Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Smiles

Just a quick note to wish you and yours a joyful Halloween. You'll see pictures of my smiling kiddos on the last post. If you've posted shots of your own children, please feel free to leave a link in the comments and I promise to go check them out!

Enjoy the holiday and, if you choose to trick or treat, please be safe.

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For added fun (and incentive!), I will draw a name from all those who link pics of their kids and send the winner this book:

"Spookley was different.
He was odd,
he was rare.
Spookley the pumpkin wasn't round-
he was...square!"

Don't have a blog? You can also send your pics to micropreemies (at) yahoo (dot) com to be entered!

I'll draw a winner Sunday at 7 pm, Eastern time. Good luck!

12 Things I Love About Halloween

  1. The Harvest: Living in farm country, I love to watch the harvest. I love seeing the trucks full to the brim with corn and I like gathering the scraps for art projects and the sensory table at the preschool!
  2. Fall Weather: I love the cool, crisp air that sweeps in this time of year. Bring on the down comforter!
  3. Candy Corn: There's something that just screams autumn to me about having that first bite of candy corn...
  4. Wonderful Imagination: I love that my son came up with being "Dr. Wilson" (his Ear, Nose, & Throat doctor) all on his own. And it thrills me that that's who he'd aspire to be... not Batman or something...
  5. Sweet Little Costumes: Cute little kids in age-appropriate costumes are adorable. Just because I don't like Halloween, I'm not blind to this fact...
  6. Black Cats: Cutest. Cats. Ever. No offense to my tabby, of course...
  7. Carving the Pumpkin: I love this family time. I even love getting in there and digging the guts out...
  8. Jack O' Lantern Burgers: Can you guess what these are? Just plain old burgers until you use cheese circles, triangles, and smiles to make a face. My mom made these every single year I was growing up. The tradition lives on!
  9. Bats: Yep, I actually really like bats. I love watching them across a dusk sky. I'm determined to have a bat house someday...
  10. Seasonal Books: We have some really great books about this time of year. "The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything" and "Say BOO!" are two real faves.
  11. Going Out to Dinner: Okay, this one doesn't pertain anymore. But, back in the day, before we had kids... my husband and I would always go out to dinner on Halloween. Because, well, that meant I didn't have to deal with teenagers trick or treating, for one.
  12. Smiling Faces... I'd be completely lying if I didn't admit that I just can't get enough of these faces...

And so, there you go. I'm not a Scrooge to the core. But Halloween ranks decidedly low on my holiday list. Valentine's Day, on the other hand, is practically a major holiday in my book... I'll have to do a February countdown when the time comes.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

12 Days of the Halloween Scrooge: Day 12

Reason #12:

The festive T-shirt spotted on a 2-year old girl in my daughter's class that read:

"I'm BOO-tylicious!"

'Nuff said.


Just in case you missed any of them, here are my first eleven reasons for being a Halloween Scrooge:

Reason 1
Reason 2
Reason 3
Reason 4
Reason 5
Reason 6
Reason 7
Reason 8
Reason 9
Reason 10
Reason 11

I'll be back tomorrow with 12 Things I Love About Halloween. Don't miss it!

3 Things to Make Pumping Easier

If you've reached the decision that you're going to pump for your baby- and especially if you'll be pumping exclusively- here are three things to make the job much easier and more comfortable for you:

1. A hospital-grade pump: You'll want to rent this, of course, but it will make pumping much more efficient for you and will help to maximize production.

2. A great-fitting nursing bra: It's important that you feel comfortable and supported. You probably will not wear the size you wore pre-pregnancy or even during your pregnancy. Don't let that alarm you. Trust me- I don't normally walk around a 34F, but that's the only thing that would fit me. I shelled out a little extra money for two Medela brand bras and it was money well-spent.

3. A cheerleader: The best person for this job is your husband, but other family members, friends, or even a nurse you're close to can fill in if needed. Having someone who completely supports you and is willing to stand behind you can really help you be successful. For the first few nights, my husband would get up with me in the middle of the night and keep me company and help distract me from the discomfort (because, I won't lie, those first several pumping sessions aren't the most comfortable...) Knowing that he believed in the importance of pumping as much as I did really helped give me the extra nudge if I was feeling discouraged. Having him tell me how great I was for doing it made me feel good.

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Go ahead-- pat yourself on the back. You're doing something great for your baby. Now make sure you have all the tools you need to be successful.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

12 Days of the Halloween Scrooge: Day 11

Reason #11:

What is up with all the drinks and snacks designed to look like eyeballs, guts, spiders, brains, bones, and other gross things? Do people really get a charge out of eating food that looks disgusting? Not me...

(Yep, that's a cake... mmm.)

Blanket Sleepers

There is something ridiculously cute and inherently snuggly about a baby or child in fleece footie jammies. As Fall evenings get cooler and cooler, I look forward to pulling out the blanket sleepers and getting my kidlets all tucked in.

I have a giant boy and a tiny girl so we have a wide array of colors and sizes of blanket sleepers in this house! From preemie on up, we have quite the collection.

Last Fall, when my son was two, he already needed a size 5T in sleepers. When I packed up the cold weather clothing, I sadly folded those sleepers knowing that we had just exhausted the largest size of blanket sleeper available.

This year, at three, my son needs a boys' 5/6 because of his height. I had bid a sad farewell to footie jammies...

Imagine my delight when, as I strolled through Target, I spied an entire rack of blanket sleeper in the boys' department. From size 4 to 14, they had a cute selection of prints and a reasonable price tag. I was so thrilled that my little guy could still be cozy warm and super adorable! And, I'm not ashamed to tell you, it did my preppy heart proud when he chose the plaid over the space ships and dinosaurs...

Blanket sleepers in all sizes... they work for me!

Check out what's working for others at Works For Me Wednesday, hosted at Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

12 Days of the Halloween Scrooge: Day 10

Reason #10:

This time of year, they run horror movies on TV incessantly. And, I'll be honest, they scare the tar out of me. I slept with a nightlight for YEARS after seeing Nightmare On Elm Street: 2 at a friend's house when I was 11...

(Image deleted by Scaredy-Cat Blog Host)

(You know what? Don't be surprised if I end up deleting that image... creeps me out even today...)

A Pacifier Your Baby Loves

Let me start by saying we're not really "pacifier people". I don't really have anything against them (for babies, that is) and, in fact, I know numerous studies have shown that they can be beneficial, particularly in reducing the risk of SIDS. Nonetheless, when our son was born, he didn't seem one bit interested in a pacifier. And we didn't push it. Quite frankly, I was happy to not have to "wean" him from it later in life.

Fast forward to the birth of our daughter. Born four months early, she couldn't manage the "suck, swallow, breathe" routine without signs of micro-aspiration. As a result, they sent us home on a feeding tube. In order for her to maintain a strong sucking reflex when that wasn't how she was fed, we needed to rely on a pacifier. While her milk went directly into her stomach through a tube threaded through her nose, C. would suck on a pacifier. This helped establish the "suck/eat" connection.

For our daughter, it was important to be consistent about the type of pacifier we used. Once we knew what kind she liked, we invested in several. We felt very lucky that she enjoyed her pacifier since it helped keep that sucking reflex strong.

A Newborn Soothie Pacifier- what worked best for us

Once she passed her swallow study and was able to be fed thickened milk from a bottle, C. refused the pacifier in much the same way her brother had. Once she knew that sucking should yield food, she had no interest in that little tool anymore. And so, weaning her from the pacifier was a non-issue. At six months, she was done with it.

I'm very happy to have never had a toddler on a pacifier. But our pacifiers were tools we were fortunate to have when our preemie was tiny!

For more tools that make a Mom's life easier, check out Toolin' Up Tuesday, hosted at Life as MOM.

Sharing Childhood Memories

When I was in elementary school in upstate New York, they sold Black & White Cookies in the cafeteria for a quarter apiece. They called them "Half Moon Cookies", but they were the same thing. I adored those cookies.

In middle- and high-school, I was able to get my Black & White fix at a bakery in a neighboring Connecticut town. And, when I first set out on my own in South Florida, there was an amazing Jewish bakeshop that sold them.

Imagine my dismay upon moving to Virginia Beach and not being able to find a source for my cookie fix. What??? That was no good. A few short years later, we moved here to Indiana and, alas, I couldn't find them here either. My mother-in-law, who hails from Boston, and I would gripe about this together. We would recall the utter deliciousness of those bakery-fresh Black & Whites.

A couple weeks ago, I went to the Meijer Mealbox website to print off a couple of coupons and, lo and behold, the featured recipe was for... Black & White Cookies. Now, I have absolutely no idea why it never occurred to me to seek out a recipe and make them myself. I bake just about every other thing in our home. But, once I saw it, I knew I had to try it...

My mother-in-law agreed... they tasted just like the ones we both recall from our childhoods. Hubby and kiddos (who had never had the pleasure of eating them before) were hooked.

There's something wonderful about spending time baking with your children... and turning one of your own childhood memories into one of theirs...

To read some more tips and recipes, check out Kitchen Tip Tuesday, hosted at Tammy's Recipes.


3 1/2 cups
all-purpose flour
1 cup
butter, softened
1 cup
1 tsp.
each baking soda and baking powder
1 1/2 cups
granulated sugar
1 tsp.
pure vanilla extract
1 tsp.

= Meijer One Stop Special = Coupon
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease baking sheets. Set aside.

2. Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat sugar and butter with electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until combined. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk, beating after each addition until just combined.

3. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes or until edges are set and surface appears dry. (If cookies spread during baking, chill dough a few minutes.) Cool completely on wire rack

4. Prepare Two-Color Frosting: In small mixing bowl beat 1 pound sifted powdered sugar, 1/2 cup butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract with electric mixer on low speed until combined. Add enough milk to make spreading consistency. Remove half of frosting from bowl. Beat 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa into remaining frosting until combined. Add enough additional milk to make spreading consistency.

5. Spread half of each cookie with vanilla frosting and remaining half with chocolate frosting

Monday, October 27, 2008

12 Days of the Halloween Scrooge: Day 9

Reason #9:

I do not enjoy having to carefully wind my way around stores with two little ones to avoid the sometimes intensely frightening displays in the Halloween section.

This charmer can be found at Target. Oh, what family fun!

"My Story..." Monday: The Darkest Day

Saturday, January 7th dawned like most winter days in the Midwest- cold and windy. I was excited for a couple of reasons. Since it was the weekend, my husband was off work which was a welcome change from the long days he'd been putting in. I was also happy because my brother and his wife and two daughters were due to arrive around lunchtime. We live in the same state as all of my in-laws, but up to this point my mom was the only one on my side of the family who had met my baby girl. She was two weeks old.

The previous evening, my husband stopped by the hospital on his way home from work. He walked in the NICU module to visit C. and she wasn't there. She wasn't in her spot. A nurse quickly directed him to a small room in the rear of the module. He was told she was in isolation. Apparently our little girl spiked a fever and started requiring slightly higher ventilator settings shortly before his arrival. Knowing she was sick, they wanted to keep her apart from the other struggling babies. Despite all this, they seemed confident that blood tests and chest x-rays would soon reveal the nature of the illness and they'd be able to treat it. It really just seemed like another little bump in the road.

We had just given A. his morning bottle and were outlining the day when the phone rang at the Ronald McDonald House. I answered it.

"Mrs. S.... this is Brenda, the nursing shift supervisor. I'm calling to tell you your daughter's not doing well. You'd better get down here."

I stammered out that we'd be right there, hung up, and turned to my mom and husband with panicked eyes.

"Go," my mom told me, "I'll stay with A. and be here when your brother comes."

My husband and I tore out the door. We drove the short distance rather than walk so we could make better time. I was still recovering from surgery and I wasn't too quick on my feet.

When we finally made it into C's isolation room, we saw she was on a new type of ventilator, an oscillator, which is a high frequency machine that made her little chest rise and fall at a very high rate. She was sleeping and, to be honest, didn't really look all that different from how she usually looked. But one look at her nurse's face and we knew that everything had changed.

"You have one sick little puppy," she told us quietly. She went on to explain that a chest x-ray had revealed pneumonia. They also knew she had some type of bacterial infection and the lab was working on narrowing down what type so they could deal with it. They were concerned because she had had little to no urine output and her blood pressure was dropping dangerously low. She was on medication for that too. They were keeping her sedated so that all of her energy could go toward healing. Though she had been receiving breast milk through an OG-tube since her third day of life, they had to discontinue those feedings and rely on nourishment through IV liquids.

I felt helpless. I couldn't hold her. Couldn't even touch her. She couldn't even use the milk I diligently pumped for her. My husband and I stood by her side silently. We didn't even really talk to each other. Occasionally, I would sing softly to her. Most of the time I couldn't make it through a song without tears catching in my throat.

By late afternoon, things had gotten worse. We had learned that C. was positive for MRSA. The infection was in her blood and the doctors were worried because that type of infection is hard to treat. It is resistant to all penicillin-based antibiotics. Yep, this is one of those "super-bugs" you hear about.

Her breathing grew more and more labored and her oxygen levels kept dropping. Normally, they liked to see the preemies' O2 levels above 85. The neonatologist on duty told us we'd have to settle for 75 or above because they couldn't get them any higher. "We accept those levels for heart babies; it's all we can do for your daughter right now. If we go any higher on the vent, we'll cause irrevoccable damage. If she doesn't make a turn-around soon, there's not much else we can do..."

For well over an hour, we watched a team of doctors stand just outside that little isolation room, staring at her monitor. They just watched her numbers. It occurred to me that, at that time, there was nowhere these doctors were more needed. That thought terrified me.

My mom came over with my brother and his family that evening. I was able to show off my poor, struggling baby girl to her uncle and aunt, though not her cousins. Not only were they too young to be allowed in the NICU, I wouldn't have wanted them to see her under the circumstances. My family went to the lounge and my husband and I resumed our vigil by her bedside.

Late that evening, our nurse asked if I wanted to change her diaper. I jumped at the chance because it would be my first opportunity to touch her all day. I had watched these changes all day long and it was always devastating to see the diaper get weighed and learn that, no, her kidneys still weren't working properly. But I happily took on the task. As I removed the teeny tiny diaper from her little body, I turned to the nurse with wide eyes...

"It feels... heavy."

I eagerly placed it on the scale and, with her nurse by my side, we realized that C's kidneys were working just fine. Within the hour, her oxygen levels looked better and they were able to wean her settings slightly. A prescription for Rifampin was brought in to try to fight the MRSA. The neonatologist wrote orders to start cutting down on her blood pressure meds.

It was now pitch dark outside.. but for us, it felt like we had finally emerged into the light.

Next Monday, I'll write about the next couple weeks and C's fight to recover.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

JL's P.S. Fest: 10/25/08

p.s. These Thai Turkey Tacos shared at Newlyweds! look like a nice change of pace!

p.p.s. On the topic of food, this Homemade Samplin' Platter looks dangerously delicious... good stuff happening over at A Simple Walk!

p.p.p.s. We've been stocking up on lots of free Jello and salsa thanks to this tip at Money Saving Mom!

p.p.p.p.s. I loved Matt's reflection on his little girl growing up over at The Playpen...

p.p.p.p.p.s. I love the idea of this DIY Stain Spray shared at Blue Castle... I make all my own household cleaners and need to venture into the laundry realm...

p.p.p.p.p.p.s. Jennifer's explanation of how she is able to stay home is great (Hint: Like most of us stay-at-home moms, she's not "lucky".)

12 Days of the Halloween Scrooge: Day 8

Reason #8:

I used to work at a bank and there was always some rocket scientist who thought it was a wise idea to show up at the teller window on Halloween in costume...

Happened every single year. In case you ever thought this might be fun, let me suggest that you reconsider the idea. Also, please know that saying "Gimme all your money!.... April Fool's!" on April 1st is not welcome at the bank...

Friday, October 24, 2008

12 Days of the Halloween Scrooge: Day 7

Reason #7:

In the midst of the dressing up and candy seeking of October 31st, everyone seems to forget that November 1st is All Saints' Day (a far more palatable holiday in my mind...)

My Religion and Politics

Wow, that's a heavy title, now isn't it?

This is actually going to be rather short and sweet.

I'm Catholic and pretty traditional. That's really all I'll say on that matter. I have definite opinions and views (and that's good!), but I promise never to try and push them on you or "save" you or anything else. That's not my agenda.

Here is the one and only exception to that:

I am unapologetically Pro-Life. That's never going to change. And I will continue to occasionally post things to that end. There are a whole host of reasons I believe what I believe, but what completely sealed the deal for me was seeing my tiny baby born at 24 weeks and learning that in some places it was still legal to abort her at that point.

If you don't agree with my posts, feel free to share in the comments. I am certainly not opposed to differing views.

But I am opposed to abortion.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

12 Days of the Halloween Scrooge: Day 6

Reason #6:

Scary yard decorations:

I love outdoor Christmas decorations more than your average person. From twinkling white fairy lights and elegant candles in windows to plastic candy canes and illuminated reindeer, I love it all. Tacky to classy, I take pure delight in driving by homes decorated for the holidays.

Not so at Halloween.

I just don't get it... what makes people think it's a good idea to adorn their yard with tombstones, skeletons, and even nooses? Huh.

Three Things to Make Learning to Self-feed Fun

Self-feeding is a major milestone for your toddler! Since preemies often have so many other, more significant, feeding issues, helping your child learn to self-feed can take a back-burner. I truly believe it's important though. Self-feeding encourages fine motor skills and coordination and also often leads to children trying new foods along with their new-found independence. Here are three little ways to make the learning process a little more fun:

Cocktail forks- These tiny forks are perfect for little bite-size chunks of meat and, since little fingers end up closer to the food, it's easier to be precise and therefore successful.

Toothpicks- Frilly toothpicks make kids happy. It's that simple. And they're great for cheese cubes, diced tomato, or even marshmallows. And, really, who wouldn't be impressed to see a toddler who knows how to politely eat from a cheese tray?

Crazy straws- Can't say it enough... as a society, we have got to start weaning kids off sippy cups before, say, kindergarten. It's kind of ridiculous. Straws encourage kids to move on to an open cup and, believe it or not, the crazy variety are actually good for them. Because children have to "pull" the liquid so far, these straws help build oral strength more than their straight counterparts.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

12 Days of the Halloween Scrooge: Day 5

Reason #5:

People pronounce it "HOlloween" instead of "HAlloween". (And, for the record, it annoys me when people say "hollowed be thy name" when praying the "Our Father" too...) Maybe I'm just picky...

Hal·low·een [hal-uh-ween, -oh-een, hol-] –noun the evening of October 31; the eve of All Saints' Day; Allhallows Eve: observed esp. by children in costumes who solicit treats, often by threatening minor pranks.

Harvest Art

It all started with the pumpkin. My kids came home with the preschool assignment to decorate this pumpkin outline with whatever art medium they had on hand.

Believe me when I tell you that I could offer a whole litany of reasons I do not like living in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by corn and soybean fields. And that's why our house is on the market. But it doesn't do any good to dwell on those. Far more fun, and productive, is to discover the joys that only a rural corn field can bring. And so, as my son happily gathered bits of corn husk that blew throughout our yard after the harvesting of the field across the street, it seemed like we had found our medium.

After the pumpkin had been decorated, we moved on to big sheets of scrapbooking paper:

It was very messy, no doubt...

But the end result was rather pretty:

And even better were the expressions on the artists' faces:

Harvest art was a success in our home! The various materials present great learning opportunities (e.g. my son was utterly fascinated that those yellow flowers came off a broccoli plant) and lots of sensory stimulation. Half the fun was going on a search for things to use.

Living in the middle of nowhere might not work for me... but harvest art does!

For more great ideas from some clever folks, check out Works for Me Wednesday, hosted at Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

12 Days of the Halloween Scrooge: Day 4

Reason #4:

Too many adults act like little kids-- dressing up, gorging themselves on junk, drinking bizarre concoctions, and- in general- being far less mature than they would normally be... of course, there is always the possibility that if I followed their example I would enjoy the holiday more... but I don't intend to test that theory.

"Poof! Now you'll LOVE Halloween!"

Nope. Sorry, Tink...

A Good Vacuum

When you have a preemie with breathing issues, it's important to have a quality vacuum to keep things fairly cleaned and filtered around your home. I could claim that's why I finally broke down and shelled out big bucks for a vacuum. I would be lying.

The truth of the matter is this-- for whatever reason, I had no luck with vacuums. My husband and I will have been married seven years next month and we had already gone through three vacuums each priced at around $150. Not exactly cheap-o vacs, but not top of the line either. I'm not notoriously hard on things. I vacuum regularly but not constantly. I have no idea why they always busted.

This past spring the third vacuum bit the dust (that's kind of "pun-y"...) and it was time to buy a fourth. Together, my husband and I came to the conclusion that we needed to do one of two things- either buy a super-cheap vac and figure we only get about two years out of each one anyway, or shell out more cash for a "high-end" vacuum and hope it would finally last.

We ended up going for it and buying a Dyson with a 5-year warranty. That's 2 1/2 times as long as I'm used to getting! It's only been about four months so far, but I will tell you this...

My Dyson makes my life easier. It picks up anything and everything. It's ridiculously easy to empty. The cord is plenty long. It's a pretty shade of turquoise. My house feels cleaner.

I really do believe it would be a great vacuum for a family with asthma or allergy issues. That's just not why we bought it. Check in with me in about a year and a half...

For more helpful tools, check out Toolin' Up Tuesday, hosted at Life as MOM!

Amish Cheese

I should probably have titled this post "I Love Cheese". Because I do. I daresay I have never met a cheese I didn't like. I have often commented that I could much more easily give up meat than cheese (and I like meat!) because I love cheese just THAT much. My son is just like me. From gouda to gorgonzola, he's a cheese hound like his mama. If you ask A. if he'd like a cookie or cheese after supper, at least 50% of the time, he'll pick cheese. Me too.

My daughter likes cheese too. It's just that she seems to have the most discriminating palette of the family (she gets that from MY sister, I believe!). I never knew C. would even eat eggs until I happened to pick up a dozen jumbo brown cage-free eggs at a farmer's market. And she couldn't get enough. And, when it came to cheese, she had her favorites. She would eat American cheese. She would eat mozzarella if it was on something. She would sometimes nibble on mild cheddar.

I happened to pick up some Amish cheese at the aforementioned farmer's market. It looked tasty and, at $3.99 a pound for any variety, wasn't all that much more than I paid normally at the supermarket. You know what?

Best. Cheese. Ever.

I'm not normally a fan of mozzarella cheese just by itself, but this stuff is amazing. The cheddar has such rich and robust flavor that just a tiny bit goes a LONG way. The swiss doesn't last more than an hour around here because we all pick at it constantly. C. will eat any and all of it. And, for a child who can be fussy about eating dairy, that's a great thing!

I love cheese. And up until a couple months ago, I would have said, "Cheese is cheese." Don't get me wrong... we still eat Aldi cheese just like we used to. But I don't underestimate the quality of homemade local goods anymore! Keep your eyes open... and if you happen to see some local-made cheese, give it a try!

Check out Tammy's Recipes for more tips at Kitchen Tip Tuesday!