One Week Shy of a Year

Today marks the end of Julia’s 51st week with us. We’ve got Christmas and her first birthday party coming up soon and requiring some time and planning effort, so I figured I’d take a short break in between things and post a little update before all of the festivities.

Julia’s second check-up MRI results came back a couple of weeks ago and showed all good news: there are no new items of concern, and all of the LCH lesions on the previous MRI are either measurably smaller or show no growth. This progress means that she can switch to the maintenance phase of her treatment, which means a lot less chemo and a lot less Prednisone. She can finally settle back into a more normal sleep pattern (gradually, with interruptions every few weeks). Her next check-up MRI will be around March.

On a different but also happy note, she’s started to say “dad-dee!” in a manner which makes it obvious that she knows what she’s saying. Also, “bay-bee!” when she sees either herself or another baby. It’s awesome. However, she also says “dad-dee!” when we tell her to say “mommy,” which is a little less awesome. We’re still working on that, for Courtney’s sake. Julia: despite the downward trend in linguistic skills of the average American child, I don’t think you can get by in life with only two words.

Actually, make that three words. We’re teaching her to say “please” and use the circular-hand-on-chest ASL sign to match when she wants something. She can get “peez” out sometimes when she’s not in so much of a hurry that she’s squealing with delightful anticipation. I suppose, being totally honest, that “dad-dee,” “bay-bee,” and “peez” with a lot of pantomime might actually keep someone alive for a while in a crowd of observant people.

She’s also starting to eat more normal food and less formula and milk, and on a more regular schedule. We try to feed her basically what we eat when we eat it, focusing on the healthy stuff. We figure, if she doesn’t even know what ice cream or refined sugar is enough to ask for it or recognize it, why introduce stuff like that? She absolutely loves berries, kiwi, apples, and almost any fruit we put in front of her, along with many vegetables, salmon, and chicken. Her little chompy face is so adorable, it’s hard to make her stop—although, she has developed an “I’m finished” signal on her own, which consists of taking whatever food she still has piece-by-piece, leaning over the edge of her high chair, and testing whether gravity still works.

She’s still not quite walking, but really close. She crawls everywhere all the time, stands on whatever she can, cruises around with remarkable speed, and tries to climb the stairs whenever I accidentally leave the door open (or sometimes even bangs on the door until we open it so she can access them). She’s definitely all about motion.

It’s amazing that she’s almost a year old, but I wouldn’t say that it felt like it went by faster than it did. She is, as always, an absolute joy to be around.

One Month Young

Julia has graced us with her presence for one whole month as of today, January 19th. To commemorate, here are some of the things that we’ve experienced, witnessed, and learned over the course of her entire lifespan, to date, in no particular order:

  • Always keep a good supply of OxiClean products handy. In particular, laundry stain remover and carpet cleaner are your friends in time of trouble. When your fresh-from-the-dryer pair of pants starts feeling unnaturally warm in one spot all of a sudden, or when some bodily fluid (or not-so-fluid) defies the laws of physics and arcs through the sky—magically bypassing the burp cloth, blanket, or painter’s tarp you meticulously laid out—it’s good to know that the resulting blemishes are not permanent.
  • Always keep a spare shirt and pair of pants handy. This is a good corollary to the first point. While being able to clean stuff off your clothes efficiently is great, it usually puts those clothes out of commission for at least a short while. Unless you keep your house…uh, abnormally warm, shall we say, then you’ll want a backup outfit for yourself just as much as the backup outfits for the baby.
  • Cuteness only mostly cancels out grossness. Julia is ridiculously adorable, no doubt. However, her cherubic face does not make me feel noticeably better when my hand has barf on it. However, I admit that I have only one baseline reference point here, and I concede that it might somehow be worse if she happened to be ugly.
  • There are some problems that only Mommy can fix. I make many attempts to be a helpful husband, but sometimes, no amount of Daddy’s attention or ministrations will do the trick. When Julia is crying for no apparent reason, and the last 15 minutes of my attempts to console her haven’t made a dent in the ambient noise level, handing her to Courtney is occasionally a ticket to instant silence. Go figure, right?
  • Julia is obsessed with ceiling fans. Granted, it’s more likely that she visually latches onto the high-contrast dark brown fan in front of a white ceiling, and does so because she spends a large part of her time staring upwards. But if she grows up with an otherwise inexplicable interest in fans, well…at least we’ll know when it started.
  • There are no babies cuter than ours. It’s an objective observation, an indisputable fact. Of the six billion or so people alive on this earth now, all of whom were once babies, Julia is at the very top of the list. There’s nothing more that can be said. Sorry, everyone else.
  • Julia is an easy baby, as babies go. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s true. She doesn’t cry all the time, she eats well, she doesn’t make more than the normal quantity of mess. She does require some extra attention now and then, but I think that’s listed somewhere in the Baby Datasheet, or maybe it was in the User’s Guide. In the section on Troubleshooting, if I recall. But in any case, she’s a baby, and she’s not a pain. Thanks, Julia!
  • I’ll never forget gazing into her dark blue baby eyes. Often, she looks straight at me when I’ve got a bottle or my fingertip in her mouth. It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Seeing your own child look back at you is indescribable, and I cherish each time this happens.
  • Baby pre-cry noises made while sucking on your fingertip are weird. I never thought about this before, because why would I? Imagine someone weakly grunting into a broken kazoo, and that’s just about got it.
  • Even non-emotionally-driven smiles are uber-rewarding. I realize that babies this young typically don’t “smile” in the normal sense, to show recognition or happiness. I know it’s a physiological reflex on the rare occasions where it does happen. But at the same time, it’s still so much fun to watch.
  • Our lives now involve notably less sleep. This one is a given, but still worth mentioning. Sleep is also punctuated by feedings, rather than just having slightly shorter nights. Courtney does the lion’s share of the work here, for which I am extremely grateful, but I do try to volunteer sometimes and to be available anytime she asks. But being awake at intervals in the middle of the night isn’t the end of the world, given the rewards.
  • There is a lot more laundry to do. Part of this is due to her making messes of her own clothes, and part is due to her making messes of our clothes. Relatively little of it is our doing, directly. Courtney has taken on this task and, thankfully, has been more than able to stay on top of it.
  • My Facebook feed has magically filled with babies. To be honest, most of them aren’t Julia. I don’t know how this happened exactly; either lots of my friends had babies around the same time (which is quite possible), or Facebook not-so-subtly adapted what I see based on the context and content of my own somewhat infrequent baby posts (which is also quite possible). Either way, I’ve had a lot of photos of tiny people to scroll through lately.
  • My wife is an amazing mom. Courtney has a lot more Julia-related work to do than I do, including some things that she is uniquely qualified for. She is dealing with the tasks (and stress) really well, and it’s a joy for me to watch her interact with Julia in all the various ways she does throughout the day.
  • Being able to work from home is fantastic. I am able to stay isolated in the office to get stuff done most of the day, but I can also take quick breaks to hang out with Julia for 15 minutes to give her a bottle, or to be a second set of hands for Courtney when she needs help or to take a break herself. I wondered before Julia arrived how having a home office with a baby would work out, and I’m pleased to say that it’s been great so far.
  • Dealing with “ick” has become easier. Not that we live in filth or put up with baby mess everywhere, but the everyday diaper changes and cleaning of baby expulsions of various types is a lot easier for me one month in than it was on day one.

One final point:

  • It’s totally worth it. While I might pine for simpler, more rested times occasionally, I wouldn’t undo this. Having a tiny, beautiful daughter is incredible and wonderful, and she far outweighs anything I could possibly think of to complain about.

Congratulations on your first month, Julia! Here’s to hoping you have at least a thousand more to enjoy.