• Mama Brag #2

    As soon as Leon and I entered the exam room for his 18-month checkup, he pointed out the butterfly (“bababa”) and clock (“dock”) on the wall. We waited for a while, long enough for Leon to spray pancake crumbs in every crevice of the exam table and tell me that the cow in the wall mural says “booooooo.”

    He’s meeting motor skill milestones for 24 months. He can easily kick a ball, stand on one foot, and walk on the balance beam with his teacher’s help. He’s been trying to jump lately but hasn’t quite gotten it yet. He’s been able to scribble back and forth for a couple months now, so I’m secretly hoping I passed some artistic gene down to him. He loves books and asks to be read to pretty much any time we’re in the living room. He can turn one page of his book at a time, and he’s careful to go back if he notices he turned two pages instead of one.

    Regarding communication, the doctor asked me how many words Leon can say. I said I stopped counting at about 30, and she seemed genuinely impressed, telling me that the average at this age is 15. I mentioned that they’re mostly protowords, but she assured me that over the next six months he’ll start articulating more and stringing two or three words together.

    I expressed concern about colorblindness because he knows quite a few shapes, animal noises, and body parts yet thinks every color is “yellow,” but she just chuckled and told me that many parents share the same concern — he may just be focused on learning other things. (I’d come across this article before, but it was reassuring to hear it from a doctor too.)

    Leon passed his autism assessment, despite me having to check “no” for “handles loud noises well” — but if we’re being honest, Reese’s bark is very ferocious and scary.

    And no shots this time, so a great visit all around!

  • Back at the NICU

    We went to a NICU reunion this afternoon. Honestly, it was mostly so I could reclaim some of those negative memories from when Leon was born. I dressed Leon in a dorky sweatervest in preparation for possibly having to make small talk with other uncomfortable parents.

    But the reunion was grander than I expected — it was essentially a carnival with popcorn and bounce houses and face-painting and a snowcone truck. Leon didn’t care about anything other than the balloons, to be honest. We spent five minutes letting him bat at two balloons by the water station before we got bored and took him to the bounce house.

    But it was surreal to be back, from circling through the parking garage to sauntering down the hallways I used to speedwalk through to to get to my OBGYN appointments. It was kind of nice to come full circle and be back with a healthy child. Not that Leon isn’t sick every other week and permasnotty, but you know…

    Leon’s been working on his vocabulary lately. He can say/recognize about 20 words and will respond to simple sentences (“let’s put that back,” etc.). I made a list of what he knows now, just because I don’t want to forget the cute ways he says everything. Note that mama is “dah.” ?

    All done – “ah duh”
    Ball – “ba”
    Balloon – “ba ba”
    Banana – “na na”
    Bye bye – “buh buh”
    Clock – “dock”
    Dada – “dada”
    Dog – “dahg”
    Grass – “ga”
    Head – “ehhhh”
    Hello – “hewwo”
    Hi – “hi”
    I love you – “ah yuh yuh”
    Light – “yight”
    Mama – “dah”
    Milk – “muh”
    More – “muh”
    Outside – “ah duh”
    Phone – “hi”
    Sock – “dock”
    Tree – “hee”
    Uh-oh – “ungh ungh”
    Water – “bah bah”
    Yeah – “yeah”

  • ‘Twas the Night Before Surgery

    Leon got his clearance from the cardiologist this morning. With exactly 12 hours until his first time under anesthesia, my feelings about everything have only amplified. I’m nervous for the uncertainty of surgery, I’m relieved that he’ll no longer feel constant pressure, I’m excited for him to hear clearly for the first time. I also feel so much love and adoration for such a small human. He drives me crazy sometimes when he flings his food on the floor or he barrel rolls out of a diaper change and runs through the house naked, but he also pulls on my heartstrings — he crawls in my lap in the morning when he’s still sleepy and hugs my legs when he’s feeling particularly shy. He covers his eyes and giggles when he wants to play peek-a-boo and shares his soggy, chewed-up food with me. And he’s cute, which I guess also gets him pretty far.

    I don’t know how some moms manage to go all day without telling stories about their kids. I feel like I talk about Leon as often as a 14-year-old talks about a new boyfriend. I need to figure out a way to summon some social aptitude, because I feel like right now my interactions are essentially a soundbite from that old Bush-Gore Snickers commercial.

    Someone else: I’m not feeling too great.
    Me: Might want to hit up the doctor — Leon had the flu a couple weeks ago.

    Someone else: I’m going to order the salad with beets.
    Me: Weird, Leon hates beets — it’s the only food I can’t get him to eat. I can’t even hide them in anything! Crazy, right?

    Someone else: I rearranged my furniture this weekend.
    Me: Leon rearranges the chairs and his big toys all the time. I could barely keep up with him when he was just putting blocks in random cabinets!

    Someone else: I made spaghetti last night.
    Me: I once made a human!

    Someone else: Kindly shut up.

    I might be exaggerating, but nonetheless I’m literally 100% uncool. That said, someday he’ll want nothing to do with me, so I’m going to enjoy my sweet boy while I can.

    A lady from the surgery office called me this morning to confirm his appointment and reiterate some of the more important points. She said that she was required to tell me that since Leon’s a minor, one parent or guardian needs to stay inside the building at all times. I responded by asking, “Yes, but how close can I be?” Apparently the answer is “a nearby room” and not “looking over the surgeon’s shoulder.”

    Tomorrow at this time the anesthesia will be worn off and it’ll all be over — just another day. In the meantime I’ll be over here looking at pictures of my baby while he sleeps and wading in all my feelings.

  • Leon’s First ENT Appointment

    ​​Now that Leon’s recovered from his fourth ear infection since November, I asked his pediatrician for a referral to an otolaryngologist. We started our appointment this morning with a hearing test; Leon and I sat in a soundproof room with speakers in opposite corners, and I was instructed to stay still so I didn’t bias the test. Through the speakers, the audiologist called Leon’s name and played high-pitched beeps at low volume; when Leon turned his head to look at the source, she played a video of a dancing toy to serve as positive reinforcement. I was so tempted to congratulate him when he correctly turned his head to the noise, and I wanted to prompt him to look when he didn’t respond to a few of the beeps. Then the audiologist stuck some little bud things in his ear, he got mad, and we read a bunch of Dora the Explorer books as we waited for the doctor.

    The doctor came in, and, after asking me about Leon’s health history, said he is a great candidate for ear tube surgery. She explained that his eustachian tube is too small to drain effectively and the tubes will allow that fluid to drain. I felt really assured learning about the procedure. The biggest takeaway was that Leon currently has fluid behind his ears (not an infection anymore, though he’s still finishing his antibiotics) and is actually experiencing some hearing loss/muffling due to all that fluid. She said now is the time to do the surgery since he needs to be able to hear us clearly to pick up on language. It might even help with his poor balance too, but I’m not holding my breath because maybe he just inherited my clumsiness.

    Minh was concerned when I mentioned hearing loss, but I explained that the doctor didn’t see any signs of nerve damage so his hearing should theoretically return to normal after the surgery. I felt like I was able to reassure him immediately after the appointment, but as the day wore on I started getting anxious myself. The procedure would take place in a surgery center and they’d be putting him under general anesthesia. What if he reacts negatively to the anesthesia? What if they accidentally OD him? He’s the first surgery of the day — what if their coffee hasn’t kicked in yet? Didn’t Joan Rivers die due to complications with anesthesia?

    I know it’s a super common procedure for them, but with it being my sweet baby boy and his first time under anesthesia I’m feeling so nervous I could throw up. I believe 110% that this is the right decision; I just there was a way for him to lay still and not be in pain without having to use anesthesia. I did do my due diligence to request clearance from the pediatric cardiologist due to his mild stenosis, but I have yet to hear back. Since my freakout earlier in the day, I’ve read a doctor’s FAQ about how anesthesia works and I feel a little better — it said that the likelihood of a healthy person having issues with complications with anesthesia is 1 in 300,000, but still…someone’s gotta be that 1. No matter what, I won’t be completely at ease until he wakes from the procedure.

    Thankfully, I only have a week left to freak out and Leon only has a week left of fluid in his ears, because the surgery will be next Thursday. Crossing my fingers and toes that it goes well.


    Thank you to the wonderful Allison Dittman 🙂
  • Again?

    Leon’s sick. Again.

    At first we thought it was just a fever from the one-year vaccines he got last week. But a couple mornings ago, he just wanted to lay on me. I held him like a newborn (which he usually hates nowadays), and he just stared off into space for 15 or 20 minutes. I didn’t know what was happening (was he having a seizure?); it was so unusual for him to be so calm and still that I was honestly afraid he’d just stop breathing right there. I haven’t been that afraid for his health since we left the NICU. I called the doctor immediately, and that afternoon he was diagnosed with the flu and an ear infection. Then I noticed three teeth coming in. Awesome.


    Unfortunately our pharmacy was out of the antibiotics he was prescribed for his ear infection, so he wasn’t able to take his first dose until last night. The infection must have gotten worse throughout the day yesterday, because he screamed almost the entire day. At one point, he hyperventilated/cried while arching his back and kicking his legs. I tried holding him against me, singing, offering food, anything — but he just thrashed around for 45 minutes. I felt so helpless because he wasn’t due for any more Tylenol or ibuprofen for a couple hours. Eventually he wore himself out and fell asleep against my chest. (I’ve since reached out to his pediatrician about the possibility of tubes since this is the third or fourth ear infection he’s gotten in the past couple months.)

    This morning when he woke up, he drank more milk than usual and then drank half the additional Pedialyte I offered him. He ate almost his usual breakfast, and he seemed to be in decent spirits. He showed me a new trick of balancing a toy boat on his foot, and he happily chattered to himself while I took a shower. Minh said he slept pretty much all morning, then ate quite a bit. After such an upsetting and overwhelming day yesterday, I’m hopeful he’s on the mend.


  • Goodbye, Six

    Six bit Leon yesterday. She was laying on the floor where he was playing. Minh and I were on my computers, and I turned my head in time to see Six growl and snap at Leon. She has arthritis and has had trouble walking lately, so we think Leon just touched her in a way that hurt her. I’m still shocked — I’ve never seen her get aggressive in almost 7 years of knowing her. But old age and pain must have changed her personality to some extent, but even still she seemed to know immediately that she made a mistake.

    Leon cried but could be consoled easily. I cried much longer than he did, and literally cycled through all Five Stages of Grief in about 10 minutes. How could she do something like this?! She’s done here; we have to get rid of her. She didn’t mean to do it! She’s been good for all these years and she messed up and now her life is going to change forever! Finally, That’s just what we’ve got to do.

    So Six is getting a new home. I’m sad for her, but I don’t want to risk it happening again. She’s a good dog and I’m sure there’s a family out there who can love her who doesn’t have little kids. She was frustrated being confined in our backyard anyway, so maybe it’s for the best.

    Meanwhile, Leon’s walking about 75 percent of the time, and he’s getting quite the sense of humor. He chased me through the house today with a onesie; he cackled maniacally when Minh chased him through the house; and this morning he tricked me like he was going to share his food, but shoved it in his mouth and giggled when I held out my hand.

  • Croup is Crap

    Leon’s been having such a hard time lately with the festering cesspool of disease and pestilence daycare. The past few months it seems like he gets over an illness only to get sick again a few days later.

    On Thursday morning when I nursed my walking petri dish son, he was making a weird honking sound; sometimes he just needs to cough and doesn’t actually do it until he tries to talk, so I didn’t think much of it, especially since he wasn’t acting weird.

    I was wrapping up a meeting at work that morning when I got a call from daycare (shoutout to that moment of dread when you see the school show up on your caller ID). They told me that he had a fever of 100.3, and if it went up 0.3 degrees he’d need to be sent home. We decided to play it by ear since he’s been teething, but I got another call a couple hours later that his temp spiked to 101.4 and he needed to go home to rest. Minh was the real MVP that day and worked from home so I could stay at the office since I’ve already missed work so much lately due to being sick.

    Leon seemed fine and was eating well all day on Thursday, so the pediatrician assumed it was an ear infection. But then he woke up at about 10:30 that night with some pretty serious stridor and a fever that we couldn’t get to go down. We brought him to the ER, where they diagnosed him with viral croup. They gave him a dose of steroids and a nebulizer treatment and said they wanted to monitor him for a couple hours to make sure he was reacting positively to the medication.

    I laid with Leon on the stretcher bed in the room and drifted in and out of sleep between nurse visits. Minh stretched out between a plastic chair and the foot of the stretcher, but when we realized after a couple hours that we were going to be there for a while longer, he went out to the car to sleep.

    Leon had a tired whiny cry, probably less from being sick and more from the staff opening the door and waking him up every 30 minutes. After another dose of steroids and a second nebulizer treatment, he still had a raspy stridor when he inhaled. So at 5:30 a.m., he was taken by ambulance to Children’s Medical Center.

    Thankfully the steroids kicked in not long after we got to the hospital, so he was mainly just admitted as a precaution. After about five hours of being monitored, he was discharged and we got to go home. Such a stressful, emotional, and all-around exhausting night.

    Yesterday he cried and slept a lot. He didn’t want anything to do with his crib, so Minh and I took turns holding him while he slept. He was awake probably three hours total throughout the day, but this morning he woke up at his usual time and was extra smiley/giggly. (He’s doing this thing lately where he grins extra hard and says “heeeee” and it’s literally the cutest thing ever.) I’m hopeful that he’s on the mend!

    With Thanksgiving coming up this week, I’m extra thankful to have a partner who helps when I need a break, a flexible job, and good medical resources nearby. I’m also thankful that we’ve already hit our deductible for the year!

  • Leon’s Adventures

    ​I’m starting a new job tomorrow, and I happened to have a few days off for the transition, so I promised my family we’d visit them up in Iowa. It was a three-day visit including travel, so unfortunately we didn’t have much time with either side, but considering it was Leon’s first time traveling longer than an hour away from home I was fine with a “trial run” trip.

    We started off by flying to Minneapolis. I nursed Leon on takeoff and we both slept soundly until even after the plane landed (probably because we both had been awake since 3:30…). We rented a car and drove over three hours to my hometown, and Leon slept all but a half-hour of that.

    He’s at a fun age, so I was thankful that my parents got to see his new tricks from the past few months: feeding himself, pulling to stand, putting small objects into larger objects, signing and asking for “more,” pulling things off of where they’re supposed to be and then just kind of putting them back (my poor brother was traumatized that his DVD collection was tampered with).

    He slept pretty well at night on the trip, all things considered. The last day of the trip he was extremely fussy and screamed the entire time we were at the airport. I chalked it up to teething because he was also drooling and pulling on his ears.

    He cried all day yesterday. Thankfully we had a 9-month wellness check this morning, where the doctor immediately showed me the ulcer in the back of his throat.

    Poor baby. I feel horrible giving him ibuprofen because I’m sure that only made it worse. No wonder he’s grumpy. He ate a slice of bread and a few grapes this afternoon but nursed all day long. I think the breastmilk is helping though, because he’s significantly calmer and is drooling less.

    I’ve been getting little sneak peeks of my happy baby here and there. Earlier today he was excited that I let him play with the remote, even though he had just spit up on the couch. I’ll take it.

  • Superhero Mom

    ​​When I was a kid, my parents were superheroes. They could do no wrong because they were Mom and Dad. They ​had ​​obviously ​been granted special wisdom that came with birthing a child, and they were 100 times better​ at everything​ than ​any ​other mom​ or dad. ​I was at a particularly late stage of my childhood when I realized that my parents weren’t immortal; they were just normal people. They’re great people, don’t get me wrong…but they’re people with flaws and quirks just like anyone else. How did they know how to be a superhero mom and dad?

    Leon made it four months and one week without getting sick. Minh is also sick, so I worked from home today and attempted to design and export no fewer than six projects throughout the day while bouncing a​ chattering,​ ​coughing baby on my knee. H​e was so smiley and calm​ that I almost forget he​ was sick until he stopped babbling just long enough to hack up a lung. It​ was a horrible wet cough, but then he just ​went back to playing with my face and cooing to himself.

    As I patted his back and shushed him during a particularly intense coughing fit, I realized that I was actively being a mom. I had no training or experience, yet I was doing exactly what my ​child needed in order to be comforted. ​Had you asked me yesterday how to soothe a baby who was hacking his brains out, ​I would have stammered like an idiot…​but somehow I just kind of figured it out. And whatever I was doing worked.

    Leon doesn’t understand why his throat hurts and his nose is runny, but he clings to me to make him feel better. When he wakes up in the middle of the night (mostly during this #$!@ing sleep regression), it’s me he cries for. When he’s hungry, it’s my milk that fills his belly. ​(Not to imply that Minh isn’t amazing too — my point is that Leon’s already learned to turn to us for completely different things. For example, I am not the funny one.)​

    I never really felt like I completely knew what I was doing — and I still don’t, and I probably never will — but today as I rocked my sniffling baby boy, I felt a sense of peace…like I was at least doing what he needed right then.

    Happy Mother’s Day to all the superhero mom​​s.

  • Mom Guilt

    ​​I’ve discovered that none of the child-rearing articles I read mentioned something that ended up being very relevant to me:

    Mom guilt.

    It sounds so ​​benign and ​​​insignificant, but I really believe that, aside from sleep deprivation, it’s the hardest part about being a new mom.

    I feel overwhelmed trying to do it “all,” yet I experience crippling guilt when I find it within myself to take a break.

    I feel guilty for being on my phone while feeding Leon instead of blissfully staring at ​the side of his face. I feel guilty when I take a shower that lasts long enough to shampoo my hair. I feel guilty for all the neglected dog-hair tumbleweeds on the floor. I even feel guilty when Minh is playing with Leon as though I should be participating instead of watching from afar. I feel guilty wondering if I’m cherishing every single moment as much as I should be.

    And it’s not like I don’t have help! I’m sure Minh is frustrated that I’m trying to do everything, because he wants and needs some time with Leon too. He understands and tells me how important it is for me to take a break. But while he can play Crusader Kings during his break, I find it difficult to justify doing something unproductive when there are clean dishes in the dishwasher and clothes that have been in the dryer for two days.

    The thing is, I actually don’t feel like a terrible mother. I’m doing my best and I know that’s enough for Leon​, and I know that Leon needs me to be at my best​. I’m just overwhelmed trying to do everything that I feel needs to be done, and I’m awful at knowing what my limit is until I’ve reached it.

    ​​And I’m​ pretty​ sure 90% of my guilt actually stems from sleep deprivation, but there’s really nothing I can do about that.

    But my awful, guilt-ridden day did a complete 180 when I was watching Leon playing with his activity mat tonight and he stopped, looked me in the eyes, and flashed his first huge grin. So there’s that.