Friday, May 23, 2014

Seven Quick Takes (Vol. 18)

~1~

Pardon our dust. If you're reading this on a desktop, I'm really sorry. I was anxious to readjust to some bits of the blog design, and Mark and I were all set to work on them together. His know-how, my opinions, perfect marriage. And then I was at Starbucks, all by myself working on some draft posts, and started looking at the template. Not interesting story short: Drunk on the power of iced coffee, I had a moment of "I wonder what will happen if I press this button" and will be living with the consequences until Mark takes pity on me.

~2~

Isaac and I went and visited my old kindergarten classroom last week. Seeing the kids was great-they haven't changed a bit since September, and yet they have. I definitely spent at least 5 minutes with my eyes darting around the room thinking of all the blood, sweat, toil, tears and masking tape that went into its decoration that I go to enjoy for 3 weeks. At least the teacher next year is keeping the same design. Her summer should be nice and mostly tape free.

~3~
The other day, I left the room and this happened. He's after the network cables, I just know it. Like father, like son, I suppose.
He started out by the bunny

~4~
I made tzatziki sauce for the first time ever. Why hadn't I ever done that before? Perfect summer condiment for everything. I used the Brown Eyed Baker's recipe, except I doubled the garlic. In Kate's much shared cooking post, her only constant mantra (so far!) is when in doubt, triple it...unless it's the Pioneer Woman. The same goes for garlic...when in doubt, double it...unless it's the Pioneer Woman!

~5~

A departure from the light hearted. Could you spare a prayer or two for my mom? She's recovering from having a spinal fusion yesterday to hopefully correct the constant nerve pain she's been having... since her last spinal fusion a year ago. This is the woman who had 11 natural childbirths and 1 emergency c-section, she's been through knee and hip replacements and she doesn't complain. The other day, she said to me on the phone, "I just want to be able to hold my grandchildren and make dinner. I don't think that's too much to ask." Once you get past the fact that that's the most emoting I've ever heard from the woman, you'd have to agree, it's not too much to ask at all. Hopefully, this surgery is the ticket. The surgeon said that it was a success so so far so good.

~6~
We're taking Isaac down to Galveston for the holiday weekend. It'll be his first trip to the beach. I'm looking forward to trading in this youtube video, which moonlights as a noise machine in our house, for the real thing.

We plan on doing a lot of this. (Photo taken from my second blog post of all time)


~7~






He's very excited about the beach. (So am I!)

More Quick Takes here!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Seven Quick Takes (Vol. 17): Memoirs, Scorpions, How to Say Our Name, and Celebrity Resemblances


-1-
We are (still) slowly emptying our storage unit as we move into the new house. Last weekend, we brought over a bookshelf and more books. As I was unloading the bins, I noticed this:

That, right there, pretty much sums up what Mark and I each brought to this relationship.


-2-
I had an epiphany the other day and it was this. I'll bet you read this blog, but if you haven't met us in real life you have no idea how to say our last name! I'm not being presumptuous here, it defies most logic. It may look French, and I'm sure that it is French, but we don't say it like we're French. Are you ready?

buh-ZEEN

Last syllable like magazine. Yup, that's how we say it.


-3-
Springtime here is dying down which is a little bittersweet. Spring is where Texas really outdoes itself, but any allergy sufferer can't help but be relieved when the seasons make the switch to summer because the pollen...goodness the pollen! Everything gets covered in a green film. You can't park your car outside without it changing color. For weeks, our mailbox looked like it was a key piece of evidence in a CSI investigation.

When my nieces were here for Isaac's baptism (which I should probably blog, about, eh?), one of them accidentally sprayed a fire extinguisher on our back porch. Mark hosed it off and the next day it rained. As I drove through our neighborhood, I saw puddles at the end of driveways edged in the same neon green film that was on our porch and started to wonder if everyone had accidentally set off a fire extinguisher. Nope, just pollen. It makes you wonder if maybe the trees were overdoing it just a little, in a teenage boy with a can of Axe sort of way.


-4-
Isaac will be 4 months adjusted on Sunday, and 7 months in actuality a few days after that. People say I'm a mean mom, but I can't help but notice a striking remblance between him and a certain loveable caterpillar.


-5-
He doesn't seem too bothered about it though.



He insists that it's all muscle.




-6-

I've been enjoying the Blog Carnival Posts about moms and social media. I agree with what everyone is saying. BUT! I do need to start using it better. For me personally, that means if I'm to be part of an online community, I should participate in a reciprocal way, i.e. it needs to stop being so much in my imagination.  Right now, it sometimes feels like all these lovely bloggers supply plenty of free content, and then I get to imagine things about them--without ever actually reaching out to the other person. I need to interact more, comment more, not just think up a really nice comment in my head, keep it there, and then imagine the conversation that springs up from it.


-7-
There are lots of people out there with profound thoughts about Jen's book. Something Other Than God was a very enthralling read as evidenced by my Instagram pic and the almost all-nighter I spent reading it cover to cover.  


After finishing it, the main thing I am left wondering about is, why didn't the nice man who sold them his house tell them about the scorpions??? I know, I know, it's Austin, they're everywhere, but remember when Jen had the exterminator out? Yeah, it sounds like they're dealing with more of a situation like their house is built on top of the Scorpionmother's Lair than just your typical geographical scorpion situation. Call me crazy, but I feel like that maybe should have come up in the seller's disclosure.

For more takes of the quick, go see Jen.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

5 Favorites: Ways to Help You (or a Friend) Survive the NICU



I'm always the person who can't think of a way to help someone without being pushy or awkward until well after the need for help passes. Surely I can't be the only one, so I thought I'd share some of the things that were most helpful during my stint as a NICU mom. Some of them are things you can do to help out and some of them are recommendations that might be helpful if you or a friend find themselves in a similar situation.

~1~
Meals

Let's get the obvious out of the way first, shall we? Meals are the go to for any crisis really. Know someone having a rough go, bring them a dinner. Toddler having a meltdown to end all meltdowns? Chances are a cookie will fix it...unless of course the meltdown was due to a cookie related request.

With a baby to be with in the hospital, I couldn't guarantee if or when I'd be home when people dropped off meals. And even if I was home, chances are, I'd be pumping and unable to answer the door. A cooler by the back door solved that problem. As much as I would have liked to thank the meal-givers face to face, I really appreciated that they understood our circumstances.

The other very helpful meals were a collection of gift cards. The lovely folks at Mark's work gave us a basket filled with restaurant gift cards. They did their homework and all the gift cards were to places either very close to the hospital, or on our way there. They also gave us a nice variety of gift cards some were for grab n go eateries, and others were to more leisurely restaurants so we could mix it up.

It was such a relief that the details of what's for dinner never kept us from spending more time with Isaac.

~2~
Primary Nurses

You're going to want these. A primary nurse is a nurse who basically adopts your family. Every time they have a shift, they will be the nurse to take care of your baby. They'll also hand pick the nurse who takes over you baby's care once their shift ends (unless his other primary will be working that shift) Is there a nurse that clicks with you and has taken a particular shine to your baby? That's who you ask to primary.
Isaac and one of his primary nurses

Neonatology is a highly specialized field, and particularly in larger metropolitan areas it's not always the case that your baby will have the same neonatologist for the entire duration of their hospital stay. For us, Isaac had a new neonatologist every two weeks--at the larger children's hospital in town the turnover is even more often than that. Some of the most frustrating times for us would be when a setback in Isaac's progress would coincide with a new doctor taking over his care. A primary nurse will be a constant for your baby and will guarantee consistency in his care, especially when his latest doctor hasn't gotten to know him yet. Having a primary nurse gives you a peace of mind in those moments when you can't be in the NICU because you know they will be a fierce advocate for your baby. They are your biggest cheerleaders in the NICU, their excitement at each milestone your baby reaches will be second only to yours. It's a relationship that you'll cherish even after you go home. Isaac's primary nurses are like honorary aunts and we still keep in touch.

~3~
My Preemie

There are lots of preemie apps out there, and this one isn't free but it's our favorite. There's a section to record your baby's daily weight and weekly length. It has a glossary of terms with a handy *ask my nurse* feature where you can add anything you have a question about to a growing list the app saves for you. Best of all there is a journaling section. Mark was our primary scribe and I love having a day by day account of the tiny triumphs and setbacks that made up those 10 weeks. And when all is said and done, you can turn your journal into a pdf so it's not stuck on your phone forever. Our nurses thought the app was so cool they recommended it to other NICU families; that's high praise.

~4~
Parking and Transportation

This is a many faceted one.

Isaac was born via c-section, lots of preemies are, and while my doctor finagled 4 days instead of 3 at the hospital for me, Mark still had to go back to work before I was ready to drive. Enter my mom, who flew in the day before Mark returned to work and chauffeured me around until I had healed well enough to manage on my own. Not every mom is able to save the day like that, so maybe you, kind friend, could offer rides to the hospital.

And then there's parking. The parking situations at every hospital, varied though they may be, have one thing in common: they aren't free. We were at a smaller hospital, so luckily it wasn't as exorbitant as it could have been. There was reasonably priced street parking right next to the hospital with lengthy time limits. Houston has adopted an online parking meter system, so all we needed was a Park Mobile app and I was able to park for less than $2 a day. But had we been in the monstrously sized children's hospital in the medical center, we could easily have racked up $30+ a day. Rides would be extremely helpful in that situation, or, some hospitals use pre-paid tokens, that would be a much appreciated gift you could pick up for a friend who is making multiple hospital trips in a day.

~5~
When in doubt, be specific

How many times have things been crashing down around you, say around 5 pm, as dinner burns, the dog yowls, the children scream and your husband wants to know what he can do to help? Offers of "let me know if there's anything I can do..." while genuine and heartfelt are a little bit like this. There are a million things that would help, if only you could collect your thoughts for a tiny bit and actually communicate what would be helpful to another human being. "Can I pick up your dry cleaning?" "Give me your grocery list" things like that are very much appreciated. I think we hesitate about getting too specific in our offers of help because we want our help to be perfectly suited to the tastes of the other person. Trust me. No one's going to complain if the shirts have too much starch or milk is the wrong brand, they'll just be grateful at what loving and thoughtful friends they have.

*there are far more exhaustive lists in the vast expanse of the internet and I didn't even touch on the ways you can help if there are other children at home!

Go visit Hallie for more favorites. But before that let's marvel at the change in Isaac one more time, shall we?

The Cheeks!






























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.