One day Anni was twirling and singing one of her original compositions.
"It's my gift!" she declared.
Dizzy, she fell with spectacular gracelessness.
Laying on her back on the tile floor she began flapping her arms and legs
as if she were making a snow angel.
"Falling down is also a gift!" says she.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Joerg has been out of town for the past couple of weeks, and the girls and I have been partying in his absence! A constant blur of activity keeps Annika from realizing her Daddy's not around, although she's been waking up in the morning calling, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" The first week that Joerg was gone, my mom came on the train to visit. Annika loves going to the train station and watching the train pull in. And then the excitement of seeing Grandma get off--it's almost too much for her! Mom and I took the girls to a carnival down by the riverfront in Peoria one day. Annika was her usual daredevil self, begging me to go on all the scariest rides. The most exciting ride I allowed her to go on was the scrambler, which she loved. We must have ridden that one about 15 times. There was another giant slide, which we rode several times, although I steered her away from that one because the burlap bags we had to ride down smelled a bit like pesticide. Yuck! We also went on a big ferris wheel together, and she enjoyed that a lot, too. She actually did spend some time on the kiddie rides, but after the initial joy when the ride started she kind of looked around like, "OK, when does it get exciting??" We had a little picnic over on benches by the river shore, which was just lovely. We finally left when it started to sprinkle (and my parking meter was about to expire). Annika was not too happy about leaving, but it was pretty apparent that she was exhausted. After I set her up in her car seat with a drink and some snacks she called out imperiously, "Hit the road, Mom!" Then she was asleep before we even reached the highway. The next day we went garage saling! The weather was gorgeous, and so we all slathered on sunscreen and parked the car and wandered among the sales. Annika was so well-behaved. I was so proud of her for not screaming and throwing a fit every time we left a sale without buying something for her, as many of the other kids were that we saw. Of course, we were buying toys and books for her anyway--who can resist when there's a doll swing for $1? Or books for 50 cents? Anni finally found her garage sale shangri-la at the house where the girl was selling all her Barbies. Anni is such a girl right now--she loves pink (although blue is beginning to be favored, too), is obsessed with princesses, and plays endless games with her dolls and dollhouse. On the other hand, her wild, thrill-seeking streak proves she's no shrinking violet. The other day we were in a store and Anni came over to me, ecstatic to have found a spider, which she was carefully holding in her hand. I am not exaggerating when I say that that thing was nearly as big as her hand!! I convinced her to put him back down so that he could go home, thank goodness. She also loves it when she gets to pet the snakes at our little zoo here in town. And she never saw a mud puddle that didn't call her name irresistibly, new shoes or not. Frankie is nearly nearly nearly crawling. She gets up on all fours by herself, and moves her arms forward, and sometimes her legs cooperate, too. But sometimes her arms just keep going forward until she flops back onto her tummy. And then she drags herself across the floor at a pretty impressive clip, for a seal baby. She now has 6 teeth, and 2 more coming in simultaneously. She's a huge fan of smashed banana, but she seems to think Cheerios are more work than they're worth, although she does enjoy tossing them about... We have new neighbors, and they have a 6-yr. old daughter, Sabrina. Annika adores her. Did I say "adores"? Maybe "worships" is a better word to describe it... Sabrina's been coming over to play pretty frequently since moving here. This week we got out our kiddie pool and positioned it at the bottom of our slide, and then let the hose run down the slide to create a pretty fast water slide. The girls have had so much fun playing together in the pool. Frankie loves to sit in her baby swing and watch all the action. Frankie, evidently a budding adrenaline-junkie herself, loves it when I swing her high. I have to say that at this age Frankie is seeming more like a little person and less like a baby, if that makes any sense at all. I realized recently that I haven't given any medical updates on Annika for a while. I guess that's because there's just not too much to report. Anni seems to have stabilized again. That is, her lab numbers are still off by quite a bit, but they're not getting worse anymore. So that's good. And at least now we know why her lab values are still off--she has the clot in her portal vein. So it looks like we finally have the rejection under control. (Huge sigh of relief) She is completely black-and-blue, though, as she's been having a normal 3-yr-old's good time, but her blood is still not clotting quite fast enough. So she gets mega-bruises all up and down her legs, face, arms, etc. We go back in August for the deluxe work-up: full body CT, scopes, and biopsy.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Things have been very busy, a good busy, around here, which is why I haven't posted an update in a while. Annika is still tube-free, and feeling just great. We've had some excitement around here lately. The girls and I took our first trip alone last weekend. We drove up to the Martins in Rockford, which I thought was only an hour and a half away. It turned out to be two hours, but we made it. Since I usually ride in the back and play games with Annika on long car trips, I was worried how she would handle having to entertain herself, but she was fantastic. I put some crayons in a little suitcase (I know better than to leave her alone with markers--she'll come out of the car looking like an extra from Braveheart) and gave her a whole bag full of coloring books, stickers, and books to read. She was happy as a clam. Well, almost...she really wanted Frankie to be awake for the trip, too! I caught her tossing crayons over to Frankie and saying, "Wake up, Frankie, pleeeeeeeeeeez!!" I nipped that in the bud, and was thankful that I had put up the sun bonnet on the car seat, which blocked all of Anni's shots. I know, though, that if I ever put the two car seats within reaching distance of one another that Frankie will never again be able to sleep in the car! We spent the night in Rockford, and the next morning Jennifer (mom), Riley, Shelby, Frankie, Anni, and I all piled into the Martin's mini-van to go to Green Bay, to a Transplant Family picnic. Somehow, the trip ended up taking 4 hours--a mystery which was solved when we actually looked at the clock to see how long our rest stop took on the way back. We were amazed to discover that our "quick meal stop" stretched into an hour! Of course, we had to feed the 3 girls (and at 2, 3, and 4 years old, they don't eat fast) then I had to nurse Frankie, then we had to change diapers and use the potty, then change outfits from the various spills/leaks, then buckle up 4 car seats and set up on-the-road entertainment again. Yeah, it was an hour! The picnic was held at a little amusement park in Green Bay. It was just the perfect size for kids the girls' age, with short lines and lots of rides that were appropriate for their age. Of course, my immunosuppressed girl spent her waiting time walking up and down the line trying to make contact with every single child she could. Aaarrrggghh! There are times when having a shy child would really come in handy! I just used a lot of hand sanitizer, and we seem to have come home with no bugs picked up. Hooray! But, of course, no trip is complete without at least one health scare, especially when you're traveling with a transplanted child, and a child waiting for a transplant who has already suffered 5 broken bones at the tender age of 2 (Shelby's liver problems have given her osteoporosis). We had promised the girls that they could swim when they got to the hotel, so despite the fact that they were clearly completely worn out (especially mine), we took them swimming. Annika hasn't been in a big pool very often (3 times), so it was a big deal for her. At first she was nervous, but when she saw Shelby and Riley swimming around alone in their floaty suits, she got brave, too. I had forgotten her swim vest, but I had brought some water wings, so she had that extra help to float. However, I noticed that she had begun to shiver when all the other girls seemed fine with the temperature. When I finally got her back upstairs, she was crying, "Mommy, something's wrong with me!" So I got her warmed up and in bed, where she fell asleep promptly, despite all the activity still going on in the room. Luckily, Jennifer had brought her ear thermometer (I only had my old slow under-arm thermometer), and she was a bit on the warm side. When I checked her a few hours later, she was at a full-blown fever (102). Again, thank goodness Jennifer had brought her ibuprofen (mine had just expired before this trip, and I had thrown it away and forgotten to replace it--bad mommy!!) However, by morning she seemed to be feeling just fine and her temp was gone, never to reappear. Just another strange night in the post-transplant world, I guess. OK, so the weekend, in a nutshell: Annika had sooooooo much fun! Riley and Shelby are great playmates for Anni, as they both have that great high-energy, go-along-with-anything kind of personality. Of course, having all those high energy kids for a weekend left Jennifer and me completely pooped, but seeing our girls have so much fun was well worth it. Plus, I got the added bonus of genuine girl-talk in the van there and back, which I admit that I do miss sometimes... In case there was any doubt that our little girl is an adventurous spirit, I took her to a little carnival this afternoon. She rode her first roller coaster, a little kiddie one, but it did go pretty fast! The guy told me that I just had to wave my hand if she wanted off, but she whooped all the way through, especially on the fastest parts! She also rode the giant slide--the kind you ride on burlap bags down-- 6 times! I had a hard time getting her away from the slide, but eventually I convinced her to try other rides. The next ride she did was the roller coaster, and after that, she was ready to try any and all rides. Definitely an adrenaline junkie!! She rode a ferris wheel (finally! she has been asking to ride a ferris wheel ever since she read a book about one!), the tilt-a-whirl, a motorcycle ride, and the octopus. OK, the octopus was a little much for her. Obviously, I went on it with her, and she met the height requirement, but I had forgotten how fast that ride went. I'm going to have to override some of her choices in the future... It's just been so long since I've done any of those rides. Actually, she really enjoyed the ride until it kicked into high gear and did some of those stomach-flipping drops. I held onto her, and she relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the ride, especially once it went back to normal speed. Of course, after that she asked to go on one of the upside-down rides, and accepted my "No, it's too big" with only a little longing glance back over her shoulder. Frankie continues to grow and amaze us. We moved her out of her infant car seat this week. Too bad, as the infant seats are so much more portable. But she is growing up... A few nights ago, I was taking her up to bed and we said our usual "night-night Daddy" while Joerg waved at her. Much to our surprise and delight, she waved back at him, with that funny little-kid wave that has the hand turned the wrong way. Of course, we praised her to the moon, and she looked ecstatic to have caused so much parental joy! At 8 months, Frankie has finally started eating. She still does not care for any of the cereals, but she's pretty fond of all the orange vegetables. She's actually already into sticking the spoon into her own mouth, and wails like a banshee if, heaven forbid, I take the spoon away to do it for her. Therefore, mealtimes are a "double spoon" affair. One for her, and one for me. I sneak the full spoon into her mouth as she opens up to put in her own spoon. Then she gives me a very disgusted look like, "mom, quit sneaking that stuff in!" But she eats it, with only a little grimace. Another first: Annika just had her very first haircut! She actually looks much younger now. I'll have to post some new pictures soon, if I ever get around to installing the needed software on our new computer... And finally: Anni was playing in her playroom with her Daddy the other day when she turned to him and announced, "I'm actually a very shy person!" As if!!!!