five minute friday: red

…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.


“That’s 3! Zuzu we haven’t even left the driveway yet and you’ve already earned a timeout once we get up to the mountains!”

The shocked look on her face passed over into the pit of my stomach and Lovey said he would be the one to take her to do her timeout and I could take the other girls on in to the bakery.

It was my idea to go apple picking this morning. We didn’t have to go. The baby had been sick all week. The Quail was exhausted from her first week of school and Zuzu’s attitude had been flaring all morning. But it was the beginning of September. The thought of the crisp air in the mountains, a coffee and danish from the bakery, pictures of the girls gallivanting through the orchard and a bag of apples to bake into pies all wreaked of seasonal holiday fun after a week home with a sick toddler.

Only it was barely 8 am and no one was having any fun.

As we drove on up into the foothills the expected requests for breakfast, a drink, how much farther do we have to go were easily enough assuaged and Zuzu decided to read her homework book, hand another book to the Quail and then pick up after the baby’s half thrown, half chewed Cheerio trail without even being asked.

“That’s two.”

Zuzu looked at me and grinned, “You mean I’m not at three anymore and if I keep it up I can take it back down to one and maybe not have a timeout?”



And in that moment as I drank the cup of coffee that would keep me going till I got my next cup, I stopped seeing red.

For a brief moment in time, as Zuzu chattered on about her week, the apples she would pick, the cider they would drink, the playground she wanted to run through and her birthday plans that were still over a month off, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought…this is it.

This is how families are. It’s not all good and it’s not all bad. Even in the same day. Even in the same hour. It’s so fluid- it/we vacillate between happy and sad, content and irritated, energetic and bone tired.

And that’s ok.

And what I take away from the day can either be how awful we all behaved for that portion of the day, or the happy ordinary after that eventually comes when the storm blows over.

That’s the stuff.

Now if I could stop the story there and end with pictures of us all frolicking amongst the other orchard-goers life would still seem pretty picture-perfect and rainbow sprinkled.

Unfortunately the reality is the red in the day bled from the Honey Crisps we plucked from the bin into the dotted rash that started to spread over the baby’s soft skin once she woke from her nap to her cheeks that filled with rage as she fussed and fussed until we finally gave up, packed it in and headed back down the mountain towards home to spend the afternoon in the urgent care making sure there wasn’t something else that could be done for this fussy baby.

She’s fine now though. And we do have apples for a pie. And we did actually make it out in spite of ourselves. And I did get that pastry and a cup of coffee. And we made it home when we needed to.

Because we’re a family.

And that’s what families do.


The Daily Sugarplum

Oh we love our daily dose of Sugarplum. She is days shy of 17 months old now. 17 months sounds so short and yet feels like she has always been. Our mad monstrous crush on her has yet to fade. The quiet, solemn, shy-smile of a heart has maintained its position in how she interacts but it is now only one piece of who she is with us.

She still sleeps in our room. I can’t quite bring myself to move her into the waiting crib in the girls’ room. Partially for selfish reasons- the need to keep our last baby close and partially for her own sake- of letting her continue to linger in dreamland come the rise of the morning sun when her energizer bunny of a sisterhood wakes and crashes into the day taking no prisoners.

She alternates when she goes to bed at night. I know you aren’t supposed to do that. And generally I’m all for having a consistent schedule so she knows what to expect. But, I’d like her to be included in story time and she often can’t quite keep her tired self content long enough to make it through Curious George’s latest antics.  We gather on the girls’ bed after each has picked a nighttime story and she wanders on and off enjoying the free reign of the floor while her sisters are captivated in the story. We try to have her sit with us reminding us all of our “story-time manners” but she has other ideas and will usually pounce on her sisters until we set her back on the rug to play. The nighttime cat crazies have curbed though. Her energy is waning by 8 and she’s ready to blow her moi-smacking  kisses to her sisters and be carried off to nurse and “Good Night Moon” the items in our room.

She knows what to expect and looks from the mirror to the family picture to the TV to the books to the lamp to her bunny lovey and settles easily into the pack-n-play after a nursing. What I really would love would be for her sleep all night. Lucky for her I’m too tired these days to enforce it. She will typically wake one time at night. She doesn’t cry. She starts by chanting Momma. Usually as I lean over to pick her up she’ll grab a lovey and reach for me. On the nights that I’m too tired to respond quickly though, she moves from the Momma chant to a steady cough to an all-out cry of despair.  If she’s sick or teething she may wake again but I feel safe calling her pattern of wakings single. Zuzu was still in our bed at this age and it was around now that she developed a habit of waking every two hours to nurse. If that pattern starts with Sugarplum, I’m guessing my motivation to get her out of the room and fully night-weaned will get much stronger pretty quickly.

Come morning when she is ready to get up though if you aren’t still in the room you’ll find her lovies and blankets oomphed onto the floor. Once she is ready to go she is generally pretty cheerful about it. It’s not uncommon to see her at some point in the day go back to retrieve a lovey or blankie from the floor and carry it around Linus style. As a former, blankie-lovie addict, I’m charmed to say the least.

During the day she still gets a cuddle-bottle with her Dad. It’s a special time for them. It hasn’t hindered her willingness to drink from a sippy cup and I can relate to not wanting to quite give up babyhood yet. We did at least finally move her over to a big-kid carseat. Granted long after she should have, but still she rides happily rear-facing now.  On the weekends though, just about anytime she toddles into a room and spies me at a computer, she goes over to where her boppy nursing pillow and an extra blankie are stored and manages to haul them out of their basket and drag them over to me, whether she’s recently eaten or not. The first time she did it I laughed in delight. Now, well I admit I wouldn’t mind some computer time on my own.

She moved into the one year old room at school and seems to enjoy her buddies, her teacher and the routines. She’s a pretty easy-going learner. She loves going to school. In fact just about the time anyone else gets ready to go anywhere in the house she runs to her shoe box and pulls out a matching pair, takes them to the nearest person with coordinated fine-motor skills, says “Shoe” and plops down to wait patiently for them to be put on her.

She’s been to the doctor quite a bit in this last month. Unfortunately when she gets sick she goes all in. A virus got her, shortly after a cold had gotten her and she was still miserable even after her fever had broke and her rash had faded. She’s had difficulty with her hemoglobin levels and since her 12 month check we’ve had to supplement her food with extra iron in the form of poly-vi-sol. This little girl is not a happy eater. She’s not a huge fan of sweets and generally stays to the meat flavored food variety, but still doesn’t eat her table food with much gusto. The supplement is helping though and at her last visit the hemoglobin level was back up around 11.2. In spite of all of this she’s managed to maintain good weight and height gains and at just under 17 months weighs in at 23.4 lbs and 31.25 inches so we aren’t too worried. Her VSD is almost gone. We had a brief moment of whooping joy thinking it was entirely gone when it couldn’t be spied on her recent echocardiogram, but unfortunately the good Dr. Lucas could still hear it. He said since we can’t see it though it has definitely made progress towards closing and might only be a hair’s width in size. Her functionally bicuspid aortic valve is behaving as well. Her growth since our last visit has been steady and the valve has kept pace. Apparently with type of congenital defect you often end up with some stenosis in the valve during the most rapid growth times, fortunately that hasn’t been the case for her. As she grows and her personality and preferences develop we’ll have to see and adjust how frequently she gets checked. If she is an active, athletic child we’ll stick to annual visits for activity clearance. If she goes the more quiet, scholarly route we may be released to every other year visits until she comes closer to her teenage growth spurt. For now, though she is doing well and is symptom free in terms of cardiac concerns. For that we are grateful.

Her other love that has developed over the summer is for that furry red guy known as Elmo. She’ll happily watch Barney with the Quail, but as soon as she spies the credits, she is up and chanting “More Mo” to anyone who can reach the remote.

And last but not least, is her chatter. She is willing to attempt to repeat on request just about any word you say to her. Diaper, Momma, Abby, Emma, Dada, bottle, diaper, more, all-done, nose, mouth, Elmo, shoe, shirt, bye are the clearest. She probably has a word for Maddie, but I’m not clear what it is. She often calls herself Momma and takes a little coaxing to convince her she actually is separate from me J Our girls are still her biggest fans and Zuzu takes pride in carefully carrying her from one place to the next. Which of course means that Zuzu’s mini-me wants in on the carrying action as well much to Sugarplum’s dismay. The Quail has to settle with just dressing her in a pint-sized apron and including her in her cooking class.

The other funny thing I’ve noticed is the difference in how the girls respond to discipline at their young ages. Sugarplum definitely share’s her sister’s rascally nature. If she gets ahold of an item that clearly belongs or is coveted by another family member she flashes a grin and a giggle over her shoulder as she toddles off with it. And that grin and giggle are there when she is lifted off of a table top and out of whatever cabinet she has taken it upon herself to empty. But her response to being told no is definitely more dramatic than her sisters. At a young age Zuzu did not respond to the word No with much emotion. No was a fact of life, but not one that upset her. The Quail, well she responds to knows with her most charming grin in hopes that you’ll change your mind in her case. Sugarplum though, has only to hear the whisper of no and the pressing of your fingers to the thumb in the signing of no for her spirit to crumble and the crocodile tears to wail out of her. She certainly is less accustomed to being told no. Most of the no’s in the house are directed at keeping her sister’s in line and on task, and she’s quick to lean in and shake a finger at them right alongside the parent in charge. So that response might fade over time, but for now, we try to keep our directives less soul-wrenching for her sake.

This sweet, spirited little sprite of a girl makes my heart soar as she blows her kisses, giggles her grins and nurses us both into a comfortable daze each day. We are so blessed.

corner view: away


Corner view is a weekly Wednesday gathering, originally hosted by Jane, now by Francesca. A topic is given and you can see impressions; be it photographic or writerly in form, from around the world. Come see the world’s corner view via the links on the sidebar!

From the crazy amount of photo sharing I’ve been doing on Facebook this summer, I’ve given a mistaken impression that’s we’ve been “away” much more than we actually have. We had one main trip this summer for a week to California to visit with family and friends. Outside of that we were mostly here hanging by ourselves with the exception of a lovely visit from my parents. We  managed some time at the park, swimming, berry picking, water fountain splashing and a trip  or two up the road into the mountains to escape the humid weather. It’s just that I took *alot* of pictures while we were out west and it took me the better part of the summer to edit them- so I think to others it probably looked like more playtime than it actually was. That said- here was my favorites from our time away. it was a lovely visit with lots of donuts, family, fresh flowers, friends, sand dollars, beach walks & play time, The Huntington Garden in LA, cousin bonding and a reunion of three very special sisters:

With my apologies to Mr. Joel….

…but sometimes a tender moment just can’t be left alone. Sometimes, at least when I get to bare witness to it I just can’t help but try to snap it up. You know, in picture form.

Tuesday before last was the first day of public 4k for the Quail. She has been so excited to go back to school and asked after it quite regularly. The other day as I was driving her to daycare we passed a bus on the road and I only noticed it because of her chortle, ” School Bus!!!!”

Last year at this time I was completely overwhelmed by the start of public school for our two oldest girls. It was more emotional for me than I anticipated for a host of reasons. This year for the most part, the start of the school year has gone smoothly. There are still a few unanswered questions we’re working on in terms of the Quail’s IEP. At this fall’s first meeting unfortunately I couldn’t bring another cheesecake, with the extent of food allergies in kiddos these days the school went with a school-wide no bringing in and sharing of food policy, and, well I like to be policy compliant 🙂  So as this school year starts, I’m trying to have a bit more faith in things working out and at least adjust my expectations that we are all now on the same page and working towards the same goal until I see otherwise. The teachers and therapists seem genuinely happy to be with our Quail, she seems to feel the same and the IEP is sufficiently detailed for now. In fact, last night I had reports from both private and public 4k on how participatory and well the Quail was doing. What really made my heart swell though, was a note from the public 4k teacher that in addition to the positive report added a line, “Thanks for pressing forward against our concerns.” So last night when I unpacked the girls backpacks and we pulled out the daily book that is sent home for the public 4k kiddos, we all sat down to read it. Zuzu read as the Quail and Sugarplum listened, and for that brief moment in time, I have to say everything felt normal and great. These are the moments to hold on to.

So last week, the first day the Quail was to go to private 4k in the morning, then ride the regular school bus from there to public 4k for lunch and the afternoon session and then return to the private school for the remainder of the afternoon. We hadn’t heard directly from the school bus office as to what time they would be picking her and a little friend who also will be going. It was making me antsy, but Lovey dropped her off and asked and the private school had heard from them. Later in the morning as I reminded myself that surely one of the schools would let me know if something wasn’t going well, Lovey called to ask if I had heard any updates and when I said no, he indicated he was going to call and see how the pick-up went. So…..ok, it went well. Then come 3pm it crossed my mind again to call and see how her day went, but I let it pass again figuring if something was awful I’d hear about it.

When I picked her up she was cheerfully sandy and sweaty- about how I find her everyday on the playground in the Southern summer. I asked how it had gone and staff indicated she came off the bus no problem and seemed to be in a good mood. Zuzu came bounding over about this time and let me know that she had seen Miss L, the teacher’s assistant and was asked to tell her Mommy and Daddy that the Quail had a good day and was a good listener all day. Whew.

So as we started our walk to the car the Quail started to falter and wilt. I asked if she had a good time with Miss D, she said no. Miss J? No. How about the school bus ride? SCHOOOOOLLLLLL BUSSSS!!!!! YAYYYYY!” The silliness returned for all of 5 minutes, before she passed clear out in her carseat.

We ordered happy meals to celebrate our good days and  headed home. When we pulled in the driveway I turned around as Zuzu was again reiterating how good Miss L said the Quail did today and spied her holding the Quail’s hand as she talked.


They aren’t hand holders. Not in the least. Generally they’re too busy rascaling to have a tender moment together. But Zuzu, she’s been looking forward to sharing her school with her little sister for quite some time now and I do think she is sincerely proud to have her there. When the Quail first came home from the hospital I arranged myself on the bed getting set up to nurse and in came a doe-eyed Zuzu. So quiet, so watchful, just sitting there as I lifted the Quail to me. It broke my heart as I heard her refer to Momma & the Quail’s room when just a few months earlier she had shared our room, our bed. So I invited her in to join us in tandem and she happily settled in with a quick reach over to catch her sister’s hand.

Then a couple of years later we had reports from school when the Quail was old enough to start coming out on the toddler playground that whenever the class came out and the older kids were out on their playground, you could count on Zuzu and her posse coming over to the fence that separates them to check in on the Quail and sometimes they would see the sisters holding hands through the fence.

Sisters- I think that it is the unconscious moments that say so much of their bond.