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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Conversations with Princess Ellie - 3AM Style

Ellie has been getting up at night for about one month now. Almost every night and seriously people I don't know how Dave and I did it for so many years. We have had about a year of her only getting up a few times a month which is like a huge vacation for us after her being up every night and vomiting or being sick and being in pain and before that when she was really little, we would be up with her to keep her breathing...good times.

Her being up again...kinda sucks. She started waking up I think because she is cutting a tooth. She has one really cute adult size front tooth and the other is taking ages to come in but has started to in earnest over the past month. Also, she gets up because she is growing. I was never a night eater as a kid but Dave was - so it's his fault! His gene pool that says, "must have full tummy to sleep!".

So we have been feeding her at night...

Ellie's first Pedi, told us when she was little, if you feed her at night you will train her body to wake up at night to be hungry and need to eat. Now all of you parents out there with kids that are on a continuous drip because your kid needs the calories - this does not apply to you. We have been there and when Ellie was on the drip her reflux was so bad that she woke up every other hour. That is how we spent the first 2.5 or more years of her life. So if you are living that my heart goes out to you.

Now that Ellie is bigger she still wakes up from reflux but also due to hunger and like all well trained NICU parents we get up, feed her, hold her up so the acid goes down and in doing so also end up playing with her. You just feel bad when Ellie is in pain and then she innocently signs "iphone" and you find yourself giving in and before you know it (especially if you are the dad of such an adorable and at times distressed Princess) you have set up her favorite seat and have a video going along with a hot meal all at 3am until 5am...and it starts to get regular.


Two nights ago when Ellie was up, I went in to her, because, oh and this is another thing about raising a kid who has been known to have seizures, and is at risk of aspiration and can't sit up on her own, "cry it out" is medically NOT an option. We can't not go in. We have to check. I go in and I hoist her up on my lap - which takes me a try or two because she's heavy now, and I am annoyed and I say, "Ellie, why are you up? What do you want?" And she looks right at me and signs quite confidently, "iphone".

I say, "Ok let me get this straight, you are only up because you want to play?"

She signs, "yes!" Like, well done Mama, that's right!

I then proceed to read her the riot act:

"Ellie, you can't wake up in the middle of the night just to play any more because Mommy and Daddy are old and we need our sleep. You need your sleep too because you are a big girl and go to school. Mommy is working on her dissertation and needs rest to do that well. When you wake up at night from now on we are not going to eat or play. You are going to have to eat enough in the day. We will always come to help you and if you are in pain or sick we will hold you and help you until you feel better. But you can't get up at 3am any more to play. I love you."

I said all of this pacing each word and pausing between sentences. Sometimes between the sentence she would sign, "iphone" but after the third sentence her sign was more of a question, "iphone?" accompanied by a raised eyebrow.

Then I said, "I am going to hold you for 2 more minutes and then you have to go asleep" To which she reached down to touch her pillow to indicate for me to put her back on her bed. I go to lift her off my lap but she says no and holds my arm tight...

Was that a bluff?!

Ellie's got some eight year old chops to be sure! Ha! (This is the part of me that is always routing for her to give me a hard time and show that spirit and intelligence - that part of me LOVES this!)

I say, "Ok one more minute then."

I hold her for one more minute and then put her on her pillow and tuck her in and she grumbles but roles on her side, inserts thumb and still grumbling acquiesces to our new program of sleep through the night.

Wish us luck because the next stop is super nanny!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Conversations with Princess Ellie

Ellie has a definite sense of herself as a person. I don't think everyone does. I learn about her perceptions all the time. I look forward to the day when we can have even more conversations and that day is coming with her Dynavox Maestro that is on order though it is taking a long time.

Ellie comes home from school (I or one of her PCA's drive her) and she lays down on the bed to stretch (sitting when you can't do so on your own all day is really hard on her back) and plays with her favorite toy the Vtech Sing and Learn Globe. Often, once I have schlepped her and all her stuff in the house, I sit down beside her and ask her about her day. Typically she is in full on conversation with her "globee". I know I am interrupting. They talk or Ellie talks to globee. A lot. It's funny and cute and I wonder if I could understand her singular, Princess Ellie language, what she is talking about.

Many of the things I find out about her are from me asking things like: what's your favorite place on the globe?, what's your favorite flavor?, color? did you like this or that? I realize this form of communication is imperfect and sometimes the question leads the questioned. But it's what we've got right now so I will take it.

On one of these days after schlepping I came in and said, "Hey Ellie belly, Boogalu, Little Boo, Princess Ellie I am so happy to see you!" Ellie has a lot of nicknames. She looked at me and laughed. Sometimes when she looks lines of conversation form in my mind. It's hard to describe but body language is 75% or more of conversation. And Ellie communicates just like anyone else in this way. So it occurred to me from her look to ask her, "Ellie, what do you like me to call you?" And I held out my fist and as I extended a finger each one represented a choice. This is our weird multiple choice style communication that I hope ascends one day into a true dialog. So first finger out was "Ellie-luv" Second was "Boogalu", Third was "Princess", Fourth was "Beautiful" and Thumb was "Ellie belly". Ellie listened silently and then quickly picked "Princess".

I said, "You like me to call you Princess? You like that the best?" She signed "YES" with great enthusiasm throwing her yes sign up high over her head.

Princess it is. ;-)

Friday, April 08, 2011

Life after 8 and other news

When Ellie was little I would search the blogosphere for information about kids with CP and multiple special needs and I would always find that the blog ended when the kid was about 6 and it was maddening in terms of outcomes. Like, what happened to them? How did they turn out? What does this mean? And of course the smaller voice whisper-shouting, "I need to know how this is going to turn out!! Now! Please?"

But now that Ellie is 8 I am there in the middle distance of her childhood. I have a lot of answers I agonized over when Ellie was under 2. And, obviously, there are still a lot of answers I don't have, like what will happen to her when I die? Which, let's just be honest here, is the scariest, most upsetting, soul crushing question of all.

I still don't feel any cheerful carefree optimism about that. Not that there is nothing to be optimistic about. Not that there won't be people who love her. Not that there won't be amazing outcomes. I don't feel optimistic about that because currently that is not how I am made - on that topic.

But at eight, and maybe I should have learned to trust more, I can tell you many of the fears I had when she was in the NICU or at ages 1 and 2 are gone. She is not a "vegetable" and well beyond that she is the coolest, most beautiful, smart, funny little eight year old I could want. I am happy being her mom. She goes to school. She has a life and there are other people in our world that love her and us. She rides a horse for crying out loud! She EATS. She is growing and gaining weight. She LEARNS and loves and laughs - a full belly laugh now that I really must record and put on this blog because Ellie's laugh would make the most stodgy, serious, kill joy of a person laugh too.

But why did all those other bloggers stop writing? I think I know. Time. Now that Ellie is so much better there is far more to do outside the home. Instead of keeping a vigil over her sleep (where I would find myself writing) I am taking her to ride Splitty or to school or to the museum or to the beach or to grandma's house. Instead of holding her while she is sleeping off a brain surgery we are dancing around the house burning up all that enviable eight year old energy that is seemingly inexhaustible or we are learning at the computer or working using her "voice" (which I need to post about). Or we are eating - which still takes considerable time but at least it is by mouth with such non-exotic things as Mama's Spinach Pasta, Green Goodness, or Eggy Pudding. All of which are made fresh and with ingredients that are off the shelf versus ordered from England. For those of you who have read through this blog (which is amazing if you have) you know what I'm sayin.

Also, because she is well enough to do these things, I am working more, far more. At this point in life I am finally getting to pick up the wreckage of my pre-Ellie life. And wreckage, be assured, is NOT a strong word or an exaggeration of any sort. A big chunk of that wreckage has to do with my dissertation and doctoral degree I was making revisions on when Ellie was born. Imagine meeting all the requirements for a 4 year Ph.D. program (classes, internship, entire dissertation) and then not finishing? In short it was a hard, bitter pill I was never able to digest or synthesize. I tried to mediate it away, to get Zen about it, then go all fate/wasn't my destiny on it, etc. Tried to forget. But I couldn't. And then by some miracle of good karma - because it seems apparent that I must have a little built up somewhere, that opportunity is on the table again. I am being given the chance to resolve this - to finish it - to complete this dream. So of course I a sitting here procrastinating and blogging to all of you about it.

What this made me realize though is that we are in a different phase of life. The baby phase, that I thought would never end (where they don't sleep ever and your child is total care and for us that meant so much more than with a typical kid) has ended. Ellie is still "total care" but...she eats (not on her own but 99% from a spoon), she goes to school every day, she has autonomous play for short periods, she can sit alone (with support) which is a big change from having to hold her head up so she wouldn't stop breathing. In short, life is better. But busier and taking place more out in the world. It's nice to be back in the world though I must say it was a slow and painful process getting back out into life. Even so it was worth the journey.

Now to find a balance and pace for this next bit of life. I am not sure what it will hold nor am I making any inane predictions that all will be well, considering all has happened, that would just be stupid. There is one thing I learned from this whole thing that pertains to this post and where we are now and it is that the best way to spend your time is being present and appreciating by simply being awake (truly awake) to your own life in the moments it is happening.