Almost two months ago, I wrote about my son Okra’s gastrointestinal issues. This is the latest. He and I had an in-person follow up visit with his GI specialist almost three weeks ago. His weight gain was stagnant. Upon palpation, he still had a lot of gas, which meant that his constipation issues were still there. She didn’t think that he had any wheat or lactose sensitivities. His lab work showed that he is a healthy toddler on the skinnier side who is maintaining a good gain on height. Since there is a weight gain issue with constipation issues, she reintroduced Mirala.x to help with his bowel movement and a medication to increase his appetite. She said to start the appetite meds first for two weeks, initially with it 30 minutes prior to dinner for one week, and then adding a dose 30 minutes prior to breakfast. Then after two weeks of that, start Miralax. The kids’ three year check up was the week after the GI visit. Our pediatrician read Okra’s x-report and recommended us to start Mirala.x right away instead of waiting for another week. He said that the moderate severity of his constipation could really cause Okra to feel unwell and be moody, which was what we had been experiencing. At that visit, Bunny’s weight exceeded Okra’s weight by 11oz. Historically, she was often two pounds lighter. He hadn’t had a weight gain in six months, and she gained over 4 pounds in the past year. Okra is not exactly diagnosed with “failure to thrive” but he is closer to the low end of normal for his age. So this has been the situation with Okra medication-wise, water-intake wise, and food-wise. In the morning, he takes a dose of the appetite medication upon wake up time. I try to delay his breakfast so he has about 20 to 30 minutes before he eats. After food, I give him Miralax. Thirty minutes prior to dinner, he has another dose of the appetite medication. Good news is, he somehow likes the appetite meds because of its taste? But he fights drinking water with it as water intake has become a power struggle. Mirala.x is a powder that has to be mixed with 4 to 8 oz of water. He fought that with all his might in the beginning. I have tried my best to tempt him to drink water. I tried different cups and different straws. I even bought another Funtainer bottle that has Thomas on it. Eventually I discovered that the best method to encourage water intake is to put frozen fruit (blueberries, strawberries, mangos, or pineapple, or a combination of any of them) in the water. This has been a saving grace. He (and actually Bunny too) somehow loves frozen fruit and is willing to drink the water so that he can eat the frozen fruit at the end. Because of the frozen fruit lure, Okra has been drinking the required amount of water each day to help with hydration hence his constipation issues. In terms of food, I have been adding high calorie food and healthy fats whenever I can. I add butter to his toast, muffin, and rice. I make smoothies with coconut milk, flax seed, avocado, and full fat yogurt. I use the same for making popsicles which he loves. I add half and half to his milk. He does not eat eggs, avocado (by itself), yogurt, or cheese. Recently I made cream cheese with peanut butter and a little bit of honey into frozen balls. I call them ice cream balls. Okra totally bought into it and ate a ton. I add a lot of stuff in these “cookies” and he likes them. I have introduced adding cocoa powder, crushed peanuts, and a little bit of honey to oat meal and now he eats it. I have even gotten chocolate sprinkles for whole milk yogurt with apple sauce but Okra refuses to touch it. His appetite seems to wax and wane but I can see that he has been eating and drinking more than before. I decided to weigh the both of them a couple of days ago. I weighed myself first and then weighed myself while carrying the kids. I subtract my weight from the total weight. To my huge surprise, Okra seems to have gained one pound. ONE WHOLE POUND. He and Bunny actually weighed the same, which means he gained more than Bunny in the past week. I can’t begin to tell you how huge it is. He had been stuck at this one weight for months. Sometimes his weight even went down. So for him to gain a pound in a bit over a week of adding higher calorie foods and fat, I am so encouraged that the diligence will be paid off. Maybe my scale is off. Maybe he didn’t gain one whole pound, but he definitely has gained some weight as I can feel it when I lift him. I really hope that we are off to a good start with his weight gain and he will gain more consistently from now on. Who would have known that my own child’s weight gain would be a source of stress and concern?
Bunny and Okra are now three years old. I can hardly believe it.
The last three years seemed to have gone by very fast. People say that the days are long but the years are short. I look back and find that to be true. Sometimes old photos or old posts pop up on my phone or on FB. I see how tiny the kids were back then and how big they already are and often wonder how they are already three years old. The last six months were especially a blur. The days all blended in because of sheltering in place. That doesn’t stop the kids from growing. You blink and they are little human beings with a lot of opinions.
We couldn’t (and wouldn’t) have a real party but I still wanted to make that day special for the kids. I picked up the kids’ favorite buns from a bakery two days prior for their birthday breakfast and picked up food from the kids’ favorite taqueria the day before for their birthday lunch. Way ahead of time, Bunny selected a birthday shirt that has excavator on it. Okra chose one with Thomas. Because of their different preferences, I decided to buy decorations that had construction and Thomas themes. The day before their birthday, a chain party supply store delivered Thomas balloons, a huge number 3 balloon, letter balloons, and some wrapping papers to us. I ordered a construction birthday photo backdrop online. After the kids went to bed the night before their birthday, I couldn’t get started with decorations until after 9:30 because of a prior Zo.om meeting. Bob was already at work putting the kids’ new balance bikes together. I put the construction backdrop on the living room wall above the couch, placed the giant number 3 next to the picture, and placed the Thomas balloons on the other side. I blew up the letter balloons and spelled out Bunny’s name on one side of the wall and Okra’s name on the other side of the wall. I wrapped all the presents and put bows on the bikes. After all that was done, it was already 11pm, way past my bed time. It was worth it for the kids though and I couldn’t wait to see their faces the next morning.
The air quality in the 7 days prior to the kids’ birthday was at the Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy level. I said to my friends the day before that it would take a miracle for the AQI to get down to an acceptable level for us to take the kids to the zoo and for cake cutting in the backyard with my brother’s family to take place. I opened my eyes on the kids’ birthday and the first thing I checked was AQI. It was down to the unhealthy for sensitive group level (instead of very unhealthy). I wasn’t sure if it would go further down but there was a glimmer of hope that a zoo visit could be possible. The kids woke up and were very excited about putting their birthday T-shirts on. Where they sat for breakfast they couldn’t see the decorations and the presents in the living room. After their teeth were brushed, we opened the gate and led them into the living room. Their facial expressions were priceless! They looked so genuinely surprised and happy about the decorations. It was worth all the time and energy. I checked and rechecked the AQI. It was down to the low end of the Unhealthy for Sensitive Group level. I was confident that it would get down to the Moderate level. So it was truly a miracle that we got to pack up the kids and go to the zoo. We all had a blast! It had been a long time since Bob made it back to the zoo. He especially took a day off, and it was a delight to have him around to celebrate the kids’ birthday on a weekday (as their first two birthdays were on the weekend). The air quality was getting progressively better. By the time it was the kids’ nap time, I was certain that we could have a birthday cake cutting time in the backyard with family.
I had gotten a local mom from one of my mom clubs to make a cake for us. It was an awesome cake with Thomas on top and a track that ran under him, and an excavator and traffic cones on the side of the cake. This just matched my kids’ strong individual preferences. I was pleased with the final product.
The kids didn’t know that their uncle, auntie, and cousins were going to show up. Although Okra woke up being cranky and threw a tantrum, he recovered fast and was very excited about the cake and our family showing up. The sky was bright and the air was good. We had a wonderful time celebrating with family. The kids are so grown that they actually could blow the candles all by themselves this year and nobody ate the candle (unlike last year when Bunny took a bite out of her number 2 candle).
The day finished with dinner from the kids’ favorite restaurant. But even with their favorite food, Okra was done with dinner after a couple of bites because he couldn’t wait to go play with his new toys. Bunny followed him. We ended up having plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day.
We were supposed to have a picnic to celebrate the kids’ birthday the previous Saturday. It didn’t happen because of the air quality. This past Saturday we finally made it as the air was/is good. We had dim sum at a park!
It was wonderful to see the kids interact with their aunt, uncle, and cousins. Life is so much better when you can spend time with family. This year the kids really understand the meaning behind a birthday and it was a bummer that they couldn’t celebrate it the way we normally could. And I am really missing my dad. He was here the last two years for the kids’ birthdays and I really feel the void of not having him here this year. The pandemic has made it so hard for many to make in person connections. One can only hope that next year we will be all back to normal and the kids can spend quality time with everyone on their 4th birthday.
We have been home for many days straight now. The kids haven’t been going out at all because of the air quality. Although it has been hard to not have anywhere for the kids to go, we really can’t complain. My friend who lives up in Oregon has been living in air quality that is rated Hazardous. Two days ago it was in the 500s. She said that her eyes and throat have been burning 24/7, and it feels like the apocalypse. Although our air quality has been “very unhealthy”, our air purifiers at home give us some respite from the polluted air outside. Even if our sky was orange all day last Wednesday and I couldn’t even see my son in the rear mirror in broad daylight when I took him to the doctor, we are not near any fires. We can stay indoors without having anywhere we are required to go to and without having to worry about fires coming close to us or being evacuated. Last Saturday we were supposed to have a picnic to celebrate my kids’ 3rd birthday with my brother’s family at a park. It had to be canceled. Tomorrow is my kids’ birthday and we don’t know if we can still take them to the zoo. Even though cancelation of these events is disappointing, it is merely inconveniences. We are not losing our home. We didn’t lose our lives. In light of so many people losing so much, we are the fortunate ones. I don’t lose sight of that and I pray that these fires end soon and people can start picking up the pieces of their lives and start all over again. What a year this has been.
The zoo reopened some time in July. At first I was hesitant to return there with the kids. Pre-COVID, the zoo was our stomping ground as it is only 7 minutes away. We went almost once a week. It was closed for a few months. Finally they got the OKAY to reopen with COVID precautions in place. I wanted to learn about first hand experiences from people I know before I even considered going back. Plus I needed time to drill in the kids’ mind that their masks and the stroller are a must when we go to the zoo. Everybody who went said that their experience was good and they felt safe. Indoor exhibits, playgrounds, and family farm are all closed. The train and carousels are not running. There are red lines and orange circles for visitors to stand behind or inside to maintain social distance. It sounded doable to me. My twins’ third birthday is coming up. As I started to plan their birthday, and knowing that a birthday party with friends and family is not going to happen, a trip to the zoo seems special enough. Okra was the one who resisted wearing a mask, but has since converted to a mask wearer as we started going to the park. With the confidence that he’d keep the mask on, I booked tickets for last week to the zoo as a trial run for their birthday zoo visit. Oh yes. You now cannot just show up at the zoo with your membership card. To control the flow of visitors, both members and nonmembers have to book tickets ahead of time. You are allowed to enter into the zoo within the half hour of your reservation time. The tickets are open two weeks prior to the reservation dates. The morning times are popular for members and you will need to make a reservation two weeks ahead of time. The day prior to our visit last week, I spoke with the kids about the rules (i.e. staying in the stroller until I let them out and masks on at all times) and told them what we would get to see and what we wouldn’t. It had been almost six months since our last zoo visit. We went on March 10th, just a week before the shut down. We had so much fun then. I am looking at the pictures right now as I am writing this post. I didn’t always ride the Little Puffer Train with them since we had made it a special thing to do when daddy comes with us. But on that day, somehow, I wanted to ride the train with them and decided to do so. The kids weren’t even 2.5 yet back then. Looking at the videos and photos, they were looking much smaller and babylike. They had so much fun riding the train. I am so glad we did on that day as it is not an option anymore until COVID is under control. Fast forward to the day of the visit, it felt kind of funny to get ready the night before as I hadn’t had to get ready for anything in a long time. I was also worried about the smoke in the air because of the wild fires and the air quality hadn’t been good. The day of the visit, I decided to still go because if air quality got worse, we could always come home. Because the zoo is by the coast, the air on that day wasn’t bad at all. With a mask on, I didn’t quite smell the smoke. The kids and I had a blast! Since we got there at the first time slot, many animals were still inside. We waited for a long time for the gorillas and had to return later to see them when they were out. It was the male lion’s birthday that day so many people were there at that exhibit. The kids were really good at staying in the orange circles and behind the red line. They hardly touched any hard surfaces. They asked about the sloth, the spider, the goats, or other indoor animals. I had to tell them sadly that these were temporarily not available. Okra of course asked about the train and I told him that it wasn’t running. He asked, Can I see it? innocently. I felt bad that I had to say no to him. But it didn’t dampen the fun he had.
Everybody had fun and no one threw one single tantrum during that visit. On the way back to the car, Bunny said, “The zoo is so much fun! Let’s come back again.” Even though it was weird that they had to wear a mask and many of the things they wanted to do and see were not available, kids adapt fast and they still think it was cool and fun. I felt safe. All the adults wore masks. It was easily to social distance as the zoo keeps it at 50% capacity. So that’s the plan. On their 3rd birthday in 1.5 weeks, Bob and I will be taking the kids to the zoo and do a cake in the back yard with my brother’s family after the kids’ nap. That will still be a memorable birthday I am sure.