Eustachian Frustration

After months of agony, trips to the doctor and round after round of antibiotics, K and I finally took E to see a Pediatric Otolaryngologlist (ENT) with the support of his pediatrician.

E had a follow-up with his pediatrician yesterday, who said that his cough and wheezing were improved enough to discontinue the nebulizer. His ears also looked a lot less inflamed but the fluid was still present. She said that tubes were still likely in his future but that the ENT might want to wait a few more months.

K and I battled terrible driving conditions, creeping along with a grumpy and wailing E in the back seat as we crept through traffic to get to his ENT appointment this morning. We saw several cars in the ditch along the way. We were about fifteen minutes late to the appointment but they luckily saw us without any grief or wait. A PA initially assessed E before the doctor came into the room, and kept remarking that E is a very happy baby. We all laughed as E willingly opened his mouth when the PA held up a light and tongue depressor to look at his throat.

The specialist was really nice and informative, explaining as he showed us anatomy charts that E was prone to chronic otitis. He said that E could likely benefit from tubes, saying that we could either have them inserted in the near future or pursue a watchful waiting approach. K and I both liked that he said that there was no wrong answer between those two options, and that he gave us many factors to consider, including those we hadn’t initially considered, like the days upon days we’ve had to take off of work and constant visits to (and associated copays with) the pediatrician.

K and I both agreed and communicated to the doctor that we want to schedule the procedure in the near future because we really feel that this is impacting E’s quality of life and causing him a lot of pain. We also said that we’re concerned with the amount of pain medication we’ve had to administer as a way to keep E comfortable. As soon as we told the doctor our preference, the doc said, “It was the best decision I ever made for my daughter.” We were really impressed by this specialist and feel good about our decision.

The ENT told us that if we, as adults, needed tubes, he would provide the very quick procedure (the doc quoted roughly 30 seconds per ear!) during an office visit by numbing our ears. But E, as a little guy who would likely be stressed and fidgety during the procedure, needs to be given some gas to keep him still and calm, which will, in turn, allow the doc the ability to perform the delicate procedure with much more accuracy.

I’m awaiting a call from the office staffer who schedules these procedures and anticipate that, in the very near future, E will finally have some relief to the months of ear pain hell. We’re finally feeling optimistic about his ears!

Picture Perfect

One of my least favorite things in the entire world is being photographed. I take a lot of pictures of the people I love, mostly with my iPhone and, to this end, K bought me a Photo Jojo macro and wide-angle lens for my iPhone and an online phone-ography class. But I mostly avoid being the subject of others’ photos, much to K’s frequent disappointment.

I knew that he’d been wanting a family photo for a long time and, while I did too, being in said photos felt akin to having a tooth drilled. Since gifts aren’t really supposed to be about the gift giver and I wanted to show that I valued his wishes, I purchased a family photo shoot for K for Christmas.

We were originally supposed to have our photos taken on December 26th, but with both of my guys sick, no one really felt up to the task. Plus, there’s not a frame in the world that’s beautiful enough to overcome the sheer amount of mucous that would be present in the resulting photos.

I rescheduled the shoot for New Year’s Day. Earlier that morning, despite the frigid temperatures and heaping cover of snow on the ground, I trudged outside to install E’s new convertible car seat, a Diono Radian RXT, which K’s parents got for us as a Christmas gift. It was trickier to install than our infant seat, but not too bad.

I knew that with the terrible winter weather and the steep learning curve of putting E into his new car seat, we would need to leave early for our photography shoot. Unfortunately, upon placing him in his new seat, E had the biggest meltdown I have seen to date. It required me to sit in the backseat with him, placing a paci in his mouth and trying to comfort him while K bravely traversed the slippery roads to get us to our destination. There’s nothing quite like three grumpy people headed toward an activity that pretty much demands sincere, lovely smiles.

E rings in the New Year by nomming on some steak

E rings in the New Year by enjoying some of his Daddy’s steak fajitas.

When we arrived, we gave E a bottle and we were relieved that his mood immediately brightened. He was a total charmer during the session and, much to my surprise, a lot of the resulting photos satisfied me. The present I got for K came with a disc of three of the photos, plus two printed sheets, and allowed the option of ordering additional sheets for a discounted price. I liked so many of the photos that it was difficult to decide and we ended up ordering a few extra sheets.

The disc and prints will arrive in two weeks and I plan on posting E’s solo photo that we chose as his 9 month commemorative shot as a part of the package. Since we plan on maintaining our anonymity as best we can, though, I won’t be posting the family photos we selected. You can all just take my word that we looked great. Haha!

Happy 2014, all!

Your First Christmas

E, you thoroughly enjoyed your first Christmas.

A few weeks beforehand, we visited my parents – your grandparents – who live up North to celebrate an early Christmas. It was the first time you experienced a great quantity of snow. We put you into the new snow suit your grandparents gave you for Christmas and took you outside for the obligatory photo shoot.

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Your grandma and grandpa spoiled you a lot more than I thought they would. Toys and clothing were plentiful under the tree. Your favorite was a train toy that had different types of toys with each component. I was surprised that you didn’t try to get at your grandparents’ three Christmas trees. You spent the majority of the time working on your standing skills. Your mama is very proud of your diligence.

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It was sad to say goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa, who are leaving soon to visit Florida for a few months. Grandma cried when you left. We promised to try a few Skype dates with them while they’re away.

We spent Christmas Eve with your aunt and Daddy’s parents, your grandparents who live closer to us. As I suspected, they spoiled you beyond belief. Grandma had a large basket that looked like a train engine, which she staged with other baskets behind it to look like a train, and she placed all of your presents inside the train. Grandma and Grandpa got Mommy and Daddy what they asked for – a really nice convertible car seat that will keep you safe and allow you to stay rear facing in the car for several years.

On the way to visit your grandparents, we stopped at a mall to visit Santa for the first time. You were so patient and cheerful, and thankfully, the line wasn’t too long.

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Dinner was slightly delayed because we waited for your aunt to get home from her new job as a dietician at a local hospital. Your grandparents thought that a Japanese steakhouse would be a fun dinner, but when the hibachi cook made large flame bombs on the grill and you cried in fear, I was annoyed with them for not considering how this spectacle would impact you.

We opened presents when we got back, but you were overtired and overstimulated after opening only a couple of gifts. Daddy took a long time trying to get you to fall asleep in a pack and play in your grandparents’ den. The rest of us slowly opened gifts and the prolonged experienced made your Mommy and Daddy feel pretty stressed about you. We ate pumpkin cheesecake that your Mama spent the morning making, quickly packed up, and drove home.

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You had a really tough time sleeping that night and didn’t seem like yourself on Christmas Day. We opened gifts in Daddy and Mama’s bed and had a nice morning, but as the day wore on, it was clear that your ear infection had returned with a vengeance. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to make it to the Christmas evening celebrations and we considered taking you to the pediatric urgent care clinic. We gave you alternating doses of Tylenol and Ibuprofen, which seems to keep your ear pain mostly at bay and allowed us to go to Daddy’s Aunt and Uncle’s house for Christmas night for a couple of hours.

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Our extended family members were also incredibly generous in their gifts to you and you spent our limited time there dazzling everyone with your personality. Mommy and Daddy had planned to make everyone homemade food gifts, like they do each year, but didn’t have time and they felt really guilty about it.

You had a really rough time on the car ride home, so Mama rode in the back seat with you. In the morning, we visited the pediatrician, who said that your ears were infected again and filled with fluid. She prescribed what she called “the end of the road” antibiotic and said that if it didn’t get rid of the fluid, we would need to take you to a pediatric ENT specialist with the very strong possibility of tubes.

It was an eventful Christmas, both good and bad, but we spent it together as a family and that’s the best present your parents received this year.

Update on sleep

It’s a shockingly slow day here today at work. A lot of my coworkers are out of the office and it appears that no one made adequate arrangements to pick up donation checks for me to process, which is the bulk of my work during the holiday season. I decided to use this rare downtime to write a blog post.

It’s been one week since we started sleep training E and it has gone swimmingly, if I do say so. The first few nights were pretty difficult for all of us, but E now cries less intensely and for less time, if he cries at all. The keys, for us, have involved making sure we’re really aware of his sleep cues, getting him to bed before he’s overtired, and following a consistent pattern so he doesn’t feel confused by what takes place. While we have used a modified Ferber approach, we aren’t the type of parents to adhere staunchly to any particular theory or principle to the detriment of our child or selves.

I’ve been hurt by the level of judgment we’ve received from people who know us about our decision to use any form of sleep training. It shocked me that people who bear witness to my love and care for E would think that I would ever do something that I felt would intentionally cause harm to him. Like vaccines, circumcision, and feeding, sleep appears to be yet another battle in the dreaded “mommy wars.” I know I’ve said it before, but it continues to be a common theme – parents are all just doing the best that we can with the information we have available and what feels right in our hearts.

8 Months!

I can’t believe that it’s already been 8 months since E was born. Everyone tells you that time flies when you become a parent, and I can attest to the truth behind that statement.

Here are a few current highlights about E:

  • E decided to pull himself up to standing today and both K and I witnessed it. He had such a ginormous grin on his face and you could tell that he was very proud of himself. We were proud of him, too.
  • yum!He’s becoming quite the adventurous eater. The trick behind getting him to try something new is something a dear friend showed us – it truly has to be his idea whether or not to put something in his mouth. If we want him to try something, we have to nonchalantly place it in front of him. Inevitably, it goes into his mouth. At dinner with K’s family last night, E reached for the pickle on my plate. I handed it to him, and he shockingly ate it! No one in the family likes pickles, so it came as quite a surprise.
  • E really enjoys footwear. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s destined to become a fashion maven or if it’s the item of clothing that just happens to be closest to him, but he really appreciates a wide variety of footwear. From my lowly flip-flops, to my well-worn sneakers with the bright pink laces, to Daddy’s new shiny black work shoes, E is a fan!
  • For as laid back and happy of a child as he is, E is extraordinarily driven. When he wants to do something, he tries and tries until he does. It warms our heart to see how independent and confident he seems to be, too.
  • E loves being out and about. Whenever he seems somewhat fussy at home, we find that even running a simple errand brightens his spirits. We’ve recently started grocery shopping with him in the cart and he finds a lot of enjoyment from that. He often tries to grab the shopping list, though, because he thinks putting paper into his mouth is pretty much the best thing ever.

E, these past 8 months have been a joy. I’m such a lucky mama!

Sleep deprivation and “training”

Content note for potentially controversial parenting approach related to sleep.

asleep like an... angel...?E’s sleeping has been rapidly declining over the course of the past few weeks due to a perfect storm of milestone explosions and newfound separation anxiety. It’s really hard to sleep when you’re busy crawling and doing downward dog in your crib, especially when your awesome parents aren’t there to witness such feats. Needless to say, K and I are exhausted and so is E.

We decided to attempt the dreaded “sleep training.” After much research, comparison and contrast, we decided that a modified Ferber approach is most closely aligned to our thoughts and theories about sleep as well as our leanings toward baby-led/empowerment parenting approaches. You know, Ferberizing, which is often referred to as a “cry it out” method, and feels really terrible to do to one’s perfect little human. Each night, we follow a loving ready-for-sleep routine and then place E in his crib while sleepy but still somewhat awake. We tell him that it’s sleepy time and then leave his room. He often cries when this happens. We set a timer and after about 3 minutes, we go back into his room, comfort him without picking him up, lovingly remind him that it’s sleepy time, and then leave again. He cries again, we set a timer for 5 minutes, and repeat the process. So far, the longest we’ve gone before going into his room is 7 minutes and, for now, that’s where I feel comfortable staying, though we might eventually increase it if/when we see progress. The thought behind this approach is that babies learn to put themselves to sleep without adult intervention, which is important because babies sleep cycles differ from adults and wake more frequently than adults do. There have been times each night where he cried so hard that we did end up picking him up to soothe (which is not typically recommended because it can stimulate baby more) because we believe in doing what feels right and instinctual as parents. Each night, after about 45 minutes of struggling, E has found his way to sleepyland and slept through the night without intervention.

Now, like I mentioned earlier, this method feels horrible. It makes K cry and breaks my heart. I am constantly reassuring myself by saying that there’s a big difference between struggling and suffering, and that there will be many times throughout his life where E will struggle. While K and I don’t subscribe 100% to any particular parenting label, one approach that often feels right to us is Magda Gerber’s Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) theories. I feel like one of my main roles as a mom is to listen to E, encourage the sharing and understanding of his feelings, and to let him know that I hear him and am here. Crying is normal, just like any other expression of emotion, and can even be cathartic at times. I know that a lot of my issues with hearing E cry are just that – my issues – and stem from times in which I felt abandoned or didn’t feel heard around my feelings. I will ensure that E never feels abandoned or that I don’t see or hear his struggles, but it feels right to me to encourage him to find his path without me doing it for him.

It’s my hope that this will all be for the greater good, though we will change course if we do not see improvement in the next few days. In the meantime, we’re all a bit bleary eyed this morning.

Letting go

We recently had a mandatory staff meditation retreat. Is anything less relaxing than being required to relax at a given time and in a specific way, all during the busiest season at work? Despite my reluctance (and that’s putting it mildly), I challenged myself to take in the messages and tips presented that day, and I’m really glad that I did. I learned quite a bit about managing stress and keeping myself from assigning weight to stressors that are truly a lot tamer than how I allow them to impact me.

crawling into bathroomAs it relates to my job, I need to keep in mind that, while I do work that contributes to the greater good, what I do each day is not a life or death sort of situation. Sure, my work funds some actual life-saving programs, but I need to remember that getting upset about a last-minute request for a report or mailing only zaps me of energy that could be spent where I’d prefer to focus it – on my son, husband, and adorable companion animals. I need to exert the relevant amount of energy to the task-at-hand.

turkey nomsAs it relates to my personal life, especially with the holiday season upon us, I need to let go of some of the messages people in our lives are giving to E, even if they are not aligned with some of our parenting approaches. (Obviously, there are some non-negotiables like blatant disrespect.) Do I really have to spin my wheels being irritated about someone pretending that E has injured them when I’m actively working to teach him pain-related boundaries? The time E spends with me and the messages he gets from me are so much more prevalent and I know he’ll one day understand that pulling my hair hurts his mommy. Again, seething about this – something that should be a minor annoyance – only serves to distract and drain me.

I am working to let go, breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth…

Changes and updates

This post is certain to sound like stream of consciousness, because it pretty much is.

We’ve had such a long great streak with E’s sleep that I feel somewhat sheepish complaining at this point about E’s recent sleep difficulties. We’re not sure if it’s his recurring ear infections, another round of teething, some sort of sleep regression due to a recent burst in developmental progression, or something else entirely, but keeping E asleep for more than half an hour at a time has been darn near impossible. K will rock E to sleep, then gingerly place him in his crib, just like we used to. If we’re lucky, E will stay asleep or rouse minimally and then fall asleep, but without fail, he will start crying about half an hour later. We have to start the whole process over again. And again. And again. Eventually K gives up and brings E in bed with us, where he more or less sleeps peacefully with us until morning. We haven’t done anything else differently and we’re hopeful that he will eventually go back to sleeping well. God, I hope so.

E seems like an entirely different kid with each passing day. He’s scooting around in an army crawl so quickly now! He’s starting to pull himself up on whatever furniture he can and we’re sure he’ll soon be cruising along the couch, ottoman, chair, etc. E is a lot more expressive whenever something happens that he dislikes and cries when he loses a toy. He’s a lot more independent, especially in his desire to move. He immediately flips over and tries to crawl away whenever we try to change his diaper. He resists solid foods unless/until he’s spoon-feeding himself and desperately wants whatever it is we have on our plates.

We’re still rotating through illness in our family and I’m the most recent casualty. A coworker convinced me on Tuesday to go to the doctor because my cough kept getting worse as the day wore on.  After several tests at the urgent care clinic, I was diagnosed with bronchitis and it got progressively worse over the past week. I am on a round of antibiotics and steroids, as well as an inhaler and cough syrup with codeine. My cough, at times, has been uncontrollable and wipes me of every ounce of energy. I spent the majority of Thanksgiving Day sucking on menthol cough drops.

After my weeks of waffling about the future of my hair, I decided to have it cut in the stacked bob I donned for years. I love it and think I no longer look like I’ve given up on myself, but I’m still surprised whenever I pass a mirror. I’m actually shocked that so few people seemed to notice the change after I had 6 inches cut off!