Monday, December 24, 2007

What a Difference a Year Makes

Reason #45 why it sucks to have a birthday in December: Your birthday party can always get cancelled by a blizzard.

After suffering for years under the tyranny of a December birthday, I swore I would never, EVER have a baby in that month. And then there was Emerson....

This year we celebrated his big 1st birthday and we attempted to have a party for our Michigan clan on December 16. When we woke up that morning, however, we were greeted with 10-12 inches of blowing snow, a lot of unhappy phone calls to make, and a lot of extra food to eat before going out of town in only three days. I was disappointed after the work and money we put into pulling the party together, but at least Emerson didn't know the difference. We ended up spending the day visiting with friends who lived close by, eating cake, and then watching all the video we had made of Emerson throughout the past year - from the birth (it still makes me wince) to his first bites of solid food.

The video was bittersweet in many ways. It was fun to see him grow and change and do his adorable baby things, but it also brought back memories of how painful and frightening those first few months were. Although we still have struggles - the occassional rude stranger staring at us or our frustration as we try to get him caught up on milestones - but the worst of it is definitely over. In fact, we hardly even think about his vision any more! He is making eye contact, inspecting everything in sight, and generally acting like a normal (albeit extremely goofy) baby. I know his vision will become an issue again when he starts walking, but for now things are pretty darn good.

The most important thing is that Emerson gave me the only birthday present I asked for....he learned to crawl on all fours!!!! He started practicing on the 16th in front of our friends, but then took definitive steps forward the next day. When I saw him do it across the room, I danced around the room with him singing a triumphant "Hail to the Chief!" Now we can start working on walking. he he he

Anyway, we are in Utah now visiting family for the holidays. Emerson got a chance to have his own birthday party at last (it was technically a joint party for me, my sister and Emerson, but we all knew who the real star of the show was). Grandma went all out on the food and decorations as always, including getting a nice big cake for Emerson. He was a little scared of it and unfortunately refused to dig in, but he was more than happy to eat it off my fingers.

This time of year is always filled with birthdays and holidays for our family, but it also tends to be the time of year when emotional events happen. I won't regale you with the whole list, but suffice it to say that the past three have been particularly emotional.

Right before my birthday two years ago, we found out that our first pregnancy was ending in miscarriage. On Christmas Eve a week later, I had just undergone surgery due to the miscarriage and we were in Utah for our annual visit. My parents always work on Christmas Eve, so Robbie and I drove to our old church downtown for the midnight service. Before we even got there, the pain killers had worn off and I was doubled up in agony. We were meeting some friends there, so I told Robbie to go ahead while I tried to pull myself together in the bathroom. I ended up spending most of the time in the cold, tiled room listening to the service over the speakers. I did my best to imagine the beautiful, candle-filled sanctuary as the congregation sang carols and the velvet-voiced minister gave his holiday homily. Then he talked about how Christmas can bring up painful memories as well as happy ones. He ended by asking people to come up and light a candle for all those loved ones they had lost this year, so I imagined Robbie lighting a candle for our baby.

When we got into the car to go home afterward, I asked Robbie if he lit a candle and he said yes. I cried all the way home.

A year later during my birthday, I was in the midst of labor and wondering if I would ever meet this baby. When he was born early the next morning, the significance of the timing wasn't lost on me. We were all so, so grateful to finally have our baby. A few days later, we attended the Christmas Eve service in our home church. The minister stopped his homily to hold up the newborn Emerson for the whole congregation to see, but he slept peacefully and was completely oblivious to the "oohhs" and "aahhhs." When we sang "Silent Night," I looked down at him and cried.

This year during my birthday, I watched a much bigger Emerson try out his new crawling skills and jibber jabber away. A year ago it didn't seem real that I had a son, but even after all this time it still hasn't sunk in! Now it's Christmas Eve again and a thick blanket of snow has prevented us from going to midnight service. Instead, my baby is fast asleep in the next room and I am here getting all sentimental.

It's exciting and a little scary to think where we'll be this time next year and all the changes in store for us. But for now, I'm just grateful for how far we've come.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

What happened to November?!!!

Ok, once again I apologize for letting time get away from me and for the lack of pictures. One of the reasons for the long hiatus was MORE computer problems, which also prevented us from doing much picture work lately (strangely, our computer was plagued by viruses soon after installing our new anti-virus software. Coincidence?) Anywho, here's my attempt at catch up and I promise more fun pictures and attempting-to-be-meaningful essays will come after I finish out the school semester.

The month of November started with my maternal grandmother passing away in Utah. She was 92 (would have been 93 today) and had health problems, so it wasn't unexpected....but still, she was one of those people you think will live forever. We had some wonderful memories together, so I was glad to have a chance to fly back there and speak at her funeral. Although it wasn't the greatest circumstances, I was ecstatic to see my family for a week and let them get some intense Emerson time.

More than anything, it was helpful for me to see how my family interacted with him and get some parenting tips from the pros. It's not that I don't have seasoned parents living around me here in Michigan, it's just that when I stay with my family in Utah, they get to see Emerson around the clock. For instance, my mom took control of the whole not-eating-solids situation right away. Using an expert blend of "distract with one hand and shovel it in with the other" techniques, she was able to get amazing amounts of food down him with no tears. In other words, an actual meal!

My mother, bless her, also took Emerson for a couple nights so I could get my first and only good night's rest in over 10 months! The only bad part was that I was so used to waking up constantly, I still woke myself up throughout the night out of habit. But at least each time I work up I could savor that intensely satisfying feeling of going back to sleep, stretched out on a bed I finally had all to myself. Oh, my cramped arms and legs ache just thinking about it....

One of the best parts about our trip was that it flipped a switch in Emerson and all of a sudden he took an intense interest in everything. He has been army crawling for a while now, but hasn't felt the need to explore much beyond getting from one toy to another. But in Utah he was inspecting the pattern of the couches, creeping over to stroke the plant, studying the lines of the wallpaper. When we got home, this new curiosity continued and he is now ALL over the house. (I've started calling him "my little professor" because when he's interested in something, he uses that little pointer finger to poke and prod while he stares at it with this intense, thoughtful look on his face.)

I know this stage causes a lot of headaches for most parents, but since he's behind in milestones, I'm ecstatic to have to keep a close eye on him as he takes off exploring. I actually find myself happy about the fact that he's figuring out how to open cupboards, attempting to stick his fingers in outlets (don't worry, they're covered), pulling dirt out of the potted plants, etc. He's also become obsessed with pulling himself up on everything. It still catches me off guard every time I turn my head for a second and then turn back to see him standing there with a little smirk on his face.

Anyway, after the excitement of the trip wore off, Emerson and I both came down with colds. They started out very minor, just a little ache here or a runny nose there. We were still able to spend Thanksgiving making the rounds with family, eating the most amazing gourmet dinner, and watching Emerson trick people into taking his hands and walking him all over the house (it's a complicated technique, but effective).

But by Friday were both officially sick and miserable. Emerson's never had anything beyond a minor stuffy nose, so seeing him get a fever and become a whining mess was the worst experience. I was also losing my voice just in time to deliver the sermon on Sunday, but luckily Robbie helped me recover it just in time.

Emerson did well during both services and - despite some technical hitches at first - my sermons went well. In fact, we had an amazing experience during the second service after a section on Native American oppression. I was just about to move on to the next topic when one of the congregants yelled out to me that a fox had emerged out of the woods behind our church. We all clustered by the side windows to watch this incredible animal walk toward the sanctuary, then stop and curl up in a ball in the sun while still watching us watching him. I was able to continue the service and incorporate the sighting into my sermon, and the fox continued staring at us as if he were listening intently. The simple gifts of life....

Unfortunately, with all the excitement of the day, Emerson and were going downhill again by the time we got home. He just wanted to nurse or sleep non-stop and we couldn't put him down for even a second. It became exhausting, literally draining for me, and heartbreaking. By Tuesday we finally got him into the doctor and discovered he had his first-ever ear infection! We felt horrible for not suspecting or doing something about it sooner, but he hadn't been pulling at his ears or crying like most babies.

The good news is, the doctor gave him a treatment plan to help him feel better quickly. The bad news is, the non-stop nursing and coddling have undone MONTHS of hard work that only recently got him to the point where we could put him down and he would usually go to sleep by himself, was only getting up twice a night for feedings, and was able to eat at least one meal of solids a day. Now we are back to square one again...heck, we are probably a few steps behind square one. Oi vay.

At least we have his personality back again. And what a personality it is! This child knows all about dramatics and how to use them get what he wants when he wants. He is also stubborn as hell, but I'll save that for an upcoming blog. The other day, I told Robbie as I was struggling with Emerson, "I've never wanted to strangle someone and kiss them at the same time...except with you of course."

And that's just it...he looks and acts just like his father. He goes around with this smirk on his face most of the time like he's up to something or he'll just sit there and laugh to himself with these deep chuckles. A couple of weeks ago, for instance, Robbie was holding him when he started to cry for me. As I held out my arms to take him, his tear-stained face immediately went from agony to his little smirk - as if to say, "suck-ah!!" The child is already a smart-ass and can't even talk!

I could go on about his antics, but since this post is already long and I'm starting to feel like Kathy Lee Gifford telling Cody stories, I'll stop here for now. December is already speeding by too fast and we've been plunged head-first into the holiday season and end of the semester. Not to mention my baby is turning one in less than two weeks! But I promise we'll post more soon.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays to all and to all a stiff drink.