15 Month Update (and Vacation Summary, Part 2)
I think I'll remember month 15 as the one in which Austen learned to sign "please" and say "no". These two additions to his vocabulary have made a tremendous difference in his ability to communicate his wants and needs; when he points up at the kitchen counter and says, "uhhn," we can now hold up any items in the area one at a time (me: "sippy cup?" A: "no." me: "banana?" A: "no." me: "glass of water?" A: "no." me: "you want me to put on my glasses?" A: [smiles and makes sign for "please"]) and know for sure when we've hit on the one he wants. Of course, he also answers "no" to lots of questions to which he should really be answering yes, such as "did you poop?"
As I mentioned in the first (and so far only) installment of our Vacation Summary, Austen also knows how to say "grandpa"; we clearly heard him say it at least twice while we were in Hawaii. I also heard him say it the other night when he was looking through the latest issue of TIME magazine (Austen loves to read magazines, especially TIME and Martha Stewart Living). He'd gotten to the last page, which had an ad that showed a man of about 60 with close-cropped gray hair in a suit. He made the "I know that guy!" sound (it's similar to the "I want that!" uhhn, but with a different inflection) and pointed to the guy in the suit. I don't think Austen's ever seen my dad in a suit, but I suspected that that was who he thought the guy was. "Who's that?" I asked. "Grandpa," he said softly, staring lovingly at the photo. "No, that's not grandpa, but it does kind of look like him," I said. Oddly, he doesn't usually say "grandpa" when photos of my dad (or Al's) come up in our Mac screensaver rotation, but he does make the "I know that guy!" sound. I guess you have to ask him "who's that?" to get "grandpa."
I'll also remember month 15 as the one in which Austen had his first ear infection. It happened in Hawaii, and our first indication that something was really wrong was when Austen woke up on Wednesday morning at 3:30 am with a raging fever. I'd noticed he was a little pink (and warm) the night before and figured that despite our best efforts to keep him covered with clothing, sunscreen, and a hat, he'd gotten a sunburn while we were out whale watching. I'd given him some Tylenol in case it would help, and put him to bed as usual at 7:30. When he woke up with the fever at 3:30, his skin was a fiery red, and I was sure I'd been a rotten, irresponsible parent and totally sunburned my child. We were a little panicked; Austen had never had a fever (or a sunburn) before, and we were very far from home.
Luckily Al realized that with the time difference, our pediatrician's office would be open at that hour, so we called. The nurse who called back seemed to ignore my news about being out in the sun (maybe it's difficult to imagine getting a sunburn when there's 2' of snow where you are) and asked if he was pulling his ears or acting cranky. I said, "well, he's screaming now, but I suspect that's because it's 4am and he's burning up." She suggested that we go get some Children's Motrin (it's apparently better than Tylenol at controlling fevers), and while at the store, to pick up a thermometer. "It'll help put your mind at ease, for one thing," she said, "and it'll also help you figure out if the fever's going down. If it's not, or if you notice any behavioral changes—lethargy, etc.—then you should take him to a doctor."
We drove to Safeway and got an ear thermometer and some Motrin; the reading was 103.5. We dosed Austen with Motrin and let him sleep in the bed with us for the next couple hours, and when he woke his fever had broken. He also wasn't nearly as red/pink, which should have tipped us off that this wasn't a sunburn we were dealing with. So anyway, we went on with the day as scheduled and drove to Mama's Fish House in Paia, where we had an amazing lunch (with even more amazing views). After lunch Al and Austen played in the sand on the beach, and then we drove around Kahului and Wailuku for a while in a futile attempt to find malasadas. (Sweet Treats had closed, and The Home Maid Bakery only serves them from 5:30-9:30am and from 4-10pm; we arrived at 3pm.)
When we arrived back at Kapalua around 4:30 or 5, we noticed that Austen was really hot again. We took his temperature with our handy ear thermometer... and promptly flipped out when the reading was 104.5. I knew from reading nj and Morrisa's account of Miranda's high fever (I can't find the entry now, but it was when Miranda was less than a year old, I think) that brain damage wasn't necessarily imminent, so I was able to calm Al down a little. We called the Doctors on Call number and got the office in Ka'anapali (for some reason the one at Kapalua was closed that day), and we made an appointment for 6:20. We dosed Austen with some more Motrin and then headed out the door, figuring there was no harm in getting there early. On the way there I called Morrisa to see if she had any advice; she confirmed that while there was no need to panic, we were doing the right thing by going to see the doctor.
Getting to the doctor's office early did indeed work in our favor; we were seen a little before 6, and the young doctor (who told us he had a 17 month-old) quickly figured out that Austen's left ear was infected. (He also wasn't the least bit skeptical about our 104.5 reading, thank god—most doctors seem to think that the only readings that matter are the ones taken in their offices—and was pleased to see that the Motrin was already working, as the reading he got was 101.5.) He told us we could alternate Motrin and Tylenol (e.g., Motrin at noon, Tylenol at 4pm, Motrin at 6pm, Tylenol at 10pm, etc.) to keep the fever down, and he prescribed 10 days of antibiotics... plus a re-check on Friday to make sure Austen was OK to fly home that night. (He was, and he loved the strawberry flavor of the medicine; by day 3 he was bringing me the bottle and dropper first thing in the morning, so he never missed a dose. :)
Month 15 was also when I returned to work full-time. (I actually started on Austen's 14-month birthday, Jan. 30.) Obviously our arranged-last-August Hawaiian vacation interrupted work for a couple weeks, but the rest of the month went surprisingly well. Austen knows that I'm working—he's just as sad when I head upstairs to my office as when Al leaves out the front door in the mornings—but he really seems to like playing with Hannah all day, and of course he's always excited to see me when I come down for a hug break or some food. I miss the days of running errands when no one else was at the mall or the grocery store (now I go on weekends with all the other working people), but I'm glad to be working again, and I'm especially glad to have help. Al, Hannah, and I form a little child-rearing triumverate now; I don't feel like I'm shouldering most or all of the responsibility myself.
On the food front, Austen is still a really good eater. He eats just about everything, and he likes to graze. This month I introduced him to Jell-O, and though he was skeptical of the bright orange wiggly mass at first, it's now among his favorite treats. He especially loves it with fruit trapped inside. He also went wild for strawberries (organic, of course) this month, eating 5 or 6 of them at a time. Just to be silly I squirted some whipped cream on the one he had in his hand once, and he's now a total whipped-cream junkie. He begs to have whipped cream squirted on his hand, and more often than not he plays with it for a little while before he eats it (if he eats it at all; in the photo on the left below, he's smeared it in his hair like mousse).
Yesterday morning he begged me to squirt some whipped cream on his hand, so I gave him a small squirt. He pointed at the can, which I'd put back on the counter, and made the sound for "I want that!" I said, "I already gave you some. You don't need any more." At which point he made the sign for "please"... and smeared the whipped cream all over his chest. The look on his face when he realized he'd done it was priceless—a sitcom moment if ever I've seen one. I, of course, busted out laughing, which brought out the ham in Austen. He smiled devilishly and rubbed the whipped cream all over his stomach.
Finally, it looks like Austen shares my love of cozy little nooks; that triangular space between the baby gate and the wall at the base of the kitchen-living room stairs has become his favorite. It's where he goes whenever I give him a big enough piece of food to keep him busy for a while, and sometimes he just sits there when he wants some time to himself.