Nov 30, 2011

Fantastic Four

Gavin Drew, our energetic, curious, enthusiastic, spunky, perceptive, affectionate preschooler, is four years old today. In some ways, it seems like he was a baby just yesterday, but in others, his life seems to have encompassed much more than four years! Gavin is a boy just bursting with spark and personality. We're lucky to call him ours.

Gavin is certainly a mover and a shaker. Running, jumping, climbing, biking, hanging, and spinning are still his favorite things. All of his birthday gifts, from immediate and extended family alike, suited his active temperament. He received baseball gear, a balance board, Velcro "monster mitts," a bean bag, a chinning bar, a pogo stick, and Nerf guns. He also got the clothes he is wearing in these photos.

Gavin's little body is always busy--but so is his mind. With all of his who/what/when/ where/why questions, he might grow up to be a scientist or an inventor or a doctor or an investigative reporter! For now, he is thriving in preschool and keeping us entertained at home. Life is never dull with Gavin around.

Gavin and Lexi are best buddies. They love to play together, and Lexi idolizes her big brother, copying everything he does and says. Gavin, in turn, wants to do everything Zach and Tyler are doing. He considers himself one of the big boys.

Gavin has finally entered a stage of enjoying television. While I probably shouldn't be thrilled with this, I admit that it is perfectly lovely to know he will turn on a show and sit and watch it! His favorite shows are Go, Diego, Go!, Sid the Science Kid, Busytown Mysteries, and the Cars movies. He was sooo sad (so was I!) when Netflix stopped offering Word World episodes. He could probably watch that show all day! I credit that program with turning Gavin onto reading (which he does, a little).

Gavin loves banana-and-Nutella sandwiches, grapes, chicken nuggets, goldfish crackers, spaghetti, and milk. He loves cuddling with pillows and blankets. He loves comfy clothes like t-shirts and track pants. He loves his puffy orange coat. He loves dancing to music, being silly, and making people laugh. He loves giving hugs and kisses. He loves having his back scratched. He loves playing with my hair. He loves family scripture time and giving Family Home Evening lessons. He loves Primary songs, and I'm certain he can feel the Holy Ghost whispering to his heart.

This evening as we were preparing to use the video camera for Tyler's science fair project, Gavin wanted some time on camera. And so this candid, impromptu, charming interview was born. It captures Gavin's awesome personality perfectly.

Gavin is such a fantastic kid. Watching him learn and grow this year has brought us great joy.

Nov 29, 2011

The 10th percentile

Kate had another weight check today.  Any guesses on her weight?

Well, I will tell you: 11 pounds!  Wow!  She gained a pound and a half in the last two weeks!  Kate is back on the 10th percentile line (she was below the 3rd a month ago) and Dr. Yochim is thrilled with her progress.  Garry and I have marveled at how Kate has grown before our eyes.  On our trip she was clearly growing out of her newborn diapers and size 0-3 months clothes.  She suddenly has chubby legs and a round belly and a nice soft chin. (Kate and I share these attributes, but somehow chub only looks good on babies.)

Last week while we were in Mesa, I spent about 20 minutes nursing Kate.  I thought it was a pretty good feeding, but Kate wasn't satisfied until she had 3.5 ounces of formula, too.  That's when I decided that formula is the way to go.  So for the last week or so I've been cutting back on nursing.  We're down to about once a day.  It has been a painful transition for me, of course, but Kate is doing just fine.  She's actually super hungry all the time (making up for lost time, apparently) and doesn't seem to have any bad reactions to the formula.  Formula feeding has a learning curve for me, but we are finding our groove.

Now if we can find some more happy baby grins for the camera, we'll be set.

Road Trip: The off-road parts

Our Thanksgiving road trip is done!  We spent lots of time on the road, covering 2,074 miles in five states in ten days.  Half of our vacation days were travel days, since we broke up the driving into manageable chunks of 5-8 hours.  The kids traveled really well, thanks in large part to our portable DVD players and lots of snacks. Between heating bottles at gas stations and making numerous stops for food and potties and fuel, we definitely had our roadside adventures, but overall I'd call the effort a success.

I hardly took any pictures on our trip (maybe because I always had a babe in arms!), but hopefully this brief rundown will help us recall our happy memories one day.

Our time in Mesa was full of family fun.  On Saturday evening my parents hosted most of my siblings and their families for a hot dog dinner.  It was so great to see everyone!  The kids immediately reconnected with their cousins and Granny's swing set and play room.

The adults sat around a table for hours, just talking and laughing.  The next night everyone congregated at my parents' house for dinner again.  More playing and eating and laughing!  Eric told Tyler he would pay him a dollar to lick his elbow.  Tyler tried valiantly for about 15 minutes, providing ample entertainment for us all!  My favorite part of our trip was late-night laughter with the adults on the couch.  I haven't laughed so much in a really long time.  I love being related to such funny people!

Since the entire family was present for the weekend, we also had a photographer take some family portraits.  It was a fun photo session.  I'm happy to have this time in our family's life recorded, even if I'm not thrilled with my figure right now.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for making the effort to do this for us!

On Monday and Tuesday we had more play time with cousins.  We played at a park, ate pizza together, played with Granny's toys, and visited the farm animals in Granny's neighborhood.  The boys were quite enamored with this giant cactus.  We were definitely in the desert!

I also had the chance to lunch with my dear friend, Melanie.  She made excellent company and even better conversation!  I'm still not sure why she had to move away, but I take comfort in seeing her a few times a year.  Garry had his own lunch date while in Mesa.  Two of his high school buddies, Mike and Tyler, live in Gilbert, so they got together for the first time since their BYU days.  (No photo, though.)

Leaving Mesa on Wednesday was extra hard because Eric's wife, Jentry, was in labor with their first child.  I had SO hoped that little Beckham would arrive during our stay so I could meet him!  Late that night Jentry delivered him by c-section.  On Thanksgiving Day we enjoyed a video chat through Skype.  Thank goodness for technology.  A piece of my heart is always in Mesa with my dear family.

Garry's family welcomed us with open arms when we arrived on Wednesday evening.  The seven-hour drive to Logandale, NV wasn't too bad, although everyone was definitely tired of the car!  We enjoyed a few hours of visiting with Garry's sister, Heidi, who left for California the next morning.  Garry's grandma was also visiting for the weekend and we were glad for a chance to see her.  Many of Garry's cousins were in town for the holiday weekend, which made for some fun reunions on Thursday night.

We enjoyed a yummy Thanksgiving meal together on Thursday and then Garry's cousin took family pictures for us.

Afterwards, Garry and the kids enjoyed Grandma and Grandpa's trampoline, which our boys listed as one of their favorite parts of our trip.  Watching them fly in the air made me smile.

Garry and the boys helped Duane and Becky with several projects around the house.  On Friday afternoon they took a substantial pomegranate harvest and participated in the juicing process.  Gavin was especially engaged in this activity!  Some of the kids also took a ride on a horse that afternoon.


While the boys worked, Grandma Terry bought my purse, which she had admired since our arrival.  I transferred my belongings to a plastic bag.  I'll be laughing about that for a long time.  

On Friday night Garry and the boys helped hang Christmas lights.  Zach was thrilled to lend a hand in high places, but Lexi stayed a little closer to the ground.

We also celebrated Gavin's fourth birthday a little early.  He was thrilled with the BBQ, the lemon pie, and his baseball gear from Grandma and Grandpa.  What fun!

On Saturday we left for home, stopping in Grand Junction, CO for the night.  Thankfully, our final leg was peaceful and fast; we completed the journey in just 4.5 hours without stopping once!  We were happy to find our house in one piece (though still very messy!).  Although the trip was wonderful, it is good to be back.  There's no place like home.

Nov 26, 2011

Road Trip: Episode Two

I'm sitting in a dark motel room, listening to my children sleep.  It's a glorious sound, really.

Three hours ago, we pulled into the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant in Grand Junction, Colorado.  6:45 is much later than the kids are used to eating, but we left Logandale much later than expected.  Everyone was hungry, tired, and ready to get out of the van after 7.5 hours on the road.  Lexi had spilled her water bottle all over herself, Kate had a full diaper, and Gavin had been coughing all afternoon.  By the time we got ourselves into the restaurant, Lexi, Kate, and Gavin were crying.  Lexi was soaked from head to toe, Gavin looked like he'd been a fight with a garbage disposal, Tyler had major bedhead, and I'm sure my appearance resembled that of the half-crazed Old Woman who lived in a shoe.

Garry ordered our food while I helped Lexi change into pajamas.  He and I took turns trying to get hot water out of the bathroom sinks, since the cashier said hot water for a bottle could only be obtained that way.  The boys pinged off the walls like pinballs on speed.  Various Wendy's employees and patrons just stopped and stared at the melee.

We had selected Wendy's for dinner because we all wanted chocolate Frosties, but the chocolate machine was broken.  A small vanilla Frosty was a poor substitute.  Zach started crying because his Frosty wasn't big enough.  Gavin and Lexi ate their ice cream but didn't touch their burgers and just threw their fries on the floor.  They begged for cups of water so they could peel open more straws.  Kate fussed in Garry's arms because she was hungry, but Wendy's doesn't sell formula on the value menu.  Only Tyler ate contentedly.

Eventually the bedlam was too much--even for us--so we cleared out.  On the way out the door, Gavin suddenly started screaming and clutching his ear.  He had been coughing and sniffling all day, so I shouldn't have been surprised that an ear infection might be brewing.  I gave him a dose of ibuprofen in the car.  He was quite upset that it didn't numb his pain immediately.  Lexi cried in her soaking wet car seat, which we padded with a blanket for the short drive to the motel.

A bright spot in the evening was our two-room suite at the Quality Inn.  Our family of seven fit much better in three beds than in two.  Kids changed into pajamas and brushed teeth while Garry brought in the overnight bag, toiletry bag, and a few other supplies.  He also brought up Lexi's car seat, which I dismantled and started drying with a blow dryer.  Then it was time for bed.

After a family prayer, the kids found their sleeping spots.  Gavin and Zach were thrilled to share a bed, but Tyler refused to sleep with Lexi because she has diarrhea and he thought she would stink.  Tyler opted to sleep on the floor and fell asleep almost immediately.  But the others?  Boy howdy, they were wired!  I rubbed backs and sang Primary songs for more than an hour--until I was hoarse, actually--and finally gave up.  Garry's magic touch finally convinced Gavin and Lexi to hold still long enough to sleep.

It remains to be seen whether Gavin's cough, Gavin's ears, Lexi's bowels, or Kate's belly will be the first to awaken us.  My body is aching for a good night of sleep.  But I will be content with the ice cream Garry just fetched from a nearby restaurant and whatever quality sleep comes before daybreak.

And then we hit the road for home.

Nov 22, 2011

Behind the scenes

"Dixon, Party of 22!"

That's what my dad has to say when the whole family gets together.  Our party of 22 is composed of 12 adults and 10 children (with another coming any day!).  And when that whole group gets together, it's definitely a par-tay!

On Sunday afternoon the family gathered for a photo session.  The photographer had a real job on her hands, so those who weren't being photographed tried to entertain those who were in the hot seat.  I got a real kick out of watching my parents and siblings doing their best to make sure everyone kept smiling.

Here, Holly and my mom were playing a very active game of peek-a-boo to entertain David's kids.

Then Holly and Ryan entertained Angie's kids with this little number.

Angie loved on Kate to keep her happy.

Rachel led the kids in Simon Says to keep them still and clean.

Eric tried to make Jentry go into labor.

And Ryan and Eric made me laugh...again and again and again.

Somewhere in the middle I captured these fun photos of Gavin and his cousin, Chloe, who is five.

I can't wait to see the pictures our photographer took.  They should arrive just in time to send out with our Christmas cards!

Nov 21, 2011

Three months!

A very happy three months to our darling Miss Kate!  More than one of our babies have celebrated a monthly milestone at Granny's house, and I'm glad she gets to join the fun. Here's a pose on Granny's couch:

It's been a calorie-rich month in Kate's world.  At her two-month check-up (a week late, on October 27), she weighed 8 pounds, 5 ounces.  On November 15, she weighed 9 pounds, 8 ounces.  The ounce-a-day gain is exactly what we were going for!  Kate's little legs and belly and cheeks are starting to fill out.  She is a lot more alert and awake during the day, and she loves to kick and wiggle on a blanket in the floor.  Things that she hated before, like riding in the car and baby swing, are much more enjoyable.  She is using her voice more and her pacifier less.  Sweet Kate clearly needs the two-ounce formula supplement at the end of every nursing session.  Unless my new medication works wonders with my milk supply, she'll be an exclusively bottle-fed baby pretty soon.

Kate almost always rolls onto her back when I set her down for tummy time, but if she stays on her tummy long enough she holds her head high to check out the world.  I'm happy to see her chewing on her hands, grinning frequently, sleeping better, and wiggling a lot; she is clearly hitting developmental benchmarks just as she should in spite of being hungry for two months.

Our other children are still enamored with their little sister.  The boys and Lexi love to take turns holding her and fetching things she might need.  Lexi is fond of tucking a doll or stuffed animal next to Kate when she is swinging or sitting in a bouncy chair.  She is certain that Kate needs the comfort of toy friends.  The exchange is always tender to watch.

Kate was an excellent traveler this week.  She mostly slept, but didn't complain when she was awake.  Zachary sat next to her and tended to her every need, whether it was a binky or a bottle or a dribble on the chin.  By the time we get home, Kate will have been in five states!  She and Zach are our youngest state-hoppers.

Road Trip: Episode One

7 people
1 van

2 days
1 motel room
3 states
900 miles
16 driving hours
2 DVD players
9 movies
1 creative headphone solution

4 tantrums
8 diapers
1 tiny bladder
12 potty/gas/bottle/food stops
1 trip to Walmart
1 wrong turn
1 gas emergency
2 frantic prayers
2 answered prayers
1 GPS rescue
1 tireless driver
6 nappers
1 beautiful, spacious home

1 happy, happy reunion

Nov 16, 2011

Pack today, clean tomorrow

I've become that frazzled lady who is late to everything, has perpetual wardrobe malfunctions, and can't remember the substance of a conversation from five minutes ago.  I haven't looked at my mail for at least a week, the dried milk under the table is starting its own germ colony, and I'm pretty sure I have spit-up in my hair.  Seriously, I am ridiculous.  The pace of life around here is so frenetic that I often find myself standing somewhere and suddenly realize I have an urgent need to use the bathroom (because I haven't for five hours) but the next opportunity won't come for at least 30 minutes.  

Add to this chaotic scene the preparations for a major road trip.  Yesterday I started the laundry, and today I started to pack.  I had put off the laundry two days more than the usual interval, making the chore exponentially larger.  I started folding it all onto the coffee table, but the piles multiplied onto the couch, the love seat, and the floor.  Seven suitcases were open all around me, and systematically I began to fill them, mentally ticking off all the categories of clothing each person would need: play, church, family picture, sleep, swim, car.  I spent all morning in this fashion.

Then I fed the baby, put on some leaving-the-house clothes, and took the girls to pick up Gavin.  Then we had a crazy trip to Target and a lovely lunch with some of the other mommies in the ward who had babies this year.  Those three events took three hours.  The packing project was quietly waiting on hold.

On the way home I picked up a voice mail from my exterminator, who stops by once a quarter to rid our property of nasty pests.  I didn't realize we had an appointment, so he had come to an empty house.  We arranged to meet back at home in a few minutes.  I was glad we could take care of the visit today.  I didn't even think about the state of my house.

As soon as he arrived, I remembered.

Breakfast entrails were still on the dining room table: spilled cereal and milk, bowls and spoons, boxes and bags.  Chairs were in the middle of the room instead of around the table.  The kitchen was worse: bags of food from yesterday's grocery run on the counter, dirty dishes in the sink, a broom on the floor, ironing board in the middle of the room with a heap of wrinkled clothes on the end, books strewn everywhere, a burp cloth on every horizontal surface.  Oh yeah, and that week of mail in a giant pile.

Downstairs was the hurricane of clothing and suitcases and laundry baskets and hangers.  Legos were all over the carpet by one bedroom, and little rubber bugs were strewn down the hall.  Zach's bedroom had socks and underwear on the floor, three blankets and a giant stuffed bear in a heap on his bed, and tiny bits of paper from his Origami creations all over the place.  His room offers access to the crawl space, so of course Mr. Exterminator went in there.  The entrance to the crawl space was obscured by boxes we had shoved in there but were too lazy to put away properly.

I was thoroughly horrified at the display, but what could I do?  I wrote Mike a check and left it on the sticky table because Kate needed to nurse.  When he came back upstairs I was facing him, completely covered up, but it was still a little awkward.  Then he walked through the kitchen and around me to go into the back yard.  As he walked out the door, he said, "Should I throw these dirty diapers away?"  I groaned and said that of course that would be fine.

It wasn't until later that I realized my shirt was hiked up in the back, exposing my substantial muffin top to  my poor exterminator.  I'm laughing now, but I was pretty embarrassed then.  Mike's the nicest guy ever, and when he came in February and saw my PICC line and pole he was horrified.  I realize that he has seen me in some pretty crazy situations this year.  But I digress.

I'm not sure what the moral of this story is, except that I have a babysitter coming to my house in the morning and I am waaaaaay too tired to clean up.  Every Thursday, when I'm embarrassed about my messy house, I swear that the next Wednesday night I will make sure the house is spotless for my Thursday morning babysitter.  But it never is.  Maybe if I cleaned as much as I blogged....

But I will clean tomorrow, because I know I can't come home from a 10-day trip to a messy house.

Or maybe I can.

Nov 14, 2011

Behind curtain #1

I'm a bad mom.

I let Gavin and Lexi shower together unsupervised tonight.

They were having a rollicking good time.  I could hear a fair number of bumps and crashes through the wall, along with lots of giggles.  I decided I didn't care.  But then there was a big THUNK.  I couldn't mentally identify what might have made that sound, so I went to investigate.

Gavin peeked through the shower curtain and produced the ceramic soap dish, which, up until 25 seconds before, had been cemented to the tile wall for approximately 25 years.

"How did that happen, Gavin?"

"I just pulled really hard and it came off."

Oh.  Well, I guess pulling really hard might just make that soap dish come right off.

"I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry."

Oh brother.

Weight and see

I have been driving myself crazy over the last few weeks as I have contemplated Kate's growth and feeding situation.  It's my own special version of self-inflicted torture.  The knots in my shoulders are the size of golf balls.  I'm kind of an emotional wreck.  But today, I think I'm a little closer to having an answer to the nursing or formula question, although I'm still not sure which answer is best.

Last Friday it was my turn to be the patient; I wanted answers about my own body instead of Kate's.  I requested some blood work to see if my hormone levels are out of whack.  I suspect that after the difficult pregnancy, my body might be too tired to perform properly right now, and it seems that I may be right.  While the PA I saw wouldn't consent to a full hormone panel ("No point in that!"), she did write an order for thyroid function and prolactin level.  She called today to tell me that my thyroid number is normal and my prolactin level is good, at least for a non-lactating woman.  Aha!  But now what?

To increase milk production she recommended a drug called Reglan, which I took for nausea while I was hospitalized in February.  It had some terrible side effects for me, so I declined that option.  Then I called my lactation consultant again, and she said my prolactin level isn't as dismal as the PA described.  She recommended a different drug called domperidone.  It is only made at certain compounding pharmacies in the US.  The closest one is in Texas, so the lactation specialist (also a Physician's Assistant) sent that pharmacy a prescription for me.  The pharmacy will ship me the drug this week.

This morning I took Kate in for another weight check.  She is now 9 pounds, 8.5 ounces.  On October 27th she was 8 pounds, 5 ounces.  Her gain is right on track with the ounce-a-day recommendation.  I know I should be thrilled, but I had hoped for more.  The amount of time I spend feeding ought to yield a bigger result, at least in my estimation.

Right now the plan is to try the domperidone for a few weeks and see what happens.  If we weren't going to be traveling soon (road trip begins Friday), I think I would quit nursing.  But I don't want to wean to formula during what should be a fun vacation, so hopefully our time on the road will give the medicine time to work.  I'll make a decision after we get home.

I sure appreciate the support of those who have connected with me on this issue.  I appreciate knowing about similar experiences and hearing pledges of love and support "no matter what."  Of course the most important thing is that Kate grows and develops and remains happy and healthy, and so far that is happening.  I need to keep my eye on that blessing while I figure out the rest.

Nov 12, 2011

Saturday with the kids

Today was a divide-and-conquer Saturday in the Bartle household.  Garry made poofy pancakes for breakfast while the kids and I got ready for the day.  Then he took Zach and Gavin to Gavin's basketball game.  Gavin made his first basket, was a superstar rebounder, and lined up nicely for team pictures at the end.  Then Garry and the boys worked hard to clean up the house.

While they were busy doing those things, I drove Tyler, Kate, and Lexi to the Denver Temple for a ward activity.  We took a guided tour of the temple grounds and learned a lot.  Our guide explained the sacred ordinances performed inside of temples, including baptisms for the dead, which children can begin doing at age 12.  We also learned about the Primary children who raised money for some beautiful benches, the blue spruce trees that Gordon B. Hinckley donated for the landscape, and the structural patterns that remind patrons about line-upon-line gospel learning.  Our tour guide reminded us that "you are never lost when you can see the temple."  We really had a lovely hour there with our fellow ward members, even if we were missing half the family.

On the way home, we met my friend Melanie and her boys in the parking lot of PF Chang's.  Five minutes together just wasn't enough, but we did get a picture to prove that we were in the same place at the same time.  Matt and Sam were really making us laugh.

Garry took four kids to the park for a little while upon our return, and then he took Zach to his basketball game.

Zach also scored for the first time (and second!).  He is still learning the ins and outs of basketball, but he definitely likes the sport and it's fun to watch him play.  At home I tried to rest, but since Gavin and Lexi didn't nap today, that didn't really work.  So I tried to sew doll clothes while Kate slept, but then she woke up, and that didn't really work.  I am continually reminded that anything beyond basic survival is out of my league right now.  I'm not sure why I keep trying.

Miss Kate started showing symptoms of a cold this afternoon.  She is sneezing and snorting and coughing a lot.  It's so tragic!  My sweet little baby is sick.  I'm still overwhelmed with her feeding situation.  Hopefully with some lab results and another weight check next week we'll have more answers and can make a long-term plan. I do think she is growing, though.  An informal hop on the scale said she weighed 10 pounds yesterday.  I hope that's accurate!

Then came a few more memorable moments from our Saturday with the kids:

Gavin: Why are your toenails red?
Heidi: Because I finally painted them.
Gavin: I want red toenails!
Heidi: Sorry, painted toenails are just for girls.
Gavin: But I want to be a girl!
Heidi: Really? Why? Just for the toenails?
Gavin: I want to have little girls!
Heidi: When you're a dad, you might have little girls.
Gavin: When I get married, can I be a girl?


Tyler: What are we having for dinner?
Heidi: I dunno.  What do you want?  Wait.  Let me rephrase.  Tyler, what do you want to complain about?  Lexi, what do you want to throw on the floor?
We had toaster waffles.


While kids were supposed to be in the bathroom brushing their teeth, I heard some giggling.  I decided to peek into the bathroom.  I found Lexi holding her toothbrush in the stream of urine Gavin was producing in front of the toilet.  Ewwwww.......


Finally, the kids went to sleep.  Gavin and Tyler were especially thrilled to sleep in their newly-re-bunked beds.

And so ends another week at our house.

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