostalgic thrill every year when school begins. I love the feeling of all the university students pouring back into the city and walking around U of T campus with their new clothes and glossy books. I love watching the teenagers on the bus, gossiping or sulking, on their way to class.

Third, the weather. September is the new summer. Though I was born on the last official day of summer, I consider myself entirely a summer baby. I LOVE summer, the hotter the better. For the last few years September has been the sunniest, warmest, most beautiful summer month. We always spend Labour Day weekend and some of the following week in Ipperwash, soaking up those final summer rays on that most incredible beach -- a beach that clears out after holiday Monday and becomes all ours and ours alone. It is the definition of happiness for me to be on that beach with nobody else but the people I love most in the entire world.


September is pretty close to perfect. But for the last couple of years we have had some tough times in this particular month. In 2007, when you were still safely tucked away in my belly, there was a terrible accident with Momo and we nearly lost him. Then last year, the unthinkable happened to a family that we know. It stopped me in my tracks for a while and still does, when I think of them, even now. So this year when September rolled around I found that I entered it not with my usual giddy sense of excitement and joy but instead with a sense of foreboding doom.

Like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like everything is too perfect. Too beautiful. Too happy. I find myself starting to seek out all the terrible things that could happen. To ready myself for them. Steel myself against them. Prepare.

But then, just when I feel like I've gotten lost in the fog, there shines my light. My impish, smiling, squishable light. I just need to watch you for a minute, just being you, and I realize why I get so anxious about the possibility of something terrible happening. It's because of the love. Every day I love you more. And the more that I love you the more I stand to lose. It's that simple. It's the risk that we all take when we decide to become parents.


You are 20 months old this week. One day you will be 20 years old. Can my heart hold 20 years worth of ever increasing love? Can it hold 60? I have to assume that it can because if there is one truth, one undeniable fact that I can share with you it is this, every second of every minute of every hour that goes by I love you more and more and more. And somehow my heart just expands.


If there is one thing that can make September -- that beautiful, complicated month -- even more perfect that it already is, Anabella, it's you.


I love you.

Mommy

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pictures of You

Anybody out there ever had passport photos taken of their toddler? Can I borrow your ear for a moment and tell you that it is a NIGHTMARE to get a toddler to sit still for a fucking passport photo?

How about trying to do it at the local ghetto mall on a Sunday afternoon... with a hangover?

So here's the thing, I thought she'd just sit on the chair, stare blankly at the stranger with the flashing camera like she usually does when she's bored with my incessent photo-taken habit, and we'd be out of there after a few clicks.

WRONG.

They had to take about 2000 photos of Bella. Do you know what’s involved here in this passport photo business? Let me tell you. The baby can’t be smiling, crying, talking, moving or looking anywhere but directly at the camera lens. Their mouths must be closed, but not so closed that you can’t see the natural shape of their lower face. There can’t be any shadows behind their curly little heads of flouncy hair. You can’t see anything in the photo but their head and shoulders. This includes their arms and hands which means they need to keep them neatly at their sides while the photo is taken. They can’t be wearing white.

OH BUT WAIT… even if you finally get the shot, the one that fulfills all of the IMPOSSIBLE criteria, and causes the entire shop and the small crowd that’s gathered in the mall to watch this circus occur to break into loud applause, they will still go into the back room to look closer at the perfect picture and then come back out, head hung low with a sheepish grin, and tell you that the perfect shot that they thought they had will not work after all because HER LIPS ARE TOO SHINY.

I kid you not. Her juicy, perfect, glistening baby lips were too shiny. We had to de-shine our daughter’s lips.

But we finally got the shot. She's looking ever so slightly above the camera lens at the dangling set of keys that we were using to try to jingle-jangle her into some kind of a passport-photo-worthy trance. They assure me that they will reshoot the photo for free should it not be accepted. What they do not understand is that if it is not accepted I am going to go postal on the asses of everyone involved in the process. There won't be much need for international travel after that.

My own passport photo is truly hilarious because the expression on my face is 100 per cent indicative of the mood I was in while trying to suvive this particular parenting right of passage.

Survived it. And let me tell you something? We are going to be TRAVELLING OUR ASSES off now even if it puts us into a hole of debt so deep that we'll never again see the light of creditless day.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy Birthday to You: 19 Months Old

Dear Anabella,


A week ago you turned 19 months old. And this month I can officially say that you are no longer my baby and are officially my toddler. TODDLER. You toddle. You are in the toddler room at daycare. You talk. In sentences. Small sentences, but still! Talking. Like a human-being. And all of it, all of it is BLOWING MY MIND.

I think for some reason, deep in the back of my brain, I had this notion that maybe you were content to just stay my baby forever. That I'd be carrying you around and listening to your incoherent, yet incredibly endearing, coos and gurgles for the rest of time. Like maybe I'd be taking you to college, strapped firmly and securely in your car seat, wheeling you to classes in your stroller and listening with glee as you met your dorm mate by grabbing a fist full of her hair and enthusiastically saying, "Baaabababa," with a slobbery toothless smile. Guess what? NOT SO.

In fact you are going to grow up to be a grown up person who is growing and continues to grow. I recognize that this is the preferred course of action and that it's not really desireable to have a college student who is still a baby. So why did it take me 19 months to grasp this concept? I blame hormones.

So many fun things to report on this month, but first there's this. We transitioned you to the toddler room at your daycare this month. AND IT SUCKED. For two full weeks it sucked so badly. You clung to me and you screamed for me when I left you in the mornings and you were out of sorts and cranky when we brought you home at night. It lasted two weeks and I cried every day when I left you there and I cried most of the way to work and I cried at work. It is pretty safe to assume that I did more crying than you. Much more.

I should note that about a week and a half into your transition, you got bit on the face by another baby. And I mean BITTEN. And it set you back a few days. Not surprising really, just look what the little cannibal did to your face:


Then, we reached the two week mark and I dropped you off one morning, and instead of screaming and clinging to my legs, you waved at your friends, said, "Hi Duncan!" and walked into your new room without so much as a backward glance at me. And we all applauded and cheered for you! And then you know what happened? I cried again. Shocking.

You have settled in beautifully now and I know that you are happy there. I know that it's so good for you to be there and I am incredibly, tremendously, enormously proud of you.

Your move to the toddler room also proved to be exactly what you needed to encourage you to become a full time walker. You're on the move, Child! It's still a bit shocking for me to see you just stand up and walk, this may be another concept that's difficult for me to grasp. Do not be surprised if you are 16 years old and I suddenly turn to you and say, "Bella, did you just WALK OVER HERE?" I'm slow on the pick up. Deal with it.

As amazed as I am by this walking business, hands down, bar-none, the most amazing, entertaining, and mind boggling thing you do right now is talk. You just say stuff. Stuff that is actually in ENGLISH and makes sense. Stuff like, "Peees" (please) and "Taaake Oouuu!" (thank you). And sentences like, "More pips, peees" (more chips, please) and "No! Momo! No!"

video

I can listen to your words five zillion times and never, ever tire of hearing them. There really isn't much that you can't say now, as long as we remain open to interpretation. Among my favourites this month: Bubbles! Pickles! Anabella (which, by the way, you like to say in a strange Frankenstein-like voice)! And instead of Mama, you now say, "MummEEE?" Just like that, like it's a question every time. And every time I hear it? You guessed it. My heart explodes.

You can count to three. You can fetch stuff and bring it to me. You can brush your teeth (though you hate it) and you can distinguish between the pink hat and the orange hat. You love shoes. No wait, more emphasis required with this one, YOU LOVE SHOES. You will sit and play with a pair of shoes for an hour. I'm not kidding. You love Moet. You can throw and kick a ball. I'm turning 34 in a few days and I still can't do that very well. I hate to use the term 'soccer prodigy' so early on, but I will because do you know how much money a professional athlete can bring in?!

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This is all a long winded way of saying, Anabella, I love all of you. I love who you are becoming. I love watching you grow. I love anticipating what might come tomorrow. I love how every day with you is like a little gift, just waiting to be unwrapped.

I love you,

Mommy

Friday, July 31, 2009

Happy Birthday to You: 18 Months Old

Dear Anabella,

This week you turned 18 months old. Just so we're clear, that's one year and one half of a year. Holy effing eff. Some amazing things have happened this month and I want to take time to write them all down for you, but it's late and tomorrow we're leaving on our family summer vacation. I've been sitting here for a while, contemplating what things I should select to jot down about this month and all I can come up with is HOLY EFFING EFF. I am the mother of a toddler.

A toddler who just today graduated from the infant room at daycare, complete with a graduation cap and little celebration party with all your baby friends and your lovely caregivers. A toddler who can say her own name and who knows all the pieces to her puzzles and can name all the characters on her diapers. A toddler who still loves to sing and dance, has made up her very own word for butterfly (Laalow!) and who, when tired and ready for bed, will look at me with her big sleepy eyes and say, "Bed, Mama."

A toddler who has grown to love her dog so much that first thing in the morning, when I lift you out of your crib and we share our morning hug and kiss will point towards the stairs and say, "Momo!" And I know that you can't wait to get downstairs and share your Cheerios with him.

But most importantly this month you became a toddler who can toddle! You are still not very steady and you hesitate to take more than a few steps at a time and always towards someone, never away from them. But you know what? I'm so proud of you. There is simply nothing in the universe that gives me more pleasure than watching you stand up all on your own, reach out your chubby and still babyish little arms and walk towards me all on your own. I know that so soon, well before I could ever be ready, you will be walking away from me. And of course, I want you to go forward with confidence, grace, curiosity and strength. But today I will relish in those teetering, toddling steps into my outstretched arms.

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I love you,

Mommy

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Say My Name, Say My Name

You may have already seen this on Facebook, so feel free to disregard. It's just too cute not to document here as well.

It's amazing when your baby suddenly discovers that she has a name of her own. It's a tiny thing, in Bella's case it's even a tiny word, but it's a huge step towards discovering her independence.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

It's Hip to be Square

I recently posted about an illness that Bella went through that caused her to stop moving and have severe muscle/joint pains. Symptoms were a few days with a low grade fever, pain and discomfort whenever we moved her, no moving on her own at all, and severe pain and screaming/crying all through the night (very out of character for her). After about three days the fever was completely gone and started to regain movement, but continued to have pain in her right hip that lasted for just over a week and caused her to completely stop rolling over, pulling herself up to sitting, crawling, standing up, etc.

It was a terrifying ordeal for all of us and when her discomfort first started (it was mild at first, she only cried at night, but this was so unusual for her that I knew something was up), I took her to her pediatrician who examined her and found nothing. He told us it could be a stomach ache, or it could be constipation, which was what I initially thought it might be because I simply couldn't find anything else wrong but I knew that she was in some kind of pain.

The next day the fever kicked in, her pain clearly got worse, she screamed all night long in agony and we ended up going to the after hours Children’s Clinic on the Danforth (where I will NEVER go again – straight to Sick Kids for us from now on) and basically being told by the doctor that examined her that “everything was fine, it’s 'probably' a virus, and just to 'wait it out'). And because I didn’t know what else to do, I just listened to him and we waited. And waited. And I stressed and worried and cried in frustration every single day.

Thankfully, she did start to get better and we assumed that maybe she had just injured her leg somehow during her "illness" (which we still couldn't explain) and we missed her falling or spraining something and she just needed time to heal. Because her pediatrician was away for the full week after our weekend of hell, we didn't take her anywhere to follow up because I was adament that I would not go back to that clinic. By the time our doctor was back, his wait times were so long that we chose to cancel our appointment rather than put us all through the waiting, and waiting and waiting that would have to happen in order to get her checked out.

Recently a friend of a friend’s son came down with something that had very similar symptoms while they were away at a cottage. He was rushed to emergency where they did a number of tests and determined the illness to have something to do with a build up of fluid around the hip. When I heard about his symptoms and realized sounded exactly like what Bella had, I did some research and discovered that it was something called Toxic Synovitis.

I’m now almost certain that this is what Bella had.

I wanted to share it with all the parents I know because apparently it is something that’s fairly common in children aged 2 - 8 (though can occur in babies and older kids too) but so far I have not run into a single other parent that’s ever heard of it.

In hindsight I know that we should have been more persistent in finding a diagnosis. She should have had some tests done to rule out something more serious like septic hip or another bacterial infection, which can lead to permanent damage of the joint. It's just so hard when life gets in the way and I feel tremendous guilt over the fact that I avoided taking her to the doctor or hospital because it would have interfered with my work day. Instead I just "let her be" as advised by some quack doctor who could barely stand to look me in the eye or give me the 60 seconds it would have taken him to listen to what I had to say about her symptoms.

From now on I will not be concerned about seeming like a paranoid, first-time mom, or about missing yet another day of work because the baby is sick. It literally sickens me that parents are forced to make the decision between looking after a sick child or going to the office - especially since in too many instances the office wins. The pressure is enormous, the resulting guilt is crippling and the bank account is the only thing that wins. From now on Bella comes first, every time, over everthing, plain and simple.

If that's square, then I'm hip to be it.

Anyway – here’s some info about the illness in case one of your little ones ever suddenly stops moving, starts limping or showing signs of pain that you can’t find any evidence of. I should also stressed again that we did not ever get a diagnosis, this is a little bit of me playing Dr. Mom, but if it's not what she had, it's eerily similar, the symptoms are dead on:

http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/bacterial_viral/toxic_synovitis.html

http://www.drgreene.com/21_1212.html

https://www.google.com/health/ref/Toxic+Synovitis

On a positive note, after about two weeks, Bella made a full recovery from her illness. She's slowly starting to build up more confidence and this past weekend at my mom's house she even took a few steps on her own walking from Nana's arms to Papa. This is the little trooper last weekend at the cottage - cruising around as if none if it had ever happened at all. We should all be able to forget and move on so easily, no?


video

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I Hope You Dance

I've spoken many times about my love of the super-cheesy Lee Ann Womack song, I Hope You Dance, and still defy any new parent (or old parent for that matter) to listen closely to the words without completely LOSING YOUR SHIT and crying for hours while clutching your child to your chest. Okay, maybe that's just me, but still.

I'm puffed with pride and swelling with love to know that when "she has the chance to sit it out or dance," my Bella chooses to dance every time.

She can't hear a beat, a strain of music, or even a repetative sound like the dryer or a train, without rocking and twisting and bopping her head. Bella has a beautiful voice and I love to hear her sing, but there's something so free and so primal about her need to move. I sincerely hope she'll continue to love music and dancing.

Many times after daycare, when we're all settling in for the evening, changing our clothes and getting ready for the bath, Bella will turn on the stereo in her room, crank the volume and do a little dancing to whatever music happens to be on. It's seriously the best. Here's proof:


video

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Walk This Way

If you read my last post you'll know that up until last week Bella has been more than happy to stay as close to the ground as possible and less than happy to be pressured into getting up on her chubby little gams and walking about unassisted.

Well you can imagine my surprise then when last Thursday evening I'm standing in our kitchen (and by kitchen, I mean the 10 square feet in my town house that we refer to lovingly as "the kitchen") preparing her dinner when I heard some hysterical baby giggles and glanced down just in time to witness this:

video

Only I was so shocked to see her cruising by on her own two feet, even stopping and making a leisurely turn when she ran out of floor space, that it took me a while to snap out of my shock long enough to grab the camera! I only captured those last few fleeting seconds, and despite my desperate begging and negotiating and bribing and coaxing she would not get up and do it again.

I'm telling you, the girl has got to do things her way.

Sadly, I really think that she was right on the cusp of walking on her own, but she got very ill the day after this happened. The illness has been a serious one and rendered her literally immobile for three full days. While most of her symptoms have dissipated by now (a full week later) she still seems to have considerable pain in her right leg or hip and she still can't get up on her own to a sitting position, crawl or stand.

Set back.

I'm hopeful that somehow during the worst of her virus she injured her leg and that it's nothing more sinister or long-term than a sore or sprained muscle. We have an appointment to check it out with her pediatrician on Friday morning.

Until then I'm hanging onto my memory of this funny, fabulous first - seeing my little girl come walking by as if she'd been doing it all her life. Way to go Bella - I knew that you could and would and will get up and go when you are good and ready.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Happy Birthday to You: 16 Months Old

Dear Anabella,


I missed the boat on your 16 month post (it was over a week ago now) and now I'm playing catch-up. I feel like this is the perfect reflection of how, suddenly, our lives are barreling on full speed ahead and no amount of pumping the brakes is working to slow things down. It feels like I'm seat-belted into a fast car racing down the open road and all I can see are blurred landmarks and street signs spinning past the side view. No matter how hard I try to stop and focus on just one, squinting hard to try and make out what it is or what it says, I just can't. We're going too fast.

I always hoped that your infanthood would be more like a leisurely road trip. A journey that our family would take together, stopping often along the way to take in the view and enjoy the surrounding landscape. I never wanted to ever, ever look back and realize that I couldn't remember all the lovely places that we'd been. Thankfully, this journal, and my obsessive compulsive picture and video taking habit, will always remain a valuable road map of these most amazing times. But still, it's not the same. It's not the same as being able to enjoy the moment when the moment is happening. And for some reason, that has been hard for me this past month.

At 16 months old I am literally watching you shed your baby skin and blossom into a toddler (though still, no toddling, more on that later). At the end of a long day at work there is nothing more fabulous than seeing your face and waiting expectantly to hear the new word you learned, the new trick, the new gesture or song. I look forward to reading your daily reports and imagining you at the park with your friends, laughing in the sunlight, trying new foods, taking in all the sights and sounds in that special way that you do, so intensely that one can look into your eyes and almost see your brain absorbing every last detail, filing them away, learning.


At the same time, I'm saddened. I'm saddened that I'm missing so much. It sometimes catches me off guard when I hear you say something I've never heard before, "Apple," "More," "Meow!" and instead of feeling joy at what you can do, I feel tears hot and stinging at the backs of my eyes.

"When did you learn to do that? What did you just say? How did I not know that you knew?"

Somehow I raced right on by those discoveries, they passed by in a blur, and it's too late to turn around, slow down and catch them on the way back. Those first moments now belong to somebody else.

I know I've said so before, but the women who look after you during week at your daycare are fantastic. They are so good with you, so loving and kind. They are genuinely excited by all your discoveries and so although I get a little heartsick at missing out, I'm thrilled that they are encouraging and celebrating your developments each day.

If there was one thing that I would change about our daycare experience it would be for them to to simply allow you to slow down and do things on your own time. I find that they want you to grow up so fast. Their job is to encourage your development, I know, but it feels like no sooner have you accomplished something wonderful then they are pushing for the next and the next.

Cut out the bottles, sit in the chair to eat, no more soother, sleep on the cot not in the crib, give up the morning nap. It's not that I don't want you to do those things, of course I do, but I also don't want to pressure you. I want to relish in some of those baby things until you are ready to give them up on your own time, in your own way. Sometimes I feel like you are being rushed before you are ready and, because I'm your mother, I can sense you pushing back.

The biggest example of this is with your walking. Right now there is a lot of pressure on you - and on me - to get you to walk. I know that you are a little "late" on this "milestone," but I also know that you are developing normally and that when you are ready you will walk. You have made great strides (pardon the obvious pun) in the last few weeks.Climbing the stairs on your own, cruising the furniture like a pro, even taking the odd step holding only one of my hands. But for now, this is as far as you are ready to go. And I want you to feel proud of your accomplishments this month - and to know how proud I am of you.


Daycare would like you to move to the toddler room for July 1. In order for this to happen you need to be walking on your own. It's my feeling that you are not going to be ready to make that move by that assigned date. And I hate that there is this pressure on both of us to get you there. One of my goals as your mother is to always let you do things at your own speed, in your own way, on your own time. Anabella, you are incredibly smart, remarkably funny and spectacularly beautiful. I hope that you will always know these things about yourself.

So with my letter to you this month I'm pledging to do all that I can to simply slow things down. The summer is coming and I want us to enjoy the season together, slowly. Last summer was the best of my life. I can't give you that again this year, as sad as it makes me, but I can do my best to give you whatever time that I have and to be present and observant and devoted to seeing every landmark that lies along this winding road we're traveling together.

I love you.

Mommy

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Happy Birthday to You: 15 Months Old

Dear Anabella,

This week you turned 15 months old.



People say that April showers bring May flowers and I, for one, hope that they are effing right.

We got rained on an awful lot this month, if by rain we mean violent stomach flu - times two (you and Daddy) - a nighttime trip to the emergency children's clinic and a diagnosis of pink eye, a nasty cough and cold, and two new molars on the bottom that turned you into a child that we hadn't met before and aren't too sure that we want meet ever again.

This string of bad health meant that you could only go to daycare for 10 days out of the entire month of April. 10 days. Do you know what that means? That means $160 dollars a day. We probably could have stayed in a pretty decent hotel in The Bahamas for that amount. You now officially go to the most expensive daycare in the entire universe. Lucky you.

The thing about the daycare is though? Despite the fact that you like to rub noses with the boys and bring home cooties, they are actually teaching you an awful lot over there. So let's talk about the fun stuff for a moment. Dude? You can TALK! You've learned so many new words this month and it is so fun to discover your ever expanding vocabulary at the end of the day.

The difference of this month over last is that not only do you have all these adorable little words, but suddenly you are really making the connection to actual things. For instance you will see your little sun hat and say, "Hat!" while pointing to your head. Or you will point at your bookshelf, covered in the most amazing collection of teeny tiny footwear and say, "Shoes!" You are totally into accessorizing. We are so screwed.

You've also learned to string a couple of words together, like after your bath when we're putting away the little floaty toys you'll say, "Bye-bye fish," and "Bye-bye duck." Except instead of fish you kind of say, "Pipsh," but close enough and way cuter to boot.

While your vocab continues to grow day by day, I have to say you're a little delayed in the mobility category, much to the dismay of your teachers who have been putting a lot of time and energy into getting you to stand up and walk already! I know that they are a little concerned because, really? By 15 months most babies are not just walking, but running and climbing stairs and doing lunges and solving the quadratic equation.

You are having none of it. You don't stand unless someone puts you there and you have no choice. You are more than happy to zip around with your turbo crawl, where you are close to the ground and therefore very unlikely to fall down and hurt yourself. You can't quite figure out why you should get up and walk when clearly, if you just point at something you can't reach and yell, somebody will bring it to you. Or, if you need to get somewhere in a hurry, you can just put your chubby little arms in the air and cock your head just so and somebody will most certainly pick you up and bring you there. D'uh. Walk? Whatevs.


Your favourite things this month include books, especially the Baby Animals one that you would like me to read 100 times in a row every single day even though it's really got no words and I kind of can't stand it at all. Goldfish crackers ("caacoos") are a big hit. You continue to love food (though you did go about two weeks without eating because of the flu, which caused me to have a stroke every single day until you were back to normal). Hanging you upside down never fails to score us some awesome giggles. Sitting and gabbing quietly to yourself when you think that nobody is listening. And In The Night Garden, which you now watch every weeknight at 7:30 p.m. before bed. Every time you see Upsy Daisy, you blow her a kiss - "Mmmmwaaa" - and Mommy's heart explodes.

Sometimes when you are sitting, playing quietly or reading a book by yourself, I look over at just the right minute, you'll catch my eye and give me a knowing smile and in that second I see that my baby is leaving and this incredible, wise, funny little girl is taking her place.

video

I love you, Baby.

Mommy

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Happy Birthday to You: 14 Months Old

Dear Anabella,


This week you turned 14 months old. This has been a tough month, but believe it or not it has nothing to do the hectic pace of our life as a family with two working parents and toddler. March came in like a lion because your little Rah Rah, aka The Momes, aka Momo, aka Doy, aka Moet the family pug suffered a terrible injury in his back. As a result we've all been thrown out of balance, because though we are only three people, our family is really a party of four.

You have been such a huge part of these past 14 months (23 if you count the time you spent wreaking havock inside my midsection) and the impact that your presence has made in our lives is evident right here, in that I rarely have the inspiration, or time, to write about anything else. If there is one thing that we know about Moet, it's that he does not take well to the thought of becoming just another family pet. You have been my baby for just over a year now, but he has been my fur-baby for seven years. It seems this month he decided that he'd take back a little of the attention he's been missing out on -- by throwing out his back and demanding that we look down and take notice.

If there's is one thing that I never want to happen in our family, it's for one of us, any one of us, to hurt. This month, watching Momo in so much pain has been extremely difficult for me, for Daddy and unfortunately, as a result, for you too. Because although you are still too little to understand exactly what is wrong, you are more than capable of recognizing that something is. You can read our body language, pick up on our anxieties and absorb our sadness.

**Author's note: Monday April 6: This post has been interrupted by the stomach flu**

Touche my little Bella. It seems you are far wiser than I give you credit for. Just as I was about to dedicate my attentions - and one of your monthly updates - to the dog, you caught wind and decided to one up the little fur ball by catching the stomach flu and turning all eyes back to you. You are a clearly a master manipulator, young one. I will not make such a foolish mistake again.

You've just spent the weekend in the hazy, uncomfortable state of feverish flu. This morning you seem a bit better, except I'm still cleaning up more poop than I really care to mention and yes, you have successfully averted our attentions from your sick fur-brother.

I think in your sickness; however, your dad and I have had a chance to see how much you have developed this past month.

In your sleepy silence we realized how many words you have now, and we've longed each day to hear you say them. To be met by silence and quiet whimpers in the morning was jarring, since we've become so used to your incessant chattering and singing.

To see you lying listlessly in your daddy's arms all weekend, when normally you fight such snuggles in favour of being on the floor by yourself, free to move and explore, we realized how busy you've become. How curious and active.

To try to feed you only to be met by, "No, no, no, no..." has been so worrisome because usually you attack your meals with such zest and joy, happily feeding yourself and the dog (that's the last time I mention him, I swear, do not revolt!) and chit chatting all the while.

Otherwise, though, you've handled your sickness like a trouper. Though clearly unwell and unhappy, you continued to sleep through the night, take your medicine and not get yourself too worked up with tears and turmoil. I think today you are on the mend and I can't wait for you to feel better and to hear your happy little voice around the house again.

My favourite new word this month is "caaacooor." It means cracker, and I'll tell you what it cracks - me up! But I think that your most endearing and heartwarming Bellaism has got to be your word for Moet, "Rah Rah" (your adorable version of a barking sound) because it's always filled with love. And I could swear that lately, in Rah Rah's time of need, your little voice has even been filled with concern. You are truly a sweet soul, little one.

video

I love you,

Mommy

Monday, March 09, 2009

Happy Birthday to You: 13 Months Old


Dear Anabella,

Last weekend you turned 13 months old. I wish I could be more timely with this post, but alas, time is precious, and often unavailable these days. Life has been tossed into turmoil with my return to work and every minute is busy with commuting, working, daycare, chores, feeding (so much feeding), errands and trying, whenever possible, to find a quiet moment to lie on the floor with you and simply drink in your babyness.

It is all going by so fast and this past month has been incredibly full of new developments, many of which are happening while you are away from me, with your new teachers and new friends at daycare. Hence, nobody can put into words the little person you are becoming better than your daycare family, who provide Daddy and I with amazing little snap-shots of your day-to-day life with "report cards" that we receive at the end of each day. Here then, are some comments from your teachers, too priceless not to share. And of course, my own take on what their "highlights of the day" and "teachers comments" really mean.

Feb. 26.
Teachers Comments: "She played with all her friends and liked when Duncan came to tickle her. She also laughed like crazy when Carter entertained her with funny faces."
My Take: Bella likes boys. The boys like Bella.

Feb. 25.
Teachers Comments: "She was not a fan of painting with a toothbrush. She hates to get involved in 'messy' art projects.
My Take: Bella has inherited your OCD.

Feb. 23.
Teachers Comments: "Bella is learning to hold the spoon to feed herself. We need to be doing this here and at home!"
My Take: Let her feed herself or you will be spoon feeding her when she is 15 years old. Babies are messy, let it go.

And some gems from her "monthly" social emotional, language, cognitive and motor report (ha!):

Social Emotional: Bella did a great transition from formula to milk. We would like to see Bella holding her own sippy cup. (Read: Bella is thirsty but lazy.)
Language: Bella enjoys clapping when we sing to her. This month we would like to see Bella repeating simple words and sounds. (Read: Your child loves to be entertained but isn't really that into things like, well, talking.)
Cognitive: Bella loves to knock over block towers. We are working on learning to stack two or more at a time. (Read: Bella knocks over everyone's towers and makes the other babies cry.)
Motor: We would like to see her work on pulling herself to standing using furniture. (Read: Again, quite lazy, this child.)

Truth is though, Bella, all joking aside, you have learned an amazing amount this month and we all have daycare to thank for it. Your teachers are so good with you and it's obvious that you love them, and all the other babies, very much. My heart swells with pride when I drop you off and see how happy and well adjusted you are. You certainly have come out of your shell, and I'm constantly amazed by what a complex little person you are becoming.

A few other noteworthy developments this month:

Teeth! You have two more, both on the top, and it has earned you your newest nickname: Fang.
Knee walking! You love to wander around on your knees, pushing your little walker toy. So cute.
Tantrums! That's right. You throw them. Especially if a snowsuit is involved.
The Cranky Blankie! You are fully addicted to your "security" blanket all of a sudden and though I know at daycare they want to limit your use of it, at home we just let you have it. I'm pretty sure that you will not be dragging it around when you are in your twenties. Right? You won't will you?

Finally, for your viewing pleasure, here's just a quick look at the feisty little destructor-baby you have become this month. Okay, maybe not quite, but you've definitely learned to let loose. On your blocks.

video

I love you.

Mommy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend

Four words.

Penelope Cruz's necklace. Damn.


And the dress. And the speech. And the... well... everything. Love.

Happy Oscar night.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I Will Survive

Nobody said it would be easy, and everybody was right.

As of yesterday, my family has survived my first three full weeks back at work. I use the term "survived" loosely here, mind you. Here is just a quick smattering of the challenges we lived through these past three weeks.

1. Worst, most revolting stomach flu ever. This evil virus took me out on my SECOND day at the office and caused me to miss one and half days of work during my first week. Embarrassing yes, but luckily (?) I was too busy dying to care very much. Just as I pulled myself up out of bed and dragged myself back to the office, Crown went down. Typical. Somehow, amazingly, incredibly, unbelievably, Bella managed NOT to catch it. Thank you Karma, what did I do to deserve you?

2. Fatigue the likes of which I have not known since the earliest days after giving birth. These last three weeks have passed me by in a hazy fog of exhaustion. I suspect I will feel like this for the rest of my life. Super.

3. Ground Hog Day, the movie. I get it now. I've been up by 7 a.m. at the latest every day during the week and back in bed by 10 p.m. latest. Whatever happens in between those two times of day is a blur. I think that I wake up, shower, dress myself, dress and feed the baby, somehow get her to daycare, and then suddenly I'm home in the evening just in time to feed her again and then undress her and put her back to bed. Sometimes I get confused and I'm like, "Wait a second, are you getting up or going down? Didn't I just do this?"

4. Thank God for my office, it's the only place I get to sit down. No seriously. I never sit down at home. Unless I'm going to bed and that doesn't count. That's lying down. Most evenings I literally do not stop and enjoy a still moment for myself until at least an hour after Bella goes to bed. I move straight from my commute to prepping and feeding her dinner, into bath time, into cleaning up after her dinner, into bottle and bed routine, into tidying up after her, into prepping my stuff and hers for the next day, into laundry, into finally eating my own dinner, into cleaning up after my own dinner, into letting the dog out, into - at last - sitting for moment. Only to realize that it's nearly 10 p.m. and if I don't get into bed I'll never be able to wake up tomorrow. Rinse and repeat.

5. Teething and sniffles and coughs, oh my! That's right, she avoided the stomach flu that ravaged her father and I, but that doesn't mean she got off easy. Poor kid managed to pick up another cold, this one slightly less snotty than the last but with a savage cough that caused her to vomit on me a few times, including one early morning edition that necessitated last-minute outfit changes for both of us. She's also managed to cut two teeth and is working on at least three more, which we all know makes for a tired, itchy, fiery-cheeked baby with some major 'tude.

The saving grace of all this? Bella loves her daycare and comes home tired but happy. She's already learning so much from her teachers and the other babies. She's signing a lot and becoming a little more vocal and lot more feisty. It's like a litter of puppies in that infant room -- you learn to fight for your food and attention or you get left behind by the pack.

As for her father and I? Well. We're learning to fight for our food, too. It's just the way it's got to be for now. I took Family Day off (my company doesn't allow us the holiday, but our daycare was closed) and it's proved to me how much easier life would be for us if one of us had a four-day work week. We really need that one extra day to get errands and chores out of the way. Just one day a week would mean the difference between chaos and calm for my family. It would open up at least one day during the weekend for relaxing and spend time together. It's something to look into for the future, but for now I'm busy chasin' that paper. A few solid pay cheques are going to be really sweet after six months of basically nada.

The fact is that despite all of the bumps in the road, we have survived. I'm enjoying my work, Bella is enjoying her daycare, even Crown is feeling a little less stressed at the office. Though there are moments when I want to throw in the towel, there are many more where I feel proud of myself and my little family for pulling it off together.