Monday, November 25, 2013

gift advice for a 9-month-old?

gift advice for a 9-month-old?

First, let me say that I was stunned, possibly even shocked, this morning when I did the counting-up and figured out that Elliott is nine months old today. Niiiiiiiiine. Too fast!

As much as I love Christmas, I dread making Christmas gift lists. Either I can't think of a single thing to ask for (myself, every year) or the things I like are too expensive or apparently too hard to find so people just wing it (Nico, every year). I'm pretty sure we have Nico covered with extras left over for his birthday in January, and that was after I decided not to buy much this year in the interest of saving some money toward a family trip in the spring. But I'm a little stumped as to what to put on Elliott's Christmas list (and also his birthday list in February). As the younger brother of a very fortunate first boy, he doesn't really need anything, but it would be sad to not have any presents for him to chew on open at Christmas. I figure surely among all of the baby-having / child-having and baby-knowing / child-knowing folks out there, there must be some great gift ideas.

The only clothing he really needs is a few pairs of fleece footie pjs and we already gave that idea to someone in the family. I'm planning to get him a Leap Frog Scout dog since Nico loves his and they've changed the design just enough that we'll be able to tell them apart. Our families aren't much for the "put cash in his savings account" option. We have a lot (feels like all) of the toy basics covered due to vast amounts of Nico hand-me-downs. We already have Mega Bloks, a Little People barn and ark, a Sophie giraffe, and the Fisher Price singing stuffed dog. I can't turn Elliott loose with a pile of board books because he gnaws on them until pieces come off in his mouth. In fact, he puts everything in his mouth, so that may influence your suggestions. He doesn't seem overly interested in stuffed toys. He seems to really like the wooden rattle toy pictured below and a shaker I made out of a plastic bottle and some beads. He likes to dump the Melissa & Doug chunky puzzles on the floor and chew on the pieces.

What would you buy, if you were buying something for him?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

tied up

tied up

It feels really strange to break my NaBloPoMo streak, which dated all the way back to the beginning when it was actually fun and community-driven and felt like it meant something. But I decided somewhere in the last week or so of October that I wasn't going to keep myself up half the night every night this month struggling to get something written that was worth posting. I barely get enough sleep as it is without forcing myself through some kind of imaginary requirement of nightly writing. I'm a little sad over it, but not nearly as sad as I thought I'd be.


About a month and a half ago, Sam wrote a blog post about her littles getting their upper lip ties fixed. It inspired me to take another long look at Elliott's upper lip, and confirmed what my gut had told me when he was a newborn - he has a lip tie. I spent about a week feeling extremely frustrated, sad, and kind of pissed off that I'd asked at the hospital when he was less than a week old if he had a tie because his latch was so painful and poor, but was told that he didn't. Now after eight months of struggling and pumping and supplementing and taking domperidone and pumping some more, turns out I was probably right all along. Sam connected me with a super-helpful IBCLC via Twitter and she agreed with my gut after looking at a mostly-bad photo of Elliott's upper lip / gum area. This led to a recommendation that we see a family doctor in St Louis that specializes in lip tie / tongue tie correction, and luckily I talked to a local mom on one of my facebook groups who took a kid there and loved the doctor. I asked our pediatrician for a referral two weeks ago, and was just able to get Elliott in to see her for the referral on Monday. Our ped is taking a bit of a conservative approach to the situation which I can respect in that we are talking about (minor) surgery on a baby's face. But I definitely don't feel like she's giving my breastfeeding concerns the weight I was hoping she would. Her research led more to information on the dentistry aspect of it (it can cause speech problems and gaps in the teeth) and I definitely get the feeling she wants me to wait until he's older to see if affects his teeth before doing anything. She said that since he doesn't have trouble keeping weight on, his breastfeeding isn't really a concern. And okay, perhaps from a straight-up data perspective that's true, but the reason he keeps weight on his fat little thighs is because I pump four times a day and supplement with donor milk and take medication to try to boost my flagging supply because he only nurses reliably once a day, twice if I'm lucky. She did refer me to a pediatric dentist to have Elliott evaluated there, but we don't carry dental insurance for him yet. Since the St Louis doctor is in-network for us, she's covered by our health insurance. Honestly even if the dentist told me he didn't think Elliott needed any procedure, I'd probably still want to take him to St Louis for a second opinion. I'm strongly considering just telling the ped that our insurance wouldn't cover the dentist and taking him straight to St Louis.


We had to see the pediatrician again yesterday morning for poor Nico, who had a wheezy / croupy / asthma flareup type episode Tuesday night. He has albuterol to be given through a nebulizer, but he's only prescribed to have it every four hours. MB gave him a treatment at 5:00 Tuesday evening and by 7:00 he sounded like he'd never been dosed at all. I called the after-hours clinic that's supposed to be open until 9:00 PM but they were already closed at 7:30. The nurse on the help line suggested I take him to the ER. Not to discount the health of my beloved firstborn, but there was really no need to pay a $200 ER deductible to have them tell me he needed the same $10 steroid prescription he got last time he had a wheezy episode like this. I try to respect our ped's conservative approach to handing out medication, but I really wish we could have a standing prescription at the pharmacy for this. It's to a point where I know the difference between a little bit of allergies and a true breathing-problem situation. Regardless, it's all sorted now. He had to miss preschool yesterday morning, but he's all stocked up with a five-day steroid prescription and a nasal spray that he hates and permission to give his nebulizer every two hours if things get dire. I have unbelievable respect for people who have to manage their kids' truly chronic medical conditions...just a day and a half of one slightly sick, very whiny kid on top of a month of worry over Elliott's lip and I was ready to hide in the corner with a pint of Phish Food.


I have been reading so much lately and it's awesome. Note that here "so much" means "so much more than I was previously, when I had a newborn," and not "so much, like those of you with better evening habits / older children / more free time / long commutes / more discipline to not futz around slack-jawed on your phone for an hour every night." Books I have enjoyed of late include:

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Slow Getting Up:  a Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile by Nate Jackson

Wild:  from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

And I just started Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield.

Friday, November 08, 2013

bright side

bright side

There's a definite benefit to falling dead asleep in the baby's room at 10:30 and then waking up at 3:30 with a pressing need to pump. After I did my mammal duty, I took the longest, hottest shower ever and nobody opened the door to ask me a single question. 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Only mostly big

Only mostly big

Nico had a really rough day at preschool today, unusual for him since he typically loves it. When I picked him up after work, Dad said his teacher had reported Nico was sad today and didn't want to play on the playground. "I'm just sad," Nico told me, coming over to lean in for a hug. When I asked him why he was sad he answered, "I'm just sad." He was a little prone to weepy outbursts all evening, and seemed both a little wheezy and a little steamrolled by the time change. I let him snuggle up with me on the couch and watch a DVD while I gave him a nebulizer treatment, and then I put him to bed a little early. Once the kids were down for the night I emailed his teacher to ask a separate question and commented that I was sorry to hear he'd had a bad day. She emailed me back and said she thought maybe the time change plus the change in school routine due to class picture day had been too much for him. Apparently he sat on the little bench and cried through the entire playground break. Oh, buddy.

Nico does seem to have trouble with routine changes, especially at school. His teacher mentioned on Halloween that he'd seemed a little "off-kilter" all morning, and we wondered together if the excitement of the class party had been a little too much. I try not to worry overly much in general but I sometimes feel concerned about Nico when it comes to this difficulty processing change. Is it normal? Is he just a little sensitive? Is it a warning sign of something significant? I have to remind myself that as a child, I had an awful time dealing with changes to my expected routine. Worse than Nico, for sure, and it persisted well past my preschool years. Probably he was just bound to be a little bit that way, too. I also have to remind myself that as big as he seems, as capable as he can be, he's really only mostly big, which is very different from all big.

Reading:  Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Playing:  Lay it Down by the Cowboy Junkies

Monday, November 04, 2013

Mammal Monday: how to make a hands-free pumping bra

Mammal Monday: how to make a hands-free pumping bra

I've typed this up on Twitter and facebook enough times that I feel like it might be helpful to somebody somewhere to have it floating around the internet being google-able. When I found out I was going to have to pump after every feeding with newborn Nico, it felt a bit grim. The nurses at the hospital showed me how to hold the flanges on mostly-successfully with one hand / arm so that I could have one hand free, but I wasn't very good at it. When every drop of milk feels like a precious commodity, there's really no amount of leakage-loss that feels acceptable. I knew that hands-free pumping bras were a thing that were available, but the hospital shop didn't carry any large enough to fit me and I didn't want to spend that kind of money on something that only sort of fit. Now Medela makes a hands-free band that goes around the middle and zips up the front, but I don't remember seeing those back when Nico was new. Also, they're still expensive. 

Luckily, shortly after we took Nico home the wife of one of MB's coworkers told him to tell me that I could make a hands-free pumping bra by cutting holes in a sports bra. Game changer! I assume I would've eventually come up with it on my own, but newly postpartum, exhausted, emotional, and saddled with feeding routines that ate up hours of my days, I was not at my creative best. As soon as MB brought that tip home, I dug out a raggedy old sports bra and sacrificed it for the cause. It was great! Suddenly pumping time did double-duty as time to read a book or mess around online via my phone.

Once I went back to work, I had to pump three times a day. I was lucky enough to have a closet adjoining my office that doubled as a darkroom, so it had a little sink and a counter with electrical outlets. I still used my sports bra, but I had to take my shirt and bra completely off, put on the sports bra, and then put my shirt back on every time I pumped and all the in-between nudity at work always made me jumpy and uncomfortable. Then one day I realized there was a better way - a way to accomplish hands-free pumping without having to take my shirt off at all. Here's how to do it:

First, you'll need a regular-style bra, with a clasp. Underwire or not doesn't really matter and the bra doesn't really have to fit. The cups just have to be large enough to securely hold the flanges against the breast. I got one for $7 on clearance at Target.

Second, cut the straps free where they meet the bra band at the back, like so:

This allows the bra straps to be tied behind your neck like a halter top after fastening the clasp of the band as you normally would.

Third, cut an X across each cup where you want the flanges to poke through. I recommend putting the flanges against the breasts, then using a pen to mark where the stems would come out of the bra.

That's it! You now have a hands-free pumping bra that you can put on without taking off your shirt. Simply hitch up your shirt, open the cups of your nursing bra (or hitch your non-nursing bra up over your boobs), put on the hands-free bra, and tie the straps at the back of your neck. I prefer to feed the straps up through my shirt before tying them so I can pull my shirt back down over most of the exposed boobage, but that's optional. If the flanges of the pump start to pull free of the bra or tear the holes a little bit, you can whip stitch a few loops of thread one on top of another at the corners / ends of the pieces of the X that you cut. I thought about modeling this but even over a shirt I think that would be a bit much. You get the idea, though, I hope:

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Redemption arc

Redemption arc

This past weekend was our I've-lost-track annual camping trip with our like-family friends. My attempt to find a campground in between the usual RV-packed parks and the nearly-undeveloped spot we went to last year was finally successful. We went to Shades State Park, which was supposed to have hiking as nice as the trails at Turkey Run State Park which we love but none of the crowding. Its reputation was well-deserved -- we had three nice spots on a secluded loop, screened from each other by patches of trees. According to the park ranger who stopped by Friday night, we had the entire park to ourselves. This was camping the way I always imagine camping will be -- peaceful, secluded, pretty. At night there were so many stars visible that I had trouble picking out even the most familiar constellations. Only the distant lowing of cows and an occasional airplane overhead reminded us that civilization existed around us.

The hike we took Saturday was great as promised. We hiked through the Pine Hills Nature Preserve within the park, a 470-acre tract of old-growth forest set aside to be conserved. The woods were lovely and golden, like walking through a huge cathedral. I wondered what it looked like to Elliott in his carrier, too little to have a concept of trees, suddenly immersed in a world of soft brilliant yellow and strong dark lines. We went straight for the ominous-sounding Devil's Backbone, which delivered on the promise of a crossing six feet wide above drop-offs of about a hundred feet. There really wasn't a good way to get a picture of either of the two backbones of sandstone that we hiked across, but they were awesome. The trail description on the preserve map warned against taking children onto the trail, but we decided to judge for ourselves as we went along and Nico did just fine. He was mindful and careful and a real trooper even on the difficult parts. Elliott rode along in the Beco and also was good, though my legs are pretty sore today from hauling his plump little behind up and down the slopes and stairs.

The kids were great overall, I think, other than Elliott peeing through three of his four layers of jammies at 6 AM and then telling me about it at the top of his lungs while everyone else was trying to sleep. We fled to the car to finish our rest with the heat turned on, which almost worked out - he slept for another hour, but awoke cheerfully with a vastly blown-out diaper. I suppose it was my fault for putting him in a brand-new almost-all-white onesie and then letting him sit in his carseat in a place without convenient diaper-changing options. So far I think his record is spotless for achieving poo blowouts under those conditions. Good thing he's cute, I guess.

Overall it was a fantastic weekend. It was so great to see our friends and we parted ways already looking forward to our next trip.

Saturday, November 02, 2013



Friday, November 01, 2013

November goals + October accountability

November goals + October accountability:


1. Frame and hang Elliott's hospital photo and footprints

2. Choose photos for living room and order

3. Frame and hang living room photos

4. Catch up on boys' monthly letters

5. Hang owl print in Elliott's room

6. Read a non-bookclub book

I read two!

7. Write to MIL twice

Just once, plus we sent a Halloween card. Does that count as one and a half?

8. Make reservations for November camping trip

9. Bake a cheesecake for MB

10. Sort and store / hang / donate frames behind bedroom door

11. Set up November playdate / girls' night / game night

12. Finish Nico's Halloween costume

13. Get Halloween stuff down from the attic

14. Get craft together for kids' Halloween party on 10/27

15. Take the boys to a pumpkin patch

16. Start 2013 Nico / Elliott photo books

17. Fix dining room buffet crapmagnet

November goals

1. Set up weather radio

2. Take Halloween stuff back up to attic in a timely fashion.

3. Make Xmas ornaments for book club.

4. Start Xmas ornaments for group exchange.

5. Set up December playdate / girls' night / game night

6. Set cookie party date

7. Set Thanksmas date

8. Make Christmas photo appointment

9. Order birthday gift(s) for BoMB and Nie

10. Hang Elliott's hospital photo and owl print

11. Choose and order photos for living room

12. Catch up on boys' monthly letters

13. Read a non-bookclub book

14. Write to MIL twice

15. Bake a cheesecake for MB, dammit!

16. Sort and store / hang / donate frames behind bedroom door

17. Start 2013 Nico / Elliott photo books

18. Fix dining room buffet crapmagnet

19. Streamline / clean up blog template - enlist MB's help as needed