Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thar she blows!

Micah has added a new trick to his repertoire this week! Naturally, there is a story that I must tell before I explain Micah's newest trick. We cook meals for Micah, and 2-3 times each day, we feed him something hot/warm. This morning I made french toast. I quickly whipped it up, flipped it onto a plate, slathered it with some yogurt and applesauce, and brought it over to the table where Micah was anxiously awaiting the opportunity to start shoving food in his mouth. If I was a more patient person, I would finish cooking the food and set it aside to cool for a bit before I covered it with yogurt and applesauce and tried to serve it to my son. Or, perhaps I should be better organized and start making breakfast 10-15 minutes earlier so that Micah is not jumping around and anxious for his food while it is piping hot.

Regardless, I sat down across from my son with the piping hot french toast, a knife and a fork. As is my habit, I sliced the first row of toast into a 1/4 - 1/2 inch strip and cut it into bite-sized pieces. I then picked up the first piece to test the temperature against my lip, and I quickly determined it was probably too warm for Micah (even if it won't burn him, Micah does not like his food too warm - he'll just spit it out if the temperature is off). So I started to blow a bit on the toast to cool it off. I tested it again and handed the french toast piece to Micah. He smiled, looked at me, carefully brought the piece of toast to his mouth....and started to blow on it!! He has been doing this at every meal lately (and with almost every bite of food). He likes to mimic mommy blowing on his food! I think he first did this a few days ago, and it just makes me laugh every single time. Of course, if it really was hot, he would burn himself since he usually grabs it with his hands and puts it straight to his lips and blows on the food while it touches his mouth. But, hey, he is learning, right?

Micah appears to have 6 teeth now - I believe he has now cut two more teeth on the top on either side of his front teeth. I think he may be getting ready to cut some additional teeth, but he really makes it impossible to check his gums too closely. If I try putting my finger in his mouth, he usually draws blood. I get the best look when I hang him upside down and he laughs, but there is only so long I can keep him upside down and laughing while I inspect!

Today and tomorrow are busy work days for me - I'm off to meetings downtown (I have a client in town) and again all day tomorrow. I wish it wasn't such a hassle to get to my meetings!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Checking in on Twoey

Today I had another appointment with the maternal fetal medicine specialist. I was just scheduled for a cervical length check and a quick consultation with the doctor to discuss my contractions. I'm happy to report that all went well - my cervix remains around 3.5-3.7 cm long, so there has not been any change since my last check. While ideal is over 4.0 cm, they are happy as long as I stay above 3.0 cms.

Much to my surprise, they decided to do another quick ultrasound of my baby girl to check her heartbeat. She is currently breech (well, butt-down). I thought she had flipped in the last day because I have been feeling her kicking (actually, it turns out punching) up higher. We actually got a beautiful little 3D picture of her face! She is still a bit young for the 3D technology, so her features were a touch blurred, but I think she might look a bit like Micah already! Yes, I'm sure NO ONE else will be able to see that from these pictures, but hey, I'm a proud mama! What do you think?

I then had a brief consultation with the doctor. My "regular" doctor there is the head of the maternal fetal medicine center, but he was out of town on vacation. I saw another doctor who was on duty today. I am certain that all of the doctors at this practice are competent, but, unfortunately, this one really does not know my history and only barely skimmed my file. We talked about my contractions, but she basically responded that as long as my cervix holds steady, they just don't care about the contractions. I tried to ask when I should worry about them and call/seek additional medication, but I do not feel like she gave me a good answer. She then asked if I considered getting the 17P shots (a type of progesterone shot administered weekly to help prevent pre-term labor). I said that I had discussed that with the other doctor early on this pregnancy, and he recommended against it because he felt it was unlikely to help my situation because the fibroid was the source of the contractions. She shrugged and said that was a possibility, but that the shots might help if the contractions had nothing to do with the fibroid. She then said that the shots are the most effective when started around 16 weeks, and since I'm already at 22 weeks, they may not even help at this point.

So...I have a decision to make. The doctor submitted the request for the 17P shots to the insurance company. If I am approved, I have to decide whether or not to take them.

  • They may reduce the contractions.
  • They may help me carry Twoey to term without other medications and horrible/scary bouts of contractions.
  • If I try to wait it out until the contractions are worse and I experience cervical changes, it would be too late. These shots are meant to be preventive so I do not have to deal with bedrest or contractions or oral medications or the discomfort (if it works).
  • I'm trying to think of more, but I think I'm out!
  • I'm needle phobic - a shot every week is a bit overwhelming for me to think about. I know I can get through it if it is best for the baby, but I have to believe that to really make this happen.
  • It may not help at all and I could put myself through the needle torture for nothing.
  • Side effects - can include vomiting and nausea (already a problem for me), headaches, dizziness, swelling, and other issues I'd prefer to avoid. Not everyone has side effects, but I'm concerned because I tend to be very hormone-sensitive (and let's be honest - I'm sure my needle phobia is playing into this fear, too).
  • It may work so well that it could cause me to be overdue or need to be induced when the time comes (an issue again because of my needle-phobia).
  • It may be unnecessary treatment - I may not end up having an issue at all with pre-term labor this pregnancy, and last pregnancy I managed just fine on the oral medications. Even if I have a repeat of last time, I could still carry to term.
Anyone have any input?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

14 months

On Valentine's Day, Micah turned 14 months old. I'm amazed how the time is just flying by, but I think I say that every month. Over the past month, I think Micah really has become a "little man" - or at least a full-blown toddler. He walks everywhere now - he almost never crawls. He is fairly sturdy and I am constantly surprised by how much trouble he can get into. He has recently discovered the tupperware cabinet, and his new favorite pasttime is defying our "safety" knobs on the range and removing the range knobs below the child-proof safety casings. Every day, he seems to be learning something new.

To be honest, we did not do much that was exciting for either Micah's birthday or Valentine's Day. We were finally dug out from the latest round of snow on Thursday, and Friday morning we hit the road to travel to New Jersey to visit DH's family and celebrate his brother's 50th birthday. Unfortunately, as is our norm, we left about an hour later than planned. Micah was really very good - he was well behaved and quickly fell asleep. Due to our poor planning, we had to stop for gas about 1 hour into our trip. Naturally, we woke Micah up, so we decided to head in to the rest area a bit early and get some lunch. Micah was much less happy for the remaining part of the trip - he refused to fall asleep, and was clearly bored. He decided, once again, to spend his time sticking his fingers down his throat and making himself gag. After our last puking incident, I was afraid to let him continue. Of course, he quickly felt it was a game and he loved the attention. DH ended up moving into the back seat to keep Micah's hands occupied. We were quite frustrated that he would not take a nap for the remainder of the trip.

We arrived at DH's brother's house in the afternoon and had some time to play with everyone. Micah refused his afternoon nap, but he was actually very well-behaved. Our biggest scare of the day happened when his Aunt brought him upstairs to play. I'm still unclear as to who was supposed to be paying attention to him, but the end result was that Micah took a header down a flight of stairs. That was one of the WORST sounds I have ever heard - I heard the scream as they noticed he was falling and I heard the tumbling. I ran to meet him, and when I got there he was on his back at the foot of the stairs. I scooped him up and comforted him, checked for blood and injuries, and probably cursed a bit at DH. I noticed something white in his mouth. At first I thought he lost one of his few teeth, but I quickly realized there was no blood anywhere. I then realized he had a pill of some kind in his mouth. So, not only did they let my baby fall down the stairs, they let him eat some kind of pill, too. I was NOT happy about the situation. Thankfully, other than a bit of a bruise on his eye and a small bump on his forehead, he seemed just fine. I think his fall was cushioned a bit by the carpet, and luckily he bumped all the way down the stairs, so the final crash to the floor was sort of...lessened by the prior bumping, if that makes any sense. I gave Micah his sippy cup of milk and he cuddled nice and close to me for a bit. He immediately stopped crying and went back to his normal happy self. These kinds of injuries horrify me - I have nightmares and I always imagine tragic results to falls. I don't know how many more of these kinds of falls my heart can handle!

We ordered Chinese food for dinner (turns out, Micah hates Chinese food - he threw most of it on the ground). Right around 7:30, Micah started to melt down, so we put him to bed a bit early. He fell asleep rather quickly, and nlike our last visit, Micah actually slept through the night until 7:30 in the morning. DH was wonderful and woke up with him, fed him breakfast and kept him entertained until I made it downstairs at 8:30. Micah had a great morning playing with his cousins, and he ended up going down for his nap right on time and slept for about 1 1/2 hours. I got him dressed and ready for the birthday party. We headed out around noon to meet everyone.

Micah was great at the restaurant. He smiled at everyone, he tried running around all over the place, and he sat in his high chair and ate a fair amount of food (especially bread). He was able to spend some time with his grandparents and cousins and even sat a bit with his other aunt and uncle. After a few hours he started to get bored and cranky. Around 3:15 or so, we hit meltdown again - it was definitely nap time. We left a bit early and drove him back home, and Micah took a great nap.

Because we were concerned about the weather report (and more snow), we decided to head back home Saturday night. Our ride home was rather quick and uneventful, and Micah transferred easily into his crib. Unfortunately, when we arrived home, we realized there had been an....avalanche. All of the snow from our roof slid down and completely filled in the path DH had previously dug out. We had to climb over mountains of snow over 2 feet high to get in the house, and poor DH had to spend another few hours shoveling us back out again the next morning.

Sunday was Micah's actual 14 month birthday and Valentine's Day. I don't even think we left the house. DH did remember to get me a small box of chocolates and say "Happy Valentine's Day" but I think we spent most of the day watching the Olympics, playing with Micah and napping. We did not even eat dinner together. Romantic, huh? And the worst part was I just didn't care. Nor did I even think of a Valentine's Day gift for him. I think I'm just exhausted after everything going on the past month or so.

As for milestones - Micah is walking, talking and interacting. He claps when he likes things (especially singing and music) and he will say words like "yay" and mimic us sometimes. He loves to "sing" the Itsy Bitsy Spider (to be fair, he does the hand motions and expects someone else to do the singing). He is incredibly picky about food, but he is loving feeding himself with a fork. We have tried the spoon (well, if I try giving him yogurt, he steals the spoon) but he is not quite as adept at that yet. He understands the concept, but still tends to wear most of the food on his shirt and cannot resist sticking his hands into the bowl of food. Micah will play games - he takes a ball and will play catch, he chases the dog, he likes us to chase him, he plays music (like the kazoo and his toy piano) and he loves his toy computer. He has a truly stubborn streak - he will throw a fit if he cannot get his way now. He keeps trying to steal the dog's food and he sticks his hands in her water bowl - disgusting! He gets really angry when I pull him away, and he is definitely inclined to throw temper tantrums when he doesn't get what he wants. I think the terrible twos will start early with us!

Luckily, Micah is simply adorable. He smiles and plays and he is saying more and more every day. Last night, I had to go out to a meeting at 7. I helped DH give Micah a bath before I left, and as I was leaving I said "bye bye" to Micah and he immediately responded and said "bye bye." I waved and started to leave, and then Micah, totally unprompted, said "night night" to me! I melted AGAIN. He understood it was bedtime and wanted to say good night to me. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to stay as he shouted night night to me while I walked down the stairs and out the door.

I am amazed everyday at how much I love this little person. He has changed my world, and I barely remember life before the past 14 months. He brings so much joy to my life, and my heart swells more and more with love as every minute passes. I worry so much for him and about him, too. I can feel my heart flutter every time he shoots me one of those lopsided grins, and even when he is being stubborn and bad and cranky, I just feel like grinning because he is so adorable and sweet. I love watching him learn and grow, and I love to see the joy and happiness spread across his face every time he sees me...or the dog...or his Daddy...or his grandparents. I'm so proud of him when he insists on doing something himself (like feeding himself with a fork) and I am astounded at how much he has developed since that first day in the hospital 14 months ago.

It is hard to imagine that we are about to add one more bundle of joy to our lives. I worry about how that will affect Micah and hope we can make Twoey feel just as loved and give both of them all the time and attention they will each need and deserve. I am looking forward to the months ahead to see all that Micah continues to learn and do.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blizzard of 2010 Part 2

I'm sick of snow. If I never see another snowflake in my entire life, it might be too soon. We got about 8 inches of snow the first weekend in February. Not really a huge deal - just kind of a pain, especially since it nearly kept me from my grandmother's funeral. Things cleared out relatively quickly, but the snow did not have a chance to melt before the blizzard hit last week. It snowed last weekend from Friday through Saturday - we had over 30 inches, and it was just awful. There were hundreds of thousands of people in the area without power. Luckily, we were fine, but my parents were without electricity for several days. DH got us plowed out late Saturday night by the rescue squad (so he could go do his emergency response work), and then on Sunday he went and "rescued" my parents and brought them back here after nearly 48 hours without electricity.

It was actually a fun evening (for being snowed-in). The Superbowl is also an anniversary of sorts for DH and me - we met at a Superbowl party in 2005. Micah was in his football pajamas in honor of the Superbowl, and we all watched the game together. He LOVED the half-time show - he was definitely rocking out to The Who. He was very cute as he clapped and tried to sing. My mom was actually humming a song, and Micah kept trying to copy her. My mom and I gave him a bath before bed, and we brought him back downstairs to play for a bit before bed. As I brought him upstairs to go to sleep, my parents both said "night night" to him, and much to our surprise and pleasure, he responded by saying "night night" right back! We said it a few more times, and so did he - he now has a new word in his vocabulary!

The next morning (Monday), the power was restored to my parents' house and we were able to return them home! The local government and schools were all closed, so there was not much going on anywhere in the area. Micah's daycare was canceled, and we were trapped at home with no place to go. DH spent the day shoveling snow at my parents' house, running errands and taking care of a few things. Unfortunately, power was still not restored to all the residents in the area, and very few of the side streets were plowed. The main roads were still a mess, and there was panic throughout the area as predictions for the next day's snow storm were reaching 15-20 inches.

The snow began to fall again early on Tuesday morning. Once again, government and schools were closed, and the government requested that we stay off the roads for safety reasons. Micah's class was canceled, and we were again stranded at home. By morning, the snow intensified to full blizzard conditions. The wind was high, and visibility was low. It was unsafe to be out on the roads, and even the plows were directed to stay off the roads. The main roads quickly became impassable. The snow continued until midnight, and we had another 15 inches of snow when all was said and done. What a mess!

Here are a few pictures of our house after the last round of snow. The garbage cans, car and fence are nearly buried.

We finally got plowed out this afternoon, and I actually left the house for the first time in a week! Okay - I just took my dog to my parents' house since we are going out of town in the morning, but that counts, right?

Micah has recently discovered he much prefers to use a fork when he eats:

During the snow, Micah made a VERY important discovery - the Kazoo! We were sitting in the living room and Micah was wandering around the house in circles. We had a kazoo as a party favor that I had tucked away, and Micah found it and started to play it. I heard the noise and it took me a moment to figure out what it was. I was surprised that he figured out how to play it all on his own! I did manage to get some video of it.

Micah has 2 more teeth breaking through on top. He has been a bit cranky. Luckily, he has recently discovered a love for ice cubes (he reaches into the freezer and helps himself every chance he gets) and he finally took a popsicle (homemade - from applesauce), so these new things definitely help with the teething.

And for good measure, here are pictures of Micah with his new favorite toys:

Yes, that is right, our "tupperware" cabinet. It is the one cabinet we have not safety locked, and he spends his days emptying out all the containers and making a great big mess. As you can see, he has a ton of fun wreaking havoc.

He has also developed a new bad habit - he bites when he gets frustrated or upset. I'm not sure what to do about that - I've been trying to tell him know and show him how to ask for what he wants. I sure hope this is just a stage that will disappear when his vocabulary increases.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Let's talk about food....

I thought I'd kick off this post with a discussion about food. I've been finding feeding Micah a challenge lately. He is becoming quite picky, and it is always either feast or famine with him. He is currently eating a diet of 100% table food (no more baby food for us!), but I am often unsure whether he is eating enough or eating healthy.

I think we have the best handle on breakfast. Micah wakes up in the morning and he will drink some milk - anywhere from 1-5 ounces. We usually sit and snuggle a bit on the couch while he is drinking his milk, and then he likes to go play with his toys and chase the dog. While he is playing, I prepare his breakfast (well, sometimes his Daddy does the cooking, too). We seem to have a "rotation" of breakfast foods - we either give Micah waffles, pancakes, french toast, scrambled eggs or cereal. I prefer to give him french toast over regular toast because he gets some protein that way, too (since we use the bread to soak up an entire egg). I usually put a bit of cinnamon and vanilla in with his french toast, we try to vary the waffle and pancake flavors (blueberry, pumpkin, plain, etc.). We always give him fruit with breakfast - sometimes we put applesauce or homemade jam and/or yogurt on top of the waffles/pancakes/french toast. With the eggs, sometimes we mix in veggies or melt cheese on top. He will usually eat a pretty hearty breakfast...except when he doesn't. At the very least, I can usually get him to eat 1/2 a banana.

Sometimes, Micah likes to drink more milk later in the morning. I think on daycare days, they give him a morning snack of breakfast foods (although I am never sure how much he eats there). Around 10:30, we put him down for his nap, and he likes to sleep until at least 12. When he gets up from his nap, he usually drinks a few more ounces of milk and we start preparing lunch. I am beginning to find lunches a bit more difficult and boring. He will usually eat a melted cheese sandwich, but how many days in a row should he really be eating that? Micah also loves pizza - but isn't that just a fancy melted cheese sandwich? We are able to sneak some pureed veggies in with the tomato sauce when we make pizza. He will eat hummus and chips as well for lunch. He does not seem to be particularly fond of eating meat/chicken for lunch - that is pretty much always a bust. We have very little luck getting him to eat pasta, although occasionally he'll eat some tortellini or some lasagna. Micah loves veggie burgers - we usually alternate that with dinner a few times each week. I'm thinking of testing the waters with peanut butter soon to expand our lunch options. We've tried a number of other options - spinach patties (see the recipe below), and I make these delicious veggie/cheese/bisquick squares that he seems to like as well. Once again, we'll top off the lunch meal with either some crackers, bread, and/or fruit - if all else fails, Micah will load up on fruit. Currently, he is having a love affair with Clementines - I think he would eat a dozen a day if I let him. Does anyone else have some good lunch suggestions for a picky 1 year old with only 4 teeth?

Naptime hits anywhere from 2:30-3:30. When he wakes up, I offer him milk and an afternoon snack. Afternoon snacks are the easiest - fruit is always a safe bet, but veggies are almost always a no-go. I buy him these sippy pouches of organic baby food that mixes fruit and veggies together - he loves to feed himself the sippy pouches and it is the best way to sneak in some veggies. Sometimes, Micah eats cheese for a snack, or crackers, or fruit, or cereal, or mum mums, or dried fruits (we are currently loving freeze-dried strawberries - the freeze dried fruits are wonderful because they sort of crumble and melt in Micah's mouth). Pretty much any basic "snack" food is a hit with my little man.

Dinner time falls around 6 or 6:30. Once again, I find dinner challenging, and I am feeling starved for new ideas. Some nights (like tonight) a veggie burger is a hit. He particularly enjoys eating it with a touch of marinara sauce and a fork. I give Micah turkey burgers and hamburgers (with veggies mixed in), and we'll try tortellini, lasagna, and pizza, but other nights there seems to be no winning. Some nights, everything I hand him ends up on the floor. At least the dog is always up for some dinner! On those nights, I try to get Micah to eat some crackers or cheese or fruit and call it a night.

We round out the day with some milk before bed. The last few nights, Micah says "night night" to me when he goes upstairs to sleep. It is just SOOO cute! I love watching how he communicates now - he knows the signs for "Itsy Bitsy Spider," he tells me when he wants more food and when he is all done eating. He is using words more and more often, and just turning into a little boy before my eyes.

As promised, here is the recipe for my spinach patties:

1 pkg. chopped spinach—thawed and drained
½ cup bread crumbs
1 onion sautéed
¼ cup mozzarella cheese
½ cup egg beaters (or 2 eggs)
2 tbsp. parmesan cheese
Seasonings (I usually add garlic and a touch of salt)

Mix all ingredients together and make into patties. Bake at 350o – 45 minutes to 1 hour. Can be made into a loaf.
Optional: shredded carrots, either cooked or sautéed, can be added.

Micah loved these! I used organic frozen spinach, an organic vidalia onion and organic cheese and eggs.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snowmageddon 2010

We are buried under over 30 inches of snow - and it is still snowing! The snow began yesterday morning at 9:00 am and 31 hours later it is still going strong. They are predicting that the final large patches of snow will pass through here by 8:00, and the snow should be finished by midnight. If only they weren't predicting more snow on Tuesday...I did not end up taking Micah out today to play in the snow, but here are a few pictures to illustrate the mess!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Twoey's 20 week OB appointment and ultrasound

Yesterday was my 20 week OB appointment. Although they made us wait 1 1/2 hours to see the midwife, it was a rather uneventful appointment. We listened to (and recorded) Twoey's heartbeat (it was in the 160s).

No weight gain yet, and my belly was measuring right on target. Everything is looking good so far. I did have a discussion with this midwife about getting a prescription for Reglan if I have issues with my milk supply after Twoey is born, and she was quite willing to help me out. We were supposed to get a prescription for an AFP tests (checks my blood for a protein that is an indicator of spina bifida) and my first trimester bloodwork (long story, but I still haven't gotten that done). Because we were running so late, we grabbed our prescriptions and ran - only to find out that once AGAIN, the nurse forgot to give me the prescription for the AFP (it is actually supposed to be done between weeks 17 and 18, and no later than 20 weeks). I tried calling the office, but the nurse could not find the midwife's notation about the AFP and was unwilling to fax me the script before talking to her. I was told I needed to get the test done yesterday or not take it at all, but, of course, they did not fax me the prescription. Now it is officially too late for me to have that test done.

Today we had our ultrasound - the full anatomy scan. Twoey was EXTREMELY uncooperative (perhaps I should not have eaten that cookie for breakfast...), so unfortunately the pictures we did get were awful. She spent much of the time turning away from the ultrasound and it took the tech about 30 minutes to get all the pictures of her heart. The doctor had to come back for a second look to see her aorta. They checked her brain, her kidneys, her bladder, her stomach, her heart and all of her limbs. She IS still a girl, and everything looks perfect. She is 12 ounces and measuring at 20 weeks and 2 days. Her spine was perfect, too, and when we asked about the AFP, the maternal fetal medicine specialist felt that the results of the ultrasound were clear, and the only other thing the AFP could indicate is an issue with the placenta. He said that if the test came back elevated, the "prescription" for that would be monthly ultrasounds, which I am getting anyway. In other words, the doctor felt it was no big deal that we could not get the AFP done, so I feel relieved about that. They also measured Frank and Fiona, who seem to be holding steady at 4 and 3 cms, respectively.

Profile - tushy up in the air:

Hands over head:

Hands crossed over face:

Skeleton face:

Finally, they did measure my cervical length. It dropped to 3.5 cms, which is still considered "safe" at this point in the pregnancy, however, it is unusual to lose about 1 cm of cervical length over the course of a month at only 20 weeks. After I had my initial bout of early labor with Micah at 28 weeks, my cervix shrunk from 4.6 down to 3.8 cms at 28 weeks, and they were concerned then. I think the biggest worry at this point is that I'm losing the "cushion" - if I develop contractions again, my cervix is already shrinking and it may be harder to stave off labor and keep me pregnant. I have to go back in 2 weeks for a cervical length check. If it continues to shrink, we may have to get a bit more aggressive with either medications or bedrest. As long as my cervix stays above 2.6 for now, they will keep me up and moving around, so for right now, everything is okay.

And for good measure, here are some belly shots of me at 19 weeks:

Last night, Micah used a fork for the first time!! We were at my parents' house for another night of shiva, eating dinner. Micah was not particularly interested in the cheese or the bagels or the tuna fish, so I made him a veggie burger. He spotted my fork, and he made it quite clear he wanted it. I tried stabbing a piece of veggie burger with the fork and feeding it to him. He quickly stole the fork from me...and went about feeding himself with a fork! I was amazed that he could handle it so well - it never dawned on me to give it a try. He needed a bit of help getting the pieces onto the fork, but he ate the entire veggie burger that way. Once again, tonight at dinner, Micah wanted a fork. He ate two small turkey burgers with his fork - and this time, he was even able to stab the meat himself. Apparently, Micah loves to use a fork (something I find particularly humorous as his uncle STILL rarely uses a fork!

I am definitely due for a picture post - I have a ton of pictures and video of Micah to add to the blog - I'll definitely have to get to that this weekend while we are snowed in!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Itsy Bitsy Spider

For the past few weeks, Micah has been doing this...thing...with his hands, and I haven't been able to figure out what it means. It sort of looks like a clap or like he is wiping his hands - he takes one hand and smacks it down on top of the other hand, then alternates. I felt certain he was trying to tell me something, but I had no clue WHAT. At meal time, I've been working with him to figure out what it means. In the process, I've learned that Micah knows the sign for "more" and for "all done." He has added a few other spoken words recently - he is regularly saying "bye bye" and "hi" and "mama" and "dad" and "ball" and "bubble" and he definitely has a word for dog and can say "nuh nuh" for the dog's name. He even said "Big Bird" today (and yes, I'm surprised it wasn't "Elmo").

Well, tonight we were having shiva at my parents' house. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Jewish traditions, shiva is a 7 day period of mourning following the death of a family member. During shiva, all the mirrors are supposed to be covered, and the mourning family members wear a torn piece of black cloth to represent their loss. Friends supply food so the family does not have to worry about food, and people come over to comfort the family and say prayers. There is one prayer, the Mourner's Kadish, that can only be said if at least 10 people are present. The point is that those in mourning should never have to mourn alone.

My family's version of shiva is a bit more relaxed. Micah was there, and having a lot of fun showing off for everyone. He was quite chatty during the brief services, and once again, he brought some joy to a sad occasion. As my Dad was sitting with Micah, he started singing to him - the "Itsy Bitsy Spider." All of the sudden, Micah started to do the hand motions, starting with the hand slapping he has been doing for a few weeks. He put his arms up in the air for up came the sun, and he had motions for drying up the rain. My heart MELTED!! I can't believe my little boy does the "Itsy Bitsy Spider!!"

I think I'd like to close this blog with my favorite memorial prayer - I think it truly speaks to how I feel about those we lose:

At the rising of the sun and at its going down We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and the chill of winter We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart We remember them.
When we have joy we crave to share We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make We remember them.
When we have achievements that are based on theirs We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The final goodbye

Today we buried my grandmother. It is a day I have been dreading, and yet...a relief in so many ways. My grandmother's condition has just been hanging over our heads for so long now. Even before her fall a few weeks ago, every time I left town, I wondered "how will I get back if she dies?" I worried about planning trips far away, and I know my mother was always concerned about going on vacation. The past few weeks have intensified that, as we knew the end was coming.

I've shared before about my grandmother over the last few years, but she was so much more than her dementia. My grandmother was truly a wonderful woman, and I loved her dearly. We were incredibly close all those years, I think almost from the moment I was born. I remember going to spend a few weeks by myself with my grandmother every summer, I think even before I was a year old. During my visits, we would go to movies, and we would play, and my grandmother would take me out to lunch and dinner, and we would visit her friends, and we would go with my grandfather to the park at the corner, and we would spend our days at "The Club," swimming at the pool and meeting my grandfather after his rounds of golf. Without fail, we ALWAYS made a shopping trip or two on my visits, and we had time to spend with family (visiting cousins and great aunts). I loved my summer visits with my grandparents.

Throughout the year, my entire family would drive up to visit my grandparents a few times each year, and they would come down to visit us as well. For most of my life, my grandparents spent their winters in Florida, and most years, we drove down to Florida to visit them. I have so many memories of all of those visits - going to Disney World, spending time at the park, shopping, seeing the miniature trains, eating Gram's brownies, and even giving her a hard time about eating my sandwiches (I liked them cut in triangles, and she would cut them in rectangles). I even remember her telling me to eat my crusts so I could grow curly hair.

After my grandfather died 21 1/2 years ago, my grandmother stayed strong. She decided to travel to Asia, and she continued to travel and drive down to visit us. My grandmother flew down a few times to visit me when I lived in Atlanta for college, and we spoke a few times a week on the telephone. I remember sharing all of my stories with her, and she also regaled me with stories of her college days. I mentioned going to fraternity parties, and she told me about how the women at her college would go move into the fraternity houses for a weekend (and the boys would move out) and they would clean and cook and have a wonderful party. I remember laughing and thinking that times had changed, and I knew very few women who would voluntarily move into a fraternity house for the weekend and clean! My freshman year of college, we had a boy on our floor announce our voice mail message - it said "Hi, this is Matt, S & T's personal masseur. They can't come to the phone right now as they are...occupied, so leave a message and they'll call you back." My grandmother laughed at the message, and told me she hoped he was really cute.

After college, I moved to New York to attend law school. My grandmother used to take a day bus up to visit me. Sometimes, we would just have lunch and wander around, and other times we would go see a Broadway show together. One time, she came up to see the Christmas windows. We ended up walking from Rockefeller Center all the way down to Soho. Did I mention my grandmother was about 85 at the time? And in a skirt and heels? For her 86th birthday, I took her to see Chicago. In between these visits, I would often catch a bus out to visit her for a weekend here and there. One of my last bus trips from New York before I graduated happened in April of my third year of law school. I had been looking into getting a dog, and I learned that there was a brand new litter of cocker spaniel poodle mixes that had just been born at a farm about 30 minutes from where my grandmother lived. I called my grandmother and asked her if she was up for company that weekend. She said of course, and then I told her there was a catch - she had to come with me to look at puppies. She made this big, dramatic, exaggerated sigh, and said "Well, if you twist my arm, I guess I'll just have to suffer through that trip with you." We laughed, and that weekend, we picked out my dog together. A few weeks later (after law school graduation), I drove back up to pick up my dog. It was my grandmother who suggested the name for my dog - after her favorite chocolate candies.

My grandmother never wore pants a day in her life until she was well into her 80s. For many years, she walked a few miles every morning wearing a skirt and heels (1/4 inch heels - her "walking" shoes). It took us years to convince her that pants were appropriate for around the house, morning walks, and even driving down to visit us, and about as long to get her to buy a pair of "walking" shoes. It was only once her dementia set in that she wore pants on a regular basis. When I picture my grandmother, I envision her in one of two outfits - a royal blue suit (I think she wore it to my high school graduation, or maybe my college graduation) - royal blue was one of her favorite colors to wear - or a white skirt with a seafoam green short-sleeved sweater that she hand-knit.

My grandmother also had a ton of sayings. Here are just a few:
  • buttons on ice cream and see if they stick.
  • Delicious, and nutritious, and pleasing to the palette.
  • Look at all the beautiful flora and fauna.
  • My grandmother often made loud comments about others she saw - she had definite opinions about men with pony tails and tattoos. Without fail, she always made sure to *loudly* point any such men out to us.
  • Good thing I don't live in this neighborhood - if I came home drunk, I'd never find my house. (She mostly said this about one street in between our house and the apartment where she moved after she left Pennsylvania to come live near us)
  • Once the dementia started to set in, every time we drove her home, we would pass a church, and as we crossed through the light and passed the church sign, she would say "Every time I see that sign I know I'm almost home."
There are so many other sayings, and even songs she would sing, but these are the ones that popped into my head as I was writing this blog. Most of all, I just loved talking with my grandmother. She was incredibly intelligent and had a sarcastic and sharp wit about her. We could chat about anything, and mostly laughed. I especially loved her feisty streak, and she had this air of confidence about her. Once she turned 80, she sort of adopted a "who gives a shit what others think of me - I'm over 80" attitude. With that attitude, she bought a silver jacket and a red car, and she stopped worrying what other people thought of her comments. She had a way of making me laugh that I truly miss.

I am so relieved that I was able to be there for her funeral - for my grandmother, for my mother, with my family, but most of all, for me. I needed that final opportunity to say goodbye, but at the same time, I was dreading that final moment. The funeral was scheduled for 3:00 pm today, and we decided to wake up early to make the long drive. I drove to my parents' house, and we met my brother about 1 hour north of here. DH stayed home with Micah, and my SIL stayed home with my brothers' girls. We just knew there was no way to make a 10 hour drive (round-trip) with small children.

Surprisingly, the trip was relatively painless. It was the first time my brother, mother, father and I had all been in a car together (just the 4 of us) for a "family" trip. My family is notorious for fighting in the car. I still sport a chunk of lead in my knee after my brother stabbed me with a pencil on one of those "family" trips. My mom drove the entire way (both ways) and I sat in the front seat. With my morning sickness, I get quite ill if I sit in the back seat, and no one wanted another trip with me throwing up the entire way. My dad mostly slept in the back seat, and my brother worked on his computer for most of the trip. I have to say, I love technology - we had laptops, ipods and cell phones, and we were able to connect to the internet with my DH's myfi card (a wireless internet hub). Amazing how portable technology is!

We arrived in my grandmother's hometown a bit early, so we decided to go eat at her favorite restaurant before heading up to the cemetery. The food was delicious! We had tons of wood oven baked garlic bread, and my mother and I shared eggplant parmesan. We were so stuffed! After that, we drove around town a bit, visiting my grandmother's old house and allowing my mother a trip down memory lane. We then drove out to the cemetery and arrived there a bit early. We took the opportunity to go visit all the graves of our family members. It is Jewish tradition to leave a stone on the graves of a loved one you are visiting. We brought stones from home and left them for our family members. It is sad that the only people we really know anymore in my mother's hometown are all in the cemetery.

The Rabbi showed up first, and he was extremely kind. It was a small gathering - about 10-15 people, including a few cousins, a couple of my grandmother's neighbors, and someone my mother knew in high school. There were just a few quick prayers as we stood graveside in the freezing cold. My mother gave the eulogy:

When I was thinking about what to say today, the usual important words jumped out in describing my mother– loving, caring, fun, a wonderful wife and mother, etc. These words do describe Mom, but perhaps equally as important are these descriptive words—survivor, fighter, feisty, sharp, smart, classy—a lady.

Mom had a privileged life growing up. She was a college graduate before it was fashionable to be one. She worked as a case worker in Public Welfare for 25 years. There were many difficult times in her young life, but she overcame them, held her head high and moved forward. She survived over 21 years after my father’s death. That has been her modus operandi during her entire life. Mom accepted what life handed her and dealt with it -- and her dementia was no different. The dementia began when she was about 85 – until then she would drive down often by herself during the year to visit. When driving became too difficult, when she would get lost, we knew it was time for Mom to be closer to us. She would complain that her memory was awful and couldn’t something be done about it and when I explained that we were doing everything that could be done, she would shrug and say “Ok, then it will be like this” and she would go on. Mom was never angry about her plight and we all worked together to keep Mom independent for as long as we could. Mom moved to an independent living apt. near us and she remained there for several years. When it was no longer possible for her to remain independent we moved Mom to an assisted living group home – there were no arguments, no bitterness—she just said that she trusted us to do the best for her. I hope we did that.

Mom had a bunch of little sayings and when she said them we all would roll our eyes, laugh and say them with her – for instance, in getting in the car she would say “Home, James and don’t spare the horses”, she would talk about the “flora and the fauna” and our favorite was “this was delicious and nutritious and pleasing to the palette”. When I fed her chocolate pudding for the first time in the nursing home, after a few days of clear liquids, she said quietly and slowly “delicious” and then a long pause and then “nutritious” and I finished up with “pleasing to the palette” and a few seconds later she said softly “right, right”. I smiled through my tears – every now and then the old Mom would poke through.

Mom’s last 2 weeks were a true testament to her strength, both physical and mental. She suffered a catastrophic fall and because of her injuries, the doctors said she would only live for a few days—but not surprisingly Mom fooled them and showed her stubbornness - she lived for 16 days, amazing the hospice nurses, the nursing home caregivers, everyone, with her stamina.

Mom has raised the bar high and I only hope that I can reach it as she did. I will miss her and think about her every day of my life. I love you, Mom.

We left shortly after the ceremony concluded, and decided to drive straight home. My mom was buzzing with energy and decided to drive the entire way back home. We had a few hours of good laughing. In our family, it is amazing how we can take something incredibly...mundane...and turn it into a joke. My mother said a number of times that she couldn't believe that the woman she knew from high school was there. My brother, father and I had no idea who this woman was, and next thing you know, my brother is making a HUGE deal out of this. He posted it on facebook, he called about 10 people just to tell them, he jokingly drafted an "inter-office e-mail" announcing her presence at the funeral, and dashing off emails to the Associated Press, Reuters and Matt Lauer. We were laughing hysterically, and couldn't stop joking about the "groundbreaking" news. That is what family is for - they help you find humor again when things are sad. I think my grandmother would have had a great laugh along with us.