31 December 2014

New Year's Resolutions

2014 was a good year for me. When I stand here and look back on it, I see a lot I like. A lot of good memories. Some things to work on, but many things for which to be thankful. We welcomed Eleanor. Abigail started preschool and we saw dramatic improvements in her abilities. I finished my book and submitted it to its first publisher. And got my first rejection letter. I finally read the whole Catechism for the first time in my life. I read the whole Bible for the second time in my life. I matured a lot this year as well, learning how to enjoy where I am right now - tone down my hopes for the future so they stop robbing today of its pleasures. 2014 was a good year.

I love making resolutions as much as any other goal-obsessed, perfectionistic, type-A -er out there, but I hate the pressure the commercial forces put on us to "make this your best year ever!" There is so much pressure that when we fall off the bandwagon by January 15th (or, let's be honest, January 5th), we feel too defeated to try again. "The year is ruined. I wanted it to be my best year yet and I failed." Every Monday is a chance to start fresh. Every Wednesday is a chance to crank out a good week. Every Friday is a chance to finish on a good note. As Jillian Michaels says, "If you get a flat tire, you don’t get out of the car and slash all three other tires."

In 2015 I wanna:
-read 24 books
-weigh a certain number I have in my head
-get my book published
-spend more time in prayer
-buy a house
-conceive another baby

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

30 December 2014

Cat Love

It's like it's in our genes or something.

PS: That's me. Circa 1989.

29 December 2014

Christmas 2014

There is a long-standing joke in our house that Matt is the Grinch. Throughout December, he's all: "No cookies, no decorations, no Christmas music!" Then on the 25th, he does a total 180 and starts passing out glasses of eggnog and presents while Garth Brooks croons "Baby Jesus is Born" at max volume. He claims that there is actually some sort of "theology" behind this pre-Christmas season called "Advent," but that doesn't stop me from whipping out the Mannheim Steamroller when he's at work.

I must admit that I find "what I got my kids for Christmas" posts particularly interesting. As a child ripping through piles of presents, it never crossed my mind that my parents might budget, set limit, not get me a Power Wheels on purpose; that such practices might encourage upstanding and virtuous children. It's my natural mama urge to want to provide my girls with everything that makes their eyes light up at the toy store, but we all know that the simplest toys are the top favs (I submit as evidence the cardboard box), that too many toys spewed across a floor is overwhelming, and that toys that break after the first day make the pocketbook cry. So I like to see what criteria other moms use and what toys make the cut in their families.

Our current system is to set a dollar amount per person, add up all those numbers, divide by 12, then save up that much per month. Then I spend a month or so brainstorming and researching ideas, then another few weeks searching for the best deal (I do all this casually, no hurry or pressure). I also try to patronize brick and mortar stores and small businesses when I can. This year's results:


Eleanor got a snowglobe with her name engraved on it and a board book. With all the hand-me-downs from Abigail combined with the toys and few new outfits coming from grandparents, she didn't need much. The snowglobe is something I did when Abigail was born and I decided to turn the heirloom-natured gift into a tradition for my girls. It's a bit on the expensive side, even on sale and using a coupon code, but I did have enough left to get a board book - a favorite when Abigail was a baby. Her old copy was rather literally loved to pieces.


Abigail's gifts from us included a few books, some Frozen stickers and tattoos from the dollar bin at Target, a personalized memory game (more on that in a minute), and an iPod Shuffle. Just kidding! I bought the shuffle with birthday money a few years ago, it's in the picture to represent the Frozen soundtrack, an mp3 download. She also already used an Elsa tattoo before I took the picture.

Anyway, the memory game. I saw it a year or two ago and absolutely loved the idea and was waiting anxiously until Abigail was old enough to get our own. Like I mentioned, it's personalized - as in, you pick the pictures.

You can use the tiles upright as a matching game, then face down as a traditional memory game. The familiar images are easier for Abigail to remember than generic cupcake or kitty cat memory games. Abigail absolutely loves her gift and wants to play with it constantly, so we're going to have the tiles laminated for extra durability.

My favorite Christmas present? My favorite perfume, a gift from my sister-in-law secret santa:

I'm not sure what Matt's is, but if I had to guess, I'd pick this trilogy:

I've spent the last few days being educated on the world of Ewoks and hyper drives. Word to the wise: Star Wars die hards don't think it's funny when you run around with a cat yelling "Kittybacca!"

* * * * *

Every year I hand make my eight nieces and nephews Christmas presents. One year I crocheted them all their own (kid-sized) blanket. The next year I sewed them all super-hero capes. This year, I painted them each a saint doll.

From the back corner: Our Lady of Fatima; St. Peter; Our Lady of Lourdes; The Immaculate Heart of Mary; St. Nick; St. Pope John Paul II; St. Padres Pio; Mary, Mother of God. 

I bought wooden dolls from an Etsy store, paint from a craft store, used brushes I already owned, and finished them off with a lacquer from a craft store. It was surprisingly easy and inexpensive. Each doll had it's name written on the bottom.

I crocheted them little bags using yarn I already owned:

I also wrote the saint's name on a little card and made gift tags, all out of scrapbook paper I already had (I dabble in lots of crafts, so my stash is pretty big). The bags saved on wrapping paper and provided a place to store the dolls when the kids aren't playing with them.

* * * * *
The holidays this wear were a perfect mix of festive partying and relaxing refueling. The parties were spread out enough so that we never felt rushed, the presents were perfect, the food delicious, the conversations lively. And yes, my husband did manage to whip out a religious topic for him and his loud, rowdy brothers to have a heated discussions over. Oh goodness.

Merry Christmas, my friends!

21 December 2014

Wonderful and Perfect

I am always playing "chicken" with Matt over the kids. I don't know if he's playing too, or if I'm just playing with his unaware body. Usually the winner is the one doing the more important task. Today I was trying to browse the grocery store flyer, read a periodical, drink some coffee, and do it all on the couch. It had been a long, frustrating battle of "Abigail, stop pulling your sister's hair, stop shoving her over, stop throwing your lunch on the floor, stop doing everything!" I kept waiting for Matt to get up and take care of the girls. But he was doing job stuff in preparation for a huge interview tomorrow (prayers, please, tomorrow at 10am!) and I want him to get this job too, so when Abigail finally smoked the coffee and Eleanor started speed crawling to the disaster zone, I lost the game of chicken. I admitted out loud the fact that I have small children and cannot have a post-Mass coffee and periodical moment to myself. Saying it out loud made it easier to bear. We read books, blew bubbles, took pictures. An attitude change turned the afternoon from frustrating to enjoyable.

Now both children are napping in their own cribs and the house is silent. The audible peace is wonderful, but the inside peace of knowing that I was fully present for my kids is even better.

One of Matt's cousins is engaged and she recently posted on Facebook about a show her and her fiance went to see: the happy couple, all dressed up with huge smiles. Her hair and makeup were done, he looked so proud to have his arms wrapped around her. They both emanated such a happy, excited, content feeling. I remember that feeling: like the whole world was so incredibly perfect. That sense that your place in the world is safe and loving and the future is bursting with great things. The exciting wait until the wedding day, that moment when you go home from the show together and open the front door together and snuggle up in bed together, is harder than when you were a little kid on Christmas morning, waiting at the top of the stairs for your parents to wake up. The waiting, the hope, the feeling that life is perfect and wonderful.

One of my friends is pregnant with her first child and she created a Facebook group where she can ask questions and post products to get reviews from her friends. She's having a girl, just like I did, and her excitement and the excitement of her husband are as contagious as that of Matt's cousin. Having a second child is exciting in all sorts of ways, but that first baby...that first excitement is different. Special in a way that you only get once. After so many years of working to heal, I look back with fond memories of my pregnancy with Abigail - I can see the good now, I can remember the excitement. When you feel so close to your husband and your love feels complete and wonderful. When the baby's movement - this first little baby whose life will change your whole world is some mysterious way you can't yet understand but desperately want - is so incredibly exciting. It's the same waiting, the same hope, the same feeling that life is perfect and wonderful.

When you move past these stages, it's easy too look back condescendingly on those about to embark on the journey: "What a silly little new mom, worrying about bottle sanitizers!" Bottle sanitizers, matching shoe and shall colors all seem so insignificant once you pass into the next stage of life, at least in my circle, I often feel like those who are ahead in their journey are prideful in their wisdom, eagerly dolling out one-liners about "new moms" or "young love." But what a terrible way to destroy someone's perfect and wonderful life!

Everyone's place on their life journey should be celebrated and appreciated! Instead of looking at one another with jealousy or annoyance, we should remember how joyful and excited we were at different stages of life. Be happy for one another. Love one another. Give thanks for other people's joy in hopes that one day, they'll give thanks for your joy. A wonderful, perfect life is an example that God is good and loving and merciful. Give thanks for other people's joy in order to thank God for His goodness, love, and mercy.

I'm remembering all the wonderful and exciting times in my life, finding joy in the memories. And I'm thankful for all the ways in which life is perfect and wonderful right now. These smiles and songs and crawls: the Blonde and the Brunette and the Man who is raising them with me.

18 December 2014

Breastfeeding Through Medical Procedures

Breastfeeding through various medical procedures is very important to me. When my first born was three weeks old, I sat on the floor in the middle of the night after a 20 minute pumping session and sobbed over two empty bottles that should have been full of breast milk. The hurt that followed over the next few months was something I vowed I would avoid in the future. With Eleanor, it became a top priority and I went to great lengths to set myself up for success before she was born and sought patience and resources in the first few weeks home. (Remember that time I got mastitis? Twice?) Since her birth, I've had a couple of medical procedures and some ongoing care (most, but not all, due to kidney issues), and I also have a seven-month-old, exclusively breastfed baby.

In my experience, doctors and nurses who fully support my desire to breastfeed are few and far between. "Just pump and dump!" is a favorite expression I heard as my desires are written off. The same people who eagerly offered pain meds for levels one and two pain, fetched ice chips refills after a breathing tube removal, and unhooked all my tubes and wires again so I could go to the bathroom, looked annoyed and advised pumping and dumping my precious breast milk when I asked follow-up questions about the drugs in the IV.

I'm very open with everyone I come into contact with from the moment something gets discussed: the nurse scheduling the appointment, the pre-op nurse: "Jacqueline ______, 10/06/86, kidney stone removal surgery, left side, I'm breastfeeding." Everyone who inputs data to my chart gets the rundown. More than half of these people advise that I'm going to have to "pump and dump for 24 hours!" I always follow up with, "Okay, what medications will I be receiving?" Most of these people don't even know. Whenever I can get a specific drug name (Some nurses are polite enough to ask the doctor and call me back or have anesthesia give me a call. Honestly, I get the most accurate specifics right before the procedure), I research the snot out of it. If I can't get a name, I'll Google what types of medications are typical and research those.

Whenever I'm headed into a procedure, it is my MO to breastfeed Eleanor about 30 minutes beforehand. Get her nice and full to hold her off until I get out of recovery. And I've never had to do more than ask. (At this stage, even the stodgiest White Coats are conducive to my requests.) As the OR nurses, doctor, and anesthesiologist report to the bedside for the standard pre-procedure interview, I get a list of what I'm likely to receive, and I jot them down. In my experience, there are times when you can request different meds to accommodate breastfeeding, but rarely is that the case during surgery. In my experience, anesthesiologists are the most open and willing to discuss drugs, side-effects, and breastfeeding. In my experience, anesthesiologists also offer the most conservative (and liability ass-covering) directions. It feels to me and Matt like they're working with studies from the 1950s that have never been updated. And lots of drugs have never really been tested, so I often get a "pump and dump" because it's "better to be safe than sorry."

Post-op is when I have the most flexibility in requesting new drugs. Whenever the nurse approaches my bedside with a little plastic cup of pills, an injection for the IV, or an Rx from the doctor, I a-l-w-a-y-s ask: "Can I take this while breastfeeding?" and if the answer is anything but "yes," I ask inquire about different options. Honest [paraphrased] summary of a conversation I've had with a nurse:
"Here's your medication?"
"Can I breastfeed through this?"
"Nope, pump and dump for the full 7 days you'll be on it."
"Can I take something else that I can breastfeed with?"
"I don't know."
Always permit the awkward silence to work on your behalf.
"I'll check." A few minutes later. "Here is something that's safe to take while breastfeeding."

Sometimes these conversations suck! I hate confronting authority - inside I'm always, "Oh my gosh, I totally don't want this!" But outside, I'm like, "Yes, sir, of course, sir." It's hard for me to stand up like that, but as hard as it is in the moment, it's always worth it when I'm back at home in bed nursing Eleanor at 3:00 in the morning. I also really helps that I have support: a husband by my side who doesn't mind questioning a doctor.

The BEST advice I can give anyone going through a medical procedure is to ALWAYS ask if there is another breastfeeding-friendly option. Sometimes there is not. When that is the case, the BEST advice I can give is to get a second opinion.

The doctor's advice that you can't breastfeed after general anesthesia is his opinion, based on studies and a desire to avoid malpractice law suits. Sometimes it means s/he'll sacrifice your breastfeeding. In my experience, most doctors do not keep up with the latest "drugs in breast milk" studies, and some of those studies show that drugs that previously required a 24-hour pump and dump is not necessary.

So when a doctor doesn't give me an answer I like, I get a second opinion. Often with an online search after the doctor has closed the curtain and walked away. I recommend finding websites with specific facts and researchable citations. I personally trust the La Leche League, Dr. Sears, and the website Drugs.com (They are huge fans of data and citations. Check out this example on fentanyl). I also give more weight to websites ending in ".gov" and board's websites (the American Academy of Pediatrics, for example). Matt usually reads those articles too and backs me in my decision, sometimes to the doctor's face, sometimes when we privately make a decision without informing the doctor.

And once you have all that data, you can make an informed decision. Sometimes I choose to breastfeed Eleanor when my doctor says, "nope," but the La Lecha League says, "yup." Sometimes the second opinion backs the doctor and I do pump and dump. After my kidney surgery, I pumped and dumped for 12 hours because I was on a lot of stuff and I felt all the little risks were adding up too fast. I'm confident of those decisions because they were made after much research and honest discussion. They're what we felt were best for us. And so far, they've proven to be: I have an exclusively breastfed seven-month-old who passes her wellness visits with the pediatrician with flying colors.

16 December 2014

Kidneys, Take Three

Today I had the lithotripsy on my dastardly kidney - where they blast the kidney stone with shockwaves; non-invasive. On the left kidney, by the way. They ask you about a thousand times before a procedure: the pre-op nurse on the phone, the receptionist, the pre-op nurse at the surgery center, the anesthesiologist. You'd think at some point they'd put a check-mark in the file: "Patient is aware of the procedure. Is even aware of which side the procedure will take place on." Sorry for the sarcasm, I'm a bit wore out.

The doctor told me that I would probably be back to normal by this evening, but that I might be a bit sore and bruised till tomorrow. And I might be passing the fragments for a week or so, which could, at times, be painful. But I tried to prepare to be off my feet for a few days - just in case, so the last few days have been rather busy: grocery store runs to be sure is enough milk, eggs, crackers; make another loaf of bread; do a few loads of laundry; put away the piles of stuff that have been accumulating in hard-for-toddlers-to-reach places. And, of course, the entire family just got over the flu at the end of last week. Like I said, I'm a bit wore out.

So the lithotripsy. Word to the wise: when they tell you not to drink before the procedure, don't drink before the procedure. Ugh. I abstained from food and water since dinner last night, but after nursing last night and this morning, I was so thirsty! I opted for 8oz of clear, hot tea. I thought it wouldn't be a big deal! I had nothing in my stomach and the tea ran right through me. But the anesthesiologist and urologist assured me that my stomach was still producing acid and if it got into my lungs, I'd be in the ICU for three days and never have normal lung capacity again. Ugh. So they pushed back the procedure until four hours after the Tea Debacle.

I just about cried. I didn't head back to the OR until two hours after I'd anticipated, so it threw off everything - the breastfeeding plan I'd anticipated on having and, since I was still fasting and I'm hypoglycemic, I ended up with a bad headache that is currently on track to become a migraine. Sometimes they give you these ridiculous policies to cover their asses in case of a lawsuit - like the "pump and dump" for 24-hours policy. It's like, Hello, the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks I can breastfeed as soon as I'm stable enough to hold the baby myself. I mean, come on, the same piece of paper that declares water after midnight a sin also says I can't wear jewelry or have my nails painted, both of which I did to no bad end. I'm trying to sort through their "standard procedures" and determine what is in my best interest, but trying to explain that to an anesthesiologist about to start his gazillianth case of the day and a urologist with a terrible bedside manner is about as hopeless as trying to convince Abigail that we don't need to watch Frozen twice in a row.

So exactly 4 hours after I drank the bloody tea, they took me back, knocked me out, and blasted away my kidney stone. I was not in a tub, they just put a water/gel thing under my back. About 10 minutes after I first opened my eyes, the nurse declared me sufficient to travel. A few lectures later (one nurse told me I couldn't breastfeed as long as I was on the pain meds that are the exact same pain meds as the ones they gave me after the kidney surgery so that I could keep breastfeeding; another nurse lectured me on the need to catch the kidney stones I pass even though these are fragments of the big stone that was already sent to the labs and tested), within one hour, I was in the car on the way home. Just like any profession, there are good and bad nurses. But damn, a bad nurse has a much bigger impact on an experience than a bad anything else.

So far I've had no pain, no bruising, and have passed no stones. In fact, from a physical pain perspective, it's as if nothing happened this morning. They prescribed me some norco (vicodin) to help with the pain, so I am anticipating something hurting, but so far, so good. I'll find out in mid-January if any stones survived and if I need to have another surgery or another lithotripsy.

I desperately hope the January test come back clear because I am so very ready to be done with my kidneys. Today was the third time in 14 months that I have had to go under general anesthesia to have my left kidney screwed with. And in that time? I gave birth to a baby.

Speaking of baby, in the last six days, Eleanor:
- has learned to clap
- can pull to stand
- started crawling
- started waving

She's seven months old. I'm going to need to have more kids just so I can spend a little more time in newborn world.

12 December 2014

8 Quick Takes with Awesome Pictures!

1. It has been exactly one week since the flu descended on our house. Matt ran into Abigail's preschool teacher at the grocery store the other day (yes, I live in that kind of a town), and she revealed that every single one of her students is either out sick or has that post-flu cough we've come to know and hate in our house. So it was the preschool that got us sick. I'd be lying if I said I didn't lay in bed at least twice a month and wonder if I should pull Abigail out of school just because we get sick all the time now. Oddly enough, I seem to have gotten the brunt of the flu, and while I'm glad it wasn't my kids, we all know that when mom gets sick the house stops. If I don't improve significantly over the weekend, I'm going to have to reschedule my kidney stone treatment (which is this coming Tuesday).

Cat wasn't sick, but she laid around the house napping all day anyway.

2. Sometimes, especially when sick or pregnant, I feel like energy is a measurable, quantifiable thing; like fuel in the tank of a car. There is no "digging deep" and "grinning and bearing it" when you're sick or pregnant - when you run out of energy, you're out. So if the kids are extra obnoxious and you have to expel extra energy to keep them from killing themselves? Sucks to be the dishes. If you were merely sleep deprived, had merely worked a 24-hour shift, you could suck it up, crank it out, git-r-done, but there is nothing like the complete and total exhaustion of being sick or pregnant to ensure that your husband comes home to a disaster of a house with children who haven't left their pajamas all day.

In my defense, they are really adorable in matching jammies. 

3. At first being stuck at home with the flu wasn't so bad - Matt was home and it was that cozy "misery loves company" feeling, when everyone goes to bed early together, we nap when the kids nap, and justify special treats at the grocery store when we venture out to make medicine-vitamin C-tea-Kleenex runs. But after a week of slumming it in pajamas, having eggs for dinner so we don't really have to cook, and watching wwwaaayyy to many movies, it goes from fun to depressing. Matt got over the flu the fastest, so as soon as I was okay enough, he went back to work, and which means I had to go back to work. But you know how working sick is: nothing gets your full attention, nothing gets your best effort. The house is a mess, no one is getting a bath or taking a shower, I can't remember if I even brushed my hair that morning, and I don't have the energy to fold laundry, let alone take a walk in the brisk air outside. I started feeling frustrated and depressed and I reverted back to my maladaptive habit of eating when I felt stressed. Combined with the complete lack of exercise, I gained a few pounds - and I was only a few pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight, which was even more depressing! At some multiple points during each day, I just wanted to hide in the closet and cry myself to sleep.

4. I'm feeling better enough that I decided to actually get dressed today (meaning jeans instead of sweat pants), opted to put on a little mascara so I might feel pretty, and we're going to take at least a brief stroll outside. Just long enough for me to get fresh air and Abigail to burn a little energy. The local middle school in our community opens its doors in the evening for people to walk laps, so Matt and I are going to take the stroller and the kids and do a little leg-stretching after dinner. Staying active when you're:
1. A stay-at-home mom
2. Of really young kids (as in, the oldest is three)
3. During winter in the midwest
4. When your husband takes the only car to work everyday
is really, really, really hard.

This weekend I'm going to make a list of things I can do to stay active despite all the above qualifiers so that I can reference it throughout the cold, lonely winter and hopefully stave off depression.

5. A few weeks ago, Abigail went to a birthday party for a friend from school. I was ridiculously excited about it. It was a Frozen themed party, and although it ran directly over nap time, I thought Abigail would have a ball. She got the invitation well before the party, and when I met the to-be birthday girl at the school Halloween party, I felt my excitement noticeably diminish. (Don't worry, no one from school knows me or knows that I have a blog). Abigail is a very energetic, touchy-feely kind of playmate and this girl? Well, she struck me as the quintessential only-child princess type.  I don't even know how to feel about how the party went down. It had its good moments and it had its bad moments. There were four kids (including Abigail) from preschool and the birthday girl and one of the other kids have no obvious reason for being in a special education classroom. Whatever their special need, it isn't socially observable.

For starters, I did discover where Abigail learned to shove other kids to engage in play. Two boys from school would pretend to have been shot, stabbed, or otherwise killed and dramatically fall over to the ground in an extended death scene when Abigail pushed them. Abigail finds this reaction hilarious, and continues to shove them and everyone around her, even when the boys get tired of the game. And so here we have a throng of mostly typically developing kids all sugared up on cookies and cake running around a church basement to the sound track of Frozen. And in the middle is little Abigail, still the shortest and skinniest one of the bunch, pushing the other kids as they near her and laughing hysterically about it. Some kids didn't notice her or didn't care, but inevitably some of the kids did notice and didn't like it and proceeded to shout above the noise of music and yelling kids to demand justice. And so every 60-90 seconds, I'm darting in and out of the mess, making Abigail apologize, pulling her to the side to de-stimulate her a bit, and yanking the party favors, party games, cake - all of which are on a table at kid height! - out of her hands and restore them to their proper place. My second-favorite moment is when Abigail hit "stop" on the radio (who leaves a radio on the floor at a party for a four-year-old?!) and the entire party froze like a giant game of "red light, green light" and looked around to see why the music stopped. I stood up in front of a crowd of complete strangers (I didn't know anyone at the party), walked to the front, pulled Abigail aside, and hit the "play" button.

My favorite moment? My top "best moment of the night"? So all the kids are getting in a big circle to play a party game, the adults are trying to shush everyone so they can explain the rules, and Abigail, little Abigail in her polka dot skirt with pink hair bow, walks right up to the birthday girl and pulls her hair.

I'm not justifying the pull - it was mean and inappropriate. But the birthday girl, in true princess form, started screaming and sobbing like pulling the hair set off the fire alarm. I saw the whole thing go down, I instantly yanked Abigail away, made her apologize, apologized myself, smoothed the girl's hair back down, and we slunk away to sit quietly in the circle. Holy shit, people. If you ever want to feel like the tiniest person in the world, just try explaining to the birthday girl's grandparents that your daughter made their precious, special, vulnerable little birthday girl cry. And of course, it's not like I can just explain it once and try to forget it. No, the humiliation continues as the mom, dad, aunt, random other adult, comes over one-at-a-time, everyone clamoring for an answer and no one listening.

"Wait, who's crying?"
I'm sorry, Abigail pulled [her] hair.
"Why is someone crying?"
I'm so sorry, Abigail pulled her hair.
"Oh my gosh, it's the birthday girl!"
I'm really sorry, Abigail pulled her hair.
"Why is the birthday girl crying?!"
I'm really very sorry, Abigail pulled her hair.
"Who made the birthday girl cry?!"

And then there is this awkwardness as everyone tries to transition back to the party. Should I make Abigail sit the game out? I mean, she pulled her hair, she didn't kill her kitten, it's not like we should have to leave the party. Everyone is staring at us, but looking away when I make eye-contact. We all know it wasn't a big deal, but come on, my kid made the birthday girl cry. It's like they wanted some kind of justice on behalf of the little princess who was still wiping away tears and shooting Abigail evil glares.

In the end, I let Abigail play the game - musical chairs, but with snowflakes - and she went out after the first round. Justice served.

6. I found a bottle of hot pink hair dye at Meijer on clearance for $2 (washes out in 2-3 showers), so I bought it because I always wanted to dye my hair hot pink.

And I decided I would dye Abigail's and my hair and I would do it over Thanksgiving. Why? So that when we walked into a party, the biggest thing that made Abigail different from everyone else was her hair color. So there.

Word to the wise? If you wait to dye your hair hot pink and paint your nails black sparkly until there are grandchildren involved, your uber-conservative in-laws can't reject you.

7. I am a huge fan of year-round schooling and I long ago decided that even if our kids go to public or private school, I will be homeschooling them during the summer. We can work on subjects with which they struggled during the year, subjects the school doesn't offer (especially religion classes if they go to public school), and, of course, English lit (because no matter how awesome the books they read, I promise it won't be good enough for this English lit major). I'd love to start with Abigail this summer. Mostly because she loves school and loves learning, but also because it'll give us something to keep us busy during the long summer days. I know it's way early and she's still going to learn a ton by the summer, but I was peaking in the preschool workbooks they sell at bookstores and grocery stores and getting myself all excited. I also envision buying or putting together some sort of religious lessons, at least get her to say or sign "Jesus" and "Church," something along those lines.

I think a little preschool summer school will also be a good way for me to test the waters a bit to see if I think I'm capable of doing Abigail justice if we go the homeschool route for Kindergarten.

Bonus 8. As I'm writing this, I hear Abigail dump a box of crackers in the kitchen. Then I overhear: "Oh no...it's okay. Let it go."

 She's come so far, eating yogurt (her favorite food) so nicely with a spoon.

Epic. Hair.

You can tell this picture is a few weeks old because I don't wear children when I have the flu. 

You can never have too many hair bows when you have two girls with epic hair.

07 December 2014

The Flu

We have the flu. The full-blown flu. I don't really remember ever having the proper flu before, which I am finding to be quite different that the common cold. But this year, despite our flu vaccines, some random strain found its way into our little apartment. My bets are on the preschool.

We have an ad hoc system where Matt gets the blonde and I get the brunette. It has its pros and cons (mine naps more, but his sits quietly and watches movies). Abigail was bad enough last night that Matt had to set up camp on the floor in her bedroom for the duration of the night. Eleanor's flu seems to be much milder, but she still sobs whenever she can't see me. That's one perk of living in a tiny place: she can pretty much always see me. The downside? There is no place to stash the trash everyone is too sick to take out.

And just because when it rains, it pours, I have to have another kidney treatment done, preferably before the holidays. I went in for a follow-up from the initial surgery in October and the doctor found a few fragments left over from the break-up of the first stone. Everything appeared to be cleared out, but the doctor said the tubes must have been hiding the contraband. This time it'll be a non-invasive procedure where they knock me out and then blast me with shockwaves. The nurse said I can expect to be back up and feeling like normal that evening, but online testimonies have me believing I'll be sore and bruised for a day or two. Hopefully this clears them out because I definitely want to be done with my kidneys for a while.

I think jobs should give employees bonus sick time for each additional child they have. Wouldn't that be nice? Matt gets 1/2 day each payday, I think, but I think he should get an additional 1/4 day for each child. At the rate we eat up vacation and sick time, we are never going to be able to take a vacation. If somehow, of course, we randomly had enough money for a vacation on top of the house and the second car we will one day buy.

I have a new camera with over 180 pictures on it, but I do not feel like downloading and trying to sort them all. So, until then, may you never encounter a flu virus not covered by the vaccine.

03 December 2014

Kicking Some Sleepy Tuchus

I love "talking shop" (ie, parenting) with other moms I know. Google searches for "MY BABY DOESN'T NAP!!!!" is a great way to get every single solution humanly possible, none of which you can verify. Sure, maybe MomofThreeCuties got her kids to sleep in three easy steps, but maybe MomofThreeCuties is also from the south side of Detroit and had five kids taken by the state and her relationship with all of them would make a great episode of Dr. Phil. You n-e-v-e-r know - as Dr. Phil would say: "The only thing you know about her is that she has a computer." Anyway, when I get advice from people in my community, I can feel more confident that I'm seeing the bigger picture. Dr. Sears insists that the cry-it-out method damages the mother-baby relationship, but when a mom of two really excellent girls tells me they cried it out and her relationship with the girls is still strong and I've seen the proof, I can safely conclude that Dr. Sears' advice isn't true of 100% of families. Another mom cited an article that claims that sometimes babies cry to relieve stress and I realized that sometimes Eleanor gets grouchy in the carrier in the moments before she looses the battle with sleep, so 2-3 minutes of grouch in the crib is pretty much the same thing. And when another mom offered that she nursed her kids to sleep for every nap for the first few years, I suddenly realized that there is no reason why I can't nurse Eleanor to sleep on the bed when Abigail is off at preschool. I have no idea why I didn't realize it earlier, but for whatever reason, her comment triggered that realization which has reaped incredible naps.

I often wonder: Do I just suck as a parent, or is it really this hard? And the best part of talking shop with other moms? When I hear a resounding, reassuring, "Yes, it really is just that hard!"

 What?! This face? Hard to parent? Nonsense!

So. I want to be specific in saying that we never let Eleanor cry for anything longer than the time it took to go to the bathroom until she was six-months-old (on Nov 10). At that point, I was getting desperate enough that I did a few cry-it-outs, then felt bad, then felt clueless, which led to the last post.

And these few early days of trying new methods: Progress!

I still wear Eleanor in the carrier (a back carry with the Ergo) for her morning nap. That's what I was doing before and it just works really well for us.

The afternoon nap is the one greatly improved by the "nurse to sleep" advice. When Abigail goes off to preschool, Eleanor is ready for her nap, but - I think because she use to refuse to sleep away from me when she was younger - I just nursed her to sleep on the Boppy pillow while sitting on the couch and crocheted. She'd sleep about 30 minutes. But I tried nursing her down on the bed, then tiptoeing away and she's since taken a two-hour long afternoon nap every day! She's such a different kid during the afternoon!

Same pose, new object to chew. Variety is the spice of life.

Bedtime. We were trying to get Eleanor down in her crib to start the night, so that when we snuck in a few hours later, we could score some baby-free Zzzzs, then I'd get her and keep her with us in bed when she got up around 11-1am for her first night feeding. I'd nurse or walk her down, but as soon as I tried to get her in the crib, she'd wake right up. Most nights it was taking me an hour and a half to nail the put-down, which has been so taxing that in the last few weeks, I'd set her down anyway and she'd wail until either she conked out or Matt or I caved and went in to get her (either way leaving me feel guilty).

So after pouring through the advice you guys offered, Matt and I decided that we would give Eleanor five minutes of crying before retrieving her and attempting bedtime again. In these last few days, I have learned that if Eleanor hasn't fallen asleep after 3 minutes, it's not going to happen on it's own. I have also started to learn based on her body language if the put down attempt will be a 30 second wail or if it will be hopeless. But so far there is no great improvement in actually getting her to sleep.

Clearing up the afternoon nap woe has really helped me see bedtime clearer, and I think two things are standing in our way.
- Eleanor is overly-tired by bedtime. She needs an evening cat nap.
- Bedtime is the only time we don't have a regular routine for Eleanor (Abigail does have one).

The cat nap. I've tried nursing Eleanor down and tried 5 minutes of crying it out for a third nap, but she refuses both ways. I'm going to try to wear her in a carrier today to see if it helps. If I could just get 20-30 minutes out of her, it would push bedtime back a bit, she wouldn't fight it so hard, and then maybe she'd stop getting up at 5:30 in the morning.

Also, we need a predictable routine to help prepare Eleanor mentally. I'm super awesome at keeping a routine in the morning and afternoon, but sometime between lunch and dinner, it all falls apart, and then the witching hour hits, and by bedtime it's like, "JUST GET THE KIDS IN PAJAMAS AND IN BED. I NEED TO BE DONE FOR THE DAY." I actually had to write Abigail's bedtime routine down step-by-step and hang it on her door until it became habit. I guess that's what I need to do with Eleanor.

That and start bundling up the kids and take a witching hour walk. Hey, maybe that'll put Eleanor to sleep.

Don't believe a word she says; all I do is sit her cutely with my crazy hairs and play nicely with this ball.