"How Long Will That Last?"

That's the question.  I sprinkled some Christmas around the house, and all the while, I heard the voices.  "How long will that last?"  Feel free to leave your guesstimate in the comments section if you're so inclined.  

I have never opened this glass front cabinet in Spencer's presence.  Either he hasn't figured out that it opens or he hasn't decided it's worth his while to try.  Every now and then he looks at himself in the reflection or in the mirror inside the cabinet.  So, I'm really pressing my luck by putting new items inside of it for Christmas.  Hopefully, they won't look too interesting.  They're only oversized glittery letters.  Nothing eye-catching about that, right?

My mother-in-law got us part of a collection of ornaments last Christmas.  They are painted with Bible verses that tell the Christmas story and illustrations of each verse--one of my favorite Christmas gifts to date.  I have them up high this year because they are glass.  I almost broke one when I was unpacking them.  I really shouldn't be allowed around breakables.   

The back of the ornaments have the rest of the verse as well as the reference.  There is also a series of ornaments with lines from Christmas songs and illustrations.  We have "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Silent Night" on this tree with the Christmas story ornaments.

I've got a few ornaments that are not toddler hazards that don't "go" with the rest of the toddler-friendly ornaments on the Christmas tree, so they are standing in as lamp jewelry.   That little snow creature in the middle of the ornament doesn't look nearly as creepy in person.

Other ornaments from my previous collection.  I couldn't help myself.  Our little birdies are perpetually in flight this Christmas season.

If you are looking at this and thinking, "Come on, Lauren, are you already trying to teach Spencer to play the piano?"  I understand.  I know that piano book is for someone about Spencer's age.   Unfortunately, it's also the perfect skill-level for me.  

My mother-in-law also gave me that "Silent Night" plate.  I think it's so sweet.  An added bonus:  it actually has something to do with Christmas.   

A Christmas platter, from, my  fairy godmother mother-in-law.  I end up needing platters a lot this time of year--and this year I'll have such fun ones to use!  But how could I leave it in a cabinet until then?  It's too cute.

I bought these trees for Spencer's nursery last Christmas.  They sat on his shelf, looking so cute AND boyish.  I was SURE he'd be in there for another few years.  Shows you what I know.  Luckily, our hall bath is gray, and they look ok in there.

I thought I should include an honesty shot.  This is what holiday decorating REALLY looks like--at least when I do it.


Going A Different Direction

Two years ago, I was considering not putting up a Christmas tree.  I knew I'd have to take it down.  And I knew I'd be taking care of a newborn.  My sister reminded me that "You have to have a Christmas tree!"  And she promised to come over to help me take it down after Spencer was born.

I hung beautiful ornaments--some vintage finds from antique stores and others bright, shiny and clearance-purchased (which makes me love them even more).  All of them glass, hung with wire hooks or over-sized hand-tied grossgrain bows, reflecting light from the pre-lit tree we had finally purchased the year before.  I'd always had live trees growing up, and I love them and think they are the only truly beautiful and authentic option.  But, by the time I got to high school, I had become increasingly allergic to them, in all their sap and pine-needled splendor.  So, we had to go artificial.  It took me three years to force myself to do it.  That's how hard it was.  I bought, set-up and returned one the year before.  It was just really not real.  Amazingly, though, once the lights are low and the tree is lit, it's beautiful just because it's Christmas.  And that's what I will continue to tell myself.  =)

One year ago, I knew I'd have to be mentally ill to believe I could put up a Christmas tree.  So, think what you will; my one year old woke up Christmas morning in a house with no Christmas tree.  It was beautiful.  After all the Christmas hustle and bustle, I had very little to take down and pack away.  I'd hung some lights over our big picture window, and I'd put some ornaments in hurricane vases on high surfaces; but I'd spent the entire holiday season enjoying my family and saying very few "No No's."

This year, I knew I'd have to put up a tree.  I have memories of Christmas at my grandparents when I was Spencer's age; and I want Spencer to know that Christmas time truly is a celebration for our family.  We do things that are out of the ordinary and inconvenient because the baby Jesus was truly out of the ordinary and he lived and died to save us, which must have felt at the very least, inconvenient.

So, I bought new, inexpensive, less than beautiful ornaments, knowing that I'd still have to be mentally ill to believe I could put up a Christmas tree with glass ornaments on it.  I bought wood and felt ones from Michael's dollar section this summer and stuffed them away at the top of my closet.  I bought candy canes at Dollar Tree, and planned on a giant pom pom trim garland (which I still haven't gotten around to buying).  No ornament is hung with a metal hook, and I've never found an angel for the top of the tree that I think is non-ugly, so I've rigged a poorly-made bow.  However, Spencer came in when I was almost finished and stopped running.  He approached the tree slowly, almost reverently.  He smiled at me as I told him, "That's the Christmas tree."  He lifted up his hand but didn't touch as I explained that we have to be very gentle with our Christmas tree, because it's special.  He stared for a few more seconds and then scampered out of the room.

I think it's going to be a great Christmas.

P.S.  I ran out of ribbon.  I know it's a little sad-looking.  I'm working on it.


Last year at Thanksgiving Spencer was sick, and I was sicker.  Neither of us got flu tests, but I am positive I had the flu.   I'm ninety percent sure he had it too--before me, and we just called it a virus.  We had both received one of the two immunizations they made for the flu last year--apparently the wrong one.  

I cried in bed while Jonathan took Spencer to both of our family's Thanksgivings.  Jonathan took care of Spencer for three days and two nights.  He even attempted to dress him up in the turkey costume I had bought on clearance at Babies R Us.  Spencer didn't love it.

I had not spent that much time away from Spencer before (and I don't think I've spent that much time away from him since).  This Thanksgiving, Spencer was in the middle of a round of antibiotics for a sinus infection.  He seemed to be doing pretty well, considering.  Snottiness was gone, cough was gone, upset tummy was manageable, diaper rash under control.  But he came down with a little fever virus at some point, and his parents finally took notice last night.  He wasn't miserable, and he slept all night without any Tylenol.  He's been a little wimpy today, but his fever is gone.  He seems to be fine.

Two years ago today, Spencer was not sick.  He was in utero.  I, funnily enough, was sick.  With a cold.  I'm truly not sick that often, but this is "my time of year."  I missed semester exams multiple years in junior high and high school with either a stomach virus or fever and cold symptoms.  After high school, I finally became convinced of my mother's belief that I get sick whenever I don't get enough sleep.  And now I sleep religiously, deeply, for long periods.  It really does wonders for your health.  But when you're nine months pregnant, you are not sleeping much.  No matter how many people tell you to "rest while you can," you can't.  I was huge.  Truly huge.  Over seventy-five pounds "huger" than I am right now.  So, I caught a cold and held onto it through my delivery with Spencer.

When I came down with the cold, I was worried that it would hang on to my due date.  I really should not have worried, because with everything else you have to "worry" about during the delivery, there's not much time to focus on a stuffy nose.  I just think it's funny that our illnesses are so predictable; yet I'm always surprised by it.  I have my planner for 2011 in the drawer in the kitchen.  I might as well get it out and mark the weeks leading up to and including Thanksgiving and Christmas as "Lauren and Spencer Sick."  Maybe I could go ahead and schedule a few sick visits at the pediatrician for next year so that we won't have to come on a Friday or Monday.

I know that Spencer will catch quite a few more "bugs" in his young childhood, and then hopefully things will level off; and for us, this time of year is our time of immunity strengthening.  I've never been a fan of strength training, and I'm even less enthusiastic about it when it involves my "baby."

Why am I telling you all of this?  Why do I bore you with the minute details of inconsequential colds and fevers?  Because when you're sick, no matter how small of a thing it is in "real life," it sure feels like a big deal.  You know you're fine, it'll go away; but you can't deny that you FEEL yucky.  And it's even more the case when it's your child.  I just hate watching him feel bad.  He actually takes it in stride.  We've been very fortunate that he's been a healthy kid.

And THAT'S why I'm really telling you all of this.  I'm so thankful for health.  Mine, Jonathan's, Spencer's, and our family's.  I can't imagine fighting a  battle with a long-term illnesses.  Or, what must be even more excruciating, watching a loved one fight that battle.  I know people do it; and many do it well.  But right now, today, that's not where I am in life.  And, I'll say it again:  I'm so thankful.  I do pray that when it's our turn, we'll have the grace and the strength to live knowing what's most important to us and that we'll be able to share that with everyone involved.

But today I'm thankful for health.

P.S.  I don't know why his turkey headdress ended up on the side of his head like a bow.  My niece helped me put it on him, and I didn't even notice until I put the pictures here.  Hopefully, this won't come up in therapy someday.


One of the Reason for My Previously Whiney Post--Spencer's GI Tract

We got some closure and good news regarding one of the big "tired-makers" on my plate.  I posted a "note" on facebook, but I thought I would post about it here too.  Spencer has had chronic diarrhea for about nine months, and this week we've gotten some answers.  I've spent a great deal of emotional energy, actual energy (we use cloth diapers), intellectual energy (researching), doctor's appointment energy, and money (special foods, special milk, LOTS of co-pays and tests, etc.) on his "issues," and hopefully now we'll all get some relief, at least mentally, from these things which have been dominating much of our life and time.

We got word last night from our GI doctor (whom I would highly recommend) that Spencer is neither lactose intolerant nor does he have any sort of bacterial overgrowth.  His baseline hydrogen levels were high, but not high enough to be indicative of a true problem.  The doctor said sometimes the baseline levels are just high in kids, and we don't know why.  I'm really thankful to have both of these things ruled out.

These results allow us to totally rule out celiac disease, and his blood work has completely ruled out liver problems.  The allergist and the GI doctor both think he has more going on than "toddler diarrhea."  They agree that most likely Spencer has some protein intolerances that he will hopefully outgrow (that or they'll get a lot worse and turn into true allergies).  We will do one more non-invasive test to rule out problems with his pancreas.  Neither the doctor nor I think that this is an issue, but he said we should go ahead and do the test since it will be easy on Spencer and then no one can have any questions about it.  Then we wait and hope his symptoms improve in the next few months.  

If he continues to be the same with us continuing to add the probiotics and the extra fiber, we will consider doing a scope and a biopsy.  The doctor made a point that he is not saying, "He's fine.  Don't come back."  He is saying, "Let's wait and see."  Interestingly, my aunt told my mom that my cousin had diarrhea off and on most of his toddler hood and even into 4, 5, and 6.  He finally just "outgrew it."  He also had lots of trouble with eczema (Spencer is having mild to moderate eczema, which is why we tested for more food allergies).  I found this out in the middle of all of the testing, blood work, etc.  

To me, all of these symptoms would be consistent with a protein intolerance (which is sort of like an allergy that only irritates and inflames your intestines).  So, I'm hoping that's what it is and that he'll out grow it in due time.  If he continues to grow and have no other symptoms in addition to the diarrhea, we will probably get to skip the colonoscopy altogether.  I feel more secure in this plan of action knowing that my cousin had very similar symptoms as a little kid and is now totally fine.  I'm still glad we ruled out the other big things, because if you saw his diapers day in and day out, you'd think there was something wrong too!  Trust me on this one.  

One of my concerns (after my main concern that there was a health-issue that needed to be addressed) was that of potty training.  How do you potty train a toddler with constant diarrhea?  I plan on asking my aunt this question, but I don't recall any huge problems potty training Sam, so I'm holding out hope.  Along these lines, though, we may have to retire the cloth diapers for a while, because the doctors recommended continuing to feed him all foods (except peanuts, of course), and the diarrhea causes painful rashes and yeast infections in the absence of using barrier creams--even when he is changed as close to immediately as possible.  I can't use barrier creams with our cloth diapers.  I have tried different "tricks" that are supposed to allow you to do that, and they have all failed and ended in extra misery for me, damage-control wise.  I'm not declaring them obsolete for us or for Spencer, but I am declaring a little  bit of a holiday for the holidays, and then I'm going to reassess, depending on how he is doing.  

Good news for us.  No more worrying he has something horribly wrong with him.  Thanks for all the prayers and support.  

p.s. If you're still in the mood to postulate, all of this makes me wonder if this was an issue early on with his refusing to nurse, etc.  I don't know enough about it all to have any strong opinions.  It just makes me wonder.


The Post in Which I'm a Big Whiney Baby

I'm a sprinter, but life is a marathon.  And when I say,  "I'm a sprinter," I'm speaking figuratively, of course.  Those of you who know me can vouch for the fact that I don't run sprints or marathons--ever.  Not in the past, certainly not in the present, and not in the future.  I do hope someday to run a few miles in a row again.  I have done that a handful of times and apart from the pain and agony associated with allergies keeping me from breathing, I kind of liked it.  I do occasionally sprint after Spencer, but that's another blog post.

The last few years of pregnancy and child-rearing have been great.  I love it.  Ok, I hate pregnancy; but it's one of the main ways to "get" a baby.  But I do love taking care of Spencer.  Lately, however, I've been so tired.  Not tired like I need a nap.  Not even tired like I need a few hours to myself.  I'm tired like I can't imagine what it would take to make the tired go away.  It's probably intensified by the fact that I don't feel good today.  Spencer doesn't feel good.  Jonathan didn't feel good last week, and will probably catch what we have and start not feeling good again.  It's the circle of life.  But even when I "feel" great, I'm tired.

I know this sounds like I'm complaining.  And I really don't want to have a blog on which I complain. I prefer to think of it as "sharing."  I also know that millions of people DO infinitely more in their day,  every single day, without all the help and breaks that I get.  I don't even know what to think about that.  My best hypothesis is that the energy that it takes for me to just BE exceeds the energy that it takes for others to be.  And, in that way, I start out with a deficit when it comes to the energy required for DOING.

So, I need to find some new ways to conserve my own energy.  However, everything I need to do on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis seems to require a no holds barred approach.  I already feel like I should be learning more, knowing more, memorizing more, singing more, praying more, running more (with Spencer), cooking more, cleaning more, smiling more, listening more, saving more, etc.  So, I'm not sure where I can afford to cut back.  Thankfully, the holidays are usually a time to rest up for our family.  And I'm hoping we continue that tradition this year.

It feels as if I've been sprinting since December 4th, 2008.  I don't think you're supposed to sprint for twenty three months  (or 16,560 hours), and now I'm finding out why.  Feel free to tell me how you "pace yourself."  Although, I tend to think it's more of a personality difference (aka: flaw) for me than a lack of helpful tips.  And I know that can be changed and remedied as well.  I just need to add "change the way I approach everything in life" to my to-do list for this week.


Stop Talking and Start Typing

When your friend causally asks how you've been doing and twenty five minutes later you realize that you haven't stopped to take a breath--you know you need to write, lest you subject the rest of the world to the volumes of thought, ideas, and concerns that the wheels in your head crank out one after another like a sweat shop in eastern Asia.

I had originally written an informative yet witty post detailing the daily and hourly struggles of not knowing exactly what's wrong with you kid but feeling sure it's something you best figure out.  I unintentionally deleted that post, and have now decided to skip it.  Wouldn't it be more fun to read about how adorable my kid is?  I thought you'd agree.  Here we go.

When I thought about having kids of my own someday, I knew I would think they were great; however I had no idea how much joy I'd experience watching them display their greatness day after day.  Spencer keeps us laughing and cringing, usually with only seconds in between the two emotions.  His sweet little personality and his willingness to endanger his own life again and again perfectly intermingle to make him truly the most interesting child I've yet to encounter.  [Please note, I do not now nor have I ever made any claims about unbiased reporting regarding my offspring]

When Spencer isn't sharing his snack with his beloved "dog dogs" by putting their head into his bowl, he is slipping Gigi and Nana's dogs crackers and desperately seeking their love and affection.  He is still as enraptured with moving pictures as he has ever been.  "Trending now" are "Little Einstiens" (which he asks for loudly and lot by screaming "Hi!  Hi!") and "The Wonder Pets" (he asks for them by saying "Pets, Pets" but the "t" is usually dropped).  Some days one of those two requests is the first thing out of his mouth.  We made the mistake of letting him watch some episodes online, so now he knows that the computer has the power to bring him "Pets" or "Hi," and I daily question what in the world led me to believe that was a good idea.

That leads me to another fun little fact:  Jonathan and Spencer both had the stomach virus; and by some grace of God in my life I did not catch it.  This is related to Spencer's watching movies on the computer only because the day that Jonathan was sick and I was terrified that I was getting sick and Spencer had already been sick was the day I caved and let him watch movies on the computer all morning.  This is the first time that I have ever known people who had a stomach virus (whom I had encountered) that I did not end up on the floor of the bathroom draped over the toilet.  I'm not exaggerating, but I am still waiting to get some delayed case of it.  Call me a pessimist, and I probably won't argue.

Back to more cute Spencer stories.  At church Spencer pulled some masking tape with a little girl's name on it off of a nap mat left out by the Mother's Day Out (which I REALLY hope had been cleaned before my kid got his hands all over it--gross!).  Anyway, upon seeing a piece of masking tape with a name on it, he pulled it off the mat and carefully placed it across the top of his sippy cup, directly above the spout, and perfectly parallel to it.  I grabbed a pen and a post it and wrote it down, because I didn't even know what I thought about it.  But it certainly seemed worth remembering.

Earlier that weekend I had mentioned to my mother-in-law how far from ready Spencer seemed to be in the potty training category. Which, in all honesty, is more than fine with me.  Funnily enough, Sunday morning I took one of those risky while-my-child-is-awake-and-technically-unsupervised-but-seems-to-be-pretty-glued-to-the-tv showers and when I came out I could smell poop.  I looked over to see that Spencer had taken off his pants!  Now, you all know he's taken off his diaper before; but he's never taken off his pants.   He knew he was dirty, wanted to be changed, and pants removal is certainly the right place to start.  It was kinda cute.  It was truly a miracle he hadn't taken his diaper off too, though.  I always have him clothed for that very reason.  Later on Sunday, he'd pooped again [yes, he has a problem, and we're looking into it], and I told him to lay down so I could change him.  He promptly picked up the laptop that was playing his movie, set it down on the floor next to his changing pad, and then laid down.  Talk about combining obedience with priorities.

Clearly, movies are still a big part of his life.  I promise we get outside and do other things.  He's very active, often times while his movie is on.  One of my favorite things he does during his movies now is during the previews.  Many of his dvds start with the phrase "Now available on video and dvd."  And he always tries to say "dvd" at the end of that sentence.  Good times.

He loves music, and that's really a big part of why he likes his movies so much.  I've been playing some VERY simple songs on the piano for him and "with" him.  When I put the music up on the piano the other day, he pointed to the notes and said "Hi! Hi!"  For those of you who aren't hip to the pre-school tv scene, "Little Einsteins" always show the music that they will be playing that day.  I thought it was so funny that for him, his first exposure to sheet music (or music notes) will always be from the "Little Einsteins."

Spencer is playing by himself more than ever before, and it's been AMAZING for me.  I know it's good for him developmentally, bla bla, but really I'm just selfishly thrilled with this turn of events.  He will be getting quite a few fun new toys for his birthday and Christmas, and I'm honestly so excited for him.  I think he's really going to like getting some new things and having more stuff to "do" at the house.  He's definitely ready for new toddler fodder, so to speak.  It's all I can do not to go buy him a bunch of stuff now.  This happened last year too.  I bought (and gave) him his birthday present from Jonathan and me exactly a month before his birthday.  I'm trying really hard not to do that this year.  It'll be a little easier since I don't think we're getting him a birthday present.  Did your parents used to tell you that your party was your present from them?  'Cause mine did.  It made perfect sense to me.  Hope Spencer feels the same way.