Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Too Good To Eat

Now that Adler is eight months old, we have two months of "solid" food experiences under our banana-crusted belt and I'm confident in my decision to revert to an all-liquid diet. 

Not for him-- for me.

I made homemade baby food for all of my boys, and although I had to sacrifice several of the nerves in my left hand to a new chef's knife and a dense butternut squash, I have enjoyed making it myself and exposing them to a large variety of foods and interesting combinations of flavors. 

Now don't get me wrong-- this task has in no way reduced how picky my big boys are.  Eating gloppy spoonfuls of parsnip set them up to prefer processed food just as much as kids raised on the Gerber alternatives.  But I always felt that I was doing something right for their health in addition to saving money.  But Adler has proven me wrong.

Back in November when he tried pureed avocado for the first time, he attacked it excitedly after months of enviously staring down the food on our plates.  I was confident he was ready and busily starting stockpiling frozen ice cube trays of different foods that he would surely eat with a smile on his face and a smear of peach on his cheek.

In reality, we haven't matched the vigor of that first feeding.  Instead, mealtime reads more like a bad Shel Silverstein poem:

There's a baby there
in that plaid high chair.
He's 'sposed to eat his baby fare.
But instead his jaw
will do nothing but gnaw
on Mom's fingers, shirt, and the dog's furry paw!
He seems to want that fruit in the dish
and knows eating it would grant Mom's only wish.

But instead he's a faker- not a wish maker,
and Mommy is his only taker.
He'll open for the spoon, 
but just as soon
Out he blows peas from here to the moon!
They're in her ears, her hair, 
in his underwear!
Only to be found later when someone else stares.
She hopes that this too will pass,
but the truth is the baby's a pain in the--

--Wait, something went wrong there.

Honestly, it was funny the first time Adler realized he could blow a raspberry while simultaneously not slurping carrot.  But after the second, third and nineteenth times of having to change my clothes and re-wash my hair, it became very disheartening to see that only a teaspoon of food had left the dish yet 3/4 of a cup was inexplicably scraped from my formerly clean sweater.

Breast-feeding makes this problem even worse. All of the books tell you to nurse before giving solid foods, but when his belly is full of milk he is even less likely to take in any food.  The reverse is equally as problematic, however.  Waiting until he's very hungry (who's a glutton for punishment? I am, I am!) only ensures he won't nurse a sufficient amount to keep me from waddling around like a neglected dairy cow.

Since our doctor has advised against giving Adler a break from solids and reverting to milk, I may have to adopt the liquid diet myself.

Photo credit.
You know, for moral support.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sick Day

My blog post for this week got delayed (despite my best intentions) when a stomach bug struck down my eldest earlier this week.  Every time one of my boys gets sick with the flu or any other digestive ailment, my mind flashes to last winter and the nearly three months my family spent passing one virus back and forth.  But the worst part of having a sick child, by far, is the sick day.  If you are a parent, you know what I mean.  In order to protect the other students in your kid's class, you are forced to keep them home and subject yourself to the same germs for at least 24 hours.

You know, because holding the bucket wasn't risky enough.

What I learned this week, however, was that the sick day is almost worse when your child doesn't seem that sick at all.  For you to better understand my predicament, here is a breakdown of 2015's very first sick day.

I woke up to hands all over my face.  Had those hands been washed?  Certainly not.

"Mom, I don't feel good. I mean, my stomach feels really sick."

I tried to triage the situation by asking Cael if he thought he was really in danger of throwing up.  As he gagged and said "yes", I did my best to ignore the fact that he was leaning over me in bed and actively trying not to vomit.

Cael unloaded on my bedroom floor.  I told him to rush to the bathroom to avoid an even bigger mess, and instead, he stared at the floor blankly for five or six seconds and threw up on the carpet again.

I discovered that we were out of carpet cleaner.

While Joel assigned Cael to a sofa and a bucket, I scrubbed with hand soap.  Then with Lysol wipes, followed by hand sanitizer.  Then I picked up the rag I used to clean the carpet and put it in the hamper, where it could nestle closely to all of our clothing and towels.

I wouldn't consider that I contaminated my clean hands until two days later.

Adler woke up for the day, so after just getting back to sleep, I rolled myself out of bed and went to feed the baby.  I could hear Cael explaining to Graham that he "wasn't really sick", but Daddy said he had to come upstairs and stay away.

I dished out a bowl of cereal for Graham, and both kids were immediately under foot.  
(When I was growing up, we always kept a small canister of cat treats nearby in case we couldn't locate our pet. One quick shake, and he would come running.  My children remind me of my old cat, Sammy, in this regard, except the main difference is that the cat pooped in a dirty box of sand and was still neater and more sanitary than Cael and Graham.)

It took seven minutes to convince Cael that it was not a good idea for him to eat a big bowl of cereal.  I have learned that, when sick, he alternates between feeling on top of the world and deathly ill, so I wouldn't let him ingest anything until at least four hours had gone by, which judging by his reaction, must violate the Geneva Conventions.  This would have been the time to ask him to reveal his secrets, but I didn't want to hear any stories involving pilfered pantry treats or how he made his brother drink toilet water. 

Cael assured me that he was completely, totally, not sick.

Cael filled the bucket.

Someone wanted french toast sticks.

I managed to convince Cael to rest on the sofa for a couple of hours by giving him free reign of the iPad, which I'm convinced was really conceived of by a mother of three or more children that got tired of burning chicken and just needed 15 minutes of peace.  Incidentally, the same person must have dreamed up the iPhone and iPod, because every parent knows that if one child gets a device while the other does not, the sun will crash into the moon.  

Just a little astronomy fact for you.

Photo credit here.
Someone still wanted french toast sticks, so I agreed to let him try some banana at noon if he hadn't gotten sick again.

Cael tried to convince me that 11:04 is noon.

Cael inhaled his banana half and threw a bucket-sized fit when I wouldn't let him wash it down with lots of milk.  We talked a lot about which foods are gentle on an upset tummy and I felt confident that he understood why it would only be safe for him to eat certain things.

I caught Cael eating cashews straight from the can.

When I responded with, "Cael, no!  Your stomach can't handle salted cashews right now!", he reacted by spitting out the chewed up bits of nut right back into the can.

I added cashews to the grocery list.

After watching one movie, one TV show and playing two games of solitaire on the iPad,  Cael had his fill of quarantine and decided it would be a great idea to play with Adler.  He invented a great game where he put my baby's hand in his mouth and pretended to eat it, and then when he took it out, Adler, who is beginning to mimic behaviors, put the same hand in his own mouth.  Cool. 

After repeated requests for more food, I gave Cael the other half of his banana with a small cup of Gatorade.  Cael finished it in record time and begged for some blueberry yogurt on the side.

If he couldn't have yogurt, could he have some bacon?

If he couldn't have bacon, could he have a pop tart?

If he couldn't have a pop tart, could he have some hot chocolate?

I dished out the yogurt.

Because it was clear he wouldn't be getting sick again, I gave Cael a normal dinner on the condition that he would rest afterward and let his stomach digest.

I dug out band-aids to cover the two scratches Graham received when Cael wrestled him to the floor and he was gouged by staples on the underside of the sofa. 

Against my better judgement, I allowed Cael and Graham to continue playing together. I took the opportunity to get some laundry done, and when I returned to the room, I found the boys giggling as Graham stood inside Cael's sick bucket and Cael drummed on it with the stick-end of a hobby horse. 

I spent several minutes hoping there are exceptions to the theory of "survival of the fittest".

I finally got both boys tucked into bed, and Cael begged for me to leave the bucket next to his bed, because even though he'd been fine for nearly 12 hours, he "might still decide to throw up".

After finishing the laundry, dishes, and taking a bath, I finally climbed into bed, saying a prayer that no one else would get sick and feeling very grateful that the next day would be easier.

I drifted off, disturbingly realizing that the school's 24 hour rule meant that Cael could not go back the next morning...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Stuck In A Tail Spin

"Hey Mom, did you see what I can do?"

"What is that, Graham?"

"I can spin this coin.  I think I am the best spinner ever.  When I die, someone might be better.  But when I'm alive I'm the best."

"You are pretty good.  What side did it land on?"

"It's on tails.  Mom, why do they call it heads and tails?  There isn't a tail on the back."

"No, but that's just a way of remembering what is on the back side.  Plus, it's more polite than saying 'heads or butts'."

"Okay.  If I flip this and it lands on butts again-- I mean tails, can I have a cookie?"

"Sure.  You flip it."

"Ugh, it's heads.  Not fair!"

"Yep, it actually is fair.  You had an even chance of getting heads or tails."

"I think I need something that actually has a head AND a butt.  But Oscar is too wiggly to spin."

"Yep, maybe you'll just have to do a job to earn that cookie, Graham.  ...Graham?  Hello?"

"Would Adler get hurt if he landed on his head?"

"Just take the cookie."

Tomorrow we master "rock, paper, scissors".

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Seizing Hypochondria

I have a problem.

Scratch that-- I have a problem baby.  It's not his demeanor or anything, in fact he's an unbelievably smiley and happy guy when he's not demanding my complete and total attention whilst I make dinner, break up an argument between his brothers, apply a band-aid, and stop the dog from eating too much play-doh.

It's not even a lack of sleep.  Since we started sleep training him, he's back to snoozing through the night, and even though the kid won't nap longer than 20-30 minutes during the day, I'm rested enough to handle the frustration without resorting to spiking my morning Diet Dr. Pepper.

In fact, the problem is the baby himself.  Perhaps it was his questionable gestation that makes me examine his every move, but since his birth, Adler has turned me into a hypochondriacal parent.  

What is that spot on his leg?
Is that spot a rash?
Can a rash cause gangrene?
How often does gangrene require amputation?
How much does a leg amputation cost?
Is WalMart hiring?

In my defense, several of my concerns about Adler have been rational (not like what turned out to be a fleck of dried banana on his outer thigh, and thankfully did not require amputation).  But after investigating his restricted grown in utero, his potentially fused skull, his umbilical hernia, his potential reflux and his occasionally red and puffy eye, it should have come as no surprise to me when Joel and I found ourselves back at the University of Iowa Hospital, trying to distract ourselves as we waited in Pediatric Neurology.  

Adler getting a skull x-ray in September 2014

If you read last week's year in review post, you may have caught the mention of a pediatric EEG, but what I didn't share were the details of that visit.  Nearly two months ago, I began noticing my problem baby exhibiting some strange behaviors.  When he would get excited or upset, he would tense up the muscles in his upper arms and shoulders while making a strange grimace that appeared to be involuntary.

The first time was kinda funny.  The second time was weird.  But by the third, fourth and twenty-ninth time, I knew something wasn't right.  By the time we visited our family doctor, who agreed that these weren't normal movements for a six month-old and gave us a referral to a neurologist, Adler was making these small spasms up to fifteen times a day.  So what did I do?

I googled.

I know, I know, hitting the internet was probably a poor decision, but I wanted to know if there were other babies out there making the same movements and what diagnoses had been given.  And, subsequently, how many of those parents had resorted to spiking their Diet Dr. Peppers from the stress of it all.

After doing some reading and watching some YouTube videos of children with the same problem (and one about a giant snake that can open doors) I was left with two conditions to consider.  The first was Infantile Spasms, which are much more cyclical than Adler's movements, more severe, and terribly damaging.  Thankfully, I was quite confident that he was not suffering from these spasms, but something more innocuous, which lead me to Benign Myoclonus of Infancy.  (Check out this confirmed case to see the similarities.) And the more I read, the more lightbulbs started to go off.

"Benign myoclonus of early infancy... a paroxysmal phenomenon of the first 2 years of life which occurs in neurologically healthy infants during wakefulness, and is usually triggered by excitement or frustration.  ...the phenomenon is characterized by a shudder-type, paroxysmal motor manifestation involving mainly the trunk and sometimes the head, associated with tonic limb contractions of variable intensity, from hardly noticeable to more sustained."

They could have written, "This is what Adler Foreman has."

"...(In studies,) the EEG counterpart never showed modifications, the polygraphic study demonstrated a brief tonic limb contraction. The clinical manifestation should not be confused with the spasms of epileptic infantile spasms syndrome, or with tonic reflex seizures of early infancy. Although the phenomenon is already widely known, its polygraphic recording is rarely reported in literature."  (Taken from the abstract of this article.)

When our appointment time came, I, with all of my advanced knowledge and education in neurology and epilepsy, was certain of what was plaguing my little one.  The doctor, on the other hand, wasn't exactly sure what "Benign Myoclonus of Infancy" was, or that Adler wasn't just playing me like a fiddle.  

Like a very expensive fiddle with a high insurance out-of-pocket maximum.

But just to be safe, the doctor had us return for an hour-long infant EEG, which may sound fascinating but is little more than an emotional roller coaster with very smelly adhesive.  Of course, Adler did not have an episode during the EEG, and I was contacted later that afternoon to let me know that the results were normal, no further testing was needed, and his episodes must have been behavioral.  

Translation:  Back off, Mom, your kid is fine.

I always knew he was fine, actually.  Benign Myoclonus of Infancy tapers off shortly after it emerges, and the children it affects go on to have completely normal lives with completely normal brains and completely exasperated mothers, just like everyone else.

So while the medical community may disagree, I will go on believing that I hit the proverbial nail on the head.

And what a sweet, healthy head it is.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Class of 2014

I'm back!  What I had planned to be a much-needed week off after Thanksgiving turned into a juggernaut of activity that left me with almost no time to blog, type, or even think.  But as many times as I fall delinquent with this site, the fact remains that I have dedicated too many hours and cataloged too many memories to let it disappear into the abyss of the Internet along with chathouses and Rickrolling.

Since we need to catch up, what better way than with our annual high school yearbook-style superlatives?  So let's look back at some highlights of 2014 , including some events I may not have shared yet!

Biggest Bully - Between January and April of 2014, my family passed around a very ferocious strain of the stomach flu more times than I dished out Pepto Bismol.  Between my sister's household, my household, and every person I encountered over the course of three months, we moaned our way through 14 rounds of digestive warfare before waving the white flag when spring came.

Best (Worst) Hair - Joel managed to take a simple "No Shave November" challenge to new heights by not shaving his beard until last April, and then removing slowly and in pieces to further embarrass me.  By the time his face had returned to normal, he'd donned mutton chops, multicolored rubber bands, and questionable mustaches.  I donned a very red face.

Cutest Sideshow - Cael debuted some top-notch biceps at his Kindergarten Circus last May.  As much as I like to separate myself from many mommy cliches, my chest felt a little tight as Cael, dressed as a bodybuilder, walked out proudly and clueless as to the fact that his muscles were around his neck.

Coolest Newcomer - Adler James Foreman was born on March 24th, 2014 at 10:34am.  Weighing in at only 5lbs, he immediately became not only the smallest family member, but the biggest deal.

Middlest Kid - Joel and I were finally able to exhale after a few weeks at home with Adler and it became clear that Graham would suffer no ill effects from being the token "middle child".  Instead of falling into the not big/not little trap, Graham created his own niche as the snuggliest member of the Foreman clan.

Most Disastrous - As if our house doesn't flood enough, last summer's flash flood brought a few inches of water to our basement and opened the, ahem, flood gates for a much needed but unexpected home renovation.  After one commercial clean-up, two new windows, one new wall, a lot of black mold, all new paint and furniture, yard grading and drainage tiling, we were left with a new basement, a lot of debt, and an ongoing investigation into the $1,000 the cleaning company stole from us.

Most Entertaining - This.  When they are not fighting, this.

Most Patriotic - Cael's cake takes, well, the cake for this one.  After considering dozens of birthday cake themes that I was dreading, (how does one make a 'water' cake?) Cael decided that he wanted an America cake for his 7th birthday, and I was more than happy to oblige.  Until about 2am, that is, when my efforts to craft Lady Liberty's likeness in fondant ended with a statue not holding her torch up proudly, but sagging to her right as if to say, "it's okay here, but you'd be better off over there".  

Cutest Couple - We've been blessed with not only three wonderful kids, but one amazing dog that is very gentle and loves the kids nearly as much as we do.  But while his love may appear equal, a special connection between Adler and Oscar seems to be developing.  Most of the time, unfortunately, that connection starts with Oscar's tongue and ends with Adler's face. 

Proudest Walker - Graham felt like an official outdoorsman last November when we attended his preschool Lantern Walk.  After spending weeks preparing performances and a handmade lantern, we marched around the woods in the dark for an hour before settling in for hot cider and s'mores.  Graham learned the value of a warm pair of gloves, and I learned that even in my zipped pocket, my phone will choose the most inopportune time to come alive and loudly play a One Direction song that I swear I didn't download.

Worst Effort - As much as I have always enjoyed creating a Christmas card to share with our family and friends, I really dragged my feet this year.  Despite getting the card printed way back in November, I discovered that there were only enough stamps to mail out the first half of the stack.  So what is to be done?  Post it here and hope there are no hard feelings.

Brainiest - Because of Adler's questionable development before birth, we have always taken a closer look at his baby idiosyncrasies.  Back in September, that concern led to us to Pediatric Neurosurgery for a skull x-ray to rule out Craniosynostosis.  But Adler wasn't done scaring the pants off of me, and just a few days before Christmas we found ourselves back at the University of Iowa for an infant EEG due to potential seizures.  We got good news from the doctor and a killer halloween costume idea for next year.

Stickiest Situation - My husband was blessed with many gifts-- one being iron-clad confidence, and the other an unstoppable desire to tease.  Perhaps no one sees this as much as Joel's students who have memorized his favorite mantra: Foreman Always Wins.  So I did what any loving wife would do and ordered 8 sheets of custom stickers to win the award for Most Creative Gifter this Christmas.  That's right, I'm a Foreman too...

Here's hoping you had a great holiday and will experience a wonderful new year!

Click here for my gift to you in 2015!