Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sick Baby (make that Babies)

Last Wednesday, Claire got sent home from day care because she had a cough so bad that she was blowing bloody snot out of her nose. Other kids in her room had had croup and RSV recently, so they wanted us to get Claire checked out. So, I left work early and took her to the doctor. The pediatrician said her RSV test was negative, but it was "viral bronchiolitis" and we should keep her home for a few days.

So, Matt and I traded off Thursday and Friday, one of us working from home for the morning and then switching midday. Claire actually seemed in pretty good spirits, and it didn't "get worse before it got better," as the doctor said might happen. She seemed fine by Friday afternoon.

Sweet Clairy-Bear sat pleasantly in her bouncer while I worked at my desk in the kitchen. I always wonder if I would enjoy working from home if I had the chance, so it's nice to have a reminder now and again how there are drawbacks to the flexibility and comfort of working at home—namely, the lack of distinction between work and home, so you feel torn and divided no matter what you're doing.

Apparently, I needed yet another reminder, because yesterday (yes, just one week later, almost to the minute) I got a call from the day care director once again, this time saying that Claire was throwing up, as were several other kids in other classrooms.

So, this morning, it was back to the old home office (a kitchen desk like this was one of my big "wish list" items when looking for a house) and I got a lot done here before Matt came home and we did the old trade-off again. Claire has still been such a sweetheart today, not crying and being so content, though she seemed much sicker than last week, since she was throwing up every hour or two. The washing machine has gotten a workout today!

And just when we thought things would be back to normal tomorrow—I talked to Matt while I was with Kate at gymnastics, and he said Claire hadn't thrown up in five or six hours—then he calls back to say Claire threw up again. And then as we were leaving gymnastics, Kate started throwing up.

So, I change the name of this blog post in-progress to "Sick Babies," and make plans for more home officing tomorrow... unless I'm down for the count myself. I wouldn't rule it out.

Update: Kate was up sick every hour last night, but sweet darling Matt actually slept in her room with her so he could be right there for her each time. I'm a lighter sleeper than he is (or more attune to cries in the night, at least) so I am very grateful that he did that. At 5 am, I woke up and got sick, as I have several more times since then. The plague has gotten me as well. Kate was pretty much back to normal by 9 am and wanting attention from her sick mama. Claire is all better as well! As of 1:48 in the afternoon, Matt is still healthy! Do you think it will stay that way? 


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Family Values

I recently read this great article online about teaching your children the faith. It was in US Catholic magazine, so "the faith" in that case was specifically Roman Catholic Christianity, but I thought it was great advice for parents of all traditions. The biggest takeaway for me was this quote:

“I always ask [parents], ‘Articulate the three most important values in your life that guide you individually or as a family.’ . . . If you can’t articulate your values, how do you communicate them to your kids?"


I started thinking, and pretty quickly had three values that I feel guide me and that I hope we can instill in our children: Compassion, Gratitude, Faith.

Compassion

Caring for others, especially those less fortunate, is a central value of our family. When we pray at dinnertime, we try to always remember people outside of our immediate family, and I hope that Matt and my conversations that our kids overhear instill a concern for the poor and marginalized of society.

As Kate (and later, Claire) gets older, we increasingly try to involve her in activities focused on helping others. On maternity leave, I signed up several weeks to make the sack lunches we send with the homeless men who stay the night at our church on Wednesday nights. (Nashville has a program called Room in the Inn; folks can gather at a certain place downtown to meet vans that will take them to various churches in the area for dinner, sleep, and breakfast, October through March.) I figured I wouldn't sign up for any more weeks once I was back to work, but the very week I went back, they announced Sunday morning that no one had signed up to make the lunches that week, so I thought, "okay, Kate and I can do it together this week!" rather than me doing it on my own during the day. So I made a little shopping list with marker drawings of the foods we needed to buy, and we went to the grocery after work/school, came home and made the sandwiches together and Kate went down the assembly line putting a sandwich, chips, water, fruit, and cookies in each bag.

We talked about how we were making these for "the men who sleep at church." (She's familiar with them because they eat with us at the Wednesday night dinner.) "Why do they sleep at church?" she asked. "Because they don't have houses and refrigerators with food and all that like we have," I told her. "We're so lucky to have a house and food and everything we have, so we need to help them." It was amazing how in my mind the example was "therefore we make lunch for them," but Kate's response was, "We need to help them find houses?" Even though I'd consider myself more holistic in social justice than just isolated acts of charity, I was still struck to the core by the obvious way Kate assumed that we shouldn't just give them food, we should help remedy the problem.

I'm not great with this value. I struggle to be loving toward people who are different from me. I'm ashamed of how judgmental and prejudiced I can be. But it is definitely something I am always striving toward and that I want to instill in my children.

Gratitude

Gratitude, I'm a little better at. I am very fortunate and certainly take a lot for granted. But I do find myself standing in awe, many times, at all we have and the fact that we have it. I open our pantry and think how fortunate we were to have that food. I get in the shower and think how amazing it is that we have a room dedicated to bathing and have hot water whenever we want it. It's mind-blowing, if you think about it. I am so thankful to have our house and to have it be ours. I think of my grandparents whenever I give thanks for our home because it was the savings they left behind that enabled me and my cousin to purchase our homes. We are so, so fortunate.

Like any parent, I try to get Kate to say "please" and "thank you," and she does especially well with the thank you, even from the time she was just doing baby sign language for it. Lately, she has developed a habit that I just love. She often asks me, when playing with a toy or looking at clothes in her closet, "Who gave me this?" I love it because it shows an awareness that all she has didn't just appear out of nowhere. Her grandparents, our friends, and people in our church are extremely generous with her, and I love that she seems not to take it for granted. She asks who gave her something, I tell her, and she responds, "oh. That's very nice of them."

My mom drilled it into me to always write thank you notes, and while I realized the double standard somewhere during my teen years that kids were expected to write thank yous but adults rarely did, I've kept up that practice as an adult. I'm trying to get Kate involved in the practice as well now, and while of course she can't write, I mix in one or two of the following as a way to make her aware of the importance of expressing gratitude when one receives a gift:
  • having her be present while I'm writing the notes, addressing the envelopes, etc. 
  • having her choose which stamp should go on each envelope 
  • having her color a picture to include in the note (or color on the card or envelope itself) 
  • having her choose which picture each person gets 
  • asking her what she thinks about the gift so we can say something personal from her. We tried this with her birthday thank yous and she often just said "thank you," or "I like it," but it's still a good practice, I think, and will grow gradually to the point she can write the whole note herself.

Faith

Compassion and gratitude are both related to our faith, certainly, but the faith itself is also a key value (as you can certainly practice compassion and gratitude even without being a person of faith). There will come a time, of course, when our children will have to claim the Christian faith for themselves, but we make it known to them that, as a family, we are Christians. We baptized our girls because they belong to God even before they can understand or choose it for themselves, and we are promising to raise them to know God and live like Jesus.

At this age (Kate's, that is) we try to help form her Christian identity by talking about why we go to church  ("to praise God and learn about Jesus," I typically phrase it) and we pray together at dinnertime. Kate often wants to be the "prayer person" (which is apparently what they call it at school, because she told me today "I'll be the prayer person; you be the line leader") and she'll have us repeat after her,
God is great, God is good, 
let us thank him for our food
by his hands, we are fed
thank you, Lord, for our daily bread
In Christ's name, Amen.

When I repeat after her, I'm sure to enunciate, so that if she's just going rote, she can understand better what we are saying, and I remind her that "Christ" is another name for "Jesus," since she knows who Jesus is but probably does not understand the messiah concept or the Greek word for it.

We believe questioning is a good thing, and doubt is not to be feared or squashed, so by instilling "faith" as a value, we certainly do not mean blind acceptance of a particular doctrine. Rather, it is an overall orientation toward God, a desire to seek and know him. There are plenty of theological things I don't understand (or maybe even believe) but I am committed to the journey of faith, and hope our children will be too.

I have a well-known prayer by Thomas Merton hanging by my desk, and there are two lines that I cling to, when I don't know much else:
"... the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you."

I hope to instill in my children that desire to follow, please, and know God, and pray that that desire in itself helps them along that journey of faith.


What would you say your top three life-orienting values are?


Friday, March 23, 2012

Claire's First Trip to the Zoo

Last Sunday being gorgeous as it was, we made our first zoo trip of the season, which was, of course, Claire's first zoo trip ever! We broke out our awesome new double umbrella stroller so both girls could ride, and had a great afternoon.

We stumbled upon an animal show in the amphitheater, seeing a few cool birds, a hissing cockroach (that Kate and I met at ZooTwos last fall), a giant albino python, and this cool lynx.  
 Kate was a cool cat herself in her shades...
 ... and actually had a kind of bohemian chic thing going on with her new skirt from Old Navy. (She completed the look by choosing a crocheted hat to top it off, but I didn't get a picture of her wearing it.)


The 'mingos were a favorite as always, and Claire matched them in her coral pink romper.

The girls were zonked out by the end of the afternoon. We look forward to many more zoo days this spring and summer! (It was technically still winter last Sunday, after all!)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Pat's Mommy-Daughter Date

We had a fun Saturday, which just happened to be St. Patrick's Day, which we always have fun with (being of Irish descent and loving beer and the color green!) So, we started the day with leprechaun milk. I remember my preschool teacher giving us green milk for snack way back when, and had fun with that first thing in the morning. (Matt and I collected these plastic pilsner glasses on St. Patty's day 2005-ish at Bosco's. Ah, the single days!)
We all wore our green, of course, which meant going through the box of Kate's spring/summer baby clothes to update Claire's wardrobe and locate this little green dress that Kate wore on her first St. Patty's Day as well.

Claire spent a few hours with Granna while Kate and I had a special Mommy-Daughter Date. Matt does Daddy-Daughter Dates all the time, but unless you count weekly grocery trips, I don't get those special outings near so often. Kate had a hair appointment, so we decided to make a day of it—and she only asked about five times why Claire wasn't coming with us. It's kind of sweet that I have to force her to have one-on-one time with me without her sister, she loves having all the girls together so much!
We love Divas and Dudes in Cool Springs, where every haircut includes a fun style, glitter hairspray, a sparkly face stamp, and lollipop. We got a couple inches off, so Kate's new shorter cut and french braid were super-cute!
We then shopped for a birthday gift for Kate's classmate and had lunch at Noshville, where they were having a "Breakfast for Babies" special, with 50% of the cost of each green eggs and ham plate going to March of Dimes. (Speaking of which, we've signed up again to walk in the March for Babies on Itty Bitty Becca's Team, since we're so thankful that Kate's BFF Becca, who started out life at a mere 13 ounces is now so healthy and spunky! Click to donate!)

Yay for green eggs and ham!


Once at home again, we HAD to take our annual St. Patrick's Day family photo. I don't know why this is such a tradition, since we don't take a family pic on Valentine's Day or New Year's every year, but it's just fun when we're all wearing green.

Hope you had a fun St. Patty's Day as well! I did have a beer this evening, but completely forgot the day's Irish theme when planning dinner. We had chicken tacos. Oh well—maybe on Cinco de Mayo we'll have corned beef and cabbage!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Playcation

This was a couple weeks ago, but I still wanted to share a few pics from the girls' and my long weekend in Louisville. We had a pediatrician appointment on a Friday afternoon (Claire's 4-month and Kate's 3-year, one month late) and since the latest we could get was 1:30, I decided I'd take the afternoon off and then head out of town before rush hour. That was the day of all the deadly tornadoes in Indiana and Kentucky, so we ended up not going until Saturday morning, but I took Monday off, so it was a nice long weekend anyway. 

When we got to Louisville, we met my parents at a bouncy/fun place, where we could chat and pass Claire around while Kate played. Kate played mini golf with Popi for the first time, which mainly involved her having me take putts for her.

That evening, my parents had tickets to Jimmy Buffett, so while I was bummed neither of them said, "oh, you go in my place and I'll keep the kids!" we used that night on our own to get together with my best childhood friend Lindsay and her husband and kids. Kate and Jack are just under two years apart, and Claire and Emmalea are about 6-7 months apart. 

We met up for dinner at McDonald's so that the kids could play in a confined setting while we talked. We discussed restaurants and bouncy places, but determined McD's would be most conducive to the talk-and-play goal. Amazing how your standards for a good night out change with kids! Jack, who just turned five, and Kate have played together numerous times, and it's fun to watch them grow. (See their playtimes last summerLabor Day 2010, and their first meeting when Kate was just a baby.)  

(It has been so unseasonably warm, I didn't pack coats for the girls, and then it ended up being cold in Louisville that weekend and even snowing, so I picked up that fleece heart jacket for Kate at Goodwill for $3!)
I called this post "Playcation" because we really didn't do anything major during our visit, but just laid low and played a lot, which was wonderfully relaxing! Kate loved hanging out with Nala and Popi, playing piano and a million games of Memory!
Popi does stretches everyday for his back, Kate likes to do "'nastics," and Claire is working on rolling over back-to-front, which involves lifting her legs in the air. I loved catching this pic of all three of them in that same position!



I've lived in Nashville long enough now to have the ridiculous thought "oh no, it snowed! How will we ever drive home?!" go through my head. Then I remembered that in most states, a little snow is no big deal. It didn't stick to the roads at all and we were able to drive home that Monday as planned. Matt was gone that night for his Board of Ordained Ministry Evaluating Committee (BOMEC) interviews, so we were on our own and had fun going to Open Gym at our gymnastics place. (Kate kept calling it "Opa's Gym," so I think she may actually think Matt's dad is in charge of it :0)

Matt got through BOMEC just fine, which means (drumroll, please) that after much ado jumping through the UMC's flaming hoops, he will be ordained as a full elder this summer at Annual Conference. Woo hoo!! Congratulations, Matt! Your girls are so proud of you!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Sisters

Kate just adores her sister, and Claire is showing more interest in her as time goes by. 

Kate loves for them to "match" as much as possible, so here they are both wearing pink tights with brown and pink patterned dresses.

Kate is learning opposites in school right now, so when Claire sat in her Bumbo, Kate pulled the stool over to demonstrate high and low, big and little.


And Kate always has to get in on the month-day photo action, when we photograph Claire with her Sticky-Belly sticker and Sister Bear. (Check out the socks on Claire's hands to prevent the scratching of her head.)


Tummy time for my girls. I love how it looks like they are conversing. I can't wait to see their relationship grow.


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Tennessee Dream

I was born and raised in Louisville, Ky., and my only exposure to Tennessee as a child was a visit or two to Opryland and the song "Rocky Top," which we enjoyed in spite of the fact that we were UK fans and didn't care a lick for the Vols. I learned great things like why Tennessee folk "drink their corn from a jar." Nonetheless, at age eight, I wrote this very serious letter to my father.


If you can't make that out, it says: "Dear Dad, I've made up my mind, when I grow up I'm going to Tennessee to sing country music, maybe in Opryland." 
(Instead, I became an editor and learned when a period or semicolon would be more appropriate than a comma.)


I even addressed this very important folded piece of paper. And drew a stamp. Why my mother did not merit informing about this great plan, I don't know. Even today, I tend to call Dad when I want to talk career stuff, so maybe that started early. Mom's the one who saved this artifact in my baby book, though. 

In any case, I think it's kind of cool that I ended up living in Nashville, even if the whole "country music" dream went by the wayside, in part because I never actually listened to country music until after I moved to Nashville, and then only for a time in a "can't beat 'em, join 'em" kind of way. Christian publishing is Nashville's other big business, so I guess it's a good second. :0)

Monday, March 05, 2012

Claire at 4 Months

Second-Child Syndrome makes me sad. I feel like Claire's first four months have flown by in a way Kate's did not. I feel like the whole world stopped for Kate as our first and only baby, and now poor Claire is just "along for the ride" as life moves at a mile a minute. I wonder if younger children are more well-adjusted adults because they realize the whole world doesn't revolve around them. (I'm an only child, so I really wouldn't know!)

I sometimes look at Claire and wonder if I just sat and stared at her enough while I was home on maternity leave. Not for her benefit, but my own. Because I feel like I could just sit and stare at this little sweetheart all day long, but don't get the chance to. (And not just because I work outside the home; because I can't fawn over Claire too much in Kate's presence either, or Kate will start to act out. That's getting better, though.)

This little angel is so precious. At four months, Claire weighs 11 lbs, 11 oz. That's only a bit over what Kate weighed at two months, and is around the tenth percentile, so Claire is still a petite little thing. Her length, 23 in., is also around tenth percentile.

As you can see in the photo above, Claire tends to scratch her head all up, no matter how well we trim her nails. She has a thing for grabbing at her head when she's crying—her ears, her little tufts of hair, and just her scalp in general—and a couple of mornings last week, she had a startling amount of blood smeared on her forehead when we got her up in the morning. So now she has to wear mittens. Poor thing. 

On the brighter side, she is also doing great at tummy time, working on that core strength, and she started rolling over from front to back quite reliably! (That back-to-front roll at two months was a definite fluke, though she's now working on back-to-front as well.)

Her hair is hilarious. She has kind of a halo of baldness worn around the sides from where she lays on it, but has longer tufts on top and on the back. The one on top sticks up, and the one on the back is especially dark, so it's just one dark patch in the middle of the back of her head!

She likes to grab things now, like her paci, her Zeba lovey (below), and a couple other very grabbable toys she got for Christmas. For the record, she's not near so much of a paci girl as Kate was. She prefers her hands, though she doesn't have favorite fingers or thumbs yet. It's hard not to link this to the nursing thing—Claire needs flesh whereas Kate was good with fake nipples. (Similarly, Kate loved our fancy swing, the "Soothing Center," designed to mimic human rocking and heartbeats; Claire will not be fooled. Only human arms will do.)

She wears a size 1 diaper and is starting to wear 3-6 month clothes. A mix of new things and hand-me-downs from Kate. Matt keeps mentioning how I said having another girl would save us so much money on baby clothes, but sometimes I just can't resist! Some things are necessary though (happily for me!) since their birthdays are off just so much that Kate didn't have cooler weather 3-6 month things. Last week, Claire wore shoes for the first time, finally fitting into size 1 shoes!

I went into detail about the nursing and pumping the other day, and recent interactions with another nursing mom and our pediatrician have made me grateful for the production I have, even if it is light compared to the milk factory I was running with Kate. Claire nurses once or twice in the wee hours before work/school, eats four bottles of 5.5 oz. each at school, and nurses a few more times in the evening and before bed. Girl loves the boob, and I love those special moments with her!

Love my sweet girl, Claire Moriah!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Nursing v. Exclusive Pumping: the 4-month Update


Claire turned four months yesterday. I can't believe it! I'll share the milestone updates tomorrow, but first I want to share a bit of what I've learned these four months about nursing v. exclusive pumping, now that I have experienced them both.

I am so, so glad that Claire took to nursing so easily and so well. We have a picture of me soon after her birth, nursing there in the delivery room and just elated that she latched right on and did so well. It saved me all that stress I experienced in Kate's first week, when she would take two sucks and then let go, never getting a lot and being what the doctor called a "lazy sucker." She lost a lot of weight in her first few days and the doc said the scary word "NICU," so while in retrospect I might have been able to teach her to nurse with a lot of help from the lactation consultant (who we visited only once after leaving the hospital), I jumped right into pumping and never looked back. I exclusively pumped for Kate's whole first year, and I am so proud of that, but there are definitely pros and cons to both ways of breastfeeding.

Pumping 


Pros: 
Making so, so much milk. Since I pumped almost from the start and was always using my super double electric pump (Medela Pump in Style), I made more than enough for two babies, freezing tons of extra and even giving a lot away through Milkshare. Matt could help feed Kate, since we were bottle-feeding her the pumped milk. That enabled me to sleep more and Matt to bond with the baby more. Extra plus: I easily lost my baby weight and more, because breastfeeding burns a lot of calories and I was making so much. (I gained some back after I stopped pumping, but still weighed less at the start of my pregnancy with Claire than I did with Kate.)

Cons:
The initial disappointment of not being able to nurse when you had hoped to is, of course, a con. There's also just the hassle of having to drag the pump everywhere. Engorgement and leakage was worse because of the sheer volume of milk, so if I was going to be out somewhere too much longer than my current pumping schedule, I would have to lug the thing along, even if Kate was with me! This did make for a few "supermom" moments, feeding her a bottle while pumping the next one (and talking to a prospective author on the phone!) but overall pumping is a much bigger hassle than simply putting the infant to your breast. Then there's all the cleaning of pump parts and bottles on top of that.

Nursing 

Pros: 
As I just said, the sheer simplicity of baby-to-boobie feeding, with no pump and no bottles, is great. Both methods provide the much-touted benefits of breast milk, but I wonder what difference it makes for a child if that milk comes direct from the breast or via a pumped bottle. We'll see if Claire has any developmental advantages later on, but for now, I can say I do feel a difference in the bonding. I was bonded with Kate, of course, but I feel a different kind of bond with Claire, it seems, that I don't recall with Kate as a baby. And she has an obvious preference for me over the boobless parent. Poor Matt often can't console her; even if she's not hungry at the moment, just knowing the food source is near is enough to calm her sometimes!  

Cons:
The cons of nursing, for me, basically come at the intersection of nursing and pumping. That is to say, the pumping is not near so easy when it is only a part time thing, as opposed to the constancy of exclusive pumping. I have to pump in the morning and at night in addition to twice at work to make enough for Claire's four bottles at school each day. I am barely making enough for each day, only saving up enough to freeze a little bit every couple of weeks. It is stressful to be cutting it so close each day, to know that if I skip a pumping session, I might not have enough milk to send to school with Claire. This is partly because she's so snacky, eating less more often when I'm with her to nurse, but eats more in one sitting from a bottle, so the production is a little out of whack. Another con is the decreased weight loss. I still lost my little bit of baby weight easily, but haven't really dropped below my starting weight like I did with Kate.

Both methods of breastfeeding are fairly equal on cost savings. Both save tons of money on formula, which can cost $1500-$2000 for the baby's first year (what did we ever do without Google?). A double electric breast pump costs around $200, but if you work outside the home or plan to be away from your baby for any significant stretch during his or her first year, even nursing moms will need a pump.

I doubt anybody chooses to be an exclusive pumper, so this isn't intended to be informative for the basis of choosing between, but if you are having trouble nursing and still want to give your baby breastmilk, know that not only can it be done, there are pros to it as well.

I'm glad Claire nurses. This whole post was inspired by the fact that it crossed my mind for a moment, when I was stressed about the lack of extra breastmilk, to just stop nursing and pump like crazy for Claire, just so I'd make more milk and have a good stash built up. I quickly put the thought out of my mind. Despite the cons of nursing, I love the natural simplicity and bonding of being able to nurse my baby. I treasure the time I spend nursing Claire to sleep (or back to sleep) in the rocker in her room, watching the world go by outside her window and knowing I'm giving my little angel something no one else can.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin