Monday, October 12, 2015

Tales of a Pregnant Worrywart

I am 34 1/2 weeks pregnant with a little boy.
From family pictures a few weeks ago, almost 32 weeks pregnant.

I have handled the past 8 months or so in the most rational state available to me: near panic. 

Yes, I'm grateful for another chance at a baby. Of course we're thrilled and befuddled that we managed to conceive again without IVF. And I have been, naturally, quietly freaking out.

I think everyone knows in the abstract that things can go awry with pregnancy. Working in the medical field, I've always been ever more acutely aware of this, and now, after our own experience with Sarah, I'm left to wonder, How do people make producing babies look so...easy?

We have had a lot of discussions with our really great perinatologist, who is the same doctor that first discovered Sarah's brain abnormalities. Neither he nor Sarah's neonatologist felt like we were any more likely to have a repeat of Sarah's condition than your average couple. That is reassuring. Each new milestone reached has been a relief, and at this point the baby still looks completely normal, so we have fingers crossed and prayers said that little Mister will make it here safe and sound.

So, panic about the baby's health aside, I have another, equal source of anxiety that keeps me up at night:

Can I love a BOY?

If the baby boy clothing selection at the store is any indication, we are in serious trouble.

Everything seems to be sports-themed or camoflauge.

Even worse, there is a disturbing lack of bows and headbands to mask bald spots or general homeliness.

Can I possibly love a bodily-functions obsessed, rough-and-tumble, nothing-you-can-do-if-he's-funny-looking boy like I love sweet, innocent little Mary? (Who is, by the way, back in diapers, after deciding 3 or 4 weeks into potty-training that she was going to fight me tooth and nail every time I mentioned going potty? And who recently announced, screwdriver in hand, that she wanted to kill her doll? Most disturbing moment of my parenting career, hands-down).

Well, she's not actually sweet and innocent ALL the time. But she really is that adorable:
Don't worry. It isn't actually possible to kill a doll.
Plus she kind of melts our hearts. 

And while I'm opening up about pregnancy worries, there is another thorny issue about this one that I should bring up: THE NAME. 

We have never disagreed on a baby name before. With both Mary and Sarah we both agreed on a name within 24 hours of finding out the gender.  This time we're well over 4 months past and still have no idea how to come to any agreement. Flip a coin? Arm wrestle? (No good, we already know who would win). Paper rock scissors? Arbitration?

At the rate we're going, "Baby Boy" may end up on his birth certificate.

So here's to 5-ish remaining weeks of pregnancy anxiety.

Then bring on the new baby anxiety.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The case against potty-training

A few weeks ago we decided to just go for it and potty-train Mary.

She is 2 1/2. She's smart, she communicates well, and we wanted it done before we bring home little Mister.

I asked for advice on Facebook and got, of course, a little more than I needed. It seems that there are as many opinions on potty-training as there are parents.

It also seems that most parents remain scarred for life after the experience.

Knowing that struck deep fear into my heart of the process.

I thought it over and chose the potty-training method that fit our personalities the best. "Wait until she potty-trains herself" isn't my style, and neither is the "just let her run around naked until she figures it out" method. I wanted a system. So I chose the "Toilet Training in Less than a Day" (Azrin & Foxx) method. This involves about 4 hours of time where ALL YOU DO is potty-train. You practice going potty, have the child teach a doll to go potty, stay off the carpet at all costs, and reward any successes shamelessly with junk food (M&Ms in our case). Also you shove as many fluids down the gullet as possible to, of course, increase urinary output. Because when they pee more, they practice more.

Two weeks later, Mary is, I'd say, about 90% there with potty-training. She wears pull-ups at night, and I frankly don't care if she keeps that up until she's 10. Accidents are getting pretty uncommon (we're still working on pooping), and all in all I think she's done as well as can be expected for a child her age. She was already starting to get it by the end of the first day. (In spite of what I'm about to say, I was very pleased with the book we used. I plan to use it again on future kids.)

Nevertheless, no experience with parenting thus far, not even the newborn stage, has made me question my decision to bring children into this world like potty-training has.

By day three I started panicking. What had I done? I'd created a monster! I'd left the blissful life of the diapered child. On purpose, no less!

Why on EARTH would any parent willingly give up the freedom of diapers? Who are these parents that push potty-training at absurdly young ages? Or that complain about having a child in diapers?Sure, they cost money, but they are a PORTABLE TOILET the child wears ALL THE TIME.

That day I hit a wall. Would I ever leave the house again? Would the fear of an impending accident forever cloud my sense of well-being? At one particularly low point, I looked down at my own expanding belly and thought to myself, "What have I done? Why am I having another? I'M GOING TO HAVE TO POTTY-TRAIN THIS ONE TOO?!?"

I started surveying parents of toddlers in diapers with pure jealousy.

With Mary in diapers, I never second-guessed what surface she sat on. Sure, sit on that couch! Wondering how I would clean pee off of it never even crossed my mind. Marathon grocery trips? No problem! Road trips? Big deal! My bladder reached capacity long before her diaper ever did. Leaving the house? Piece of cake (compared to now, anyway)! Because I didn't lose 15 minutes in negotiations, trying to get her to pee before we left. ("I'll give you anything! What do you want? Chocolate? Chips? A pony? Just sit on the dang toilet!")

The panic is starting to subside and I have, in fact, left the house successfully with Mary in tow. I am clinging to the hope that my decision to potty-train before kindergarten might not actually ruin my life.

All the same, I plan to outsource potty-training with the next kid.

Sarah's First Birthday

Sarah's first birthday was last week.

I've had a long time to think about her birthday. I've talked to other Angel Mommies. I've reflected on what her life means to me. I've watched other babies due around the same time as her hit milestones that Sarah is missing.

We decided her birthday should be fun--at least in part. We want our kids to look forward to her birthday, not dread it. WE want to look forward to it. We also decided that finding some small ways to give back would also be nice. Never have I experienced such an outpouring of generosity from others--friends, family, and strangers--as we did during her life and after her death.

This in mind, I busted out my almost-non-existant sewing skills and made a few quilts to donate to the NICU where Sarah stayed for a few days. When I finished, I vowed, as I always do after a sewing project, NEVER TO SEW AGAIN.
Here's hoping that whoever gets these doesn't look too closely at the seams...
We had a full day--going to an LDS temple to worship (one of the places I feel closest to Sarah), visiting Sarah's grave and having a picnic there, showing Mary the photo book of Sarah's life, going to the NICU to drop off donations (some family members also made donations), playing at a park, going out for dinner, having birthday cake, and watching a movie (Mary's all-time favorite activity).

Taking flowers to Sarah. Reading her book to Mary.
Also, Mary was happy to take the job of blowing out Sarah's candle for her.

Frosting Sarah's cake
In the end, it wasn't a depressing day. Obviously there were sad parts, but grief isn't always the horrible thing we make it out to be. Sometimes I think it's even okay to seek out chances to grieve, to choose to feel the hurt in a sense. But I will say this: we remembered her, and we grieved her, with gratitude, not bitterness.

And we've learned that remembering, and even grieving, can be beautiful.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


I thought of a new name to explain my girliness impairment. "Tomboy" brings up this image in my mind of a 10-year-old girl climbing trees and wearing jeans with holes in them.

No. That's not me. I'm not 10. So I've settled on "low-maintenance".

Here's the thing. I hate clothes shopping and decorating, I'm a mediocre housekeeper at best, I'd rather wear T-shirts and flip-flops than anything else most days, and I may never change my hairstyle until the day I die.

I am amazed by beautiful woman that put together outfits with matching jewelry and shoes. But my way is cheaper--I have 2 or 3 pieces of jewelry tops apart from my wedding ring. I buy a lot of my clothes at thrift stores, and I'm willing to wear the same styles for years at a time.

[I'm still on the fence about skinny jeans. Aren't some things better left to the imagination? Like thigh circumference?].

So how on EARTH is it that I find myself raising a daughter?

I used to think it's so I can help her avoid a lot of my own youthful pitfalls, including (among others):

-Don't wear your brothers' T-shirts if they are 3 sizes too big for you.
-Actually, don't wear your brothers' clothes ever.
-Even if you brushed your hair yesterday, you still need to brush it today.
-It's ok to own more than 1 pair of shoes.
-When the original color of your shoes is not identifiable, it's time to get new ones.
-For your own sake, you probably shouldn't let your mom (ahem, me) pick out your clothes.
-There's this thing called "outfits." Ummm... you're on your own. Google it or something.

But then I realized that maybe I'm raising a daughter so the world can be graced with one less high-maintenance woman. 

I'll admit that I find myself buying princess flashlights and umbrellas for Mary, dressing her in pink, and collecting for her an excessive number of bows (far more than my own accessory limit). We have tea parties with pink and purple cups, watch Disney princess movies, and she loves to twirl to music in skirts and dresses.

A princess tea party. Princess glasses.
Princess shirt. Excessive bows (I'm ashamed to say this isn't all of them). 
Then again, at a recent trip to a children's museum her happiest half hour was spent in the trucks room (she could have stayed there all day). Cars is one of her favorite movies. She loves trains and she loves pretending to fix things. She builds towers and loves to knock them over. I buy almost all of her clothes second-hand (seriously, she's just going to get stains on it within an hour anyway). She is hardly a prissy girl.

The truck room at the museum. "Horseback" riding.
The tower she's about to knock over. Loving her first roller coaster.

I wonder sometimes what kind of daughter I want to raise. I want her to be a little less awkward in middle school than I was. But I also want her to be confident and kind. I want her to be educated and well-read and loving and full of faith. I want her to work hard for the things she wants and to be grateful to people around her and to God. I hope she'll love music. I hope she'll love serving people.

And I don't particularly want her to be beautiful. I had someone at a grocery store once tell me that I should enter her into a baby contest because she was, I think objectively, a CUTE baby.
WAY cuter than I was at this age. 

I thought about it. And decided not to. Her looks are not her greatest asset and I don't want them to be. They are not wasted if they go unrecognized by the world.

There are plenty of beautiful women in this world. If she chases beauty as the source of her self-worth she will always fall short. Maybe that's the real reason I want to raise a low-maintenance daughter. I want her to find value in herself that doesn't require mirror time.

Or maybe it's just because I don't know how the heck to raise a girly daughter.

The first reason sounds more noble.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Why I refuse to hate Mother's Day

I've been hearing a lot of people complaining about Mother's Day.

Everyone has their own reason for dreading the day (and I'll admit these are legitimate reasons):
  • They never knew their mothers or lost them prematurely (or ever). 
  • They have strained, complicated, or otherwise lousy relationships with their mothers. 
  • They long desperately to be mothers and aren't--whether because they're unmarried or infertile or have lost a child. 
  • They have as many children as they want and feel guilty on Mother's Day for not being perfect at raising them.
I have been thinking about this a lot this week, since reading a blog post by a woman with infertility and another by an overwhelmed, inadequate-feeling mother. Both found ways to come to love Mother's Day. 

My own path to motherhood has hardly been smooth, but for some reason I've never hated Mother's Day. Even during the height of our infertility I didn't hate Mother's Day, nor do I hate it now when I have a daughter to miss.

Why is that?

It's because Mother's Day is something different than we think.

It's not about celebrating perfect moms. No one is a perfect mom. It's not about celebrating perfect families or perfect kids. No one has a perfect family or perfect kids.

The woman who founded Mother's Day, Anna Jarvis, never married or had children of her own. Her own mother had at least 11 children, and only 4 of them survived to adulthood. Does that sound like the perfect family to you? Both of these women are just the type that would feel resentful about Mother's Day today--a childless woman and her bereaved mother.

Motherhood is messy.

Conception and pregnancy and childbirth are messy. Along the way you find miscarriage, morning sickness (sometimes severe), pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, premature births, birth defects, still births, traumatic birthing stories, stretch marks, C-sections and their scars. Then you find NICU babies, some that make it home and some that don't. You find SIDS babies. You find allergies and reflux and colic and genetic defects and autism and behavioral problems and on and on and on. I think almost every mother out there fits something on this list.

Having kids is not glamorous or efficient or tidy.

And moms. Moms are exhausted and inadequate. You have working moms and stay-at-home moms, both feeling a little guilty for opposite reasons. You have married moms, divorced moms, widowed moms. You have moms that are too young and moms that feel too old for the task. You have breastfeeding moms and bottle feeding moms, overweight moms and underweight moms. You have overly strict moms and overly lax moms. You have overwhelmed, exhausted, resentful, inadequate, temper-losing, letting-my-kid-watch-too-much-TV moms, sick moms, and mentally ill moms. But all moms are, to some extent, trying. 

And we love our moms, even though they are all just...human.

Mother's Day isn't meant to honor perfect moms. It's meant to honor imperfect moms and their ability to still, somehow, leave a beautiful mark on the world.

Today is a day to feel grateful for what I do have, not for what I don't. And I think most women have much more than they realize.

I have a really amazing mom.

But in addition to my Mom, I have a thousand moms. They are the women that told me I was good at school. That encouraged me to go to college. That taught me silly campfire songs. That loved me, comforted me, helped through hard times, listened to me, fed me, gave me rides, and did other things any mom would do. My moms also include grandmas, aunts, cousins, sisters-in-law, my stepmother, and my mother-in-law.

The truth is, no mom can be everything and do everything for her children. My Mom has blessed my life but so have my other moms.

I have 2 beautiful Children.

But I also have a thousand children. Every patient that I see is temporarily my child. I comfort, listen, and try to heal. My children are the little ones I babysit for friends, my nieces and nephews, children that I share our snacks with or teach about Jesus or the abcs or comfort when their Mom is not around.

Someday my parents may live to a ripe old age and become frail. If that happens, I will, in one of life's beautiful reversals, be my Mom's mom.

I am a daughter of a Mother. I am also a daughter of mothers. I am a mother of Children. I am also a mother of children.

On Mother's Day I honor the women that have touched my life and been my mothers, including my own amazing Mother. I am also profoundly grateful to be a mother--of Children and also of children. I am grateful that, as a woman, I can touch lives, inside and outside my family. I can leave my own beautiful mark on the world.

May Mother's Day prove to be happy for more of us. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

What I want my patients to know about antibiotics

I saw a patient recently that had been very ill for quite some time with a variety of weird symptoms, some of which were very concerning. I recommended further testing to help us narrow down what the problem might be.

Her response: "Can't you just give me an antibiotic?"

Ohhhhhh no. I tried to explain that I can't just "give [someone] an antibiotic" if I don't know what disease I am trying to treat. I explained again that she needed more testing so we could figure that out, and maybe, if appropriate, start an antibiotic.

She never had the testing done. She wanted to start feeling better today.

Working in urgent care as I do, I prescribe antibiotics every day. People are often miserable when they come to see me and the request for antibiotics is frequent. They want a quick fix. I often hear, "Well, I have to do this huge presentation next week at work, so I want an antibiotic so I can be better by then."

The reality is, their immune system is the one that is going to have to dig them out of this miserable illness, and the best care I can give them is to try to alleviate their symptoms in the meantime.

Here are a few things I wish every patient knew about antibiotics.

1. Antibiotics aren't harmless

The most common side effects of antibiotics are nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, along with allergic reactions. They are hard on your digestive system. There is also the risk of yeast infections among women, and pathological diarrhea, C. difficile, which can also result from antibiotics.

Then there is the risk of increasing the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These pathogens require the big guns to treat and there a few strains out there with no known antibiotic to treat them. Often these bacteria are kept in check by other bacteria in and on your body, but if the "good" or "less harmful" bacteria are frequently killed off by antibiotics, it increases the risk that these resistant bacteria will be allowed to flourish.

Last, there is a multitude of research coming out now about the Microbiome--the colonies of good bacteria living in your digestive tract. This research is interesting and exciting, because scientists are increasingly finding links to the types of bacteria in your gut to allergies, autoimmune diseases, digestive disorders, metabolic disorders (like obesity and diabetes), mental illness (believe it or not), and others.

There is a lot of need for more research in this area, but some studies are suggesting a possible link between early antibiotic use and childhood allergiesasthma, and inflammatory bowel diseases (like crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis).

[I don't want any parents out there freaking out about what I just said. We don't know for sure what the link might be. I'm just making a point that some caution is merited.]

2. Antibiotics aren't always necessary or even appropriate

The number one thing that I see in urgent care is upper respiratory illness: coughs, sore throats, colds,  and sinus infections.

The number one cause of upper respiratory illnesses is VIRUSES. Antibiotics treat bacterial infections. They do not treat viral illnesses, or illnesses caused by fungi, parasite, or protozoa.

Even if your snot is bright green, that doesn't necessarily mean you have a bacterial infection. The green color is caused by your immune system doing its job, and there hasn't been much correlation in the literature between mucous color and type of infection.

Antibiotics don't treat the common cold, most sinus infections, most coughs, or most sore throats, so I usually don't give people antibiotics for these.

I am frequently a heartbreaker.

To help you out, here are some of the guidelines I follow:

1) I never give antibiotics for the common cold
2) I try not to give antibiotics for sinus infections unless they are quite severe or have been going on close to 2 weeks
3) 75% of ear infections will clear up on their own within 7 days, and antibiotics usually only shorten the course of symptoms by 1 day. Current recommendations suggest waiting 48-72 hours to see if it will improve alone before starting antibiotics. The exception to this is young kids, especially less than 6 months old. The first treatment for ear infections is tylenol or ibuprofen for pain control.
4) I rarely give antibiotics for coughs (including bronchitis), unless I really suspect pneumonia. 90% of bronchitis is viral.
5) I rarely give antibiotics for sore throats unless someone tests positive for strep. If you have a sore throat with no fever and have a cough with it, there's a really good chance it's not strep.

3) Some times when you really should go to the doctor

That said, antibiotics, when used like they should be, are amazing! They save lives every single day. I'm not an antibiotic hater by any means.

Here are some times you really should get to the doctor:

1) You strongly suspect strep throat. Strep (the bacteria) can travel to other areas of the body and lodge there, including your heart (rheumatic fever) and your kidneys. If you truly have a full-blown infection, you need to treat it.

2) You have a raging UTI (urinary tract infection). Some UTIs will clear up on their own with lots of hydration. The ones that don't, however, may travel up to your kidneys, where they will make you incredibly sick. Sometimes once bacteria reaches your kidneys it has easy access to your bloodstream, which can cause sepsis (an infection in your bloodstream). By no means will every UTI do this, but they are worth treating.

3) You have a fever and a cough or your child's breathing scares you. If you have a fever and a cough together, there are two things I'm concerned about: influenza and pneumonia. You may not have either. But knowing you have influenza gives me the chance to get you on medication for it (if appropriate, especially for someone very young or with asthma) and also to tell you to stay the heck away from other people! Never go out in public or allow your kids to go to school with influenza. It kills thousands of people every year.

Pneumonia can also be very serious (sometimes life-threatening), and I always treat people with pneumonia.

If your child is having difficulty breathing or their cough is so bad it's freaking you out, COME IN! There are a couple of things we can do for that. Antibiotics may or not be on the list.

4) You have vomiting or diarrhea along with high fever, significant pain, dehydration, or bleeding. Most vomiting and diarrhea will clear up on its own, and diarrhea may linger for 2 weeks or so. Dehydration can be dangerous, however, and some types of bugs that cause stomach flu symptoms can also be dangerous. They are worth investigating if some of these "danger signs" are present.

5) You're worried about yourself or your child. There are hundreds of legitimate reasons to look for medical care, and my intent in writing this isn't to scare anyone off from coming to the doctor's office if they're sick or worried! Come. Sometimes I find people that felt reluctant about coming in are actually very seriously ill.

But remember this: if you go to the doctor, and you leave without a prescription for antibiotics, that's not always a bad thing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Life after Loss

Sarah would be 6 months old now.

I can't bring myself to say those words out loud. I kind of choke on them. 6 months seems like a weird milestone to mourn. But this also seems a fitting time to share some thoughts about life after loss. (Here's her story if you need a refresher).

The dreaded question

First, there's the question I hate: "How many kids do you have?"

It's really incredible how quickly I can break out in a cold sweat. Often I panic and say "one." It seems to blurt out of my mouth before I can stop it.

It's the easy answer but it's the wrong one. I am a mother of 2. One of those 2 is just really, really easy to take care of right now.

If I do manage to answer "two" I pray they won't ask the natural follow-up question: "How old are they?" Poor souls. I have to tell them the truth, and I wish I could warn them first that things are about to get awkward.

The grief bucket

Then there's grief, Mr. Unpredictable. Grief isn't like I thought at all. I thought I would grieve a lot at first and then gradually just heal and move on, in a tidy linear fashion. It doesn't feel like that. It feels like a bucket that slowly fills up and then spills over in a fresh wave of sadness. In between spills I go about daily life and I lead a happy, full life. Over time the bucket does seem to fill up more slowly, but once it spills over the feelings are just as fresh as day 1.

Known and Unknown

I have to admit there's some fear wrapped up in the question, "What about the next?" After years of infertility and two miracle pregnancies, will I ever be pregnant again? And should I be that lucky, will my baby survive?

I should back up and explain that we chose to have an autopsy done on Sarah (is this too macabre to blog about? I'm a medical person and this is all very natural for me, so my apologies...). She had a condition called "multicystic encephalomalacia". That's a fancy term for extensive damage to the brain from massive oxygen depletion, due to infection or circulatory problems.

Put in plain terms, the most likely scenario is that, sometime during my second trimester, Sarah's cord got kinked or twisted, blocking blood flow for long enough to cause irreversible damage to her brain, but not long enough for her to pass away in utero. She had been perfect at the 20-week ultrasound.

Thus, as far as we know, there's no greater risk of this happening to us again as there is of it happening to anyone.

I'm still nervous.

Irony...or poetry?

This is probably an appropriate time to mention something else about Sarah. Her name was Sarah Emily, in honor of Isaac's twin sisters, Sarah and Emily, who passed away as babies. They had a shared blood supply, and due to complications of this, Emily was stillborn and Sarah, similar to our Sarah, had severe brain damage from the lack of blood flow. She lived about 7 months and then passed away as well. 

We really felt like Sarah Emily was the right name for our daughter when we picked it after the gender ultrasound. It seemed so redemptive to imagine her living the full life they missed and honoring their memory in that way. 

Instead, in one of life's ironies, we watched our Sarah follow a similar path as her sweet aunts. Perhaps this would be an opportunity to let bitterness in. But I see it differently. I think it's fitting that such pure, beautiful spirits as Sarah and Emily would have a namesake equally as pure and beautiful. Isaac's mom says she likes to picture the three of them up in heaven, dear friends, and jumping on beds like teenagers at a slumber party. 

Closing the door on bitterness

I picture Bitterness as one of those door-to-door salespeople trying to shove his foot in my door while I've got my back against it, trying to force it closed. I can't dwell on other people's large families or the healthy babies born around the same time as Sarah. I can't dwell on the seeming unfairness of struggling with infertility and then losing a child.

Despite it all, though, I regard Sarah's life and passing as one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. It was a privilege to be in her presence, to be her mother, to give her life and love her, and then to send her peacefully back home.

I remain convinced that, if her time here needed to be short, she was taken in the gentlest way possible. There's no way to send a child home without grief unless you don't love her--a rare scenario indeed. But she lived and died peacefully, with little distress and almost no trauma or pain. We had a little notice that something was wrong but not too much. Choosing to take her off the ventilator didn't feel like a dilemma--we all agreed it was the best thing for her. All these things softened the experience. And through it I came to know God in a way that would otherwise be impossible. I have felt peace that didn't--couldn't--come from me.

That's how I keep the door (mostly) closed.


I am a different person now. More compassionate, I hope. Better educated on grief. Better equipped to empathize. I have received so much kindness that I feel eager to give back where I can.

I used to see other parents losing children with health problems and think it mattered less to lose a "damaged" child than a normal one.

Here's the truth--I loved (and love) Sarah just as much as Mary. It's remarkable, really, since our time together was so short. That beautiful girl wasn't damaged goods. But the gift her health problems gave me was the ability to let go with fewer regrets. On days when I try to imagine life with her here, a chubby, laughing 6-month-old that's sitting up and grabbing my hair and learning to eat solids, I remember she wouldn't be doing those things. I can't wish she were here if it means keeping the body she came in.

I would have never chosen the past 6 months to happen as they did. But I'm forever grateful they happened anyway.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Year I Feared

Mary is two.

This stage has filled me with terror since the day we decided to start trying for kids.

It might have been the day, now seared permanently into my memory, of being at the grocery store and hearing a toddler screaming from the other side of the store. For 15 minutes straight.

We were starting fertility treatments at the time, and all I could think was, "We're draining our savings account for...this??"

My perception of toddlers used to be that they were somewhat akin to cats. Babies, like kittens, are so adorable that we seem biologically hard-wired to want them.

The problem is, kittens turn into cats.

And babies turn into toddlers.

However, less than a month into having a 2-year-old, I have decided to come out and announce that the "terrible twos" are only a half truth.

Yes, Mary throws tantrums.

Yes, I have been that mom at the store with the screaming child.

Yes, she hates sharing, hits when she's mad, pulls her shoes off and promptly starts crying for me to put them back on, and occasionally pounds on the piano.

Yes, she draws on the walls and tables, ruined a good shirt of mine the other day by drawing on it with a pen, and last week discovered her cousin's poopy diaper and used it to decorate the walls, the floor, the furniture, and her face. (I missed that incident, but Janae, I'm truly sorry.)

But I want to announce that there is another side to two-year-olds that I never knew about.
Riding the horsey on the couch. Wearing my necklace.
There's the thrill of watching her master skill after skill. Counting to 10, then 12, then 20 (she skips 15 and 19, but those are ugly numbers anyway). Colors. Shapes. Jumping. Pulling on her own boots. Stirring cake batter. Communicating increasingly specific desires.
Reading on the laundry basket. Of course. 

There's toddler hugs and wet kisses. There's chubby little hands and feet. There's the prayers she insists on saying herself (she always blesses the food, even at bedtime).
Pushing her beloved stroller.

There's the unbridled enthusiasm with which she encounters life. Whoa! A train! An ice cream cone! Stars in the sky! Swings at the park! Grandpa! Cousins! CHEEEEESE!!!
Using any means necessary to maintain order at church. 

There's snuggling her on my lap and reading stories or singing songs. (Or watching YouTube...on bad days).

There's the adorable way she speaks about herself in the third person (Mawy do it!).
Accessorizing herself.

And the way she learned not only to do somersaults, but also to cheer for herself beforehand (Mawy! Mawy!) and congratulate herself afterwards (Tada!).

And the way she sits at the piano and sings an entire song by herself...getting 80-90% of the words right. (For the record, she gets about 10% of the tune right).

And, of course, there's the heart-melting "I yuv you!"

I know for some that 3 is harder than 2. I know many toddlers are more difficult than Mary.

I'm just saying there's more to love about 2 than there is not to love.

Also, she's not a cat.