Friday, December 28, 2012

The Infant Sleep Industry

As I've said before, the six-month-old little boy isn't sleeping through the night yet. We had his 6m pediatrician appointment yesterday and were told he's 15.6 lbs (20%ile) and 27 inches (90%ile). I asked if maybe he was waking up because he has a fast metabolism and is waking up because he is truly hungry. The doctor immediately said, "No." You'd think she would at least consider the possibility, but whatever.

Over the past six months we've tried everything we could think of to get him to sleep. It's amazing how much stuff there is out there to "help your infant sleep well." Sound machines with projected images, swaddles, Dream Lights...check out the infant aisles at your local stores and you'll find a ton of stuff offering better sleep. I'll wander these stores and see soon to be parents registering for them all and I will stop and say, "You know what? Your kid may not take a paci. They may hate the swaddle. Don't get this stuff until you know it works. Ask for a gift card instead."

You want to register for something helpful? Get a glider/rocking chair (with a foot stool). It's been the most useful thing for both of our kids in terms of relaxing and feeding. Better yet, find a used one from family or Craigslist (clean of course). Don't buy into the infant sleep industry unless you truly need to and you know your kid will use it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Chris!

I woke up this morning to Silas, age 2, telling me, "Happy Chris Mama!" So to all our friends and family in blog land, "Happy Chris!"

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Why so serious?"

For a few days now I've been posting on Facebook about things that make me #happy (yes, with the Tweety hashtag, and no they're not Tweets). A couple of regular viewers to the FB page have asked why. Not that they're wanting me to be #unhappy, but why now, why this?

Well let me share just a small glimpse into The House. My work hadn't been taking out the correct amount for insurance (both dental and health) and they caught it in September. Two years later. So I owed them almost 4K. But they'd take it out every pay period and before taxes so it wouldn't be a financial burden. Well taking half of my check every two weeks, every pay period...yeah that's going to be a burden. So Daddy and I eat what we can and the kids eat what they need and it's still a financial burden.

Cue illness. I lost my voice and was out of work for almost three weeks (can't teach with no voice). Dr.s appointments and a specialist and vocal therapy later and I'm diagnosed with muscular tension dysphonia. Basically I put too much stress (both physical and muscular) on my voice, so it peaced out. HR (how I love them right about then) wants me to take FERPA but doesn't explain it well so I'm not sure what all is going on. And I can't talk. I can't read to Silas or sing with him (he started singing the ABCs, it's awesome). And all the doctors visits put more financial strain on us. Fun.

Did I mention that the six-month-old doesn't sleep through the night? He wakes up around one and sometimes goes back to sleep and sometimes is ready to party until 4 or 5 a.m. The pediatrician tells us to get some earplugs and let him cry it out. I offer to ship him to her house and let her do that.

Then it's Christmas. My Mom's asking for pictures of our tree. We don't have a freaking tree because we can't afford one. A friend of mine from college graciously sends us one, which was so sweet it made me cry.

I go to the dermatologist to deal with some super itchy skin and he tells me it could be a fungal infection or it could be t-cell lymphoma. The fun just keeps coming.

So every day I remid myself of what I am #happy for. Some days it's a struggle because really, most times I want to curl in a ball and cry (and sleep). But I remind myself that I'm here, I'm alive, my voice is coming back slowly but surely, and I have an amazing husband and two sweet, healthy, and gorgeous boys.

If you see the FB posts about being #happy, just know that every day I'm reminding myself of what is amazing in my life.
Monday, August 27, 2012

What Should I Be When I Grow Up?

Please welcome fellow blogger Doyin from Daddy Doin' Work, one of my favorite blogs to read (and one of my favorite "daddy blogs" - a very special distinction). As we were talking on the blog's Facebook community about kids and sports and activities, he's written about his experiences and his daughter. I really appreciated his contribution and I hope you enjoy reading this. If you do, you should check out his blog and Facebook community.
Hi All! I’m honored that Liz asked me to guest post on her blog. To provide a little background, I’m the author of the daddy blog Daddy Doin’ Work and I’m the proud papa to a beautiful 18-month old baby girl. She’s a little young to give me any clues as to what activities she’ll be interested in as she grows older, but I already know how I plan to manage those interests once the time comes.
First, let me share a quick story. When I was growing up, there was an older kid (let's call him "Mike") who was good at baseball - really good. The only thing in question was how he became so good (no, I’m not implying that he used steroids). Every day after school, his dad would make him practice hitting, fielding, throwing, etc. until the kid damn near passed out. Sure, Mike was the star of his baseball teams as he grew up - but once he made it to High School, he lost all of his passion for the game and he quit on the spot. By his dad immersing his son in baseball 24/7, Mike's grades suffered, he lacked balance, and he became extremely bitter and angry. I’m not sure what he’s up to today, but I’ve heard that he and his father have not spoken in years.
All due to respect to Nike, but I don't want my kid to "be like Mike." Don't get me wrong here, this cautionary tale isn't something that happens often - it's just something that I'll do everything in my power to prevent against. As the days progress, I think about what activities my baby girl will be interested in and the guidelines that I’ll follow to ensure she does so happily. Here's my short list.

Never Push, Only Guide: Selfishly speaking, I want my daughter to play sports because I personally don't think there's anything out there that better teaches children how to work together to achieve a common goal, deal with adversity, and win graciously than athletics. However, I'm not going to be that dad who makes his kid sleep with a basketball every night in hopes that she'll compete in the 2032 Olympics. My goal is to simply present her with the available options and let her choose accordingly. If my daughter chooses to go to Math Camp instead of Soccer Camp, that's totally cool with me too - as long as she's happy. Additionally, it's important that she makes these choices at her own pace. If I push her to do something too quickly, she could very easily burn out and become resentful like Mike did. 

Don't Quit: When my parents signed me up for something that I wanted to try (swimming lessons, piano lessons, basketball, baseball, etc.), they did so on one condition: I could not quit. Don't get me wrong, if the activity compromised my health and/or welfare - they would pull me out of it in a heartbeat. What they wouldn't tolerate is if I wanted to quit due to not liking my teacher, coach, or teammates. They knew that in life, I would have bosses and co-workers that I couldn't stand - and I'd have to "man up" and deal with them. No matter what activities my daughter chooses to participate in, the "Don't Quit" rule will be in full effect.

Add Value: Raising a knucklehead who sits on the street corner after school will absolutely not happen on my watch. The main thing I want for my daughter is to add value to her friends, family, and community with her activities. If she excels academically, I would love to see her tutor other children. If she’s active in the community, I'd love to see her clean up area beaches on a weekend. If she's a leader, I’d love to see her run for student council. Quite frankly, this world needs more people in it who choose to add value, and I hope that she figures this out on her own.

I know that my daughter is only 18-months old and she's not showing any signs of doing anything other than saying, "No!" to everything. However, her health and happiness are by far the most important things to me and I’ll do whatever it takes to get her there at her own pace.

But first, I’m going to teach her how to hit a curve ball (literally and figuratively).

Doyin shares his unique and hilarious adventures as a loving new dad on his blog, on Twitter at @daddydoinwork, and Facebook.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Nanny Olympics – a.k.a. So You Want to Be a Nanny

         Since Sage was born, I’ve realized that it’s difficult for me to get anything house-related (or work-related) done at home while both boys are awake, even if my husband is home. I decided that we would try to find someone to bring into the house once a week on Saturdays to help with wrangling the boys so Mike and I could get some things (such as cleaning) done. Once Mike starts teaching again in September, it will be super helpful to have someone here with me so that I don’t lose my sanity. We also wanted to find someone to watch the boys so that we could go out with our friends – previous to this, the only people who have watched the kids were our friends. And you can’t exactly hang out with them if they’re, you know, watching your kids.
Watch that baby. It's sleeeeping. Upside down.
         I posted an ad on (and am in no way endorsing that site through this post, but that’s the site I used) and received over twenty emails from potential caregivers in two days. I have to say I was a little overwhelmed by that, but I figured out pretty quickly who to email “No thank you” and who to set up an interview with, and I thought I did a pretty good job (giving myself a pat on the back). After viewing their application emails and profiles, I emailed five women to set up interviews.
         If you follow the blog on Facebook, you’ll know that we had our first interview two Saturdays ago and I joked with the folks in the online community that we were having the Nanny Olympics at our house and the first interview was the prequalifying stage. The first woman I asked for an interview was actually the first person to respond to our ad, and she did so within five minutes of me posting it. In my ad I had purposefully put in some jokes (OK, what I thought was funny) and in her email she responded to the jokes with jokes. She had a professional photo and her descriptions of her experience seemed accurate (as opposed to blown out of proportion). She seemed down to earth so I was excited to meet her.
I sometimes wake up cranky. No I'm serious.
She showed up for her hour-long interview wearing a long-sleeve cardigan, which, since we live in Texas is kind of odd. I answered the door in a tank top and she could see my tattoos. She came in and saw Mike had a lot of tattoos as well, and you could see her visibly relax. “My Mom told me I needed to wear a sweater or I wouldn’t get the job,” she tells us as she’s taking off her cardigan and revealing two full arms of tattoos. Right off I had good feelings about her. But then I left her and Silas to hang out and puttered around (a.k.a. eavesdropping). Mind you, Silas had just woken up from a nap “hard” (meaning he was a crank ASS) so I figured this was a great challenge to assess her. She matched him toy for toy, game for game, talked to him, sat with him, played with him (not around him) – it was awesome. I was super pleased. After her Silas time she and I talked about her experiences and how often she wanted to work. She told us she was 14 weeks pregnant which made me sad (because she’ll probably leave sooner rather than later and not nanny anymore) but also excited because I knew that her experience at our house could help her feel more comfortable as a first time mother when her child arrived. So Candidate #1 was in and hired. Now I needed to find two or so “backup” babysitters in case she wasn’t available (and hopefully to take over once she had her kidget).
My response to some of these candidates.
         I looked through all of the other potential folks and developed some criteria – they had to have checked that they’d do light housework, have their own vehicle, have references available, and they had to have experience with little littles like Sage (9 weeks). Infant CPR and first aid certs and Spanish speaking made a candidate that much more attractive but weren’t deal breakers. Now I’m not a mean House Manager, I don’t want someone to come in and clean my house AND maintain my children’s safety. I want someone who’s going to clean up after themselves, put dishes from lunch in the dishwasher, and wipe down the kitchen table. I’m not asking for them to clean my carpets, you know? So any candidate who emailed me whose profile didn’t say they’d do light housework got the boot. No transportation means you can’t possibly pick the boys up from school in a pinch. Das boot. I can’t ask others about your previous work? No thank you. And you don’t know that an infant needs their neck supported until they can hold it up on their own? I’m not teaching you that.
         I set up four interviews over the next two weeks with potential childcare providers via email. I gave them my cell number and a date/time, and asked them to call or text me to let me know if that time worked for them (assessing conscientiousness I was). One called, two texted (I have no preference for either call or text honestly), and one didn’t respond at all. The one who called left a voicemail, so I called her back and left her a voicemail, and then she butt dialed me twice and never called to apologize (or to talk to me). So we were down to two prequalifier candidates, and they both were scheduled for Sunday (August 19). The first one (11 a.m.) showed up at 11:15 because she got lost because there’s construction on my street (which I had told her about previously and suggested she arrive early because of). The second one (4 p.m.) nsnc’d (no show no call). Wow. Really folks?
         Having been a nanny in graduate school, I would like to share some secrets (hopefully they’re not so secret honestly) about how to get hired as a nanny. The first question people may have is “what’s the difference between a babysitter and a nanny?” Well, here’s how I think of it – a babysitter makes sure your kids are safe for the time that you are out of the house, while a nanny may be asked to serve “in the place of the parent” by, say, dropping off/picking up from school, assisting with homework, preparing meals, cleaning, doing laundry, and of course entertaining children and making sure they’re safe. Usually there’s a pay difference too – if I hire a babysitter for the night who’s going to sit and watch TV after Silas goes to bed (and Sage sleeps through their entire visit), I’m less inclined to pay them a higher rate. We pay $8/hour for mother’s helper (I’m here, you’re just playing with Silas) and $10/hour for “you’re in charge” childcare by the way (and I put that in my ad). If the woman we hired is asked to do nanny-type tasks (grocery shop, pick up the boys from school) then I will pay her a higher rate per hour for the time it takes to do that, especially if she’s grocery shopping with two kids in tow (that will be $45 per hour please…).
I expect you to like our dogs. No, for serious.
         Many House Managers (i.e., the person who’s hiring you to do the childcare, usually Mom) will tell you what they want you to do (and if you’re a babysitter or a nanny), but if they don’t, it’s important to ask about expectations when you go to an interview. If you’re responding to an ad online, be sure to read the ad fully and see if you feel like you fit with what the House Manager wants. Don’t just respond to every ad asking for childcare. When you respond to the ad, write professionally – use proper capitalization, spelling, and grammar. If I see one more email with textspeak I swear to someone I’m going to hit a nanny. If the writer of the ad uses jokes, then joke back, but if they don’t then simply highlight the skills you have that they stated they were looking for. If you’re responding via phone, again, be professional. Make sure your voicemail sounds…professional. “You know what to do heeheehee” is not professional.
         In all of your interactions with families make sure to represent yourself accurately. Don’t tell Mom you have experience with infant care when in reality you held a baby at a party once. If someone says they have experience, then I expect them to know their shit and feel comfortable handling, diapering, and feeding an infant. Parents will have their own little quirky “ways of doing things” and they’ll know their kids best, but make sure you don’t lie about your experiences. Get to know what the parents want/like by observing them and asking questions (but more so by observing them – I think a lot of times if potential nannies ask too many small specific questions that they’re not confident in their own abilities and that’s a big no thank you – babies and parents are like dogs, they can smell fear).
         Make sure you have your listening ears on (sorry, I’m a toddler parent) when interacting with parents – if I say “No TV,” I’m not kidding, I’m not joking, and this is MY kid. Now of course, I don’t say this because Silas loves him some Thomas and Friends, but parents are asking you to act as them for a time (and paying you to do so). The least you could do is follow their rules. Now I’ve seen the Beverly Hills Nannies show (OK I’ve watched a few previews) and some people are, like, whoa crazy parents. If you see that at an interview, run and hide (unless you’re just in it for the money – then stay there because I don’t want you at my house). Crazy families will find someone crazy to take care of their kids – crazy attracts crazy, no worries. But I’ve seen some of those parents and you don’t want to work with them.
Silas say, "If you can't have fun, don't come to my house."
         And that’s the thing – that’s what you’re doing – you’re WORKING. Be professional. Be punctual. Focus on your work (i.e., the children), not your phone and Facebook. Have fun with kids. Sit on the floor and play. Sing. Dance. Make up silly stories. If you feel uncomfortable doing these things with kids, I’m pretty sure that childcare is not for you. Little people are amazingly creative and fun – if you can’t enjoy that and let your adult guard down to do some HotWheels cars in the dirt play, then being a nanny is not in the cards for you my friend.

Have you looked for a childcare provider/nanny? What did you find? I want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Sunday, August 12, 2012

Week In Review at The House

            Every week at The House there’s random shit that happens that just makes me (or Mike) laugh. Sometimes we laugh because we’re sleep deprived (and it’s really not that funny) but sometimes it’s just too hard not to laugh at the stupid stuff we do.
Big Boy Bed
Sleeping in the big boy bed, hope he doesn't fall off...
            Last Saturday Mike and Uncle Steven (Mike’s best friend) picked up a toddler bed for Silas (28 months). I found a good deal on it on Craigslist so we bought it after much debate (toddler vs. straight to twin bed). Being me, I worried that Silas would get out of bed every night (or worse [funnier], fall out of bed). When Mike and Steven brought it home, Silas and I went out to help them bring it in because I wanted Silas to be part of the transition from the get go. He went out to the truck and grabbed a side of the bed and “helped” them bring the bed into the house; he even went and opened the door to get it in the house when Steven asked him to. Big Helper, awesome! We put the bed in his room next to the crib, made the bed, and a few hours later it was nap time. He excitedly got up on his little bed to nap, and an hour later he emerged from his room (opening his own door). Rut-roh. If he can do that now, I thought, he can do that tonight or early tomorrow morning.
            We took the crib out of his room and moved the big boy bed to its spot, facing the same way. Mike and I made a big deal that night of him being a Big Boy and reminding him to stay in bed at night. He complied. The next morning? He was a ninja – he got out of bed and out of his room without me even waking up (and I’m a light sleeper – noises from the monitor always wake me up). I found him at 7:45 a.m. playing with trains and attempting to watch Thomas on the DVD player (which is also Mike’s Xbox – imagine the chaos if that were to have broken…hey wait, maybe that’s not a bad idea…hey Silas, come here…).
            He’s only fallen out twice so far. The second night I hear crying around 2:30 a.m. over the monitor and I go in to check on him. He’s sitting up, eyes closed, crying, “Momma…momma…” “What’s up buddy?” I ask. He grabs his blankets as if to come with me, and rolls headfirst off his bed onto the floor. Completely asleep. I pick him up and he’s still asleep. I lay him back down and cover him up, and that’s the end of that. But try not laughing at your asleep kid falling off his bed (it’s only a foot off the ground people, I’m not that horrible of a person). The second time he literally fell out in his sleep. He was asleep horizontally on the bed when I went to bed, but then an hour later there was a thump and some crying – tuck and roll buddy.
Ask and Ye Shall Receive
My concrete thinker
            I have a bad habit of asking Silas questions that are really more theoretical than concrete and he, being, you know, TWO, takes them literally. Like the time I was trying to potty train him with Cheerios and I tossed a Cheerio into the toilet and told him to “Get it.” I meant pee on it. But he looked at me like I was crayzay, and when I told him to go ahead he reached into the toilet water and scooped out the Cheerio. Oh. I. Oh. Well. Nevermind. I was banned from Cheerio-ing. Today Silas was blowing raspberries at Steven and it sounded like it was getting out of hand so I called Silas to me. “Hey, what were you doing?” I asked him. Mike cringed. Silas blew a raspberry at me – glasses covered in spit. I had that coming. Hey Liz, remember how you tell your students that toddlers take everything literally and don’t understand insinuation or sarcasm or humor a lot of times? Yeah.
Two For the Price of Poo?
            A few months ago I was on the phone with my BFF, Missy, who has two daughters, ages almost 3 and 1. She told me she had to get off the phone because they had synchronized pooping and I just thought that was funny. “Just you wait, your boys will do it too. One poops and the other does and you have to deal with two diapers.” Well tonight Silas was “asleep” (i.e., futzing around in his room) and the Internet alarm went off, meaning he had pushed the button on the box. I went in his room and it stank to high holy hell. I asked if he pooped and he denied it. Mike came in and we turned on the light and changed his dipe. Mike went back to the living room, I cleaned the diaper and put it in the wet bag, and then I went back to say goodnight (again) to Silas. Sage started crying in the living room.
Sage not currently screaming.
Silas: Baby!
Me: Yes, Sage is crying.
Silas: Oh no!
Mike (in the living room): Oh god!
Me: I have to go.
Silas: Why?
Me: Your brother just pooped too. And apparently it’s a big mess.
Missy wasn’t lying. What the hell boys? Really?
            We’re also trying out the potty learning bit around here. Lots of naked buns time and random accidents. Asking Silas to use the potty is turning into a crying fight, so I’ve decided that he’ll be naked and I’ll remind him that the potty is there to pee in and we’ll see how it goes. Dino tattoos seem to be helping along in the process. Silas’ right arm is covered so far (with dinos in various stages of decay).
Did I Mention I’m Tired?
Sage and Momma
            Sage hasn’t been sleeping well at night, and you know us adults, we prefer to sleep at night, so I’m getting maybe 4 hours tops every night for the past three days. I’m tired. I’m cranky. Have you seen that “unnecessary censoring” of Sesame Street? The one where Elmo says “*&^% you baby!” Yeah, I feel like that some nights. Tonight I wanted a glass of wine and I couldn’t find my one wine glass (we have somehow broken the other three, no ideas). It wasn’t in the glasses cabinet. I asked Mike if he knew where it was, and I could hear the whine in my voice.
Mike: Did you look in the dishwasher?
Me: No. *Whine*
Mike: Well…why not?
Me: Because I just want to whine about the fact that I can’t find it for a minute. I’m sure it’s in there.
Steven: [to Mike] That’s why I love your wife – she’ll actually admit when she’s whining and that it’s for no reason.

I’m really ready to go back to work. I’m not a house wife or SAHM by any means, and I am well aware of that fact. I have the utmost respect for Mommas and Daddys who work at home – but I just could not do it all day every day. I need sleep, wine, adult interaction, and a night nanny and everything will be back to “normal.” I have a sneaking suspicion that my idea of “normal” is never to be again. But there will be a new normal I suppose.

            Honey, can you stop reading over my shoulder while I type? If you want to write for the blog go write your own damned post. Love you.

Thanks for reading! If you’re not already following us on Facebook, make sure to do so since there’s a lot more random funnies that get posted to the page every week.
Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Newborn Mom’s Manifesto

            Recently I was on a mom’s discussion board and a good friend who has a seven-week-old apologized for not shipping some stuff to other friends because she didn’t have time in the day. Everyone responded that she didn’t need to worry about it because they understood that she was busy and tired. Parents understand; I’m not sure that non-parents would get how hard day-to-day stuff can be.
Liz, Sage, and Silas
            If you’re a new reader to the blog, let me tell you a little about myself. I’m a 35-year-old psychology professor, doctoral student writing my dissertation, wife to Mike (who is also a student and works 19 hours per week), and Mom to Silas (27 months or 2 years and change as I say) and Sage (6 weeks old and born early at 35 weeks). During the regular academic year I teach six classes per semester (three face-to-face and three online), but during the summer I usually teach two online classes only from home, making me a 1/3 of the year stay at home mom. We’re usually a very “green” household and try to grow our own vegetables as much as possible. We cloth diaper (CD) both of our kidgets, so between the four of us and CD washing there’s daily laundry. With two dogs there’s a lot of vacuuming as well. And the dishes and cooking and the bottle washing…well you get it. Add in the sleep deprivation from having a newborn and it makes for some long days with the possibility of cranky people being cranky on each other.
            As I’ve read other bloggers’ posts on different things this week I started to think of a list of things that others (non-newborn parents) should understand about the newb household (ours especially). If you’re a parent, this list should look pretty familiar and probably will make you laugh as you think back about your experiences. If you’re not a parent (or not a parent yet), use this to understand exactly what’s going on with those friends that have newborns and you think have dropped off the face of the earth.

Sage sleeps...shhhh.
·      * Sleep is a fleeting visitor to my home (at least for me, sometimes for my husband, but thankfully not for Silas who sleeps through Sage’s hunger crying every night). We go to bed between 11:30 and 12 a.m. every night because Sage eats around 11:15 p.m. Some nights he sleeps until 4 a.m. before he wakes up for food again, but sometimes it’s 3 or earlier. Depending on what time he eats, he could wake up again around 6 or 7 for more food, and then he falls back asleep. Sage sleeps a lot right now, which is very helpful when you’re trying to coordinate two children’s schedules in the morning, but his schedule means that I’m getting two stretches of 3-4 hours of sleep per night (and most nights less than that). Sleep deprivation creeps up on you and eventually you sit on the couch feeding a child and wonder how you got there. Like literally, how you got on the couch with the child. Because your brain is so overwhelmed it stops making new memories.

·      * Sleep deprivation causes people to say some messed up stuff. So if I’m talking to you and there’s a long pause, it’s because I lost my train of thought and I’m trying to find it again. If I say something that sounds offensive, believe me, it’s not intended to be. The filter in the frontal lobe that says, “That sounds rude” is one of the first things to stop working when sleep deprivation sets in. Just ignore me.

·      * Days of the week are arbitrary really. I go on Facebook or get texts from friends and see “I can’t wait for the weekend!” and I’m thinking, “Wait, what day is it?” The only way I know what day it is is if a) I have an appointment that day (according to my iPhone calendar) or if b) Silas is home (and not at daycare). So calling me and asking me if I want to meet for XYZ on Tuesday doesn’t work. Say something like, “Two days from now” but also make sure I put it on my calendar. Otherwise I probably won’t show up.

·      * And if I do show up, I’m going to be late. Deal with it. I try not to be, so hopefully I won’t be too late, but you try coordinating dogs, babies, diaperbags, car seats, trains (Silas has to bring at least 4 with him wherever he goes), blankets, milk/formula to go, snacks (for Silas and for me), and you’ll see why I’m late. Even if I get to go somewhere by myself, like an outing to the grocery store, I’m still going to be late. Our Pediatrician’s office tells new parents that their first appointment is actually 30 minutes earlier than it actually is because they know you’re going to be late. I wish the rest of the world got that.

Showered and out in public! No way!
·      * One of the reasons I’m late is because I showered – you should be thankful for that. Showering at my house is not a daily occurrence (unless you’re my husband or Silas). I usually shower if I have to (I’m going out or someone’s coming over). Otherwise it may or may not happen. I do always put on deodorant though. That’s a plus. Unless I forget to because I’m overtired.

·      * Sure, you can come visit. There’s not ever really a “good time” (except 7-8:30 p.m. is bath/bed time so that’s a bad time). Bring ready to eat food if you want to eat because I don’t cook. And if you’re competent and enjoy babies, I may just ask you to watch Sage while I go take a shower or hand you a bottle to feed our Littlest Monkey. And be careful what you say around us. Mike and I have decided to never say no to some nutbag (I mean loving friend) who says, “I’ll watch the boys so you guys can…” We’re liable to run out of the house before you finish that statement. Am I joking? Mmm slightly.

·      * While you’re visiting, know that everyone here uses the rest room with the door open. If I don’t leave it open, there will be a toddler at the door, banging, crying “Momma! MOMMA!” until you pull your hair out, scream “I will be RIGHT OUT!,” or simply open the door for him. We’ve opted to just leave it open. Circumvents the whole process.

·     *  I miss adult human interaction and news from the outside world. You can only interact with a child whose favorite word is “No” (and recently, “No, now”) for so long before you feel the loss of IQ points. Even getting mail from people (as opposed to bills and junk) and email from friends (even if I don’t respond right away) make my day. It reminds me that there are other humans in the world who have a larger vocabulary than “Car gone! Thomas! Choo choo!”

Disaster creator at rest
·      * My house is a disaster (in my mind). We keep expectations real low around here (and we’re never disappointed!). There are Hot Wheels cars everywhere, baby contraptions (bouncer, swing, tummy time mat) all over the living room, and trains dribbled from the boys’ room to their bathroom to the playroom. There’s mud spots on my black couch along with Sharpie stains (black thankfully). Toddler activities are not always what we think they should be. And I don’t always have the energy or wherewithal to deal with them.

·    *   As far as eating goes, we try to cook. We really do. But I can’t help it if the Chinese food delivery guy knows Silas by his first name and Silas hugs him when he leaves. Don’t judge. At least we’re eating.

·      * And when we do eat, we use paper plates and sometimes even plastic eating utensils. The least number of dishes to wash, the better. But there are always sippy cups that need to be washed. I have been known to run the dishwasher full of sippy cups on the top shelf and some silverware on the bottom shelf. Having a newborn has definitely cut down on our environmentally friendliness.

·    *   I would love to hire a cleaning service. But I look around and think, “Would I need to pick up before they come over?” and that deters me from calling anyone. So I run the vacuum around and call it done. That little Dust Buster is my bestest friend when it comes to cleaning the tile floors.

·      * I have lots of stuff I intend to do. Like my friend that I started this post about, I have stuff I could ship to friends and thank you cards to write. But I have to say, if my options are “take a nap or…,” take a nap always wins.

·      * Grocery shopping for the week is a thing of the past until Sage can sit in the cart. If you don’t know why, take an infant car seat. Put it in the cart at the grocery store. See how much space you have left. It’s about enough for three days’ worth of groceries (maybe). Once he gets a little bigger I’ll be able to use my Beco or Ergo carrier with him so we won’t need the car seat in the store, but until then we shop on an as needed basis. As in, “Mike, we need milk for Silas and formula for Sage. Pick those up on your way home.”

·    *   I feel as if I wash cloth diapers every day. But that’s not true. I wash them on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, but then I fold them on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Mondays, so there’s really only one day that I’m not doing something with diapers for the boys (besides putting them on them). And on Saturdays I catch up on clothing laundry and feel like I cannot catch a laundry break.

Blissful rest
Ah peace.
·     *  I have no life outside of this house pretty much. So don’t get offended if I don’t call you back right away or answer your texts. You may read this and think, “God, I’m never having kids,” and that would be a mistake. Regardless of how overwhelmed and tired I feel, these two little boys are my loves and my world. But like everyone, a short vacation wouldn’t be a bad thing. I’d miss them like crazy though.

Are you a new parent? What do you wish that others knew about your life and household so they could understand your seemingly quirky behaviors?
Thanks for reading,
-Liz (who’s off to fold towels)

The Babies in the NICU Go Beep Beep Beep

            After Sage was born the NICU nurses put him under the warmer and cleaned him up. Mike was able to hold him for a few minutes, I got to hold him for a few minutes, and then the NICU nurses took him down to the NICU. Mike went with him and I was left alone in my room again (well the doctor and nurses were cleaning up but they don’t count and my BFF headed home). When Mike came back he had the head nurse from the NICU with him. She talked to Mike rather than to both of us and even with all the meds I was on, I still recognized it and was frustrated.
Sage Orion born 6/16 at 35 weeks weighing 6 lbs and 3 oz
So Sage was having difficulty breathing, and it was as if his skin on his ribs was lying right on the ribs because he hadn’t plumped up. He was breathing rapidly and the amount of oxygen in his blood (his O2 saturation) was lower than 100% (and varied a lot). He also had a sacral dimple (where the skin on the spine may actually be fused to the spine – it looks like a dimple) directly above his anus. In a small percentage of cases that’s an indicator of spina bifida (but he had use of his legs so they weren’t worried about that) and they were going to do an ultrasound to make sure they weren’t fused. As she’s talking about all this I could feel my eyes welling up with tears. This is not fair, my brain said. This poor little boy.
“I want to see him.” I told her.
She looked down at my legs (which were now not functioning because the extra epi had kicked in RIGHT after he was born). “Well once you can walk you can come down to the NICU whenever you want to. Except between 6 and 8 we’re closed for shift change.”
I’m pretty sure she got the Eyebrows Raised You Can Go F Yourself look when she said I could come down once I could walk. “No, now,” I responded. “On my way to my room I would like to be wheeled down there so I could see him.” I looked down at my gurney. “If I can fit.” Research says he needs to be held and cuddled ASAP, my brain kept saying as if a record stuck in a groove.
Sage in his "house" 6/16
“Yes ma’am,” she nodded and left. She instructed the person driving my bus (or gurney) to stop in the NICU before going to my room. We wheeled through a few doors, down some halls, and we were in a large open room separated into smaller areas with curtains. Babies in isoletes (those little “house” beds with the covered holes on the sides) lived in each of the makeshift rooms. Some of the babies had signs with their names, stuffed animals, banners, and all sorts of decorations. Some were smaller than my hand. And all of them beeped.
Our NICU was set up so that each nurse had two babies to care for during their 12-hour shift. Amy was Sage’s first nurse friend right after he was born (and she was his nurse again on Saturday evening). She opened the arm holes on the isolete so that I could touch his face while she answered my deliriously tired questions (that I don’t remember the answers to at this point). I do remember that she said that I could come down and see him whenever I wanted (aside from shift change), and I told her I would be back when I woke up. Then they wheeled me up to my room. And I couldn’t sleep. Mike slept like crap on the pull out couch. Neither of us fell asleep until after 4 a.m. because we were too jacked up on adrenaline.
I woke up at 7 when my nurse came in to introduce herself and take my vitals (and offer me pain pills). She helped me get up and walk to the restroom and took out my catheter. Nutrition brought me breakfast and I ate like I hadn’t eaten in a day (oh hey, I hadn’t eaten since noon Friday). I wanted ice water very badly, so I got up (Mike was still sleeping) and walked slowly down to the nurse’s station. I was not about to lay in bed and call the nurses station for jack shit – I was getting up and walking so that I could walk my own happy ass down to the NICU whenever I wanted. I was not about to have any recovery time lapse or have to ask anyone to wheel me down there.
The nurse at the nurse’s station looked at my socks, which were yellow and had grippys on them – they put them on me right after I got my epi. “Are you ok?” she asked me. I glanced down at my socks. “Huh?” Apparently my socks had something to do with this conversation. “Yellow socks mean you’re a fall risk. You’re not supposed to walk around by yourself in yellow socks.” “But I am,” I responded. “Can I take the socks off then? I brought my own. And I want ice chips. Please.” She took out a blue pair of grippy socks and we changed my socks (and no I wasn’t allowed to wear my own). And then she got me some ice. Apparently the hospital can get in trouble if there’s some crazy lady in yellow socks walking around unassisted. Note to self. Never wear bright yellow socks to a hospital.
Kanga Mama
Mike got up and after I washed my face and brushed my teeth he wheeled me down to the NICU – I started off walking and then I decided that maybe, just maybe I’d like to sit thank you. Mona was Sage’s nurse that morning. She had 30 years NICU experience and answered any and all questions we had. First she told us we had to “gown and glove” (put on a plastic gown and gloves) until Sage’s MRSA test came back negative. Parents who were breast feeding or doing kangaroo care (half nakey parent with half nakey child on their chest) could not gown and glove though, so I told her to take him out of the isolete because I was going to get comfy and kick back kanga-style with my honey bunny. Mike went home to get Silas (who was going to stay with my BFF and her two littles for a bit since he couldn’t come down to the NICU with us) and to grab some stuff from the house for us. Mona, when she wasn’t working with her other babe or doing paperwork on her computer, was educating me about NICU life and preemies in general. I learned what each of his leads were for (heart beat, respiration, O2 sat, and temperature), how they fed him through his feeding tube (which went up his nose down to his belly and was teeny tiny), and why his IV was in his poor little head. Apparently they start with the top of the hand for the IV, but Sage said F that and ripped it out. Next spot is the bottom of the foot. Re-moved by my little fighting preemie. The next (and usually last) place they’ll stick the IV is in the scalp and that’s where they had to do his because he couldn’t reach it. He had a nasal canula for oxygen and he’d already ripped the canula and the feeding tube out more times than she could count, so she’d had to tape them to his face. Poor kid looked pretty Frankenstein-ish, but knowing what they were all for and how they helped him made me less anxious about all the wires and the beeping.
Daddy and the Beeping Baby
Oh the beeping. Each baby has four leads which beep. There were six isoletes in an area and there were at least 40 “rooms” (numbered on the ceiling), so there was a lot of beeping. And the beeping gets angry if the numbers (O2 sat or breaths especially) go below certain levels. Initially the angry beeping freaks you out, especially if you’ve watched medical drama shows (“OMG my kid’s coding!”), but that wasn’t the case at all. The machines can be set to get angry when the numbers go below a certain level, and usually Sage’s O2 sat would set it off. Eventually throughout Saturday (he was born early Saturday morning) it stabilized and he was able to have his canula removed Saturday night. Saturday after shift change I tried to feed him a bottle (rather than through the feeding tube) and he didn’t latch on to the bottle or the breast, which I was kind of bummed about. You can’t go home on a feeding tube dude, I wanted to tell him. Amy said she would keep trying at the next two feedings (the NICU puts them on a 2-5-8-11 feeding schedule).
Scalp IV came out Sunday at 8!
Sunday morning when I went down to the NICU Nick was his nurse, and he was awesome (not that all the nurses weren’t). Mike and I sat down there and talked to him for a good long while about all sorts of stuff. When it came to be 11 a.m., Nick handed me a nursette (little formula bottle with a disposable nipple), removed the feeding tube, and told me to feed him. My eyes teared up as he took the nipple in his little mouth and started to suck on it. Another milestone reached – that much closer to going home. Amy had apparently worked with him the night before to get him sucking. The MRSA test came back negative that afternoon, so we could hold Sage without gowning and gloving and turning into plastic heaters (if you’ve never worn those gowns…don’t…ugh they’re like saunas). Nick told us that we should definitely come back right after shift change because we’d be excited to see what happened. At 8:05 p.m. they removed the IV from his scalp – no more IV fluids for this boy. All the shit from around his face was gone – he was just a little boy with four little beeps (and chapped cheeks from where the tape had been). *Swoon*
On Monday I was discharged in the late afternoon. Sage’s nurses didn’t know if he’d go home Tuesday or Wednesday but they were pretty sure he was busting out of there soon. We spent Monday during the day holding and feeding him and relaxing in the room while he slept. It felt weird, like I should be doing something, almost like we were on some sort of vacation. Mike went home and got the portable DVD player and we watched Redbox movies between feedings and holdings. People brought me food (not that it was good food, but what can you expect). We rested because we knew that once he came home, it was on and there would be no off button.
Tuesday morning we woke up at home, excited about the prospect of bringing Sage home. We went to the hospital and Sage had been moved to Intermediate Care (IMC) which is for babies who need less support than NICU babies. One of the moms had been in the NICU for 3 months and was leaving that day. You could see she was both excited and nervous. Sage’s ultrasound (US) on his sacral dimple was scheduled for that morning, so after his pediatrician came by to check him out we went to US. His scans came back fine – no tethered skin to spine. Yes! (And we noted that his dimple was completely gone when he was five weeks born). The last hurdle for him to overcome before going home was the car seat test: he had to sit in his car seat (at least an hour after eating) and his beeps (which were set on ultra sensitive) couldn’t get angry or he’d fail and have to wait another 24 hours before they’d test him again. Rather than sit there on our hands and watch the clock, Mike and I went to Babies R Us and got the rest of what we needed (burp cloths, formula, etc.), hopeful that when we came back he’d have passed and be ready to go home. And…he passed!
Proud parents on Father's Day
Mike said that driving him home was the second scariest drive he’s ever done (the first was when he brought his first son home since he’d never driven with a newborn). Sage’s car seat was too big for him – we had to add extra padding just so that the straps would be taut. After adding chin padding to help his neck stay up and a preemie insert, he now fits in his car seat with no extra padding. But he hates those damned pads (called the Puppy Pals). Damn Puppy Pals make us cry every time (but then we fall asleep and forget about them).
Something to smile about!
We’ve been home for a little over five weeks now and our little preemie is a fighter, man. He got himself out of the NICU in four days, and is already trying to hold up his head. He’s amazing. He makes me proud every day. And big brother? He tolerates him. And helps sometimes. Mostly he ignores him because, well, Sage does still sleep a lot. While our NICU experience was not a typical one, I have to say that I give major support to families with babes in the NICU. And the staff are amazing. They made signs and decorations for Sage’s “room” and there are these volunteers (Threads of Love) who knit and sew blankets, hats, and booties preemie-sized out of the goodness of their hearts. And they’re the baby’s to keep. Every time I look at the airplane blanket (chosen by Amy because Silas loves airplanes and she thought it would help him to like Sage) and the knit green and white blanket we received, it makes me smile.
After a long post I’ll leave you with a cute song about the NICU written by a NICU dad. The “video” is just a picture with the song playing, but if you were ever a NICU parent “NICU at Night” will make you both smile and tear up.
Thanks for reading…
-Liz (and Mike and Silas and Sage)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Story of Whining and Babies…

For the past few months I have had no energy to write, and with good reason. November 14, 2011 (on my birthday) Mike and I found out we were expecting again. I spent the next six months visiting doctors, hanging out in ERs, conversing with on-call doctors at night, and being in a lot of pain (on top of being tired, of course). We were excited but more than a little apprehensive about my medical issues.

After Silas was born my OB told me that while she would help me have another baby, she didn’t suggest it, so none of my medical professionals were especially excited about me having another baby. I started my shots (anti-coagulants due to having a stroke in 2008) and they actually increased the dosage because apparently I had a lot of clotting issues during my last pregnancy that were revealed after Si was born. Over the next few months I experienced a bladder/cervix prolapse (Google it if you don’t know what it is, I don’t need to describe it here) at 15 weeks, bleeding at 23 weeks, and contractions from 25 weeks onward. It was as if every time I turned around something was going on, I had to explain my medical issues to another medical professional, and I was in a lot of pain. I tried not to complain as I’m sure that Mike got tired of it really quickly, but it was difficult. And not wanting to be a crankypants prego person, I didn’t call my doctor about all these things when I should have because, well, I was pregnant, and pain is just part of the package right?

Then at 34 weeks things got kind of crazy – Wednesday night I started feeling massive pain on my left side by my pelvis. My brain said, “Contractions start at the top and roll down so it’s not a contraction. Lovely, a new pain to deal with.” It came and went though, but when it came, I was on the couch breathing and whistling the pain away. And then it went away and I went to bed. Thursday the same crap started around 1 p.m. I took a nap. It stopped and then started again after Si’s bedtime. Mike offered to take me to the hospital and a friend was waiting to take care of Si for us if we needed to go, but I still wasn’t convinced “it” was bad. Plus we had doctors’ appointments on Friday morning and afternoon. Friday we saw the perinatologist and they put me on the NST (non-stress test looking for contractions) and sent me home, even though my pain had started at 9 a.m. that day. I do have to say that my pain was pretty low when we were in their office though. Mike and I had lunch, and then we went to the OB’s office. My pain was back and so bad by then that I was crying uncontrollably every few minutes. They took me into the office 45 minutes before my appointment and put me on their NST. I swear they took me out of the waiting room so the other pregos didn’t see me crying and in pain.The OB came in from the hospital, looked at my NST, and decided to check my cervix. Five minutes later I was in a wheelchair being wheeled to Labor and Delivery – at 35 weeks exactly I was dilated to 5 centimeters and 80% effaced. Those pains WERE contractions apparently.

I checked myself in to L&D while Mike went back to the doctor’s office to get the car (and my bags which I had packed just in case). They got me settled into a delivery room, and Mike left to pick up Silas from school and to get him situated at home with a friend. A nurse did all my paperwork on the computer while she monitored my contractions. The anesthesiologist came in to do my epidural. A seemingly unflappable man, he had done my epi with Silas as well, and he hadn’t changed. Still he had no sense of humor. “If you got to 5 cm without meds why are you getting an epidural?” he asked. “If you can promise me that the next 5 cm will only be, oh, twice as bad as the pain was to get to 5 cm, then I won’t take one,” I responded. He looked perplexed. “I’m joking. I avoid pain at all costs,” I told him. What the heck dude. Lighten up. Just a little.

The nurses checked in on me and over the next five hours my contractions remained constant but my body stalled out at 7 cm. Bring on the pitocin. Now mind you I was still sitting in L&D, you know, in active labor, by myself. My BFF showed up around 6 and Mike came back around 7, but I have to say it’s a little weird to sit in a room, by yourself, and think, “And I’m having a baby?” So I texted and posted on Facebook and called people. I’m sorry if I offended anyone – there were pain meds involved. At 11:45 or so the nurse checked and I was still only 7.5 cm even on pitocin. My epi was wearing down so I asked her to ask Mr. Happy to come back and give me a little more. He came back, pushed a little more epi, and reminded me that it could take 15-20 minutes to kick in. Everyone walked out again. Mike and Missy were trying to sleep since we didn’t know what time The Boi would arrive. And then there was this weird…sensation and I literally felt like the baby was crowning. “Mike. Go get the nurse and have her come check me.” “She just checked you like 5 minutes ago.” I gave him The Look. He went to get the nurse. She didn’t believe me either, but she did as she was asked. “Seriously?” She asked. “How did you go from being 7.5 to 10 cm in just a couple of minutes?” And then it was on – everyone ran for everyone else and I tried not to dwell on the fact that nobody believed me. And my epi hadn’t kicked back in yet. Rockin.

 Having a baby early is pretty scary, but honestly it didn’t really kick in that he was early until he was born. I felt this amazing release of pain (because, you know, the epi hadn’t kicked in) but there was no sound – no screaming child. I held my breath waiting for him to breathe. And he did. And then he screamed. And then I could breathe. The whole night I had been the picture of “I’m fine, no problems!” but as soon as he screamed, I cried and the random thoughts started. Pregnancy was all over. My last pregnancy was all over. And my son was a preemie. Nobody ever prepares for that (ok maybe some parents who have had preemies before do because they worry their other kids will be early). And he was going to the NICU. While I have lots of experience and knowledge about babies, infants, toddlers, children, parenting…hell, I teach child psychology…I had nothing on preemies. Except I knew that a lot of them stayed in the NICU until they were supposed to be born (37-38 weeks). The NICU freaked me out. My son wouldn’t room in with me at the hospital. I would probably go home without him. The cloth diapers I had prepared for him (the few they were – because, you know, I thought I had 3 more weeks) definitely wouldn’t fit his tiny tush. The random things you think about after having a baby.

But he was here. Sage Orion was born Saturday, June 16 at 12:32 a.m. 6 lbs and 3 ounces, somewhere between 20 and 21.5 inches long (nobody ever got the same measurement). And then we became NICU parents. Stay tuned for the next installment as we learned about NICU life and preemie babies (who rock).

 Thanks for reading. I’m going to go get some sleep while Sage sleeps. Send wishes for a 4-hour sleep span. Please.