31 for 21: Day 13: full

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Zuzu was just about 12 months old the first time it happened. She stood in the carpeted hallway staring unhappily up at me as I answered her request for another cracker with a not right now. As she wasn’t going to stand for it, she oh-so delicately laid her small body down, ensuring not to bump or bruise herself and set to wailing and kicking after a quick glance in my direction. My lips turned up as I turned away to hide my laughter at her first tantrum.

Within a year it was not nearly so cute and the next year after that it was downright infuriating. These days when the fury bursts from her you can feel the floors shake as she stomps her twinkle-toes sneakers back into her bedroom.

But we knew it was normal development emotion-wise and set in for the duration. Like clockwork at her next half-year mark she would set into a new range of developmentally expected behaviors that would ease up as her birthday approached. Convenient isn’t it?  The sudden return to being a sunny little bout of sunshine just in time to ensure a good birthday gift or 12. Downright Darwinian.

Then along came the Quail. We had read and bore witness to a series of offhand comments about “those kids”. You know God’s angels, the sunny, happy-go-lucky carefree children who never get angry? The passive full of light and good cheer children who didn’t know any better than to just grin at you and passers-by? Even though she showed a full range of emotion, these images held enough water to make me think that perhaps the personality trait of cheerfulness itself resided on that 21st chromosome and that our Quail maybe did have a little bit extra. 

That is until about the age of eighteen months. When, one day, the Quail sat happily humming into a plastic microphone in the sun-filled living room. When in skipped Zuzu who also had a song on her lips. Zuzu donned her sweetest “Momma” voice and leaned in to pry the microphone from her sister’s hands. The Quail, she gripped that tiny pink cylinder of plastic firmly with one hand, placed her other little hand square in Zuzu’s face and hollered “STOP!”  Zuzu was crushed as we turned away to hide our giggles and mental high-fives at the Quail’s newfound feistiness.

Enter a year later. And yes, there has been all the typical naughtiness you expect from a pre-schooler, laced with just enough mischievous sparkle in her blue and Brushfield spotted eyes to keep any grown-up from disciplining her too sternly. And then one weekend, perfectly timed with just enough of a snot-filled nose to make us question the origin of her fury; also timed perfectly within a month of her turning 2 and a half; our cheerful little helper, one day out of the blue refuses to pick up her crayons. Not only refuses, she stomps her foot (which we silently applaud since up until the last few weeks her balance wasn’t sturdy enough for her to not topple over in the attempt) and then goes in for the kill. She kicks over the little yellow bucket of crayons she’s been directed to fill. Silence fills the room, as she waits for our response and we wonder briefly at the skill of the kick and the pile of colorful crayons spewed across the black rug. Then she gives her age-old gesture of discontent- a version of flipping us off with her arm and attempts to leave the scene of the crime. I return her to it, with low firm instructions, no longer humming our clean-up song. She plops down, fixes her glare on the rug and growls. This continues for another minute until I’m clear she isn’t going to clean up her mess and so off to time-out she goes as an angry wail fills the house. Finally, shuffling slowly back in, head hung low, bottom lip bird-perched out and her hand sorrying circles on her small heaving chest she bends to pick up first a yellow, than a purple crayon and drops them squarely back in the pail.

Typical pre-schooler right? Shouldn’t have been so surprising. Except we’ve been marveling for months at how much the Quail enjoys helping grown-ups clean-up and this seemed to blow in out of nowhere. Apparently someone forgot to inform her of her abundant cheer that her syndrome relies on. A series of similar versions of the story ensue over the weekend involving, animal puzzle pieces, Cheerios and far-flung cups of kefir. Enough so that by Monday afternoon Lovey declares she’s going to the pediatrician tomorrow. I agree, this behavior is unusual. We know one ear tube came out a month earlier and she’s had a cold for a week and we have entered cold and flu season without the start of last winter’s daily breathing medications. She probably needs to start up her pulmicort and maybe an antibiotic or two.

The next day Lovey calls me at work. “She’s fine.” She’s up to 30 lbs 15 ozs. Her lungs and ears are clear. It’s a cold. That’s all.”

We both sat calmly contemplating what this banal diagnosis really meant. It may very well have been our first visit to a pediatrician that was met with the response of nothing here to see folks.

What it meant was that our ordinary child, was not filled with that magical sparkle that would cheer her all the way through her angelic life. What it meant was that she was developing socially and emotionally on time.

What it meant was we couldn’t be prouder.

What it meant was that we needed to buy a second plastic microphone and keep the bucket of crayons up off the carpet.


31 for 21: Day 9: corner view: before & after

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!

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“Which book do you want to read?” I ask thumbing through the shelf of colorful children’s books in the girl’s room. The two older girls, used to the routine shout out approximations of titles as they push past me to grab the latest Junie B. Jones and seasonal antics of Clifford and George. The baby teeters on the edge of the bed railing, surely tempting fate as she grins at our far-from-soothing bedtime routine. Lovey comes in and we settle ourselves into the bed for a few minutes of minding our storytime manners. I hear of families that read for an hour or more to lull their loves into slumber and that is not us. Not our lot in life. As difficult as that may be to bear for a bookaholic and aging philosopher. These children barely sit still long enough to turn the page in a chapter book. To make it to the Good Nighting of the moon is the equivalent of a Kilimanjaro climb most nights.

When Zuzu was a wee nursling in my arms I tried to do what the “good parent” books prescribed. I would find a sleepy Sandra Boynton rhyme to read to her as she settled into my arms. Her tiny fists grabbed those board books and whipped them away from us before Little Pookie could tell us what was wrong. Later as I would settle her at a safe arms distance in front of me I’d let the swing rock her to the sound of my voice. As soon as she was old enough to make her protests understood she would take the book back from me and insist on “reading” it herself. Storytime at the library, one of my most treasured childhood memories was a flaming disaster. As other children were rapt with the Librarian’s multitude of voices, I chased Zuzu, angling my body so she could see the stern look on my face as I retaped the decorations back to the wall, alternating that sternness with apologetic glances to the other mothers. Eventually I gave in. It was too much and frankly wrecking my nerves right along with my happy childhood memories. So instead we went to the park, to gymnastics, to the bouncehouses and we let Zuzu be the one to “read” to her babydolls instead.

When the Quail came along though, it was a different story. Oh how she loved to be read to! Her small voice would answer with a tiny moo to Ms. Boynton’s question of what a cow says. Once the words on the page formed a pattern for Zuzu, she would take it upon herself to slowly work her way through pieces of our treasury letting the Quail fill in when she could.

Along came Sugarplum. Once you sat down on the floor, she would back herself into your lap and reach to turn the pages along with you. As long as you were reading only to her. Her protests of little No’s rising up over our rhyming as her sisters would now come running to the parent parked at eye level. Come bedtime,  she’s the first to dogpile her sisters as they line up their loveys and blankies for the night’s rest. “Storytime Manners” is the code word reminding everyone to pause. To listen. As one by one we share our part of the story. The read to becomes the reader. The baby becomes the school-age child. The childhood dream reshapes itself into the present day.

We try a little harder to pause a bit longer as the newly-minted seven-year old stumbles through a page of Junie B, holding out the picture to her sister  who in turn, press her hand to her own chest. “My turn.” Insists the Quail as her parents yawn and suggest only 2 more pages. The Quail practices her site words as they float up from the Boynton books. “Red hat. Green hat. Blue hat. Oops.” Her ‘s’ sound magnified in her effort to enunciate each sound she sees. The baby claps along with us in praise of her sister’s accomplishment before lunging over the side of the bed railing yet again, caught up by her ankle at the last possible second before we insist it is time to rest one last time.


31 for 21: Day 4: five minute friday: write

…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.

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I pull the tub’s drain cover and wrap the toddling Quail in her towel, just as Zuzu positions herself at the stepstool between us. “H-A-T” she recites pushing the small square of paper over to me. And there it is, in her four-year-old scrawl. She licks the graphite tip of the pencil mildly as I grin over at her.

“Was Daddy helping you write about his hat?”
“No Momma- I did it. I wrote it.”

And just like that, she cartwheeled into the world of big kids. She did it herself. Probably someone unknown to us helped her figure it out- but as far as our parental involvement was concerned her ability to write and spell and read and talk appeared like magic.

“If I make the dots large enough, she knows now to connect them and form the A. She’s getting good at it. These three were hand over hand, but this one here on the end she did on her own!” Our Early Intervention worker handed over the orange construction paper for us to pin to our fridge a few months ago. Since then they have worked diligently on the next letter in her name with a goal of fading back the prompts and her writing her first name independently before her fifth birthday.

Magic versus practical. So different from her sister’s path into big kid-land. And yet, in the end, they are both there. They’ll both learn to write, to read, to speak and to spell. Lucky for us, Zuzu is a big fan of playing the role of the instructor. Lucky us, the Quail idolizes her. Lucky them, we can take either path to get them there.


Tooth Fairy Time

Our rising first grader spent her Kindergarten year hoping to lose a tooth at school. You see her friends had done it and when the tooth came out at school they got a visit to the nurse who gifted them a little tooth necklace to deliver their prize home to their parents and The tooth fairy home to. So really, for Zuzu, it was all about getting that necklace. One day she was so determined that she spent recess convincing her BFF to use a paper towel and twist it out for her. This coming from the girl who flinches during nail clippings, screams while her hair is being brushed and used to require a parent to sit on her in order to get her toddler self’s teeth brushed.

But see there was that necklace. She reported back to her teacher at the end of recess with a handful of bloody paper towel and a loose tooth and earned her visit to the nurse. Unfortunately for her, the effort wasn’t quite enough. The nurse would not pull it out, just store it if it came out on its own. By the time I picked her up from after-school and she relayed this story the tooth was perpendicular to its mates.

So began our family’s tradition of outting loose teeth with popsicles. Of course the Sistred are more than happy to join in and eat popsicles in solidarity with Zuzu, loving bunch that they are.

Personally I had no desire to pull out the tooth myself. I remain shocked at her insistence that we help her with each loose one. The look on Lovey’s face as he witnesses her little bloody antics is enough to know he isn’t going to do it either.

So she slowly bites into a popsicle with the though that the cold and biting will enable her gums to numb up a bit as the tooth is wedged down into the ice. And if nothing else, there is the distraction of Momma having handed out popsicles!  Once she’s made her way part through the popsicle I’ve twisted it for her and if it comes out easily she’s good to go. If it doesn’t than back to the drawing board the next night with the possibility of it coming out in school and earning her a necklace.

She’s lost 4 now. The front four and 3 of the grown-up teeth have started to push on through. Our family’s tooth fairy has been waiting for this since she was a little tike. We had purchased a yellow, ladybug covered tooth pillow during a trip to Asheville shortly after she turned one. The first time I was worried the tooth might slip out so we put it in a tiny little bag in the pocket. The next time she actually asked if she just put it in the pocket like a regular kid does. Our tooth fairy leaves gold coins and sprinkles glitter over the sleeping girls. Zuzu has a love/hate relationship with this. She complains about the mess of the glitter, but also refuses to have it brushed out of her hair. Since the Quail and her are sharing a bed, they both go off to school all sparkely for a good few days.

When Zuzu lost her second tooth she got it in her head that she wanted her gold coin AND her tooth. I tried to tell her that wasn’t how it worked, but what do I know according to her six-year-old mind. So our compromise was for her to write the tooth fairy a note and let her answer for her own fairied self. Interestingly the answer was no.

So she heads off in to first grade having grown her third row of molars in and having lost and partially regrown her front four teeth. Ever the eager beaver to take another shot at the school’s coveted necklace treasure!

News that’s a little easier to swallow….

Soooooo many things I want to say about this wonder-kid of ours. And then I get overwhelmed with trying to say it artfully or at least coherently and then someone comes and asks for a drink, someone falls down, someone gets their toy taken away, it’s time to go to bed, to work, to eat, to clean…etc…anyway.

Before I lose the general gist of today’s swallow study results, let me mark them down for posterity. We have seen so many fabulous speech therapists over the years that have helped us from a variety of perspectives understand the logistics of what goes into safely eating and drinking since the Quail was a few months old.

Shortly after the Quail was born and all the extra pokes and prods receded along with the delivery room lights; we settled into our room with the required dozen or so pillows to prop ourselves up and begin our nursing career. At the time we didn’t have any idea all that lay ahead of us. We only knew that there was a chance she had Down syndrome and that breastfeeding might be a challenge. We knew that teaching Zuzu to nurse had been difficult in the early weeks as well though and figured we’d master it with the help of our trusty Lactation Consultant. There was such a feeling of love and amazement between Lovey, her and I as this sleepy little baby rested in my arms with her dark swirls of hair and her chipmunk cheeks working the moment I lifted her to me. What a miracle a new baby nursing is to see.

In those early weeks that followed as I tried to nurse her, milk would pour out of the side of her mouth. She had difficulty pulling any milk out and I would often leave a nursing session as or more engorged as we went into it. We started with the usual help. We went back to our super-hero lactation consultant who had taught me how to nurse when Zuzu was a babe, and did a couple feed and weighs, which only quantified what we suspected- that she was barely pulling anything out of me. After 20 minutes, the most was ¾ of an ounce. We tried the nipple shield, different positions, an SNS, massage while nursing. Really, we went the distance, until the LC finally said she couldn’t really do anything else to help us, we had gone through her bag of tricks. So back we went to our EI and pediatrician for a referral to a feeding specialist. While the new SLP was kindhearted- my best guess is that the combination of the Quail’s heart-defect coupled with her inability to pull milk out of the breast overwhelmed her, and her first priority was to get milk safely into the baby. So she helped us with bottle-feeding, confirming that this act wasn’t stressing or taxing the Quail’s heart or system. Yet, still milk ran out of her mouth, she threw up multiple times a day and she fought me like the dickens most times I put her to my breast. We asked around and found another feeding expert who was trained by Sara Rosenfeld Johnson in oral-motor strengthening and placement and I called to explain our situation and ask if she thought she might have anything else to add to our repertoire. The Quail was 5 months old at this point and we still hoped to learn to nurse. We started feeding therapy to teach us to nurse and strengthen the Quail’s oral musculature twice weekly. In the meantime Zuzu, ever the wonder-nurser, gave probably the best gift she ever could to her sister, she happily continued to nurse and keep up my supply so that I could pump and we could bottle-feed the Quail with it.

We spent August through November of 2009, with regular feeding therapy and a hit and miss success rate, one time we’d nurse and the feed and weigh would show she had taken in 4 ounces only to have her then throw up 3 of them and then the next time she would fight the entire session with every position, exercise and accommodation. I still remember with a huge feeling of gratitude the last nursing session with our therapist where the Quail settled in and nursed like there had never been any issue and Kathy writing the word, “Beautiful” on a note and silently passing it over to me. I had left there that day full of hope .

Then one day in November, we hit a wall. For the last week, every single nursing session had been met with tears and frustration, on both of our parts. It had become a matter of course that I would bark at Zuzu whenever she came bursting into the room while we were trying to nurse. What had started out as a sweet bonding time amongst the three of us, had devolved into anger, sadness and frustration for all of us. It was time to let the nursing go. Fortunately, Zuzu still happily kept nursing at bedtime so between her and my pump I was able to provide milk to the Quail with all it’s benefits for 15 months.

Around the time she turned one, our therapists office staffed her case and an SLP who was not actively apart of our team made the recommendation to get a swallow study and Upper GI done to see if there were any physical reason for the daily throwing up since she showed no signs of outgrowing the reflux as we would have expected by a year. So we did. And there was. She had a duodenal stenosis that involved a web covering over that portion of her intestine and left an opening the size of the writing tip of a pen for her to push her food through. Most food stayed in her esophagus, expanding it like a water balloon, until she was able to apply enough pressure and push the pureed food through the pin-prick of an opening. It also meant that any solid pieces of food mixed in her purees stayed there until she threw it up. Surgery was scheduled and the web covering removed and the throwing up reduced to plain,old run-of-the-mill reflux. She stayed on Prevacid and continued to throw up, but really, it was more positional and only a time or two a day. Since she had always continued to grow well; well- “well” that is for a child with Down syndrome  and a VSD, no one had been concerned about the frequency of her reflux since it could easily be attributed to her low tone.

The first swallow study also showed that our child who had been through RSV, the flu, pneumonia, two bouts of bronchiolitis and two hospital stays in the previous 6 months needed honey thickened liquids in order to prevent aspiration. What was found was micro aspiration, which we were told we were lucky what was aspirated was breast milk as any other substance, including water being aspirated in her lungs could have resulted in her being even more sick. While it was hard to say what the exact cause of her previous season of illness was due to, suspects included- her VSD, being in a daycare setting, just bad luck catching the flu and an unfortunate delay in receiving her RSV vaccination due to insurance paperwork snafus. And now the complication of her aspirating on thin liquids added to the puzzle as well.

In the meantime, we continued to meet with Sara Rosenfeld Johnson when she came through town with her travel clinics and work with our private speech therapist on her oral-motor exercises multiple times a day. At one point in the next year the reflux seemed to increase again so we scheduled another swallow study and Upper GI to see if perhaps scar tissue had formed or if there was a new issue. This time the Upper GI showed a congenital malformation lower in her intestines and showed a slowing of her stomach’s ability to empty. We were told that if we weren’t able to get the reflux under control we might need to go to a more serious medical management plan in order to keep her healthy, either stronger drugs to help speed up the delay of food passing through her system or the possibility of a feeding tube. The dose of Prevacid was upped but the liquids could now be thickened only to nectar consistency and the amount of food offered at one time became carefully portioned. Eventually we were able to see an improvement both in her ability to manage her liquids and food and her general health.

We did one more swallow study 6 months later, hoping for even more improvement and a reprieve from the thickened liquids altogether.  This time, the news was worse and we needed to move the thickening back up to honey consistency. It was disappointing to say the least. The SLP, Dru, who does the studies explained that each time the Quail experienced a growth spurt, it would be like getting a new set of equipment that she would have to learn to use all over again and that we couldn’t really expect to do any active exercise to remove this issue until she was at least cognitively 12 years old, due to the complexity of trying to explain what she needed to do to her. In the meantime, we needed to continue thickening and following the straw cup protocol that we had been doing and probably there was no need to come back every 6 months.

So life went on and we reached our new normal of always mixing, bringing or sending along thickened liquids wherever the Quail went.

Today it has been about two years since that last swallow study.  We scheduled another one realizing that some time in the last six months we had been able to entirely wean the Quail off of her Prevacid and she had only thrown up 2-3 times since then. I knew from the last couple of studies that it wasn’t wise to expect much progress and to be prepared for new precautions to be suggested.

We were, happily, no amazingly surprised! The Quail, she wasn’t so keen on doing the study this time. It took more than one suggestion of time out, offers of cake, validations of her feeling scared, multiple rotations of which parent was in charge of offering the barium-coated goodies and which needed to hold down her arms. This time we got the following results:

*Her swallow delay is now down to .5-2 seconds.

*She still has decreased tongue base retraction

*She has improved coordination in her ability to move the food and drink from one section of her mouth to the next.

* It still doesn’t look pretty when she moves it, but she is in control of it.

*The coughing that she exhibited (lucky for us she did this on film, as we often see it during meals and during water play) was not due to her aspirating or food getting stuck, it seemed to just be a response to her not liking a food or texture of the food.

*The cough was strong enough to expel said, undesirable food/drink in a way that helps her stay safe.



We really didn’t expect to get to hear this for a number of years if ever. We had accepted the need for thickened liquids as just a part of who the Quail is. Of course we were warned, there is a chance that today’s study was just one wonderful moment in time, the best of her ability to swallow, so we need to watch for signs that she may be aspirating- which include coughing, choking and repeated illnesses. And of course that is going to be difficult to tell what the cause is. Cause you know, she goes to daycare, and she’s starting public school in the fall and will be exposed to a whole new set of germs, and each growth spurt may very well mean that she’ll experience difficulty controlling her swallow again, and she’s prone to ear infections and her tubes have come out in the last year and the ENT says we need to see if she starts getting sick again repeatedly before we’ll know if she needs a new set of tubes, but odds are she will since her eustation tubes are naturally tiny; and she has a VSD, and she has Down syndrome and all of these things are likely to lead to a weakened immune system. So it will be hard to pinpoint the exact culprit and what the plan of action should be if we do end up spending our days in the pediatrician’s office begging for antibiotics and a new nebulizer this winter. Time will tell.

In the meantime, little girl is cleared for drinking thin liquids as long as they are through a straw so she has control of them and the opening in the back of her throat when she swallows is minimaized (as opposed to the size of the opening when you tip your head back to drink), although it would be better if we transition her back down to that with cold liquids and much to our delight she is cleared for swimming!!!!!

To swim or not to swim has been a longstanding question for us that it was really hard to figure out who would help determine what was safe. I asked her pediatrician, her EI, her SLPs, her geneticist and Zuzu’s swim teacher. If a girl aspirates on thin liquids, is it a good idea to give her swimming lessons so that if she were to find herself around water she can learn to be safe, or do we need to need to work like nobody’s business to ensure that she never comes anywhere near ANY body of water. I have such a strong memory burned into my momma heart of one night’s tubby when she was under two and slipped in the bathtub and her entire head went under. Her sweet, scared eyes locked with mine for the two seconds it took for me to pull her back up to safety. Yes- water- it’s everywhere and of course she’s as drawn to it as a moth to a flame. Of course she would still be at risk, but it’s only slightly more than any other child learning to swim.

The other two pieces of information that were new were two other therapeutic options for treating what is at this point a neurogenic swallowing disorder. Essentially these are desensitization techniques. I’m not a fan of that category of treatment at all. When one of our first therapists who was repeatedly experiencing the Quail’s temper throughout her sessions with her suggested we need to try brushing the Quail and that she has a sensory processing disorder we balked. We weren’t willing to try it until we had tried another therapist first and lucky for us, it turned out the only thing that the Quail was sensitive to at that time was her dislike of that therapist. We had other explanations for the behavior that the therapist felt represented a sensory processing disorder. What she saw as over sensitivity to nursing, we feel in hindsite was the fact that our kid was aspirating on the milk I was trying to force her to nurse from me with and she was trying to stop me. What she saw as sensitivity to touch was a non-verbal toddler’s way of letting us know that she didn’t want to be doing the prescribed activity with that therapist.

 The first option that we’ll receive a referral for is called therma-tactile-stimulation. This involves, taking large, frozen, lemon gelatin covered swabs and brushing them on either side of her tonsils three times in a set, 4-5 sets a day, for 5-6 weeks. This is meant to essentially stimulate the low toned muscles that the brain usually activates to swallow immediately in a typical person. Apparently with this procedure, once you’ve done it for a number of weeks, you should see fairly immediate improvement in her ability to swallow and that improvement should be long-lasting assuming no further neurological insults happen.  The downside, well; have you ever tried to give a small child or a cat medicine when they are aware that they don’t want it? You haven’t, well lucky you. I have- both of those scenarios. It’s not pretty, it’s not fun and no one comes out a winner. That said, the thought that we may be able to stimulate those muscles to a point that they would function typically and remove the risk of her getting sick from the daily, necessary act of drinking and eating, well I’m willing to try and see just how much she will protest. There is a small part of me that has hope it won’t be too much since she is the first kid I’ve ever met that flops her mouth open at the site of dental floss inviting you in to meet her molars.  Neighbors might prefer we wait till it’s closed window-season to start I’m sure though.

The second option is called vita-stim. This SLP started being trained in this technique a couple of years ago, essentially after the last time we saw her and she said from what she has experienced it has had great success. She did warn us though, to be careful of the experience level of the therapist administering it, because if administered wrong, it could do harm. It essentially involves taking a very low dosage current and applying to the muscles that are not functioning typically in order to stimulate them back into a regular motion. She said it would feel like buzzing on her skin and we would each do it on our own arms so we are aware of what she will experience. It would mean going to have this done about 3 times a week for a series of weeks. She said that the last two children that she has worked on involved an infant and a toddler with Ds and there was immediate and vast improvement in their ability to swallow. Typically this is something used with muscles that have atrophied.

We are to try the therma-tactile-stimulation first though to see if we get an improvement first with that and wouldn’t need the vita-stim route, which would be good because apparently there is a long waiting list to even be seen.

In the meantime, we celebrated our swallow-study results with a hospital cafeteria lunch and giggled our way back into our day.


At 15 months:

She has sprung to life. What was a content, calm, sweet-as-pie little baby has morphed into a walking, talking, climbing, running, mischievious, in-the-thick-of-it member of The Sistred pack.

Just under a month ago, L0vey had to go on a work trip. He was gone mere days- and when he returned- Sugarplum- was no longer a baby. She literally in the span of a few days started running and climbing and trying to talk.

Now I’ve found her- with open bottles of soap- dish, laundry, hand. Standing on top of tables, chairs, the dishwasher door, the top of any staircase within running distance, the couch, her sister’s bed. Just about anywhere she can scramble in the blink of an eye. 

She talks and talks. She screeches like a pterodactyl out of nowhere. I’ve heard her say, momma, dada, diaper, bottle, neh-neh, all done, more, shoe, energy, hungry and attempts to repeat back just about anything that is said to her.

She strolls around with her hands linked behind her back in a rather scholarly, thoughtful posture when she isn’t picking up speed about to get into something.

She will randomly stop and dance and sing- little aaah,aaah, aaah along with the radio.

She will randomly stop eating when in her highchair to dance and sing.

If you ask her if she went poo-poo in her diaper. She’ll stop, think about it and walk over to where the diapers are stored.

If you ask her if she is hungry and she is, she’ll walk over to her high-chair.

If you forget to offer to nurse her and she’s hungry she’ll drap her boppy and a blanket over to you.

If you suggest she keep eating just about any food after two bites, chances are 50-50 she’ll say and sign all-done and drop the food over the side of her tray if it were silly enough to still be laying there.

Generally speaking she is a savory girl. She prefers meat to just about anything else. Except maybe ice-cream cones. And pancakes. And frosted cake. But that’s just good sense.

If you mention going outside anywhere that she can possibly hear you, she’ll go get her shoes and sit down in front of you patiently waiting for you to put them on.

If you mention it is teeth brushing time to her sisters, she’ll be the one to follow you into the bathroom with her mouth hinged open chanting, “aaahhhh…..aaaahhhh….aaaahhhhh” waiting for you to offer to brush hers.

She is continuously getting into things and pulling them out of what they were in. She’s also pretty happy to help clean up and put things back where they were. You know, so she can pull them out again.

When you pick her up from school in Ms. Patty and Ms. Megan’s room, she comes running over with a grin on her face and starts to babble about her day. I hear she’s generally pretty excited to see her teachers at drop off each morning as well.

She has 10 pearly teeth and judging by the way she’s nursing, I’m guessing a few more on the way. This time I can always tell when she’s teething by how I feel afterwards. Ouch.

She still loves to nurse and take one bottle a day from Lovey. It’s a sweet time for them, she lays back and drinks her bottle that has a mix of regular and breast milk. She nurses in the evenings when we come home from our days apart and then again before bedtime and typically once in the night. Last night- she slept from 8:30 throughout the night. I’m fairly certain this is the first time, if there were others- I’m just too tired to remember. It was funny, she obviously wanted to nurse while we were reading bedtime stories so I decided to multi-task- and what do you know- three little Sistred were resting their heads simultaneously. I was happy to miss her after I turned out the lights.

 She met a series of relatives this summer and they seemed as keen on her as she was on them. She’s a pretty social and friendly little girl. A shy, slightly embarrassed smile is what she usually offers up, but a smile none the less.

Her giggle and the Quail’s giggle- still the same.

She walks holding your hand, pushing a baby stroller, with a purse around her neck, cuddling her bunny-bear, bringing you a book to read her.

She doesn’t have time to be cuddled- not while she’s awake or asleep. If you are standing/walking/working- she would just as soon you hold her. The moment you sit down, she wants down or better yet, for you to stand back up. When she is done nursing or with her bottle and is ready to nod off- she must be put down in her bed with a blankie to snuggle.

She knows her night-night routine and learned it fairly quickly. If you forget who to wish a good-night to next- just follow her lead.

sweet, sweet Sugarplum…

At 10 months (just shy of 11):

She can roll front to back and back again.

She can sit up, stand up, pull up and ask to be picked up.

Somewhere in the midst of the last month we stopped tucking her into the brown sling so frequently. She came alive and is much too busy for our preferred coddling.

She has babbled Mama and Dada, although it really is more babble than pointed and in that Shakespearian Typing Monkey sort of way managed to eek out Hungry one time.

She signs All Done, Claps, asks to be picked up with her hands up and has a funny little wave in which her tiny hand pummels her forehead.

The funniest thing on earth is to be sitting up and suddenly fall backwards. And she is a master at it.

She is continuously into things- drawers, cabinets, toy boxes….

She crawls from room to room and comes when you call her.

She still likes to nurse. But if someone is in the room she is quick to stop and grin at them. If her sisters are nearby when she is nursing she reaches out a hand to them. If they or a blankie or lovey aren’t around she holds her own hand.

She has 5 pearly white teeth.

She sleeps with her little hands over her head and on her back. Not unlike what her ultrasound pictures showed.

Just last week we started putting her down in her snuggle nest in her pack and play after her nighttime nursing. She might let out a little protest, but then nods off. Prior to this she had been waking 3-4 times a night to nurse while sleeping in her snugglenest between us and I wrote it off too teething…then her teeth came through and the cycle continued. Now in the pack and play she wakes one time in about 11-13 hours of nighttime sleep. If she fusses as we are putting her down, but she really is tired you are likely to find her in a funny position when you go back to check. Sometimes sitting up sleeping and sometimes on her belly. If she is just ready to go down, when you go to put her little pink fuzzy blanket on her she pulls it up to her face and snuggles in to it.

She gets the 8 o’clock cat crazies. Just as we put her sisters down to sleep she is usually getting wound up. If we put her down before she won’t stay. Once she’s down from there though we’re usually good.

She has a shy grin and giggle when tickled.

She is mesmerized by Baby Einstein’s Baby Van Gogh. And that’s about it.

She has the busiest little hands of all The Sistred. She is the one we have to babyproof for. She is continuously undoing what is done- the dishwasher, a kitchen or bedroom cabinet drawer, the toilet paper roll. Any sort of manipulative toy is a winner.

She does love her bunny lovey. And she greets him with a big ole bite on the nose as a matter of course.

She’s still not much of an eater. She takes stage 2 baby foods now and vigorously signs all done when she is- which can be anywhere from 3-4 bites in, to finishing off the packet. She’ll also munch on Cheerios, puffs and crackers. I once fed her a single pea. Poor thing wretched the entire evening until she got it up. We’ve been handing her a sippy cup that has a top like a bottle. She’s not so keen on it either. Maybe she’ll drink an ounce from it if she is super hungry. I’ve stopped waking her to nurse in the morning. Usually she went right back to sleep afterwards and wasn’t really waking on her own at all anymore, then would not be very interested in a bottle in the coming hours. She still only takes 2-3 ounces from Lovey in the morning and might drink one 4 oz bottle at school. And then it varies what else she takes in- maybe a food packet, maybe cereal, maybe another bottle. She’s pretty inconsistent. Inspite of which her growth remains in the 75% for height and weight.

five minute friday: cherished

…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.

mrs mccain


I know I am. How could that not be the case, when the biology of it is as pure as her gaze and as constant as her daily mommalogues. When I stop to really think about it, I know she doesn’t have to think about it to feel it. And yet, I ruminate, I wonder, I resist her growing love of things outside of and ahead of me. Her independance. As certainly as I send her out seeking them again and again.

She opened her backpack and amidst the tumble of papers was the little booklet that caused my eyebrow to raise up and my heart to give pause. Last week’s primary lesson was on the five senses. They illustrated their favorite sights and sounds, tastes and scents and things to touch. They noticed the ordinary in their day and drew out their love.

“Do you know what I love to see Momma?”

The question was as filled with innocence as her eyes were with joy.

I smiled back in anticipation.

She wakes with Momma on her lips. She chatters through her shower, her dressing, her meals; her play. In a room filled with people, she directs her sites on me instinctually. We remind her to pay attention to everyone. We scold her for the rudeness of her solitary focus. We explain how it makes others feel left out when her mommalogue runs throughout everyone’s day. And yet, it continues. And we try again.

And there, as the story of her day unfolds before me I see a new chapter illustrated on her heart. Her favorite thing to see? It wasn’t momma. It was her teacher. The content of her mommalogue, the newest center of her story was the kind smile of the sweet teacher she hopes to be, one day, to hear her tell it.

It makes me pause and listen- to take her in with my five senses while I still can. To notice, to listen, to cherish and to feel that constant attention of hers while it still wraps around us. For the time being.

school 6]



2022_10200280812241916_2146917488_nLife changes over time while we aren’t paying attention. Seems obvious doesn’t it? Yet, somehow it always strikes me when I least expect it. I seem to, in my little love of routine ways and days, live by a set of rules and facts that I tick off daily in my head until something stops me short and I suddenly see my world is different than it was when those old “facts” registered in my brain.

The day after Christmas EVERYONE needed to get out of the house. We had spent the last 4 days together anticipating & planning, decorating & gifting, baking & cooking, cleaning & cuddling, arguing & apologizing each day in our very soley indoors world. We enjoyed our holidays together, just the 5 of us with a couple of outings with local friends and many phone calls to relatives who we couldn’t be with. The food was fun and tasty, the gifts were well loved and cheered over. The sleep was much needed. The motrin and cold medicine for various runny noses, bulging gums and infected sinuses was widely heralded.

Unfortunately it rained. Pretty much non-stop. So The Sistred was needless to say, a bit cooped up. As were the parents. Although we had plenty of things on our to-do list to get done, we decided to look the other way, pack up our drinks and crackers and head to town to the Children’s Museum and a late pizza lunch. The baby is still portable enough and the older girls are always eager to be on the go. So even though we arrived at lunch and naptime, after having had to restuff feet in to new twinkling shoes multiple times as well as wipe down an extremely markered set of legs, hands and feet, we all played well. For the most part. Some of us would have liked to shop longer in the market. Some of us would have liked to gather flowers and carrots longer in the farm. Some of us would have liked to spend more time perfecting our loop-de-loop on the race track. But the real gift of this trip was the little bit of glass clearing I was given.

I have this image in my head of what my girls and I can and can’t do. How we can and can’t spend our time, energy and money. Parks- we’re in. Grocery shopping- surprisingly entertaining. Gymnastics or tumbling opportunities- yes- please! Muffin/cookie/cake baking- grab an apron and a whisk! Storytime at the library- um, no.

Really nothing that involves sitting still in quiet places with judging others eyeing us, well judgmentally. You know that look- that- “My kid would never act that way” kind of look? Well I’ve developed an art for avoiding it.  

At precisely 1pm, the children’s educator in the museum was hosting what I heard to be a mitten-making activity. Once Zuzu decided she was ok with the fact that they were paper mittens and not actually knit goods we decided to head up. Especially considering the “great love” of all things arts and crafty by the aforementioned little markered one.

545315_10200280808041811_2119429274_nSo in we go. I notice a mitten poem on the wall. Crafts set at the table and a pile of pillows. All arranged around a stool. Just as my kiddos assume the front row, I see the educator pull out a book. About mittens. Um. Not just arts and craft time. Storytime. Sigh.

Years ago I tried to do the good mommy activity that I remember loving from my own childhood. To this day I love being read to. I prefer a book on audio if there is a choice. Our little wildflower Zuzu though, she wanted to be the one reading the book during storytime. Decorating the room. Leading the conga line. What? Your storytime doesn’t have a conga line? Yeah, well ours didn’t either. But I was hard-pressed to convince Zuzu of that. After about 3 attempts. Each one ending in her bitter tears at my chiding again to sit down and be quiet; I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t need to be that angry. She didn’t need to be that contained. There were plenty of other activities that we could be spending our time doing that wouldn’t result in so much frustration on both ends. So we stopped going. And I tacked that rule up on my mental chalkboard. No storytime.

That was at least 4 years ago. With my single 2-year-old. So I eyed the craft tables longingly and leaned forward ready to give my sharpest raised eye-brow at any signs of Thunderdome brewing between the Sistred. But what to my wondering eyes should appear? Nothing. Zuzu raised her hand to ask questions and answer the educator. The Quail stayed put and listened attentively to the story. (It didn’t hurt that the story was about a yellow mitten- her favorite color). And the baby played happily on the other side of the room with Lovey. The educator fortunately forgot her poem and we moved in to the craft activity of making mittens fairly quickly. Zuzu was enthralled with learning about symmetry as Ms. Valerie praised her paper mittens and the neighboring tables kindly offered up matching sequins and stickers as she made her sparkly fashionista choices. The Quail entertained herself with crayons, gluesticks, sequins and stickers as well and 30 minutes later we emerged back into the museum unscathed and unjudged with 2 pairs of paper mittens and a semi-empty hall to twirl our way back into oblivion.

Later over steaming hot slices and a nice brown ale with some John Prine on the jukebox; I made a point to praise Zuzu for how well she did in storytime and how much I appreciated how much she has grown up in the last 4 years. Or at least I tried to, between attempts to call her back to the table to finish eating and reminders that this hardwood floor is for the restaurant and is not actually for twirling. Sometimes you just have to look away.

Quailday: Movin’ on up!

Lil Miss moved up to the next room at her private pre-school. We had held off on the transition earlier this fall because she had so very many happening at the same time and frankly, it was probably more overwhelming for us than her. But it was time. So a couple of weeks ago she said good-bye to Miss Chrystil and Miss Shaina and moved on in with Miss Maranda. The treat of this for her is now when Zuzu gets there each afternoon when Kindergarten is over they get to play on the same playground!

Abby - Last day in 2s-class sitting

That sweet lil muffin on her left is her BFF Mariah. The first non-family kiddo she called by name. They hug, hold hands, call out, go running for each other and save spots. She (and we) love her to pieces.

Abby - Last day in 2s-by door