Friday, January 30, 2009

The Joy of Cyber-Friends

My (cyber) friend Amy just launched a new carnival, Finer Things Friday, last week. Have you checked it out yet? It's a wonderful celebration of all the finer, simple things in life that make us happier. If you're looking for some cheerful, positive posts, it's a good place to go!

This week, I want to share what has become one of the finer things in my life over the past six months... and that's my bloggy cyber-friends. When I first started this blogging thing, my hope was that just one or two preemie families might find me and take comfort in the words I had to offer. And, blessedly, that has happened. What I didn't foresee were the friendships I would make with women from all over this country who had their own messages to share. And so, here are just a few examples of the remarkable ladies I've gotten to "know" (please know that this is by no means an exhaustive list! If you're not on here, you're still my friend. :))

It started with Heather, of Freebies 4 Mom, who helped me figure out advertising and introduced me to the Twitter community. With a huge, established blog and following, I was so touched that she would take the time to help a fledgling blogger like myself!

Angie, of Baby Cheapskate, graciously let me write a guest post for her site which boasts a well-established and large readership. That was the first day I saw my traffic soar and gave me tons of hope.

Jessica, AKA FishMama, of Life as MOM (one of my favorite reads) has turned out to be my long-lost cross-country twin. The similarities we've uncovered are uncanny and she is a blast to have as an email-buddy!

Kate (A Simple Walk) and I both worked on a Bloggy Progressive Dinner team this past December. When a vicious tummy bug landed me in the ER, she took up so much slack to help make my part of it a success. She also sent me step-by-step directions to set up my feed when I turned out to be too technically challenged to do it on my own! Thanks, Kate!

Joy, who blogs at Five J's, took the time to design a gorgeous button for our upcoming progressive Valentine's celebration even though she's not hosting one of the days. You'll get a look at her skills very soon! I was so humbled by her willingness to help.

And, finally, the aforementioned Amy, of Amy's Finer Things, who was one of my first regular readers and commenters. I'll never forget when I saw my name on her Blogroll. I was so excited! It made my whole week, I think...

Cyber-friends not only make a blogger's life easier... that make it happier. And that is definitely a Finer Thing.

Be Financially Educated

It's Frugal Friday over at Biblical Womanhood. I had dozens of little tidbits and tips floating through my brain that I considered sharing with you all today but, ultimately, I realized that this post had to be written...

In order to be a good steward of your finances and to make sound money decisions, you need to become financially educated. It is so important that we all truly understand how debt and credit and interest and FICA scores and all the rest really work. It is only when that happens that we'll get out of this mess as a country. Spending billions on a bail out? I'd rather see it spent on educating future generations so they don't get into this same mess. Because, at the end of the day, it's personal irresponsibility far more than predatory lending that caused all these problems. Let's just step up and admit that first of all.

I actually worry a little bit when I hear statements like the following:

  • "People who use credit are financially irresponsible and stupid."
  • "Renting is always throwing money away."
  • "Anyone can be a homeowner."
  • "Credit cards will be your downfall."
  • "A debit card is just the same as a credit card."
  • ... and on and on
Because, you see, not one of those is really true. Can credit be a dangerous, slippery slope if you're not careful? Oh, yes. Does it make sense for some people to stop renting and build equity? Of course. But it's important that we all realize there is more than one way to be responsible.

If you choose to live a cash-only lifestyle, I salute you. You will certainly avoid many of the traps others will fall into. If you carefully monitor your credit card spending and manage to build up enough points to travel, get free gas, or gift cards... well, I tip my hat to you too. Wisdom and responsibility can be displayed in many ways. There is no "one right way" to manage your money.

Educate yourself. Find your groove. Pick something that you can live with and work into your lifestyle. That way, in case something crazy happens-- like you have a baby four months too early-- you'll already have established the habits that will ensure you don't end up drowning.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

13 Things I Learned From Having A Micropreemie

  1. That a baby born at less than 24 weeks gestation looks like... a baby.
  2. How to convert the metric system
  3. How to take an axillary temperature.
  4. That I can live in one room with no TV and no internet and be perfectly content as long as my family is healthy and thriving.
  5. That Christmas in the hospital does not have to be joyless.
  6. How to pump... a lot.
  7. How to suction out a ventilator tube.
  8. How to insert an NG-tube through a tiny baby's nose down into her stomach.
  9. How to use a stethoscope to check the placement of the above-mentioned tube.
  10. How to interpret an apnea monitor.
  11. How to juggle an infant, an oxygen tank, a feeding tube, and a monitor while also carrying a toddler.
  12. How precious every single day in utero can be.
  13. That sometimes the simplest of prayers ("Please God, please God, oh please...") is all it takes.
For more Thursday {Thirteen}, be sure to stop by Happy To Be At Home!

Want to learn to make some "Pretty. Cool. Cakes"?

Just click on the image above to read more about FishMama's brand new e-book and to buy your own copy! For just $5 (for now-- it'll go up in February!), you can get step-by-step instructions of thirteen different birthday cakes. Included in there? The oh-so-awesome Breakfast Cake that Jessica concocted! (Remember when I begged and pleaded for your votes? Well here is the result!) Go check out the book!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy Birthday To My Other Miracle!

The bulk of this blog is devoted to writing about my preemie daughter and all of the challenges and adventures involved with parenting a very premature baby. But, if you've read more than a few posts, you've probably also seen mention of my son. Just under eleven months older that our little girl, he was our first baby. And he's every bit as precious to us...

A's birth story is far less dramatic than C's. At 41 weeks pregnant, my water broke and our little man came into the world a not-unreasonable 7 hours later. At 8:05 am, January 27, 2005, we learned we had a son. Eight pounds even. Twenty-one inches long. Everyone was surprised at his size since I had carried very small. The birth went smoothly and, filled with wonderful Mommy-endorphins, I declared, "I cannot WAIT to do it again!!!" Little did I know... :)

A's size at birth was larger than we had anticipated but he was by no means huge. However, by two months old, he was off the charts for weight and height and he has remained there ever since. While predictions show my daughter topping out at about 5'2" and 102 lb, those same charts indicate that my son will be at least 6'6". I chuckle to think of our future family pictures...

I've said before that C. is Daddy's little girl. No doubt. My consolation is that A. is Mama's boy. Through and through. He is my constant companion-- my baking assistant, my back-up singer, my fellow foreign language-lover.

He is our gentle giant. Kind-hearted and sensitive. Sweet and loving toward his little sister. Always ready for a hug or a snuggle...

Happy Birthday to my precious first-born. May this, your 4th birthday, be filled with only joy.

Let Them Eat Cake!

... and cookies. And chips. And chocolate. And even sugary cereal.

Yep, that's right. I'm going out on a limb here and saying that I believe, absolutely, that we should let our children eat some junk. There are very, very few "forbidden foods" at our house and I have no intention of changing that.


Because I believe that most things lose their allure and appeal if you're allowed some exposure to them. Case in point-

When I was a little girl, my father was the director of engineering for Nestle... the CHOCOLATE division. We had boxes of chocolate bars in our house. Bags upon bags of chocolate chips and mini candy bars. I can remember friends of mine and my siblings staring wide-eyed at the array of sweet treats in our pantry closet. And you know what? I like chocolate. I did then and I still do. But I have never once in my life "needed chocolate" or been unable to control myself with it. I don't think I've gorged on the stuff even once. I can take it or leave it.

And so my kids sometimes eat cheese puffs. Or frosted cheerios. I offer them dessert after almost every dinner (assuming they ate reasonably well). I don't sweat it if I find out their snack at preschool that day was doughnut holes and not applesauce. Whatever. (My one exception? My two preschoolers do NOT drink soda. Ever. But I do let them have chocolate milk or even, on occasion, Capri Sun...)

I should probably make it clear that none of us have any health problems in this household. We're also all healthy weights. I can certainly understand that some families have special circumstances to keep in mind...

Friends and family and even my kids' teachers will tell you-- I've raised good eaters. They eat a whole range of flavors and textures and no one has ever called them "picky". They love all sorts of different healthy foods and don't turn up their noses just because they've been exposed to Lucky Charms...

I'd say our laid-back approach is working just fine. Let them eat cake.

For more Kitchen Tips and advice, check out Tammy's Recipes every Tuesday!

Monday, January 26, 2009

"My Story..." Monday: Tests, Tests, Tests...

Before little C. could be released from the hospital, there were several tests she had to pass. There were also some training sessions that we, the parents, had to go through.

Her first challenge would be the car seat test. The car seat test involves bringing in the car seat you plan to use with your baby. The nurses put your baby in the seat while still attached to all sorts of monitors and your child stays in there for about twice the time it will take you drive home. What they're looking for here is that there is no drop in vital signs and your baby never goes into distress. For some reason, this test was really hyped up to us but, in reality, it is not a huge deal. Even if your baby shows signs of apnea in the car seat, you can still go home. The hospital will lend you a "car bed" which keeps your child safe while in a more fully reclined position (since many babies do not show any distress in that more familiar position).

They did the car seat test one night and C. passed with flying colors. She didn't seem to care one bit whether she was in her basinette or in her car seat. Test one? Check.

The second test to take on was a swallow study. The nurses at IU Hospital had fast-tracked C's bottle feedings. At this point she was on all bottles and no tube feedings. We were not even a bit concerned about this study. The test involves going to radiology and feeding the baby breast milk or formula that's been laced with a special tracer. The radiology technician essentially takes an "x-ray movie" of the baby swallowing and it is analyzed by a swallowing specialist, often a speech and language pathologist. By watching the film, they can see if there are signs of aspiration or even "micro-aspiration". This is basically when the liquid "goes down the wrong pipe" and can enter the lungs. When this happens to you or me, we cough, often quite hard, to clear it. These tiny babies do not. As a result, the fluid in the lungs can lead to pneumonia and is considered very dangerous.

C's study was done one afternoon and I received a phone call that stunned me. She had shown signs of micro-aspiration and the swallowing expert was advising that we immediatly cease all bottle feedings and resume tube-feeding. I was crushed. Our baby girl LOVED her bottles. She actually got to taste something! It was a true high point of her day to be able to actually drink her milk rather than just have it fed into her bellly through a tube. I didn't feel like it would have been so bad if they hadn't let her get used to bottle feeding only to take it away. Added to that, I had only recently been able to start actually breast feeding her and now that option was gone too. They told me, "Well, you can alway pump all the milk out and then let her use you like a pacifier." I have to say I was pretty offended by that.

I was devastated by this news. So much so that I really didn't want to talk about it. I left a message on my parents' answering machine telling them that she had failed the study and I couldn't get into it yet. I said I'd talk to them later on. It was hard enough for me to relay the information to my husband. He, too, was really upset by the news. Test two? Check... but not good.

Hard as it was, we recovered from that shock and disappointment pretty quickly and got ready for our little girl to take on her final test- the sleep study. The sleep study involves hooking up the baby to a special monitor that records all of her vital stats while she sleeps. They can see exactly how the heart rate or O2 saturation might fluctuate. This is important for determining 1) if the baby needs to go home on supplemental oxygen, 2) if so, how much, and 3) if an apnea monitor is appropriate.

Getting this study completed was a comedy of errors. The first night it was supposed to be conducted, the equipment delivered to the Special Care Nursery was inoperable. They weren't even able to attempt the test. I was angry about this when they told me the next day. Every little thing that went wrong delayed our going home. The next night, they hooked C. up to all the equipment and ran the test. When I called the next day for the results, I was told that the nurse had forgotten to turn on the part that "records" thus making the entire test useless for analysis. I was gettting a tad furious at this point. Seriously. I can handle that things don't always go perfectly, but I was getting annoyed with the ineptitude that was being displayed. Finally, the third night they attempted it, the test went through and the information was gathered.

The end result? Our little girl didn't need any supplemental O2. She breathed just fine on her own. At least, that's what the study said. The medical team at IU, however, panicked and told me, "We're sending her home on an eighth of a liter anyway. We just don't send 24-weekers without oxygen. It's never happened before." A respiratory therapist later told me that that amount of oxygen was a joke. Our nurses from back at Riley thought it was silly to base her O2 needs on how early she was; if she could breathe, she could breathe. That's it.

Nonetheless, the decision had been made and we were willing to accept it if it's what we needed to do to get home.

All that remained was for us to go through appropriate training to be able to handle the special needs of our, still tiny, baby girl.

Next week I'll tell you about what we had to learn...

Friday, January 23, 2009

How Much Do You Know About FOCA?

The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) has been around for a number of years. It's becoming a hot topic again because we now have a president who has openly, vocally, and frequently supported abortion rights.

I've said it before and I will say it again: I am unapologetically pro-life. I don't get into a whole lot of politics on this blog, but my pro-life stance is intricately linked with the topic of this site. While I certainly described myself as pro-life before my daughter was born, it was upon learning that some people thought it should have been MY right to terminate her at the point she came into this world that I became more radically pro-life. If you've read my birth story or seen the pictures of her in the early days, then you know she was, inarguably, a baby. No one can tell me otherwise...

FOCA would lead to changes in current abortion law. Changes that could easily result in many more abortions being performed. Here are some things you should be aware of:

  1. FOCA could force taxpayers to pay for abortions. (By requiring they be covered by Medicaid, for one.)
  2. FOCA requires all states to allow "partial birth" and other late-term abortions. (If you don't know what is involved in a partial birth abortion, please go here. If you want an "impartial" article about it, check out this one.)
  3. FOCA strips parents of their right to be involved in their minor daughter's abortion decision.
  4. FOCA seeks to eliminate informed consent laws.
As a pro-life woman, I'll openly admit that a lot of the research I do happens at pro-life sites. But, to be fair and informed, I went to NARAL Pro-Choice America to read up on this act as well. While the verbiage is different, the content is exactly the same. It was actually at the NARAL website that I was drawn to a triumphant headline announcing, "Obama restates his commitment to abortion rights". Less than 24 hours ago, on the 36th anniversary of the Roe v Wade landmark decision, our president spoke out:

On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work and to have no limits on their dreams," Obama said. "That is what I want for women everywhere."

It is this type of speech that has many pro-lifers like me worried that FOCA will be reintroduced in the 111th Congress sometime soon.

I don't want to see this bill pass. There's a part of me that thinks, "How could it? How could enough people really support these ideas?" But, in reality, it could. Too many people buy into the idea that abortions make life better for women. And it's best that we be aware of that and take what action we can.

I receive a weekly publication called The Catholic Moment. It should come as no surprise that this paper has a strong pro-life slant to it. Enclosed in yesterday's edition were postcards to send to our senators and representatives. You can bet mine will be in the mail today. You can find out more about this campaign here. If you'd like to make your voice heard as well, feel free to send a postcard or letter to your state senators and local representative with the following message:

"Dear Senator (Representative),

At this time of serious national challenges, Americans should unite to serve the good of all, born and unborn. The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), the most radical and divisive pro-abortion bill ever introduced in Congress, would create a "fundamental right" to abortion that government could not limit but would have to support. FOCA would overturn many existing widely-supportd policies, including laws protecting parental involvement and conscience rights and those preventing partial-birth abortion and taxpayer funding of abortion.

Please oppose FOCA or any similar measure, and retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion. As your constituent, I would appreciate a written response telling me how you would vote on these matters.


(Name and address)"

Just as it was my duty, privilege, and right to vote, it is my responsibility to make my voice heard when it is this important to me.


What are your feelings about FOCA? Will anyone be joining me in the postcard campaign? Do you have other ideas for making your voice heard? I'd love to hear about it in the comments...

Pure, Free Joy

There are so many things we enjoy doing as a family. We love to have simple meals together. We love to play games. We laugh... a LOT.

One of the things that brings us all the greatest amount of fun are sing-along games we can play with our children. Here are some things that make "Ring Around the Rosie", "Row, Row, Row Your Boat", "London Bridge is Falling Down", etc. perfect ways to find joy with your children:

  • They are completely free- no equipment necessary.
  • They can be played indoors or out.
  • Even very young children can participate.
  • Older siblings or cousins can easily entertain younger ones this way.
  • Pretty much everyone knows them- you don't often have to teach someone how to play "Ring Around the Rosie".
  • Nobody wins or loses
  • They teach teamwork and cooperation.
  • They help build coordination.
  • They make for cute photo ops. :) -- fyi, mine are the littlest two in the above shot!
Some of my fondest memories involve watching our older nieces and nephews engage our toddlers in these games. It gave the older ones a sense of pride that they could successfully entertain the little ones. It made the young ones feel special to be included. Total win-win.

Pure, free joy is definitely one of the Finer Things in life! To see more Finer Things, check out Amy's brand new carnival starting this week!

For more ways to save money, visit Crystal's Frugal Friday!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Do Blondies Make For More Fun?

Over at FishMama's place, there's a Comfort Food Recipe Swap going on. This is the time of year for it! The usual "comfort food fare" holds little appeal for me. Don't get me wrong- I'll eat meatloaf or chicken and noodles or mashed potatoes. But I don't think I've even once in my life craved any of those types of foods. I'm really not a "meat and potatoes" kind of girl. I'm the type who craves herbed wine sauces, spicy salsas, strange cheeses, sesame and ginger... that sort of thing.

So, when I seek comfort from food, it's often in the form of dessert. Brownies reign supreme in my dessert hierarchy, but sometimes I get even more pleasure from the siimple, carmelly richness of a good blondie. And, since you may have read that my little girl and I could both stand to gain a bit of weight, I don't feel too guilty indulging!

Here's how I make mine:

Blondie Brownies

  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 tbsp. milk
  • 1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. chopped nuts or candy pieces*

1. Heat oven to 350. Grease 8x8 inch pan. Set aside.

2. Combine butter and milk in large saucepan. Place on low heat until butter melts. Remove from heat. Stir in brown sugar. Add egg. (Stir quickly at this point so your egg doesn't cook on you!)

3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir into butter mixture. Stir in vanilla and nuts (or candy pieces). Spread evenly into pan.

4. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool in pan.

*We all like nuts in this house, but we also love these with Butterfinger or Heath bits.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Micropreemie's 3-Year Well-Child Visit

I took C. to the doctor this morning. Not because she's sick. Truthfully, she hasn't been sick at all. We hadn't seen our pediatrician since last January when she had her 2-year check-up. We were there today because our former tiny micropreemie is now 3 years old.

It is still a wonder to me that we just have a "typical" doctor visit schedule now. We don't have to see oodles of specialists. We don't have to go extra frequently to get any equipment looked at or have periodic weight checks. We're at a point now where C. is treated just like any other 3-year old. And that is such a beautiful thing.

We certainly juggled many months chock-full of appointments back in the day. We saw pulmonary, developmental peds, ophthalmology (we still see them periodically), radiology, neurology, and all the usual stuff too. There were times I felt I was going far more than I was coming, but it was just what had to be done.

I am blessed to be able to just waltz into an ordinary pediatrician's office once a year now.

So what's different about a check-up with a former micropreemie?

Well, she's still small. C. measured in at 36 1/4" tall (the 25th percentile) which means she should be about 5'2" at age 18. She weighed in at a whopping 27 pounds (the 10th percentile). Looking at genetic predisposition, this seems small. I'm 5'7" (what people like to call "kinda tall") and her daddy's 5'10". But the 10th and 25th percentiles are still healthy. And, considering, she started out at 1 lb 5 oz and less than a foot long, she's grown by leaps and bounds!

C's speech is also a bit behind. She talks a lot, but she hasn't really developed strong conversational speech patterns yet. We're not too concerned about this, because her speech development is moving right along, she's just been behind in it for awhile. I have little doubt that she'll catch up just fine.

Her muscle tone, gross motor skills, comprehension, and self-care skills are all right on par.

And, here's what we always have to remember...

She can walk.

She can see.

She can hear.

She can do so many things that doctors weren't sure a baby born so early would be able to ever do.

As our pediatrician said,

"She continues to be a miracle... and I, for one, have no problem with ongoing miracles."

Questions For the Pediatrician

Okay... this is such a no-brainer. But, believe it or not, my pediatrician says I'm one of the few parents he has who does this.

When one of my children has a well-child appointment coming up, I make a list of questions or concerns that my husband and I would like addressed. I have a decent memory, but odds are good that, in the midst of child-wrangling, I'll forget something if it's not on paper...

I keep a notebook handy and jot things down as I think of them. The morning of the appointment, I check with my husband to see if he has any last minute additions. And then I go right down that list with our doctor. I scrawl down any information I want to be sure to remember to share with hubby later. When we're done going over our pediatrician's recommendations, I file the paper away in my kids' medical folder.

Writing it down saves me a ton of frustration and ensures I won't have to smack myself on the forehead as I drive home and realize, "Oh! I forgot to ask..."

Writing it down works for me.

To see what other tips and tricks work for people, check out Works for Me Wednesday over at Rocks In My Dryer.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Prayer For No Change...

I have hope. Hope that this year will be a better one for our nation. Hope that we will see good things happen and some things change that need to. I am proud that our new president is a bright, charismatic man.

This is what I'm telling myself. And what I would tell my little children were they to ask (but they don't yet).


I'm a ball of fear. I'm just not sure what lies ahead. I'm more conservative and traditional than I am liberal, it's true. But I'm also not married to a party. I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to a Democrat as our president... if it weren't for the fact that our House and Senate are both filled with a Democratic majority. And this is where I get scared...

We face far too many issues as a nation to narrow it down to just one. But there's one that weighs heaviest on MY mind. One that I can't stop thinking about...

And that's abortion.

I've come to expect nothing at all to change when it comes to abortion law. That's how it's been pretty much my whole life. People talk about it. They have strong views. But with a balance of opinions in power, things pretty much remain the same. And, for me, that's not good enough. But I guess I've kind of gotten used to that a little bit...

But now, for the first time, I'm concerned that our abortion laws could actually become more lax, more lenient. Things like partial-birth abortions. Late term abortions. Government subsidized abortions. I'm not saying these will happen... but they could happen. We have more pro-abortion politicians in positions of power than I can ever remember before. I watch some of these bleeding-heart liberals wax on and on about the needless loss of life we've seen in this war... while openly supporting the murder of what has amounted to millions and millions of babies over the years. I don't get it. I'm sorry.

My hope is that there are "bigger fish to fry" right now. Abortion hasn't been a hot topic lately, politically speaking, and maybe that's a good thing. Because, right now, maybe the best I can hope for is just no change at all...

Am I the only one who's a little scared these days?

For some hope and encouragement on this topic, please also check out Amy's words.

Help Fatten Me Up! (Pregnancy Update #3)

(That's me, today, in all my glory... I see a bump! Do you???)

Today was another regular check-up with the OB for me. Nothing unusual; just normal stuff. I did have some bloodwork done to check for any possible sign of any antigens or infection that could be lurking; this is because of my history with preterm labor. We have no reason to suspect a problem, but it's better to be safe than sorry!

You would think that hearing your baby's heartbeat would become less amazing each visit, but it's not. It's such a welcome sound, each and every time. This little boy or girl sounded great, with a rate in the 140's. As is typical with my babies, the doctor had to chase this one around to catch the heartbeat.

I have been utterly delighted to feel fetal movement already this time! It's been earlier in each subsequent pregnancy for me (I was past 20 weeks with my first!) and it's such a joy. Just a little "tap-tap-tap" at this point, but a beautiful reassuring feeling.

My blood pressure was on the higher side-- 125 over 78. Not anything to get all worked up about, but higher than usual for me. It's been that way this whole pregnancy, but I have no idea why. My doctor says I should try to avoid unnecessary stress, seek quiet time, and avoid going overboard on the sodium (though I'm not on any true "salt restriction").

So everything looks great, right? Well, I think so! But, at approaching 16 weeks along, I've gained (drumroll, please...).... nothing. Nada. Zilch. I have not managed to put on even half a pound. I told you all I was worried about this- I've worked hard to gain weight. I even made them re-weigh me because I was SURE I had gained at least a little. Nope. And they weigh me on the same scale every time. And I ate a big breakfast. Man. Again, this doesn't sound like a problem. Far more women are told they're gaining too fast than that they're not gaining enough. But I'm in that second group. And so I was grilled about what I eat in a typical day-- each and every meal. Apparently, I should have put on at least five pounds by now.

So here's the verdict...

I have to eat at least 2500 calories a day (!). And if I want to keep walking on the treadmill? (And I do!) Then that number jumps to 3000. My word, that's a lot of calories! I have no fat, cholesterol, or sugar restrictions (I'm all good on those fronts), but I do want to be a little careful with my sodium intake. And, obviously, I want the majority of those calories to come from nutrient-rich foods (though I'm not opposed to treats!). My doctor wants to see me gain at least a pound a week, preferably a little more so I can "catch up". I don't start out itty-bity or anything, but I'm still supposed to gain 25-35 pounds...

Any suggestions? Can you help me come up with a sample meal plan that gets me to 3000 calories? I'm having a tough time... and, trust me, I eat!

What would YOU eat if someone told you to pack 3000 calories into your day? Let me know, please!

Using Little Pockets Of Time

When I have something cooking on the stove or something under the broiler... or when I'm baking cookies, I seem to have these little 3-5 minute pockets of time. The thing is... I really can't leave the kitchen to do anything. I'm notorious for letting those few little minutes turn into a longer stretch and then, well, bad things can happen!

And here's the thing- it's not like I don't have plenty of short little tasks that need to be accomplished. Sometimes getting those little things done is just as hard as the bigger things when you have two little ones underfoot! What really works for me is keeping a basket on my counter filled with quick things that need to be done. At any given moment, here's a sampling of what you might find in my basket:

  • Paperwork or forms for my childrens' school that need to be filled out.
  • Thank you notes and stamps to write and send.
  • Coupons still waiting to filed or cut out (especially ones I've printed from the computer).
  • Little garments in need of small mending jobs (e.g. replacing a button or fixing a seam).
  • A necklace that need to be de-tangled.
  • A bill that needs to be paid and isn't set up online.
  • Information or pamphlets that I've been "meaning to read".
These seemingly insignificant things rarely make it onto my "to-do list". But if I let them fall through the cracks, they quickly snowball into a huge project. Keeping them at my fingertips helps me use my little pockets of time wisely and helps me avoid the temptation of wandering off!

What do you do with your "little pockets of time"? Do you have a method for accomplishing those little pesky tasks that need to get done? Please share with everyone in the comments!

For more Kitchen Tips, visit Tammy's Recipes every Tuesday.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Embracing the Joy

Every day, your toddler will give you the kind of greeting normally reserved for someone who is expecting to receive a large sum of money from you. Remember that feeling...

-Jen Singer
author of 14 Hours 'Til Bedtime

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mourning the Third Trimester, Part 1: Realizing It's Over

One of the things that goes along with having a baby very, very early (i.e. before 28 weeks) is the lack of a third trimester. This is a fact that seems like it should be obvious but really isn't. It is also something that is truly devastating to the mother and it's sometimes hard for other people to understand. This is the thought process a lot of people go through:

Her baby is alive. All focus needs to be on the infant. At least she doesn't have to worry about a pregnancy at the same time. She won't have to get big and unwieldy while trying to care for a newborn at least. That's one less thing to worry about. And her health is fine now... why is she so sad?

I get that. And you know what? The baby DOES need to be the focus. Don't think the new mom doesn't know this too. In fact, it's unlikely she'll ever even mention the personal torture and devastation she's enduring from the untimely end to her pregnancy. She'll feel guilty and self-indulgent for even contemplating that she's suffering too. But she is suffering...

In the days following my daughter's birth four months too soon, I would wake up every morning and my hand would fly to my (flat) belly and I'd just want to lay there and sob. I had never even "shown". I had had precious few weeks of feeling fetal movement. I had really only just started to get past morning sickness. And it was done. Over. My next door neighbors never even knew I was expecting.

I wanted to just stay in bed. But I couldn't. My body would not let me forget that my baby was born and I needed to provide nourishment for her. I would roll myself off the bed (I couldn't sit up because of the c-section) and shuffle off to pump. As I sat in the chair, I would beat myself up...

How could I even feel sorry for myself? I wasn't the one whose life was hanging in the balance. And, so far, my child was even doing pretty well. I was SO very lucky compared to others. I needed to just get over it.

And for the most part, I did. As moms, we can push a lot of of our emotions and needs back when push comes to shove. We think we're doing the right thing that way, by martyring ourselves. In fact, we'd be better off to just face it, deal with it, and then move on, but that's hard to do.

It took me about three weeks to stop waking up that way... to stop being haunted by all I had lost out on. I wish I could tell you that you totally move past it with time, but I don't really think that's true. I'm still wistful about those sixteen weeks I never had. I still envy hugely pregnant ladies who look "about to pop". But it certainly isn't something that weighs me down or that I even think about every week. It comes and goes and I can handle the emotions that come with it...


In Part 2 of this series, I'll talk about handling those first few months... working through your own emotions and holding it together when faced with devastating comments and situations.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

3 Ways I Blame Myself For My Daughter's Prematurity

First of all, let me say this...

I don't really dwell on these things. And doctor after doctor has assured me that I did nothing, absolutely nothing, to cause C's early birth. Nonetheless, I think a little bit of mommy-guilt is common. I know a couple of preemie moms who insist they have never once felt one bit responsible for their babies' early arrival. And I think that's great. But too many other preemie moms are like me and over-analyze every little thing they ever did, ate, or felt during pregnancy. And so, I present to you, three things that occasionally make me wonder if I couldn't have "done better" during my pregnancy with C...

  1. I picked up my son who weighed more than 20 pounds after I was 20 weeks pregnant. He was only 10 months old. And he didn't walk. And I was home alone with him all day. I truly don't know that I had much choice... but I do wonder if that caused extra strain on my body...
  2. I didn't have an ideal diet. My husband was out of work for several months that year. What money we had was going to utilities and diapers and healthy food for our son. I ate a lot of hot dogs and spaghetti during that stretch.
  3. I lived in a state of emotional stress and depression and did nothing to seek help for it. Have you ever seen one of those checklists about major life changes and events you may have undergone in the last year? Yeah, well, I kid you not when I say I could have checked off almost every single one that year. Having a baby. Moving several states away. Dealing with a chronic illness. Losing a parent. Being unemployed. Getting pregnant. Being isolated from family and friends. It was a dark time for me and I wonder if that affected my pregnancy...
So there it is... the thoughts that plague me. I've seen the medical report detailing my excellent health. My perfect blood pressure. My low, but not too low, blood sugar. I remember the ultrasounds that showed a thriving, perfect infant. But, in what I know is just a desperate attempt to take control, to establish blame (even if the finger is pointed at me), I sometimes worry about what I could have done better...

Preemie moms... am I the only one? Do any of you sometimes think back to everything you did or didn't do and wonder?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What's the Delay Scenario?

I have two children who attend preschool- on opposing days- so I always have someone headed out the door. We are very fortunate in that our school district provides busing for them. All I have to is have them dressed, fed, bundled, and ready by 7:30 am. No problem.

We also live in north-central Indiana. We have some rough weather here (like many places)... dangerous windchills, blinding snow, and pea-soup fog are on our agenda with decent frequency. The result? Delays and closings.

When I was a little girl, I remember listening to the radio for school closing and delay information. You'd wait for your part of the alphabet and cross your fingers...

When I got into junior high and high school, my best friend's mom drove a school bus and thus was one of the very first to hear about any changes in schedule. That was fabulous because she'd call me and I'd be in the loop before the media!

I have no such connections these days. But I do have a computer. Through the winter months, when the alarm goes off shortly after six, I shuffle to the computer and pull up our school's website to have such information right at my fingertips. No waiting for the name to scroll across the TV... No waiting for the list to be read over the radio... No noisy phone calls to wake my still-snoozing children. If there's no school, I can pour myself a cup of decaf and head back to the warm covers and read for a few minutes... without having woken another soul!

Online school notifcations work for me!

If you have children attending a public or private school, how do you keep track of any closings or delays?


For more tips and tricks, visit Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Freezing Milk

As a pregnant mommy of little ones, I find myself buying a lot of milk these days. One of the things that I love about shopping at Kroger is that I can almost always find reduced-price milk with several days left before the "sell-by date". This really helps the budget and enables us to buy several gallons of milk at once.

I also like buying four or so gallons of milk at a time because I live 17 miles from town. It's not convenient (or cost-effective) for me to "run out for a gallon of milk" whenever we get low.

Stocking up on milk is great, but it's only a deal if you can keep it fresh. To accomplish this goal, I've taken to freezing my milk. Over time, I've learned a few tricks about this process that I want to share with you all...

  • Skim milk is the easiest to freeze. Skim milk can be frozen as-is in the gallon. It doesn't seem to expand too much and, because it has no fat, you don't have to deal with the fat solids separating from the liquid as it freezes. The kids and I all really like skim milk (and they're both over two) so this works out great. (Oh, and I just have to say because I get tired of reading this little myth on other sites-- skim milk is NOT the same as watered down whole milk. You water down nutrients that way and still consume fat.)
  • Higher fat content milks can be frozen too. We never buy whole milk around here anymore because no one will drink it. But I often buy 1% (that extra fat is good for my little C.) or 2% (Daddy likes it in his coffee). I've noticed that these milks seem to expand more than skim (I have no idea why exactly that is). I've never actually had a plastic jug crack on me, but the possibility makes me a tad nervous and so I transfer these into other plastic containers, allowing a good inch or so of expansion room. With extra space in the container, it's easier to "shake it up" and redistribute the fats once the milk has thawed. This also enables me to store at least some of it in my normal kitchen freezer instead of the big chest freezer in the garage...
  • This is a great way to ration chocolate milk. I've been lucky enough to snag chocolate milk for 75 cents a gallon recently. We ALL like chocolate milk around here, but it's not an everyday thing. By dividing the gallon into smaller containers, we can just use what we need and the rest remains safely frozen until the next time. We don't have to each drink 24 oz of chocolate milk in one day to use it up. (Truth? Chocolate milk is the easiest for me to choke down when pregnant. I'm not a great milk drinker for the most part, but I do enjoy chocolate milk. And, since I tend to have some trouble gaining weight, I don't worry too much about the extra sugar...)
By learning a few tricks for safely and conveniently freezing reduced price milk, I've been able to keep the cost of four gallons of milk under $6 for our family. And that's something that we all find refreshing!

To read how others live frugally and save some pennies, check out Frugal Friday, hosted at Biblical Womanhood!

For more tips and recipes, be sure to visit Tammy's Recipes every Tuesday!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Shameless Plea...

***Update: Polls are now closed over at LifeAsMOM. But guess what? The breakfast cake won! Thanks to all of you who took the time to cast a vote-- I know a little 4-year old who is going to be one happy little man!***

Isn't he cute?

That's my little guy, who will be 4 on the 27th (thus ending my stint with two 3-year olds!). For his birthday celebration he requested a breakfast theme. Easy enough. I can whip up pancakes, eggs, bacon, and sausage in a flash.

For his cake? My ever-thinking boy told me he thought the cake should LOOK like breakfast. You know, like a platter of eggs and bacon or something. Hmmm...

Good thing I'm cyber-friends with FishMama! She's a pro at whipping up theme birthday cakes. And, lucky me, this week she issued a challenge to US to challenge HER to take on a theme.

My breakfast cake is one of six in the running... and it's currently in 2nd place...

So here's where I start begging...

Please go here and look in the right sidebar. You'll see a poll entitled "What Kind of Cake Do You Challenge Me With?" Vote for the Breakfast Cake! My birthday boy and I would be ever so grateful. And, if you're not already reading FishMama's site, I think you should be... she tackles great topics and provides helpful, non-preachy advice.

(Note for people like me who hate filling out forms: You do not need to enter any information, register, sign in, or any other extra stuff to vote. Just click. Even for folks with dial-up like me it's a painless process!)

The Five Best NICU's in the Country

Parents Magazine published a list of the "10 Best Children's Hospitals" in their February 2009 issue. Included in this article was a breakdown of the best hospitals for six crucial specialty areas. One of these was Neonatal Care. According to their judges, here are the top five NICU's in the nation:

  1. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
  2. Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, Cleveland
  3. St. Louis Children's Hospital
  4. Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis
  5. Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
If you live in or near Philadelphia, count yourself doubly lucky because their children's hospital also came in as #1 overall. I was not surprised to see Riley on the list; I've mentioned many times what an outstanding NICU they have. I was fascinated and encouraged by what other hospitals on the list are doing to ensure incredible care for our children.

To read more about who made the lists and why, please visit Parents online!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"My Story..." Monday: Bye, Bye, Riley...

I've written many times about the amazing children's hospital we were at. Riley Children's Hospital, in Indianapolis, is a great hospital overall, but their NICU, especially, is outstanding. In my first couple years of living in Indiana when I was drenched in despair and self-pity much of the time, wondering why I had ever thought it would be a good idea to move to this state, I often took comfort in the idea that perhaps it was just meant to be. There are very few other places in the country that would have been able to handle my extremely premature daughter as well.

We were used to a phenomenal level of care. Added to that, we had been "stationed" at Riley for three months at this point. The thought of being transferred to a different hospital with a different staff, though it was clearly a step in the right direction, was scary. There was no choice to be made, though. Our fates had been decided and, as we drove home from Chicago, we knew we would be meeting our daughter's ambulance at a new hospital, albeit one right next door to Riley. We were checking into I.U. Medical Center, the very hospital where I had given birth to her three months before...

When we first arrived at the Special Care Nursery at I.U. to see our daughter, I was struck by the size of the room she was in. As I mentioned last week, our daughter tested postive for MRSA which meant she needed to be in an isolation room. Her room at I.U. was easily three times the size of the room she had been in at Riley. It also had windows. In short, it was a very bright, roomy space. Of course, at this point, C. still had bandages over both eyes so it was unlikely she got to enjoy any of the early morning sunbeams but, still, it was nice to have a view!

As the first couple days went by, we had the opportunity to meet several new nurses. They all seemed very friendly. Our nurses, at least, seemed to really enjoy dressing our little girl in pretty, frilly preemie outfits and it was obvious that the Special Care Nursery, rather than serving as a place to heal the critically ill, acted as a place to help the slightly fragile get out the door. At Riley, C. had already tried, and done well with, a bottle or two each day. Within three days at I.U., she was no longer tube-fed at all and was strictly on bottles on an "ad lib on demand schedule"-- basically, she was allowed to eat as much as she wanted as frequently as she wanted, much like most newborns. We were amazingly encouraged by this and so hopeful that when our little girl was released, tube feeding would be completely behind us.

The most frustrating difference that I noticed (aside from simply not seeing our beloved Riley nurses who we had come to know so well) was that I no longer felt quite so "in the loop", medically speaking. There was no team of neonatologists making rounds here. For the most part, if I had questions, I had to call and wait for a return call from a nurse practitioner. Don't get me wrong-- she was very knowledgeable. But it wasn't the same as when I'd be sitting by C's bedside and the doctor on rotation would pull me out to stand with the team of residents and fellows to listen to her status and the plan for moving forward. Perhaps it should have been comforting for me to be able to focus on ruffly socks and feeding her a bottle... the way "normal" parents do with their babies. But, after three months of being entrenched in medical details, I felt lost and unaware. It was unnerving for me.

On about our fifth day there, we arrived to visit C. only to find she had been moved out among the other babies. This shocked us! What in the world??? She had MRSA! She was supposed to be isolated! Well, remember how I told you how very common MRSA is? It's true. And it turned out that so many babies had been exposed to the bacteria (not from our daughter, mind you), that they essentially turned one half of the Special Care Nursery into a "MRSA ward". In a way, it was strange being out among the other families again, but it was nice to be out in the open too. To not have to head into some little alcove.

We never got to know any other families in the Special Care Nursery. Most of those babies are in there for two weeks or less. It's not the same as Riley where so many of us practically "set up camp" and prepare for the long haul. It was a survival tactic that we Riley parents employed, talking to others who were also enduring long journeys. The months became easier to bear when you weren't isolated and alone in the quest for a healthy, strong baby. It wasn't like that at I.U. Some other parents would smile occasionally but, for the most part, no one had any interest in getting to know you. Being a social creature, this was tough on me too. I don't think it really bothered my husband.

Just over a week after arriving at the Special Care Nursery, I received surprising news during a routine call with the nurse practitioner. They wanted to send C. home. Within four days. We had a lot of tests to schedule and preparations to undergo before this could happen...

I'll tell you about all those next week.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What Big Eyes You Have!

The thing about having a baby in glasses is this...

You spend months, maybe years, trying keep those glasses on said-child's face.

But, eventually, your little one catches on...

And then, even Mr. Potato Head's glasses are fair game.

A New Year's Commitment: Pop Tabs

I've written about collecting pop tabs before. As this New Year rolls on, I want to re-address the topic and share a little more information with you all.

Ronald McDonald House charities have established houses all over the world, mostly in larger cities with significant children's hospitals. These houses are set up to provide lodging to families with a sick or hospitalized child. Most of them charge on a sliding scale (and usually no more than $10 per night) and they provide all the necessities you could need during such a difficult time. It is an amazing organization that relies heavily on the generosity of sponsors and donations.

I want to encourage all of you to commit to help this year. And here's why...

  • Collecting pop tabs is ridiculously easy. You can find them on beer, juice, soda, and diet drink cans. You can also find them on soup and pet food cans. Removing these tabs does not interfere with recycling the rest.
  • The tabs can be turned in at numerous places. Many McDonald's restaurants accept them, the children's hospital will take them, the actual RM House will take them, and lots of schools have ongoing collections going.
  • Every little bit helps.

Consider this...

It takes 1,267 pop tabs to add up to one pound of aluminum. One pound of aluminum sells for about 40 cents. Yikes. But, even given that, last year alone, here are the amounts a few cities raised just on pop tab donations alone...

Colorado Springs: $3,000 Kansas City: $19,600 Milwaukee: $20,038

Since the pop tab program began in 2000, over 4 million dollars has been raised for Ronald McDonald House charities. I find that amazing.

It is so important to me that I share this information. I would love to know if any of you are already collecting pop tabs or if any of you are willing to commit to start. It is a cause near and dear to me since we stayed in a Ronald McDonald House for 3 1/2 months after our little girl was born. But, even with that, I know there are friends and family of mine who are not currently saving their pop tabs. Which makes me wonder if people who don't have a personal story would even bother...

I already save them (though I didn't know about the soup tabs before doing the research for this post!) so I'm committing in 2009 to tell as many people about it as I can.

Please feel free to ask me any questions or share any concerns in the comments! I'll do my best to respond to anything you throw my way.

For more ideas on how to do things the frugal way, please visit Crystal's Biblical Womanhood every Friday!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Three Games Your Toddler CAN Play

If your family is anything like ours, then you love to play games together. We spend almost every evening after supper and before bath involved in a family game. Lazy weekend afternoons are often game-filled too. But here's the thing... my kids are little. We have one who JUST turned three (and was born four months early) and one who will be four later this month. And maybe it's just me, but there seem to be an awful lot of games labeled "3 and up" that really mean "your 3-year old can maybe, possibly play this if you are constantly 100% on top of what she is doing and don't mind esssentially playing for her". And, in my opinion, those games just aren't as fun for anybody involved.

Here are three games, tried and tested by our family, that your older 2-year old or young 3-year old really CAN play. These are games your child can handle with some independence which is good for both of you. I'm not saying your 2-year old and 3-year old could play this together with no adult present... I'm just saying that they can master and handle the concepts.

  1. Hasbro Candyland Castle Game- We received this game as a gift the Christmas of 2007 and it was the first game we were able to play together as a family. The idea is very simple. Players take turns pulling the plastic candy cane and a plastic game piece pops out. The object is to match the color and shape to the shapes on your "cookie" until you've filled all four spots. There are no small pieces, everything packs together neatly, and the concepts of shape- and color-matching are important early skills.
  2. Wiggles Stick On Game- I'm going to be very honest here and tell you that this game is not a favorite of mine or my husband's. It's not overly exciting. The idea here is to take turns spinning until you land on and collect five party items. Each time you land on a new one, you get to choose a colorform sticker to add to your game card. The first player to collect all five wins. That's it. But it's simple for even the youngest players and little ones seem to enjoy getting to choose which instrument, for example, they want. The game again addresses colors and also introduces some new vocabulary for the very young....
  3. Neighborhood Sounds Bingo by Bloom (a division of Cranium)- A huge hat-tip to my sister for choosing this game for my daughter's 3rd birthday present. This is one fun, fabulous game. It comes with four bingo cards each with nine everyday neighborhood images (a dog, a pool, a fire truck, a duck, a baby, etc), sturdy cardboard bingo chips, and a "radio". To play the game, you push the orange radio button to hear a sound. Children identify the sound of a frog croaking or children playing ring around the rosie, etc. and then look for the corresponding image on their game card. The first player to get three in a row calls "bingo" and pushes the blue radio button upon which a voice announces, "Great job- you win! Everyone (insert silly command, e.g. hop around the room like a frog, quack like a duck, honk your horns, etc.)" At that point, all players get to participate in some ridiculously silly thing that results in much laughter and also usually makes everyone forget who technically "won". This game requires good listening skills, turn-taking, making cognitive connections, and some fine motor skills. I was amazed how well even our younger child did with this game!
So there you go! Gather your little ones and settle in for a fun family game. And, if any of you have these games, let me know what you think of them in the comments.

What other games do you enjoy playing with your toddlers?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Storing Baby Clothes

Here's a little background just so you know our family situation:

  1. I have children of both genders.
  2. My husband and I have very generous family and friends.
  3. We are both the youngest children in our respective families and our older siblings all have children older than our own.
  4. We live in a house with an unfinished basement and an attic unsuitable for storage.
What all this means is that we have a whole of lot of baby and toddler clothing that our two 3-year olds have outgrown. We have received wonderfully generous hand-me-down contributions over the years in addition to a large array of new garments. While I have no qualms about tossing torn or stained items beyond repair, I hold on to most everything else. It's nice to know that there's a plentiful stockpile of clothes awaiting this next baby, boy or girl.

While we are blessed with hand-me-downs, we are not blessed with storage. Fortunately, there is an extra closet in our son's room with floor to ceiling shelves.

From the time my little boy outgrew all his 0-3 month clothes, I have packed away the clean, folded, and labeled baby clothes into empty diaper boxes. I tape up the box and label it with the gender, size, and season (if applicable).

The boxes go on the shelves.

It's not rocket science, but I can't tell you how nice it's been to be able to quickly access the "6-9 month baby girl clothes" to pass on to my sister-in-law without any digging, sorting, or repackaging. It works for me!

For more great tips and ideas, check out Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I Love White Flour

There. I said it. And I'll say it again. I love white flour. For lots of reasons. And, sometimes, I'm left to feel like a very bad person for feeling that way. Or for letting my children consume products containing white flour. And white sugar, for that matter, but for now, I'm talking about white flour...

I really love wheat flour too. We adore wheat bread around here. The grainier the English muffins, the better. I love baking up breads and muffins and bagels using wheat flour... and we gobble them up.

But you know what?

Nothing really takes the place of white flour in my book.

I've tried.

I baked up the cinnamon rolls with wheat flour and, while I'm happy to report that my kids happily scarfed them down (amazing what frosting can do), I thought they had a funky taste and, while, to his credit, he didn't actually complain, I know my husband found them a poor substitution for my usual rolls. If I'm going to fuss with cinnamon rolls, I want them to be delicious. Not just passable.

Ditto on the pizza crust. It didn't work for me. I didn't like the flavor or texture and it ruined the whole experience for me.

I'm sure there are dozen of other recipes I could try, but I'm not really sure I want to... because my white flour recipes are already delicious.

We enjoy whole grains around here and we get a lot of them...

But you know what?

I love white flour.

And I'm going to keep right on using it...

Am I the only one?

For more great kitchen advice, thoughts, and recipes, check out Tammy's Recipes for Kitchen Tip Tuesday!

Monday, January 5, 2009

"My Story..." Monday: Having a MRSA + Child

Awhile back, I wrote about our darkest day in the NICU, when C. was so terribly sick none of the doctors thought she was going to make it. In those first days of her illness, we weren't even entirely sure what it was that plagued her. We had to wait out a lot of lab tests and cultures to see what we were even dealing with.

When we were told that our daughter had MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), neither my husband nor I knew anything about it. But it seemed bizarre to say the least. One day, our daughter was out amid the other babies and everyone handled her with (clean) bare hands. The next, she was in a little "isolation" room and we had to don gowns, masks, and gloves before going in there with her. Well, actually, as the parents, we didn't have to wear masks or gloves, but everyone else did. She was the same child, but the parameters had changed dramatically.

Mostly I was just concerned with little C's health and wanted to see her get better. But, as the days went on and I gleaned some more information from the nurses, I felt less enlightened and more confused. I figured that MRSA must be airborn, hence the masks, right? Nope. I thought, wow, this must be one uncommon, super dangerous bug, right? Not really. I thought, man, it'll be nice when she's "cured" of this infection, right? Um, nope.

I must have gotten annoying with all of my questions because, one day, they sent an expert in infectious diseases to come talk to me. And I was really relieved to be able to ask all my questions and finally get some answers. And here's what I learned...

First of all, MRSA is incredibly common. Some experts estimate that about one third of the general population and over one half of the medical population carry this bacteria on their skin. Hanging out on your skin, it doesn't cause many problems. But in the case of the very fragile (often these are tiny babies and the elderly), if it gets in the bloodstream, it can cause devastating illness. For more "typical", healthy folks, MRSA- like other bacterias- becomes an issue when it finds its way into the bloodstream through a wound and causes infection. What makes it "worse" than other infections is that it's resistant to more antibiotics. This doesn't mean it can't be killed. It just means that doctors have to find the right medication to knock it out.

MRSA is only spread through contact. Why the masks? In case people touch their mouths with their gloved hands, apparently. The specialist indicated she thought this was a bit of overkill and went on to explain that there is not even a consistent protocol for hospitals to use regarding MRSA procedures. Our hospital was on the very conservative side. And that's okay. But it was good to know.

Our daughter will ALWAYS be MRSA-positive. That label doesn't go away. The fact that she's had it in her blood means they can never be sure it's all gone. So what does that mean? In a nutshell, not much. She's not a danger to others; it's not even something schools or daycares care about. There is only one difference for C... she has to have a private room any time she's hospitalized. All-in-all? Not really a big deal.

I think what has been the toughest has been the big media hype in the last few years about "THAT HORRIBLE KIlLER SUPERBUG... MRSA!!!!" I've had people recoil a bit and say, "Isn't that what your daughter has????" And it bothers me. Not that the magazines and news stories feel the need to warn about the dangers, but because it's so sensationalized and so many facts are left out. We all know it makes a better story if it scares the dickens out of us, right?

And so I'm here to tell you, as the mother of a MRSA + child, that it's not as dramatic as they'll have you believe. And I'll also remind you that about a third of you have it too... and that's perfectly okay.


Come back next week when I talk about settling into our new digs and all the growing pains that involved...

Friday, January 2, 2009

A Little Bubbly With Littles

I love champagne. This is something friends and family all know about me. I love it at a special occasion (like a wedding or holiday) and I love it with a pizza. I find the entire flavor and experience of a glass of champagne to be nothing less than celebratory. And, let's think about it, having done a brief stint tending bar when I was 22, I can tell you that people don't "drown their sorrows" in champagne. It's a happy beverage. The very words associated with champagne-- bubbly, effervescent, sparkling-- are joyful. I also love the presentation of champagne. Nobody chugs champagne out of a can or a plastic Solo cup (well, I'm sure somebody somewhere does, but it's not common...). Champagne is served up in elegant, glistening flutes. I love those too; in fact, I collect them... everything from clearanced Pier One to Waterford.

All this to say it should come as no surprise that our New Year's Eves always involve champagne. Well, every New Year's Eve that is except 2004 (pregnant with my son), 2005 (just gave birth to my daughter and, um, things were a tad crazy), and, now, 2008 (pregnant with our third). But that doesn't mean we can't replicate that same effervescent joy in other ways!

Sparkling grape juice filled in this year, providing a safe alternative for pregnant me and a kid-friendly drink to share at supper! Our son opted for straight purple grape juice since he refuses anything with any kind of fizz (I am, for the record, completely okay with this since I can't stand seeing preschoolers drink soda...)

You'll get a taste of our kiddos' personalities here:

A, cooperative little ham, happily drank his grape juice and handled his "wine glass" like a champ...

C, stubborn and determined little rebel, really didn't like the sparkling juice but refused to give up her glass so we could replace it. She spent the entire "toast" looking like this...

Their daddy and I shared our toast shortly before midnight when our kids had been tucked in for a good four hours or so...


And Happy New Year.

To see how others rang in the New Year with little ones, visit Life As MOM!