Category "Family Matters"

August 29, 2011

once more, with feeling; or, let me introduce you

to Holla', our new teenager from Holland. I can't really post a picture yet because I don't think I have one that fits my requirements of maintaining a little anonymity for him while at the same time giving you an idea of what he looks like. I'll tell you this, though--in seeing his picture, my co-worker remarked that we seem to get all the cute ones, and I think that's true indeed.

Holla' has been with us for about a week or so now, and things are settling in pretty well, I think. School started today, so now we're really off to something, and we'll see how that goes. This is our second year doing this, and last year, the school didn't have any other exchange students than CJ. So this year, Holla' has been hearing a lot about him, and that's got to be weird, especially since they don't know each other and all. This year, though, there are five exchange students at school, and that will be much nicer, I think.

At any rate, Holla' reaffirms my belief that teenagers are some of the best people around. Especially when they are mature for their age, funny, smart, clever (I forgot that the first time!) and curious. And, it probably doesn't hurt to be living with people other than your parents. At any rate, we are having a good time. So, stay tuned! I'm sure we're in for a totally awesome year!

Posted by chri1010 at 1:30 PM | Comments (2145) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

August 28, 2011

this one's for you!

This post is for StallaMaëstro. If you're not StallaMaëstro, stop reading now. If you are, you can keep reading, except that there's nothing more to say.

Posted by chri1010 at 11:56 PM | Comments (1481) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

June 28, 2011

Mixing it up a little

When we last met our heroine, she was wondering about her youngest child's health. It seems that not much has been resolved since then. S had an MRI, and it came back all fine. That's good--it means she doesn't have any brain damage or pockets of fluid anywhere bad, but it also means we still don't know why she walks funny and has stiff legs. We're working with a neurologist, and I think that we'll have some answers eventually, but we're in the "experimental" phase of things, and I'm trying to just "be" with the situation.

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In other news, CJ, our exchange student for the year, has returned home. It's quite an adjustment living with a (nice) teenager and then having them suddenly depart. We all certainly miss him, but S and I miss him most, I think.

I thought that over this last year, I might write a little here and there about what it was like to have an exchange student, but I didn't really do that so much. Frankly, I think I mostly enjoyed living it, and I didn't want to stop to reflect on things, like CJ's constant badgering about my not using the metric system, or the relative difference in how students in the US and students in Germany consider grades. Honestly, cooking with a recipe that uses the metric system really has a whole different way of measuring, and that might have been interesting, but mostly it just was. It was a negotiation that didn't seem blog-worthy at the time, and maybe will be some day, but not today.

Today I'm still reflecting on the quietness of a room left vacant, and silence on one end of a conversation about politics and culture and the success of the Euro (I still maintain it won't be strong forever). I'm waiting for an equilibrium that will take a long while to settle, I suspect.

Last time, I wrote about "per aspera ad astra," an idea shared with me by a true friend who helped me see the glimmer in every tough situation. Well, friend, this is a different type of aspera, and I'm hoping we can find some stars together.

Posted by chri1010 at 12:42 PM | Comments (2194) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

February 6, 2011

hello again: hello, my name is...

It's been awhile since I've written a blog entry, and it's not that I haven't been thinking about writing. It's just that I've had a lot of thoughts, and not sure how to channel them into a coherent thought, among other things.

We've been hosting an exchange student this year (hello, CJ--yep, that's your blog-o-nym--and I know you're reading this), and I've been enjoying the experience immensely, and wanting to post some thoughts about our exchange experience. Yet, it's taken me awhile to figure out how to do that while respecting CJ's privacy and my own, while also not coming across too trivial about any of our experiences.

CJ is from Germany, and NOT from Bavaria, so I'd say I've learned a little about that distinction and how there's a tendency here in the US to associate Bavarian elements of Germany with all of Germany. Part of my family comes from north of Hamburg, so I have to say that I appreciate having a better understanding of this distinction, and I'm really enjoying learning more about Germany and the EU and CJ's perspective on a host of topics, like politics, economics, technology, and education. I hope I'll write about a few of these things here in the next few posts.

One interesting little topic that has come up in a whole variety of ways for me during CJ's stay has been names. He and I talked about it a bit today, but we really just scratched the surface.

My own children's names, which are usually referred to around here as J and S are in fact, of German origin. J's name, when pronounced correctly, starts with a "y" sound, and S's name should start with more of a "z" sound (well not exactly, according to CJ), but we don't ever really say it that way. J gets his name mispronounced all the time, as do I, and he seems to handle it pretty well. S probably will have some trouble with her name too, but for now she's too young.

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CJ's name is also uncommon in Germany, but common here in the US. The pronounciation in German is different than it is in English, and I've gotten so used to saying his name the German way that to hear it in English doesn't sound right anymore. Yet, he goes by the English version at school here this year. His brother also has an uncommon name in Germany, and that name is also uncommon in the US. It's sort of neat to me that his parents chose interesting names for their kids, as we did too. We share some values across our cultures, and I like that this is one of them.

One difference, although slight, is that CJ calls his parents by their first names. It came as a bit of a surprise to me because I had asked him what he called his parents when he had first arrived, and he told me "mama and papa" which is also what we want our kids to call us. Of course, CJ calls us by our first names, but I wouldn't expect anything else. Nonetheless, I was surprised to hear him on Skype using his mother's first name. He also seemed a little upset or insistent in his tone with her, and maybe that added to my surprise because even as an adult, I don't call my mother by her first name, and even if I did, I wouldn't call her by her name in an argument. (Readers, do you call your parents by their first names? why or why not?)

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In the meantime, S has taken to calling me "mommy." Of all the possible ways of referring to me, this is absolutely my least favorite. Everyone around her tries to correct her with "mama" but she insists "mommy!" Right now, I've given up.

This name, to me, conveys a certain helpless dependence that I don't want to foster in my children. I've joked that if she's still calling me mommy when she's four, I'll insist on her just calling me by my first name instead.

This comes as a shock to a few people. This fall, J was calling C by his first name, which really irritated C. It was a passing phase, and J is back to calling C "Papa," but I know there'll come a day when J is going to ask not to use mama/papa anymore, and I'm feeling right now like it should be okay to call us by our first names, even in an argument. Even if they are exchange students talking with us via Skype from some other country. But right now, the whole idea feels a bit of a foreign concept that still takes some getting used to.

Posted by chri1010 at 12:50 AM | Comments (3871) | Family Matters

Category "Buddhists and Futurists"

Category "Family Matters"

October 28, 2010

my little suffering

It's been awhile since I've posted anything here, and it's not because I don't have anything to say. My silence has been fueled largely by a lot of travel recently, and as much as I like to travel for work, it really does mess with a routine. Eventually, I find myself feeling a little run down, and now I've got a cough, and I'm tired and it's Halloween and I'm wishing I weren't feeling so tired and run down. So, I started this post wanting to complain about a few things, but as I was feeling that urge to complain, I was reminded by a recent reader comment asking about how I define compassion. So, let's start there.

I think compassion is partly about recognizing suffering in someone else. Suffering is such a buddhist word to me, and although I find myself drawn to buddhism, I sometimes question (in vain) whether suffering really conveys the right meaning of other people's pain and struggle. To me, suffering is a really strong feeling, like the agony of being in the last days of dying of cancer, not the pain of being surrounded by too many things. But when I reflect, I recognize that they are both a type of pain, one just being more profound than the other and that the degree of pain and how it inflicts itself depends on the person and their perceptions, so I think suffering IS a useful word in relation to compassion. So, in order to be compassionate, I think you have to recognize the suffering of others. And then, I think you have to respond to that suffering with love and kindness. That show of love and kindness might manifest itself differently depending on the person and what that person needs and appreciates, and maybe knowing how to respond lovingly is part of the challenge and the learning that comes with experience.

I think that people respond with anger, hurt, and thoughtlessness when they are so distracted by their own suffering that they are not able to respond with love. Our own suffering can sneak up on us--sometimes I think we don't even know we have a wound until something comes along and rips the scab right off.

This happened to me recently. I have struggled over the last several days because I have wanted to respond in kind (i.e., not with kindness). I have wanted to go looking for a wound that needs some salt rubbed in it because I have been suffering myself. In the process of talking with a few good friends, though, I have started to embrace my suffering, and am trying to take care of it. I have been working to recognize that thoughtlessness happened because of someone else's suffering, and it is better to take care of myself and be ready to respond with compassion than it is to point out the short comings in others. This is not easy, and I am working on it. I will let you know how it goes.

Posted by chri1010 at 10:41 PM | Comments (2646) | Buddhists and Futurists | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

Category "Random Distractions"

August 12, 2010

winds of change

It's hot here in Minnesota, and humid beyond belief. It's probably not as humid as I hear it can get in the Carolinas, but my poor little window a/c units are taxed to the max,and it's still hot in my house. Heat and humidity gives way to thunderstorms at night--and a couple during the day too--and the kiddos don't sleep so well with all the excitement in the sky. But, I love this time of year! Summer giving way to fall is filled with renewal and opportunity for me, and I can't help but savor every day.

If you've been following my blog of late, most of my posts are about raising kids and finishing my PhD, and there might be a craft project or two thrown in. But, if you go back further in my archives, there's a few other topics that surface now and then, and I have written in the past about the Fighting Sioux logo/mascot issue that has been a major challenge for the University of North Dakota, my alma mater. With school starting in Grand Forks in a few weeks, I'm not surprised that my entries have resurfaced, and a few folks have asked for an update. Earlier this year, it was determined that the university will need to have a new mascot. The Englestad hockey arena, which has many built-in elements with the old logo, will likely remain the same.

The issue of this mascot has been a passionate one for people on both sides. Some have wanted to keep the mascot/logo for reasons of tradition and pride. Others, myself included, have wanted to change the mascot/logo for reasons of pride and respect for those native Americans who want the mascot/logo changed. Having not played sports at UND, I don't feel a strong connection to the mascot/logo, but I certainly understand how someone could feel that way, and I know that there are plenty of angry and disappointed alumni, students, and other supporters who will have a hard time making this change.

Other schools have made the change. UND has many exemplars out there to learn from, and I believe that the process of developing a new mascot/logo can be a healing process. I'm looking forward to following the process, and will post another update when there is something new to report.

. . .

This summer has been a lazy one for J, and it's taken me back to my own childhood, with unstructured hours of watching cartoons, reading books, and playing outside. Late this spring, I joined a health club with the primary purpose of taking J swimming, and we have done a lot of swimming, and now his only structured activity is swimming lessons. All of this has had the fore-hoped benefit of getting him relaxed and in a good place to start school this fall. He has even mentioned spontaneously things that he thinks will be true of his new school, like they will have good lunches. Not sure if that is true, but we'll find out soon enough. There's less than a month left before our new routine begins.

I have begun working out on a regular basis, and even after only a few weeks of this new routine, I am feeling addicted. I think my PE teachers in high school must not have been very good because I don't remember working up a sweat and feeling that great endorphin release that comes from a good workout. I've been going to the gym so much that C has decided to join me, and now it's truly a favorite part of our day together. We bring the kids to the gym's childcare center and spend an hour together. Well, half hour really because one half is spent on the bike (me) and the treadmill (C). But then we do strength training together, and that is fun!!

I've also been working on responding to C's anger and frustration with love and compassion. This takes practice. As you've read from other postings here, C has been suffering from an arthritic condition, and it has certainly taken its toll on him in many ways. The pain has made him angry, and most of the time his anger is not too far below the surgace, ready to pop up whenever it can. I have grown tired of resonding to anger with anger, and so I have decided to practice something different. I got a lot of guidance from Thich Naht Hanh's book, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames. I'm still practicing--it's not easy.

And it's been a reminder that relationships, especially those with a spouse or a partner, take ongoing work. It's so easy to get into a habit of taking the other person for granted, and expecting that we don't have to exercise care and compassion with that person because they live with us, and they know us and love us anyway. But, in fact, I think knowing C and loving him is exactly why I want to not take him for granted and show him a little more love and compassion.

The winds of change are blowing my direction, and I am choosing to embrace this breeze.

Posted by chri1010 at 12:26 AM | Comments (960) | Family Matters | Random Distractions

Category "Family Matters"

July 20, 2010

riding the waves

I think there comes a moment in every parent's journey with a child in which the child surprises the parent by doing something completely and totally unexpected. I think this probably happens rather often--maybe even every day--but there are those times in which the surprise is perhaps a little bigger than expected.

Recently, we took a family vacation to the Wisconsin Dells. If you haven't been, it's probably one of those places everyone should have to get to experience once in a lifetime. I think it's best to approach the whole enterprise with an open mind, ready to embrace the campiness of a place that has 5 times more tourists than residents. Maybe my estimate is too low?

Although Wisconsin Dells is named for the beautiful rock formations in the Wisconsin River, it's much better known for its waterparks. There's Noah's Ark, the largest waterpark in the U.S., and Mt.Olympus, the largest waterpark/resort in the U.S. There's no end to the number of waterslides, roller coasters, lazy rivers to tube down, and various wave pools to bump around in.

I'm not sure how the location of the Wisconsin Dells got picked for a family vacation destination. This was one of those big family reunion get-togethers, and I think the location was sort of chosen by committee. At any rate, we were looking forward to some rest and relaxation more than we were looking for thrills and spills of the wet variety.

But it so happened that toward the end of our week in the Dells, J decided that he really really really wanted to go to a water park. There had been some discussion of this earlier in the week by others, and I think some people thought that there would be better ways to spend our money than to take a child who is generally rather timid to a place that is better suited to teenaged thrill seeking. But, since he was asking, we slathered on some sunscreen and went.

At first, for a few moments anyway, the naysayers might have had their moment in the sun. The long walk into the park past the Hades rollercoaster (partly named due to its drop down into a tunnel and coming out on the other side of the street) caused an immediate ear covering by the young lad. But eventually we found our way into the indoor portion of the water park. We started out in something more like a regular pool, but quickly found our way into a lazy river (which we LOVED!!). We might have done that all day, but then there were the indoor water slides (which we LOVED!!). Again, again! Again, again! And then there was the outdoor lazy river with a little more current. J ditched his innertube and had fun swimming along, being pushed by the current.

At one point he turned to us and said, "That sign says 'Strong swimmers only.' Am I a strong swimmer?" "Of course you are," was our reply. This, after he had already shown his strong swimming skills with all the things he had done. He jumped back in and wound his way around all the adults and teens in their inner tubes on the fast-moving lazy river.

We continued on to a tide pool/beach area. This one had waves that started every 10 minutes or so, and then the waves would last awhile, rocking you back and forth in a tube. J thought this was fun--he wanted to be right up at the rope, pressing the limit to make sure to get as much out of the wave as possible. Where did our timid boy go?!

Finally, we checked out Poseidon's Rage. This was a bigger tidal wave pool--the waves can crest as high as 9 ft, and it's pretty much a body-surfing free for all. We would still be there right now if J had his way!! I think this was his all-time favorite. What surprised me most was that he didn't need to have us in the pool. He managed alone, in spite of the chaos of the wave and the people everywhere. My boy is growing up!

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Moments like these remind me it's good to take calculated risks, and to always be open for the moment when your kid will surprise you. This was a fun surprise. Seeing J beaming as he was recounting his adventures in the wave pool with his cousins that evening was the highlight of my trip.

Posted by chri1010 at 4:10 PM | Comments (802) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

June 5, 2010

nearing the end...on the verge of a new beginning

In Minnesota, the school year doesn't start until after Labor Day. That means that in the spring, the days drag on and on. The weather gets nice and kids get restless and school still persists. This year has been unusually hard, and the end can't come quite fast enough for this household. Consider:

How many worksheets IS too many? a worksheet, in my opinion, should be a means of recording useful information. Drill and skill is not helpful, and ten worksheets in one day is really at least nine too many.

How would you respond when, in response to a rough day at school, your child turns to you and says, "They just don't understand me there."? What would you say?

How can a parent continue to send their child to a place in which an adult has called their child a brat? or told their child repeatedly that they are not special?

I am frankly too sad, discouraged, and worn out to continue this list, which could go on at length. Even more sad is that my sweet J has only been attending this school since March. So, it should be the case that we haven't had enough time to amass this list, but unfortunately, that is not the case.

We went to a bit of an effort to show our commitment to the school. We met with the teacher. We emailed. They don't email back--why commit to anything in writing after all? We raised money for the school carnival. We went to the carnival and had a reasonably good time. We diligently supported the completion of countless worksheets that were returned with a sticker saying "Very good!" or "Excellent!" and nothing more. I'm not sure any of these efforts really had any effect.

In the meantime--and for those of you not in Minnesota, it is a school choice state, which means that there are numerous options for public school--we have learned of a dream school in a neighboring suburb. Well, the neighboring suburb is actually a 30 minute drive away, but that seems immaterial, all things considered. This dream school is for kids like J. They do fun things like calculate bracket stats during March Madness. They dissect owl pellets and sheep's brains in 3rd grade, and make star charts, and read cool books. They understand the emotional issues of bright kids. They don't really use worksheets, and there's very little homework. And best of all, J has been eagerly accepted into the program for next year.

Once upon a time, I thought that we could always provide additional stimulation for our intellectually curious kid. And we do. Recently, we've grown, and killed, a couple of caterpillars. Before their death, we learned a lot about them, though. We have also been learning about Beatrix Potter's life and times (I recommend the movie Miss Potter). We have been swimming and learning ping pong. We've also started a collection of state quarters. But all these things aren't really enough to overcome the torture of worksheets.

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There's a documented condition called schooling resistance and to some degree we have experienced it in this house. I sometimes feel devastated to think that a child who was once so naturally curious about the world and who had so much faith in school has been so enormously let down.

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But J is resilient, and a carefree summer has the potential to be healing. When Labor Day rolls around this fall, I think that school will start for real, for the first time.

Posted by chri1010 at 10:50 PM | Comments (1012) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

Category "That Thing Called a Dissertation"

May 10, 2010

commencement

I distinctly remember when I graduated from high school, thinking that commencement was a funny name for the ceremony. High school graduation seemed so much more of an ending than a beginning--why would you call it commencement?

I thought about that again when I graduated from college with my bachelor's degree. At the time, graduation felt like the end of security. During the time I was in college, my parents paid my way. Graduation was a marker of being out on my own, finding a job, and paying my bills.

Eventually, I found my way through two master's degrees, and my family made me go to two more commencement ceremonies. I remember very little from these events, except that Donna Shalala was the speaker at one, the same one I'm told was on a cold and rainy day in the pacific northwest. The second of these commencement ceremonies was on a sunny August day, and there was jazz music. But both of these again felt more like an ending instead of a beginning...I've never thought of finishing a degree as an opportunity to move on to something new. Maybe I've been living my life in the past instead of the present? Of maybe all of these commencements weren't really commencements at all, but just a temporary respite on the way to something more?

This past Friday, on a cold and rainy day, I participated in my final commencement.100_0369.JPG Beforehand, I attended a little reception thrown by my department. My advisor wasn't there, of course. The department chair, who is kindly but doesn't know me, mispronounced my name when he introduced me. I didn't really know anyone, except for one favorite professor who couldn't attend the ceremony today because of a family obligation. None of this mattered.

When you graduate with your doctorate, you get to wear a hood made of velvet. The velvet color varies, depending on your degree. In my case, it was dark blue, for the doctor of philosophy. At the University of Minnesota, the satin lining on the inside is maroon and gold. And, here at the U of M, you can choose the standard robe (black) or the centennial robe (red). Someday, if I choose to become faculty somewhere, I might purchase the centennial robe, but right now, I am content to have the doctoral robe of the former academic dean of General College. I did buy the centennial tam instead of the traditional mortarboard, though.

The talking part of the ceremony was short. The address was given by a geography professor who talked about graduate degrees and global engagement. It was interesting, but not all that accessible to my family. It didn't matter.

I was in the back of the line of maybe 300 or more doctoral degrees given out on that day. Eventually they called my name, and I was hooded for the first time. I don't know who the faculty were who did the hooding, although I think one is the chair of the educational psychology department. It didn't matter.

I walked across the stage and got my diploma cover, which I don't need since my diploma is already framed and on display in my office (doctoral degrees are awarded monthly--and mine's been done for awhile now). Some people got to get hugs or handshakes from faculty in their departments who were there for this auspicious occasion. I did not have anyone standing there, eager to hug me or shake my hand. It didn't matter.

I walked off the stage, and standing there at the end was C, eager to hug and kiss me. My parents, who were in the most awesome reserved seating, looked on with pride. THAT mattered.

When it was all done, I walked out with my little girl and my son, who have a doctor for a mother. They say that the educational attainment of the mother is the most important factor in the social mobility of a child. J and S, I might not have even imagined your very existence back when I was graduating from high school, and my bachelor's, and my master's, but don't think for a minute that I didn't do it all for you, because I did. Because THAT matters.

So, I walked out of that auditorium wearing my doctoral clothes proudly, holding the hand of my son. I did it! I accomplished an important life goal. And now, as I look forward to what comes next, I understand the meaning of commencement. I think I just didn't get it before because I wasn't really done. I wasn't ready to commence.

Posted by chri1010 at 10:55 AM | Comments (896) | Family Matters | That Thing Called a Dissertation

Category "Family Matters"

April 25, 2010

Homework Hell

Can someone tell me how many math problems is enough to demonstrate that your kid understands subtraction that involves borrowing? I have a feeling it is less than most teachers might think. The thought of one more worksheet makes my skin crawl--and they aren't even my worksheets!! The research (or so I hear), says that homework isn't even effective until around 5th grade. On the other hand, my sister who teaches K says that most parents feel reassured by homework because they see what their kids are doing in school. I am not reassured by homework or by worksheets. I support education, but I want it to be interesting and compelling and not 2,000 opportunities to show everyone that you know what 82 minus 53 is. (It's 29, by the way.)

In second grade at Neighborhood School, weekends aren't made for homework. On Mondays, a packet of math worksheets comes home, to be returned on Friday. These are dreaded worksheets, or at least dreaded by all in our family.

It seems that while I was away, J did not do his weekly homework, and it was still lingering around when I got back. We slunk off to Target, our place of choice for doing homework these days.

One page spoke volumes: there were probably 30 simple two number addition problems on the page, and then my favorite part: "Shade all of the boxes that result in the number 72."

J sighed every time he found the answer was 72. At one point, he said, "Don't they know this is a waste of pencil lead?" At another point, he inquired, "What is the point of shading all these boxes anyway?" I responded impulsively, "You should ask your teacher what state standard that requirement addresses." J thought for a moment and said simply, "Motor skills."

In addition to those 30 problems, he had another 30 or so of subtraction that involved borrowing, and another page of the same. He also had a few pages of telling time, and some other things I don't even remember anymore.

On top of that, he had to write a journal entry in response to the following prompt: "If I owned a restaurant, I would serve...." J is too pragmatic for these things. He doesn't want to own a restaurant and serve anything. Yet, he knows that's not the right answer, so it takes him forever to come with something. So we sat there for what felt like an eternity, talking about serving lego sandwiches (no one would eat it), cat food (too complicated to write about), and the list goes on. We settled on fruit.

As an aside, I'd like to just take a moment to say that having a reluctant writer has really been a reflective moment for me as a former writing teacher. I remember my enthusiasm in assigning prompts like, "If my writing were an animal, it would be a...." I am the proud parent of a child who does not care what kind of animal his writing is. Not that one shouldn't be challenged by those assignments now and then. There is some metacognitive value in thinking about whether or not one's writing is a bat (can only be done at night), a sloth (slow, slow, slow), or a tiger (I'm not really sure here--quick bursts involving lots of carnage?), but I can see the other side, my friends. I have come to understand the other side.

I won't say how the writing got done, but it did get finished. In his own handwriting. The math, on the other hand, is another story. A flock of penguins (are they a flock? or a gaggle? or a quorum?) seemed to waddle by the windows of our local Target, catching J's attention. When he looked back at the table, the math worksheets were gone, and we're not sure where they went.

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Obligatory cute kids picture

If J's teacher is reading this, I am so busted. But, I'm sure she's too busy grading papers to take time to surf the net.

Posted by chri1010 at 11:38 PM | Comments (1351) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

March 22, 2010

the chance of being a real person

Almost three years ago, I wrote of our decision to send our son to a local Chinese immersion school. The school is a public school in the school choice state of Minnesota. I have always thought--and still think--that the school is an excellent school. Where I stand today, I see some areas that I hope they will improve in, but overall, it's a great school.

When our son started in the school, I wrote of my family's slow acceptance of our decision. I think their reluctance was due to the unfamiliarity of the idea of language immersion in general; I'm sure our choice of Chinese didn't help. I think their concerns were only slightly assuaged by the fact that J's best school chum's family comes from the same part of ND as I do. Overall, my family was slow to warm up, and mostly pretty silent on the issue.

When we decided to switch J to the neighborhood school, for a variety of reasons, some of which I've described here, we were a little uncertain about how to approach our families on the topic. So, we waited until one week of success, and then in an email, I wrote of our decision, that J needs to be able to express his ideas and that Chinese was slowing that down.

My dad's response came this morning:

Glad to hear J is out of Chinese school and has a shot at being a real person and that his new school isn't a long ways off.

Well, gee, dad. Tell me how you really feel, why don't ya? Upon reading this, my thoughts went straight to Carl, the family liaison at the Chinese school. He uses the phrase "heart-safe" to talk about our words and actions. I don't think my dad was thinking about being heart-safe here.

There's a lot of things I think about what my dad said here. I think maybe he doesn't really mean J didn't have a shot at being a "real" person before, that maybe he means he wasn't so sure of the relevance of Chinese? but wow....I'm just stunned that he somehow believed that and didn't share it before. I'm stunned that he could let those words flow from his fingers and not think for a minute that maybe there would be hurt on the other end.

In my family, there's no typical pattern of confronting these kinds of things, so I think I'll mostly have to forget about it and move on. Except that I don't really want to forget about it because it was said, and it hurts, and it shows the limitations of my own father. In two years' time, I won't remember this comment any more than I remember whatever they said when we first told them J was going to Chinese immersion in the first place.

Whatever the case, though, I hope that J will be someone who thinks before speaking, who considers the feelings of others before letting the words go. Somehow, I suspect that in those terms, J really does have a chance of being a real (caring) person, more so than my dad can ever dream of.

Posted by chri1010 at 2:30 PM | Comments (2116) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

March 21, 2010

Things are looking up

Some day, my posts will be about something other than family issues. Once upon a time, I was a knitter and a thinker, and...and..and.... It seems like these days, the main issues are all family related though, and so who has time to upload a picture of a half-knit sock? You wouldn't want to see it anyway. But the fact that I have a half-knit sock seems to be a sign that things are looking up.

J is now a week into the new school. He's going to our neighborhood school, which is a good school, but a plain ol' school with just the typical bells and whistles. The teachers seem to really care about the kids, and J's teacher is no exception. She's the perfect kind of teacher for him: experienced. He's not so sure he likes her, and I think that's a good thing. She's making him do the work, and so far, he's not had many nights of homework. The homework battles are gone!! So, J has more time to do this:

100_0206.JPG He's a bit of a video-game fan (aren't we all?), and our latest obsession is Doodle Jump on the iTouch. I can hardly keep my iTouch charged these days. And on the subject of video games, there's this local video shop that just opened up in our mall that has some kind of console that plays "old school" video games. J thinks it's just the coolest thing to play the original Super Mario Bros. Who knew those old scratchy graphics would be cool again someday?

C is doing much, much better. I think we've turned a corner, and it feels so good. He still has his moments, but usually they're caused by a medication issue. He takes so many different medications these days, he occasionally loses track, and I can tell when he's missing something. I call it the "asshole alert": when I want to call him an asshole, it usually means something's missing pill-wise. Funny how that works that way, but it does. It's nice to have him back to more of his old self--what a relief. I'll admit I probably believe that there's always a chance to backslide, but for the most part I'm trusting we're headed in the right direction.

Toddler S is super funny these days. She's got an opinion, and she wants to share it. The other day, I was opening a string cheese for her, and the dog was nearby. She turned to the dog and yelled, "Aaaaaah!" She can't really say anything, but she can communicate! It was really funny!100_0199.JPG She's also a really good eater, and she seems to be willing to try everything. In this picture, she was chewing on the apple core from a caramel apple I'd bought for J. She also ate some curry I made the other night, although I'll admit she shared more with the dog than she ate herself.

So J, C, and S are all good...what about me? Well, I'm going on week 4 of a nasty cold. I went to the doctor about ten days ago, and was sent home with a nasal irrigation system. This many more days later, I've pretty much had it with the unproductive cough, the chills, and the bodyaches, so I'm going back to beg for some relief. I'd like to feel better soon, but given that overall things are looking up, you won't hear me complaining too loudly.

Posted by chri1010 at 11:32 PM | Comments (2656) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

March 6, 2010

In parenting, happiness is a tall order

When our son J was born, I told him that all I wanted for him was to be happy. It seemed like a good wish for him at the time, but over the years I have really learned just how hard it is to make good on that kind of expectation.

For starters, as a parent, there are times when we really need our kids to be unhappy. I don't mean miserable, but I do mean that setting limits really involves short times of potential unhappiness for long term payoff. I wasn't really thinking about this kind of happiness at the time of his birth. In fact, I had no idea that "no video games until your homework's done" would ever cross my lips. But it does nearly every day, much to the unhappiness of an 8 year old boy. And that's a good kind of unhappiness.

There's also the unhappiness that comes from temporary learning situations that we all need to experience and are better learned the hard way. We can't really protect kids from everything, nor should we, I think. I don't know that J has had many of these lessons, but he is often a tentative kid, watching the action before jumping in. It's interesting--in this way he's not so impulsive, and yet in other ways, he IS impulsive.

J's happiness has been something to dwell on lately because there doesn't seem to be much of it, and it all seems to be centered around school. I can say for sure that J is not a very typical kid in so many ways, and it really makes school a challenge. Both C and I generally liked school, and we listened to our teachers and did what we were told, and so it's completely new territory to have a child who would rather take an unnecessary trip to the bathroom than listen to the teacher, or to spend 20 minutes negotiating why he shouldn't have to do his homework than to just do it. The school tells us, "it's not like he's physically aggressive...he's just passively resistant." I gave them that language: passive resistance. It's putting your head down on the desk and taking a nap instead of participating.

It's been a hard year anyway. Did we need this? Before you rush to offer advice, I can't begin to list all the things we've tried. Rewards. No rewards. Trying to have him be more responsible for his homework. Trying to have him be less responsible for his homework. Using different colors to complete his homework. Breaking the problem down into steps.... I mean, I have a Ph.D. in education (no less). I should be able to figure something out that works.

And that's when it hit me. I felt like a failure. I really did, and in fact, I still do. Except that J has an appointment to be evaluated for Attention Deficit Disorder (a little thing we like to refer to as "attentional issues."). I think it's probably a classic sign to consider ADD when the parent feels like they've done EVERYTHING and still feels like a failure. What frustrates me now is that we made this appointment back in December 2009 AND WE ARE STILL WAITING FOR APRIL 12, 2010 to come!! I need to remember to take deep breaths. In the meantime, here's some things I've learned:

1. I am not a failure. The likelihood is truly great that J has ADD. I may not be a neuropsychologist, but I've already taken the parent survey and shown it to my doc, and she said, yep, it looks like a referral is in order.

2. Gifted kids present ADD in unusual ways. Here's a great article on that topic. Some of the things that really stand out to me are that they really don't like to do homework that is repetitious (and we have homework hell every night--to the point that I have often considered just doing the homework for him!!), and that gifted kids with ADD often perform average or even poorly in the classroom and excel at tests. Frankly, we are so there right now, it's not even funny. The school has pretty much told us they think J has stopped learning. Yet, I think he thinks they aren't teaching him. It's such a catch 22 in some ways. Sigh.

3. Gifted kids may not do well in language immersion programs.There's information on the web that counters my position on this issue, but kids who are highly verbal need to express themselves verbally, and they may not be able to do that effectively in a language immersion setting. The other aspect of this is that the content may potentially be more simplified in the language immersion setting, and the gifted child is not able to engage it differentially as easily as in a native language setting.

4. Nothing has to be forever. This was advice given to me in a slightly different format by someone who has been through similar challenges. And, this is so good for me to remember. Sometimes it seems like all or nothing when it comes to school, but it doesn't have to be, and I can make it not be. One school year at a time. Or, one week at a time. Right now, even a week seems like a lot.

So, we have really determined that language immersion is not for J. Right now, he believes that schooling is not for him, but I think that in the right setting, he will change his mind. It's sort of amazing how excruciating changing schools can be. Schools really can become an extension of the family, and I feel sad leaving a really great school behind. But I want J to be happy, and I don't think it's happening in the context of language immersion, so it's time to try something else. Stay tuned....

Posted by chri1010 at 11:29 PM | Comments (1652) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

March 1, 2010

Time for transition

Baby S is now Toddler S, although she's not walking yet. She should be soon, though. She likes to cruise around, holding on to things. She can stand for short periods on her own.100_0151.JPG

She's going to be 14 months in a few days, and it's getting to be time to stop nursing. I didn't think we'd make it this long, and frankly, these last few months it's just been one or two times a day, mostly at night. It's not some big, important activity, except that for me nursing has been a success this time (as it certainly wasn't the first time around), and ending the nursing really seems to be fully moving on to toddlerhood and the impending moving out to go to college that happens thereafter.

If it seems like I'm ambivalent to resistant, it's probably because I am. I think I would keep doing this for a little longer anyway, but the last two nights in a row, S has bitten me. Hard. So, it's not really fun anymore, and it's not really necessary, so I'm thinking we should probably call it quits. But then...maybe this whole biting thing is a phase. S has been sick after all. Maybe I should cut her some slack?

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We've had a bit of transition around here. Little baby bed (Arms Reach Cosleeper) swapped out for bigger baby bed (if by bigger, we mean nice looking pack and play). The bigger baby bed had been our diaper changing station on the main floor, so now our living room isn't Baby Central anymore, although we did replace the pack and play with a smallish foldup changing table from IKEA.

A trip to the dentist is in the works, so that the dentist can look at all of S's six teeth and make sure that I haven't been doing irreparable harm in letting her nurse at night. On his advice, now she only gets water at night, and although he assured me that "she'll get used to it" I'm wondering if he'd like to come take care of her at two in the morning when she'd really prefer milk, please? Or, right now would be good.

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Posted by chri1010 at 11:56 PM | Comments (722) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

January 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Baby S!

It seems that this last year has flown by, and now baby S is one. She's not so much a baby anymore. She can't walk yet, and that, to me anyway, is sort of the last vestige of being a baby. In so many other ways, she's very much a toddler, and the little baby of a year ago is definitely a thing of the past.100_0098.JPG It's sort of strange to know that I won't ever have this experience of a baby again, as we're pretty much settled on having only two kids. What with C's health issues and all, it just doesn't seem like a good idea, and "quit while you're ahead" seems to be a good motto in life. So, we're passed that baby stage and moving on to other things. In some ways I feel a little sad about it because there ARE so many things to enjoy about an itty bitty baby. On the other hand, though, there are SO many wonderful things about a toddler and a preschooler and a kindergartener....and....and...and.100_0104.JPG The first time around, I did feel sad when each stage passed because with a baby everything seems to go so fast. But over time, I learned how wonderful the next stage is, and came to enjoy it and mourn its passing too. This time, I feel a little more zen about the whole thing, just enjoying where we are now. Which is good, because I think that's where I need to be.100_0105.JPG Right now seems to be a good time to stop and catch a breath. C may be doing better, although I'm always hesitant to say that, just in case. J is doing okay, but it's hard to parent a gifted child, and it's hard to send them to school, too. I think we're starting to get a handle on some of those issues, too, and that's helping. I'll write more on J in the near future. The whole dissertation defense went well, and now I'm Dr. C (I guess, it still doesn't feel real!). The dog and the cat, who are snuggling with me as I write this, are doing well.

Happy Birthday, Baby S! May this next year be as good as this very moment.

Posted by chri1010 at 11:23 PM | Comments (577) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

January 10, 2010

Spilt milk

The other day, baby S, who's not a baby anymore, and I were at the pharmacy waiting for a prescription. While we were there, a mother with a new baby came in. The mom was returning a rental breast pump.

The transaction took me back to a rental breast pump I had when J was a baby. Everything felt so emotional when he was born, what with his medical condition and all. That blue Lactina the hospital rented to us was one of those touchstones, and definitely a security blanket. At some point, I got my own personal breast pump, but it took me forever to return that rental, and when I did, I practically cried. It was so hard to make milk for J, and I felt like returning that breastpump was me giving up somehow.

This time, with S, things were a little easier, but not much. She, too, was born with a tongue-tie, and it effected her ability to suck. Early on, she wasn't gaining much weight, and it certainly was a cause of stress that I alone was her only food source. Eventually, we started to add formula to her diet, and over time, we got pretty comfortable with a formula during the day, nursing at night sort of plan. Somehow we've made it work, and now S is one, and we're still doing a little nursing at night, although not so much these days. I suppose one of these days she'll wean, but not yet. And, sometimes in the day, she wants a little mama milk, and somehow it's there, even though I've never had an abundant supply. DSC02051.JPG I didn't make it this long with J. He was also tongue-tied, and we both had other issues--exhaustion, medical complications, being formula fed before I even got to hold him....I should be lucky we nursed at all. If it's one thing he taught me on this topic, it's do what you've gotta do, mama. There's so much more to being a mama than making milk.

So, when S and I left the pharmacy, there was the mom and baby who had returned the breast pump, sitting on a bench. She was feeding her baby a bottle. We exchanged glances, and I realized that she was worried I was somehow judging her decision not to breastfeed. I didn't stop to tell her otherwise, but part of me wishes I had.

Being a mama is hard enough on its own. I don't think that women should have to defend their choices on how they feed their children. So, if I see that mom who returned the breast pump again, I'd give her a pat on the back for taking care of herself. (Hey, she returned it without crying!) And, I'd give her another pat on the back for taking care of her baby.

Posted by chri1010 at 10:44 PM | Comments (820) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

Category "That Thing Called a Dissertation"

December 1, 2009

Second verse, same as the first

I just finished entering all of my data for my dissertation into my spreadsheet (yay for me), and I posted that information to my Facebook status. Someone remarked, "and with two kids--yay for you!" or something like that (it was better stated in the original). Yeah. And with two kids. And a husband who has a chronic pain condition. And with a full-time job. And did I mention the aging dog who requires us to be a little more vigilant in the clean up department, lest the baby try to assist with the cleanup? Ok, you didn't need to know that little tidbit. And yay for me for entering my dissertation data, and yay for my friends for being so supportive. I honestly couldn't do it without my friends.

But anyway, sometimes I wonder, "what the hell was I thinking?" And sometimes I wonder, "what the hell AM I thinking?" I've got too much going on, and I'm looking forward to "done dissertation" being one less thing I have going on. Maybe soon. I'll keep you posted.

And then there's a day like today. We went to the pain clinic, and found out that there are even more options for easing the pain. Like Tai chi, and accupuncture, and other drugs. And keep on doing what you're doing. And let's figure out what might be making you feel like you want to check out. And let's keep a little humor in the picture while we're at it.

And then a nice lunch together, like the friends who we are. And later on, the surprise of a belated birthday present, not so secretly hidden away for me to find when I would least expect it (a krumkake iron...with lots of jokes about it being a crumb cake iron, or a croom kake iron...No, that's not right! Crumb ka ka--that's right!)

And the realization that things could be so much worse. Sometimes I'm not sure how, but I know they could be. And recognizing that someday, we'll be past all of this, and C will figure out how to live with the pain. Why should anyone have to live with the pain? But he will, and life will somehow have moved on. And hopefully we won't have been too distracted by all this pain stuff that we won't look back in 20 years and regret not enjoying our kids more.

And so, a temporary lull in the cycle of dealing with chronic pain. Gotta enjoy it while it lasts. In the meantime, I leave you with cranberry girl (yes, cranberries are her new favorite food).

Cranberry girl.jpg

Posted by chri1010 at 11:32 PM | Comments (1206) | Family Matters | That Thing Called a Dissertation

Category "Family Matters"

November 16, 2009

Redux

I've had this idea for a post for awhile now, and now I actually have time to post, and I can't remember what I wanted to say!! Isn't that how life goes?

We went to a wedding recently--my nephew got married. I actually told him a story at the wedding of a time when he was a toddler. I'm so old, I can do those things now! For the most part, the wedding was quite lovely, and overall, very beautiful.

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A friend of mine made S a dress--isn't it sweet? I apologize for the blurry photo quality--S just didn't want to sit still during our little photo shoot.

Some of my relatives didn't go, and I think that we sort of surprised ourselves by going. The wedding was in California, and it ended up being a pretty expensive trip, although we took J to Chinatown in San Francisco and also to the King Tut exhibit. He's been interested in that lately, so it was a nice coincidence it was on exhibit there. These things added to the cost of the trip, for sure, but it also felt good to know we were contributing to J's education by doing these things.

I think it ended up being a good thing that we went to the wedding because it was a nice set of reminders about why people get married in the first place. C has been doing both better and in some ways worse lately. Overall, I think his pain management is a little better, but in some ways, he's been very needy. At times it feels to me like he is checked out of life, and then there are other times where he's much more his normal self. During the checked out times, though, I feel overwhelmed and angry. I can sort of deal with not having time to get everything done that I want to do, but often it feels like nothing is getting done. Add to that an 8 year old who drops his legos on the floor and leaves his toys on the table and...and...and...and yes, I should teach J to pick up after himself and all that. What do you (ok, not "you" because "you" understand these things) think I've been trying to do all these years? Not to mention that it takes TIME to stay on top of J and his toys. And time is something in short supply....no hostility here, I promise.

So the wedding. The wedding reminded me that of course there are rough patches in every relationship. There are supposed to be rough patches. And at some point in the future, we'll come away from this rough patch and hopefully things will be better. And love is about seeing the imperfections in your mate and loving them anyway. I'm holding on to these things right now because this is definitely a rough patch.

And then there's the saying on the fridge magnet at my friend K's house: the universe will unveil things in its own time. Or something like that. K--if you're reading, feel free to leave the corrected version in the comments. I'm sure not sure what the universe if unveiling to me, but I'm trying to listen.

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I just wish I could be this laid back about life!

Posted by chri1010 at 11:25 PM | Comments (491) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

Category "Random Distractions"

November 1, 2009

Halloween redux

Last year, I learned the importance of letting your child choose his own halloween costume. It took awhile for that lesson to set in, though.

This year, I got it in my head that J and S would make a cute pair, if they had some kind of matching costume. You know, like Abbott and Costello, only younger. But J really would have none of it. He entertained my ideas, like J as a banana and S as a monkey (I know, I know), but he was doing that sort of listening that mothers do when their child is blathering on and on about pokemon this and pokemon that. You know, listening, but not really listening.

So eventually, we found ourselves in Target, and he was enthralled with the idea of spending his $10 allowance on a $9.99 red ninja costume. (We haven't really been able to teach him about sales tax yet, but he's starting to figure it out.) I thought that was the end of my matchy matchy costume for baby S, but then I remembered she has a papa!

Behold:

DSC01713.JPG I think this picture probably says it all. They had so much fun and the neighbors really were impressed with the two of them. I already have plans for next year. I figure I've only got a couple of years before S will have her own ideas about costumes, and hopefully I'll have it all out of my system by then.

In the meantime, J had a costume change of heart. For the last couple years, he's been asking for a Harry Potter-style owl, and I finally found one for him, a little stuffed owl finger puppet I got on a recent trip out of town. He was so excited about it, we had to go out to buy the makings of his owl trainer costume. See?

He's an owl trainer:

DSC01704 (2).JPG Now, this may not seem like much of a costume, and in fact, several neighbors thought he was a grunge rocker, but for J, this was a costume, as he is not at all into flannel shirts or shirts with buttons. In fact, he really wanted to get a second hand shirt, but the costume was so last minute, the second hand store was "closed to celebrate Halloween" by the time we got there, so we had to buy a new one. Maybe he'll wear it again. We'll see.

At any rate, a good time was had by all, and hopefully S won't hate us for dressing her up like a lobster. To her credit, she seemed to enjoy the costume, and once it was off, she had fun poking at the eyes and chewing on the antennae.

What was my costume, you might be wondering? Well, I have a standard Halloween costume each year. Suburban mom. Check it out!

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Ya gotta love those candy corn buttons!

Happy Halloween, everyone! I've already got a "bee" in my bonnet for next year! hint, hint

Posted by chri1010 at 11:12 PM | Comments (2792) | Family Matters | Random Distractions

Category "Family Matters"

October 6, 2009

A little of this, a little of that. Complete with lots of eye candy!

Sometimes I think I've really adjusted to life here in Minnesota, and then fall comes along and smacks me in the head. It's raining here today, and it's cool and very cloudy. Just like winter in Portland. It's hard to believe it's October and not January. At least I've finally learned that October is the month to wear sweaters. By January, the heat is on everywhere you go, and a coat and scarf and gloves AND a sweater just make for a little too much warmth. October is a good time to wear sweaters.

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Recently, I learned that there is such a thing as a pain clinic. It's a place to go if you're having chronic pain, like C is, or if you've recently had a surgery and are having difficulty with pain. C went to the pain clinic and found out there are a lot more things to try. So far they seem to be working pretty well, so we'll see how things go. It seems to be getting a little easier anyway.

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Today is picture day at J's school, and this year we actually remembered! Last year, somehow we didn't know it was picture day, and we sent him to school in his uniform. Picture day is a rare opportunity to go to school out of uniform, so it was a disappointment we forgot, although he still took an excellent picture. This year, J and I ran out last night and bought a sweater for him to wear. He picked a nice brown sweater with a light blue and tan argyle pattern. He was so pleased with his choice he wore it home. I'll try to post a picture of him sometime soon, as he looks very grown up in his new sweater. It was really fun to go shopping with him. Since he does wear uniforms, we don't often have many choices when it comes to clothes. And, I have a terrific friend who gives us lots of hand me downs in excellent condition, so his non-school clothes often come from her. It's pretty rare when we need to buy something, so I think that made it an extra special treat. It was nice to just be out, the two of us. I liked seeing what he likes and what he doesn't like in clothes. I think this year's picture is going to be super nice.

I have been away from knitting for awhile, and in some ways, it's been making me stir crazy. I have been doing some embroidered dish towels for a wedding gift for my nephew. They are turning out super cute, and now I've really got the bug for embroidery but I wish I had more time to do all the crafting I want to. Just gotta get that dissertation done. And then........

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I'll probably still be chasing after baby S!!!

Posted by chri1010 at 1:01 PM | Comments (789) | Family Matters

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August 22, 2009

When everything changes

First, a little eye candy:


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I was talking to someone the other day and mentioning how different things have been now that C has psoriatic arthritis. That's what he has, by the way, if I haven't mentioned it. It turns out that (thankfully) he does not have celiac disease, and whatever GI problems he has are related to the psoriatic arthritis. The medication he's taking seems to be helping that too.

Anyway, this person seemed surprised that things would seem different to me, so I explained. C is finally taking a drug for his psoriatic arthritis that is supposed to help, but it takes time to take effect. In the meantime, he has been taking either hydrocodone or oxycodone for the pain. They help quite a bit for the pain, but they have a host of undesirable side effects: irritability, agitation, and occasional bouts of irrationality.

In some ways, I feel like I have lost C to psoriatic arthritis. He spends a lot of time on the couch, he is often quite cranky, and he has developed a need to control lots of things that really don't need control. All of these things might have been there in C before but the psoriatic arthritis has brought them out ten-fold.

My old C might come back when the medication takes effect, but for now, I'm living with someone different, and I'm not sure how much I like it.

I think the person I was talking to was expecting that psoriatic arthritis is a little like having a mole or something. It's there, but it doesn't change you fundamentally. Maybe for some people disease doesn't change them fundamentally, but for others it does. Chronic pain is a nasty nasty thing, and I think that if you know someone in chronic pain you should expect that some how they are different than they were before they experienced pain.

I started going to meetings of the Well Spouse Association. This group meets to provide support to people who are married to people with a chronic illness. The types of illness may vary quite a bit, but it's surprising how much we have in common. I'm not going to say any more about this group due to confidentiality, but if you know someone who is living with a chronically ill spouse, this is a great organization.

It's going to hear the stories of others who have similar situations that made me realize this is not some surface level annoyance that will not impact my life. I suppose I can choose how much I let it impact me, but it doesn't feel like there's much choice when C is on the couch and refuses to budge when the baby cries.

This entry feels a little more intense than I intended it to. I'll try to write an update some time when it feels less intense. Thanks for reading!

Posted by chri1010 at 9:57 PM | Comments (3091) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

July 27, 2009

Update, update; or, the 3rd time's the charm; or, this one should last ya a few days, anyway

Isn't it funny how when you're feeling the postpartum hormones, you think you're not feeling any hormones, but then, as they slowly return to slightly more normal, you suddenly realize that four months ago, you were a raving lunatic, and you can probably blame it all on the postpartum hormones? I can already hear my friend K (and K, I know you're reading this, so "hi, K!") saying, "I told you so!" Well, yes, maybe you did, but wow, those hormones are something. They knock you over on your butt and you didn't even know they hit you. Although, the pronouncement "let's have another baby" about 6 hours after baby S's arrival should have been a clue.

Baby S and I are pleased to report that we're still successfully nursing in the evening and overnight hours. I'm honestly a little surprised how well this has all worked out. Every once in awhile, I think if I worked at it, I could probably bring my milk supply up, but then I think, why bother? Why fix something that isn't broken? (and, if YOU think it's broken, no need to tell me so!)

J had his big old 8th birthday this last week. I still woke up in the middle of the night to celebrate his birth, which, of course, was in the middle of the night because apparently that's when my children are born. He decided to have a low-key sort of birthday/surprise party this year, except that the surprise was that he didn't want his friends to know it was his birthday. So they got to our house for the little outing, and J announced, "surprise! it's my birthday!!" By then, he didn't care that they didn't bring presents because we'd been celebrating his birthday all week anyway.

[What follows next is an odd collection of photos--I was trying to find this first one, but I kept uploading the wrong one because my computer wouldn't show me the thumbnail, and I was too impatient to do anything else but guess. It's one of those days I suppose.]

Here are J and S, doing what sibs do best:DSC01157.JPG

DSC01268.JPGAnd, this is Domo, who has recently taken up residence at our house. I believe that he has become a way of externalizing all of the crap that C is putting up with from the arthritis (see more below). At any rate, sometimes Domo kicks C's butt, and makes us all laugh, and sometimes we can't wait to toss Domo out in the snow bank (but there's no snow yet, thankfully)


And here is S, with her Papa: DSC01256.JPG If you've been following things of late, it turns out that Papa (AKA, C) has a fairly significant form of arthritis, and his is situated in the lower back. He's getting treatment, but it takes awhile to take effect, and I am amazed by his ability to withstand so much pain everyday, as well as the side effects from the medication he's taking to alleviate the pain. This is not an easy journey, and not one he should be experiencing so young. There's still a little more to his story yet unknown, but we have more adventures in store before we'll be able to tell those tales, so stay tuned, I guess.

I think my mother is tired of me remarking on how long S seems. She really is a rather tall baby. At six months, she can already fit into her size 12 month onesies, and other things that ideally would be lasting for several more months or weeks at least, are clearly not going to be fitting for much longer at all.


She's working on the crawl these days, and this is very new to us. With J (who had a medical condition, including a colostomy bag on his abdomen), we never really had the crawl, and I didn't notice it until now. S is a VERY active baby! And, she is slowly working on the crawl, but I figure we'd better enjoy it while we can ("it" being that she's not really that mobile yet) because the time will come soon when we'll all need to look out.

J especially. We keep asking him to take care of his legos, but they remain everywhere. I've come to believe that legos just become part of the fabric of one's house. I mean, maybe someday I won't have legos...nah. I'm sure there'll always be one in the carpet, and one in the couch somewhere, and one tucked into the furnace grating. I just hope baby S doesn't ingest very many. Is that really too much to ask?

Posted by chri1010 at 9:43 PM | Comments (1849) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

July 8, 2009

Baby S is 6 Months Old

In some ways, it seems like just yesterday I was still pregnant and so very impatient to have this baby. Remember that? Of course you do! You were telling me to stop being so impatient, and she would come when she was ready.

And then she was ready. And then we dealt with some things like her being tongue tied and me not having that much of a milk supply. But it seems that these days we're still nursing successfully at night. That's the best time to not be making up bottles, I tell ya.

We've gone to visit grandma once, and grandma's come here a couple times. For the first six months, I think we've done okay.
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All along, I've been dissertating and knitting, even if I haven't mentioned it so much here. I'm making slow but steady progress on my research, and still hoping to be done sometime in the fall. Although fall will be here before I know it! And I have some knit projects to show off sometime soon, too. I'm getting stuff done!

Here's to you, baby S! Keep growing and being the wonderful baby that you are! I love you little one!!

Posted by chri1010 at 12:13 AM | Comments (549) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

July 6, 2009

Three of my favorite people

Jurgen, Papa, & Sigrid 070109.JPG

total eye candy!

Posted by chri1010 at 7:38 PM | Comments (1848) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

June 30, 2009

I should probably add that...

if you've been following along lately (and I'd be surprised if you are, since my posts have been infrequent and somewhat boring lately), my sweet C has been going through quite a rough patch. He's been in pretty serious pain of some kind, and we're not sure what it is. We're still not sure, but after an MRI, a bone scan, a spiral CT, and a biopsy, I'm pretty sure we know it's not cancer. I'd say that with more certainty if the radiologist who did the biopsy hadn't mentioned cancer on the day of the procedure. The referring doc has ruled it out. At any rate, whatever it is, and it's probably some kind of arthritis, is a bit of a mystery. But at least things might be looking up. Or, at least not looking down.

Posted by chri1010 at 10:21 PM | Comments (933) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

Category "Random Distractions"

June 29, 2009

There's something wrong if I'm blogging about blogging

but I do have to say this new Movable Type is nice, even if I'm still a little afraid of it.

In the meantime, I'm playing around a little and seeing how it uploads photos, so here's a silly one of baby feet and kid feet. I like how S is looking at me, even though I'm focusing on her feet. She's very aware of the camera--goofy girl! 100_1584.JPG

Posted by chri1010 at 11:28 PM | Comments (1502) | Family Matters | Random Distractions

Category "Family Matters"

June 12, 2009

Update: Achem's Razor Applies

It seems DH's problem is NOT Cancer (the big "C" as we call it my house). To this, my mother said, "well we already KNEW that." I'm thinking, when the doctor lists the possible cause as three different types of cancer, we DON'T already know it's not cancer. But anyway, bullet dodged. Still waiting to find out what the cause of all this back pain is.

Posted by chri1010 at 9:42 AM | Comments (1091) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

June 4, 2009

Happy Anniversary; Or, Just Another Day

Sixteen years ago, C and I got married. We were young and cute. We've been a lot of places and done a lot of things, even though I think we both wish we've been more places and done more things. Our love has gotten stronger through the years.

Lately, C has been experiencing a lot of back pain, and that's been really tough. He's crabby when he's in pain, and it's hard on J. We've finally gotten C in to see the doctors, and it turns out not to be good news. We don't really know the news yet, but barring some 11th hour surprise, I don't think we're in for very good news. This, we found out today in a letter from the doctor. I think he thinks his nurse shared the news, but she didn't.

Tomorrow we go for an MRI and a bone scan, and we'll see what we learn from those. There's still a slim possibility that the news won't be bad. But I'm bracing myself for the worst.

Posted by chri1010 at 8:31 PM | Comments (364) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

May 18, 2009

They grow up so fast!

My mother says we're rushing her, feeding her rice cereal.
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What she doesn't realize is that we couldn't take it anymore: the stares while we eat, the smacking of lips, the grabbing the spoon right from our hands.
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I think she still thinks we're getting something better than she is (it's true. rice cereal isn't that great, is it?)
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But make no mistake about who is in charge. It's not us.

Posted by chri1010 at 7:04 AM | Comments (685) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

May 10, 2009

Not an obligatory Mother's Day post

A year ago today exactly, I found out I was pregnant. On a lark, I decided if the nausea I was feeling was something more than a cold, and took a pregnancy test right after midnight on Mother's Day. Two faint pink lines. Now, a year later, I am the mother of two lovely children. Can life get any better?

Recently, my mother told me that she never really thought I'd be a good mother, but I've really surprised her on that one. If you're offended on my behalf, don't be. It was probably one of the nicest things she's ever said to me. And, to be honest, I've surprised myself. Having children wasn't really on my list of things to do in life. When we had our first, I was doing it because C wanted kids, and I figured it wasn't a bad idea. But, being a mom is a role I've really found myself comfortable with, and I'm sure glad I have two kids. It's twice as much love!

Posted by chri1010 at 10:37 PM | Comments (451) | Family Matters

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April 27, 2009

Oh, the complete cuteness!

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April 22, 2009

Growing up so fast!

Baby S is three months and three weeks old. She can do these things (and others, I'm sure):

1. Hold her head up. She's been doing this all along, but I thought I'd mention it. The nurses in the hospital commented on it!

2. Roll over, both ways.

3. Sit up with props. She's working on sitting up without props, and if you count a few seconds, she can do it by herself.

4. Stand with support.

5. Oh, and she has said, "mama" twice. The doctor says it counts.

Slow down, little girl! We can't keep up with ya!

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Category "Family Matters"

Category "Other cities"

April 13, 2009

Back in the cities again

So, we're back in the cities after a very wonderful trip to the NW for nine days. Baby S traveled very well, even if her parents didn't do so well on the way out there. Let's just say that sleep deprivation and a VERY VERY cranky gate attendant are a very bad combo. Unfortunately pretty much everyone on the flight out thought bad things about us! Oh well! The way back was much better.

Baby S is an excellent traveler. Except for one challenging night when she didn't want to sleep very much (it's a little stressful in a hotel room!), she was a real trooper! Unfortunately, she came back with a cold, and the travel turned it into an ear infection, but she's got antibiotics now, and it's all under control.

We got to see lots of friends in Portland, and I was truly struck by how our friends have all had kids! J had so many new buddies to get to know, and he had a really good time there. It's nice to go to a place where you feel like you can always pick up where you left off.

Posted by chri1010 at 4:06 PM | Comments (1594) | Family Matters | Other cities

Category "Family Matters"

Random Monday

So it seems that baby S is a little lactose intolerant. I found this out awhile back, but it, like everything else, took time to really know for sure. Before our big trip to the NW, I asked my mom if we should try soy formula. NO! was her emphatic response, and even though I still don't know why she was so strong-minded, I decided to listen to her for once. Now, my mom is here for a visit, and she was here less than 24 hours when she decided we should talk to the doctor about soy formula. So it goes.

Baby S has been taking soy formula for several days now, and she seems to be doing well on it. Her appetite has increased, and she's able to eat more ounces in a sitting (finally). Now that she's eating formula better, I'm starting to think our time of nursing is truly coming to its logical ending. We're nursing pretty much only in the overnights. I'm not sure how long my body will sustain that kind of thing, but as long as it will, we will. It seems she still likes it, and so do I. But, I'm noticing less of an urgency to pump and/or feed her during the day. But, at this point, I've really mellowed into motherhood, so we'll just have to see where the ride will take us.

On a separate note, does anyone else have a 7 year old who hates to do his homework? I truly hate this age, and its avoiding homework crap. Any strategies, success stories or otherwise are much welcomed.

Posted by chri1010 at 1:43 PM | Comments (1626) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

Category "Other cities"

April 1, 2009

Have Family, Will Travel

The other day, we packed up this little family of ours and flew to the Pacific NW for a little visit. Truth be told, we're here in Seattle right now for a conference, but before that, we took a little side trip to Portland for a visit with friends. I'm not sure I'm enjoying the rain and the cold so much right now, but overall we're having a really good time. Here's five things I've learned while on this journey:

1. Baby S travels really, really well. She's stayed on her fantastic sleep schedule (did I mention that this baby knows how to sleep at night?!), and she's not been crying too much in the hotel room (yay!).

2. J knows how to swim. Somehow that one escaped me, but he's taking to our hotel pool like a fish. It's really fun to watch.

3. A hubby with a yet-untreated chronic condition (more on that sometime soon) doesn't mix too well with an NWA flight attendant having a bad day. Wow. A whole planeload of people thing he's a total asshole, when in fact the opposite is true. The more I think about the whole thing, the more I can't believe it, but at least they didn't kick him off the flight. They only threatened to.

4. Old friends only get better. I've got some terrific friends in Portland, and I had the best time with them this weekend. It was pretty fun to realize that we've all got kids of one age or another, and they were all playing together and having a good time.

5. My home is in Minneapolis. This one has taken awhile in coming, but I really do feel settled there now. I felt like a visitor to Portland. It's not my Safeway anymore. I miss it all, but I'm glad for what I've got, even if it does include a big ol' pile of snow.

Posted by chri1010 at 11:16 PM | Comments (3033) | Family Matters | Other cities

Category "Family Matters"

March 23, 2009

Isn't She Lovely?

I'm sort of struck at random times during the day that right after S was born, the song "Isn't She Lovely" by Stevie Wonder was playing overhead. Part of me figures they do that every time a little girl is born (just like in that hospital they sound a chime whenever a baby is born), and there's some boy equivalent. But, I'd rather believe it was just an incredible coincidence. I tell baby S that it's her song because she IS lovely.

Right now, in fact, she's cuddled asleep on my chest, and life is bliss.

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Posted by chri1010 at 7:40 PM | Comments (865) | Family Matters

Category "Because knitting rocks my socks!"

Category "Family Matters"

March 5, 2009

Stuff I Like

I should admit that I'm doing rather well with this whole postpartum thing. I've lost around 50 pounds, give or take a few. In fact, I'm having to buy new clothes as my pre-baby clothes don't much fit me anymore. Bummer for me, eh? I've got increased energy like I didn't know I could have. I've been walking lots, and feeling good. My head is clear, and [gasp] I've been working on my dissertation. Yup. It's true. In fact, right now I'm taking some time out from the ol' diss to write this posting. I'm hoping to have a prospectus meeting sometime soon, and maybe finish the whole thing off this summer at the latest.

I've accomplished other things too, including knitting. Yeah, once upon a time I used to write about knitting on this blog. It's been awhile, I admit. But that doesn't mean I haven't been knitting. Before baby S was born, I finished her log-cabin baby blanket. It's made in Cascade Luna, which is one of my favorite yarns ever. Someone told me it looks like ice cream, and I think that's a great way to describe it:

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This was the perfect project for me because there weren't really any directions to follow. You just garter stitch in one color as long as you like, then bind off, turn the project to the right, and begin with a new color. You keep going around to the right the whole time, and it gets bigger before you know it. And now, it's a soft blankie for S! I love it!

I also finished a pair of socks recently. I started these right before I found out I was pregnant with S. I think the motto with these was "slow and steady wins the race." I love to knit socks, but I was really distracted with other things. Then, I realized I wanted to knit something for my OB. At first, I wanted to make her mittens because S was born in January and I thought that would be cool. But, then the doctor told me that when they are on call, socks are one of the only ways they can express their individuality. I asked her what her favorite color was, and she said green. I immediately thought of these socks, as they fit my doctor's personality, too. I'm not sure what I mean by that, but I gave them to her the other day, and I think she liked them:

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They were my first attempt at dyeing sock yarn, and I think they turned out terrific! I was surprised and pleased at how much they almost striped, as I wasn't trying to make self-striping yarn. I love the effect, though, and I'm glad I still have yarn left enough to maybe make S a little hat or something.

And finally, I have to end with a picture of baby S. I am more in love with her every minute!! She was so alert and interested when I was taking her picture today. There was sun streaming in the window, and she was so curious about it. I think that's what she's looking at in this picture. I LOVE this picture--I love the intensity of her look. She's such an awesome baby!

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Posted by chri1010 at 12:27 AM | Comments (526) | Because knitting rocks my socks! | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

February 27, 2009

Nursing sucks

I'd like to say I'm one of those people for whom nursing comes easily. I'd settle to be one of those people who have an overabundance of milk and all of the problems associated with that condition. Alas, I am neither of those people. I am someone with a barely adequate milk supply and a family predisposition toward tongue-tied babies.

What is a tongue-tie, you might ask? You know that little thing that holds your tongue to the bottom of your mouth? It's called a frenulum. In babies who are tongue-tied, the frenulum extends far forward on the tongue such that they can't really lift their tongue up very high, and they cannot stick their tongue out.

J was born tongue-tied. Back then (I say back then like it was eons ago, but in fact, seven years seems to make a difference with a lot of this kind of stuff), the general practice was to clip the tongue tie. The surgeon--J saw a surgeon regularly for another medical condition, so he was lucky enough to have this done by a surgeon--got J to cry a little, and then he used a sterile scissors and simply snipped the frenulum a bit so that J could lift his tongue. There's a little bleeding and it doesn't make the young'en very happy but the mouth heals quickly and that's that.

In the case of J, the tongue tie was just one of a thousand strikes against us in our quest to nurse. We also faced the following--a terribly long labor (don't even ask) followed by a c-section, J's medical condition and subsequent surgery immediately after birth, our being separated (he had to have surgery at a different hospital), STRESS (gee, I wonder why?), J being given formula before we were even reunited. Then there was the infection in my c-section incision, which led to us both getting thrush. By the time it was diagnosed, J was in so much pain that he went on a nursing strike and we never quite recovered. It's funny--things are so much easier this time around (no long labor, no being separated at birth, no medical conditions requiring surgery) that I look back on the first time and see that, yes, I really WAS a basket case. I had the right idea when I said I wanted another baby because I wanted to know it didn't have to be this hard.

So this time, when we saw that S was also tongue tied, we were a little surprised to hear that these days, they don't just automatically clip it. The doctor told us they clip it "only if it interferes with nursing." I regret not saying to clip it, even though at that point my milk hadn't come in.

When S left the hospital, she had lost enough weight that I was concerned. From 6, 9 to 5, 14. We went in for a weight check a few days later and we were down another 2 ounces. At this point, we should have brought up the tongue tie again, but everyone was saying how good she can latch. Which she can, but guess what, folks? She can't suck so well. And that's important.

So, S gained weight slowly, and in the process, I started to go out of my mind. I was taking fenugreek like crazy, along with blessed thistle. I ordered goat's rue, thinking that would help, but all it did was upset my stomach. I read every freakin' website about lactation. I cried every night from 4-6 pm. Then, one day, I decided to give S formula.

At first I felt like a failure, like I was giving in when if I just waited a few more weeks things might get easier. But guess what? It turns out that she couldn't suck on the bottle nipples. We kept going to smaller and smaller bottle nipples, with slower and slower flow. Finally, when the formula was still rolling out her mouth and down her back (we had to change her clothes after every feeding), we realized the tongue tie was causing all of this! I wasn't such a failure after all.

So we went back to the doctor who told us about the "research" and made him be the one to clip that tongue tie. He didn't really want to, but he did it anyway. And now S is a stronger sucker, and we're doing ok with the breast milk thing. I think we'll probably always supplement with formula, but we've got a pretty strong routine of nursing.

For awhile there, I thought the nursing was going to stop before it ever got a chance to get started. But now, I think it will go on for as long as possible, as long as it can. And I feel good about that. So good, that I leave you with a picture of an adorable sleeping baby:

Sigrid frog

Posted by chri1010 at 10:57 PM | Comments (1314) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

February 2, 2009

Birth Story

Finally, a few minutes while baby S snoozes to give the relatively short chronicle of her birth.

I had decided to take January 7th off to get a few things done before the baby's birth. As it turned out, I accomplished a number of things that day. In fact, I

1. Ordered two new pairs of glasses for myself
2. Went to Costco and bought a boat-load of fruit (most of which went bad while I was in the hospital, by the way).
3. Got my hair cut and styled
4. Bought a few different craft kits for J to work on in the coming weeks
5. Walked around Babies R Us and contemplated getting a few more items for baby
6. Bought and roasted a chicken, along with a fresh vegetable medley
7. Panicked about my mother's visit and bought a couple of roasts for her to make while here

After all of that, I decided to sit down and put my feet up, and that's when I started to notice the contractions. They were very regular, but not very strong. When C and J got home, I asked C to time the contractions, and we noticed they were coming about 9 minutes apart. We ate dinner, and we watched some tv while we contemplated what to do next. I figured we should probably go to the hospital at some point, but on the other hand, the contractions weren't really that strong. Yet, they felt different from the contractions I'd been having for the last several weeks.

Eventually, we decided we should call the OB on call and find out if she wanted us to come in. Knowing she would have us come in, I told C to make sure J had his overnight bag packed (we were planning he'd stay at a friend's house), and I went to take a bath. Around 10pm, I finally called the OB on call, and she told me to come in, but they would probably send me home after determining that I wasn't in active labor.

The whole ride to the hospital, I protested that here we were, having another false alarm. It felt so stupid to me to be going in to the hospital for them to keep me a couple hours and send me home. C kept reassuring me that this was no big deal to be going to the hospital again. J was excited to think maybe his sister would be born that night.

When we got to the hospital, the nurse told us that she was pretty sure that we'd be there a couple hours and then I'd go home. She kept telling me that I wasn't in enough pain to possibly be in labor, even if the contractions were coming pretty regularly. She hooked me up to the monitors, and we waited for the doctor to come do the cervical check.

[Minor detail: at this point, J went home with a friend. Not the friends who were initially going to host him, but it all worked out. J was pretty excited and didn't sleep so much that night--he's still pretty thrilled to have a little sister.]

When the doctor did the check, I was still and 1 cm and pretty much unchanged from the last check, which had happened a week previous. She said she'd give me an hour and a half, and they'd do another check before sending me home. For awhile C and I walked around, but mostly I just rested in the uncomfortable little triage bed and we talked about how difficult it all seemed to have a scheduled c-section but all of these trips to the hospital and questions about when the baby would be born. We admited we just wanted things to be over.

At about 2am, the doctor came back to do the second cervical check. As it turned out, I had progressed to 3cm, which seemed to surprise everyone. We moved quickly to the c-section. Suddenly, I went from calm and collected to excited. I couldn't stop shaking. I was in shock. A nurse quickly came in and set me up with an IV. I was wheeled to the operating room, and the next thing I knew I was getting my epidural. Before I knew it, I couldn't feel my legs, and I was getting oxygen and the doctors were prepping for the surgery.

I found the whole surgery to be a very relaxing experience. C was right there with me, and I just kept focusing on taking long, deep breaths. I think the surgery started around 3:10am, and baby S was born at 3:26. The overhead music was playing Stand By Me when they showed me my little girl. C went to the nursery with S to give her a bath and do her neonatal testing while I got stitched back up.

We all got together in the recovery room, and then spent four leisurely days in the hospital before coming home.

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Now the real journey begins!

Posted by chri1010 at 10:55 PM | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

January 12, 2009

Welcome to the blogosphere, baby S!

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Baby Sigrid was born on January 8th, 2009 at 3:26am. She weighed 6 pounds 9 ounces (much less than most of you guessed, by the way!!) and is 20 1/4 inches long. She's got the tiniest longest fingers I've ever seen, and super long feet with long toes!

We're home from the hospital, and doing well. More on the birth story--the planned c-section that turned out to be not quite so planned--soon. We're still busy snuggling.

Posted by chri1010 at 10:38 PM | Comments (1471) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

January 3, 2009

times, they are a-changin'

So I'm just hanging out, waiting for the baby to make her way into the world. I'm feeling a little less impatient (just remind me that life will NEVER be the same when the baby is born, and that'll slow me down!). Someone asked me recently how things seem to have changed in the world of babydom since J was born back in 2001. So, here's some things I've noticed. Some of these things may be regional differences, since J was born in another state far away from here. These are in no order, and in many ways, are an odd collection of things.

1. I mentioned this in a previous post, but there are hardly ANY truly gender-neutral clothes these days. Wow, the amount of pink for girls and blue for boys is overwhelming.

2. Similarly, there were absolutely NO gender neutral baby shower decorations at the party store when I shopped with a friend. What do people who are keeping it a surprise do in these circumstances?

3. Cord blood banking. It was a little known concept back in 2001, but now there's tons of ads for it everywhere. I'm still glad we're donating the cord blood to medical research.

4. Strep B tests. I think this is a newer test they do toward the end of pregnancy. Maybe I just don't remember it, but I'm pretty sure I didn't have one the first time around. On the other hand, the first time, they were insistent on an HIV test, and this time, they didn't even ask about it. But, don't think it's because I had one the first time--I've never had my old records transferred, so my new clinic doesn't even know about the old test.

5. Playards with more bells and whistles. I think the whole idea of using a playard for a baby bed was relatively new when J was born, but now it seems pretty standard. They sure come with a lot of features, and the one we bought for the new baby seems pretty darn big, too.

6. Travel systems (stroller/car seat combo) seem smaller and better made. We were hoping not to have to buy one of these again, but we accidentally sent the car seat base off to the junkyard with the old car it was in. Opps! I'm glad we got a new one, though, because the car seat seems nicer (especially the infant insert part), and the stroller is much more compact and easier to set up/take down.

7. You can buy a breast pump at Target. The first time round, I had to buy mine from a lactation consultant. It's so much nicer to be able to shop around easily, and to get the accessory pieces at Target (or anywhere else for that matter). This one really shows how much more supported breast feeding is these days.

8. Plus sized maternity clothes have improved. Of course, I think if you look over time, ALL maternity clothes keep improving, but the availability of plus-sized maternity clothes has really changed. The first time, I got all of my clothes though the JCPenney catalog, and although there were a couple of cute things, there were many things that were downright hideous. Not to mention that I was pretty well stuck with knit pants. But, this time, there are so many more choices, and I love my maternity jeans!

9. Better baby carriers. I think online shopping is partly responsible for this one, because it seems like there's better competition among manufacturers to make a good baby carrier. Our Ergo baby carrier is set to arrive any day, and I can't wait!

10. This one might be all in my head, or it might just be the blogs I read, but it also seems like co-sleeping is more acceptable (or at least discussed more positively) than it was in 2001. I remember first talking to a coworker, who coslept with her two kids, and we definitely felt like we were talking in secret about it. At the time, I wasn't planning to co-sleep, but frankly, having a baby with a medical condition, it was just so much easier. With this one, we're trying out the Arm's Reach Co-sleeper to start with, and we'll see how it goes.

So, those are things I've noticed. What are some changes you've seen over time?

Posted by chri1010 at 8:10 PM | Comments (1696) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

December 30, 2008

expecting...

A completely boring post, just because I haven't posted in awhile.

Waiting. Yep. That's what I'm doing. I was fine with this last month of pregnancy business. I'm feeling good (really, I am). I'm getting stuff done (although I'm not sure it's the stuff that NEEDS to get done). I was all set to ride things out in style until January 15th, the scheduled c-section date.

And then the contractions started. And then I called the nurse. And she suggested I go to Labor and Delivery to be evaluated for pre-term labor.

And I got to L&D, and at first they sort of blew me off, like yeah, you're having a few contractions, but no big deal. And then the contractions were coming 4 minutes apart. And then they thought I should have a baby that day. And then I freaked out.

But then they changed their minds and sent me home with something to help me rest. And since then, the contractions have slowed down, but not stopped.

But now I am feeling impatient, and ready to have this baby. But, it probably won't happen today. And I'll have to live with that.

Posted by chri1010 at 11:35 AM | Comments (2596) | Family Matters

Category "Family Matters"

December 17, 2008

Every baby is different....

When I was pregnant the first time around, I was very superstitious. I'm not sure exactly why--maybe it was that the whole being pregnant thing was a bit of a mystery. It was both weird and fun watching my body change in surprising ways, and I was always a little unsure about what was happening next. Although getting pregnant the first time around was relatively easy, I still felt like every day I carried the baby was a gift to cherish, and I didn't want to upset the balance of the universe. So, I didn't cut my hair--and besides, I have fabulous hair when I'm pregnant so why cut it? [This pregnancy, I have not only cut my hair, but had it permed.] In addition, we didn't tell anyone the name of the baby until after he was born. I think we felt like it was a bit presumptuous to know his name until we saw him. In fact, we had two names picked out, and we weren't positive which one we'd go with until the moment he was born. Funny thing was, our hospital was feeling more urgency than we were to name him, so he ended up being "Baby Christensen" his entire hospital stay because we didn't name him within the first five minutes of his birth. [This pregnancy, we have one name picked out, and we've seen her little face enough on the ultrasounds to feel good about it, but we're still not telling. But not for superstition. Just because we want something to still be a surprise.] A third superstition was related to the placenta. I had strong feelings about not wanting the placenta to be thrown away as "medical waste" and so even though it was highly unusual at this hospital, we got them to package it up for us to take home.

A friend recently asked me what we're going to do with the placenta this time around, and I laughed, because, although I felt so sentimental with the first one, things didn't really work out as planned. J ended up being born with a medical complication, and he had to go to a different hospital for surgery. Eventually, I was discharged so I could join him, but a hospital is really no place to have a placenta cooling on dry ice in a styrofoam container. While J recovered from his surgery, C brought the placenta home and put it in the freezer, and what with the newborn craziness and follow up medical appointments to address J's medical condition (which is fine now, by the way), we sort of forgot about the placenta.

I had a friend who had actually eaten hers, and let's face it. I was a little superstitious, but not that superstitious. I've since seen ads where you can have someone come to your house, dry it, and turn it into supplements. I wasn't going to do that, either. I had visions more along the lines of planting a tree and using the placenta as fertilizer. What hadn't really crossed my mind when I was begging for it to not be turned into medical waste was that we lived in an apartment complex, and I didn't really have the ability to plant a tree. Given the challenge of logistics, we just kept the thing in the freezer and tried not to think about it.

Eventually, though, we decided to move halfway across the country, to Minnesota. We didn't really think the placenta would make the trip so well, especially since we were moving in July. What were we going to do with it? We contemplated just throwing it away at that point, but that somehow didn't seem quite right, given we could have just done that when J was born. Instead, we asked a friend to take it. They were planning to plant a tree in their yard anyway, so we asked them to plant it with the tree. She said she would. We felt better and we moved on to Minnesota, and never looked back.

Then, a friend here asked me what we're going to do with the placenta. Now, I'm wondering if my friend in the NW ever did plant the placenta with the tree. I'm sorta hoping she didn't. By then, I'm sure it was all freezer burnt and nasty looking, and who knows if it even would have been good fertilizer anymore. I'm sort of hoping she just left me with the illusion that she was taking care of me, as she tossed it quietly in the dumpster.

This time, we're NOT keeping the placenta, even though we have a yard that needs a tree. Nope, not doing it. There'll be no placenta in my freezer. This time, we're donating the cord blood and the placenta to medical research. I feel like some good will really come of the placenta this way. Sure, it's gonna end up as medical waste somewhere, but not until all of it's goodness has been extracted and saved in order to help someone. That's what I wanted in the first place, and I'm glad we can get it right this time.

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December 11, 2008

Get in on the action!

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December 9, 2008

the waiting is the hardest part

I'm definitely not in the "get this baby out of me NOW" stage, but I AM feeling like the novelty of being pregnant is wearing thin. Here's the things I'm growing tired of:

1. I called my mom, who thinks she needs to know my fasting glucose everyday. I appreciate her care and concern, although some days, when I need to up the insulin and she says, "now don't go getting all crazy there!" I feel a little frustrated. Today, as I dialed the number, I thought: how many weeks have I been doing this now? Calling my mother daily to tell her if I'm doing well. There's nothing new here.

2. I'm tired of thinking about the stuff we still need to get for the baby. Having kids almost 8 years apart really does mean we got rid of most of the baby stuff from the first time around. We have plenty of onesies and sleepers and stuff like that, but we still need to make sure the car seat hasn't been settled by a mouse colony since we put it in storage. And we need a new high chair. And the fact that a seven-year-old still wants to cuddle with us most of the time means that we need a co-sleeper for the little one. I'm really tired of thinking about when we're going to get this stuff, and I'm mostly too tired to actually go out and get it.

3. The c-section is scheduled for 8 am on January 15th. I'd like to believe the baby will be born that day, but I'm pretty certain that she will be born sometime between Christmas and January 15th. Could we please wait until at least January 5th so that I can maximize my maternity leave?

4. I'm tired of feeling aimless and unfocused. I need to get work projects done, but between doctors' appts and wondering if we need to buy a car seat, it's hard to focus. I wish projects could magically finish themselves, and then deliver a cosleeper to my doorstep.

5. Snow. We've only really had snow for a couple days now, but I'm already tired of it.

6. The color pink. WHY is it that baby clothes are either pink or blue? I don't get it. There are some cute clothes out there, but I'm so disappointed that they are so often pink. I think this gendered clothing thing has gotten worse in the last several years.

Well, that's enough to whine about for today. Sometime soon, I'll try to have a more uplifting post that actually matches my feeling a little better. Because, overall, I'm actually feeling quite good. I'm just anxious to get some things done before this baby gets here. That's all.

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December 4, 2008

and so it goes....

I found out the other day that, because I'm on insulin, I "get" to do fetal surveillance twice a week instead of once a week. My doctor tells me that most women complain that they don't get enough ultrasounds and that I truly am an outlier in voicing my frustration over "getting" to have these ultrasounds twice a week.

As I have said previously, maybe if I didn't already have an OB/GYN appt every week, a PT appt every week, a visit to the endocrinologist almost every week, and a quick conversation with a diabetes educator (is that everything? I can't remember!), maybe I wouldn't mind these twice weekly ultrasounds.

I'm not sure how much doing fetal surveillance twice a week will make a difference to the outcome. The doctor tells me that there's an increased risk of fetal death when you're on insulin, although I think there's something contradictory in that statement. I don't think insulin "causes" fetal death. I think uncontrolled diabetes probably plays a contributing role. But, if you're taking insulin and your fasting blood glucose is less than 95, and your two hour post-meals are less than 120, I don't see how insulin is the problem. Nope. I don't see it.

I do think there is one way in which all of this fetal surveillance (don't you just love that term?!?) WILL make a difference. I think that looking at my baby this way twice a week is bound to make someone somewhere decide to move up my planned c-section date. As eager as I am to have this baby, I'm not eager to have someone decide she needs to be born early because she didn't take a practice breath today, or her movements weren't frequent enough. The doctor informs me that in fact, there IS a statistically significant likelihood that my date will be moved up based on increased monitoring. Hmmmm....interesting.

So, we're in the car this morning, and J says to me, do you ever feel like someone is watching you? And I respond: "only when I see the fetal surveillance van parked out in front of our house." He didn't get it. Lucky kid.

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December 1, 2008

Where I draw the line

I seem to be doing better these days. The nasty stomach bug is gone. My fasting blood glucose levels are FINALLY below 95 most of the time. I ate pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and it had no serious effect on my blood sugar. The third trimester seems to usually be the best for me.

So, the other week I'm at my first official "biophysical profile" appointment. In case you haven't had one of these yourself, it's an ultrasound in which the baby is supposed to perform tricks: 1. a small movement, 2. a big movement, 3. demonstrate "practice breathing.' In addition, the ultrasound tech makes sure that there's "enough' amniotic fluid. They say that all of these things indicate that the baby is happy where she is. If she doesn't demonstrate her happiness, there's a procedural path to a c-section that begins to be followed.

A few weeks ago, my OB/GYN told me I'd be having these weekly beginning at 32 weeks. While on the one hand, I appreciate the attention the medical profession is paying to the care of me and my baby, I'm also a little overwhelmed with the amount of intervention they seem to require. I see a physical therapist once a week for my pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel syndrome and the pain in my misaligned pelvis. I see my OB/GYN regularly, and we're now at the once a week point. I see the diabetes educator nurse and/or the endocrinologist nearly once a week. We're finally able to scale that one back a little, but I'm not sure that I'll notice.

So, at my first biophysical profile ultrasound, they told me I need to do kick counts. This is not that uncommon of a practice among pregnant women these days, but I had never been given such explicit directions before. The nurse tells me in her syrupy-sweet, yet matronly voice that in part, they want women to do kick counts because "we find women are just so busy throughout the day that they fail to notice their baby's movements." Okay, well, she hasn't spent 5 minutes in my body with this future gymnast in my belly. She goes on to read the directions from the handout:

1. Please refrain from smoking for at least two hours prior to beginning kick counts.

WHAT?! I'm surprised it didn't say anything about drugs or alcohol.

2. Plan to lie still for at least two hours.

Listen, if I'm going to lie still for at least two hours, I'm going to be asleep well before the time is up. It goes on to say count your baby's movements, and blah blah blah. The kind nurse told me to tape this form to my refrigerator so that I had a handy place to keep track of the kick counts, and I could track the progress. Yeah, I don't know about you, but I don't lie down in the kitchen, so I'm not sure how handy it is to tape to the fridge. But, when friends come over, I can point it out proudly: "yes, here's our son's artwork, and here's our baby's kick counts. Isn't she a budding little kickboxer?"

I do physical therapy exercises daily. I take my blood glucose readings at least four times a day, sometimes more. I inject myself with insulin twice a day, and at night, my shot is getting big enough that it's hard to do it without bleeding. I take my prenatal vitamin daily, in spite of the fact that half the time it DOES upset my stomach. I don't mind these things. The exercises make me feel better and so does the insulin. All of it has a positive effect on the outcome: a healthy baby.

But, I'm already in tune with this baby. I know what she's up to in there. I'm NOT doing kick counts. Not doing it. Not taping my lovely chart to the fridge. Not writing anything down. And I don't care.It's where I draw the line.

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November 21, 2008

apparently I shouldn't have asked....

OB visit went well, and my c-section is being scheduled for January 15th. Yay! The ultrasound went well, and the baby performed the requisite number of tricks in the time allotted. That's the end of the good news.

We went out to celebrate my birthday, and I successfully had a lovely dinner that resulted in a 2-hour post meal blood glucose of 92 (yay--I guess this counts as the good news). When we got home, our son started vomiting, and by 7:30am, so was I. For the record, its a GI virus going around, not anything we ate. Our son was not feeling well at the restaurant and didn't even eat anything.

I threw up something like 13 times yesterday. I couldn't keep anything down: no jello, no popsicles, no water. I finally got smart and called the OB on call, and we headed in to the hospital for IV fluids. The nurse assured me I would be there for one bag of fluids and then be sent home. Yeah, right.

I was so sick, I ended up spending the night for more fluids and two rounds of potassium. I'm feeling MUCH better now, although this sure wasn't the way I thought I'd get a tour of the labor and delivery unit of the hospital.

And the next time I think about asking, what next?!, I think I'll just remember not to ask. I just might not want the answer.

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November 17, 2008

I might be asking, what next?

So I thought I had this whole gestational diabetes, insulin shots, low-carb food plan thing all figured out. Sure, the fasting levels are NEVER going to be right, and I'm now taking insulin shots in mega-doses. So much so, I actually went to the pharmacy and got bigger needles. I figured if I am going to pump that much insulin into my body at one time, I want to know it's going in there deep.

Anyway, Friday I came down with a horrible, horrible cold that's been going around here. It's now Monday, and I still feel like crap. I didn't know it was possible to have a runny nose and a stuffy nose at the same time, but apparently it is. My nasal passages are burning like crazy, and I'm tired of sneezing.

Needless to say, it's a wee bit of a challenge to eat 6 small meals a day, test your blood sugar regularly, and stay on track with insulin injections when all you really want to do is drink water, sleep, and watch bad tv. The cold is temporary, I know. As is the pregnancy, for that matter. But, I'm really looking forward to this cold taking a hike so I can get back to my good routine and stay on track.

I see my OB tomorrow, and on Wednesday we have the first of our weekly ultrasounds. Hopefully all will go well. I think it will.

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November 11, 2008

Never give yourself an insulin shot while you're upset with your kid

So C is in Hawai'i for a week's worth of work (nevermind that includes time to hike Diamondhead and possibly learn to surf) and I am home, single parenting and anticipating freezing rain and snow. Sometimes the universe really isn't fair.

Last night, I was trying to build a fire in the wood stove in order to warm things up a bit, and trying to figure out what lovely low-carb feast I would quickly whip up for myself, and the kid (J) was supposed to be working on his homework. In fact, he was playing with Pokemon and watching old episodes of Peep and the Big Wide World. And I was doing a terrible job of enforcing the homework getting done.

He had all the excuses. He couldn't find a pencil. Yeah right. The homework was too hard. Yeah right. Then he broke down and told the truth: I don't want to do it. Well, do it anyway, kid. My blood sugar's about to crash and I need to figure out something for my dinner (he had already eaten).

This went on for some time. Eventually I had an excellent low carb meal, a very slow burning fire in the wood stove that was definitely not warming anything up at all, and the space heater plugged in. Time for the mega insulin shot of the night.

Of course, that was also the time that J made one last bid to NOT do his homework. This time, to let me know just how much he didn't want to do it, he kicked a knitted ball at me, which knocked my insulin pen onto the floor! Needless to say, I was a little less than happy, and he was in bed for the night, with his homework yet unfinished, and big tears streaming down his face.

I was a little shaken by the whole event, and for the first time, I found myself accidentally pulling the needle out well before I had delivered the full dose. Hopefully there was no problem in just sticking it back in again and finishing the job. I probably lost a little along the way, but no matter. My fasting, still high, was lower than it's been in DAYS. And J's homework is now done and things are all better.

Now just five more days before C comes home! He better bring good presents back from Hawai'i! ;-)

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November 3, 2008

to the journey

So, I was whining to a friend that I'm just impatient for January. I want this pregnancy thing to be over, to have my baby in my arms and know she's happy and healthy as can be and all that. And my friend said, "how many times are you planning on doing this? Find the place inside of you that is enjoying being pregnant and tell her thanks! Do you want to strangle me?" And yes, I DID want to strangle her! So I wrote her this crazy email saying woe is me, gestational diabetes, blah blah blah, and then I sent it, and then I sent her another email and apologized.

I realized, yeah, this gestational diabetes thing sucks. But, actually, I'm finally feeling SO MUCH BETTER! A month ago, I spent most of the weekend in bed because I was just too tired to do anything else. Flash forward to yesterday: up at 6:30, out of the house by 10:30, a trip to IKEA to buy some couches, then Goodwill to get rid of the ratty old chairs the couches are replacing, a long shopping trip at Super Target, put groceries away, made dinner, watched Sunday night football. No nap in there even! I guess that's what insulin can do to a person--why didn't I have it sooner? (on a separate note--isn't it a little too soon to be nesting like this?!)

So, I'm not sure there's really that much to complain about, except that the levels seem to never be quite what I'd like them to be. Two good mornings of fasting readings below 95, and then today--back up to 103. But at least it's not 123, and hey, I was still able to get out of the house on time, so I'm not complaining too loudly.

At any rate, insulin sure makes it easier to enjoy the ride.

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October 28, 2008

A little discouraged

In spite of my own best efforts, this whole gestational diabetes thing is not yet under control. Last Friday, I got my free ticket to board the insulin train, and I've been really hoping that it would make a difference, but so far, I'm not seeing much effect. It's entirely true that my provider is cautious when it comes to the use of insulin, and that mostly makes me happy, as I really don't want to have any blood sugar lows, but on the other hand, I'm not sure that I'm getting enough to meet my needs, and it's a little depressing. If I'm going to jab myself in the abdomen every day with a sharp needle, I'd at least like a little positive result. Is that too much for a girl to ask?

And, the hardest part of this whole thing is that I'm not really spending any time obsessing about my cute little baby on the way. What will her name be? Does she have enough cute clothes? No, I'm focused on how many carbs are in my next meal, and what will my blood glucose level be? I want to focus on the baby, not on me! Of course the bright side is that I'm taking good care of myself and I'm eating all the right foods and all that. So I'm being a good mama.

Above all, I want a healthy baby, but right now, I am impatient for change.

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October 22, 2008

Pregnancy sucks!

So, I have somewhere around 9-12 weeks to go with this whole pregnancy thing, and for the record, pregnancy sucks! First there was the extreme exhaustion and then the nausea. Then, the second trimester rolled around and everyone told me I should be feeling better. But I wasn't: pregnancy-related sinusitis kicked in, and my pelvis buckled under all the progesterone. The "hip" problem lingering from the first birth showed up again, only I found out it was actually my pelvis. Now, I'm finally into the third trimester. What next?

I'll tell you what next. Gestational diabetes (aka, the "betes," GD). At first I sort of embraced the whole thing. Good eating habits aren't a bad thing, really. I've become a pro at the whole finger stick thing. I've tried to increase my exercise in spite of pain in the pelvis like there's no tomorrow. I'm doing everything I can, but it's looking like insulin is in my near future.

It feels a bit like defeat right now, and I just can't wait for the whole thing to be over. I just want to be holding my healthy baby girl in my arms.

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October 7, 2008

Of ninjas and raccoons: lessons learned from the trenches

There are certain challenges in raising a boy. One of them is how to raise a boy to be a non-violent peace-lover when boys, to some degree, seem to gravitate toward weapons and violence and all that. J went to a preschool that had a pretty strong perspective on this. No weapons. No legos made to seem like weapons. No superhero play. Etc.

After all this time, I'm not sure just saying no to a boy's instinct is sucha good idea. And furthermore, I think there are problems with messages girls get about fairies and princesses and all that, but yet these images are much more socially acceptable. Sigh.

On a general basis, we have encouraged J to play with toys that don't have weapons. We let him buy toys that have small weapons, but then he doesn't play with the weapon part. He seems to be fine with this. Over time, the line has gotten a little more blurred as he's gotten into video game play, but we've worked it out.

Then something comes along to run you over like a mack truck. To throw all of this out the window. This something is Halloween and J's school's accompanying "storybook costume parade." Last year, J, who decided to be a bird for Halloween, decided not to participate in the costume parade. He was the only non-participant, and he threw the principal of his small school for a loop. But, I think it was a symptom of this pressure on boys to be on some non-violent track.

So this year, J has been worried about the costume parade since before school started. He has not wanted to participate at all. He has said that he feels like it's "strutting" and he doesn't like to strut. But, I could tell there was something else under there.

For weeks now, I've been asking J about costumes. For awhile, he wanted to be Scooby Doo. I was relieved when he changed his mind on that because the costume was almost $50. Then, he decided he wanted to be an owl trainer. That is, he wanted to wear normal clothes and carry around a stuffed owl. Okay?

We decided to make sure J knew he didn't have to wear the same thing for both the costume parade and Halloween. He seemed to like that, but still very noncommittal on either event.

Then, he got back into playing Over the Hedge, and got pretty enthusiastic about RJ, the raccoon in the movie. He decided for sure that he wanted to be RJ. We found a costume online, and after a week's worth of checking and double checking on his preference, J said, "yes, that's what I want to be!" So, we ordered the costume.

It arrived yesterday, and as soon as he saw it, his face fell. When he tried it on, he looked unhappy, but willing. He took it off immediately, and that was that. He made a comment about feeling like a baby. Hmmm....

We decided it was time for a little chat, and we discovered that he had not been telling us he wanted to be something scary for Halloween. He was thinking maybe a ninja. In fact, he was thinking a specific ninja costume he'd seen recently. He thought he could leave the weapons at home and just wear the costume to school for the costume parade. He knew what book he would share to go with the costume. He was confident. Decided.

Today, we bought a ninja costume, and tossed the RJ costu me aside. J has been wearing it all night--he just asked to sleep in his ninja costume. He can't wait to show it off to his friends. He told his friends all about it, and they all think he's cool. Why am I so certain they had not even heard of the RJ costume?

So, how did we make the shift to a more violent costume and still keep something of our peace-lovin' values? Papa suggested to J that Halloween is about taking a day to be something you aren't, and since J is usually such a peace-loving kid, it would make sense to pick something scary as a costume, since it's not what J is usually. A simple answer, and maybe a bit of a stretch. But, at least my kid is going to wear this costume for more than one hour on October 31. He's happy, having fun, and excited about Halloween, and that's what it's all about.

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September 21, 2008

Whoo hoo!

So it seems that baby is securely "in there" so to speak, and no more hanging out in bed for me! What a relief to be past that little scare! On the downside, I have been strongly advised not to travel, and I'm disappointed in that. I was going to be going to San Diego next month, but that looks out of the picture, and I'm wishing I could go, but not enough to risk having a preterm baby halfway across the country in a city where I no know one. So that's that. I'm here in the cities for the duration.

On a brighter note, I think I'm feeling a little better, pelvic pain excluded. I finished knitting the first sweater for baby, and will have pictures of that posted soon. Whoo hoo!

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September 16, 2008

Dispatch from my bed, part 1

So it seems I've been feeling a bit of pressure "down there" and decided to call the OB resident on call this weekend to see if this is normal for someone who is 5 months pregnant. I'm thinking not, especially since when I told my mother about it--I said I feel like I've been riding a horse bareback for about a thousand miles--her response was, "When do you see your doctor next?" A pretty direct response for my rather indirect, antialarmist mother.

When I called the OB on call, she was pretty reassuring. It seems I only have a few of the symptoms of preterm labor, although I also have a few of the risk factors: over 35, previous miscarriage, and an unfortunate bout of an infection early on in this pregnancy.

She recommended I "take it easy" until I can see my doctor on Wednesday. This means staying in bed as much as possible, and my sister admonished me not to vacuum. Does she know me? I wouldn't vacuum anyway! At any rate, hanging out in bed feels SO MUCH BETTER than sitting and walking. It seems like this would be a time when my mother's axiom makes sense: if it hurts when you do X, then don't do X.

She also recommended I increase my fluid intake, and this has proven to be something of a challenge. While I'm generally opposed to bottled water, I've been drinking it that way the last few days, partly just to measure how much I'm drinking. And I'm drinking a LOT, but I can tell that I still should be drinking more. I'm a little puzzled by all of this.

At any rate, I see the doctor tomorrow, and I'm hoping she says something like, "I'm sorry it hurts, but it seems that there's really nothing to be concerned with. Just go about your business...baby in a few months. End of story. See you in four weeks!" We'll see.

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September 1, 2008

It's a ...

GIRL! Whoo hoo! It's definitely a girl, according to the ultrasound! Family members are quite happy, as there tends to be more boys than girls on both sides of the family. The only person who was a little disappointed was J, who is worried that she'll like Barbies. But, he thinks a sister might pick on him a little less. We'll see about that.

If you want to see J's reaction to finding out about the baby's sex, check out his video.

I will confess: as much as I'm all for gender-neutral and all that (I let my 4 year old boy wear pink tropical fruit pants, after all), I am excited because now we're gonna get the pink and brown cherry blossom baby bed for sure! Whoo hoo!

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August 27, 2008

Doing a bad job of creating suspense....

So, today was the day to have the second trimester ultrasound, and everything seems to be checking out okay.

We also found out if I'll be doing more knitting with blue yarn or with pink yarn, so to speak. I could reveal that answer now, but instead, we're going to tell J first. Then, he'll be making an announcement, so stay tuned....You won't have to wait long, I promise!

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August 16, 2008

This Time Last Year....

Around this time last year, I woke up one morning, took a pregnancy test, and was a little surprised to find two pink lines. Pregnant. Something we'd been waiting for for so long! I got dressed, drove to St. Paul and got on a riverboat to do an intercultural training event. The boat rocking added to my nausea, but I was so happy I didn't care.

A week later, we went to the state fair, an annual tradition. It was hot, and sticky. I probably didn't drink enough water. I got home, and soon after, found blood in my underwear. Some cramping. We called the nurse, who told us to go to the hospital. The doctor was really reassuring--lots of women bleed when they are pregnant, she said. Try not to worry about it. Yeah, easy for her to say. They did an ultrasound, and couldn't find the baby. They sent me home with a plan for more blood tests and another ultrasound. A few days later, the bleeding seems to stop, or at least slow down.

Drawing blood to measure hCG levels, every 3 days or so. Go to the lab in the lab in the morning, and maybe you can have the results by afternoon. Go in the afternoon--get the results the next day. The waiting is the hardest part. I call the doctor's office for the results and get put through to voicemail. I leave a message. I call back 4 hours later, after sitting by my phone at work all day. My office mate knows something's up, and he agrees to watch my phone for me while I step out to pee. Nothing. I call back and yell at the nurse who tells me it's too late now for someone to call me today--do you know how hard this is to wait? Do you know I called this morning? She feels bad and goes to track down my results: hCG up. Good news.

Good news doesn't last long. The bleeding starts again, slow and red. The ultrasound still can't find a baby. The hormone levels seem to rise, and the doctor doesn't know what to say. She keeps thinking maybe the problem is that we don't know the right date of my last period. Maybe that's it. Be patient, she says. Wait.

In the meantime, J starts kindergarten. I wish I have more energy to be excited for him, but I don't. I feel confused, and worried. We've been trying for this baby for so long--why does this seem to be happening. J comes home from school having met a new friend, and he wants to go over for a playdate.

The day of the playdate arrives, and I feel like crap. The bleeding is still going on and the doctor is still cautiously optimistic. The numbers seem to be rising, and she's hoping in another few weeks we'll be able to see the baby on the ultrasound. I feel rundown, and not up to the playdate. Not wanting to meet new people. My sister tells me maybe it'll be a good distraction.

We drive across town to J's new friend's house. B's family welcome us enthusiastically, and invite us onto the back porch for some organic apple juice, imported cheese, and some other little treats designed to impress us. They want to talk politics, but I don't. They criticize us for not letting J play with weapons, telling us that "it's actually more liberal to let your kid play with them because kids will turn anything into a weapon." I feel worse, but can't tell why.

After some time outside, the kids want to go in to play legos. We are invited to sit in the livingroom. I stand up to go inside, and suddenly a rush of blood exits my body. I rush to the bathroom. Blood everywhere. Bloody matter clotted in my underwear. I look at it, wondering what to do next. Wondering if this is my baby that no one can find in the ultrasound. Am I supposed to keep it? Flush it? I don't want to leave it here, in some unwelcoming stranger's house. I wrap in gently in toilet paper, and put it in my purse. I try to clean things up a bit. Washing my hands, I notice my face is white as a sheet. I want to go home.

I go into the livingroom, and am encouraged to take a seat on the white floral couch. I sit gingerly, hoping I won't stain it. I say to C, we should go soon. He doesn't seem to get the message, and so we stay. We all continue to blather on about the weather, the homework policy at the school, and other forgetables. The dog seems to be curious about my purse, and can barely be pulled away from it. The woman apologizes---she doesn't know what's gotten into the dog. Thinking of the contents of my purse, I smile wryly, just wanting to get out of there, and finally C gets the message and we depart.

The next day, the hormone levels are way down, the waiting over. No baby this time. Just healing to begin. The baby comes to me in a dream, to say thanks for being a safe place to rest on her way to her forever family. The doctor tells me the little mass of tissue I saved didn't yield any information about what happened. But there'd be no reason not to try again, when we're ready.

This time, this year...

J is still friends with B, although there have been no more playdates, and I don't foresee any to come.

The ultrasounds reveal there iS a baby in there, and pretty soon, we'll maybe even know if the baby is a boy or girl.

The fair is coming up. I'll bring water with me this time.

What a difference a year makes.

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August 8, 2008

Second Wind, Maybe

Finally into the second trimester, and hoping things will ease up a bit. I can tell how well I feel by how much I'm able to knit, and so far, it has been not much. But, I'm making some progress on a new knit item, and maybe will have pictures soon. In the mean time, it's been too long since I've posted pictures, so I'll share some of J, who has recently returned from a wonderful family trip to the Oregon coast.

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Chasing the seagulls!

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Wading in the tidepools!

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Checking out the seagull poop! (That's what he told me!)

J has been adventuring with my family and without us ever since he was born. Sometimes, it's been out of necessity, and sometimes it's just because the opportunity is there for him. I think it's been good for him to spend time with my family, and since they don't live close by, I'm glad he can have some extended breaks to go visit them, even if we can't come along. One thing I notice is that he always learns some new skill while he's gone. It's like the change of environment gives him enough of a break from the routine to discover something. This time, he learned to whistle, and he's been whistling nonstop since he's been back!

At any rate, it's been good to have him back, although I'm thankful he was gone while I was so sick. I was throwing up the other day, and he was pretty concerned about me. He's also taking good care of me, too, and it's fun to see him learning those things from his papa. I know he's going to be a good big brother!


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July 13, 2008

Big, Proud Mama

I have mentioned before the fact that I could stand to lose a little weight. It's something I struggle with off and on, and in general, my doctor believes I have a pretty healthy attitude toward the whole thing, and even though I don't seem to make much progress, she's very encouraging. And, although I DO struggle with my weight, I have been, over the last several years, eating healthy and healthier foods, and in general, I really like myself.

My sister once told me she was surprised I didn't try to lose weight before having a baby. I asked, who says I didn't try? She certainly has struggled with things herself in that department, and I was a little surprised she wasn't more understanding. But the truth is, I'm not waiting around to live my life AFTER I lose weight. I'm living it now. And, sure, it might be better to have a baby with a few less pounds on now, but I'm not getting any younger. And J's growing up too fast.

I was a plus-sized mama the first time around, too, and things have changed. Back then, seven years ago, it was pretty hard to find plus-sized maternity clothes. In fact, I even thought that maybe I couldn't get pregnant because there weren't any clothes that would fit me! Thankfully, JCPenney to the rescue! The clothes weren't that attractive, but they fit! These days, there's a lot more choice out there. In fact, I'm pretty convinced that us big mamas are having lots of babies because sizes are often sold out.

One thing that seems to have changed for the worse is random comments I hear from people. The first time around, I only heard positive things. This time, I get a fair amount of weird comments. Like, "I know a great doctor who specializes in high risk pregnancies." Huh? That's funny because my own doctor doesn't seem to think I'm high risk, and I'd know because we have a very good relationship. (and if I were, she could handle it, for that matter) I don't have high blood pressure. I'm not diabetic. Yeah, I've got a little fluff where there probably shouldn't be any, but hey, we've all got our issues. The biggest issue I probably face is a low-birth weight baby, and the first one was 9 lbs 3oz, so we beat that statistic once already.

Last week, we had an ultrasound--the first trimester screening. It turned out the baby was in the wrong position to see what they needed to see, but we did get to see the little one, and there's a baby in there! With my first, I had a number of ultrasounds, due to some concern about possible birth anomalies (it turned out there WAS an anomaly, but not anything that could be seen on an ultraound). Remember, I was a plus-sized mama back then, too. In the interim, I had a couple of ultrasounds, most recently due to my miscarriage last fall. So, this time, we got a bit of a surprise with the ultrasound when the tech (a very well put-together, physically fit, former military woman) told me that "sometimes it's hard to see things on women with substantial maternal layers." It's such a vulnerable position, lying there with your abdomen exposed, wondering how that little one is doing in there. I didn't say anything to her, but I am curious why she said that. It certainly didn't build my trust with her. In fact, it goes down as the most unpleasant ultrasound I've ever had (for other reasons).

There's a lot of potentially well-meaning insensitivity out there. So far, I've been pretty nice about it. But, all that's gonna change. Pregnant women should only think happy thoughts (so my mother tells me), and if you get in the way of my happy thoughts, I'm gonna let you know about it.

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June 10, 2008

In which feeling like crap has never felt so good

I''ve been putting off this entry for awhile, in part because I've been so exhausted lately, it's been all I can do to get up and go to work. So exhausted in fact, my dissertation train has slowed down a bit (but it has not been stalled on the tracks....just slowing down, perhaps even to a more reasonable pace). I did NOT have my prospectus meeting last week, as I'd hoped to. I'll have to change my October defense date, although hopefully not by too much.

I haven't done much knitting lately. Can't stay awake to make it happen. I've become so absent-minded these last few weeks. Case in point: last night I set out yarn and needles to take with me on my trip. They didn't make it with me out of the house. Still sitting on the table! Hopefully C will bring them with him when he joins me here in Orlando later this week.

But, when I do pick up the needles again, I'm knitting two general types of things, and two types of things only: socks and baby knits. Yep, that's right. Baby knits. We're having a baby!

I've been a little hesitant to post the good news, since we have been having some difficulties with this "project." It's taken a long time to get pregnant, and late last summer, I had a miscarriage. I'm almost 8 weeks along this time, and still holding my breath some, in spite of all of the positive signs: the fatigue, the nausea, the moodiness (don't even get me started), the little baby bump that's already appeared! We'll have an ultra-sound the end of this month. I can probably exhale then.

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March 30, 2008

Kitty Love

I'm on my two-week business trip to the East Coast, and I miss home.

This is what I miss:

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A boy and his cat. Can it get any better?

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March 18, 2008

Kitty in the City

It's been two months since Pearl came to live with us, and already it's like she's always been here. She snuggles with me while we watch tv, she plays with the kiddo, she irritates the dog just enough to make me happy and not enough to tick the dog off, and she hasn't caused a flare up of C's allergies. YAY!

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Everyone tells us we have an incredibly affectionate, wonderful cat, and I cannot thank our Animal Humane Society enough for introducing us to Pearl.

I spent a long time searching their website, waiting for the right animal friend to come along for us. I still find myself searching their pages. I feel sad to see how many unwanted pit bull puppies there are, and how many adult cats seem to stay at the shelter for months before they get adopted (we thought about an adult cat, but the humane society recommended against it, since we wanted the cat to be friends with our dog and son).

This cat, for example, has been there since December. Alice.jpgIsn't she cute? If an adult cat had been right for us, she would have probably come home with us. But, the decision to get a kitten was definitely the right one for our family. I hope this cute little gal finds a home soon, and her picture's off the website.

Look at this guy. I wonder what he's thinking? 319412.jpg He was surrendered because the owner had too many pets to care for. That must be one of the choices on the surrender form, and it's one that gets checked a lot. I think there are a lot of sad reasons why animal friends end up at the humane society: too expensive to care for, displaced by divorce, too energetic (that, on a surrender form for a Yorkshire terrier...I could understand it on a golden retriever, but c'mon. A Yorkie?).

Animals are our friends, and they do a lot of good things to help us be better people. I feel sad when I think about how many animals find their way to the shelter.I think the people at the shelter where we got Pearl did a great job of taking care of her before we brought her home, but it's still no vacation.

I think about Pearl and what she must have been thinking when she was placed in the overnight drop box. It must have been so scary! I'm glad she feels safe and secure now.

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February 10, 2008

新年快? : Happy Year of the Rat

Awhile back I wrote about our decision to send our son to Chinese immersion school, and my family's general negative attitude when they first heard of our decision. The school year's not half over, but already, folks have come around.

We went to our first school performance, in honor of the Chinese New Year. My mother was delighted to hear about the performance, and is talking about attending next year. She's proud to hear that J knows at least 100 words in Chinese, that he's doing well in school. He LIKES school, and LIKES his teacher. He's joyful and happy--something we didn't see so much in preschool, when he wasn't being challenged.

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Our first of many photos like these: hard to see, grainy pictures taken from too far back, of cute kids showing off their hard work to smiling faces in the crowd.

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January 25, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Welcome, Pearl!

It's been one month since our little Java passed away. I miss the little guy so much, and I think of him daily. It was hard coming back from our family holiday trip without him, and Sappho, our other dog who had stayed home was wondering why we'd forgotten him. She looked in all of our luggage for him. She seemed especially puzzled that the little pet carrier we'd loaded him into was empty now. No Java. Finally, we showed her his collar and the little vest he'd been wearing. She knew he was gone. And, the loneliness set in.

Sappho always seemed a little indifferent to Java. They didn't play the way I'd hoped they would. But, I didn't realize how much she enjoyed his company until these last few weeks, when we'd see her standing by the back door, waiting for us to come home. Or cuddling up next to me, shaking a little. We realized how empty the house must seem without his near-constant bark.

We decided to get a kitten. For one thing, we don't want to "replace" Java. For another, the resident 6 year old has been wanting a cat for almost 6 years. And, we wanted a slightly more independent family member, owing to the fact that we're all traveling a bit more these days, with work and things.

So, welcome Pearl! As you can see, she and her boy are already fast friends:

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December 28, 2007

Goodbye, loyal friend

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Java (1996-2007)

I don't want to say much except to say that Java was truly a loyal friend. I'll miss his protective watch when I stay up late working on my dissertation. He wasn't so old, but he had been through a lot, and he was in ill health. He was happy these last few days, and in good spirits. He'll always be with me, in my heart.

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September 19, 2007

No Baby This Time

It's been a long hard summer. Truth be told, we never thought that J would turn 6 and not have a sibling. Not that we haven't been working on it. For a long time. But, being doctoral students (or, I should say candidates, since we've both passed that milestone now) and working full-time and being the parent of one child has been a lot. Travel schedules aren't always compatible with ovulation schedules. We were starting to doubt things. And then it happened earlier this summer: two faint lines on a pregnancy test.

We were surprised. We were happy. We were in shock. I did all the things a good pregnant woman should do. I took my vitamins. I drank lots of water. I gave up caffeine. I got lots of rest.

But then, I started to get cramps. I started bleeding. A trip to the emergency room. And then, I entered into the last three weeks of hell. A cycle of not knowing anything. Blood tests regularly to see if my hormones are going up (they were). Ultrasounds to see if they could see a bay in there (they couldn't). Doctors who were generally not worried about the bleeding, even though I was. A lot of resting. A lot of not being able to focus on anything but my body. A lot of tentative optimism, but really knowing that things were about to not work out after all.

And then it happened. It became completely clear that there would be no baby this time. One more blood test to confirm what I already knew. There's not gonna be a baby this time.

At first it was a little easier to deal with. The hormones hadn't yet plunged dramatically, and I could stay philosophical about it all. Recognize that some things aren't meant to be. Know that early miscarriage is likely a sign of a genetic malfunction that isn't viable anyway. But now, with the hormones doing their thing and all, that philosophy stuff is a little more distant. It's hard to hear J ask in his innocent 6 year old way if the baby would have been a boy or a girl. Or, hear him demand, I just want you to be pregnant NOW, mama! Believe me, kiddo, I do too.

But instead, it's time to heal up the bumps and bruises and get back on my bicycle. Keep on working on this project, as we call it. Now we know one thing we had been starting to doubt: the parts REALLY do work. So, there should be a baby some day. Just not in April 2008.

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