Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Paying it Forward: Liebster Award


Kendra of Catholic All Year, very kindly bestowed upon me the honor of the Liebster Award. And I very graciously decided to follow up on it, only about 5 days after the fact. Oops! How it works: I'm paraphrasing here, but I think the rules are 1. answer the questions 2. tag others as award recipients 3. give them a new batch of questions. 

1. Where do you live? And why do you live there?

Houston, Texas. It's where my husband was living when we met, and where he spent a large chunk of growing up, at least when he wasn't in Oklahoma or Norway. I moved here after we were engaged and I've kind of embraced Texas life (see my blog header). And then go read this article about just how big Texas is. 

2. What are you currently watching and/or reading?



In recent weeks, I have cut way  back on pumping, so my TV time is much more limited. The two times a day, I do pump, if I'm not catching up on blogs, I watch Julia Child's original PBS show "The French Chef." I love how relaxed she is on camera, picking the food to try it, wiping her eyes if they need it, pouring too much vinegar on accident, but then showing you why that's nothing to fret over. She's the best. If you're more into gritty dramas, before I cut back on my TV watching, I was watching "Justified" on Amazon Prime; it's about US Marshall in backwoods Kentucky. For a stay-at-home date night, I've got the Veronica Mars movie ready to go (also via Amazon). 

As for reading, I'll bashfully admit that I bought "Introduction to the Devout Life" after Kendra talked it up so much and am just putting my toe in the water with that one.


3. What kind of Catholic are you: cradle, or convert? (Or considering?)

Cradle

4. Can you point to one moment or experience that made you a practicing Catholic? (Or want to be?)

John Paul II came to my hometown when I was in eighth grade. Seeing him there, and at the Rome and Toronto World Youth Days grounded me in my faith and convinced me how much the strength of the Church relies on the fidelity of each of us. I'll ever forget him calling out in St. Louis's hockey arena "Even though you are young [...] Remember, Christ is calling you; the Church needs you; the Pope believes in you, and he expects great things of you!"

*sidenote* when he came to St. Louis in '99, my mom had a sweatshirt made for my youngest brother, who was two at the time, that said "My Name is John Paul Too" Just a little apparel idea for all those JPII namesakes out there for the canonization.  

Please excuse, the photo of a photo. This picture hangs in my mom's living room. Taken during a general audience in December 2004, this was the last time I saw John Paul II before he passed away.

5. How many pairs of shoes do you own?

If you include the heels I wore at our wedding, that my husband won't let me get rid of, 13. Is that a lot?

6. Are you a good dancer?

Yes, and no. "Dance like no one is watching" dancer?, definitely no. But a dance with a partner, ie. someone leads, someone follows, yes. That talent comes in way less handy.

7. Who usually drives, you or your husband?

My husband

8. What's your favorite holiday and how do you celebrate it?

It's a little off the beaten path and even a little somber in memory (for us), but I love Holy Thursday. Growing up, every Holy Thursday, my parents would take the family out to a fancy restaurant after the evening Mass. You don't make it into to many fancy restaurants when you're 11. Mark and I have kept up the tradition. The day also has added significance for us since in 2011, I miscarried our first baby on Holy Thursday. Keeping that tradition has been our way of remembering him. 

9. Which is correct? Left or right? 

Generally, I'd have to say the photo on the left, but I'm not sure I have a horse in this race anymore. Here's what the toilet paper holder looks like in our hall bath.


That is vertical; so really there is not right answer. Our toilet paper holder is a relativist. 

10. Do you have any scars? 

Um, several: one under my chin when I got stitches in kindergarten, 5 from my surgery this past December, including the reconstruction of my belly button, which is where the video camera went. TMI? Basically, my stomach looks like a number 5 domino. And then a seven inch c-section scar across my lower abdomen to round it all out. 2013 put me through the wringer. At least the two scars from my surgery in 2012 have disappeared, or were absorbed by the c-section incision. 


11. What's the most famous thing you've ever done? 

In high school, I had the lead in the musical two years running. I was Maria in The Sound of Music junior year. And Anna in The King and I, senior year. Apparently, I do a really good governess. 

Sharing the love, I'd like to hear from:

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

1. What apps (aside from the defaults) have earned a coveted space on your homescreen? 
2.  Name the meal for which you always have the ingredients on hand?
3. What movie have you seen the most often?
4. What saint do you pray to the most?
5. Is where you live known for anything? Toasted Ravioli? World's Largest Rocking Chair, that sort of thing.
6. Favorite literary heroine and why? 
7. What was your most endearing childhood trait? 
8. What's on your pizza?

Can't wait to hear back!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Exclusively Pumping: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Our Story
Somewhere between being severely premature and developing a cyst that blocked 99% of Isaac's airway, breastfeeding got lost in the shuffle. We were just barely trying to stand on our wobbly legs when he came home from the NICU, and pinning all our hopes on the promise "it gets so much better by the time they reach their due date."

I rented a baby scale so we could track his progress, but that was very disheartening. 30 minutes of nursing, if we were lucky to even get a latch, amounted to less than an ounce, when our little man was used to putting away around three from a bottle. Suddenly the arduous task of feeding a newborn became that much more difficult, because instead of just bottle/pump we now had try to latch, try to nurse, then supplement with a bottle and after all that I still had my date with the Medela Symphony. And then his latch got even worse, even with a shield, and unbeknownst to us, eating in a reclining position or even trying to, was quickly becoming a traumatic and basically impossible thing for our son. As our pediatric ENT explained it, "Breathing and eating were too hard to do at the same time, so he figured he'd just breathe."

After his surgery, I was once again hopeful but the damage had already been done, and any attempt to encourage a latch ended in tears of frustration for both of us. Not worth it. We'd already invested in the pump rental and established the habits of exclusive pumping so we've kept at that. It's not the ideal and not what I'd have chosen but here we are.



The Pros and Cons
Exclusively pumping, or EPing as they call it in the biz, is a curious mix of the inconveniences of both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. Of course, it also carries with it most of the health benefits of breastfeeding.

When making the case for breastfeeding, advocates will not only mention the vast health benefits, but will also emphasize just how convenient it is. I agree. From where I'm sitting, breastfeeding does look mighty convenient. Pumping isn't free. It isn't really portable, not with a hospital grade breast pump it's not. It comes with tons of accessories that need to be sterilized. It can't be used to quickly soothe a baby, co-sleeping does not mean more sleep for mom, and it doesn't have the same advantages as ecological breastfeeding.

EP-ing even has drawbacks of convenience when compared to formula. Since Isaac was born, I've averaged 3 hours of pumping per day (more in the early days). That means that since he was born I've spent more than a month just pumping. (When I did that math this morning, I didn't know whether to be proud or to cry). Also, it means that each day, I'm tethered to home. No packing up and just going. I need to have a plan to get back home within 3-4 hours max.

Nutrition aside, pumping does have some advantages over formula. Namely, bottles of fresh breast milk are good for at least 6 hours. So no waiting for a bottle heat up with a hangry infant (unless, of course, you are dipping into your thawed freezer stash). Long term it does end up being a little cheaper than formula. Once you've laid out the initial cash of a pump purchase or rental, flanges, valves, membranes, tubing, bottles, nipples, sterilization kits, special bras, breast shields, and probably a deep freezer if your baby's in the NICU, at least you won't be spending more money.

But hands down, the hardest, hardest thing about pumping is that as Isaac gets more alert, he's less likely to not need me when I'm trying to pump. It's really difficult to try and soothe an unhappy baby while you're attached to a machine.

How I make it tolerable:
~Olive Oil-I keep a 4 oz bottle on my pumping table and use it every time. Less sticky than lanolin, allegedly anti-microbial or something like that.
~Pumpin' Pals breast shields-these are angled down unlike the standard issue, it saves your back from constantly leaning forward.
~Medela sterilizing bags-add 2 oz of water, add your pump equipment, microwave for 1:30 and you're all set
~refrigerating pump parts for 24 hours-the theory on this one is, if refrigerated breastmilk keeps in the fridge for at least a week, if you rinse your pumping equipment and refrigerate between uses, it should at least be good for 24 hours. Less cumulative sterilizing, happier mama.

How do I stay sane?
~Extremely supportive husband-who at times might be more invested than I am if we're being totally honest
~Stash of formula in the pantry-haven't used it, but I feel less trapped knowing it's there.

Where I'm at:
~Don't quit on a bad day
~Trying to be grateful for my milk supply, if I stop it will be a decision, not a necessity
~Remembering that if push comes to shove, I am more important to my baby than my milk
~Even though Isaac is only a 6 week old, he has been exposed to my milk since the first day it was available. So when people talk about the benefits of breastfeeding until 6 mos. we're already at 4.5 My goal is to make it to 6 months of pumping and then reevaluate.
Blue Steel


A while ago, I was reading a message board about exclusive pumping. A lady posted saying her milk supply had dwindled, she was switching to formula and wanted to know if there was a preferable formula for former preemies. Every comment included what she was doing wrong, and what she needed to do to get her supply back. Every. Single. One. and none of them answered her actual question which was about formula brands. I'm probably being too defensive, but this is a very difficult subject to talk about.  I'm not looking for advice, just a place to share our story.  And in case you're wondering he's been checked for lip and tongue tie, and we've worked with lactation consultants off and on. If you've read this far, thank you.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

5 Favorites (Vol. 6)

"I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can," said the tired little mama, as she blogged along. Day 3 of 7in7 and the 5 Favorites Link-up. More link-ups within link-ups. Before you know it, I'll be blogging about blogging. So meta.

Sometimes, I forget that we are in survival mode. We've been here for a while and still have a ways to go. I want us to be thriving, and we'll get there, but did I really think I was going to have it all together 2 seconds after moving? When I do remember, I'm much gentler with myself, my husband, and my expectations. Today's favorites are an exercise in reminding myself that. If this were a family dinner and you were to ask me what the best parts of my day were, these would be it.

~1~

The water pressure in our new shower. Seriously, I had forgotten what a non-mineral deposit laden shower head can do.

~2~

Lunch with friends. 3 moms, 3 babies, eating at a bistro that fell out of Restoration Hardware. I almost bailed on this one today, but I'm so glad I didn't. I'm sanguine; I need things like that, and that's ok.

~3~

Real estate agents who bring dinner to your house. Enough fancy Italian food to feed an army. Or at least 5-6 very hungry adults. So I can leave grocery shopping for another day.

~4~
So, his new thing is, if I want him to sleep for more than just a few minutes, some part of my face must be touching his. Well, alright then.
Isaac had his one month follow-up post-surgery, and everything looks great. We'll go back this summer, but no new surgeries on the horizon for us. 

~5~

Mark, the man who works long hours and still sterilizes all the pumping equipment when he comes home. Won't ever go to bed earlier than me, but frequently insists on taking the baby and tucking me in.

P.S. Look up top in your address bar. Did you notice that this here blog is now a .com? And has its very own facebook page. You can even click on the button up top to get there, and tell me how much you "like" it if you catch my drift.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Big Purse Dump

Day 2 of 7 for 7

Nothing like a link-up within a link-up to keep from falling off this precarious bandwagon. Joining Kendra who had the clever idea for "The Big Purse Dump" link-up.

The Bag:
The Michael Kors Large Kempton Tote, a lovely birthday present from my mom. I wanted something that could kind of double as a diaper bag, which is kind of like saying the bridesmaid dresses you picked out could totally be worn again, it's kind of a myth, but this is close enough, and it was on sale. Kismet.

The Goods:

Let's Break It Down Now

Because I'm a Mom:
From the top: 
old man baby sweater, breast milk storage bags, spare baby socks, single diaper, one size too small, disposable nursing pads, diaper cream in both regular and maximum strength (because you can never be too sure), medela breast pump cleaning wipes, bottle nipple in tupperware, lanolin, antibacterial wipes, breast milk, ready-to-use formula (again, because you can never be too sure). 

The overabundance of medela products is because I am, for the most part, exclusively pumping. It's a not very interesting tale you'll hear more about later this week. Lucky you.

Because It's a Purse:
Three writing implements, 3 kinds of lip gloss, Boden wallet, Kate Spade sunglasses, 2 packs of kleenex. If I were single/going out alone, this is all my purse would have in it. True story.

Because I Seldom Clean It Out:
Trash, coupons, empty thing of mints, rewards cards, gift cards both to use and to give because I'm so on top of it, and the thing I'm most excited about, a Fruit Stripes gum wrapper with sports themed zebra tattoos. 

Because I'm Catholic:
Prayer journal of sorts, prayer card, rosaries, one sans crucifix, and a Russian doll that broke off a key chain. Why a Russian doll you ask? A friend brought a bunch back from a trip there (not for the Olympics.) She said its supposed to remind us to pray for Russia. 

????:
Husband's sunglasses, dum-dum from the bank where we got our cashier's check, and a cup for measuring laundry detergent, just in case. 

Not Pictured:
Were I actually to leave the house as I had originally planned today, my purse would have also had a sea turtle wubba-nub, a baby k'tan, and this diaper case that makes it possible for my purse to be a purse (at least for the most part). I use the buckle to clip it to my purse straps or stroller.



And there you have it. Gripping I know. Apologies for the grainiest of photos. But when you consider that they were taken during a 5 minute infant cat nap, and edited with one hand, I think you'll forgive me. Or not care. Whichev.



Monday, February 24, 2014

We Moved

So it seems I only blog when there's a crisis. Or food to be discussed. But who said 2014 can't be different?

We couldn't let the adrenaline of I-was-in-the-hospital-our-son-was-in-the-hospital-I-had-surgery-our-son-had-surgery die down, so in the midst of all that we bought a house, and moved in on Friday. Already, this 700 sq. ft. goldfish has grown into her three bedroom pond. It's a 1950's ranch style, so storage isn't all that abundant, but even then, there is still so! much! space! We can have friends over...we can have friends with kids over! That's true luxury, y'all.

In spite of all my thrill-seeking tendencies, I did have the good sense to realize that perhaps a trip to Ikea, with a baby, on a weekend, just after we moved was maybe not such a good idea. Instead, we rewarded our unpacking efforts with some diy reality TV. Wisdom with age, what can I say?

If you're looking for a rush, however, you could come a take a shower at our place. Something was bound to fall through the cracks with all the moving hoopla, and that something was arranging for the natural gas hook-up. Doesn't get much more pioneer days than boiling water for your Saturday evening bath. Hot showers will be mine after sometime tomorrow.

Isaac, of course, has no idea that we just spent his inheritance on becoming homeowners, or as I like to call it, the landed gentry, and is still reveling in the newborn phase that will never end. At 4.5 months old, he really clocks in at 6 weeks. Basically, since he came home at 36 weeks (which I am NOT complaining about) we got an extra month of newborn-ness. The rest of the country got 6 more weeks of winter; we have 6 more weeks of the fourth trimester coming our way.

Sure, I'll show off my new trick 

Speaking of winter, my backyard(!) has a message of benevolence for all you northerners

Give me your cold and shivering masses

And so, with neither strategy nor realistic plan, I too answer the summons for 7 posts in 7 days sent out by Jen, the Pied Piper of blog linkups. Here goes nothing.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Saga of Isaac Continues

Since last time, our young hero has returned from the hospital, details shortly.

We're far enough in that we can call this a saga, right? After 5 weeks in antepartum, almost 10 weeks in the NICU, just after spending a month at home to end up back at the hospital, that's definitely a saga. Mark's family is part Swedish, and he spent part of his childhood in Norway. I look like I could be Swedish, and probably get my blonde hair from Vikings that pillaged along the North Sea, so a word like saga rings true as a title for the adventures of our little man.



We're home now, and Isaac is mostly back to feeling like himself after his surgery. Yesterday was brutal. They were squeezing us in, and the surgeon had warned us that it would be after 4 pm before Isaac would be in the OR. Luckily, they're nice to babies about the anesthesia rules; I was instructed no breastmilk after noon, clear Pedialyte until 2. Not fun, but totally do-able! But it didn't work out like that, oh no it didn't. As I was giving him a bottle (little man hasn't figured out nursing, so a-pumping I must go) at 9 am, the hospital called.

"Can you come in right away? We can fit Isaac's surgery in much sooner than we thought. He'll need to stop eating right now."

No hospital runs right on time, and I wasn't about to cut him off mid-bottle, so he was probably done around 9:30...and I felt all sneaky clever. Little did we know. My goodness, we are such rookies, foolish, foolish rookies! You want to know what time Isaac's surgery was? FIVE THIRTY PM!!!! Never will we ever agree to "come in early" ever ever ever again. The surgical coordinator was flabbergasted that someone had called us. Too bad I didn't have a name, because he wanted one. And since there was always a chance that the surgery could be in the next hour, he couldn't have anything as each hour crept by without anyone taking us back to pre-op.

Isaac went 8 hours without eating. And he was such a champ. There was a lot of swaddling, and shushing, and swaying, but man oh man, it almost broke my heart how good he was being through it all. Maybe if one of us had screamed more, they would have magically found an OR for us. We'll never know. Around 4 yesterday, I texted my sister in NC to say that I thought a fitting punishment for the cruel (or just thoughtless) person who called us would be for whoever it was to come and hold Isaac right then and there. But then, I decided that wouldn't really be fair to Isaac.

We are not amused



After all the sound and fury that was pre-surgery waiting, the procedure was finished in less than 30 minutes. Mark and I barely had time to (finally) grab something at the food court before the surgeon walked out ready to give us the low down. Holy Goodness, did Isaac ever need this surgery. One giant subglottic cyst that was obstructing 99% of his airway. How was he breathing? How was his oxygen saturation at 100%? How had he not choked on the tiniest bit of mucus or spit-up? We're still dumbfounded at the merciful goodness of God.

Post-op breathing treatment, dino-Isaac
Recovery was rough; the little guy was so disoriented, and hungry, and in pain, and not wanting to swallow so he wouldn't even take the tylenol the nurse tried to give him. .1 cc of morphine sent him off to sleep for another few hours, and when he woke up, he definitely seemed more like the Isaac we know and love.


Spending the night at the hospital was surprisingly smooth. We even got discharged when they said we would. Isaac will go back to the ENT in a month to make sure the cyst hasn't returned. There's a chance he might have to have the same procedure again, but we can't know that yet.

Now, where's that bottle I was promised?


I'm linking this post up at Kendra's miracle link-up, because there are just too many miracles in Isaac's life to pass up:

The slight miracle that is Isaac's existence to begin with
The miracle they caught my Incompetent Cervix and were able to get a cerclage in just in time
The miracle that the cerclage lasted long enough for him to be viable
The miracle that he cried at birth
The miracle that he had no major complications in the NICU
The miracle that there was a cancellation so he saw the ENT three weeks earlier than originally scheduled
The miracle that he was getting enough oxygen and didn't choke when his airway was 99% obstructed
The miracle that he was such a good baby when he must have been starving yesterday

Are you overwhelmed yet? Because I sure am. Isaac, I don't know what God has planned for you, but clearly, he really, really wants you to be here. The adventure of your life will be to find out just what that plan is. For right now, I think that plan is to catch up on all that milk you missed out on yesterday, which you're already doing.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Collecting Specialists: Surgery for Isaac

Just when you thought things might be settling down over here. 

Right around the time Isaac turned full-term, we noticed his breathing was high pitched from time to time. He had a pediatric well-visit scheduled anyway, so I made sure to ask about it.

His (awesome) pediatrician didn't seem too alarmed. He referred us to a pediatric ENT and said it was probably laryngomalacia, which can be common in preemies, and as long as they're gaining weight just means it'll be slightly annoying how wheezy his breathing sounds until he outgrows it at around a year. 

The ENT books up fast and we were looking at an appointment 3 weeks out, but mercifully, they had a cancellation this afternoon. Based on his symptoms, both  the PA and the doctor were pretty sure this was in fact laryngomalacia, and all that was left to do was to scope Isaac's throat to see if the case was mild or severe. Well turns out, it's not laryngomalacia. 

If you google an image of a healthy larynx, you'll see a nice black spot in the middle which indicates a clear path to the wind pipe. Isaac doesn't have a black space. His is blocked by some subglottic cysts. It's suspected the cysts are from that short time he was intubated in the NICU. And so the surgery, that is urgent enough to be tomorrow, but not so urgent as to require a trip to the ER tonight, should take care of it. He'll have the same procedure in 6-8 weeks to make sure the problem is all cleared up. 

Needless to say, we're asking for prayers. Since the surgery is being scheduled so last minute, it won't be until the late afternoon tomorrow. I'm not looking forward off  to cutting off giving him breast milk at noon, and if Isaac knew about it, I don't think he would be either. He'll have an overnight stay of 1-2 days, and his breathing should improve immediately following the procedure. We are all looking forward to that.