Sunday, September 30, 2012

Right here and now

Ali Edwards had a blogging (or scrapbooking) prompt today about what's going on "currently" or "right now".  I thought it might be fun since my day is only an hour old and everyone else is still sleeping.

Right now I'm:

A little anxious - I've only ever been in the hospital once before, and that was to have T.  I know it'll be fine this time, too, but still nervous about the days to come.

Excited - We get to meet Baby X' finally!  She won't seem real until she's in my arms.

Hungry - I've already told TJ and T that we're headed to Portage Bay Cafe for breakfast when everyone's awake.  I need my French Toast fix today.

Tired - I haven't slept well in a *month*, yo.  Nature's way of preparing for a newborn, I guess.

Sore-throaty - and sad about it.  Trying to be healthy in preparation for the C-section and hospital stay tomorrow.

Chill - no more projects to do, so today I'll catch up on Project Life, play with T, and *maybe* do a load of laundry.  

Life is pretty good, even if it is 7am and I'm not a morning person :)  Want to play along?  Leave me a link!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

We may only have tonight

I wanted this weekend to be Big and Special, as it's T's last couple of days with us all to herself.  Instead it started out with the Great Oatmeal Standoff of 2012 which left more than one of us in tears and all of us a little out of sorts for a good portion of the day.

It was the same drama that plays itself out in every household at some point.  Parent serves a meal, kid refuses to eat it.  Kid makes a request (in this case, extra maple syrup), promising to eat it, then doesn't.  Power struggle ensues.  No one wants to "lose".

This hasn't happened before.  T is pretty easygoing about food - we give her a couple of choices and she picks one.  But today she pitched a fit, spit it out, and got everyone all riled up.  We found ourselves in a situation where we couldn't back down, or at least that's how it felt at the time.

After both of us took a long nap, I figured a way to disengage without giving in would be to present the oatmeal again at lunch, with something else to eat chosen by us.  (In our case, a hot dog.) No more choices would be offered today (we typically let her choose most things - what to wear, activities, etc.).  When she turned down our choices, we told her that if she ate the oatmeal like she promised in the morning, then she could make her own choices.  Apparently this wasn't worth it.  (I have to give her credit for her stubbornness, er commitment to her principles.) 

The oatmeal reappeared at dinner, along with shrimp, which she really likes.  She finally agreed to eat the oatmeal in order to get more shrimp so we alternated bites of oatmeal and shrimp.  She proceeded to eat the entire bowl of oatmeal without incident, much to my surprise.  She got her choices back - what to wear to bed, what to watch before bed, etc.  And even earned a star for her potty-training chart.  (She's 2 half-days away from getting a toy she's wanted for a couple of weeks.)

I don't feel very good about how this went down.  In general, it makes me very uneasy to "force" a particular food on someone.  I'm not willing to be a short order cook, for sure - we let her choose one of two or three options, typically, so that she'll eat something, but if she doesn't want it, she can choose to eat it or not eat it. There are no other options until the next meal or snacktime.  But I don't feel the need to "exert my authoritay" on her, certainly not on something this inconsequential.  But age 3 is a bit...difficult.

We got into the power struggle, and couldn't get out.  I was tired having barely slept last night (thank you heartburn and snoring).  She was tired from her messed up sleep schedule for 2 weeks, despite our best efforts to get her back on track.  TJ was annoyed about the spitting, my grouchiness, and the tantrum.  We found ourselves "stuck".

I'm still not sure what the right course of action would have been - maybe not even getting her to *try* the oatmeal would have preempted the spitting and tantrum.  Or perhaps this was an unavoidable train wreck given everyone's lack of sleep.

Sigh.  But like the old adage about never going to bed with unresolved issues in a relationship, I feel like we worked this out as best we could.  And tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

We are in love

I am a casual photographer.  I've had my own camera since junior high, when my dad got a nice compact film camera from a colleague in Japan, and generously handed it over to my excited 10-year-old self, because he had a *really* nice Canon himself.

I used that verysame camera through middle school, high school, college, a trip to India, grad school and the first couple of years of work, until 1998 when I finally joined the digital world and bought a 5MP HP digital point and shoot camera that was ENORMOUS. 

And even then, I didn't take TONS of photos, but enough to document interesting stuff here and there. 

And then we got a dog.

The number of photos I took vastly increased, and most of them were of The Peanut.

Then we got another dog.

When we got engaged, I knew I really wanted nice photos of our wedding, and that was my top priority.   This got me hooked on professional photos.  Not the "dress up in sweater vests and haul the kids off to Sears" but candid, photojournalistic awesomeness at a location of our choice.

Photo by Bradley Hanson

Since we've had BabyT, we've gotten professional photos every 6 months.  Luckily for us, Baby X' will be born around the same time of year so we can keep that same schedule for a while, corresponding to birthdays and half-birthdays.

Photo by Kristi Romain

But since having T I didn't want to miss all the "in between" times.  Babies change a lot in 6 months, so I stepped up the picture-taking.  I had an ambition to do a DailyBaby shot every day of T's first year, but didn't quite make it everyday.  Still, I'm only missing a handful of days so I'm pretty proud of that.  Mind you, not all of them have been uploaded online but that's a different problem of mine ;)

Doing Project Life this year has made me even more motivated to "capture the everyday".  I've finally had some time to go back to my 2011 photos and process them, and I've noticed a definite improvement in my photography since then.  Practice really does help even though I wasn't actively trying to get better.

I'm a gadget girl.  I've wanted a fancypants DSLR camera since 2009 when we upgraded my 2005 teeny tiny PowerShot to the more powerful, but still point-and-shoot, Canon S90.  I chose the S90 because it was much smaller than a DSLR and I figured I'd  be more likely to toss that in the diaper bag for outings.  I was right.

But the DSLR bug was in my ear.  When I was looking into photography classes to learn some technique, most are geared towards DSLR owners.  My friend Laura, who is amazingly talented, is so enthusiastic about her camera and lenses that every time she'd mention it on her blog, it reminded me that maybe I should look into getting a DSLR.  A lot of the scrapbookers who frequent forums I read are also avid photographers, as are many of my real-life friends.

So one day, with idle hands performing the devil's work, I read tons of reviews on Amazon and finally plopped the Canon Rebel T3i DSLR onto my Wish List.  Which is private, and no one ever looks at it but me. But it was there. Staring at me. For an entire year.

But it's a BIG purchase and I always had an excuse for why I couldn't or shouldn't buy it.  After seeing the pro photos from T's recent birthday party, and noticing that one group of them had this "look" that was different, and really, really awesome, I couldn't wait any longer.  I wanted to learn how to take photos like that, with that cool blurred background and the subject super-sharp in the foreground. 

It's a testament to my self-restraint that I was able to wait so long, really.  So one night last week I put up an innocent query on Facebook: did any of my friends have a "starter" DSLR they were looking to sell. Because I'm friends with a lot of engineers and scientists, I knew there was a similar gadget-love going on, and people upgrade their gadget goodness ALL.THE.TIME.  Within 5 minutes, a coworker posted that he was looking to sell his Canon T3i.

Uh, yeah.  The same *exact* camera that's been on my wishlist for a year.  Is that the Universe talking to me or what?  (Ok, I was looking for an excuse, but that was really too good.)  The nice thing about staying with Canon is that the menus and controls are pretty similar to the S90. 

So I jumped in feet first and bought it with the money I've been hoarding from my Etsy shop revenue.  We're MFEO, right?  (Meant For Each Other, for those who haven't watched Sleepless in Seattle in a while.)

And I am SO in love.  By just upgrading the camera, my photos have gotten a huge boost.  Imagine what could happen if I actually learned some things, and *practiced*?!  The mind boggles.

The other thing I've discovered - my friends are a knowledgeable and generous bunch.  I've gotten tons of useful tips on lenses and technique that would have taken me ages to figure out myself.  They've given me lots of links to bookmark for later, classes to consider, things to try on my camera, and the confidence to go forth and shoot and learn.

Given the timing, I can't jump into taking photography classes right now, but hope to squeeze one in sometime during my maternity leave.  In the meantime, I'll have a lot of opportunities, and a new subject on which to practice.  I am SO excited, peeps!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Circling the wagons

So there's that "nesting" instinct that's supposed to kick in just as a woman gets ready to have a baby.  It's hard for me to tell if that has happened/is happening because I'm pretty project-oriented to begin with, and doing stuff like organizing my pantry is fun for me, pregnant or not.

But I will tell you what I've noticed in the past couple of weeks - I have a HUGE desire to hole up in my house and not go anywhere, not make plans, and not see anyone.  Even social media seems taxing and too busy and interactive.  Someone else mentioned this happening to them while pregnant, so I'm not alone.  I'm already an introvert to begin with, so I suspect something hormonal is enhancing those tendencies even more.

Sadly, September was a bad month to feel this way.  It's been jam-packed with appointments and errands to get ready for Baby X', BabyT's birthday, adjustment to her new preschool (though the schedule seems to definitely agree with her more), the start of her new dance class, wrapping up work before leave, and lots of family in town.  Worst is that I'm exhausted because I can't sleep well at all (thanks pregnancy-induced snoring and being planet-sized!).

But it's coming to a close now, and I have 6 days left.  I'm not working this week.  My last prenatal appointment is tomorrow, and I have to attend "Curriculum Night" at T's preschool so I can meet the other parents.  (Ok, "have to" is a strong word, but it's something I'd like to do.) 

TJ drew the line in the sand about not doing any more things from The List.  We're ready with all the important stuff.  No more stressing about hanging up coat hooks and pictures or other low-priority tasks.  I like it and it's just the "permission" I needed to let those last few things go.

Besides taking T to preschool, our calendar is blissfully empty the rest of the week.  I'm going to do a little crafting, play with my new DSLR camera, and spend a lot of time at home with my girl in our last few days of being a mama-baby duo.  (Just writing that makes me a little teary.) 

I need this quiet time to get myself together for what's going to be a difficult month up ahead.  I'm certain that the pregnancy and nursing hormones have erased the bad memories from 2009, because I remember it being "not that bad" while TJ remembers the first few weeks as "awful" as we figured out how to get by on broken sleep, nursing ickiness, and troubleshooting baby cries. 

This time we get to do it again, 3 years older, and with a little girl who needs us just as much as her new baby sister will.  We are lucky to have people around offering help, but most of my worries are about the things that other people just can't do - helping BabyT feel secure about her place in our family while also bonding and learning about new Baby X'.  I'm not too concerned about what we're going to eat or getting T to the places she needs to be - with two adults at home, that should be a little easier.

So if you email or call or text us and we don't reply, it's because we're in the bunker waiting for the Armageddon.  No wait, that's not right.  But we are focusing inward this week (and of course the next few weeks).   Please leave a message after the beep and we'll get back to you when we are ready.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'm walking too far ahead

I've been meaning to write about our experience with BabyT's gross motor delays. Even writing that sentence gave me pause, because the word "delays" imply to me that there's something wrong. I'm still not convinced that's true, but when you compare her to the average she has definitely picked up some skills much slower than her peers. And of course, everyone thinks their child is a genius and above average, right? We're no exception.

She was a super huge, healthy baby who LOVED her milk. So much that she was nearly always off the charts for weight. She got head control and reached for things right on schedule. She rolled over once "on schedule" but we didn't really see her do it again. She definitely was not interested in rolling to get anywhere.

She sat with assistance from a Boppy around 6-7 months, and got better and more stable at it over the next couple of months. Maybe a tiny bit later than her baby friends, but not much.

In general she was just not that interested to go after things out of her reach. We actually thought that was a feature, not a bug, since it was easier on us and she was content and happy to hang out with books and toys for LONG periods of time. I could even take a shower!

But at her 9 month checkup, her doctor expressed some concern that she was not even attempting to crawl. She recommended we get her an evaluation for all skills (language, small motor, and gross motor) with a local early childhood center if she wasn't crawling by 10 months or so.

I hated hearing this. I didn't want anything to be "wrong with" my perfect baby girl. But I made the appointment for the eval a few months out since they're hard to come by, and figured she'd work out the crawling thing, and we could cancel the appointment.

But she didn't and summer break for the center was coming up, so we went in for the eval around 10 months. T thought it was great - 3 people to play with her *and* new toys. She dutifully stacked cups, answered to her name and looked at things they pointed to, while we answered a battery of questions about what skills she had (did she "help" by putting her arms in sleeves when we dressed her, was she trying to pull up, would she "walk" if we supported her upper body, etc.).

They told us that she was doing well on language and small motor skills, but was 2 standard deviations behind the average in gross motor skills, which meant she qualified for Early Intervention physical therapy through our state's program.   They thought she would just need sessions twice a month, and we agreed to set those up.

I was disappointed about the results, and all of the official paperwork that showed up referencing developmental disabilities.  Granted, it's all boilerplate government documentation but still hard to read when it's MY kid they're talking about.

T started physical therapy in September 2010 when she was about a year old, and a few months later, at 15 months, started crawling.  She got really good at it.  We're not sure if it was the physical therapy or the fact that she started daycare in the toddler room at the same time, and wanted to keep up with the other kids.

We worked on building her strength and getting her to be more active at the park and playground. 

At 18 months with no sign of walking, I was officially freaking out so we increased her physical therapy sessions to once a week.  She was the only kid in our toddler group who was not walking.

She finally took her first steps when she was 19.5 months old and since she's super cautious, she apparently waited until *she* was good and ready, skipped the wobbly-falling down stage, and got good at it in just a few weeks.   We stopped using the stroller almost immediately and had her walk everywhere we went, to get her more practice.  Our toddler group friends cheered for her when she walked by herself to the park at our first summer playdate - she was so proud of herself!

But here's the thing - she was acquiring all those skills in the expected order, just about 6 months behind most of her peers.  And by the time she walked, she was already speaking in complete, clear sentences so I wonder if her brain was just working on other things.

It's hard to know if the PT actually helped but I know it didn't hurt.  She loved visits from "Miss Carrie" and I didn't want to take the chance that her skills would be even more delayed without it.  Upon recommendation from other folks at work with kids in the same situation, we signed her up for Little Gym around 16 months, to give her some more structured active play time and continued that through this summer.  She just started taking a combo dance and gym class there this week as per her special request to learn to "do ballet".

In March 2012 we decided to discontinue PT even though she was eligible for it through her 3rd birthday.  She was still a little behind her peers (still super cautious, not jumping yet) but I felt confident that she'd catch up over time.  She's become a lot more active in the past few months, though I think she's always going to be cautious - it's just part of her personality.  (I can relate!)

I wanted to write about this because Dr. Google alarmed me with a lot of worst-case scenarios around motor development. I couldn't find any info on kids who just happened to walk late for no discernible medical reason, but were on track (or ahead!) on development in other areas.

We did all the "right" things when she was tiny - tummy time, limited time in the Exersaucer, used an Ergo carrier instead of the infant carseat all the time, etc. But she developed her skills at her own pace and continues to do that.  Frustrating when you compare it to the standard timelines, but humans are all different, right?

So for anyone doing late night Googling about "why my baby isn't walking yet" or "not walking at 18 months", hopefully this is somewhat comforting.   It is worth getting the evaluation and the PT helped us feel as if we were taking action and doing what we could to help her without stressing out or trying to force her to acquire skills before she was ready.

It was also a good exercise in patience for me - just because we *wanted* her to learn how to walk, and practiced with her, didn't mean she was going to do it.  This is a familiar refrain around here (see also: Potty training)  Sometimes, you just gotta wait it out.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Baby

I can't believe my "baby" is 3 years old today.  3 has no more baby left in her.  3 is "little girl". 3 just started a tap/ballet class today *by herself*, ie Mama and Daddy wait outside until she's done.  Crazy.

Today we went to her preschool for a little "birthday ceremony" - I guess it's a Montessori thing.  I had "homework" to write up a little life story for each of her 3 years and bring in some photos, and I read it out loud while she walked in a circle around her classmates.  Then they had cupcakes.  It was pretty cute to see her at school, though I think we confused her by not taking her with us when we left, and she had a meltdown, which her teachers handled well.

This parenting gig is definitely getting harder, but also more fascinating. We have real conversations. I hear a lot of stories about what she's going to do when she's 16 or 19 and driving a pickup truck. Or a Smartcar, or a BMW 745, depending on the day. Hilarious.

Her standard response to every statement or request is "Why?".  Maddening, but I know she's trying to figure stuff out, so I am actively learning patience (or how to feign patience, anyway!).  Because I don't want to be that parent who says "Stop asking so many questions!"

What I have found to work (sneaky mama) is asking her "Why do you think xyz?" and of course she knows the answer.  I read somewhere that these kind of questions are little-kid attempts to learn how to make and maintain a conversation.  So that makes it easier to bear.  Kind of.

Fingers crossed, I'm looking forward to a quiet 2 weeks before the baby comes so we can all recover from the birthday festivities (there were a lot of them!).  We just have to get through a couple more days' worth of appointments this week and then we're going into hiding.  Wish us luck!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why I still work

I suppose it's a bit ironic that I'm writing a post about why I work when technically, I don't have to go back to the office for the next 22 weeks. (22 weeks!! OMG!).

I've been weary of reading about work-life balance, working vs. staying home with kids, etc. When I found Laura Vanderkam's post, at first I got prickly because I disagree with some of her views on flexibility and scaling back.  But as I read further, I realized she completely nailed the reason why I continue to work outside the house.

Some of you who have been reading for a while are probably wondering the same thing.  I make no secret about my desire to stay home and if I'm going to get really crazy, maybe even part-time homeschool the kids.  I'm also all about going after what I want (thanks Mondo Beyondo!).

On a crafty forum a few weeks ago, when people were introducing themselves, one woman posted that she was ridiculously jealous of all the stay-at-home-moms who had posted and I could totally empathize.  I was surprised to see that this woman had a high powered career for which she had a lot of training and experience, as a specialized hospital nurse.  So it's not just those people who "have to work to pay the bills" who feel this pull to be at home too.

(c) Kristi Lloyd Photography, 2012
But back to Laura's post.  (Did you go read it?  Maybe you should do that first.) She's written in the past about how she believes that both parties in a relationship need to take full responsibility for earning money and supporting the household.  Fundamentally I agree with that, though in some cases where one spouse earns TONS more than the other, it's probably more clear who should scale back when looking at financial considerations, if they make the decision that someone should.

In our household, though, that's not the case.  TJ and I are in the same industry, and have pretty similar earning power.  I think he has a *slight* advantage as far as the number of open positions and flexible options like contracting or telecommuting, and the industry we work in does value his skill set more than mine.  But overall it's been pretty even when we both work full time.

TJ quit his job about 6 months ago.  And wow, have I noticed a difference in our family's overall happiness.  We hang out together more.  We each have more special time with T.  We each get more "alone time" because we can trade off kid duty on weekdays and not just on weekends.  We can go to the zoo on a Wednesday morning.  TJ is pursuing both business and leisure projects he never had time for.  But most importantly, TJ is happier, and we no longer have days where he doesn't see T awake.  (He used to leave for work before she woke and would often return after she was in bed, since her bedtime is crazy early.)

So given that, from a financial point of view,  it makes sense for me to keep working since we need some income to stay afloat, right?  But I see it as more than that.  As part of this marriage, it's my responsibility to support us while he figures out his dreams as much as it is his responsibility to support us while I do my thing, too.  We don't have this automatic "oh it's the MAN's job to support his family and the WOMAN's job to keep the home fires burning." 

In some marriages, that division works just fine, because one partner might LOVE their work and get a lot of personal fulfillment (and/or money), while the other could take it or leave it.  Same is true where one partner really feels like they NEED to be home. 

In our case, neither of us has a burning passion for the work we've been doing.  I really LIKE my job, for sure, but it doesn't complete me, nor bring me great personal fulfillment.  If I didn't have to do this kind of work for pay, I wouldn't.  (Unless you count my extensive list making and project planning for toddler birthday parties...)  I don't want either of us to feel "trapped" in a job they dislike because they are our sole source of support - that's a lot of pressure for one person to bear.

But keeping up my end of the support bargain is a struggle for me too.  I LOVE the domestic stuff.  I like having whole extra days to hang out with T (and now TJ), hence I'm keeping my part-time schedule, though I chose to increase my hours slightly.  My logical brain tells me I should go back to working full time so we have better financial prospects, but the emotional side knows that working full time will make me frazzled and tired.  Not to mention the thought of pumping milk for a tiny baby 5 days a week instead of just 2 or 3 makes me want to hide under my desk.

In my company and industry, part-time arrangements are VERY hard to come by so I want to hang on to mine as long as I possibly can.  I want us to have an arrangement where (at least) one parent is home when kids are done with school, we can attend kid events at school during the day, and where early dismissal and summer vacation aren't massive logistical problems.

But it doesn't always have to be ME.  The hard part is working it out so that *sometimes* it can be me and sometimes him.  I don't want to just swap traditional roles and become the person who is working 50 hours a week while TJ handles all the home stuff.  That's not my vision, either.  

But damn, is it hard to find that sweet spot.  For now, we're precariously balancing on it, and I am truly grateful.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What do I stand for? Most nights, I don't know...

First, I am totally OBSESSED with 'Some Nights' by Fun.  So I guess they're not a one-hit wonder (maybe 2 hits?).  I love the quirky song structure, the fact that it sounds like a Queen song, and the cryptic lyrics.

I'm at that point in my pregnancy where I just want to hole up at home and stop making plans to go anywhere.  But alas, we have a lot of "have to's" this week - haircuts for me and T, more doctor's appointments for me, T's 3 year checkup, T's new dance class, and a few final social outings.

But I'm done going to the office for work, so yay for that. I've got a few things to wrap up at home and then I'm off until Baby X' shows up (at the latest, 2 weeks from Monday.)

I've had some pretty crappy things happen this week, which I don't feel like rehashing here, and some really good things too, but for the next couple of weeks, I'm just looking for low-key and stress free.  I'm sure there will be a lot of nesting involved as I get the rest of the tasks on the Big List crossed off.

Also, if you have any ideas for how to get decent sleep at 37 weeks pregnant, I'm all ears.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Project Life: August 2012, now with less stress!

As I mentioned in my last Project Life post, I've switched to doing 2 weeks at a time since the beginning of August.  And it is a glorious thing.  I don't feel the same "pressure" to get it done as I did weekly, but I still get the enjoyment of planning the layout.

However, mama-brain seems to be taking over (thanks pregnancy hormones) and I've had some odd photo-editing and organizing mishaps: moving photos over to my "Processed" folder when I hadn't done it, forgetting where I downloaded a whole set of photos, and ending up in a weird state where some were uploaded to our online site and others weren't.  I'm usually meticulous about these things, but apparently not this month.

But I have been using my fabulous scrapbooking kits from Studio Calico to complete my layouts, and I'm loving the automagic coordination I get, though I am still working on restraining myself from picking too many colors and doo-dads at once.  (Click to see a larger version of the photos.)

The first 2 weeks of August were pretty low-key.  Hot weather, T passed her allergy skin test for dairy and we got the OK to try small amounts of dairy in her diet, and then she contracted Hand, Food and Mouth Disease which sounds grosser than it actually is.  Mostly just a couple of days of fever, listless toddler, and then a rash that takes about a week to go away.  Yay preschool.

We did our first Kiwi Crate project, thanks to the birthday present from our friends the C family.  It's a monthly kit of a crafty kid activity with a different theme.  This one was 'safari' so we made and decorated a bunch of cardboard animals.  There was a hide and seek game to go with it, but T just likes having the animals around.
I had some typical pregnancy paranoia that suddenly Baby X' was "too quiet" in there, so I got a non-stress test and an extra ultrasound that week.  Turns out she's just fine, and I can't feel most of her movements that were visible on the ultrasound.  Perhaps I have too much "padding".

We also went to Marymoor Park on one of the nice days, and it's pretty great to do that in the middle of the day on a weekday with almost no one else there. 

For the second half of August, the big excitement was that we celebrated my dad's 70th birthday on August 18.  T and I got dressed up for the party at a local Thai restaurant.  Both of my dad's siblings were there for the event (from New Jersey and India!) so that was cool to see everyone together, too.  My mom had nicely scheduled it at 5:30 to accommodate T's ridiculously early bedtime.

TJ's Uncle Rick and Aunt Jane were in town for an academic conference, so we met them for breakfast one Saturday morning at my favorite breakfast place ever, Portage Bay Cafe.

We also had the ridiculously long (3 hours!) eye doctor appointment, after which I got T a Starbucks cake pop for her good humor.  I had to resort to some bribery by the end of the appointment because she was *so* done.  The cake pop perked her right up, as did the sushi dinner we had right afterwards!

She got a new prescription for her glasses and it was amazing how quickly she acclimated to a 3x increase in power.  Like, immediately.  No headache, no complaints of weird vision, nothing.  And now her eye crossing almost never appears while she's wearing her glasses.  

I like including small examples of her artwork, and was thrilled to include a "mixed media" project of hers.  She's got her own space in my craft room, and I give her stickers, paper scraps, washi tape, and other bits of things to create with while I work on my own projects.  Totally on her own, she created an amazing collage (bottom right).  I love it. 

And of course, I think of more things I want to capture after I've finished the layouts, but I jot them down and can include them in subsequent weeks.  There are no "rules" here, even though I'd love to  be completely chronologically accurate.  I can't believe I've kept this up for more than half the year!! 

I'm also WAY excited about a new project I'm planning to take on called December Daily,which has a nifty mini-album kit released by Studio Calico.  It's similar to Project Life, but is only for the month of December and is designed for quick daily documentation of the holiday season.  With 2 kids this Christmas, and me on maternity leave, that should be fun, right?  I figure I'll rely on Instagram photos a lot since they're easier to use - no post-processing, and they're automatically uploaded to my online site. 

Let me know if you're interested in December Daily and we can work on it together!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

The doctor is in - Part II of Isn't Healthcare Fun

Yesterday I talked about my process for finding good doctors (such as it is...)  What's more challenging is finding doctors to work with T. Most of the ones that are "pediatric" specialty are pretty good with kids, and their offices are set up for even the littlest ones so our luck has been pretty good there. The first allergist we saw was the one we stuck with, and we may be done seeing him (hooray!) as she passed her last skin test for dairy.

Her pediatrician is simply awesome, has 3 kids of her own and also works part-time, which means for sick visits we've often seen others in the same practice, and have not yet been disappointed. By a stroke of luck, Dr. T also had a really-late-walking kid which was really helpful when we were concerned about T's gross motor skills (proactive, not alarming!).  This was just dumb luck on my part, as I found a nearby practice with lots of women doctors, and picked one who was accepting new patients.

T has seen some regular dermatologists with little success, but Dr. F the pediatric dermatologist was a freakin' miracle worker.

I'm feeling 'meh' about the pediatric eye doctor.    At first her eye issue was diagnosed by our family eye doctor, and I was worried because the office wasn't set up for kids at all.  T did fine, there, though.  Dr. P wanted a second opinion, so her referred us to a local pediatic optometrist.

We had a resident working with us first, and it was clear he wasn't used to little kids. But even when the regular doc showed up, it was still not the best experience - the whole appointment was 3 hours (for a 2 year old, really??) and they expected a lot more of T's cooperation than was appropriate, and T is pretty focused and chill for her age. We have a follow up appointment in a few weeks, and if we need to go back yearly, I'm probably going to try someone else. The doc obviously knows her stuff - she increased T's glasses prescription 3-fold, and now we never see the eye-crossing issue. But the office visit was just too long and unpleasant.

So my list for finding kids' doctors is slightly revised:

Bedside manner - this is for both T and myself.  Can they deal with kids in an age-appropriate way?  Do they treat the parents as overly paranoid and dismiss my concerns and observations?  Do they get impatient when the kid acts like a kid?  (yes, this happens more often than you think.  sigh.)  Do they understand that if I have to wait with my toddler for 30 minutes *before* the appointment, the chances that she'll cooperate during the appointment are slim to none?  Duh.

Availability and Office Support - same as on my previous post, with the added "bonus" of new unfamiliar docs needing to be understanding that some kids are not comfortable with them and need a little bit of time to warm up.  Special bonus for offices set up for kids with lots of toys and age-appropriate videos to watch.  Age-appropriate being the key here - as silly as it sounds, I don't think Tom and Jerry is appropriate for all 2 year olds.  Mine is not a fan and it freaks her out.

Diagnostic Ability - this is totally different.  In T's case, I'm mostly happy to comply with non-invasive tests that don't hurt.  I like having the options laid out for me - we could draw blood *or* do another skin test, and what the accuracy might be.  T had a BAD experience getting blood drawn so I'm not anxious to repeat that.  Special bonus for docs who consider time/hunger/tiredness in what might work.  For medication, we always ask for chewable tablets, which T will happily take, unlike liquid meds.  Some doctors are willing to adjust for this, and others have more of a "suck it up" attitude, which frankly doesn't work for me if I have to administer them multiple times a day.

Yeah, I know, I sound like a Mama Bear on this.  Spending time in a doctor's office with a baby or toddler is NOT fun, so I try to make sure to set us up for success ahead of time - I don't schedule visits during nap time, make sure she's eaten beforehand and slept well.  So when the office visit blows all of that (see 3 hour eye doctor appointment, above), I'm not going to repeat that again.  Even lab rats learn from their mistakes! 

Like with my own doctor, most of these come from trial and error or pediatrician referrals.  I don't find other peoples' opinions super helpful, but often the "reviews" have factual pieces I can use to evaluate, such as "the doc is always behind schedule", or the waiting room isn't set up for kids, or the doctor's manner is kind of brusque and businesslike.

Now, your turn.  How do you find great docs for your kids?

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Calling Doctor Love

She is an excellent doctor.
Doctors' appointments are on my mind a LOT lately. I am at the delightful stage of pregnancy where I have to go in every week, though thankfully the perinatologist said I didn't have to go back there after this week's ultrasound. I had extra ultrasounds because: I'm old, we have some family history of heart defects and T was running low on amniotic fluid at the end of my last pregnancy. Good times. But apparently I'm hydrating well (thanks Starbucks!) so that part is not a concern.

I now have to rotate my prenatal appointments with the other OBs in the practice, in case I go into labor off-hours and one of the on-call doctors has to deliver Baby X'. I've got my fingers crossed that X' will hang in there until her scheduled C-section appointment (3 weeks and 2 days, yo!) but you know babies, always on their own schedule.

The OB rotation makes me realize how hard it is to find a doctor I really "click" with. I've seen a lot of doctors over the years, but the last few years of my prenatal appointments and all of T's different appointments have really made me realize that it's worth it to "shop around" and find the right person for the job.

My usual MO to find a doctor is to go to our insurance plan's website and look up someone in the specialty I need, within a few miles of our house. I tend to pick female doctors, especially if there's a chance they'll need to see me naked.

But as you might imagine, that's not a foolproof way to find the right doctor. It's just a way to start the real process, which for me is trial and error. Those sites that rate doctors are not at all helpful to me. I don't care where they went to school or what Joe Blow thinks of them. Here are the things I *do* care about:

Bedside manner - are they always in a hurry? good at listening? dismissive of my concerns? (I have a degree in molecular bio, so I'm not completely clueless, nor do I have the "doctor always knows best" thing going on.)

Availability - Do I have to wait forever to see the doc after my scheduled appointment time? Can I get an appointment at short notice if I need it? if not, is there someone else in the practice who can take me?

Office Support - do they have weird scheduling glitches like losing appointments? Are there a lot of insurance or billing mishaps I need to sort out?  Am I on hold forever and a day when calling?

Diagnostic Ability - this is the hardest one for me (and probably for doctors too!).  I want someone who is cautious, logical and willing to dig around to find an answer or solution.  But not someone who's super alarming and tells me right away what the worst case scenario is (I have Dr. Google for that!).  I also need someone who's willing to accept that the current treatment isn't working and that we might need to change it up, or try something stronger.

That last criterion is usually where I figure out I'm dissatisfied, unless there are horrible scheduling or billing issues, in which case, I don't stick around long enough to find out how the diagnoses go.

The primary care doctor I had for the first 7 years here was one I just picked at random from the directory.  She was nice, easy to get an appointment with even on short notice, and had competent office staff.  But she never could get a handle on the weird lingering sinus infections or 4 week + coughs I'd get *every year*.  We'd go through the same thing - first visit, "it's just viral and will go away on its own".  Second visit a week later, antibiotics that didn't work.  Third visit after another week, stronger antibiotics that might work, and if I was lucky an inhaler to fix the issue.  Usually she'd take an X-ray of my chest at this point too, which I wasn't crazy about, but really just wanted to get rid of the ick because it had been 6+ weeks by then.  I just muddled through this each year because I was healthy otherwise, and switching docs was too much work.

When a shiny new medical center opened near us and I had a bad cold, I took the opportunity to try a new doc and never looked back.  Dr. L is a bit younger than I am, but very methodical.  The office is completely computerized and records from other practices appear like magic once I give consent.  Prescriptions are sent electronically so all I have to do is drive to Target and pick them up.  Test results appear online and I can *email* my doc with questions.  No more X-rays and Dr. L tends to prescribe stronger stuff earlier and also give me FAR more effective OTC options.

But my OB, Dr. A, is freakin' awesome.  She was the 4th doctor I saw after getting sick in Ireland, and the only one who prescribed anything worth a damn.  Literally within a day of taking the medication, I felt BETTER.  I lament all that lost vacation opportunity but I guess it just means we're going back to Ireland again someday. 

In general, she is a great listener, has lots of solutions like getting the right chair to alleviate pain and wearing wrist braces for tendonitis, is straight up about which OTC meds I can take (and isn't in the overly cautious "don't take anything, please suffer for your baby" school of thought), and runs tests to check out any concerns, even if it's a long shot. 

Now for some people this might not work - they don't want lots of blood draws, the tests alarm them, and they don't want prescriptions or OTC meds if they can help it.  But for me?  It's the perfect balance of being proactive without being alarmist. 

At the end of my pregnancy with T, I got an ultrasound to check on her fluid levels, and the doc there told me "this baby needs to be delivered in the NEXT FEW DAYS" and of course this was the one appointment I went to alone. I was only at 37 weeks and came out of there all OMG dude, really??

When I went back to see Dr. A the next day (after freaking out that I couldn't get a same-day appointment), she was very reassuring, and said, that yes, T was running low on fluid and it wasn't an ideal situation, but really, she only needed to come out within the next week and here, let's schedule a time that works for everyone.  *SO* much better for frazzled first-time parents.

Dr. A did a bang-up job on that C-section.  I was able to walk up and down stairs and carry the baby 2 days after the surgery, and by 3 weeks, was feeling great.  Or, as great as one can feel with broken sleep, anyway.

So I've got my fingers crossed that Baby X' will hang in there until our scheduled appointment with Dr. A.

What about you?  Got any techniques to find a great doctor?  I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Parental Leave Checklist, Part II: 1-2 Weeks Before

Here's Part I of the Parental Leave Checklist if you missed it.

This next set of tasks is harder to time correctly, since babies don't typically arrive on schedule, even if you have an actual delivery appointment, like I do.  These are the tasks I'd like to do *just* before I go out on leave, so I can minimize what I need to take care of just after the baby is born and I'm in a haze of no sleep-nursing-crying-diapering-recovering from birth.

1-2 Weeks Before Parental or Maternity Leave Begins:

  • Ensure your work transition plan is in place - Remember that transition plan you worked out in Part I?  Now's the time to do a trial run so you can help your coworkers while you're still around. I like to transition the tasks completely by 1-2 weeks before my due date in case the baby shows up early.

  • Email stakeholders about transitioning projects and your upcoming schedule - Let everyone you work with, internally and externally, know who's taking over your projects and when you'll be out. Give them a rough idea of when you'll be back (I like statements like "late February") and you might want to let them know you won't be checking email or voicemail during this time.

  • Update and submit performance review documents - If you're going to be out near review time, it's worth taking a pass through your documents and having them up-to-date so you don't need to do it later.  It's easier to write them when your work memory is fresh (and not sleep deprived!).

  • Submit any lingering expense reports and insurance reimbursements - If you've got outstanding paperwork, take care of it now, as you will either forget about it on leave or won't want to do it. Or, by the time you feel like you can handle it, it may be too late.  Also, it's free money!  Note that Flexible Spending Accounts have submission deadlines or you lose the money, so get all those taken care of as soon as possible.

  • Take home all food and valuables from your office - You don't want scavengers of the rodent kind or the sticky-fingered-human kind lurking around your stuff while you're gone.  Plus you won't want to eat that 4 month old Powerbar when you return, do you?  Take irreplaceable photos and service awards too, if they have high sentimental value to you.  You  never know what might happen in your office while you're gone (moves, someone squatting there, etc.)

  • Take home any plants from your office or make arrangements for them to be watered - I'm not a plant person, but if you are, convince a nice coworker to water them, or take them home.  Otherwise, you will come back to sad, dead plants, and returning to work is already hard enough without that!

  • Write down all email lists you’re on and unsubscribe from unnecessary ones - I work in an email-heavy environment, so I need to manage the flow when I'm out or my mailbox will fill up and become a GIANT mess while I'm out.  I copied the list of everything I was subscribed to, and then ruthlessly removed myself from the rest.  Also unsubscribe to any newsletters, etc that you signed up for but don't actually read.

  • Set up email rules to delete most messages so your mailbox doesn’t get full - this is a personal choice, but I knew I did not want to be reading work email on leave, and also knew I'd be tempted, with such easy access on my Smartphone.  So I set up a rule to delete anything NOT directly TO me, and not marked High Priority. 

  • Set up your Out of Office message on your email and let people know if you’re deleting email - Many email clients will let you draft your "Vacation" message before you actually turn it on.  Spend a little time on this and detail who's picking up your projects, when you'll be out, and remind them you won't be checking emails or voicemails, and in fact, will be deleting everything unless it's marked as High Priority (or whatever rule you decide to use).  I personally DO NOT include my mobile number or home contact info on this, because I don't want to be contacted unless in cases of dire emergency.  Others feel differently.

  • Set up extended absence greeting on voicemail - Many voicemail clients will let you set up your "vacation" greeting in advance before you turn it on.  Let people know you will not be checking voicemail and who they can call instead.

  • Give mobile number and personal email address to your manager - For major emergencies, it's good for *someone* trusted to have your home contact info.  Either your manager or a trusted coworker can fill this role.  Make sure your wishes are clear - that you don't want to be contacted unless it's the absolute last resort, etc.  Really think about what you want in this situation and err on the side of caution.  Personally I found that keeping my contact info easily accessible (on the whiteboard in my office, etc) made it *too easy* for coworkers to call with questions, especially in the first few weeks I was out, which was the hardest for me to cope with.

  • Write up a note for your office door saying you’re on leave - again, this is personal preference and depends on whether you get a lot of people stopping by to find you.  Some people think it invites theft, but if you take home all your valuables and label the other equipment, you should be fine.

  • Write down the phone number for HR so you can notify them when the baby is born - in many companies, you need to notify HR within a certain time period to *officially* start your leave, set up Benefits for the baby, etc.  Keep this number handy somewhere.  Also do a little research on what else you need to do for benefits once the baby is born.

  • Cancel automatic withdrawals from paycheck - if you are lucky enough to get paid maternity or parental leave, you may not want to continue certain withdrawals, like parking, meal cards, bus pass etc.  Stop all these services and keep a list of which ones you'll want to resume when you return.

  • Back up everything on your main work computers - of course you're already doing this, right??  back everything up to an external hard drive, DVD, or a central network location that you can access when you return.  You just never know what might happen when you're out.  Sometimes computers just die a sad, quiet death.

  • Write down your Windows BitLocker, machine local administrator and domain/network passwords - I know, this is horribly bad security advice, but if you really, truly, check out while you're on leave, you may forget these passwords and not be able to log in when you return.  In some cases, the only way to fix this is to reformat your computer and lose everything.  So write 'em down and keep 'em safe.

  • Find a coworker willing to pack up your office if there’s an office move while you’re out - in my workplace, office moves are pretty frequent.  If I'm out for 20 weeks, chances are we'll move at least once during that time.  Find someone who can pack up your stuff.  Help them out by removing all extraneous junk from your office and taking it home.  Now's a good time for a good cleanup anyway.

I'll post the next section in a week or two, which is Things to Do Right After Your Baby is Born.  I created a handy downloadable checklist for the whole thing, for the impatient folks out there.  It's my first experiment with Google Drive for shared downloads.  Let me know if you have trouble accessing the files.

Parental Leave Checklist Downloads:
Download the Word version (.doc)
Download the PDF version (.pdf)

If you find this helpful, please contribute to my Starbucks chai fund :)
Thanks in advance!

I'd love to know if I've missed anything.  Let me know and good luck with your leave preparations!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Sometimes it's just too discouraging

I think I need a break from reading parenting-related blogs and the anonymous questions list at work.  I suppose that's inevitable since I've been reading these things since I got pregnant with T in early 2009. 

At first it was nice to get the facts and information I was craving - things I didn't even know I needed about nursing, baby sleep, etc.  And then it was nice to see that not everyone just automagically knows what they're doing when they give birth to a baby - it's a learning curve, and often a steep, sleep-deprived one.

But as of late, I'm finding that there's a definite bias towards the negative in what I'm reading.  Maybe people don't write about the good times, and only feel motivated to write when they need support.  But I also think the pendulum has swung so far to the other side of people not wanting to sound all "puppies and rainbows" about parenting, that sometimes it feels like all I read about is how HARD it is and how the days are long, and how it's not very fulfilling.

This post on AskMoxie is the straw that broke the camel's back for me.  I know her site has long been a refuge for people (including myself) about the "real truth" in parenting, but the more I've been reading the comments lately, the more it just brings me down.  She poses a fascinating question for people to answer - how people have changed since becoming parents.  It's something I think about a lot.

Reading response after response in the comments about how people don't feel like they're measuring up to their parenting goals, or how they are unfulfilled by the "job" of parenting, made me not want to comment.  I'm not invalidating others' experiences, but definitely reading that many negatives really depressed me. 

And again, maybe it's that I'm not hanging out in the right corners of the Internet.  I think people use the Internet to rant, because they can be anonymous, so it's likely biased towards the stuff you wouldn't tell your best friend or your partner.

But when I think of how I've changed since becoming a mother, it IS puppies and rainbows.  My life is filled with a joy I had never imagined.  I wasn't a little girl who dreamed of being a mommy someday.  I was perfectly happy to accept a life without kids (and it sure looked like it was headed that way.)  I'm selfish about my time and my sleep.

Even the day to day is overall good.  Sure, there was the horrendous day at 12 weeks when T wouldn't stop crying or nursing and I wondered just what exactly we had gotten ourselves into.  But most of the crappy things are blurry in my big picture.  We have WAY more good days than bad ones, even with the delightfulness of 2.5.

If the money tree grew in our backyard, I'd quit my job in a heartbeat and hang out with my little family.  This has brought purpose to my life far more than my career ever did (and I genuinely LIKE my job.) 

Maybe that's true for everyone (or a lot of people), but sometimes it feels like there's no place for that kind of joy on the Internet.  People think you're lying, or sugarcoating, or my favorite, "being judgmental", like the negative side is a more valid experience.

I find Facebook to be a lot more realistic, maybe because these are real people that I know, and they're sharing both the good and the bad.  The fact that someone else's 2yo is potty trained and they're happy about it, doesn't come across to me as judgmental that mine isn't.   All I think is "hooray!" for those friends and their diaper-free existence. 

And of course, there's real life, where I get to hear both the good and the bad from friends directly, which gives me a more balanced picture.  It was delightful to hear a friend telling me about a perfect evening she had with their (fairly new) family of 4.  And it's not that I don't want to hear the hard parts - I do want to be forewarned and also want to be a good friend.  But in real life, I get both sides of the story, not just an endless stream of "this sucks".

So yeah, a break from the mommyblogs and anonymous questions is in order.  Is it just me or do you notice this too?

sharing is nice

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