Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fall Leaf Centerpieces

Today Mercedes collected leaves in vases to decorate our house for fall!

Penguin Craft

Mercedes asked to make a penguin the other day so I found this pattern and let her color it and help me glue the pieces together. She also picked the colors of construction paper. She is so proud of it and talks about it all the time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Marble Counting Game

 Mercedes' new favorite thing is playing games. She asked me to play a "new game" yesterday, so I made this one up really quick. She picked the colors for the cards and asked me to use the octagon-shaped stencil. I numbered them 1 through 10 and helped her count out the correct number of marbles to place on each one. She has been practicing counting to 10 and she loves marbles so this "game" is perfect for her. It's a good way to help her with number recognition while she's learning to count.

We stored the marbles and cards in a toddler snack container and added it to her game collection.

Counting Steps

My baby girl can count to 10 all by herself! The first time I heard her do it, we were at the park walking up and down the  cement stairs over and over again (for some reason she adores stairs). I kept counting each step and soon she joined in. We did this so many times that towards the end she counted every step 1-10 all by herself. What a big girl she is becoming!

Now we practice counting to 10 on our basement step. After 10 I keep counting. Sometimes she chimes in with 12 and 13. We will keep counting steps. She loves this and it is such a simple way to review counting!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pumpkin Painting

Mercedes and I painted some of our pumpkins.

Mercedes gave one of these to her Grandpa.

I painted one for year she will be painting her own!

Glitter Pumpkins

Mercedes decorated some of her pumpkins with glitter.

Treasures in the Sand

One of Mercedes' favorite things to do in the sandbox is to search for "treasures". I will bury shiny marbles and she will dig and sift for them and put them in her bucket. She will spend hours doing this.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Play-Doh "Cookies"

Mercedes wanted to play with her giant bag of cookie cutters but I didn't have time to make sugar cookies, so we used play-doh instead and made beautiful, colorful play-doh "cookies".

Leaf Prints

Mercedes enjoyed the egg carton leaf prints so much I decided to do actual leaf prints. This was really fun!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

After Dark Ice Cream Party

I've been saving these Dream Glow ice cream cups for months, waiting for Mercedes to be old enough to appreciate them. Last night we had an ice cream party in the dark. Mercedes LOVED it!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My Tongue-Tied, Lip-Tied Baby

This story starts at Emerald's birth. At the hospital, she had trouble latching for more than a few minutes at a time. By the end of the 48 hours we stayed there, she was not latching or nursing at all. I asked for a nipple shield because I'd also had to use one for my first daughter.

Emerald nursed literally 24-7 for the first 3 months of her life. She would nurse for 4-6 hours straight, have 5-10 minutes of happy awake play time, then latch on for another 4-6 hours. She did this around the clock, and yet instead of growing she was just getting super skinny.

I thought she was burning too many calories using the nipple shield, so I weaned her off of it and spent about a week teaching her how to nurse without it. Eventually she did, but she would only latch for about 5 minutes on each side, then fuss, then cry, then cry herself to sleep (in my arms of course). She would want to nurse again about half an hour or 45 minutes later. So I nursed her for 10 minutes every 30-45 minutes during the day. She only nursed once or twice at night. After about a month of this she was getting REALLY skinny. Meanwhile I had had to reschedule (several times) then eventually cancel her 1 month and 2 month well check ups due to my husband commuting, us sharing a car, him having inconsistent days off and then eventually we moved to a new town and I had to find her a new doctor.

At 4 months, she finally was seen by a doctor who reported that she was in the 50th percentile for height and only the 5th percentile for weight. She said I needed to get her to nurse longer at a time but only every 2-3 hours. She also referred me to a nutritionist and said they'd call me to schedule an appointment in about a week.

I was not about to wait a week to schedule an appointment and then wait who knows how long for the actual appointment to find out what in the world was wrong with my precious little sweetie. I started researching, asking questions and making phone calls. A mom in my Natural Parenting facebook group asked me if she was lip-tied or tongue-tied. I had no idea what that was, so I googled images of tongue-tied and lip-tied babies and checked Emerald's mouth. She matched the pictures.

These are the best pictures I could get of Emerald's mouth.

Lip-tied babies have a flap of skin that starts at their upper lip and ends in between where their front teeth are suppose to come in. (Click HERE for more images).

Tongue-tied babies have a flap of skin that begins at the bottom of the mouth and ends at the tip (or near the tip) of the tongue. (Click HERE for more images).

According to the 3 lactation consultants I spoke with on the phone, the lip-ties make it hard for babies to latch correctly, since the lips are suppose to fit all the way around the nipple. Tongue-ties make it hard to suck because the tongue is so restricted. So basically my tongue-tied, lip-tied baby could not latch properly or suck hard enough to get enough milk to fill her tiny tummy or to provide the nutrients she needed to grow right. The first lactation consultant I spoke with STRONGLY suggested that I supplement with formula and get her tongue and lip-ties clipped as soon as possible.

So my new feeding routine was: breastfeed as long as she would stay latched. Bottle feed her pumped breast milk and use formula as a last resort. Then pump. I was able to pump about half of what she needed in the bottle. Every 2 1/2 hours (on demand, but this was pretty consistent) She nursed for 5-10 minutes and then drank half formula, half breast milk in a bottle.

Immediately I saw changes. Even though she has always been a happy, laid back baby, ALL fussiness stopped. She gave me extra smiles and extra happy coos and giggles. Within just a couple days, her face started filling out. Her legs and arms felt thicker. On the 4th day, by the end of the day my arms were sore from holding her. This was so encouraging because it meant she was growing faster than my muscles could adapt to the weight. That made me REALLY happy.

Finding someone to clip her lip and tongue tie was ridiculous. I called dentists, pediatric surgeons and ENT (ears, nose and throat) specialists, and I kept calling different hospitals and lactation consultants to get more referrals. Each person I spoke with either didn't do the procedure, didn't do the procedure on babies, or didn't accept my insurance. 47 phone calls later, (this is only a SLIGHT exaggeration) I finally found Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates and made an appointment with an ENT specialist named Dr. Dinsdale  for a consult. He agreed that Emerald was definitely lip-tied and tongue-tied and that this was affecting her ability to breastfeed successfully.

We made an appointment to get the lip and tongue ties clipped the following week. Meanwhile I kept feeding her the breast milk/formula combo, praying my milk didn't dry up, and she kept gaining weight.

The procedure was traumatic for her (and for me) but it lasted less than 5 minutes. They strapped her down and put a cotton swab in her mouth with medicine on it to take the edge off the pain, then gave her a shot under her tongue and under her lip to numb her all the way. They let me hold her while the medicine was kicking in, then strapped her down again and clipped her with scissors. She screamed that desperate, hoarse scream of a terrified baby from the time she was strapped down to when they handed her back to me. She bled a little bit but was in no pain and stopped crying as soon as I cuddled her.

The day of the procedure was rough. She pretty much just slept and cried all day, and had a fever of 101.3-101.7. She refused to nurse and wasn't very interested in formula either.

The second day she nursed for about 20 minutes each feeding, sometimes refusing the bottle afterwards and sometimes drinking 1-2 ounces. The second day I also started massaging the wounds for 30 seconds each, 4 times a day to keep the ties from healing back together. This is to be done for 3 weeks.

The third and fourth day she nursed a little longer, 20-30 minutes and sometimes refused the bottle, sometimes drinking 0.5-1.5 oz of formula. She did not seem to be in pain and the massages seemed only a little uncomfortable for her.

The fifth day she refused the bottle every time I offered it to her. So, less than a week after the procedure my baby is now exclusively breastfed again! Also, she now weighs 12 lbs 14 oz, which brings her up to the 15th percentile for weight. She's still skinny, but we're making progress!

I found a breastfeeding support group called B.I.B.S. to take Emerald to once a week and weigh her to make sure she keeps gaining properly.

At the beginning of the process I found the Tongue Tie Babies Support Group on facebook. This group is full of supportive parents who have tongue-tied and lip-tied babies as well as doctors, dentists and lactation consultants who are very informed. There is also a list of articles full of helpful and informative info.

If you or someone you know has a baby with poor weight gain or latching issues, I encourage you to ask a doctor or lactation consultant to check for a lip-tie or tongue-tie. It is actually a pretty common problem and yet for some reason doctors don't routinely check newborns for this at the hospital, and even though both my daughters had latching troubles no professional has ever suggested I check for this. With my oldest daughter, I had 10 months of stressful nursing struggles before she stopped altogether. I just now found out ( 2 years later) she has a lip-tie. Thankfully my 4 month old now has the chance to have a completely successful breastfeeding experience.

UPDATE: It is now 3 months after Emerald's tongue-tie and lip-tie were clipped and she is back to being a little chub! She is still exclusively breastfed and thriving.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Washing Marbles

After a morning of playing with marbles in the sandbox, Mercedes decided they needed to be washed.

I gave her a bowl of marbles, a couple of wash clothes, sponges,  a cup of water, an extra bowl and a little bit of soap.

For a while, she actually washed each one individually...dipping a sponge in soap, then in water, then scrubbing each marble and drying it with a towel.

Once the water got soapy, she started putting several marbles in the cup at a time.

She discovered that as she added marbles, the water rose. She filled the cup with marbles until the water rose to the brim.

She then turned her attention to the empty bowl. She asked me to fill it with water. Then she added soap and the sponges.

Then she took the sponges out, put some marbles in the soapy water and asked me for a spoon so she could mix them up. She said she was making "marble soup".

I love encouraging her creativity by setting supplies up for her and letting her go to work! I never know what she's going to decide to do or how the activity is going to progress. It is amazing to watch her learn while she plays!

Monday, October 1, 2012

When I'm Drained

Today, I am exhausted.

For the past 2 weeks, I have been struggling to feed my tongue-tied, lip-tied baby. Two weeks ago I found out she has been hungry her whole life.

Tomorrow I am taking her to get her tongue-tie and lip-tie clipped. I really don't want her to have to go through that.

Yesterday I visited my dad in the hospital. He is recovering from surgery in his battle against cancer.

Yesterday I left my baby girl at home with my husband for the first time ever. I was gone for 4 1/2 hours. We both had separation anxiety. Emerald's was so bad her body thought she was sick and responded with a fever. She had a fever of 101.3 by the time I got home.

In 23 days, my toddler will be put under general anesthesia to get caps put on her two front teeth. This terrifies me.

I recently discovered that my toddler is also lip-tied, explaining why she has always hated getting her teeth brushed, which is why she now has to get caps put on her front teeth (this also explains a long list of nursing and sleeping troubles).

My toddler just fell out of a rocking chair, biting her lip and scraping her chin. This was right after she showed me that she made a giant drooly, chocolatey grape juice stain on the teddy bear my husband gave me when we first got married.

Oh, and the ground beef I was going to cook for dinner smells like sour milk from being left in the fridge for too many days.

Today has been a hard day. Today, the thought that "I can't do this" has flooded my mind way too many times. Today I feel defeated.

I think every mom feels this way occasionally. It's not a physical tired (although as I'm typing I'm having a hard time keeping my eyes opened). It's an emotional exhaustion. I love my girls. I love my dad. It's hard to watch them hurting. I would so much rather go through pain myself than watch people I love in pain. It's heartbreaking.

On the hard days, I have to stop and remember the good moments. The best memories. I have to pay extra close attention so I can grab hold of those special times throughout the day. A giggle from my baby. A hug from my toddler. A joke with my husband. I have to remember how blessed I am to be the mom of two sweet little girls. It is a huge responsibility, being in charge of these precious lives. That's why I'm tired. I love them more than anything in the world. That's why watching them hurt hurts me so bad. But they are worth it.

Tonight I'm going to remember to be thankful to God for my family, and to trust Him with our future. I am thankful that my baby girl will soon be able to get all the nutrients she needs by simply nursing. I will trust God to help her through the procedure with no complications and as little emotional trauma as possible...for both of us. I am thankful for my toddler's priceless smile and precious laugh, and that soon her two front teeth will no longer be sore. I will trust God that He will protect her from harmful side effects or allergic reactions from the anesthesia. I am thankful that my dad made it through surgery, and that he was strong enough for a good visit yesterday...and he was smiling. I will trust that God gives him the strength to keep fighting this battle with cancer...and win.

Tomorrow I'm going to get up and try a little harder. Have a better attitude. Focus on those special moments and try to create as many as I can. Tomorrow my baby is having oral surgery. But she's alive. She's healthy. And I figured out the reason for her failure to gain weight before any permanent damage was done. So I am thankful. Tomorrow will be hard. But it's going to be a good day. Because I will remember how blessed I am to be a part of my family. To be married to my amazing husband and to be a mom to my precious girls. To be raised by my dad and have the privilage of being able to call myself a daddy's girl growing up, and to be raised by my mom who I still talk to about everything. To grow up with four siblings and still be good friends with each of them. Tonight I am drained. But I am blessed. So tomorrow will be a good day.

Egg Carton Leaf Prints

I saw this project on It is making leaf prints using cut up egg cartons. I just drew a tree with branches (yes, I realize that anyone else in the world could draw this better than I did) and set out some red, brown and yellow paint for Mercedes. We talked about how in the fall the leaves change from green to red, brown and yellow and fall off the trees. This is why Mercedes chose to paint most of her leaves at the bottom of the tree. She kept saying "leaf fall down, leaf fall down." She loved this. I think we'll have to do another one with green leaves in the spring.