Monday, February 23, 2009

Winner in the immunological lottery!

Today we took Rebecca to see the allergist/clinical immunologist.
Given the severity of my food allergies (life-threatening), my physician had advised me to avoid exposing Rebecca to these same allergens as a precautionary measure, until she could be challenged with them. Since Becca will be attending school in the fall, the time was ripe for the scratch test.
I "prepared" Rebecca for a few days prior to the appointment by both discussing the upcoming visit to the special doctor, and by placing water droplets on her bare arms and asking her to try to keep her arms still. Nevertheless, we had no illusions about Becca's compatibility with trips to the physician, so we arranged for babysitting for Lucy.
On our way to the allergist, I realized that we hadn't gone anywhere as a trio since Lucy was born. It made me sad - a little - and nostalgic - a little, but not regretful. Rebecca was really relishing having the undivided attention of both her parents, and was behaving very sweetly and lavishing us with affection. So far, so good. Becca's blanket and a favourite stuffed tree frog came with us. In addition, I had assembled half a dozen books (ones from my childhood that Rebecca had not yet seen), and a card game as potential distractions during the fifteen minutes of hell. I needn't have bothered - the office obviously sees a great number of children since it was well supplied with toys, books, and stickers. In fact, kids of all ages were going here there and everywhere during our one hour stay. Rebecca immediately began playing with toys.
When her name was called she didn't try to bolt (as per our last doctor visit). We were taken to the allergist's office, where we were asked a series of questions about Rebecca's health history, various environmental factors (e.g. do you have carpeting in her room?), and some questions about our own health history. As a result of the answers, they decided to test for peanuts and the most reactive nuts (my allergens), and a variety of inhalants, pollens, and moulds (Greg's allergens).
We were then shuffled off to another room which had an enormous book shelf filled with children's books, the regular medical examination paraphenelia (examination table, sink, etc), some lovely anatomical posters of lungs and sinuses (greatly intriguing to Rebecca), and a stack of shiny stickers. There were two chair and a small folding table (of the exact type we have at home for when guests are in the living room). The allergist had followed us in, invited us to sit on the chairs, and then attempted to examine Rebecca's nose with the the small hand-held light/magnification tool that doctors also use to examine your ears.
It was at this moment that Rebecca went berserk.
I think I felt most sorry for the parents of the other children in the waiting room and in the adjacent examination rooms. There were tears, there were screams, there were cries of "Get me out of here!!!".
Naturally, I was filled with anxiety - I knew what was yet to come!
The allergist departed.
Some time later, a nurse came by. Rebecca tensed from the moment she appeared. As soon as the box of tubes appeared, Rebecca managed to crawl off me, and went under the chairs that Greg and I were sitting on. She then gripped the chair legs with all her strength. Greg had to pry her out of her hidey-hole. Then, he did the restraining of the test arm, while I held the other arm and whispered parental platitudes which had little effect.
18 allergen drops went on, and there were 18 scratches (plus controls). Once that part was over, she was easily distracted with books - although we had to continue restraining her for the whole fifteen minute wait. We were lucky to come across a particularly long book at just the correct level for Rebecca - a very violent (but I believe true to the original middle-eastern folktale) Aladdin story. [Side note: I don't understand why a story with Arabian characters is set in China]. Greg and I were very impressed with Rebecca's recovery and behaviour during that fifteen minutes. When the nurse returned, Rebecca was unhappy - but when all that transpired was a cleaning of her arm (which is something she had requested from the get-go), she didn't mind so much. The nurse left, the allergist came back. He gave Rebecca a big shiny Cinderella sticker - which pleased her to no end, and I returned alone to speak to the allergist again.
Everything was negative! We were thrilled, and a little surprised. Now, I'm kicking myself for not asking about the false-negative rate - but I didn't think of it at the time. I think I was too shocked. I did ask whether these results would stick or whether she could develop nut allergies later in life. He told me that primary nut allergies are there in childhood. If someone develops nut allergies later in life, then it is secondary to a pollen allergy and is a matter of cross-reactivity. I found that interesting.
At any rate, Becca was a little reluctant to leave the toy-laden waiting room, but we managed to extract her anyway. We asked her what she wanted for a treat, and she told us that she wanted a chocolate chip. That's right - a chocolate chip. We got her a big chocolate chip cookie, and that seemed to fit the bill. She didn't even finish it (although I'd be lying if I said it didn't find a deserving home). Parents need rewards too!
In sum, Rebecca is not allergic to:
  • Pecans
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Walnuts
  • Dust mites
  • Feathers
  • Cockroaches
  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Trees
  • Grasses
  • Ragweed
  • Alternaria
  • Aspergillus
  • Cladosporium
  • Penicillium
I am very pleased that Rebecca managed to evade our immunological defects. :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lucy walked in Fitmom class!

Oh boy - big trouble is coming!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kitty cat hats

The kitty cat hats my grandmother makes for Rebecca and Lucy generate comments wherever we go. People love them! And of course, they are cute.
I expect there are not too many people who are lucky enough to have four generations of a family thriving at the same time.

Free standing baby

Lucy is so close to walking, it isn't funny. She is now the same age (10 months) that Rebecca was when she learned to walk.
Lucy spent a lot of today "free standing". That is - she just stood unsupported, upright, for a long time, then went to crawling.
Lucy has also been doing a great deal of cruising under the dinner table. This amuses Rebecca to no end because it usually occurs during a meal. Becca is now making an effort to communicate with Lucy in Lucytalk. This consists of Rebecca saying "Bababababababoo Lucy" at Lucy. Lucy will actually respond! It's neat.

Check out the dress my Mom made for Becca

My Mom makes lovely smocked dresses (see picture)!

Deliberate posing

Rebecca now poses for the camera. For some reason, this involves tilting her head to one side, and clasping her hands together. She has a variant one this pose - it involves tilting her head to the other side.


We have started assigning Rebecca some minor responsibilities around the house (i.e. chores). She loves it! Given her strong independent streak, this makes sense to me. It also means that instead of leaving her to her own devices (o.k., being kicked out of her room when she wants to engage in imaginative play with her toys), I can spend time with her, maybe teach her something, and certainly boost her confidence. She is so proud of herself when she completes an important job!
One of her favourite tasks is to help clear the table after a meal, and help load the dishwasher. We also try to give her opportunities to help with dishwashing and preparing meals. Becca is especially fond of mixing ingredients in a bowl.
Because Rebecca is strong-willed, having some control over her own life is incredibly important to her. I try to give her as many chances to make decisions and choices as I can (without making her feel overwhelmed). For example, I let her select her outfit for the day. Sometimes I let her pick from a subset of options (especially if I feel she is going to go for weather-inappropriate things - or, more often, try to wear just a skirt and nothing else). It may not always result in the most exquisite fashion pairings, but it makes her very happy.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sometimes life can be frustrating

Lucy's new kitty cat hat and grumpy complaints

It was a long day - Lucy and Becca fell asleep in the car, snoring.
We're all on our third bout of illness this winter, and our collective energy level is pretty low (to say nothing of parental morale - Rebecca and Lucy are generally cheerful under any circumstances).
We caught the first cold at the beginning of December - I think it was three weeks before we were all better. I was on penicillin over the Christmas holidays.
We were better for one week.
Then, we all got violent and wretched stomach flu. After a week, we were all recovered.
We were better for one week.
Then, we caught another cold. It's been a week, and we're still sick.
It's very frustrating because with small children, it is almost guaranteed that everyone come down with whatever virus one family member is hosting - no matter how good we are with hand washing etc. Lucy never shields us from her coughs and sneezes - and she touches everything! At any rate, I find it particularly upsetting because I seem to have consistently gotten stuck with the worst variants of whatever we catch. This is my last winter on maternity leave - and I'm going back to work after Easter. I had envisioned lots of fun times outdoors - skiing, snowshoeing, skating. Instead, I am stuck indoors most of the time, feeling nasty, and doing my best to not act nasty.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Lucy is babbling a lot lately - and continues to teethe the same stupid tooth that's been working it's way through for a few months now. We think Lucy has four words - "mum-mum" for Baby Mum-mums, "Dada" for Daddy (Greg), "mommom" for me, and "beh" for Becca. I am much better at spotting these things this time. With Rebecca, I didn't want to leap to any conclusions about first words, so I waited for ample evidence before declaring that she had a word. With Lucy, I'm a little more perceptive, and a little more confident.
Lucy also has some distinct cries or calls that she makes under specific situations. The best example is her "recognition" call. It's a sound she makes when someone she recognizes and likes suddenly appears in her field of vision (usually at a bit of a distance). For example, if we are in a museum, and Rebecca wanders off, then appears suddenly in a doorway - Lucy will make the sound. It always sounds the same and can be accompanied by kicking or bouncing of excitement.
Lucy recently entered what I like to refer to as the "emptying" stage. I regonized it immediately from experiences with Rebecca at a similar age. Basically, Lucy now takes great pleasure in removing objects from their rightful places - especially (but not exclusively) if they are in a container of some sort. Combined with her cruising locomotion (cruising = walking around a room using furniture and objects as a support system), this creates havoc in her room. Lucy will move from the armchair to the toy box. She removes all the toys from the toybox, then cries when she can't reach the ones at the bottom. Next, she reaches the crib, and moves along the bars until she reaches the change table. Once at that location, Lucy removes all the blankets, sheets, and towels from the shelves of the change table. From the change table, she grasps her laundry hamper, which she proceeds to empty. Finally, from the hamper, she holds on to the top of her chest of drawers and moves along it - chucking books and shoes on the floor. She will even go up on her tip-toes to reach an item that is somewhat removed from the edge. I watch this baby - who can't walk independently yet - stand on her tip toes, gripping the edge of the furniture with the fingertips of one hand while she lunges for a shoe, and it's very hard not to immediately intervene. I wait for the face plant, which most times - doesn't occur.
As for Rebecca, I registered her for junior kindergarten this week. It's kind of surreal - entering an elementary/primary school as an adult is odd, and entering the principal's office seems strange as well. Signing my baby over to the care of complete strangers, so that they can influence her mind and opinion - yikes. (I'm fine with it, but it did give me a moment's pause). But mostly, I reflected on how childhood is fleeting. I'm very excited for Rebecca to go to school in the fall, and I think she will love it. But it's also a melancholy moment for me.