Monday, July 31, 2017

My Little Fierce Potentate

It’s hard to believe that M is already one year old even though admittedly I feel five years older.

M’s character was prominent from his entry into this world, fierce and fast with less than three hours of labour and only three pushes (the hospital staff referred to us as the “stop and drop”). Since we are all to some extent the prisoners of contingency, my little potentate’s character developed through his attempts to eclipse the refulgence of his elder brother’s lucent personality. He has mercilessly learnt how to charm and wile and makes friends of strangers when we're out and about.

Learning from his elder brother and in a nanny share with his brother and his best bud, who are 19 days apart and about 21 months older than M, he has learnt how to fight, because he’s had to. Some months ago, when L and W decided the only way to protect their puzzles from the resident Godzilla’s rampage was to play on top of L’s bed where M couldn’t crawl to, they provided M no better incentive to conquer the climb and he was up there in no time. The desire to play with his older brother and outdo him led to him crawling at seven months, before his body could even support the physical act, so that our determined little dude looked rather as if he were on a military mission with a Navy Seal crawl. 

One of my favourite memories thus far is when M, shy of months, decided on his own to start playing the piano. His elder brother and I were flabbergasted and both burst into laughter. The piano had been for his brother, but M must have seen him thump away at it and decided he would attack it - and yet, M delicately approached it and was very conscious of its sonorous qualities whereas L’s relationship with it could be somewhat termed abusive were it decidedly not sentient. While L is also quite musical, I’ve never seen a baby take to melody and rhythm and be able to copy what he or she hears like M. This talent he avowedly did not inherit from me. I perceive myself to have certain talents, but musical ability is not one (and unfortunately I’ve learnt the hard way that you can’t make up in decibels what you lack in melody). While I love to concoct little ditties and sing them to my boys, considering that all boys must enjoy their mother’s voice, I would not dare impose by trituration of melodies on any innocent ear- particularly after my own son asked me not to sing to him. To give you an idea as to how much my toddler doesn’t enjoy my singing, he even allows me not to sing the part in The Book with No Pictures (if you want to know the truth, ask your children- their verity is venerable). But I digress…

Ah yes, mon peti carporal’s conquests have been grand. A few months ago, he took to the walker and then began to zoom about the house before we had taken the gates from L’s rampage out of storage. He took his first few steps alone when he was 11 months. I seem to have missed his first sprint even though I was right there. I was speaking with my sister and brother in law, who came to visit for his birthday and baptism, relating that M was ready to walk, but he felt unsteady, so that his first promenade could happen in a couple of months or in a few days or any second. As I finished saying this, my brother in law calmly asked me how my son had travelled from the coffee table in the centre of the room to my feet. I looked down and sure enough my little guy was there, smiling resplendently. He crawled, I concluded. My brother in law contended that he had never seen his head drop at which point I understood he was telling me that while I was telling them that he could walk at any moment, I had missed it. Oh, the misery! 

I had previously worried that while M’s appetite for literature was voracious, he was literally digesting the pages, rather than enjoy their content and am pleased that he outgrew this stage, albeit he enjoys reading by himself more than being read to, turning the page and immersing himself in their images.

We can already see that M is going to be a grand conversationalist, just like his brother. When they start talking, they don’t stop and they like to command the conversation ( L has become an ardent negotiator). M babbles away incessantly, the general vein, which we can discern through his animated expressions, frustrated gesticulations and changes in cadence. However, we can only understand a few clear words. His vocabulary consists of mama, dada, baba (grandmother), yia yia (ditto), hi, bye and water. The other day, as his dad was holding him, he watched me get ready to leave and as I headed for the door he waved to me and said “bye mama” and I stopped at the door, staring at him, stupefied. They grow up so fast!

M has a particular smirk when he conquers something new. The other day we showed him a toy musical carousel which he immediately became enchanted with and learnt how to manipulate so that he spent hours pressing the button to renew the songs until we took it from him before its repeated sonorous incursion into our house eclipsed our sanity. 

We recently got M down to two feedings a night and I hope that before he is 13 months, I can cut the dream feed and have a straight 8hours of sleep (oh, joy!). The other day I unwittingly overheard, due to the decibels undulating in my direction from a very stentorian speaker, how a woman’s children both started sleeping through the night at 2 months. Neither of my children slept through the night for a year. When the woman complained of how difficult the first two months were, I wanted to exclaim “try a year!” but resisted such a social faux pas (this was my punishment for eaves dropping after all). 

M’s favourite foods are avocado (he is Californian after all), apple, broccoli, salmon, banana, strawberry and havarti. He has a voracious appetite and thumps his table when he wants more. 

M and L have begun to hug and kiss each other as well as tussle. This latter activity has spiked anxiety in our household for L does not understand how fragile M is, nor does M realize this and I’ve had to break them apart and provide stern explanations. My husband warns that the tussling will continue as they grow older.

M has a distinct quality of finding what is most dangerous to do in a room and ventures forth to do it. His adventures have already resulted in innumerable scratches, bruises and a chipped right canine. What am I do with my thrill seeker?

As much as he may fight with his brother and is at times, the fiercer party, M adores his elder brother. He wants to be just like him. I hope that they become close and stay close throughout their lives. I've never had a sibling and am happy to have provided them a relationship I lack. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hiking Hacks, Sleep Reboots and Viral Vexations

Last week we took our toddler on his real first hike in Tahoe and he made a stellar effort, hiking nearly half the hike. We thought he was a real ninja, considering the blistering sun (thankfully covered in sun block and wearing his super hat!) and altitude.

I had been researching toddler friendly hikes around Lake Tahoe (or as L terms it "Lake Taco"), where we spent some splendid summer days and was a little disappointed at my results. Numerous hikes were deemed "family" or "child friendly" but didn't specify whether this included the tiny steps of tots. Hikes that were proffered as "toddler friendly"  didn't specify why and if they were also stroller friendly. For instance, the hike (which isn't really a hike but more like a tough promenade) down to Emerald Bay is toddler friendly because it is paved some of the way and while you endure elevation, the gradient is not steep so that your little tyke can walk the majority. It is also stroller friendly (depending on how much you use and abuse your stroller - our tired traveller has faced travails of various terrain around the world, including mountains and beaches). The Lighthouse Loop at D.L. Bliss is termed toddler friendly and our toddler walked half of the way, but it's certainly not stroller friendly. The hike itself is immeasurably beautiful, providing grand vistas of glistening azure Tahoe bordered by verdant Pines below incandescent, alabaster peaks (their grandeur best captured in an old Maori aphorism, 'long after man passes, the mountain remains').

When we couldn't use our stroller, I carried M, L walked and hubby carried supplies and when needed, our tired toddler. We kept him walking by diverting his attention away from his hurting legs to his treasure hunt - L having adopted my penchant for picking up rocks wherever he goes (so now when we finish any holiday, my hubby stands sentry as L and I have to undergo the painful process of culling our treasure, later invariably and clandestinely adding some stone stowaways to our luggage). I found one of the most enchanting rocks I have ever seen during the Lighthouse Loop hike, only to have lost it before it ended to my dire dismay (was it the universe informing me that all is fleeting?). Alas.

We decided to go with the single stroller, since any double stroller would be but a monstrosity on any hike and we hacked it to put both our kids in. We undid the back to its fullest extension and had little M sit far in the back, while L sat at the front with stern instruction not to sit back, which we supervised through the opening at the top of the stroller. They loved it and started tickling each other! This allowed some respite for weary little legs as well as parental arms.

Both boys dipped with us in the lake, which proved quite refreshing, and it was M's first swim in a natural body of water, to the tune of the giggles of a nearby gaggle and under a kaleidoscope of butterflies. L also had a first... he righteously threw up the contents of his breakfast as we increased in altitude in the serpentine road, stopping for relief next to a creek at El Dorado. I must admit that I'm quite emetophobic and had always feared the day motherhood would lead me to clean up my progeny's expulsion. However, I didn't mind cleaning L up at all and it didn't even make me gag. I remain befuddled, but it's good news, since I know this is merely the start of a long, smelly, dirty, journey.

After we returned from our holiday, we decided we've had enough of sleeping in our kids' beds, alternating between M and L and that we would reboot their sleeping habits. Unfortunately L got sick and I gave into cuddling him to sleep and sleeping in his bed all night, but we remained on target with the bub. He's about to turn one, so it's high time we all started getting uninterrupted sleep through the night. I am thankful and elated to say that we hacked M's night snacking which had remained a solid three session process for the past few months. The past several nights, I've only nursed him at midnight and then again at 6. Woohoo! That's 6 straight hours of sleep for moi and soon for hubby and M too, who endured a battle of the wills until M, despite his hunger, fell vanquished and
 succumbed to his slumber.

At the end of this month, it will be 6 months since L's been off the prophylactic antibiotics and on my breastmilk (which he drinks in his tanuki ninja cup) which his pediatric urologist had provided as a solid temporal period to measure in considering whether he should have surgery. We looked like we were going to pass through without any issue, when this week we endured a crisis.

It's always the same circus of chaos whenever L gets a fever of guessing whether L's fever is due to a virus or other infection or a UTI- and his case, with no barrier, pyelonephritis (thankfully, it was a virus he is beating). Every time L gets a fever, we're walking the tightrope of waiting to see whether it's a virus or whether he needs antibiotics, not wanting to medicate unnecessarily if he doesn't need antibiotics, but well aware that if he does and we prolong the process, he risks kidney scarring. What is a parent to do? No decision is perfect and each delivers its own risks, the consequences of which we know we chose. We take a cautious approach and watch for any other symptoms as we watch any rise in his fever. Now he's even old enough to tell us where his boo boos are, which is a great asset (does anything hurt? where does it hurt? does your ear hurt? your pee pee?). We also know how our son reacts when he is ill and he's reacted the same the few times he's had an infection - high, persistent fever, lethargy, malodorous urine being the main symptoms. So despite knowing that UTIs can present with low grade fever, he's never presented this way and we remained skeptical, albeit still worried and finally nearing the 48 hour mark of his first fever, stampeded into our pediatrics office to test him. Thankfully, he no longer requires a catheter, which was a traumatizing process for all of us and can provide his own sample, being fully potty trained (and for nearly a year now!). I told him we would be playing a game to see if he could aim his pee into the cup and my husband disinfected him and supervised his sampling (in truth he's more delicate and deliberate in these things than I am and was the better parent to attend to him). The problem is that particularly with uncircumcised males, you have a difficulty with obtaining an uncontaminated sample and simply knowing that there are higher leukocytes or nitrates doesn't provide an accurate result and you must wait for the culture to grow. The decision we face then, is do we wait until the culture returns or medicate before? We decided to wait it out because neither of us thought it was a UTI from the display of his symptoms and his previous history and were thankfully right, but each time we have to weigh the risks and are engulfed by looming stress. We're also well aware that L starts preschool in a number of weeks, and that kids being cesspools of bacteria and little whirlpools of viral infestations, we're going to go on this rollercoaster more often.