Thursday, September 27, 2007

On the move...

Yes, Sadie is officially walking at 12 months. To think they told me in the hospital at this time last year that she may never walk, or could lose some of her toes!

Like everything else Sadie does, she "walks" in her own way - a full-out run with her arms thrown high over her head. Since her initial few timid steps she's been tearing around the room as fast as she can - a few steps at a time, crashing, getting up and doing it again.

She has no fear whatsoever, and has already has several hard knocks today, but just laughs it off and says "uh oh!" She's also learned this week to climb stairs. Fast. And couches. And chairs. And boxes, and beds...

I foresee bruises and bangs in my very near future.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Preschool Party Survival Tips

Last weekend we celebrated Katie's 5th birthday with the ultimate little girl's party, complete with a pony. Yes, I'm a total sucker. Yes, I realize I'm trying to relive childhood. And yes, I am a glutton for punishment.

But, Katie had a blast, and the look on her face when she saw and rode the pony was priceless, so it was all worth it. I enjoyed watching her play with her friends, and seeing how much that circle continues to grow each year. I actually even relaxed and enjoyed some of the party myself.

It's been an incredibly tough year for Katie, and I wanted to do something extra special for this birthday. She loves a good party better than anyone I know, and it was fun watching her be spoiled rotten for a few hours. If anyone deserves it she does - she's had more responsibility, stress and emotions than most kids will have in their entire childhood wrapped up in the last 12 months. I'm glad to see that she is finally starting to move past it a little bit, and get back to just being a kid.

I credit the success of the party to a few tricks I've figured out after 5 years of trial and error with children's party. For those of you who have kids just entering the party age, let me pass on some of these nuggets of wisdom regarding children's parties.

  1. Don't even think of organizing a game. Half the kids are afraid of blindfolds. The other half are all too busy picking their noses, digging in sand or running in circles to pay attention to the instructions.
  2. Skip the piñata. Yes, it's so cute to see little ones whack the heck out of a paper maché pony, but really, it's a liability. I was only hit once this year (a record, I think), but it was a good blow to the head, and it still hurts when I brush my hair. No piñata next year. Period.
  3. Know the people you invite. I invited Katie's entire class (10 kids) because they have a rule at her preschool that if you want to invite one kid, you have to invite all, or none at all. It made for an awkward beginning and it was nearly impossible to break the ice with some of the party-goers, adults and children alike. On the plus side, I now know who to avoid at preschool get-togethers.
  4. Dollar store cowboy hats are not a good investment. They leave a ring of color on your kids' heads that do not come off. Ever.
  5. Have adult drinks. You will need them by the end of the first hour. Trust me. You may want to share them with parents who are spending the afternoon, as well. The parents relax and let the kids play while they visit, and the kids learn not to cling to mommy like cat hair on black pants. Read "The Three Martini Playdate" for inspiration in this area.
  6. Lock the children out of the house. Allow them in only for party breaks. This serves two purposes - one, it gives the parents a space where they can go for quick doses of sanity and refills of item #5 above. Two, it helps with the aftermath that comes after a tidal wave of children descend upon your home. A little, at least.
I think we can say that the party was a success. Katie had a blast and honestly, I did, too. After the initial hour or two's awkward moments, everyone mellowed out, relaxed and enjoyed a nice, muggy central Virgina afternoon.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cow attack

It was a gorgeous day in Richmond today, and I decided to give Jason the "day off" to watch football. I packed up the girls and headed out to the zoo (which is 45 minutes away and has 3 tolls each way)... to discover it was closed. We detoured and went to frolic in Carrytown at World of Myrth, grabbed an ice cream cone and then hit Maymont for some serious petting zoo action. Sadie is at the perfect age for this now - she mastered 3 new animal sounds while at the petting zoo today - moo, quack and baa. Yes, she's a genius.

We were about to wrap things up, when a friendly cow came over to the fence for a scratch behind the ears. I gave her some clover I scavenged, which she took with pleasure. Katie decided to do the same. That's when Clarabelle decided to scratch her head against the post, trapping Katies thumb along the way. Of course screaming, jumping and tears ensued, at full volume. Sadie felt left out, and began to scream as well. Passersby stopped to stare, wondering if the cow was to have the same fate as those poor bears last year (I'm still ticked about the bears).

Feeling like the neglectful mom I so detested last year (again a reference to the infamous bear incident), I carried Katie out (still screaming) while pushing the stroller with Sadie in it (also screaming) to our vehicle. Everyone stopped to stare. Several prissy moms gave me death looks. Perhaps they didn't see the cow attack and thought I had been beating my children. The thought did cross my mind half way up the hill, but no, the children were unscathed from my end of things.

We left the park, Sadie still screaming, Katie reduced to sobs. Fifteen minutes later, Sadie was still screaming. Katie was stopped sobbing long enough to begin yelling to Sadie "Shush - You have NO IDEA WHAT IT'S LIKE TO GET SMUSHED BY A COW. You're just a baby." Which then reduced Katie to tears once again, realizing how terribly horrible it was to be a victim of such a gruesome incident.

We arrived home 30 minutes later. Sadie still screaming. Katie still teary.

Alas, no support group seems to exist for victims of cow attacks. I guess Katie's on her own for this one. Jason owes me. Big time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mug shots

It's been ages since I've added any photos, so since I'm on a roll this week with the blog, I thought I'd add a few!

Katie the Ballerina

Sadie showing her true colors. She hates her bikini. Obviously.

My sister, my friend.

Spaghetti is Sadie's favorite... and my least favorite because it guarantees I will be bathing, mopping, wiping walls and pulling spaghetti pieces out of her hair all night.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What I really meant to say...

So after the ranting and raving of my last few blogs, I'm taken aback that I didn't take the time to say what I truly have wanted to say... what I planned to post for the past year.

The past year has been an amazing one - with life, death, love and "war" all twisted into our daily routines. It's been tough for all of us, yet rewarding. All four of us have some personal battle wounds that we need to heal from, and we're finally pulling the pieces of "normal" daily life back together.

What I've learned this past year is how truly blessed I am for every moment I get to share with my children. Though I'm often pathetic at keeping my cool when they demand intense attention for hours on end, I can look into Sadie's eyes, see her scar or (heaven forbid) Katie's tears, and I'm immediately reminded how much worse things could be. I love my girls like there is no tomorrow.

I've also realized this past weekend that I've put my life on hold long enough. I've stopped "living" as I used to, and felt like I've been struggling with each day, just trying to get by and survive, until things could get better. It's funny, but the events of the past weekend were enough to finally jolt me out of the non-action trance I've been in and make me realize that it's time to stop tiptoeing around and start living life the way I want to and in which my family thrives. I've put a lot of time and effort into helping others (which isn't a bad thing usually), but at the expense of my family's time and my welfare. So it's time to change that a bit. No, I'm not going to go overboard and become a selfish, hoarding fool. But I am going to put my family and my needs first once again.

The other overwhelming thing I've realized is that, despite the isolation I felt this past year as Sadie recovered, I have an amazingly strong network of friends and family who have been there for me through it all. I was often tearing up this weekend as I recalled the things that different friends have done to make life easier for my family, me and especially for the girls. To see such a large group of them come together to sing "happy birthday" to our little girl was a memory I'll treasure the rest of my life.

I've finally begun to start the thank you notes I never could write last year. I wrote to her surgeon, whose expertise saved her life. I wrote to the ambulance driver, who held my hand and teared up with me when I told him to take good care of her on that first scary night... then promised she'd get there safe and sound. I left a note for the nurse at the hospital who held me up in the bathroom that night as I sobbed after Sadie was taken from me, as I the enormity of the situation finally hit me. But I haven't been able to really express my thanks to my friends - yes, I sent thank you notes, but they just don't do it. This weekend's "bash" was when I planned to talk to many and express just how much their calls, prayers, well-wishes, food, hugs and support have meant to me this year. I could not have made it through without them.

And to you out there, who still reads my blogs despite their dark air lately, thank you for your thoughts and support too. I love getting notes from the "lurkers" out there who have followed our family's story; or hearing from a friend that they're keeping tabs on us through the blog from thousands of miles away. It's great.

What I really wanted to say is THANKS!!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

MAJOR drama and ANGRY blog. Reader beware.

I win the SUCKER OF THE YEAR award.

OK, so it was supposed to be a fabulous weekend - a real celebration. Sadie turned 1, and we had a party to celebrate with our friends and family who supported us through this past year. It was something I'd looked forward to for months. But this weekend has been extremely stresful.

I had major issues with some people at our party (described below), but the most scary thing all weekend was a close call I had with Sadie tonight - she stopped breathing. No kidding. She started screaming and 2 hours later, was really worked up. I took her for a walk, and she started to do this weird intake, and her breathing got slower. I ran back home with the non-jogging stroller (fun) and threw her in the car to take her to the emergency room, yelling in at Jason that I was taking her to the emergency room. I hadn't even gotten to our first light, when I heard her breaths stop for an extended time. I panicked, prayed like I've never done in my life and floored it, doing 60 on a 25 mph road to the nearest facility - a Patient First. I got her out of the car and she was blue and her eyes were rolled back. I ran into patient first, accidentally banging her carrier on the way in, and she came to. She pinked right up, and by the time I got her into the exam room, was coherent, though sweating profusely and still breathing oddly. They watched her a few minutes as I took her out of the carrier, she gave a great big cough, and seemed to start breathing fine. They treated me like I was insane, even when I told them that she'd had a heart defect, and it could be serious. Finally, after only a few minutes, she was back to her normal self - blowing kisses at the doctor, smiling at everyone and trying to get down to crawl.

They all thought I was nuts. I have this major bruise on my arm from a blood test last week, and Sadie - while we were there, mind you - developed two bruises on her head. The doctor asked me if "everything was OK at home" (no, I'm not abused nor is Sadie), then sent me on my merry way; admonishing me all the while that they are not an emergency room, just a 24 hour clinic. I told him I knew that, but just wanted to get her on CPR or intubated if needed and that they were the closest place (which my cardiologist had told me in our early scary days of having Sadie home). So, I left with my tail between my legs, feeling like the fool of the year after the weekend I've had. Sadie's perfectly fine now. I think maybe she swallowed something perhaps.

Which brings me to my angry venting section of tonight's blog. While it was wonderful to have everyone over, and my eyes were brimming as I looked around the room at all who were singing happy birthday to my little miracle baby, I leave this weekend behind feeling vastly disappointed. I'm also furious, exhausted and worn out. So I'm venting. Which is, frankly, why I started blogging in the first place. Venting and spreading news. So, now that the dramatic news of tonight has been told, there's a major vent session coming up. Here goes:

I frankly don't care if this family finds out I'm blogging about them, as they are NOT welcome in my home again. They were casual friends at best, and have the most horrid parenting and child-rearing skills I have seen - thus they have bad kids. Because they overheard me talking about our upcoming party at another friends' party recently, I felt obligated to invite them (Sucker award #1). Their children were completely unruly this weekend - they spread sand throughout my house, left towels wadded up in my bathrooms, turned on the floorboard heater in Katies' room full blast and almost burnt the house down, tore apart her room (2 times), stayed the night due to the story I'll tell below, woke at 5 am this morning SCREAMING (for fun) and waking everyone in the house. I had gone to bed at 4 after cleaning behind everyone, and sleeping on the floor of Sadie's room with baby blankets wadded under my head as a pillow.

The parents were no better. I got bamboozled into leaving the party I'd been waiting all year (Sucker award #2 - I thought the husband had been drinking and thus could not drive - turns out he hadn't been and just wanted to stay). I had barely had more than a few bites to eat all day of the food I'd been craving for months, when I hurried out the door to the hospital with the family's matriarch. We ended up in the very room I gave birth to Sadie in (which holds scary, sad memories for me) for hours, while the husband stayed to hang out with MY friends and let his children tear apart our house. Turns out it was a false alarm. I'm thankful she's fine and the baby is OK, but am still too angry to really acknowledge it much. I called the husband after been at the hospital several hours and told him to come over to get his wife, and that I was going back to my house. It took 2 phone calls before he agreed to go to the hospital.

The couple came back to my house "too tired to drive," which I could totally understand after that drama, so being the polite hostess I let them crash in our bed, leaving us with no place to sleep as we had a full house. Her husband then proceeded to tell all my guests all night to "hush" so she could sleep (HELLLOOOO?? MY house?!), then went to the room and locked the door - after I told him I needed to get pillows and a blanket out for myself. I knocked on the door to retrieve them, and he told me to go away. I told him who it was, and he said he didn't care, to go away. NIIIIICCCEEEE. This morning, when their kid had been screaming/talking loudly for over half an hour at an ungodly time (still very dark - about 30 minutes later I checked the clock and it was 5:30 am) and after 3 warnings, I told their child to quiet down or I'd put him in time out. The kid told me I couldn't do that. I told him that it was my rules and my house and I darn well could and would, giving him my best "scary mommy eyes" and he finally quieted down. For five minutes. The entire family snuck out shortly after without so much as a goodbye or thank you.

I mean really, come on. How can people be so rude? Never, in a MILLION years, would I let Katie or Sadie run wild, tearing apart someone's house and not admonish them, help clean up or at least apologize. Never, if my spouse were in perceived danger and on their way to the emergency room, would I stay behind to visit. Never would I sleep in a hosts' bed and leave without at least scribbling a note of thanks. Never would I LOCK my hosts out of their room when they needed something. And by God, I've only spanked Katie a few times EVER, but those kids butts would be so red you could see them from a moon if they disrespected any adult or household the way those kids did. Did they even stop for a moment to think that I, as the hostess of the party for my 1 year old that barely survived her first year, would like to rejoin the celebration for my child, instead of sitting at the hospital staring at the clock? Nooo. But at least the husband had a good time visiting his "friends." Jerk.

So, I spent most the party getting everyone and their kids settled, barely visiting, thinking I'd have the afternoon to relax and visit, only to deal with their drama all night. Good gosh, I can't tell you how much I despise this family at the moment. They are hereby banned forever from the Thies threshold. Today's drama of Sadie's episode has me darn well close to nervous breakdown status.

The good news is that Sadie slept through the majority of her party, so at least I didn't miss too much of her celebration - I just missed the socialization with our friends. The better news is that she's safe and sound in bed now, sleeping like (haha) a babe.

Tomorrow is Katie's first day at a new preschool as well as some medical tests for me. Let's see what kind of new drama we can stir up here.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Vacation is over... finally!

So, we’re back from our first family vacation with both girls. I discovered one important thing on this trip. Family vacations are no longer vacations when small children from the extended family are all brought together under one roof.

Katie had a blast with her 3 closest cousins (in age) – Brittany (8), Nick (5) and Meagan (4). They played on the beach about 6 hours a day, coming in hungry and obnoxiously exhausted each afternoon. Sadie was the youngest by a long shot, so spent most of her days having mommy lotion her up, to take her to the beach, only to have mommy bring her back in 30 minutes later for a change/food/sand removal or nap. This routine was repeated multiple times a day. Needless to say, I didn’t get a tan. Heck, I didn’t get more than 15 minutes of peace all week.

Sadie did enjoy some things on the beach. She loved sitting on the edge of the water, letting waves lap over her legs. She enjoyed covering her legs in sand and giving herself an exfoliating massage. And she loved to eat sand. By the handfuls. We’ve had some interesting diapers, needless to say.

Man, I could really use a vacation.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sadie's ONE Today!!!

It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since that frightening ride to the hospital. I vividly remember holding my legs together as tight as I could just praying the baby would not arrive in the front seat of the Expedition.

On that life-changing day we still had not decided upon a name for our soon-to-arrive daughter. As the contractions grew stronger that morning, I got more frantic about choosing a name. It turns out that Sadie and her great-grandmother chose her name in the end, in a way... when Sadie’s heart defect was announced, we knew that we had to name her after Nana, whose strength and fiestiness got her through 96 years. Not surprisingly, I find myself missing Nana a ton today, wishing she were here with us to celebrate, and to hold her namesake. There are so many days I look over at Sadie and see her getting into mischief, with a twinkle in her eyes that unmistakably is a gift from Nana.

Mischief, by the way, is Sadie’s specialty. Jason and I have taken to calling her “Trouble,” as she seems to find it wherever she turns. She’s into the cabinets, taking safety plugs out of the electrical sockets, pulling down floor lamps, biting wires, pulling up on the dog, pulling the cat's hair, eating any small objects she can sneak into her mouth (dog food being a favorite), raiding her sister’s bedroom, exploring the bathroom, pulling Katie's hair, crawling under chairs and tables and bumping her head and causing general mayhem wherever she goes. She makes me think of those old Looney Toons cartoons with the Tazmanian Devel, who levels everything he goes by. I forgot how much fun it is to have a 1 year old. I don’t remember Katie being quite so into everything. Or so tempermental. But hey, I can’t complain!

A year after Sadie’s whirlwind arrival, I’m amazed at the little girl I see today. So strong, healthy and normal. As such, today is a HUGE day to celebrate. In fact, in some ways it is a new chapter for our entire family.

On a personal level, I have worked hard not to think about or focus on what happened those first days of Sadie’s life, but last night I allowed myself to read my blog from back then, peruse the pictures and be reminded just how far our little girl has come. It has been hard for me to even think about it… I find myself compartmentalizing it all and pushing it back into the “history” section of the brain, dusted off only to remember the overall outcome. Perhaps its best to keep it that way, but for me, it feels like I’m only now coming to a point where I can allow myself to process the feelings and emotions I’ve worked so hard to repress this past year, or even to allow myself to admit how very close we came to losing our little spitfire, and how extraordinarily lucky we are to have her here with us today – healthy and normal. I’m finally starting to come to terms with it all, I guess.

So today, Sadie my dear, since it's your big day, you can tear through the cabinets, smear cake on the wall behind the high chair, feed the dog and lick her hands afterwards, scream back and forth with her sister and bite me… and I’ll smile. Tomorrow you’ll be in trouble again, but today we’re all going to bask in your amazing recovery, your health and our happiness in having you in our family.