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So Long, 2012

I swear it seems like we were just saying goodbye to 2011, and here we are, another year behind us.  Time certainly marches on, doesn’t it?

2012 was a somewhat bumpy, somewhat eventful year for us.  The highlights:

We got a new baby . . .

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. . . who, over the course of the year, grew into this:

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Scout’s a good dog.  So much energy, though!  And at 80+ pounds, she’s under the impression that she’s still a little lap puppy.

Michael went to Washington DC and appeared before the United States Supreme Court.  Very exciting; most attorneys never get to do this.

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Back in January, Michael had another brief hospital stay, which, looking back, I did not handle too well.  Granted I was pregnant, moody, tired, and overwhelmed, but I still feel a little ashamed and wish I were more the stoic type.  In any event, since then, Michael has enjoyed good health, and his annual scan a few weeks ago revealed that he’s still cancer-free.  He now has three and half years of remission behind him, and the memories of his cancer, treatment, and the onslaught of resultant medical issues are beginning to take on a hazy quality.

DSC_0001Joey played another season of Little League, and his passion for baseball lives on.  Watching him play is one of the highlights of my life as a mom.  He also shocked all of us recently by scoring one of the lead roles in his school’s production of Bye Bye Birdie; he has been cast as Albert Peterson and will give five performances at the end of February!  He turned 10 over the summer, and we took him to San Francisco to celebrate.IMG_6959

Kevin turned 15 (and is now about to turn 16!), got his braces off after nearly five years, started shaving, got a girlfriend, and dyed his hair.  Adolescence has been bumpy, but so far not the nightmare I’ve feared.  He’s a good kid, and I feel fortunate to have a close relationship with him.

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It was a fairly uneventful year for the girls.  They all got bigger.  Annabelle and Daisy entered third grade, and Lilah first grade.

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Finn turned 4 in July and started preschool in September.  He attends a typical preschool

DSC_0046with typical peers and is absolutely thriving there.  We are so grateful that the opportunity for him to attend this program fell into our laps, that they have been so welcoming of him and see him as a whole, valuable child.

As for me, I got published in Literary Mama and Mamalode this year, both prestigious publications.  One of them I will actually be getting paid for – peanuts, but still, it’s my first paid writing gig.  Writing remains my passion, and I still dream of making it big, or at least bigger.  I’m still trying to find a balance between the demands of mothering a slew of kids, maintaining a house, and carving out time for writing.  Every year I begin the year hoping that this will be the year that I write something important and meaningful and that it finds an audience; I know it’s really up to me.

After the shock of finding myself pregnant again at the ripe old age of 44 wore off, I enjoyed a smooth, mostly uneventful pregnancy.  I savored it, feeling that, although very dsc_0096unexpected, it was a gift.  In  June, Scarlett Rose entered the world, a beautiful home birth after a labor of approximately 45 minutes!  It was probably my easiest birth, and a beautiful note on which to end my childbearing career.  I had a rough go of things for a while after she was born, but eventually found my feet back on steady ground.

Scarlett has stolen all of our hearts, and six months after she was born, it’s hard to remember our family without her in it.

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I capped of the year with some new ink representing me and Michael (the vines) and our brood.

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I’m not big on making New Year’s resolutions, but I have hopes for 2013: that I live purposefully and in gratitude, that my kids feel safe and loved, that my marriage is peaceful, and my friendships flourishing.

So long, 2012.

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Scarlett @ Six Months

A half a year!!  And it’s hard to remember life before Scarlett.

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Was there a time when this sweet little face wasn’t a part of our family?

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At six months, Scarlett rolls quite a bit (in fact, she took her first . . . and second . . . tumbles from our bed.  Which means, she’s been duly initiated), and she babbles “mamamamamama” all the live long day.  She also blows raspberries and is generous with her baby slobber.  She’s working on a couple of teeth, I think, but none have made an appearance yet.

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I can’t resist her.  She’s temperamental and demanding, but she has my heart on a string, this girl.  She exhausts me, and yet, I miss her when I’m away from her for more than a couple of hours.  Motherlove is a curious thing; it’s strange to think that the shock of my pregnancy with her was so upsetting to me, and it’s resulted in this little person who fills my heart.

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It’s hard to believe that in the next month or two, she’s likely to start sitting up by herself, and then crawling, and eating food that doesn’t come from me.  Sometimes I wish I could stop time and keep her a little baby.  This time is so fleeting.

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Scarlett @ Five Months

Another month, and she’s grown more beautiful, don’t you think?

 

(Sometimes I can’t believe she’s mine!)

 

 

Gosh, I hope those blue eyes stay blue.  But I suspect they’ll eventually turn green like Kevin’s and Finn’s did, and even mine.

 

I’ve come to the conclusion that, temperament-wise, she’s Joey’s clone as a baby.  Right down to the loud humming herself to sleep as she nurses.  Joey was a tough baby, but he ended up being the sweetest little boy you’d ever want to know.  So I have hope for Scarlett!  Not that she’s not sweet, but she’s tough – yes, still.

 

I know, the pictures make a liar out of me, huh?  Okay, she doesn’t cry all the time.  She’s happy when she’s getting attention.  And she’s got everyone in the house wrapped around her little finger.

 

Just stay my little baby, Scarlett.

Scarlett’s 4-month Well-Baby Checkup, and Our Pediatrician’s Curious Take on Autism and Vaccines

So Scarlett had her 4-month well-baby checkup this morning.  She weighs in at 11 pounds 10 ounces and is 24 inches long (or 2 feet tall, which is more fun to say).  She is perfect!

After the routine physical exam, the doc says to me, “So, still no vaccines?”  “Nope,” I say.  Okay, you’re not really surprised at this, coming from a home-birthing, cloth-diapering, extended breastfeeding mother, are you?  Not that not vaccinating necessarily goes hand in hand with those other things, but, well, it is true that “crunchy” parents (and I only consider myself to be “crispy”) tend to be less inclined to vaccinate their children, or at least to be choosy about which vaccines to go ahead with and on what sort of schedule.

Without going into a whole song and dance about our reasons for not vaccinating (because I wrote about it a while back here), I’ll just say briefly that, although our five older kids are vaccinated, Finn remains unvaccinated, and at least for now, so does Scarlett.

So here are some things the pediatrician had to say to me this morning (paraphrased):

  • First and foremost, autism is NOT caused by vaccines!
  • Autism is genetic, and by genetic, he means hereditary.  He said that he can almost always tell, by observation, which parent the kid got it from.
  • Autism is caused by parents not being connected enough to their kids.  (However, this is also a doctor who has been telling me since Kevin was a baby that babies should not sleep with their parents and parents should not pick their baby up every time he/she cries, and babies do best by being left to cry it out.)
  • He knows a kid (a patient?  Not sure . . .) who WAS vaccinated who caught meningitis from a kid who was NOT vaccinated.  “If he was vaccinated, how did he catch meningitis from someone who wasn’t vaccinated?” I asked.  “Vaccines aren’t perfect!” he exclaimed.  “Which is why you have to get as much of them as you can!”
  • There is a “family of autistics” who live in his neighborhood – a grandmother, a mom and a dad, their kids, and the mom’s sister who comes to visit occasionally.  They’re all autistic, according to the doc.  He did say that none of them has ever been diagnosed, but it is his feeling that they all have autism.  And apparently, the grandma is the “most severe” – and she was never vaccinated because she was born in China!  According to him, each generation in the family has received more vaccines, and yet the autism has lessened in severity with each generation.  No, he really said this!

After relaying all of this to me, he asked me again, “So, you’re sure you don’t want to vaccinate Scarlett today?”  “Yep,” I said.

Also, this is the same doc who insisted to me a month or two back that Finn’s eye turning inward is all in my imagination, it’s an “illusion,” but then Finn was diagnosed with strabismus by a pediatric ophthalmologist shortly thereafter.

Now you may be asking why we stick with this pediatrician!   Well, habit, I guess.  In all honesty, we’ve been with him for almost 16 years – since Kevin was born.  And generally I like him.  But it does seem that the older he gets (and he’s only a few years older than me!), the more radical his idea become, and the more we differ in our approach to certain things.  I guess I’ve learned to take it with a grain of salt.  Take what works, and leave the rest.  I’m okay going to him for routine stuff, but, yeah, obviously I don’t rely on everything he says.

As for vaccines, I’m not some nut job, and Jenny McCarthy is not my role model.  I wish people would give those of us who don’t vaccinate the benefit of the doubt, and instead of assuming we’re deranged, assume that we’ve given the issue careful thought, we’ve done our own research, and have perhaps just come to different conclusions than other parents have.  I don’t know what causes autism, but neither does anybody else to date.  When someone figures out what does cause autism and how it can be prevented, if the time ever comes that all vaccines are deemed completely safe for all children with no risk of side effects or neurological injury, when there is no longer any need for the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program – then come and talk to me about my parenting choices.

Scarlett @ Four Months

We now interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you . . . CUTENESS.

 

 

Her Irish heritage is really showing, I think, with her strawberry-blonde hair, blue-blue eyes, and peaches and cream complexion.

 

She’s growing bigger, though I don’t know how big, as she doesn’t go back to the pediatrician for a couple more weeks.  She’s outgrown most of her newborn clothes, although I’m still stuffing her into some 0-3 month stuff because I can’t stand how fast this is all going.

It seems like so long since we had a baby on the fast-track.  I learned to savor the creeping speed at which Finn met each milestone.  Sometimes I wish Scarlett would slow down.  Not that she’s doing any amazing tricks or anything, but day by day, her babyhood seems to be going by at warp speed.

Having Scarlett has given me lots of time to reminisce and ponder Finn’s babyhood, too, and in a way I am filled with regret at how much we worried, how much time we gave to therapists who didn’t make a difference anyway, how Finn was subjected to demoralizing evaluations and assessments, his progress plotted on paper and expressed in terms of deficiencies.  I wish we had done things differently with him.

 

 

Anyway, Scarlett.  I am lucky to get these wonderful, happy photos of her (and it takes work!  Lots of singing and dancing on my part.  Can you picture it?), because offstage, she remains one demanding, crabby little lady.  Her limit at being put down and left to her own devices to amuse herself is 7 minutes and 23 seconds before she starts screaming bloody murder.  Little diva.

Wouldn’t trade her for anything, though.  I am head over heels in love, and I’m not the only one.  She’s got everybody in this house wrapped around her chubby little finger.

 

 

 

Scarlett @ Three Months

Three months!!  Whooeee – how is it possible?  Before I know it, she’ll be dating!  Oy.

At three months, here’s what my little nugget is up to –

Still Little Miss Cranky Pants much of the time, although she is having more frequent and longer periods of just chillin’, cooing and gracing us with her lopsided grin.  She’s a tough baby – have I mentioned that?  I know these pictures make me look like a liar.  She still wants to be held almost all the time, and she doesn’t sleep on the go.  That means that when I’m out running errands with her (which is necessary a lot of the time), she doesn’t sleep, and then she gets so overtired that she just melts down and is a wreck.  I’ve successfully gotten her completely hooked on sleeping in her swing, although for the last two days she has napped in her bassinet (yay!  Fingers crossed that this is a new trend!).

Let me just stop there and have a quick word about Attachment Parenting.  I’m a big fan, a believer, in Attachment Parenting, to the extent that it’s possible.  And that is key – to the extent that it’s possible.  Hardcore AP just isn’t possible with this many kids – at least it isn’t for me.  I can’t sleep with her all the time, and I can’t wear her all the time, I just can’t.  We all do what we can, don’t we?

(And that reminds me, I’ve been meaning to sort my thoughts and write about why we moms give so much of a crap, anyway, about how other moms parent their kids.  Maybe I’ll get to that soon.)

Back to Miss Scarlett: She’s rolling from tummy to back and from back to tummy, and as you can see, she rocks a tutu and pearls.  I don’t know how much she weighs, but she’s a peanut, and is still in newborn clothes.

She had her first cold this past week.  I knew it was inevitable with all the other kids back to school and bringing cooties home.  Fortunately it was pretty mild and short-lived.  She did spike a fever for one night – and fevers in infants scare the crap out of me thanks to the twins both contracting meningitis when they were two months old.  But Scarlett was fine, so.

 

 

What else?  When I was pregnant with her, I meant to start pumping and giving her bottles within the first couple of weeks, but it just never happened.  So she’s 100% a boobie girl, which means I can’t leave her for more than an hour or two.  I remember this frustrating me with some of my other babies (none of them ever took kindly to bottles anyway, so it probably doesn’t make too much of a difference that I never even tried with Scarlett), but it doesn’t feel like I big deal this time around.  She’s only going to be a baby for such a short time.

 

 

As for me, three months later, I’m hanging in there.  Sometimes I still wonder if I might be dealing with some postpartum issues.  The crying jags still hit me from time to time, and they seem to come out of the blue, but they seem to have become less frequent.  I honestly don’t know if it’s hormonal, or just life stuff.  Probably a combination, but I’m dealing as best as I can.

I had a surprisingly hard time with my birthday this year . . . it’s funny – having a new baby should make me feel young, right?  But in some ways it just doesn’t.  Not that I feel old, exactly, but . . . I guess I’m at a point where I know my youth is truly behind me.  I have a hard time with passages – I always have.  And having this last baby at my age, it’s been such a gift, a bonus, but it’s also come with the knowledge that this will never, ever happen again, and that so many of the things you work towards and look forward to during the first  couple of decades of adulthood are just behind me, period.  Does that make sense?  It’s not that I’m not grateful for the bounty of my life, but there has been a sadness lately that so much of my life is behind me.

Blah.

I have up days and down days, and don’t we all anyway?

But Scarlett, she’s a peach.

 

 

A Review of Swaddle Blankets/Wraps

Having never really mastered the trick of swaddling an infant snug and secure with a garden-variety receiving blanket like they do in the hospital, I was happy to discover a product when Finn was an infant that made swaddling super easy even for someone who is all thumbs: the SwaddleMe blanket.  It worked really well for Finn, and he was a baby that demanded to be swaddled until he was probably 7 or 8 months old.

Having had such good luck with the SwaddleMe with Finn, when I found myself expecting another baby, I put a few SwaddleMe blankets on my shower registry (I had long ago gotten rid of Finn’s swaddle blankets, as well as most of all the other baby stuff, so absolutely sure was I that there would be no more babies for us).  As it turns out, Scarlett is also a baby who demands to be swaddled.  However, she’s a different sort of baby than Finn was; let’s just say she’s a lot more feisty.  The SwaddleMe worked okay for her, but it had some drawbacks.  Thankfully, I discovered that there are actually a number of different types of swaddlers on the market, so I decided to try a few of them out.  Here are my reviews on them.  You’re welcome.

SwaddleMe:

This is a pretty straightforward wrap: you tuck Baby’s legs into the pouch, wrap one side over the arms, and then the other side, and the whole thing is secured with velcro.  There is a lightweight stretchy cotton version for the warmer months, and a fleece version for colder months.  This is by far the most affordable swaddler, priced at around $13.

As I said, the SwaddleMe worked well for Finn, who, once wrapped tight, was pretty docile as I recall.  Scarlett, on the other hand, is pretty active, and strong, and although she seems to need to be swaddled in order to sleep (unless she’s snuggled up with Mommy, which just isn’t always possible), she manages to kick her feet out of the pouch on this one, and work her hands out through the top as well.  She was born with a nuchal arm, and I swear this girl is just determined to have her hands up by her face.  So the main problem we have with the SwaddleMe is that it just isn’t quite secure enough to contain her.  Accordingly, I probably wouldn’t recommend this one for especially active infants.

The product description says it’s for birth to 3 months, although if you have a small baby, you’ll be able to use it beyond that.  On the flip side, if you have an especially large baby, you probably won’t be able to use this for very long.

HALO Sleepsack Swaddle:

This one combines the genius of a sleep sack with a swaddler by way of “wings” attached to the sleep sack that wrap around Baby’s upper body and secure with velcro.  The pouch of the SwaddleMe is eliminated, and so, too, is the problem of Baby working her feet out of the wrap.  It’s very easy to secure: just pop Baby in, zip to close, and wrap the wings around her.  It seems to hold Scarlett securely enough, too, that she doesn’t work her hands out of the top.  The only drawback to this one, from our experience, based on our own baby’s particularities, is that it provides lots of room for Baby’s legs and feet to move around, and for babies who do better being swaddled tight from the neck down, this freedom of movement doesn’t always work so well.  Still, sometimes it works just fine for Scarlett, so I keep it on hand.  This one is priced at around $20, and is also available in both lightweight cotton and micro fleece models, and comes in sizes Preemie, Newborn, and Small for wearability up to 6 months.

Miracle Blanket:

So far, this one is our favorite, and I had never even heard of it until a commenter mentioned it here on my blog (thank you!).  What makes this swaddler unique are the inner flaps that secure Baby’s arms, and the extra long outer “wings” that really hold Baby secure.  There is no velcro or zipper on the Miracle Blanket; instead, the long wing is wrapped around and around Baby.  Like the SwaddleMe, Baby’s legs are contained in a pouch, so a super active baby can kick her way out, but this has only happened a couple of times so far with Scarlett.

I wouldn’t say this one lives up to its “miraculous” name, as Scarlett still fights sleep in it and often has to be picked up and re-wrapped a few times before she settles down, but as far as features and effectiveness, I like this one the best.

Priced at about $25, the Miracle Blanket is available only in stretchy cotton, and not microfleece.  The product description says it’s for birth to 14 weeks, but I’m thinking it can be used beyond 14 weeks for even an average-size infant.  Scarlett is just about 13 weeks, and admittedly on the smallish size, and she still has plenty of room to grow in hers.

Woombie:

When I came across this one online, I loved the idea of it: simple design, easy to use, secure, with no way for Baby to work either her feet or hands out of it.  It is by far the easiest to use: just place your baby in, zip up, snap, and voila!  Scarlett didn’t like it, though, and neither did I.

The Woombie is supposed to mimic the close quarters of the womb, and it does hold baby very securely.  I found it difficult to get her arms into a comfortable position, though, and the trouble is that once you zip it up, her arms are stuck in whatever position they ended up in when you stuffed her into the thing.  My main concern, however, is the tightness of the neck opening – it’s too tight in my estimation.  I’m actually kind of surprised they would make the neck opening so small.  We did get the smallest size Woombie, which might explain it, but it’s supposed to fit up to 13 pounds, and Scarlett is well under 13 pounds, so . . .

Priced at about $27, this is the most expensive one we tried.  It’s available in different models and sizes up to 6 months.

And there you have it.  I’m sure there are even more swaddlers on the market, but these are the ones we’ve tried.

Tune in next week for my review of baby snot suckers!  Just kidding 😉

Complicated

Isn’t it funny how we mothers have probably never been more in love with our children than before they were born, and during their early infancies?

Think about it:

Before they’re born, they’re mysterious and magical, full of possibility.  As mine grew inside me and my belly swelled accordingly, I was filled with awe.  And the kicks and rolls and squirms, they rendered me spellbound.  Who was this child?  What would he or she be like?  What would they look like?  They were a part of me, floating along in sync with me, real but surreal.

And then they are born.  Tiny and soft and unspoiled, with their blinking, doe eyes, taking everything in, considering it all.  And even though they cry and are utterly needy and demanding, it’s pure and uncomplicated.  Scarlett is difficult, but all she wants is loving arms to hold her, a cozy place to sleep, and some warm milk in her belly.

It will be awhile before things begin to get complicated, before we start clashing, before the battles start – battles over what they can wear to school, what I made for dinner, whether I served their cereal to them in the wrong bowl in the morning, and how mean I am for making them clean up their room.  It will be awhile yet before they start favoring Daddy because he’s more fun.  It will be awhile before they let me down, and I let them down.

But that will come in time; it always does.  And then I wonder how it is that my kids – despite my best efforts – behave the way they do sometimes; I wonder where I went wrong.  I feel like a failure.  And I wonder sometimes if these battles that feel constant and endless are causing permanent damage to my relationship with them – will we be close when they’re all grown up?  Or will they despise me?  Or will they just tolerate me?

And would I have had kids if I had known – no, if I had believed – it was going to be so damn hard?  An impossible question to answer.  That’s the thing: none of us believes it’s going to be so hard.  We all picture the soft, sweet baby, and maybe even the mischievous toddler, but not the kids who pretend they don’t hear you, or the screaming little girl, or the defiant boy, or the smart-mouthed teenager.  Oh no – that’s not going to be our kids.  That only happens to parents who don’t know how to parent.

So maybe I don’t know how to parent.

For now, I’ll savor the uncomplicated dance Scarlett and I share.  While it lasts.

Two Months and Four Years

Today Scarlett is two months old.  That went fast!

Aside from being Grumpy Girl a whole lot of the time, she’s pretty much the most beautiful baby to ever grace the planet, don’t you think?

 

 

(I say that with the greatest humility, of course.)

 

Check out those blue, blue peepers.  If she’s anything like her mama and both of her originally blue eyed brothers, though, they’ll turn green within a few years.

 

Trivia: red is my favorite color.  That’s partly why we named her Scarlett.  If Finn had been a girl, he would have been named Ruby.

 

 

Completely unenhanced: no Photoshop, spray tan, Botox, collagen, or cheek implants.

 

 

 

 

She had her two-month checkup this morning, and all’s well.  She’s gained almost two pounds and two inches since she was born – all on mama’s milk.

Finn also had his four-year checkup today.

 

He weighs a whopping 29 pounds now – which is small, yes, but actually on par with all my other kids at the same age.  I make ’em little.

The one issue I wanted to discuss with our pediatrician was the fact that lately, Finn’s left eye has been turning in noticeably.  It’s intermittent, not constant, and it’s not necessarily when he’s tired – it happens at all times throughout the day.

Well, our pediatrician actually insisted that it’s only an illusion caused by the wide nasal bridge associated with Down syndrome!  Even when Finn’s eye was totally turning in right there in the exam room, the doc insisted it really wasn’t, it just looked like it was.  Seriously, I like our doctor a lot, and we’ve been with him for a long time because I like him so much, but . . . what the FUCK?  If it were just an illusion caused by the wide nasal bridge, then why is it only a recent development?  And why is it just the one eye?  Come on.  And, we live with the kid – we see him all the time, and Michael and I have both noticed his eye doing this wonky thing lately.  The doctor is going to spend twenty minutes with him and decide we’re just imagining it?

Anyway, he’s going to refer Finn to a pediatric ophthalmologist anyway.  Pfft.

Also, he got his neck x-ray yesterday to screen for atlantoaxial instability (AAI).  No word yet.

Other than that, everything is good.

 

Mwah!