Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stats and Pants

Quick update here (wha... ? EIGHT posts in one month? Crazy, I know) as Lucy had her 1-year check up today. Meaning 3 shots, two of them live viruses, so she's a bit cranky. Too bad for you, daycare! Ha, ha, I jest. But she is there now, so do I really?

Anywho, the vital stats:

Height: 30 inches (75%)
Weight: 22 lbs, 13 oz (75%)
Head: 17 3/4 inches (70%) - actually managed to remember the head measurement this time!

Perfectly, proportionally, big and healthy! Wonder what her weight would have been had she not spent a week throwing up recently, though.

No concerns from the doc, Lucy is doing great in every way. We did discuss the vomiting/potential milk issues, and the doctor recommended we try introducing some milk again to Lucy's bottles now that she's been recovered for a week and a half. No specialists at this point, we'll just see how she does. The doctor was not that concerned and thought Lucy would probably do fine. We'll soon see, I guess! Operation Milk will begin again tonight, so that we can monitor how she does over the weekend. There will be no going crazy with milk and macaroni and cheese and ice cream all at once, we will just start with an ounce or so of milk in her bottle. Fingers crossed that the puking was a temporary, ill-timed fluke and it does not reappear!

In other news... well, I don't really have other news. Oh, wait, except this headline: "Three-year-old comes home from school with yet another pair of ripped pants." Dude, seriously, Finn has ripped the right knee of at least 6 pairs of pants in the last few weeks. Always the right knee, never the left. The kid may fall a lot, but at least he does it consistently.

He is actually quite coordinated, he just likes to fall on purpose (OK, sometimes by accident, too, but usually on purpose). And the fabric-ripping culprit is the mulch on the ground in the playground at school. Now that the weather is nicer, Finn and his classmates go outside at least twice a day, and run around like crazy people (who fall, a lot) on mulch. As a result, I now need to spend a fortune to replace Finn's jeans. Good thing shorts weather is fast approaching, and he can just re-grow new skin for free after each fall rather than making me buy new pants. Alternatively, any good non-sewing patchwork options out there? Maybe some patches with super heroes on them? I'm not crazy about the patched look, but I'm also not crazy about spending gobs of money on new pants every month so I'm willing to compromise.

Monday, April 26, 2010

April in Photos

Some pictures of what we have been up to this month:

One of us has been making mischief whenever possible, climbing up stairs as soon as we pull her down from them, eating the cat's food, and pulling every object within reach off of all our tables. Her favorite targets? Cell phones and remote controls, of course.

Finn has discovered a love and talent for giving his sister (very wet) raspberries.

Lots of playtime with the play kitchen ("Housekeeping," as we refer to it).

We spent a Sunday afternoon (right before Lucy's tummy troubles started up) at a local winery listening to bluegrass music, eating good food, and drinking good wine with good friends. The kids had a blast!

Eating strawberries in a white shirt - whose idea was that? OK, mine, but the outfit was just adorable! Not even OxyClean has been able to work it's magic on some of those stains, though, so it may not have been worth the fashion sacrifice...

We started Lucy's birthday celebration early by taking Friday off to go to the National Zoo (along with half of America, apparently). This is how we announced her impending one-ness to everyone, photo taken post-zoo. We have very few photos (one, actually) documenting the trip to the zoo because SOMEONE (Lucy) was cranky for much of it. Oh well, Finn had a good time at least!

The view of the living room before we brought Lucy down to open her presents on Sunday. The tent/tunnel were a gift picked out by Finn, the pink pottery barn chair was a gift from Grammy and Bumpa to match Finn's. Lots of fun things for a little girl! She, of course, wanted nothing to do with opening any of the presents until she had her morning bottle. That's my good eater!

Testing out the new chair.

Vamping for the camera (or grinding her teeth, it's a toss up).

Finn may have had a selfish motive or two in picking out the tent/tunnel present for Lucy. Not that I blame him, it looks like fun. I wouldn't know, as I'm sure these "birthing hips" of mine would never make it through.

Lucy's birthday cake, made from the Duncan Hines strawberry cake mix (pink! dairy-free!). I tried my hand decorating it a bit, to limited success. Oh well, it's the thought that counts, right?

Tring cake for the first time, a little unsure of whether she will like it...

Oh, wait, yes, definitely likes it...

A lot!

My beautiful baby, can't believe she's one year old already!

Before I know it, she'll be a teenager. God, no!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

AYear Ago

(Note: Very long post follows. Probably only for the truly dedicated blog readers out there. Consider yourselves warned.)

I never wrote about Lucy’s birth.

I meant to, of course. I love reading other people’s birth stories, and I had every intention of sharing Lucy’s. But blogging right after her birth was hard for me – we were struggling with feeding and jaundice issues, and I didn’t have the time or energy to type it all out right away. As each day passed, the details of her birth grew fuzzier and fuzzier, to the point where I wasn’t even sure I could reconstruct it anymore. Also, so many of my emotions and actions during that her birth day were really a result of my first experience, with Finn’s birth. And so I felt like I couldn’t properly tell Lucy’s story unless I told Finn’s first. I actually sat down on several occasions to type out the story of Finn’s birth, which in some ways I remember better than Lucy’s, even though it happened three and a half years ago. But I didn’t get very far before my momentum was lost and the project was abandoned.

Here we are, though, one year later. My hormones and emotions are calmer, though my memory is no sharper. To mark Lucy’s first birthday, I thought I would share with you what I still remember about the day she was born, make a record of what is left of those memories. Minus (most of) the Finn back story, minus many of the details that have been forgotten along the way, probably minus any sense of coherence.

Admittedly, I will occasionally need to refer to Finn’s birth, to put things in perspective. We start with one such detail. Finn was born on October 20th, 2006. His due date was October 12th, 2006. So, EIGHT DAYS LATE. EIGHT LOOOONG DAYS LATE. Another pertinent detail is that M. and I live alone here in Maryland, with no family around within at least a ~430 mile radius. This was no big deal when Finn was born. Who needs a crowd of family members when one is pushing large things out of not-so-large openings, right? Seems beside the point. However, this presents a much greater problem when one is looking to expel baby number 2. It became clear that if I didn’t want to be abandoned to the mercies of a newborn in a hospital that mandates rooming-in while M. was off “taking care of the eldest child” (aka sleeping),I really needed some family around for the big event.

Said family was identified – my mother. The big question then was, when should Grammy arrive? My due date with Lucy was April 25th. Given my history with Finn, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t go into labor early, or even on time. I didn’t want my mom to sit around for weeks at our house, waiting for me to go into labor, while I carted my large self off to work every day. Not fun for anyone, right? So we arranged that Mom would fly into town on the afternoon of Thursday, April 23rd. A total guessing game, and once her ticket was purchased, I immediately began to panic that I would go into labor early, OF COURSE, because you idiot, second babies always come earlier, that’s just my kind of luck, etc etc.

However, April 23rd arrived, and as planned, the baby (keep in mind, Lucy’s gender was still a surprise to us) was still safely ensconced in my uterus. Now it was time to panic that labor would NEVER begin. That two weeks would go by, Mom would be boarding her plane to go home, and I would STILL BE PREGNANT. Sigh. Aren’t hormones wonderful?

So, the story proceeds. April 24th dawns sunny and warm. I took a planned “sick” day from work (if ever there is a healthy condition that calls for a sick day, it’s being 39 weeks, 6 days pregnant). I spent the morning catching up on e-mails (really only a half of a sick day then, I suppose) and trying to clear work off my plate. Mom spent the morning painting the master bathroom. Weird? Maybe, but she’s a doer, that one. Likes doing projects. I couldn’t trap her at my house for a couple of weeks without giving her something that relates heavily to an HGTV program for her to do. Plus, we had recently done some minor renovations to our bathroom stemming from an emergency tile incident, so it was not a project without purpose.

Once painting and work e-mailing were over, we set off to do what we do best – shopping. Not for baby stuff, that was of course all taken care of thanks to my fascination with organizing and reorganizing the nursery months in advance. No, the shopping was to “accessorize” the master bathroom. We hit Home Goods, a source of many excellent decorating finds for my mother. We found pictures to hang on the walls, vases and candles to display, photo frames (that to this day remain empty), a rug – you name it, we bought it. I believe we also stopped at a few other stores, but memory fails on that issue. All I know is, we returned home exhausted and full of purchases. Then it was time for dinner, some TV watching, and bed.

At around 3 or 4 in the morning, I woke up, per usual. This was my typical time for starting the late pregnancy “toss, turn, pee, repeat” pattern. I noticed some contractions – painless, but a little stronger than the Braxton Hicks I had occasionally been having. Plus, they were happening often enough that I was having a hard time going back to sleep. Rather than wake M. up with my restlessness, I went downstairs and logged on to my work computer. I know, total nerd, right? I even wrote this to Outnumbered Gal, time stamp 4:37 am, April 25, 2009:

It's about 4:30 am here - I'm up because I'm having some contractions. Trying to drink some water and see if they'll go away or not. They are about 5 minutes apart, but they don't seem painful enough to be real so I'm not getting my hopes up. I'm biding my time by uploading crap into EGS and timing my contractions on Lame, I know, but I don't want to wake anyone else up by doing something more interesting...

Anyway, I'll keep you posted :-).

Then I went back upstairs to lie down for a while. Eventually it was time to get up. Details are again a bit fuzzy here, but I’m sure the getting up was spurred by Finn waking up, and somehow I broke the news to M. and Mom that I was having contractions. I was adamant that we carry on per usual, though. And this again takes us back to my labor with Finn. For those of you that don’t know (if I’ve met you in person, I’ve probably already complained about it to you), my labor with him started at around 10 pm on a Wednesday night, and lasted until he was born at 12:30 pm on Friday. NEARLY 40 HOURS. OF BACK LABOR (those of you that have experienced this are shuddering and sympathizing, I know). 24 hours of labor at home, and the rest at the hospital.

The parts of Finn’s birth up until the epidural totally sucked, but especially the hospital parts. So, I was determined not to believe that this was active, progressing labor. It could be DAYS before it was time for me to pop this kid out. No way was I going to sit around and fixate on every contraction, and wonder when it was time to call the doctor or head to the hospital. I mean, good God, it was my due date, everyone knows that less than 5% of babies are born on their due date (at least, that’s what Wikipedia tells me). No way that this was the day. So what did I do with myself in the meantime? I went shopping. Even drove the car myself. I strolled through Target with my mom, pushing Finn in a shopping cart, loading it up with shorts and short-sleeved shirts for him, all the while having contractions. By then, they hurt. Not a lot, not in the “take your breath away” sense, but they did hurt. And they were still coming maybe every 5-10 minutes or so.

We got home with our purchases, and some of our neighbors were outside with their kids. It was a hot, sunny day. So I let Mom drag our bags inside (side note – none of us can remember what M. did that morning while the rest of us shopped at Target – perhaps he just hyperventilated into a bag, at home by himself?), and I let Finn play with his friends while I chatted with the other moms. And contracted.

Time passed, things happened. Those details are gone. But the contractions continued, got a bit closer together, and hurt a little more. I was still convinced that they weren’t hurting enough to be “real labor” (whatever the hell that means). Eventually, it was post nap-time (Finn’s, Mom’s), and we were all out on the deck having a popsicle (Finn’s idea). I finished my popsicle, and decided that the contractions were wearing me out, and it was time to take a bath. That’s supposed to help, right? They always have tubs in the birthing rooms, must be something to it. So I drew a bath and climbed in with one of the trashy gossip rags M. had bought that day for my impending hospital stay. As I read about the certain break up of Brangelina and Tori Spelling’s weight loss, I realized that the contractions were coming much closer together, more like 3-5 minutes apart than 5-7. And they hurt. A lot. I found myself on my knees in the tub, suddenly worrying I was in transition and that I needed to GET THE HELL TO THE HOSPITAL.

I dried myself off, got dressed, and went downstairs to call the doctor. Of course it was my least favorite doctor who was on call (the same thing happened when Finn was born, though it was a different practice). I have no idea what I told him, but he cleared us to head to the hospital. We threw our bags in the car and left the house, and my baby boy, at around 5:45. I saw our neighbors outside again as we got in the car, and managed to exchanged some “Is it time? Not sure, maybe” type of pleasantries. And we were off.

Snapped just before leaving to head to the hospital

As we drove, I gripped the chicken bar and moaned, a lot. I was convinced I was in transition, and that the hospital would refuse to give me an epidural. It was a very, very painful ride. We arrived at the hospital, and M. offered to drop me off at the door so I could go inside. I didn’t think I’d be able to make it down the hallway without him, so I refused and parked the car with him. We walked into the hospital, through the corridors, and into the elevators that would take us up to Labor and Delivery. As we road in the elevator, I couldn’t help crying. Not because of the pain (though it did hurt), and not because I was scared of labor (been there, done that – as long as I could get the epidural, I’d be fine). I cried because Finn would never be an only child again. Because his world was about to change forever. I would never be able to be as involved in his life again as I was the first two and a half years (in hindsight, I see this as a good thing, of course). What the hell was I doing to him? Was it too late to change my mind? Oh yes, I brought the DRAMA into that elevator.

Once inside L&D, I filled out some minor paperwork (why any at all is necessary when you pre- register like a good doobie, as recommended, is beyond me), still dripping tears left and right. I got myself under control by the time a nurse came to fetch me. She asked whether I thought I could go straight to a birthing room, or whether I should be checked in a triage room first. I waffled (momentary doubt about my “I must be in transition” thoughts), but decided to take a chance on the birthing room. This turned out to be a good choice, as once in a Johnny and displaying my wares for everyone to see, it was determined that I was over 8 cm dilated! No wonder those contractions were hurting like a [insert epithet here].

So, transition? Check. Panic that I wouldn’t be able to get an epidural and would be forced to push this baby out in excruciating pain? Check. The first words out of my mouth to the nurses were, “Can I still get an epidural?” And bless their hearts, they said yes. While a bag of IV fluids dripped into me, the nurses gathered all my patient information and I winced through several contractions. Then a tiny little Asian man came in my room to administer the epidural. This process, even though I had been through it once before without any issues, was nerve-wracking for me. They make you sit on the side of the bed and hunch over your belly to lengthen your spine – not a comfortable position for someone who hasn’t seen her feet in months. The entire time, your body is tensed, waiting for the needle/catheter to be inserted, and the simultaneous contraction that will screw everything up and render you paralyzed forever. Or so I imagined.

In all honestly, this time around there were issues. It took a while for the doctor to get the catheter in, and at one point he was literally wailing on my back, pounding on… something. I chose not to imagine what or why. The whole process hurt. But eventually, it was over, and the pain relief began to set in. Well, sort of. It soon became apparent, after the doc adjusted my meds once or twice to little effect, that I was too far into labor for the epidural to do much more than take the edge off of things. But hey, that’s better than nothing, right? Funnily enough, once Lucy was born, the epidural really kicked in, and I was nice and numb where it counted, just a little too late.

So, at this point, I’m lying in bed, resting a little more comfortably. M. is by my side, we’ve called my mom to let her know we were staying/baby was definitely coming, and we had some music playing in the background. For all of 5 minutes, we were somewhat relaxed. Then I felt some strange pressure down there, and (sorry folks, this is where it gets graphic) being the curious girl that I am, I investigated and found something, er, bulging out of me. This was apparently my “bag of waters”. Ew, right? I kind of imagined that my water would break, but apparently that amniotic sac of mine was pretty tough.

I called the nurse’s attention to this alarming development. She may or may not have called the doctor in at this point. This may or may not have been my first time seeing him (honestly can’t remember, as he was such a minor participant in the whole birth experience). Someone broke my water, and I was told to let everyone know if I started to feel a lot of pressure. I still kept waiting for that totally numb feeling to kick in, the one I had during my labor with Finn, so I kind of passed off this whole “pressure” thing as something I wouldn’t feel. I figured eventually they’d check me again, I’d be at a 10, and they’d tell me to start pushing.

But low and behold, about 5 minutes after my water broke, I started to feel crazy amounts of pressure in a “why isn’t the epidural working, this kinda hurts” way. I have no idea if anyone checked me again (probably yes), all I know is suddenly it was time to push. The nurse had me roll from my side to my back, and I started the whole “raise your knees to your chest and count three sets of ten” routine. M. encouraged me as he held up one of my legs, while the nurse alternately typed things on the computer and criticized my pushing technique. Did NOT like her. I could feel what was going on, though it didn’t hurt too much thanks to the epidural, and I could tell that I wasn’t pushing effectively. It just did not feel right. But the nurse was no help at all. She was terrible about noting when I was entering a contraction, didn’t help me try to find a good physical spot to focus on (sometimes a nurse will sort of guide you by using her hand to show you where to push), frequently wasn’t by my side to help hold my legs up, and flat out told me I was doing it wrong. She also told me that I wasn’t pushing right because I was afraid to poop. Good god, if she only knew that I came to terms with labor pooping a long, long time ago, she would have realized it was not holding me back.

After about 30 minutes of frustration, the nurse finally had me roll to my side to try pushing that way. I was glad, as lying on my back in late pregnancy has always been very uncomfortable for me (makes me feel “weird,” there is really no other way to explain it). The position change made all the difference in the world. Within two pushes, I could feel the baby move all the way down. It was crazy! I was told to stop while the nurse called in the rest of the nursing team and the doctor into the room. While we waited, M. and I sort of smiled and chatted, making the kind of small talk that requires absolutely no brain power, knowing we were just a few minutes away from meeting our baby.

In came the doctor, I was put on my back again, and the bottom of the delivery bed was dropped away. It was show time. M. held a leg (as he had been the whole time), and had a front row view of our baby as she crowned.[Side note: I always said my husband would need to stay by my head when our babies were born. Who knew that birth was such an “all hands on deck” experience? For both Finn and Lucy, if M. hadn’t been down there holding a leg, I don’t know if they would have ever come out. With only one nurse in the room with you during most of the labor process, there really is no one else to “hold the other leg.” So, there goes the romance and mystery in our relationship, eh?] The doctor did his best to help ease the baby out, but I still managed to tear over the scar from my episiotomy (ugh) with Finn’s birth. During the process, my water broke again, oddly enough. Two fluid sacs, or something weird like that. The doctor announced that we’d had a baby girl (!), and M. cut the cord.

And… that was it! Birth over. The next few minutes are a blur for me, memory-wise. I think I was in shock that this moment I had been waiting for since August 16, 2008 (the day of the positive HPT) was already over, less than two hours after I had arrived at the hospital. I couldn’t believe I had another baby, I couldn’t believe I had a daughter. I was happy, but quietly so, and there were no tears. Lucy was taken to an isolette right next to my bed for assessment and weighing, while the doctor took out the afterbirth and stitched me up. She really didn’t cry much at all. While the nurses looked her over, M. and I talked about what her name should be. We had arrived at the hospital with a short list of girl names and one boy name. I had been going back and forth a lot on the girl names, and sort of thought to myself, “well, shoot, this would be a whole lot easier if this baby was a boy!” We decided to wait until we could get a good look at her, and put the decision off for a bit.

Lucy was brought over to me, and I got a chance to cuddle her and nurse her a little. Then, while she was given a bath in my room, I called my mom to let her know the news – Baby girl! Born at 8:14 pm! 8 lbs, 5 oz!! And… no name yet.

There was a not-so-fun trek to the bathroom on numb legs for me, a “couldn’t care less because I can’t feel it anyway” catheter experience when my numbness prevented me from actually USING the bathroom, and a few other phone calls to various relatives. Then, while M. and I pondered our name choices, he ran out to get us some food from Chipotle while I waited for the feeling to come back into my legs. I THINK Lucy slept next to my bed, but she may have also been whisked away for some tests at that point.

M. returned, and I had the BEST TASTING black bean burrito ever. It was like I hadn’t eaten in days, and it tasted soooo good. As we ate, we talked it over some more, and finally settled on a name. Lucy Elaine. Lucy because we like it (and it’s short – with a long last name, you really need a short first name), and Elaine because it was the middle name of my Aunt Donna, my dad’s sister whom I was very close to before she died of cancer in 1997.

During this name-deciding effort, my mom texted M. (?? Didn’t even know she could text!) and suggested the name Jennifer Elizabeth; the Jennifer after one of my closest friends, and Elizabeth after her (it’s my mom’s middle name). I called her up to tell her the name we had chosen, and she started crying! And said, “I thought you could use the name I picked out”, clearly disappointed with our name choice. Or so I remember it, anyway. According to one of my sister’s, though, she really started crying because we chose to use Donna’s middle name. Not sure what was really behind the tears, but I will always remember that when I told Mom Lucy’s name, she cried.

At some point, the three of us were moved to a maternity ward room, and we all settled in for the night. The shock of the whole experience was starting to wear off, and I was busy marveling at Lucy, her chubby cheeks and legs (a chubby newborn! Crazy!), her soft dark hair. I was too wired to sleep, though M. dropped off pretty easily. Lucy began making some noise at around midnight or 1, and I had M. bring her to me so I could nurse her (why they make those little isolettes so high off the ground that a post partum, “feeling like a Mack truck just hit between your legs” woman cannot grab the baby herself makes absolutely no sense to me, by the way). While he went back to sleep, she and I became fast friends. We had a wonderful, peaceful night. She latched on like a champ, and ate for at least 20 minutes on each side. Steadily, quietly, without fussing. I thought to myself “How wonderful! I have a good eater; this breastfeeding thing is finally going to work out!” And I held her in my arms the rest of the night, smiling, smelling her and touching her, listening to all those wonderful little new baby noises.

The craziness eventually set in (Jaundice! Supplementing! Painful latch! Threats that Lucy would need to be admitted to the Pediatric ward while I was discharged!) and stayed with us once we left for home. But instead of thinking of those things, the many tears I cried, the countless bili checks, the frustration and eventual end of breastfeeding, I like to think of that first night. When everything was dark and quiet, and my baby girl and I were the only two people in the world.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Not exactly what I was imagining

One of the things I have been looking forward to most about having two kids is the joint bathtime. How cute is it to have two sudsy, smiling kids splashing in the bathtub?

Oh, it's cute alright, I can testify to that personally now. Cute, that is, until your 1-year-old (almost!) discovers a new "toy" that just happens to be attached to her brother. In his underwear region, if you know what I mean.

And, scene. Bathtime over. She's a persistent little stinker, that one.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Trying to keep our heads above the puke

Poor Goosey. Which, for those of you that don't know, is what we call Lucy quite often. Lucy, Lucy Goosey, Goosey, you see the derivation, no?

Tuesday evening she blew out her diaper down the front of her leg, a feat we had until then not yet witnessed (most blowouts occur up or down the back of the diaper, not the front). Wednesday she had more yucky diapers, and when I brought her home from daycare, proceeded to immediately throw up all over the (off-white colored) living room carpet. Twice. She earned herself a bath that night, and a day at home with me on Thursday. Each day since then, poor Goose has had at least one blowout, disgustingly aroma'd diaper, and two bouts of vomiting. We are now at Sunday, five days after the first incident, and Lucy is still sick. She has earned herself a bath at least once a day this whole week - that's how fast the bodily fluids have been flying.

M. and I don't quite know what to do. Apparently, one other child in Lucy's class at daycare was sent home with a stomach bug on Thursday. Which would suggest that Lucy, too, has a stomach bug. And for those keeping track (probably no one except for us, since I haven't blogged about every episode), would be Lucy's third stomach bug of 2010. However, M. and I are not convinced that at mere virus is at fault here. Strangely or not-so-strangely enough, Lucy's illness has coincided with our attempt to start introducing whole milk into her diet. Whick throws everything into a quandry, and makes us wonder what the heck is actually going on.

On Monday, we started adding about 1-1.5 oz milk to her 6 oz bottles. She was less then two weeks shy of her 1st birthday, and we were all more than ready to see if the family could be done with formula FOREVER! For those wondering, her formula is Enfamil Gentlease, a dairy-based formula that is partially hydrolyzed. We upped it to 2 oz (so, 1/3 milk) on Tuesday. By Tuesday evening, however, things were clearly not looking good.

I brought Lucy to the doctor's office on Thursday, to discuss the possibility of a milk allergy. Previously, Lucy was diagnosed with a (temporary?) milk protein intolerance. She was having diarrhea with no other symptoms, and her doc wanted her on a completely hydrolyzed formula for a while to see if she would recover. She did, and eventually went back on the Gentlease. But still, there is a history of some milk issues. This time around, the doctor checked for blood in a dirty diaper of Lucy's (not a fun package to travel with), found no blood, and declared her symptoms to be the result of a virus. Which marries nicely with the details about the classmate of hers sent home for throwing up.

However, here we are 5 days after Lucy's first symptoms, and she threw up twice again this morning (not to mention the heinous, heinous explosive diaper she woke up with). Most vomiting that is the result of a virus resolves itself after 24 hours (diarrhea can take much longer). We even went out and bought her Alimentum (the completely hydrolyzed formula) to try and help a sista out for a while, and she threw THAT up. The teeny amounts she deigned to drink, of course, because that stuff tastes disgusting and she is now old enough to realize it.

So, we are back at questioning "Is it a virus? Is it a milk allergy? Is it a virus causing a milk intolerance?" We have no freakin' clue, but to try and help Lucy feel better (and stem the massive amounts of laundry we've been doing), we've decided to make Lucy go dairy-free for everything. No milk, no cheese, no butter, no foods baked with cheese, milk or butter... Basically, we went out and spent a fortune at Whole Paycheck (er, Foods).

A follow up visit for Lucy to the pediatrician is likely in store this week, and perhaps also a referral to an allergist and/or pediatric GI specialist (remember, she still has reflux issues, which could also be indicative of a food intolerance). In the meantime, we'll be bringing most of her food in to daycare for her, provided she doesn't do something silly like puke and get sent home. And I'll be researching good dairy-free cake recipes for that 1st birthday of hers, coming up in a week...

I wish I was blogging about other topics, because some other fun things have been happening lately. Including a 5K I ran (OK, slowly jogged) on Saturday, as a step toward the marathon relay I am signed up for next fall. Yay, me! Really, it was fun, and I can't wait to do more. However, Lucy's digestive system has been stealing my and M.'s thoughts lately, so it's hard to talk about much else. Here's to hope that that changes soon...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Clearly he's not ready to babysit yet

Monday morning, as I scrambled to load all of our stuff into the car before packing the kids into their carseats and taking off, I noticed Finn and Lucy's playtime together had taken on a somewhat, ahem, dangerous tone. Finn had two of the cat's toys, the kind that have a short pole, a long string, and some kind of dangly, cat-tempting toy on the end. He was wrapping them around Lucy's neck as she lay on the floor. Lucy was laughing.

Clearly it was time to have the "suffocation" talk.

Oy vey, what is with these kids, and their attempts to kill themselves and each other?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Maybe I should strike while the iron is hot, and switch to a career in lobbying?

I alluded to a few concerns we've been having with our daycare in my post last week. Some are minor and fixable - a forgotten phone call when Finn got a bump on his face (Maryland regulations require a phone call to the parents whenever an injury above the sholders is received), some poor communication about supplies to bring in for the kids, etc. We've talked to the daycare director about some of those things, and policies have been reiterated to all the involved people to make sure everyone is on the same page once again.

Other concerns are not so fixable, like teachers that don't communicate well about my children's day. Often it's a language barrier, where English is not a teacher's first language. I love that my children are surrounded by people (adults and kids) of different races and cultures at this daycare, but it can be an issue where I have trouble finding out what Finn or Lucy did during the day. I also worry about the kids developing good language skills - enunciation, grammar, vocabulary, etc. This is not really a fixable issue, though - unless I have a serious complaint about a teacher, I can't really recommend any staff changes.

I also recognize that every daycare center is going to have a few flaws. There is no one center that is perfect in every way. Because of this, disrupting the kids and pulling them out to send them to a new daycare is not necessarily the right thing to do here. It would cause a lot of angst and upheaval, especially for Finn, who is fast friends with all of his classmates. And we could find ourselves right back in a similar situation at a new center, discovering a little too late some of the flaws we didn't notice before enrolling the kids.

I think the better thing to do is take some of the responsibility onto our own shoulders to make sure Finn and Lucy get the most that they can out of our current school. One of the other parents in Finn's classroom wasn't satisfied with the amount of commucation about her daughter's day, so thanks to her inquiries, we now get a written description about the day's activities on the white board right outside the classroom. These are the kinds of things that we as parents can effect to a positive result, along with making sure we reinforce the lessons and skills being taught in the classroom. I'm determined to be more aware of what is going on at school, and do my best to find ways overcome any communication barriers that may present themselves as the kids work through the different classrooms at the daycare.

Along those lines, I decided to do what I could to make some positive changes on the school's menu. Finn, and now Lucy, eat two meals and two snacks a day at school. They get far more of their nutrients and calories there than they do at home. Which means that I have very little opportunity to influence them toward a healthy diet/love of fruits and vegetables. As is the case in many daycare centers, ours is limited by money in what they can offer to the kids. Vegetables and/or fruit are offered at every lunch, but they are canned (I guess I should be happy they are at least offered, canned though they may be?). Hot dogs are on the menu a few times a month (how this can be seen as appropriate for any age group, but especially the under 2 crowd - hello, no molars and CHOKING HAZARD - I have no idea, but it seems to be a standard at most daycares). I had no visibility over what the breakfast or snack menus were, and I think I chose to remain ignorant so I wouldn't know the extent of the junk. Well, once Lucy started on table foods, I had to become aware, so that I could choose which menu items were appropriate for her. And the unblinding began.

Breakfast includes things like French toast sticks (not horrible, but not a whole grain in sight) with sausage and syrup, white toast with butter and cinnamon sugar, and sugary cereals like Apple Jacks or Fruit Loops (apparently mixed in with Cheerios, so that the whole bowl isn't full of the less-healthy cereal, but I don't think this is always carried out). There is also a day where scrambled eggs are served, so I do know that the kids get a little protein at least one morning a week. There is no fruit served with breakfast, but the drink is milk (instead of juice).

The snack menu, to me, was the more horrifying. Here it is, pretty much word for word:

Animal crackers
Graham crackers
Nilla wafers
Ritz crackers (sometimes with cheese)
Saltines (sometimes with cheese)
Oatmeal cookies
Chocolate chip cookies
Sugar cookies
Vanilla or chocolate pudding

There may be one or two more items that I am forgetting, but they are along the same genre. All carbs and sugar. No whole grains. No vitamin-enriched anything. No fruits or vegetables. Snacks from this list are served twice a day. The one that got me the most was Jello, because one of the floating teachers in Lucy's room couldn't understand why Lucy wasn't allowed to have Jello as a snack. She is young and ... well, she is young. I won't be more unkind than that. In what way is Jello an appropriate snack for my 11-month-old baby who cannot use a utensil, still drinks 4 bottles a day, fills her diaper with poop that I would prefer to have NOT be explosive, and needs a well-balanced diet to teach her how to eat?

If you count the Nilla wafers, graham and animal crackers, there are 6 types of cookies on this list. SIX. Crazy. In my house, we have one "cookie" - graham crackers. This just wouldn't do. I don't think kids need dessert-type foods every day. I grew up in a house where we could have sweets/junk food whenever we wanted, and my waistline has suffered mightily ever since.

Luckily, we are allowed to bring in food from home until a child is two, so I can bring in more appropriate snacks for Lucy. But that still abandons Finn to the mercies of the menu. And doesn't bode well for Lucy in another year. Instead, I decided to try to address the issue with the Director, who has two kids (and one more on the way) at the school herself, including one in Finn's classroom. She has a vested interest in a healthier menu, and I know she has done quite a bit of work to revise the curriculum at the school for the same reason. Conversations with other parents indicated that while many have complained about the menu in the past, no one has been able to get changes made. The problem lay not with the Director, but with the owner of the school (it's a small chain, and the owner lives somewhere in Pennsylvania, I have never seen him nor do I even know his name), an apparently "old school" type who didn't feel the need to make any changes. This is an attitude I didn't really understand, because enrollment was down all last year at our particular center. Doesn't he want to make his schools more attractive to parents, more and more of whom are really paying attention to things like school food, not satisfied with the standard crappy fare we all ate as kids?

So, I sent an e-mail to the Director (I figured if I did it by phone, I would back down to easily, or forget to mention some of the details of what I wanted to say). This is what I wrote to her:

[Intro stuff on other things] The second thing I wanted to bring up is the food menu. Until recently, I hadn't really been fully aware of everything the kids get for snacks and breakfast (I had more knowledge of the lunch menu because [Finn's teacher] writes that on her white board every day). It's important to me to try to instill my kids with good eating habits - I'm sure this is true for a lot of the parents at the school. We all need to rely on [Daycare Center] to help us with this - Finn and Lucy get 2 meals and 2 snacks a day at [Daycare Center] - the majority of their nutrition for the day. I was wondering if you/the owners would be open to trying to incorporate a few more fresh, healthier options into the menu. I have some specific suggestions that I'm hoping wouldn't be too difficult or any more costly than the current menu, such as:

For breakfast, substitute a whole grain/non-sugary cereal instead of Fruit Loops/Apple Jacks. Use whole wheat bread instead of white bread for the toast.

For the snack menu, substitute yogurt instead of jello. Instead of having 4-5 different kinds of cookies that are served, offer raisins, bananas, baby carrots, and other fresh fruits/vegetables on a few days of the week.

For the lunch menu, substitute frozen vegetables instead of canned vegetables (more nutrients).

From looking at an old snack menu posted outside the pre-K door, it seems that at least some of these foods have been offered by [Daycare Center] in the past. Why are they not offered now, and is there a way we can bring foods like these in?

I don't want to assume that all these suggestions can be easily carried out, but I wanted to put them out there and let you know that this is a very important aspect of my children's care to me. I know I am not alone in this, and that other parents feel the same way. It's important for us to feel like we can have a dialogue with the school about areas where we might like to have some input.

Please let me know your thoughts, and if I can help in any way.


They weren't major changes that I was suggesting, but you need to start somewhere, right?

I sent this off on Thursday night, not expecting to get a positive response. But apparently, luck was on my side! I got a phone call from the director on Friday morning. She had spoken to the owner and his wife that morning, assuming she was doing so out of courtesy and that once again, they would refuse to make any changes. Indeed, the owner's wife was against making any changes to the menu at all. But somehow, the owner himself appears to have changed his mind. Perhaps he is seeing that so many of us parents have the same complaints, and that a cheaper menu doesn't necessarily mean a better bottom line financially. He told the director that he liked what I wrote, because it wasn't just a complaint about the food, there were specific recommendations for change. As a result, the director is now writing up a list of foods to add to the menu (not sure if she is just taking my suggestions only, or compiling a list from other people, too), and the owners are going to figure out which ones they can implement. We should know this week how the menu is going to change.

So, yay! I'm pretty proud of myself for not just accepting the status quo, or the reports from other parents that it wasn't possible to tackle this issue. Better yet, I'm glad I didn't let all my compiled negative feelings toward the center last week drive us toward finding another daycare for the kids. I have a good relationship with the director, and it would be silly to give up and move when it's possible to help make some changes that benefit not just my kids, but the entire center. Sure, it's not like we'll be switching to an all-organic, all-whole grain menu for the kids, but it's a start! And I'm pretty happy with that.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Frustration and Photos

(Notice, by the way, my refusal to utilize a cutesy alliteration like "Frustration and Fotos" in the post title. "Cute" alliterations that misspell words are a pet peeve of mine, and if Dunkin Donuts wasn't so darn convenient to my workplace, I would probably boycott the entire chain. Please, family of mine, do not gasp - I know those words are sacrilege for a native New Englander, as Bostonian diets are about 50% reliant on D&D.)

Today I feel like I'm not doing anything right. Mostly in the parenting arena - it's completely one of those days where I'm wondering if I'm doing the right thing parking my kids in daycare for 9+ hours a day. I'm having some issues with our daycare, some trivial, some maybe not trivial, but it's making me question our choices. I'm sure I'm over-reacting to some degree. I mean, is it necessary to have a mini anxiety attack about about WHO WILL HELP FINN DO HIS HOMEWORK??? AFTER SCHOOL???? IN THREE YEARS???????

I'm having some doubts in the working arena, too, as it's one of those days where I'm losing sight of why my job is important/good and feeling mired in politics and bureaucratic crap. Put the two together (working and parenting doubt), and it's hard to feel upbeat. I would vent, but I think it would be coming from the wrong place and be too reflective of my bad mood. The good news is that we are just a few hours away from tomorrow, and tomorrow is my birthday, so I HAVE to feel better then, right?

In the meantime, I thought I'd share some recent photos of Finn and Lucy, documenting some of our outdoor fun and weekend activities. Outdoor photos are so much better than anything you (or I, at least) can take inside - it should be a rule that all school photos need to be taken outside. By the way, remind me to close the loop on my post about school photos. Lucy's pictures this past round were, in fact, WORSE than the ones last November, and I am sadly not purchasing them again. I'll try to scan the proofs in to share the awfulness one of these days.

Sorry for the overload, but I love too many of these to narrow them down. I'd provide legends, but I'm lazy. Also, it's almost past my bedtime, and taking the time to write 15 figure legends would seriously cut into my "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" reading time (BTW, as a diehard P&P fan, I can avow that P&P&Z is not as good as the original, but I feel obligated to see the book through. Elizabeth is just not meant to graphically contemplate ripping Darcy's heart out of his chest to avenge Jane's dashed hopes of love with Bingley, no matter how much she loves her sister).

Couldn't resist one note here - M. likes to title this one "Finn as Scott Stapp, With Arms Wide Open"

I threw this photo in not because I'm being all vain and saying I love it, but because it completes the triad of "M. as photojournalist during our post-swim class lunch at Pandini's." Also, I thought my grandmother would appreciate it on this, my birthday eve. Love you, Mimi! And you, too, Mom!