Happy Birthday, Alina!

This post is coming two months late, but better late than never. Alina has come a long way since last year, and I do think that toddlerhood is one of the best phases of life. The fact remains, however, that when I’m not at work, Alina prefers to be attached to my hip (or breast), and this is not very conducive to composing blog posts. You may ask why I do not just set aside an hour or two while Alina is sleeping to do some typing. Unfortunately, her weekend naps often do not coincide with time that I am at home, and my daughter generally prefers to be attached to the aforementioned breast from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., so typing doesn’t happen at night time except when I’m able to sneak away without her noticing (as I was able to do a few minutes ago). The good thing, though, is that Alina’s nighttime demands ensure that I get plenty of rest (even if it is sometimes broken by nighttime snacks), I get to continue nursing (without the obligation of pumping), and I get to continue my resistance weight training (as Alina gradually gets heavier and heavier).

Our house was stricken by a series of illnesses from Alina’s birthday through April, but now that flowers are blooming and the warm weather is upon us, we are mostly all recovered (with the exception of a persistent cough which has been irritating Son for at least a month). Diarrhea, vomitting, fever, rash, cough, strep throat, congestion, ear infection – one sign or symptom after the next. Alina and Peter took it all in stride, but Son was definitely unhappy to be dealing with unforgiving work deadlines, sick children, and personal aches and pains all in the same week. As for me, I.just accepted the string of illnesses as the cold/flu/RSV season purgatory that all families go through when a child starts day care for the first time.

Happily, Alina was well for her birthday, and she celebrated as all Pi Day babies should: with Funfetti cream pie. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way that almond milk will not make instant pudding set, so the pie was a bit more soup-like than intended, but Alina enjoyed herself nonetheless, and I will never make that mistake again.

We also celebrated by visiting Mystic Aquarium. Alina loved the jelly fish, I loved the beluga whales, Peter loved the topography map sand box, and we all loved petting the rays. Alina’s favorite, though, part was being able to walk around by herself. The temperature was around 60 degrees, making it her first real opportunity to walk outside. The warm weather didn’t last though, and we had enough snow to delay school at the end of March.

Between the town egg hunt, Easter activities at a local religious education center, meeting the Easter bunny at Kathie’s house, having friends (with kids) over for an afternoon, tracking down Easter eggs in our house, and indulging in gift baskets from Gram, Peter and Alina had plenty of Easter fun spread out over a span of a couple weeks.

At the end of April, we got to meet up with my mom and dad and my uncle Frank and Aunt Heidi in Boston. I took off one day with Alina to sightsee at the Boston Historical Society and MFA. Then I got to brush up on my pharmacy knowledge at the MPhA spring conference. Then we all went in to Boston on Saturday for sightseeing on the Freedom Trail and at the Boston Public Garden.

I am trying to revel in my daughter’s toddlerhood. She’s a controlling little creature who routinely demands to get her way. She can be dangerous with her 15 sharp milk teeth and flailing arms. But she also has a great sense of humor, an innate love for books, an intuitive urge to bop and sway and do arabesques when she hears music, and the graciousness to smile and wave when she sees a friend or family member. She loves the “No David” books by David Shannon, the classic, “Pat the Bunny,” and books with photos of animals. Her vocabulary is limited to “uh-oh”, “mama”, “dada”, “do(g)”, and a few gestures and almost-words, but she speaks with enough expression to make you doubt whether she is babbling or if you are not trying hard enough to understand her language. She loves pictures of herself and her family, and watching Peter’s bus stop in front of our house in the morning. She is always excited to watch a neighbor’s dog go for a walk, but it’s even more fun to go on a walk yourself and find a dog sitting outside in a neighbor’s yard.  She enjoys cheese, chicken nuggets, carbs, and select fruits (e.g., mangoes), but Mom’s breast is still important both for its nutritional value and for its use as a pacifier when Alina can’t get her way.

So in summary, Alina’s language skills are similar to Peter’s at this age, but she is a lot more controlling than he was. Perhaps, as Kathie suggested, the difference is due to the fact that Alina feels that she has to compete with Peter for my attention; Peter never had to do that as a toddler. But in Peter’s defense, he’s a very nice and non-demanding big brother, always willing to share with his sister or shut himself in his room. Alina, on the other hand, is quick to pull Peter’s hair and forcibly extricate him if he tries to sit in my lap. Gotta love that girl. As Son says, “You’re beautiful, but you need to be nice!” All in due time, I suppose. The golden rule is a bit above the cognitive, emotional, and social maturity level of a 1-year-old.

Domestic housework, on the other hand, are not above (or beneath) Alina. She likes to help me wipe the floor and takes great interest in mixing various forms of batter. Son and I still have high hopes that our Pi Day baby will one day be a great baker. She attempts to use spoons and forks, usually managing to scoop a bit of food with her utensil and then use her free hand to transfer the food from the utensil to her mouth. She is starting to figure out her shape sorter, can scribble reasonably well, stacks up to 4 or 5 blocks, and turns pages of books like no one’s business. The art of stepping down is still a mystery to Alina, but she did figure out how to safely get off beds by sliding on her belly feet-first.

I would share Alina’s weight, length, and head circumference stats from her 1-year physical as I traditionally did for Peter, but honestly, Alina is just a normal-size toddler – nothing remarkable. As a normal-size woman, I view this as a good thing.

Peter still seems small compared to his kindergarten peers, but he has grown a lot socially, emotionally, and in the areas of fine motor skills, behavior, and self-help skills this year. At his school conference last week, his teacher remarked that of her students, he is probably the student who has made the most progress this year.  He “has a lot going on up here,” she said, tapping her temple. He will certainly never have any issue memorizing facts, but his teacher encouraged us to work on thinking abstractly because Peter tends to try to change the subject when asked questions that don’t have a black-and-white, straight-from-the-text answer. I suspect that Peter is not yet comfortable with the possibility of giving a “wrong” answer to such open-ended questions. He is, after all, a fact-loving 5-year-old who believes that he has the capacity to master all of human knowledge (despite the messages conveyed in Dr. Seuss’ “On Beyond Zebra”, one of his favorite books).

My work is going well; I am not as crazy busy as I was last fall. May 11th marked one year since the return of my maternity leave. My manager has told me more or less indirectly that he has me in mind for promotion in November, should I be willing to step up to the challenge. I was just assigned to a study comparing traditional (animal-derived) pulmonary surfactant to a new synthetic surfactant for the treatment of respiratory distress syndrome in extremely premature infants. In some very round about way, I guess this marks the fulfillment of a personal goal: to use science to help my favorite patient population. I’m still undecided regarding whether laboratory logistics services is the right department for me long-term, but I do enjoy working on a variety of clinical trials and managing data.

Son saw his first compound produced in a kilogram laboratory this week, and he seemed to agree that it was a significant professional milestone for him. Despite the demanding culture of his workplace, he is a chemist who enjoys chemistry, and I think he will stick with his current employer for at least 3 years.

Overall, I have a lot to be thankful for these days: a cozy home, an interesting, flexible job, a sweet husband, two healthy kiddos, and much to look forward to in the years ahead. I am excited to see what interests and skills Alina will develop in the coming months and interested to see how Peter will put his mind to use in the coming years. As for me and Son, I’ve been reminded that the world is our oyster (still!). As we grow each day; I simply pray that we will become closer to each other, to God, to peace, and to fulfillment.

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