I went back to work on December 2 after a 3-month maternity leave. Jeff took over until the end of January. He got busy bonding with Avery and being active outside in the middle of winter. More power to him.
I was recognized for five years of service at CVTC. It was actually six years in February (I started in 2008), but they were recognizing based on the previous year.
Jeff turned 33 years old! Marla is excited that now both her parents are "three like me!"
Avery started taking baths in the big tub.
This feels very long ago, but the significance of the below picture is still huge to me. When I went back to work, Avery refused to take a bottle. She put up a good fight, which created a lot of stress and frustration for both me and Jeff. We tried seven different bottles/nipples, different milk temperature, different holds and methods of distraction, different people feeding her... NOTHING worked. I came home every day at lunch to nurse her and she'd go the rest of the day without eating. I was feeling a lot of pressure as the only food source, particularly during a busy time at work. I was always rushing home to feed her, rushing back to work, rushing back home again, etc. One evening about three weeks into this ordeal, our babysitter informed me that Avery had taken a bottle without a problem in her bouncy seat. After that evening and a few tweaks (we ended up having the most success putting her in front of the TV... desperate times call for desperate measures), she began eating from a bottle like a champ. The Bottle Battle was over as quickly as it had begun. I can't describe the life changing effect it had. I could stay at work a full day. I could rest easy knowing she wouldn't starve while I was gone. Jeff could rest easy knowing she wouldn't fuss through the day. Never again will I take for granted the complicated task of feeding a baby as a mother working outside the home. Fortunately, things continued to go smoothly and she was able to switch from bottle to breast without a problem. Here's Marla pitching in by feeding her sister.
When Avery went to daycare, she adjusted very quickly to the routine and classroom. She also promptly developed a chronic runny nose/cold which lasted until about, oh, a month ago.
Marla had her first visit to the dentist! She did a great job and had no cavities.
Later that evening, she got serious about flossing.
Grandma Pam took us to an awesome production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar at the Minneapolis Children's Theater. Here's Marla meeting one of the stars after the show.
Marla let me put buns in her hair. They lasted long enough for me to get a couple pictures. She hasn't allowed me to do it again since.
Avery just kept getting cuter and cuter.
We had to put Betsy down on February 15, the day after Valentine's Day and exactly seven years and four days after we adopted her and brought her home from a foster home in Siren, WI. I plan to dedicate a full post to Betsy at a later date, but here's a quick summary of what happened.
We noticed that Betsy was holding her head at an odd angle for a month or so prior to bringing her into the vet. She seemed normal otherwise, but began to get clumsier and fell down more and more. The vet did an x-ray and found that her spine looked ok, but she was favoring one side of her neck, most likely indicating a damaged disk or something similar. We tried steroids, pain medication, and laser therapy, but the condition got much worse very quickly. Within a few weeks, she could barely walk. When she tried, her legs would buckle underneath her and she would fall. She held her head very gingerly and hardly moved her neck at all. She began to have accidents in the house on a regular basis. She was obviously in pain and, according to the vet, becoming paralyzed. The nerve damage was worsening and was unlikely to get better with treatment. Our only option left was an expensive MRI to determine what the actual problem was, which would most likely be followed by an even more expensive surgery. If surgery was possible as a treatment, it may or may not have stopped the nerve damage, but the doctor was doubtful that it would lead to a full recovery. If we could have had more of a guarantee that more extraordinary measures could have saved her, or if money was not an issue, or if she wasn't in so much pain, we would have done it without thinking twice. But we knew the only realistic decision was to put her down. Just a couple of days after we came to this conclusion, she had a decent day, followed by a horrible night, sleeping very little and whining off and on. The next morning, she only walked far enough to get from her crate to her blanket in the living room. She wouldn't eat and stayed in the same spot for several hours. She was not herself. I couldn't bear the idea of putting her or us through any more agony, so we brought her to the vet that day. Both Jeff and I were with her until the very end. It was devastating, to say the least. I don't regret our decision, but continue to be plagued with guilt, wondering what we could or should have done differently. She was such an energetic, healthy, vibrant dog and her absence in our home and as a member of our family is palpable.
This picture was taken the morning of the 15th, just before we left for the vet's office. It is the last picture I ever took of her.
We continue to talk about Betsy nearly every day. Marla understands that she is "in heaven" but still talks about her as if she's part of our lives. I like that we can talk about Betsy and don't have to hide the fact that we miss her. At the same time, my heart breaks for my sweet Bets. It has gotten easier over time, and not having a dog has certainly made our busy lives less complicated, but we miss her so much. I know that no other dog will ever quite fill the space she created in our hearts.
This is one of the first toys we ever got for Betsy. Somehow, after years of abuse, it survived countless acts of brutality while lesser toys were left in shreds. It currently sits on top of the box of Betsy's ashes in our bedroom.
The day Betsy died, I was putting Marla to bed when she brought out a stuffed dog that plays music. Marla whispered, "I'm going to play you some music so you don't cry for Betsy in heaven." I am glad that she understands that a pet like Betsy was not simply a dog, but an integral piece of our lives and family. Here's one of many drawings she has done of Betsy. Don't act like you're not impressed by the seven legs.
Whew. Let's move on to some happier times in March, shall we?
We bought a new car! Well, new to us, anyway. After getting stuck on our street and driveway multiple times this winter, we finally took the plunge and got an all-wheel-drive vehicle. Our Chevy Traverse (aka Travis the Traverse) has seating for seven passengers, captains chairs for the girls' car seats, a whole bunch of airbags and safety features, and handles MUCH better on ice and snow. Needless to say, the extra space has come in very handy too.
This photo doesn't document anything specific in March other than how adorable the girls are together.
Avery started eating solid foods! Here she is with a pancake, made expressly for her in the shape of a letter A, by Grandpa.
Marla began drawing "people" that are faintly recognizable as human beings. This is a picture of me, in case you're wondering.
We visited Govin's lamb barn again. This year we found an actual lamb to hold, rather than a goat.
Avery began sitting up unassisted.
Marla got yet another massive bruise on her face after falling into a garbage can at daycare. Sigh.
We visited Jeff's friend's maple syrup camp. The entire process was fascinating. Unfortunately, Marla was tired and cranky and threw an ongoing tantrum upon arriving, so we only stayed for an hour or so. I'm looking forward to going again next year with happier kids.
The girls had their first wagon ride together!
Avery had her first swing ride. So began a love affair with the swings that is going strong yet today. (You're probably wondering why it's April and there's so much snow on the ground. I was wondering the SAME THING.)
I brought the girls to the CVTC Early Childhood Education program's annual puppet show. Marla loved it. Here she is meeting the puppets after the show. Yes, of course they sang "What Does the Fox Say?"