Monday, December 21, 2009

notes from the infirmary

Sick kids. Again.

Matt and I started to forego presents for one another years ago, but this year I really, really want just one thing - healthy kids!

It started with Parker last Tuesday, a pretty bad cough and runny nose. We kept him home from preK on Thursday and Friday. By Wednesday night Macy had it, by Thursday Holden had it and by Friday Dawson and Emerson were right there too. Holden fared the worst and for a while we thought about taking him to the ER and facing the possibility of spending another holiday with a child in the hospital.

He slept all day Friday and Saturday - literally, we had not seen his eyes in that long - but finally Sunday morning he opened them and was looking around, very miserable and unsmiling but still alert for once. His congestion is nearly gone now and he took his first full 5 oz bottle of breastmilk just a few hours ago. Emerson is sounding better and Dawson is still battling an awful dry cough but it seems to be running its course.

We're thinking it was most likely RSV since neither Matt, I nor Cade got it and it got progressively worse with younger age.

I am so tired of sickness, especially around holidays. Last Christmas was spent cleaning throw-up off new toys LOL, so hopefully this will clear soon and it will be out of the way by Friday.

It's after midnight, the kids are all asleep (for now) and the house is a complete disaster. Ah, motherhood. ^_^

Thursday, December 17, 2009

first smiles

Monday, December 14, 2009


Just a bit late in posting, but Happy 2nd Birthday to our beautiful Dawson!

It seems forever ago that he was being born in our bedroom, tumbling into my hands and bringing a whole new world with him. I can hardly remember the feelings that overtook me when I first felt certain he had Down syndrome... though I admit as he gets older there are times I feel that again; times when he is frustrated pushing his little walking toys around because he can't get his feet to obey him, times when he is so congested we can only wonder how he can still be so cheerful - in those times I have to fight back tears pouring out from the mommy bear inside me that wants to drag that chromosome out of his body, kick it around a bit and put it out with the garbage. I always felt he had such a reason to be here, great lessons to teach, but more frequently these days I feel selfish for him and wonder why he should have to work so hard to give such a great gift to others.

But in the end he is much more than a living map for finding the meaning of life - he is Dawson, just my Dawson, and he is perfect.

It seems right to close this post with some words written in his baby journal when he was 3 months old. They are still so true! ^_^

I am so grateful that we found one another. You have made me realize what true, unconditional love is and have made everything in my life so much richer.

I envy you, Dawson. You change the world and bring happiness to people just by being you. What an incredible power you have. Use it wisely my sweet boy. You are going to have such a beautiful life!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

blessings, birthdays and bugs

November come and gone - and geesh, what a month! Time for some updates!

We celebrated the 3rd birthday of our spunky little princess, Macy, on the 12th! I can still remember that desperate longing for our lucky #3 to be our first daughter and the disbelieving joy at finding out it was! :) She continues to take advantage of that royal role and work on her bossing skills. ^_^

What was supposed to be another happy and uneventful Thanksgiving turned into a bittersweet stressful time as our little Dawson spent that day in the hospital. He'd been fighting with a cold for over a week and fevers around 102 for a few days. We took him to the doctor Tuesday night, fearing H1N1, and got a prescription for Tamiflu. Then very suddenly late Wednesday night he woke up with a fever approaching 106, vomiting a little blood and staring at the ceiling blankly, not responding to his name. Matt rushed him to the ER while I stayed home and worried, imagined worst case scenarios, cried and tried very hard not to imagine life without him, the feeling of the earth falling out beneath me and the anchor of this little boy letting me go to be set adrift. Matt did his best to keep me updated from the ER; it was a long, sleepless night. In the end the test for H1N1 came back negative and his bloodwork looked normal - he ended up being diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia and spending 2 days in the hospital.

Matt and I switched every 4 to 6 hours at the hospital and I couldn't help thinking how Emerson spent a month in a hospital around the world with the same diagnosis without a mommy or daddy to hold vigil at her side. Dawson was a trooper but clearly wanted to get home - he was cruising around his little jail cell and getting bored with the toys we brought. His fever stayed down, his lungs stabilized and he was released on Saturday. When I asked him, "Bye-bye home?" he started clapping happily and before we left he was waving to the IV machine saying bye-bye LOL. He's been doing great since, other than some pesky diarrhea from the antibiotic he just finished.

Thanksgiving wasn't Thanksgiving without him (and Matt, who took mealtime duty) but in the end we had the best thing for which to be thankful! He was home in time to enjoy his joint birthday party with Macy on that Sunday - his birthday is coming up soon but for now we have 6 kids ages 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 LOL!

Our little Dawson is doing great, he is cruising everywhere and walks around behind his push cars all by himself - independent walking is SO close! :) He is still gaining lots of words and has the best sense of humor. He loves to play on the couch, rolling around and working those muscles LOL, and a couple weeks ago he fell off - not too hard and he didn't cry but I rushed over and he lay there on his back looking up at me very seriously and said, "And down." Hehe what a cutie! He understands "fast" and "slow" now and will sing and rock with you to Row, Row Your Boat both fast and slow - I'll have to get a video sometime, it's so adorable.

Emerson had the same cold which she has made through unscathed other than a terribly runny nose combined with her dry skin to create an awful bleeding spot at one nostril. She is doing well overall - despite her sometimes major feeding issues, she is up to about 19 1/2 lbs. She is still eating baby food, but she now accepts it with crushed up cheerios or crackers mixed in - an absolutely huge leap for a child who a few months ago would scream for an hour if she had even the tiniest crumb put on her tongue. She is slowly getting desensitized to texture and I am feeling a renewed hope that we might get her eating some table foods by her 3rd birthday. She has even started lateralizing her tongue and making some rudimentary chewing motions while eating. She's drinking much better with a straw now and gets all of her fluids that way.

She has a very cute greeting that sounds like "hi," sometimes waves bye-bye and sometimes signs "more." She understands a lot more than she expresses - especially NO! LOL She is still grinding her teeth, sometimes really badly, and she is still hitting things into her head/hitting her head into things - the other day she hit her face into the metal railing at the top of our stairs and gave herself a little black eye. The only positive thing was that she cried. She usually seems to be oblivious to even the worst bumps. We have to swaddle her very tightly at night or she will wake herself by thrashing, kicking and hitting her head. She's now discovered that even when we take toys away and move her from walls she has the floor - she will sit with her legs spread and bang her head repeatedly into the floor.

Despite all that, when she is engaged she is really engaged - she makes good eye contact, tracks everyone and laughs and smiles and she'll crawl into the noisiest room to be part of the action. She's pulling to stand a lot and we will likely be getting her orthotics to help with how she stands on the absolute sides of her feet.

Somedays are really tough with her - days where I feel certain she is just a head bang away from a dual diagnosis of Autism on DS and I don't know how in the world I will deal with this - and other days are good days, ones where I marvel at how much she has changed and feel determined not to give up on a good challenge. With all the chaos of the past two months I am a bit behind on our 6 month post-placement report. Sometimes I am not sure what I will say, sometimes I am writing two reports in my mind - the one I will send and the one I really want to write... but wow, 6 months.

Our other kiddos are all doing great, including the Cutest Baby Ever - he is closing in on 13 lbs and starting to smile. Ah, how time flies. Other than some fussiness at night he is a pretty easy-going guy and Matt and I are constantly trying to wrestle him out of each others arms LOL. We're not taking away the possibility of another baby or two in a few years depending on our circumstances - yes, Holden is THAT cute! :)

Enjoy the pics, there are a ton more to come hopefully soon! ^_^

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

boo-tiful babies

Although the three littlest ones and I stayed in on Halloween (Dawson and Emerson have both had yucky respiratory infections), I still had to get them dressed up for pictures. Emerson *really* disliked her little bat costume LOL. Dawson didn't mind his devil costume, though he didn't care much for the head gear, and he looked so hilarious scooting around the house on his butt with his little wings flapping behind him hehe. ^_^ Holden had the comfiest costume of all - a ghost! The older three had fun trick-or-treating just with Dad and brought home the most candy thus far in their short Halloween history.

Emerson had her ear tubes placed last Wednesday - the ENT said it was the worst case of fluid/pus build-up he's ever seen and the surgery took him the longest it has ever taken in his many years of practicing. Her ear canals are so abnormally tiny (even for a child with DS) that he almost couldn't fit the smallest instruments made into the left ear. Otherwise the surgery went smoothly. Since then things have been downhill - really puzzling for us - with a return of the teeth grinding with a vengeance, even more head banging and other self-injurous behavior than usual (including biting through the inside of her cheek with her scarily sharp new teeth leading to a thick sore that is only now just healing) and overall misery. She no longer wants to eat anything and some days we are lucky if we can get 3 jars of baby food into her. I don't even want to know how much she weighs now. She has her follow-up appointment tomorrow morning so we are anxious to find out if there are any problems to be seen or if this is just another inexplicable issue for her. In my postpartum hormonal state these issues are especially frustrating and upsetting for me, but what can you do?

Holden is doing great - he has already surpassed birthweight (I must make cream, not milk LOL) and though he still sleeps most of the time he has more periods of alertness. And he is absolutely the most gorgeous baby ever - he looks *exactly* like Macy as a newborn, including her strange and beautiful almond eyes that she inherited from my side of the family. I am so in love with this little guy, he almost makes me want to have another (*almost* LOL!) ^_~

Monday, October 26, 2009

born free

"The future is not something we enter. The future is something we create."
L. I. Sweet

Holden Brady Schafer
Born October 26, 2009 at 9:20 AM
9 lbs 2 oz, 21" long
14" head circumference
Apgars 9 and 9
Labor of 2 hours, 35 minutes

A certain little someone at last decided to join in the chaos of our household!

Just when I was starting to feel certain this would be the first and only time I got to experience being "overdue" (which I know is quite silly because medically speaking a woman isn't post-term until she is 42 weeks and 1 day, but still - we do give some sort of magic to that little due date, don't we?), and after several false starts including one that had us almost fill up the birth pool a week ago, this morning I woke up far too early with Emerson at 5:45 AM and promptly lost my mucous plug in a gush. After doing a litmus test to make sure it wasn't my membranes rupturing (it wasn't), I woke Matt up to tell him the gross - but nonetheless exciting - news.

I felt a bit crampy and my lower back was aching and about 6:45 the cramping fell into contractions. They were uncomfortable enough to have me wandering around the house whining to myself while Matt tried to get the birth pool filled as quickly as possible. Whenever he had the audacity to ask, "Are you sure THIS is it?" my uterus responded by turning up the discomfort. About 7:45 the pool was ready and I threw myself in LOL, still sort of expecting the fast hour that greeted that action with Dawson. I ended up with 1 hour and 35 minutes instead and just like the additional 1/2" of Holden's head circumference, the extra did not go unnoticed.

Dawson's birth was not what I would call "painful," though I think the fog of forgetfullness makes it easier to say so now, but his contractions were short and sweet and quite predictable. He was in a rush to get out and it made the whole experience much easier on me. Holden, however, seemed perfectly content to stay put as long as possible and the contractions were random and often very long, sometimes piggy-backing on one another and leaving me in a constant state of suspense. This time they HURT and from about 8:30 onward I was one long string of whines and chants of I-can't-do-this-I-need-an-epidural. I think it must have been around 8:50 when I stood up and shamelessly proclaimed that I was going to the hospital and would get that epidural - only to realize I was incapable of walking at that moment and dropping back into the water with the next contraction. Somehow through all this I did manage to monitor his heartrate twice, noting good variability and no concerning decels.

Pushing with Dawson was a breeze - it was 7 minutes of calm relief. Pushing with Holden was rough - still just 15 minutes, but there was no relief, just awful pressure and at last that mythical Ring of Fire I've always been able to avoid. He was nearly a full pound heavier than Dawson so I'm sure that had something to do with it - he also decided to keep his membranes intact until his head was out and I felt like I had to hook a finger around his shoulder and help him rotate his body. And then it was over and he was in my arms and pink and screaming with the slightly shocked faces of three of his siblings peering down at him from our bed beside the pool. (While I labored most of the time alone, we decided to let Cade, Parker and Macy witness the final few minutes with Matt while we listened to Dawson and Emerson playing happily in the baby room on the monitor. They thought it was the coolest thing in the world for about 2 minutes, until they heard the theme song for Dora the Explorer on the living room TV heh!)

He scored great on his Apgars and this time the placenta came easily 20 minutes later. And despite his bigger size, this time I had not even the slightest skidmark! Pretty quickly afterward we were all cleaned up and resting on the couch while Matt took care of the rest of the little ones. Holden nursed great and then promptly went to sleep LOL.

Overall a great birth, though one that left me extra-positive that IT WAS THE LAST!! ^_^

Tomorrow's agenda includes Holden's first pediatrician visit (which is another story for another day involving our malpractice-paranoid pediatrician), a visit from my parents and sister, labwork for Dawson, a field trip for Parker and back to normal for everyone else! :)

Oh and he looks EXACTLY like Macy did as a newborn!

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I have many excuses for my (seemingly unusual, if you were reading my blog this time last year) long silence... they start with Busy and end with Busy, with two colds thrown in between and an awful lot of pregnancy-induced moodiness that has me wanting nothing more than to spend the few hours after the kiddos are in bed curled up on the couch zoned out to and/or ranting along with my favorite left-wing liberal media shows on MSNBC. :P But with our lives about to get even busier, it was time to sit myself down and get this posted!

Cade is doing very well in Kindergarten - he didn't have a hint of nervousness that first day getting on the bus; he's a pretty independent and adventurous (albeit shy and quiet) kiddo so I guess I should've known better than to worry over him. Social skills are his weakest link but he does seem to be opening up more with his classmates and interacting. He's so funny, he seems to know how important this issue is for us - yesterday while heading out the door to the school bus I called after him, "Have fun!" and he responded with, "I will! And I'll talk to a lot of kids!" Hehe. :)

Parker screamed for 15 minutes the first day we dropped him off at PreK. 5 minutes on Day 2. Not at all by Day 3 and he's been fine ever since. He really loves it and is a much more social creature than his big brother so he's not having nearly as much introverted trouble as Cade did early on in PreK. There is a disproportionate number of girls in his classroom and I think they may have noticed his adorable dimples - the other morning while dropping him off three little girls were chiming, "Hiiii Parker" as soon as he walked in the room.

Macy was a bit depressed the first couple weeks of school - it was obvious she really missed having her older siblings around and there was a lot of extra fighting going on when the boys got home from school. She seems to be adjusting now though and she likes the Mommy & Me tumbling class we go to each Saturday (no, no tumbling from this mommy LOL) and we're very glad we signed her up for it as it's become clear that she is going to be our toughest send-off to PreK next year; she has all of Cade's shyness combined with all of Parker's clingyness and though she's now happily jumping around the gym course, she won't really interact with the other kids and prefers to wait until they've moved on to another area before she plays.

Dawson got the brunt of our latest cold, down in his chest for over a week. He has another psych eval coming up next week since we declined adding a Special Education teacher to his services last eval. I'm guessing about a 6 month delay or so. He's doing so many neat things, it's easy to forget where they say kids his age are "supposed to" be. He has a great vocabulary, over 50 words, but he only uses it when he feels like it. He has a few two-word combos like putting "a" and "and" in front of words and "thank you" of course. He understands a few commands and this weekend followed his first complex one when I asked him to go get Emerson's shirt (which he'd tossed a few feet away) and give it to me. He just looked at me sheepishly at first but then I repeated the command and added "Look!" with a point at the shirt first and that did the trick - he scooted over and grabbed it, scooted back and handed it over. He is a doll baby. :)

He has been giving tons of his open-mouthed kisses, grabbing my face and covering me with drool LOL. He has really started to show how much of a sweet and sensitive little soul he is - if one of the other kids is crying he gets very concerned, leans over and looks near-tears himself. The other night Emerson managed to cut her lips on the sharp edges of her teeth worse than usual and as I was holding her trying to stop the bleeding Dawson was leaning over and planting kiss after kiss on her cheek. It was so sweet and it made me feel so much smaller than him, as I think I've grown a bit immune to all of her self-injuries.

Em is doing... pretty well, I think. Physically she's progressed so much - she pulls to stand on anything she can, even climbs up on top of toys and boxes and tries to get up on the couches LOL. Mentally we are getting there, though she has days where she really regresses. She has definitely become more aware, especially the last few weeks; she has very few moments now where she sits and stares into space as if she were the only person in the universe. She still has a lot of institutional-like behavior, i.e. banging her head against walls, banging toys into her head, poking herself in her eye repeatedly and pulling her hair very hard (especially when eating.) It feels like just in the last week we've turned a corner as she has been so THERE with us, doing less teeth grinding and much more babbling and happy vocalizing. When the therapists come into the room she gives this adorable joyful greeting that sounds very much like "Hi-i-i-i-i!" complete with inflection at the end. The little girl who hated to be held initially now opens her arms up to strangers.

We were still having so many problems with feeding - she basically figured out that the bottle was always an option, so she started refusing all baby food including ones she seemed to like, and then wasn't eating the bottles consistently either - we decided to take away the bottles completely one day. It was a tough decision because I am always so (maybe overly) concerned about her weight gain, but we just couldn't go on like that anymore, especially with a new baby coming. The first week was a bit bumpy and she lost a bit of weight, but now nearly a month later she is a baby food-eating champ. She eats between 8 and 10 jars of Level 2s each day, exceeding 1000 calories the last several days. She not only gained back what she lost but has broken the 19 lb mark. :) Our new challenge is liquids - she basically refused any at all the first couple weeks and we ended up forcing her to get a few ounces sip by sip throughout the day. She's doing better though and now drinks several ounces of apple juice through a straw on her own.

I hate to jinx anything, though I try to keep my expectations for tomorrow and beyond safely neutral, but today was the first day since the behavior began that Em did not grind once. :)

She had her second appointment with the ENT earlier in the week to see how the drops had worked on the impacted ear wax. Good news is the wax was cleared, bad news is she still failed her hearing test, even considering her as a 6-month old. Meaning, she has to have tubes placed. The surgery is under general anesthesia and is tentatively scheduled for 10/28. I'm nervous about that and luckily she has a cardiology appointment next Wednesday so we can talk about the use of anesthesia with her heart defect, but mostly I'm scared the tubes won't solve the problem. If it's not a matter of built-up fluid, we will then be sent to a "super" specialist in Syracuse or Philadelphia for her to have a brain-stem test to see if there are bigger issues behind her lack of responses. We will hope the tubes are all that is needed though.

I think I am coming more to terms with her delays and her specific issues. Dawson had an EI meeting this past week where I got the customary progress reports on his development. And it is always hard that first day to see the delays in print, to see them growing larger as he gets older. And for just a few short hours I can feel the wind knocked out beneath me and the fear of the unknown of Down syndrome creeping back. But then as I am rocking him to sleep and he is tickling my hand and smiling up at me with those big brown eyes, the reports get burnt up in the radiance of just how much I love him, and I don't care how big the number is before the percentage sign and know that I never will and the fear is defeated anew. And though I will always be so much smaller than him, he once again pulls me up a bit taller by reminding me of what is really important, and telling me wordlessly to feel the same way about Emerson. I am so lucky to have Perspective come in such a beautiful package. ^_^

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Just a quick one - we are all alive and doing well and I have been working on a proper update post with new pics over the last two days - so far. I'm running low on time (and energy) these days, so sorry for the blog winter.

Holden is still cooking - we are now full-term! ^_^ Hopefully I'll get an update posted before I have to write up a birth story LOL! :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

crazy days

Wow I've become a stranger to my own blog! Sorry about that! Life with 5 kids is pretty busy, to say the least. The summer seems to have rocketed by and now we are only 1 1/2 weeks away from school starting - Kindergarten for Cade and PreK for Parker. With the 20 minute drive each way for PreK, two non-walkers going on three and a belly I can no longer bend over, I don't see any relaxation in my immediate future LOL. I thought I'd best get in an update on us though before true chaos sets in.

Cade is nervous but excited about Kindergarten; we've spent a lot of time this summer working on helping him with basic skills so he feels more accomplished at the start - he can usually identify his whole alphabet now and is even beginning to sound out simple words. Fine motor has never been his strong point (hence him receiving OT and continuing to do so this school year) but he has made a lot of progress with writing his own name. He knows so much but is rarely willing to show it to his teachers. He's shy and perhaps a bit too introspective and deep-thinking for his age (hmm... I wonder where he gets that from?) so I worry about things like sitting on the bus, who he will eat with at lunch, etc. I wasn't much moved by him going to PreK last fall but the thought of Kindergarten can send me into near-tears everytime. My big boy!

Parker is er... less than thrilled about starting PreK. Although he has a sweet, bubbly personality with people he knows (though he seems to be going through a minor identity crisis, as I think he feels pushed out by Emerson's high needs and anticipates less attention with Holden due so soon) he is much more of a mechanical-minded child than a social one. Luckily we were able to get him in with Cade's former teachers so he does know and like both of them. He's also going to be starting Speech Therapy (he's the last one to do so - now every single one of our kids has at least ST!) and will be working with the same therapist who saw Cade and sees Macy. So he will at least be surrounded by adults he knows. Hoping his transition is not too hard on him - and us!

Macy is doing well and hitting the Awful 3s (what the hey are the Terrible 2s anyways? 3 is the big number in our house!). She had her 6 month re-evaluation for Speech and has made some improvement with articulation and as with Parker both expressive and receptive were above age - she actually came out 9 months ahead for receptive. We're hoping to get her into a dance or gymnastics class so she has her own little activity to look forward to with her beloved big brothers both in school. She is the queen in the Shy Department so we are hoping to get her a bit more open to new experiences before she starts PreK next year!

Our Dawson is wonderful as ever. He seems to have at least two or three new words each week and has gotten a bit more expressive with the therapists (he is normally such a quiet observer of people outside the family), he has twice now informed his Physical Therapist with words and sign that he is "ALL DONE!" hehe - little stinker. He sings "Row, row, row a boat" while rocking whatever object he deems worthy of pretending to be a boat, I will have to try to get a video and post it as it's simply the cutest thing in the world. He says "Thank you" all the time now when we put his food in front of him or hand him a toy - adorable now but yeah, all our kids are polite until about age 2 1/2 LOL. He is big on referential pointing now, he points to everything when we're out and asks, "That? That?" while we name every object we can for him to store away for future use I suppose. He has rediscovered his reflection in mirrors and will spend at least 5 minutes making silly faces at himself and laughing hysterically. We are still waiting for those days of walking - he pulls himself to stand much easier now and sometimes will cruise a bit to the side on the coffee table and will take assisted steps when we say "Walk" but balance and weight change are a lot of work for him - not hard to understand since he's 26 lbs and at least 32" long. It's got to be tough figuring out how to get all of that moving LOL! ^_^ I am still hoping a bit he might be starting to walk independently by his 2nd birthday, but he'll get there when he's ready. For now he is commando crawling when he wants to, scooting forward and backwards (very fast LOL) when he feels like it, and I can only thrill at his communication skills and revel in how much delight he takes in his world.

Little Emerson is a study in contrasts. Some days I could rush to the laptop and post about what great progress it seems we made, but others it feels like the progress has been pulled out from under us - and then some. The one major development is that she is eating baby food! I should qualify that statement quite a bit, I suppose... she eats some baby foods very well, when she wants to LOL. About two weeks ago she went through a frustrating bottle strike where she basically had 2 bottles each day for 2 days straight and then suddenly the next day when I offered her a jar of Turkey Tetrazzini she had discovered how to command her tongue and ate two jars of the stuff with barely pushing out a drop. We have since come to realize that there is more to Emerson than meets the eye. I honestly do not think she was incapable of eating baby food when we first came home - I think it was simply that she did not care for what we were offering her. She has a few hard favorites now and we continue to try new things and she continues to stubbornly spit out and cry at anything she doesn't like, no matter how hungry you'd think she should be. I admit it's a bit frustrating but it's progress regardless and we're happy for that. She was 18 lbs 3 oz at her check-up last week.

Emotionally it feels like we're struggling more and more these days. Her teeth grinding has gotten so bad it usually leaves my nerves completely frayed at the end of the day. It's hard to believe anyone can grind teeth so loudly, so slowly and deeply - especially since it is only being done with one top tooth and one bottom tooth. If you can imagine someone scratching long, jagged nails down a chalkboard right next to you, over and over again for about 30 minutes of every hour for 10 hours each day... then you might have some inkling of what we endure each day. She has actually been grinding so hard that she has caused the bottom tooth to bleed several times. It was pretty unsettling last week when I went in to the room at night to check on her since she had not yet fallen asleep and was grinding particularly loudly to find her face and shirt covered in blood. We thought she was grinding a hole into her lower tooth.

She finally had her long-awaited dental appointment on Friday and as always, it was good news/bad news. Good news is her teeth and gums are actually still healthy with no obvious decay and there is no apparent damage to her teeth yet from the grinding (apparently she has a bit of gum caught over the lower tooth in question which is what is bleeding, not a hole). The bad news is this means there's nothing they can do about it but hope that it stops. The dentist was a bit surprised by how few teeth she has (only 8, compared with Dawson's 14 going on 16) but that might just be due to poor nutrition. The bottom teeth are also angled so much and her gums are so short that she often cuts her bottom lip on them... again though, nothing that can be done. We have tried consistently gently but firmly squeezing her cheeks and saying NO each time she grinds, I've tried doing some gentle gum massage and vibrations... she dissolves into tears each time but within minutes goes right back to grinding.

It's always nice to feel like we've escaped one more huge medical issue, but it's also disappointing to know the problems we did get are the ones that can't easily be fixed. I've come to the conclusion that somehow, although cognitively she's barely a 6 month old, she has come to use grinding as a tool of manipulation. I suppose it's not that surprising - kids in institutions probably get much better use out of quickly learning attempts at manipulation than true communication - but it makes it all the more frustrating. I think she's a bit jealous of Dawson, especially as I rock him to sleep at night, so I started rocking her first. It was nice to have her fall asleep in my arms, a silent trust that had finally been earned, but everytime I put her down carefully she immediately wakes up... I then give Dawson his turn and she sits in the crib pressing her face against the bars, watching us. After a minute she starts grinding her teeth harder than ever, slowly, seemingly painfully... so much so that my teeth usually start aching and I have to press them tightly together to try to relieve the pressure. She does this constantly in between giggles and pulling up to standing against the crib rail. At first I was responding - getting up with Dawson and laying her back down and telling her no, night-night. But then I realized the pattern to her game and I now sit there, eyes shut tightly, teeth pushed together and silently chanting to myself, I will not respond to this, I will not respond to this, I will not respond to this... she does not give up until I lay Dawson down and leave the room. She rarely babbles anymore; she simply grinds. And though we all try not to react to it, to not try to reward any attempts at using this as a form of communication and manipulation, oh my gosh is it hard to hear it all day and not try to do SOMETHING to make it stop.

She has days where she makes such good eye contact and interacts more with us and even with toys, and I get so excited and start to think perhaps we're coming upon that turning point... but then the next day she wakes up seeming to have regressed, her eyes refusing to look at you, sitting there grinding her teeth and poking herself repeatedly in the forehead with one finger absentmindedly. When she does that I go overboard with trying to tickle her, calling her name over and over, as if she's gone behind the curtain and might be lost forever. Usually she looks around me, unmoved. It's strange, it's scary and it makes me feel like it will always be like this. Dawson has finally started to attempt interacting with her... tonight at dinner he reached over and tickled her foot (oh, he says "Tickle tickle tickle" too in the most adorable way LOL) and stared smiling at her face, seeking her eyes... she wouldn't look up at him. He tried a few more times before he gave up and went back to eating and communicating with us. I felt sad for him, and for her too. And though I think I've reached a point of peace with the journey we're on, I feel unable to truly bond with her, unable to truly love her with a mother's love instead of simply with a worldly love, a humanitarian's love. I know other moms have felt the same way and that time is the only cure for that, but sometimes I wonder if this too will be an undefinable problem, a thing that cannot be fixed, even by time. We just hope.

Holden is doing well, very big and very active. I'm only measuring 2 weeks ahead in the height of my uterus but that's mostly because he's lying transverse right now - I have no silly notions of a little baby. :) I am guessing I will go into labor closer to 38 weeks, which is very scarily about 6 weeks away. I still need to get that birth pool ordered and the cord scissors and we need to get yet another crib for our growing collection LOL, but otherwise I am very much ready to NOT be pregnant anymore!

This post is long enough, but the last piece of news is that we got a kitty two weeks ago! We'd talked about getting one for Christmas for the kids but a trip to the pet store for some dog food ended up with the adoption of a 5 month old beige tabby. The kids named him Alex (after the boy in Signing Time), a close second to Butt, which Matt and I unfortunately had to veto. ^_~ Luckily he is a very sweet and tolerant cat, loves the attention from the kids and doesn't twitch an ear when his tail is mistaken for a pull-toy. Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the pregnancy perk of avoiding litter box duty. If only that could last forever... :)

Some pictures! (I'll get some new ones of Cade and Parker on their first days of school!)

Had to do a before/after of Emerson eating baby food. The top is from nearly a month ago and the result of her thrusting everything out with her tongue. The bottom is her happy after finishing a whole jar with hardly any mess. :)

Introducing Butt... er, I mean Alex!

Oh yes, Alex is a strange cat... I'm beginning to think he is truly a dog's soul trapped in a cat's body. :)