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.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Joerg has sometimes been putting Anni to bed at night (a 30-minute much beloved ritual) while I nurse and rock Frankie in another room. Annika always attempts to lure us back for just a few more minutes before leaving. Last week, Joerg tells me, what he heard as he was closing the door was, "Daddy! Help, I've got something sticky on my finger!" So he heads over to her bed with his hand held out, and she obediently gives him her index finger. "Where did you get this, Anni?" "From my nose." Oh, man! I can't believe he fell for the old "I've got something sticky on my finger" routine! It's also amazing how closely Annika listens to us, even when we don't think she's listening, and how much she understands. Joerg has been working on the healthcare committee to find a new insurance company to replace the one we're losing due to contract disputes. It's been a rushed and unpleasant process. So Joerg had come home, but needed to call his boss to discuss the latest proposal. In the course of his conversation he said something like, "Well, except we wouldn't be able to show our faces on campus again!" Anni looked at me and in pure joy danced and sang a little made-up song: "Yay! Hooray! Daddy's not going on campus anymore!" Annika seems to be developing into a little right-brainer. Although she loves listening to stories, she shows no real interest in the written words themselves. Learning to recognize the letters of the alphabet hasn't really been a priority for her, but she's recognized her numbers for at least a year and a half. She's become quite the little puzzle afficionado, and will do all sorts of spatial reasoning puzzles, but heaven forbid we try to do a rhyming game. Tonight I asked her, "Does 'dance' rhyme with 'cat'?" She smiled her most mischievous smile, and twirled around (she still does a lot of twirling), "Oh, yes, YES, YES!!!" As her eyes searched the room for Hepburn, I could see her scheme to dance with the cat was unfurling gloriously in her little brain. I spotted Hepburn slinking down the basement stairs. The cat does know when to leave a room.

Friday, September 24, 2004

OoooooWeeeee! Anni is sick. And how. So we had our first E.R. visit of the season on Wednesday night. Anni has croup, and she was having trouble breathing. They put her on oxygen for a bit, and gave her a big ole' dose of steroids (although nothing compared to what they give for rejection). After a few hours, her breathing got better and we went home. No biggie. With the increased steroids, her breathing has been better, but the sleeping is not so good. You try sleeping after a burst of medicine that makes you feel like a giant exploding head (or at least so I've been told). No complaints, though, as we were happy not to be sent to Chicago for treatment. She is already feeling much better. I left her downstairs quietly watching Dragon Tales this morning while I put Frankie down for her morning nap. When I came back downstairs, Anni was standing on the arm of the couch with her arms spread wide. "Annika, what are you doing???" "Playing a game." "What game?" "The standing on the sofa game." Of course. How silly of me. I do love the relationship that Anni and Frankie are developing. Although Frankie does sometimes tire of Anni's attentions, she certainly seems to watch Anni most closely for clues on how to navigate the world. And Anni loves showing Frankie how to do all sorts of cool stuff. One afternoon before Anni got sick, I let Annika give Frankie her afternoon snack of plain yogurt. They were both delighted with the set-up, Anni especially. She just loved how Frankie would open her little mouth for her to pop the spoon in. And Frankie loved that Anni was just as delighted as she at the lovely squooshy mess that yogurt makes when used as a hairstyling product. As I've breastfed Frankie exclusively, Anni never got the chance to give Frankie a bottle, which was too bad. But on the other hand, feeding with a spoon is so much more fun. The whole process is so much more interactive. Sometimes Annika will just cup Frankie's face in her two hands, so gently, and say, "I love you baby sister." Those are really the best moments ever. Walking down the store aisle one day, I stopped with the cart to select a new variety of baby food for Frankie to smear over her naked body (she rips off all bibs with a purely disgusted air). Anni was looking around nearby when I heard her say in a voice full of affection and love, "Mommy, I want to give my baby every bandage." Huh? So I looked over to see what she was up to, and I saw that she had selected a container of Nestle Good Start formula. It took me a moment to figure it out, but it came to me eventually --the slogan of their commercial, heavily rotated on Nick Jr. in the mornings, is "Give your baby every advantage." So if I ever wondered if those commercials are having an effect on Annika, I guess question answered. Still, I was pretty surprised that she had managed to pick it out, as there was a huge array of formula on that shelf. I guess that's one nice thing about the Disney channel and PBS--no commercials. Despite being a bit shocked to see how effective advertising was on my child, it was still a sweet moment to see Anni choosing something for Frankie in an evidently nurturing spirit. She has also become quite excited lately about the idea of picking something out to give Frankie for her birthday, so I guess we'll need to make a shopping trip some weekend. Of course, Anni has pretty expensive taste when it comes to picking out toys, but she seems to be grasping the concept of "costs too much money."

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Let me start off this entry by begging of you never, ever to purchase Renuzit Caribbean Cooler air freshener. Just walk right on by--don't let its alluring images of tropical fruits and gigantic flowers pull you in. OK, so Anni threw up 2 nights ago. It was so strange because we didn't hear a thing. I think she slept through it, actually. I went in to check on her, as I do every night, and noticed that she had the big quilt around her, even though it was quite hot. As I moved the quilt back a bit, I thought I saw something on her face in the dim night-light. Then I spotted something on the pillow by her head. At this point I start panicking a bit because lots of kids have their major bleeds at night, and she had been acting a bit "off" during the day. I'll leave out the smelly details, but suffice it to say that it was just good old-fashioned vomit. I got her up and into the tub, while Joerg changed the sheets. To get rid of the smell, Joerg had put in one of the air fresheners mentioned above. By the next morning, all the laundry was done and Anni woke up feeling fresh and fine, but the room still smelled terrible. I opened the window a bit wider and turned on the fan. By afternoon, it was worse and, since this story could go on for a while, I'll just cut to the chase and point my finger at that air "freshener" and say, "Eeeewwwww!" So that was our first little illness of the preschool season, and Anni pulled through it just fine, I'm happy to say. I've been nearly begging Chicago to cut down her steroids, but they're not ready to just yet, given how tenacious that last rejection episode was. I'm just glad to see that even with the increased immunosuppression that she is able to get over things on her own. It's great to be the mom of a 4-year-old (almost). I've started back teaching 2 afternoons a week, while Joerg comes home to watch the girls. Anni was working on one of her "art projects" in the playroom, so I went to go get dressed for work. I came out in a dress, with my hair pulled back and earrings in my ears. Anni looked at me with an expression of surprised delight and exclaimed, "Mommy, you're a woman!" Of course, while I was getting dressed, Anni decided that her stamping kit could be put to better use than just decorating plain paper, and so the little face that beamed up at me was covered with red ink flower stamps. Frankie has hit the "I love daddy" phase hard. Her favorite toy is a phone my sister's family sent to Anni some time ago. The phone has a little recorder, and Joerg recorded himself singing Anni's favorite song (well, her favorite song several months ago). Frankie plays it over and over, and squeals and does her funny little butt-bounce (this is move in which she sits cross-legged and then bounces on her bottom *very* spiritedly). On Tuesday, she happened to be playing the song at exactly the time that Joerg came home and called out, "I'm home!" I thought Frankie was going to burst she was so excited. Then when he came into the playroom, she did her little turbo-crawl over to him. That is one nice thing about going to work for me now, is that I get to see my girls getting all excited when I come home again.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

We've had an interesting week here. Anni is going for her 4th blood draw this week on Monday. Last Saturday she had routine labs drawn, and the results that came back were a bit scary. Anni's platelets had dropped nearly in half (normal is around 150,000 and she runs usually around 80-90,000, but she was down to 54,000). With Anni's particular problems, that kind of drop conjures all sorts of scary thoughts. On top of that, all her other labs were worse than usual, too. So we spent the weekend worrying about all the dire things a sudden drop in platelets might portend. On Monday we had her labs redone, to make sure that the platelets weren't still plummeting. I kept her home from playgroup, as low platelets leave her much more vulnerable to infection, and we waited anxiously to hear the results. And... platelets were back up to 90,000! So the most likely explanation was lab error on Saturday. Aaaaarrrrggghh! Well, it has to happen sometime, I guess. We saw our regular pediatrician that Monday, too. He noted that her anemia, always present due to the fact that she is constantly losing blood in her stools from bleeding somewhere in her digestive tract, was slowly getting worse. So we decided to have her iron levels checked, and it turns out that she is severely iron-deficient. And I do mean severely! So we're trying to figure out a way to work red meat into her diet, and of course we have her on a supplement now, too. Our pediatrician also noticed that Anni's reflexes are a bit off, which can be an indication of neurological damage, so we're going to have her evaluated for that soon. If you remember, Anni had very high ammonia levels for quite a long time before transplant, and that can cause brain damage. So I guess it would not be a huge surprise if that were the case for her. However, it is clear that she doesn't have any kind of severe brain damage. She seems a mostly normal 3-yr-old, although she does seem to have a bit more problem concentrating and learning some things than other kids her age. However, this is very very hard to judge in children so young. Really, for what she's gone through, Anni is remarkably normal. Today we went to the Wildlife Prairie State Park in Peoria, and they had a petting zoo there. Anni loved the bunnies, especially. The woman who owns the bunnies was there, and she was remarking that Anni was amazingly gentle for a child her age. And it's true that she has the softest touch for all the smallish creatures of the world. She even tried to rescue a bee that flew into her pool a few weeks ago, and got stung for her kindness, but she was still trying to save the bugs even after that. Frankie is getting closer to walking all the time. She now takes pretty good steps when we are holding her arms, and she cruises along the furniture pretty well. She also dances now! She discovered Anni's singing Simba lion, and she giggles and bounces on her fat little legs to the tune of "Hakuna Matata" from the Lion King. Awfully cute! I hope I manage to get it on film before she stops doing it. Speaking of movies, I'm going to take off the "Anni in the Pool" movie soon and replace it with one of Frankie. So if you wanted to save that movie, you should download it soon!