Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Monday, December 28, 2015

December, 6 Month Update

Autumn turned 7 months the day after Christmas so, for the majority of the month she was six months old.
Photography by Juls Megill

December first started with an early morning doctor's appointment for me. For those of you who don't know, we are TTC number two. I had an IUI which is surprisingly covered by our new insurance. I know, there are as many acronyms in the infertility world as there are in education. TTC stands for trying to conceive, and IUI is intrauterine insemination, or artificial insemination. We're doing these unmedicated, without any fertility drugs, so my doctor says "it won't work." Good to know! That way, we don't get our hopes up, and can start looking into our backup plan: IVF in Prague this summer.
Those of you who have followed my journey know that I announced my pregnancy with Autumn super early, right after I POAS (you can google that one). I hadn't even had a blood test. That won't be happening this time. We will keep it under wraps until we know everything is alright, like most people do. I don't have the data to back it up, but with IVF, you know you have a "good" egg, which is one of the reasons I was so optimistic. Plus, I needed to be since we were loosing Mom at the time and I desperately needed something positive. But my current doctor said that only 1 in 7 of my eggs is normal. Not me personally, but just because of my age.

After the appointment, Autumn and I went to Target and did a small food shop. I bought another turkey and a few ingredients to do another Thanksgiving dinner. Autumn tried avocado (fresh, not from a jar) for the first time and really seemed to like it. No more new foods for a few days, that day alone she had quinoa, apples and avocado. Her full tummy made her sleepy, and we continued our nap-time adventures.

We finished the house lights and started reading a copy of A Christmas Carol that my parents gave me, with a touching inscription on the title page.

We had to have Nathan's beautiful husky, Skippy, put down. He was Nathan's constant companion since he was 22 and together, they went on at least 3,000 walks over the twelve years. He had been declining for awhile and spending a lot of time outside, even when it dipped down to 50 degrees. But that morning, he had trouble walking and was dripping blood from his mouth. He yelped in pain when touched. I went with and took Autumn, and we both were there for the procedure and cried. I thought of Autumn being 10 or 12 and having to do this with Trevi or another dog. My first inclination was to not get another dog - ever. But, going through life not getting attached to and loving just to avoid hurt and loss is no way to live. We both believe that if she does have to go through this, it is good training in developing coping mechanisms for other losses that are sure to come. Plus, a childhood without pets is just no childhood at all, in my biased opinion.

On the 3rd, Autumn and I attended an event called Good Grief at Christ Cathedral about surviving the holidays after the loss of a loved one. I was hopeful that it would help, but it just made me sad. I sat through most of the two hour session alternating between tears streaming down my face and making faces at or rocking Autumn. It really didn't learn anything new or helpful, other than the idea to light a candle for Mom at Christmas dinner this year and every year after. Maybe the reason I was there was not for me. I was the youngest in the room, and about half of the other attendees, some of whom had lost adult children, came up to me at different times and commented on either how cute Autumn was, or how well-behaved she was. She gave her huge gummy smile and flashed her dimple each time, and everyone smiled back, some through the tears in their eyes. I made a mental note to myself to visit nursing homes with her next Christmas. I also was reminded to never persuade friends, family, or students to go into grief counseling if they're not ready.
Friday the 4th was Autumn's very first trip to see Santa Clause! My friend Andrea, her husband Bill and her son Casey drove out here and we went to Irvine Park Railroad. Seeing Santa is free, but you have to take a train to get to him which costs $12. A fair price, since they allow you to take your own photos.

I finished her red infinity scarf just in the (St.) Nick of time!
Autumn  missed a nap and wasn't her smiling, energetic self, but she still had a good time. Originally, I was planning on also visiting Santa at South Coast Plaza, but the one at Irvine Park will be our tradition. Because you can only get to him by train and they limit sales based on space, it was not crowded or rushed at all.

I had Autumn's Christmas photos done and was thrilled with the results! As I mentioned before, Juls Megill Photography is beyond reasonable. Her Christmas photos cost $20! I plan to use her for Autumn's entire childhood!


Can you spot the three ornaments?

I brought three very special ornaments to the shoot: Big Ben (Mom gave me), a pram that we purchased at Buckingham Palace, and her hand-print ornament. I also chose her dress to match the pink leather shoes that Dad bought for her last Christmas. The shoes and the pattern of pink roses on her dress are my way of paying tribute to Mom because they're both something she would choose and love. Plus, I was privy to the set beforehand, and knew that an outfit with traditional red and green colors would not really fit in. I ordered our cards, something I always look forward to, with even more enthusiasm than any other year. Her Grandma said she looks like a little princess, and is much cuter than Princess Charlotte. I'm sure her Nana would concur.

I had a nail in my tire and had to get it repaired, surprisingly for free, on Tuesday morning before a doctor's appointment at my fertility clinic for blood work. Usually, this could be seen as a hassle or a chore, especially so early, but not with Autumn. She was smiling so much, and making eye contact with anyone she could. Eye contact was always followed by a huge, dimple-baring smile, the same at my doctor's office. On the way home, I thought of how she is so much like my Mom in this respect. Mom could have a good time anywhere, under any circumstances. She was never stressed and she never complained. It is so wonderful having Autumn as a reminder to be like that and not sweat the small stuff.

When we got home, we had another nap-time adventure before cleaning up, while she continued to sleep.
Our little bookworm.
Nathan and I went on our daily walk and stopped off at the park to push Autumn in the swing for the very first time. I never bring my phone on our walks, and it was nice for her to do something, a "first" that was not documented. As much as I obviously love pictures and video, it's hard to be in the moment when you're behind the screen. We pushed her gently as some toddlers came over and were pushed on the other swings to Autumn's right. She watched them the entire time, and I am beginning to think and maybe believe that daycare will be good for her.

I introduced spinach with peas and she didn't love it, but she did eat it. We also started having fun at feedings when she's due for a bath. I made a big pot of spaghetti and let her play with it. I was right there, to make sure she didn't put any in her mouth and surprisingly, she didn't.



I met my friend Stella and her daughters at a park in Irvine and Autumn played in the sand for the first time, sitting quietly and touching it. She seemed to like it and didn't even try to eat it. I texted Nathan that we needed to buy some sand for her. The next day, as we were finishing up our morning walk, I noticed a Little Tykes plastic sand box that had a cover and a FREE sign on it. I went home and got my Jeep and couldn't shake the feeling that maybe Mom had something to do with it. It seems like every time she needs something, it's provided. Plus, Mom loved thrift stores and used items.

I had my annual Christmas party with my running/triathlete friends, and really wanted to bring Autumn. But, she had fallen asleep the night before at 6:30pm which is when the dinner started, so I decided to leave her with Nathan. He's great with her, and it's important for her to spend time with him, but I missed her the whole time I was there. I couldn't wait to get home to her, even though she was asleep. I quietly crept into her nursery, and watched her sleep for awhile.

We noticed on Saturday the 12th that her second bottom tooth was coming in. It had already broken through the skin and again, she did not act any different. We took her to church and she didn't even make one sound, just quietly watched the choir and then fell asleep at lunch.

We attended her last consecutive swim lesson for awhile, but will return for a day or two in both January and February so that she doesn't get out of practice.




On December 15th, I took her to what will be her daycare so that she could start to get familiar with it. Our visit was disheartening and I ended up driving home in tears. The plan was to leave her for a bit - under an hour, and I just couldn't do it. They were particularly busy that day, with seven babies and two workers. The workers were busy tending to two other babies, and I imagined her just laying on the ground, crying, and no one to console her. Plus, all of the kids were really sick, with running noses and bad coughs, and Autumn has never been sick. I came home and told Nathan I didn't want to leave her there, and we begun exploring Nanny options, setting up an interview with a nanny of an acquaintance. That night and into the next morning, I felt incredibly guilty about having to leave her every day.

I made myself go back to her daycare the next day as planned, and I'm glad I did because it was a bit reassuring. When I passed through the first locked gate and then the second, all of the toddlers were out in the play-yard with supervision, running around and having a great time. I could  picture her, a little older, out there having fun. There were only four children in the infant room this time, and I learned that some days and parts of the day are busier than others. Christmas music was playing. While I still did not leave Autumn, I enjoyed watching her curiosity with the other babies. She even called out to one girl, with her baby babble. When they cried, she watched them. She smiled at the staff.

I went back a third day, and left her for one hour while I went to my work which is close by, to meet with the counselor who has been subbing for me. She has subbed as a counselor at other schools in our district and told me that there needs to be two at our site because it has been so hectic. There always used to be two, one for 7th grade and one for 8th grade. But now, I am the only one and have a caseload of 650. It made me feel good that someone else recognizes how busy can be. And I hope my first day, week and month are chaotic and busy because I will worry about Autumn less and the time will go by faster. When I returned to pick her up, she was happily sitting and playing, until the worker moved from her side, and she started bawling. I rushed to pick her up, and it as clear to me that she had been crying previously, because her little eyelashes were clumped together with tears. January 4th is going to be tough, to say the least.

I have to remind myself that it's okay for her to have some time when no one is interacting with her. It's actually important for her development. According to the developmental book I'm reading, solitude is good for baby: Continue to allow baby quiet time by herself. It's okay to leave her safely on the floor or in her playpen while you attend to tasks. Don't feel guilty when you leave baby alone; it's an important part of her development. When she's alone, baby can process and internalize various pieces of information. She can observe her surroundings at her own pace. She can also rest physically, which she needs for her well-being.

It's going to be such an adjustment for me to be apart from her, whether it be daycare or in-home, and I know I will cry on the first day. Part of what is tough is that before she was born, I imagined that I would "need a break" by now and be ready for some adult interaction. But I don't feel that way at all. All I want to do is be around her, and I even miss her when she sleeps. I don't even like to leave her with Daddy! 

But, thank God I do love my counseling job, and having it allows me to provide her with things that I didn't have, like travel abroad and private school. While I would stay home until she started school if I could, I would still want to work once she was in school, because I love being a counselor. It's part of my identity and I do miss it. And, I have a career that affords me a lot of time off, much more than the standard two weeks because I only work 196 days per year. Also, I can pick her up some days as early as 3:30. If you can't tell, I'm trying to assuage my guilt here, as these are the things Nathan reminds me of on our walks, and I repeat to myself before l fall asleep at night.
Grandpa & Uncle Glen
We celebrated Christmas with my Dad and brother on the 19th. Dad and Glen were very generous, as usual. Dad gave us a working replica of the Tevi fountain and Glen gave us Stream TV which allows us to watch virtually anything, including TV shows and movies currently in the theaters. It sounds illegal, but the servers are in China so somehow, it's not. Dad also gave us all watches, including a replacement Movado watch that was the same as one Mom picked out for me years ago, which I had lost years ago.

Cousins
Then we had Nathan's sister, husband and Autumn's cousins over the night before we flew to Oregon. Always last minute, I still had not finished packing for our 10 day trip. Autumn hadn't seen her cousins since Halloween, and it was very cute to see MK sweetly sharing toys with her. I'm excited about the wooden growth chart they gave us, which can be taken with us when we move, and passed on to Autumn.  
We flew to Oregon on the 21st to spend time up there through the first of the year. Autumn and Trevi were both amazing on the flights. We used miles for free tickets, and as a result, had a short layover in Seattle before boarding one of those super tiny planes where you feel everything. No one seemed to mind Trevi on my lap, and several people approached me to ask how much she cost (free) or how I was able to have her there. 

Temperatures fell into the mid to low 30's during the nights and I was very excited to see snow falling on one of my morning walks with Trevi. It didn't stick until Christmas Eve, but still only provided a very light dusting on Christmas morning. It "felt" like Christmas, Mom and I always used to lament the days when it would be 80 degrees and sunny on Christmas, and always hoped for some cloud coverage or cooler temperatures. 
Christmas Eve excitement!

Unfortunately, Nathan and I were both sick on Christmas, and not able to keep anything down for 8 hours. I haven't been sick in years. When you are devoid of energy and the world seems to have twice the amount of gravity, it makes even re-positioning yourself on the ground difficult. Thank God Autumn did not get sick, and with us taking turns caring for her, she still seemed to have a wonderful day. Well, every day is wonderful for her. She loved all of her toys, and right around Christmas, started being able to sit all on her own. She also started playing independently on her own, not noticing or caring that I was out of sight, in the kitchen for over thirty minutes at a time. Both of these things made me feel better about upcoming daycare dilemma.

By the next day, we both felt well enough to put on our amazing pajamagram Santa suits, courtesy of TJ and Rebecca, much to Nathan's dismay. Even Trevi was included!  

We were also able to go out to Red Lobster with Ben to celebrate his birthday, complete with a cake with a picture of him with his newly adopted cat, Terry.

I absolutely love being in Oregon and Nathan's family, and seeing his parents, and Ben, interact with Autumn. This trip was so relaxing. Grandma worked every day to teach Autumn to wave, and she seemed to try and wave back a few times. Most days, the only thing on my agenda was helping prep something for dinner, a walk around some of the property or down the road, feeding the swans, feeding carrots to the horses and pony, playing with Autumn and crocheting or reading. Nathan, on the other hand, remained busy helping plan a remodel or addition for his Mom who cannot make it up stairs anymore. He called contractors and obtained estimates, helped move her downstairs, explored finding someone to dig a well, scheduled doctor's appointments and dealt with the insurance, packed up the Christmas decorations and planted the Christmas tree. 



All of that is not really work to Nathan, who loves helping out family. We still made time for our walks every day, and as always, used them as a time to reconnect and talk about the future. Future trips to Oregon, where we plan to return at least twice a year for the rest of our lives, and passing it on to Autumn. The Autumn Empire. And future Christmases, wondering with excitement when she will be old enough to be too excited to sleep on Christmas Eve, and how we can make them as special as she is, or at least try.

Milestones:
  • Can get up on her hands and knees and rock back and forth
  • Can sit without assistance! This just happened while we were in Oregon for Christmas. Before that, she could sit for quite awhile, but would slowly fall over after 5-10 minutes if not watched.
  • More babbling, especially when she wakes up
  • Second tooth! Bottom left
  • Helping hold her bottle
Things I don't want to forget about this month:
  • How she tries to make eye contact with others when we go out and gives them a great, big smile
  • Blowing raspberries
  • How she takes her hand and rotates it in a circle, while watching it, seemingly curious about what it will do next
  • How she moves her arms and legs up and down while bouncing when she gets excited, like when Dad gets home
  • Her loud yawning noises; I'm still enamored with these and have yet to capture them on video
  • Her squeal of excitement when she sees Trevi, the swans, pony
  • How she stretches when I change her
Routines we're continuing:
  • Listening to Pray as You Go most mornings
  • Listening to: Happy together 
  • Singing to her: You Are My Sunshine, Que Serra, Amazing Grace (bedtime)
  • Story-time at the library
  • Reading, usually the book from my book club
  • Morning and evening walks
  • Crocheting
  • Nightly prayers
  • Waiting for Daddy on the bench by the front door
  • Swim lessons
  • Walking with her in the ergo 360
  • Nicknames: Bean, Baby A, Sweet One, Little Buns
  • Fires several times each week
Routines we're establishing:
  • Playing with food. Not every time, but some days when she's due for a bath I will dump out some of her carrots or butternut squash on her tray so she can feel the texture and paint with it. 
  • Peak-a-boo
  • Asking "Where's Daddy?" Or "Where's Trevi?" and cheering when she looks
  • After her morning feeding she's starting to sleep beside me instead of on top of me. This is a sign she's getting bigger, and makes me sad, but she's still cuddling.
Food she has tried:
  • carrots
  • avocado
  • sweet potato
  • peas
  • green beans
  • apple
  • oatmeal
  • quinoa
  • bananas
  • pears
  • blueberries
  • spinach

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