Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Day of Firsts.

Today was Luna's last Synergis shot. Luna is weighed every time she receives the inoculation, and this morning she weighed 20.3 lbs! So, I'm declaring this will be the last time she ever sees the teens on the tiny scale again. It's also the last day of March. Leaving March behind also means it's the last of Luna's baby days for good. She is officially a toddler. On April 11th she'll turn 13 months.

Of course 'lasts' are usually synonymous with 'firsts'. We leave one job and go on to the next. Upon high school graduation, we, (in the words of John Mayer) bust down the double doors, never to re-enter them again, and thus open the door to a new chapter of our lives. Tomorrow is the first day of April. And though spring arrived during the evening of March 20th, April to me is when spring really begins. Living in northern New England for most of my life, March is still very much a winter month. Over a decade ago we got one of our biggest snow falls in one day-on April 1st. "Happy April's Fool Day!", Mother Nature seemed to mock as I shoveled out my parents drive way, with the sound of birds chirping from the trees above.

About a week ago Luna said her first word other than Mama or Dada: dog. Sienna was playing with her Leapfrog computer game and in one of the scenes there was a dog. The object was to click on various items on the screen-which would then activate-or animate-an action. For example, when Sienna clicked on a spicket, water came rushing out and the dog would excitedly jump over and drink from the faucet. Luna was enjoying the game. She has a huge fascination with the large variety of these four-legged animals (Sienna did at this age too, which is funny because neither The Architect nor I are big dog people, and we certainly don't own one). When the dog preformed one of his tricks, Luna would make her usual excited noise which sounds something like this (ah!, ah!, ah!, ah!). Only this time she blurted out DOG! Another first that would forever be in etched our memories.

Luna, as it turns out, doesn't like lasts either. In her case she is experiencing some pretty intense separation anxiety. This is normal for her age; though certainly may be exacerbated because of the regular poking and prodding she receives from weekly physical therapy sessions to monthly synergis shots. Babies do not fully understand the concept of when their mother leaves, she will return. Hannah, Luna's physical therapist, generously did some research on the topic and printed a definition so we may both better understand why Luna screams relentlessly during our sessions.

Here are some excerpts from the research she found:

Separation Anxiety and Stranger Anxiety both coincide with a new intellectual skill called object permanence. They now remember objects and specific people that are not present. They will search for toys that have dropped out of sight. They are able to call up a mental image of what or who they are missing. They do not want the stranger, because the stranger is not you.

And this part I found most heart breaking:

They understand that people leave before they learn that people return. They can tell from your actions that you are about to leave. Anxiety begins to build even before you leave. They can't tell from your actions that you are about to return. They have no idea when-or even if-you will come back. And they miss you intensely. For them, each separation seems endless.

The explanation then goes on to say that babies and toddlers experience it typically between 6-7 months and then again from 12-18 months. Each phase can last from 2-4 months.

The article concludes that separation anxiety is a dominant issue until language is understood by strangers. (Interesting!)

After each hour long therapy session Hannah writes-up a very official looking report on what Luna accomplished. I leave you my favorite part of this weeks report:

"She is continually going up to kneeling when she wants to go up to her mom. We tried standing up at the ottoman. She eventually did it with her mom holding her from behind while I opened a book and looked at it with her. She liked the puppies and imitated the puppies panting".

Panting like a puppy? That very well may have been a first for Luna!

Here Luna displays Stranger Anxiety with the Easter Bunny. But the photo begs to ask: Can we blame her?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Luna's status update.

Luna Ruth is scooting around the living room with a cold washcloth in her mouth. This feels so good on my teeph!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Luna is one year old!

On March 11th Luna turned one year old. It was a really lovely day. Well, the weather was crummy, cold, windy and raw, which is completely normal for mid-march in New Hampshire. But the day itself, in a word, was peaceful. The girls were at daycare (an in-house daycare with all of 6 kids, two of whom are our girls), so I had plenty of time to clean, bake cupcakes (chocolate with homemade butter frosting) and do some last minute shopping. I cooked a simple dinner, one that my mother made often growing up. I can't remember if it ever had a name, but basically it's chicken thighs baked with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup served over rice. Everyone likes it, and it's so easy. It's good, cozy food.

After dinner, Sienna couldn't wait even a minute for our meals to digest, so we dove right into the festivities starting with our cupcakes. I dimmed the lights and carried one cupcake, plucked with the single, polka-dot candle over to Luna. She wriggled and clapped as we all sang 'Happy Birthday'. The tiny glow of the candle illuminated her face, her cheeks glowed like perfect rosy apples.

Luna was so completely content with her cupcake that she didn't seem to notice Sienna had opened all her presents. After the kids OD'ed on their cakes (quite literally, the effects of the sugar and chocolate settled-in resulting in two very silly little girls) we took the party to the living room where they played with their new Thomas the Train ride toy, Melissa & Doug clock and birthday cake and some Barbies that Sienna brought in to share the fun.

The events of the past year seemed decades old as I watched our girls-two perfectly happy and healthy little girls-play sweetly with their new toys.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It ain't always easy.

About a month ago Luna had her Early Intervention Evaluation. Two women who work for the state came over with a big canvas bag of toys and played with Luna for about a 1/2 hour. The collection of toys was made-up of big wooden puzzles, square boxes where you push the bottom and something pops-up out of the top, and blocks. Luna played right along with them, and demonstrated nothing short of charming on the thinking end of the test. Each exercise illustrated an ability in a certain area. So, for the thinking tests Luna scored at 12 months.

The physical part of the test was another story.

The 'games' got a bit more deceptive and challenging as the session went on. The women then took the same toys Luna had been playing with, and put them just out of her reach. In one example we laid Luna on her back and placed a block parallel with her head-about an arm's length away. Luna just stared at the toy. She made no motion to roll over and grab it-what-so-ever. For this set of exercises Luna only scored at 5 months. Ouch, reality slap, and time for Physical Therapy.

So yesterday Hannah, Luna's new physical therapist, came to our door with armed with a big, blue yoga ball and a large canvas bag. Sienna, Luna, the therapist and I all packed into Luna's tiny room to begin the session. Luna hated every minute of it. She did not like at all the demanding physical positions we were asking of her tiny body.

Luna's biggest challenge is crawling. She gets around on her bum by scooting, which I thought was rather ingenious. But where Luna really struggles is with intermediate-type positions. So, if I put a toy on top of Sienna's pint-size table, Luna has trouble figuring out that she can pull herself up to retrieve the toy. Naturally, the fact that she had open heart surgery at 6 months-which is such a pivotal time for development-doesn't help her case. But there are other reasons why otherwise healthy kids are facing more delays. We as a society keep our babies on their tummies much less now-especially since it was ruled that putting a baby to sleep on her back decreases the chance of SIDS. And as Hannah, our physical therapist pointed out, developing upper body strength is directed related to speech development. Who knew! Basically we need to develop those neck and face muscles so we can make the many and varied sounds to create language-and a weak upper body will impede this.

When Hannah delivered that fascinating news my thoughts drifted to a home video of my father and and his brother as kids. My Uncle just recently took tons and tons of old reel to reels from the 40-60's and converted them to DVD. Every conceivable moment of their childhood is captured-starting with the day each baby boy comes home from the hospital. The old family movies are breathtaking, but what I found so interesting is how differently we raise our kids now. And not in the-obvious-modern-technology-way, but with little things too.

Each baby boy was bathed on his tummy in a canvas bath. Humans are born with an innate sense to lift their heads out of a dangerous situation-what better way I thought to pique that sense than with bathing a baby on his belly.

Another video clip shows my father-not even a mere one year old-drinking from a glass. The movie played though my mind as Hannah informed me that sippy cups require the same sucking action as a bottle-and thus again impede speech.

By the end of the session I was ready to ditch my plastic tub with the reclined back and sippy cups in favor of good ole fashioned glass & canvas gear. For now though we'll start with baby steps-literally.