Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Portland Children's Museum

This morning Ava and Emily had their respective 3 year and 9 month well check ups at the pediatrician. Both girls only had one shot (we're on the Dr Sears recommended schedule), which was pretty nice. The appointment was over pretty early, and we didn't have any other plans today, so we headed over to the Children's Museum to play for a bit.

Ava has always loved this place - there is a market and a restaurant full of realistic (and healthy!) looking pretend food, a climbing structure, a water play area, a stage, and of course, the ever popular dig pit. Now that Emily is mobile, she is usually up for cruising around the different areas as well. This morning, we had a lot of fun in the pretend doctor's office (where Ava did an amazingly spot-on imitation of our own pediatrician) on a baby doll. Maybe she'll grow up to be a surgeon, instead of a wedding cake baker afterall? Emily had a nice post-shot nap in the Ergo carrier (I always get at least one mom who asks me what kind of carrier I have and where she can get one - these are SO much better than the awful Bjorns!) while Ava played and climbed for two hours. We ended our visit with story time in the tree house room, where Ava sang (very loudly) to all of the songs.

Ava sporting some lovely face paint (her own creation):

Brushing the crocodile's teeth:

Emily cruising in the baby play area:

Gratuitous cute baby shots

Just because Emily has been so super adorable lately (not that we're biased or anything...):

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tunnel of love

We had a blast once again at our Family Gym class at Gymboree. It really is nice to be able to do something that both girls can participate in! And our teacher is wonderful about helping me out when each kid wants to go a different direction.
Emily has conquered her fear of crawling through the tunnels:

Ava always has fun swinging on the monkey bars:

Yesterday, Ava had fun decorating some fairy wings with sparkles, flowers, and ribbons:

Then she decided to give herself a sparkle manicure:

What a great gift (thanks, Darlene, Rory, and Cooper!)!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ava is THREE!

After a not-so-relaxing weekend (yard work and closet clean out as we get the house in order to sell), we attended 3 birthday parties - a joint party for two of Ava's playgroup friends, and two parties for Ava. On Sunday, we went to the Oregon Gymnastics Academy for a party for Rory and Rachel, which was a lot of fun. They had a pit filled with foam blocks with a high parallel bar over it, and Ava had a BLAST swinging from the bar and then dropping to the pit. I actually had to talk her into leaving when it was time for cake!

That afternoon, some family came over to share cake and watch our birthday girl open her presents. Since Ava is so fortuntate, we asked for books, and she received a lot of great ones!

A few weeks ago I asked Ava what kind of party she wanted and she said she wanted a "pink pwincess party," so that's what she got! We had eight friends over to make tiaras, sing "Happy Birthday," play Pin the Crown on the Princess, and eat some yummy cupcakes (pink, with pink frosting and lots of sprinkles). This evening, we went out to sushi (per the birthday girl's request!).

Ava had so much fun - thank you to everyone who helped make her birthday so special!

Ava devouring her cake on Sunday:

Oh My Goodness! I got a princess book! (thanks, Auntie Cynde!)

All decked out in her Cinderella finest for her princess party:

Everyone decorating their tiaras:

Eating their royal lunch:

Singing "Happy Birthday" this morning:

Friday, April 11, 2008

Photo Essay

Hey! You with all of the hair! Give us some food!

Who me?

Here you go duckies!

This hat is silly.

You know what's sillier than my hat? Mama for thinking I'd keep it on all day!

Heeeeeeeeere Duckies Duckies!

Only. Two. More. Inches!

Quack! Honk! Quack quack! Honk! (rough translation: Thanks for the crumbs, kid!)

Hmmm...this slide looks kinda dirty. I hate getting dirty. Oh well...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tired Thursday...

Today the girls did something they haven't done in quite a while: They slept in until 8:30! I was able to get up, have a shower, and start some coffee before they woke up (on top of being able to lounge in bed until 8 myself!).

Emily has popped 2 new teeth up (finally!), bringing the grand total to 4. I look at her these days and barely recognize the plump, rolly-poly baby with the gummy grin. They grow up so fast! She's moving around so much that she's slimmed down quite a bit, and the teeth have changed her smile completely. She still has Daddy's crinkly eyes, but other than that, she seems like a different baby to me.

It doesn't help that today we met with our baby playgroup (aka Playgroup v2.0), and most of the babies are a few months younger than Emily. I was a bit nostalgic for the days of a pudgy little baby who fell asleep while nursing while my Emily was cruising around a train table and playing Tinker Toys with her sister. *sigh* She'll be off to college before I know it!

Here's a shot of some of our second generation:

The rest of our day was spent cooking - Ava helped me make some yummy spinach lasagna and an apple crisp for dinner. She loves to help cook so much - must be genetic! Our produce was delivered today and we received a TON of greens and apples...way more than usual. Here's the recipe I used, only I used apples instead of peaches. Someday, I hope I have as nice of a camera and/or the time to take step by step pictures like Pioneer Woman does. Her commentary cracks me up, and her recipes are wonderful (though sadly, not very waistline friendly - special occasion cooking only!).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Rainy days and ballet

With all of the rain this week, we've been spending more time inside than we'd like to. Emily is still sleeping quite a bit while she recovers from her cold and ear infection, and she's also working on 2 teeth (they are popping out, then back in...out, in, out in...). Ava and I have been taking advantage of all of the short naps and have been doing some art projects and being silly in general.

I posted last week about how Ava loves pretend play, and her current favorite thing to do is to sit on the floor with a ribbon across her lap while I sit in front of her and pretend to drive a carriage to a ball. While we're riding in the carriage, we sing "The Wheels on The Carriage," and when we get to the "ball," I put on some music and we dance around for as long as we can. These days, Ava is very interested in ballet, so I've been trying to teach her some basics. It sort of works...she's got as much coordination as an almost 3 year old can have, but sadly, I think she's got Daddy's rhythm. When we need a break from dancing, we have a tea party (of course!). Her other favorite game is to get out her shopping cart and go grocery shopping. She has a pretend list, and then I ring her up with her cash register. Of course, she does this dressed up in full princess attire.

Meanwhile, Emily is just busy getting her cruising skills down. She recently figured out how to get out of a pulled up position...she basically just does the splits! I guess that Ava is not the only one who will follow in Mama's footsteps.

Today we started our ballet classes at the local community center. It's quite possibly the cutest thing that I've ever seen...10 little girls all twirling around. A nice surprise was that one of Ava's second cousins is also in the class, and I have always liked her mommy, so we have set up a few play dates for the girls. Sadly, I left my camera at home, but promise to take lots of pictures and video at next week's class to make up for it!

Until then, here are a few highlights from the past few days:

Ava working on the rainbow we made out of scrapbook paper scraps:

The finished rainbow:

Emily playing with her Leap Frog Table:

Friday, April 4, 2008

Back to normal - which means busy!

After a few days on antibiotics, Emily is finally back to normal. Her cold is gone, and her ear infection has cleared enough to allow her discomfort to lessen - she's actually smiling and cooing again! We'll keep her on the antibiotics until they're gone, but it's so nice to have our happy baby back!

Yesterday we went to our Family Gym class at Gymboree, which both girls love. Ava likes the part of class where the teacher takes out a huge parachute and we sing sonds and blow bubbles the best. Emily likes watching all of the big kids run around like crazy and playing with all of the balls. It's nice to be able to do something that focuses on both girls in the same room. We've got a play date with one of the other families from our class next week (also girls, same ages as Ava and Emily), so that should be fun. Ava and her friend are always hugging during class - it's adorable!

This morning we went to our regular Friday playgroup. Ava always has a great time with this group and Emily finally has some baby friends to play with. As usual, Ava ran straight to the dress up clothes and decked herself out as Cinderella. She is obsessed with dress up! It doesn't help that everyone we know feeds the obsession by adding more and more dresses to her collection. I think we've got 8 at last count...more than enough for 1 little girl! The other moms and I had a discussion about gender roles and children recently - do girls naturally flock to dress up clothes or does society force them? I think it's a little of both. When you give birth to a girl, she automatically becomes "pretty." Ava is so drawn to dress up clothes, I can't help but wonder if she is already succumbing to society's enormous push that women MUST be beautiful to be adored. She does like to pretend play more than anything - so she'll dress up as a princess and have me drive her to the ball (we sit on the floor and pretend I'm driving a carriage and we sing "The Wheels on the Carriage" and then dance to some music at a "ball") or she wants a tea party with her dolls. I wonder sometimes if Emily will be as into dress up as Ava is...or if she will be interested in something else entirely!

Here are a few pictures from today and yesterday:

Ava and some friends this morning:

Emily back to normal:
Ava going down the slide at Gymboree:

Emily "making music" at Gymboree:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Baby's First...Ear Infection

Here's a reason why I love our pediatrician's office: I called yesterday because I just felt that something was "not quite right" with Emily but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. The advice nurse said "Mother's intuition is never us as soon as you want and we can bring her in to take a look." I decided that her fussies were just due to a cold and the tooth that is popping through, but still, that nagging feeling was there all day and night. She has been battling a cold for about a week; and this morning her left ear was red, and she was also sporting a fever. She's been extremely fussy the past 2 days and has been inconsolable at night. Our doctor was able to see us early this morning and sure enough, she has an ear infection. The nurse faxed the prescription for some antibiotics to our nearest pharmacy, and our pediatrician also recommended Earache Tablets and Tylenol. After a dose of all 3, Emily actually took a nap - something she hadn't done in 2 days!

We have many friends whose kids have chronic ear infections, and so far, we've escaped them. Let's hope that this one is the first AND the last!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Spring has sprung!

After feeling sad yesterday about the lack of nice weather, we woke up to a beautiful, sunny day. We ended up cancelling a play date due to Emily's cold, but I thought we should still spend some time outside - afterall, this being Oregon, there is no guarantee that the sunshine will stay for long!

First, we headed out to a nearby farm to pick up a dozen fresh eggs. My mother recently recommended the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to me, and it really changed my perspective on what and how we eat. I've really tried to start living as a locavore - eating foods grown and produced locally. We are fortunate to live close to several large farms that sell organic, free range eggs for $2.50 a dozen - over $2 cheaper than the organic free range eggs I see in the stores. It's fun for Ava to put the money in the box, and fun to come home and cook eggs that really do taste better than their storebought counterparts.

After our foray to the farm, we stopped at home for Emily's nap and some lunch, and then went back out into the sunshine and to one f our favorite parks, Cook Park. There are two playgrounds, and one is geared towards the toddler and preschool set. Emily adores the swings and sitting in my lap to go down the slide. After some playing, we walked through the butterfly garden and looked at all of the plants that are beginning to bloom. Sadly, my camera's battery died during our outing, so I don't have pictures.

After our afternoon naps and dinnertime, Ava and I went back outside to do a bit of scooter riding (the BEST birthday present - thank you, Ellie!). Here are a few pictures and a video:

Emily in the swing:

Ava on the scooter:

Some lovely daffodils in our front yard:

There is some sound in this clip:

Great article on coping with peanut allergies

As most of you know, Ava suffers from a life threatening allergy to peanuts and tree nuts (tree nuts being almonds, pecans, walnuts...basically any nut). We've known of these allergies for about a year, and have had to get used to the looks we get when we deny our little girl a seemingly harmless M&M, or why our pulses race when she gets any sort of rash. And let's not even go to the level of guilt I feel when I try to tell Ava that no, she can't have any birthday cake at the party because the cake was not homemade but instead was *gasp* baked in a bakery instead. No, we're not crazy. We're just trying to not kill our kid.

Ava starts preschool in September, and I must admit, most of the reason that I was hesitant to send her was that I was worried about her possibly interracting with kids who might have touched a peanut product and not correctly washed their hands. Four of the five preschools I spoke with would not guarantee her a nut free classroom, let alone a nut free school. Luckily, we finally found a school that would be completely nut free, and just in case, would allow her to have her Epi Pen with her at all times (the teachers there are all trained in how to correctly administer it, should they need to).

My friend Nicole, whose daughter also suffers from a life threatening peanut allergy, found this article and I thought I would post it here, because it sums up Joel and my feelings on dealing with the allergies in our lives:

My peanut fears are growing
Mickey Hepner
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND— I admit it, I am afraid of peanut butter. I know that some day a perfectly normal parent will give their perfectly normal child a perfectly normal peanut butter sandwich to take to school. While this act may seem harmless, that peanut butter sandwich could send my daughter to the emergency room.

You see, my 5-year-old daughter Gracie has a significant peanut allergy. Any exposure to products made with peanuts could trigger an anaphylactic reaction that requires her to receive immediate medical treatment. We are fortunate that she has yet to suffer a severe anaphylactic reaction. The allergic reactions she has experienced though, were noticeable enough to make us concerned about the future.

Not surprisingly, this fear has made my wife and I very cautious about the foods she eats. Unfortunately, keeping her diet peanut-free is more difficult than just keeping her away from peanut butter. Peanuts are used in many products, from cakes to cookies, from enchiladas to egg rolls. As a result, we do not let her eat something unless we know for certain that every ingredient is safe.

Furthermore, we have to ensure that nothing that potentially could touch her food could have potentially touched peanuts. For example, she cannot have plain M&M’s (or almost any chocolate) because they are processed on the same equipment that also processes peanut M&M’s. Thus, it is likely that some peanut proteins from the peanut M&M’s could be transmitted to the plain M&M’s.

However, protecting Gracie involves more than just watching what she eats, we also have to watch what she smells and touches, too. This is why peanut butter sandwiches at schools scare me. Suppose a child eats a peanut butter sandwich for lunch at school, and then does not wash his hands carefully as children sometimes fail to do. Every time he touches anything — a computer, a table or even a swing — he is potentially spreading peanut proteins that can trigger an allergic reaction in my daughter.

While most people do not understand the dangers that food allergies can cause, there are some working to change that. Country music star Trace Adkins has a daughter who suffers from a severe peanut allergy in addition to allergies to milk, eggs and tree nuts. He recently competed on Celebrity Apprentice in order to raise funds for the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, an advocacy group promoting awareness of food allergies. In fact, if you purchase the live version of his single "You’re Gonna Miss This" from iTunes, all of the proceeds go to support this organization.

Additionally, U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., have introduced the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act (S. 1232, H.R. 2063) that calls on the U.S. Department of Education to develop standards to help our schools protect children with food allergies. These standards would give schools guidance on how they should respond to a severe anaphylaxis reaction, and the steps they can take to help prevent one from ever occurring.

Considering the fact that food allergies cause 30,000 emergency room visits, and 150 deaths per year (many of them young children who did not receive prompt medical attention), this legislation could be the difference between life and death for some children.

While progress is being made, I still do not feel secure. Next week, we will register my daughter to attend kindergarten next year in the Edmond School District. I know that this means we are transitioning to a new stage in her life, a time of excitement and discovery for her. But this is also a time of increased anxiety for me because I realize my wife and I no will longer be able to monitor her environment to ensure her safety. I know I will join the millions of fathers worried about whether their child will have a severe allergic reaction at school. Consequently, I know that I will continue being afraid of peanut butter.

MICKEY HEPNER is an associate professor of economics at the University of Central Oklahoma.