Friday, December 21, 2012

Last week was...quite a week, all right. I got a sinus infection (with bonus exciting lump that confused the doctor, who threw antibiotics at it!), Mr. Blinky the laptop with the exciting fainting screen finally turned up its toes and died, and then I got the call that my mother was in the hospital, had probably had a mild heart attack recently and (best of all!), probably hasn't been getting enough oxygen for a while. So when I finally saw the news on Friday, I was just done. I had no more grace for dealing with any more crap life might care to throw my way.

Now of course, life's crap isn't so bad considering that I can still hug all of my still-breathing children, but knowing that doesn't reduce the stress much. But this week has been a bit better. My sinuses are feeling better (although the lump hasn't entirely gone away, so I suppose I should trundle myself back to the doctor at some point). Although I'm pretty sure Mr. Blinky's graphics card is kaput given that we can't even get it to display to an external monitor, I was able to restore the achingly slow older laptop to a new speedy glory with a squeaky clean hard drive.

My mother is home from the hospital, but on oxygen. She was treated for several days for congestive heart failure, getting a bunch of fluid taken off of her heart. She's okay, for the moment.

I was never that worried, this time around. My stress was more that this is the third hospitalization in 8 months, and while congestive heart failure is something one can live with for a long time, hers is clearly not under control. It's about what this means for the future, and how much more future there might be, and what sort of decisions we might have to make. When I was talking to Lisa, her main aide, she said that she thought my mother has been slipping mentally, which is something I had been noticing as well. It will be worth seeing how much she improves now that she's getting enough oxygen, but it still presents a new set of issues to worry about. Somehow I hadn't worried about her not being able to handle her own affairs, since both of her parents were sharp as a tack until the end. What do I do if that's not the case anymore? I can't fly out to Michigan frequently enough to handle things. Moving her out here is something I only want to do as an absolute last resort, since the loss of her entire social life and everything familiar, not to mention Lisa, is something that would drastically reduce her quality of life.

To make everything more difficult, she's lost her voice, so it's very hard to talk to her over the phone. And since she has a hard time typing, she normally uses voice-controlled software, which means we can't really e-mail or chat online either.

Sigh. Things are okay again for the moment. We'll focus on that, and on the fact that we'll be there in a little over a week.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Argh. I was all set to attempt to limp across the finish line of NaBloPoMo after Thanksgiving, and my laptop decided to develop a fun habit of turning its screen off. Our other laptop, which we gave to Katherine, is currently doing its best impression of a snail with low blood pressure, and while I was able to use it to do things like read e-mail, it was unuseably slow for anything else. So I was without a computer for the end of November. Then just as Mr Blinky developed a spontaneous semi-remission wherein it would only decide to go staticky and blink out every day or two and otherwise work fine, the sinus infection arrived, and with it, the need to sleep 22 hours a day.

Anyway, here I am again! I have antibiotics and the hope my splitting sinus headache will soon be gone, along with the weird, worrying lump on one of my sinuses. The doctor was perplexed but threw some antibiotics at it. Mr. Blinky is being well-behaved today (and one of these days, we're going to do something about the slooooow laptop so it will be a viable backup). Unfortunately, there's no solution to it being obscenely late, so more anon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

James, briefly

James has finally taken to a solid food he likes - oatmeal, probably because it tastes like thick breastmilk. This doesn't seem like much progress, but at least he's eating something off of a spoon with quite a bit of enthusiasm, and my hope is that a nice solid meal in the evening will help with whatever growth spurt he's going through right now that requires eating every hour all night long. Because if it doesn't, it sure will hurt when I jump out the window after another night like the last two we've had.

He's also started inching forward incrementally, as well as getting up on his hands and knees and rocking. Bad baby! Stop that right now. Your older siblings strew far too many small chokeables in their wake for you to become mobile.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Excuse note

I mentioned a while back that I have some money to spend on books for my library, but I haven't done it yet for some highly bizarre reasons.

You see, the power cord of our Nook broke a while ago, so we called customer service and they said they would mail us a new one since it was still under warranty and we thought that would be that. Easy-peasy.

Then the package with the new Nook arrived. I might have been tempted to keep it, but it was a Nook Simple Touch and ours is a Nook Color, and their power cords aren't compatible. So our much better Nook was still out of power. We called again, and were sent a return mailing label and the promise that the power cord was on its way. And lo and behold, a power cord arrived the very next day.

Then another power cord arrived. Then a Nook battery. And another battery. And another. And then another power cord. In the end, I think we received a total of four power cords and six batteries. At that point, we called Customer Service and said straight out, "I think we need to talk to a manager for this." The highly bemused manager did manage to straighten things out and told us we could return the whole mess to a brick and mortar store. So that's we did two weeks ago, making the day of a couple sales associates. Phrases like, "I need to call Steve over so he can see this too" were said. We all had a jolly old time and finally got everything settled.

But I had been planning on ordering the books for my library from the Barnes and Noble website (to take advantage of the nifty educator discount they give me), and part of clearing up the confusion involved the manager putting a temporary alert on our address. So to make sure that our order 1) actually arrives and 2) doesn't unleash a new flood of extraneous Nook accessories, I decided to hold off on making the order for a while.

Monday, November 26, 2012

There and back again

Oh my, when I lost NaBloPoMo, I did it good and hard, didn't I? I don't have anything resembling a good excuse, even. Mostly that I just kept falling asleep immediately after putting the kids to bed, and general busyness. Then we drove to Boston and back for Thanksgiving.

The drive on the whole wasn't too bad, even Wednesday night. The first part of the New Jersey Turnpike was under construction, cramming six lanes of traffic into three, with predictable results. We spent a significant portion of that period gazing soulfully at the entirely empty section of highway next to us as we poked along at 15 miles an hour, although there were enough areas of dire construction to let us know exactly why the whole section was closed. But after that, it was clear sailing, and very similar for going home on Friday.

Thanksgiving itself was lovely. Good food, family we don't see often enough and a very cute and sweet nephew. I think I may have to declare next year that I'm not able to work the day after Thanksgiving, sorry. As it turns out, they can deal, contrary to what I've thought all of these years of working the day after Thanksgiving.

In other news, poor James has a cold. It's not his first, but definitely the first to make him obviously sick, as opposed to sleeping more than normal and intermittent coughing in his previous two. His nose is running, his cough sounds terrible and as a fun bonus, his eyes are perpetually goopy. His eyelashes are clumping together, despite frequent wiping. Poor gunky baby.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thank you for breastfeeding?

This evening, we went to story time at our local bookstore, which turned out to be a bust because they were having a book fair for a local elementary school, resulting in rampaging hordes of children and interruption of regular programming. While we were waiting for coffee in the cafe, I sat down to feed James before we got on the road. I usually don't bother to use any sort of cover these days, mostly because a combination of James not caring for his head being covered and my forgetfulness in bringing one has meant that I've gotten pretty good at my "reach down my shirt, unhook my bra, lift shirt and pop baby on without flashing all and sundry" technique. I was a bit nervous about it in the beginning, but the sheer frequency that newborns need to be fed means I had to get over it pretty quickly if I ever wanted to leave the house. I've been lucky enough to never have anyone say anything negative or pay much attention to us, which is really how it should be. Babies need to be fed, and it's not my problem if anyone can't handle being reminded that there are breasts under my shirt, especially when they're not actually seeing said breasts. No one should be overwhelmed by the awesome power of my boobies.

So you can imagine how surprised I was when a woman hugged me from behind, thanked me for nursing in public and then handed me a card saying the same thing. It was a card from a breastfeeding advocacy organization, so this woman wasn't so lunatic as to make up her own business cards for to thank breastfeeding women for doing their thing, but really...well, okay. Um. Thanks, I guess?

I mean, I can see value in wanting to counteract the intimidation many women feel about breastfeeding in public because of the negative reactions they can experience. I'm torn between feeling gratified because breastfeeding even the easiest newborn is a hell of a lot of hard work and not wanting to encourage the implication that successful breastfeeding makes me a better mother than a mother for whom it didn't work out, or who didn't try at all. After all, I'm that mother (the one for whom it didn't work out) too.

But mostly, I'm just bemused that I now have a business card complimenting on my baby feeding choices. How... professional?

Friday, November 16, 2012

* So far, James has had approximately 2 ounces of yogurt and 3 ounces of pear as the sum total of solid food in his lifetime. Until today, when Alec found a box of matzoh and was walking around handing us all pieces of it. He's so sweet when it comes to sharing food. And then I noticed James sitting on the floor, gumming a piece of matzoh. He was not at all happy when we took it away from him either.

We usually take the cautious approach to introducing potentially allergenic foods, and in particular delay introduction to nuts. But I get the feeling that unless we decide to simply not have those foods in the house, it will be a freaking miracle to keep those foods away from James with Alec.

* As it turns out, I'm the only person at work who can work the day after Thanksgiving, so my museum is closing that day. And just like that, we suddenly had two days off in a row surrounding a holiday, which means we could actually leave town. So we're going to spend Thanksgiving in Boston with B's sister. Whee! This will be our first family Thanksgiving in 6 years. I'm all agog in anticipation.

* Hopefully, we'll be able to stop by the Public Gardens at least long enough to see the statue of the Make Way for Ducklings ducks for Katherine. Come to think of it, it's been just about exactly a year since we did our first FIAR unit on Make Way. That hardly seems possible, and yet at the same time, the online school seems like a distant, vaguely unpleasant memory. Meanwhile, we have just finished the world's longest unit on dinosaurs and are about to move onto telephones. Life is so much more interesting when we have control over what we study.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Perchacnce to dream

Recently, James has been resisting falling asleep while nursing. He pulls off, clearly full, but is also clearly distraught with tiredness and tosses himself around, whining and shrieking. I usually wrap him up, pop a pacifier in his mouth and hold him until he falls asleep.

But it would take an utter fool not to recognize the flashing neon signs of a baby ready to be put on the path of putting himself to sleep, so tonight when he started doing his tired baby pterodactyl routine, I wrapped him up, popped his pacifier in and put him down in his bouncy seat. And he lay there calmly for a long time, going from looking curiously around the room, to a thousand-yard stare, to drooping eyes, to... completely asleep? Great Caesar's ghost, who is this child? If I hadn't been in the delivery room, I would never believe any baby who sleeps like he does could be a child of mine. As it is, I occasionally wonder if he's a changeling sent by the fairies to confuse me.

My children don't sleep. Katherine could only fall asleep when left completely alone and after fussing for ten minutes, when she would actually deign to sleep. She went through long hideous, mind-rending periods where she would be awake for never less than two hours in the middle of the night. Alec slept wonderfully as long as he was always in contact with another human body, at least until he would cheerfully rise to greet the rosy-fingered dawn at the bracing hour of 5:30. So James, who has regularly been sleeping an astonishing 6-8 hours without waking every night after falling asleep without the slightest fuss, is entirely foreign to our experience with babies. Kind of like discovering an exotic, yet very easy to tend South American orchid in your marigold bed.

Not that I'm complaining. No, no, no, no, not at all. In fact, I'm crossing every appendage I have and knocking on an entire forest to make sure that merely talking about this in public won't cause him to suddenly start waking every 45 minutes all night long, like a proper child of mine.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

At the movies

B had the day off today, so we went to see Wreck-it Ralph. I hadn't thought much about it when I saw the previews, although it looked like a fun concept. Then I started to hear good reviews, and now that I've seen it, I really agree - it was a great, well-thought out movie. It had lots of great touches to appeal to people who played arcade games in the 80s and 90s, but also a really good story and great worldbuilding. Some of the action at the end was a bit much for our sensitive kid, but Alec thought it was great. There was certainly nothing as traumatizing as the end of Toy Story 3, which had me sitting there surrounded by sobbing children thinking, "Are you freaking kidding me, Pixar?" (and yet Wreck-it Ralph was a demure PG, while Toy Story 3 got a totally unjustified G rating. I suspect shenanigans with Disney and the ratings board here).

We saw a preview for The Hobbit. That's one I really hope we can see in the theatre. Unlike LOTR, the Hobbit was a book I loved as a kid, so I'm eager to see it in film.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Baby notes

* Sigh. I'm not deliberating missing days, I just keep being so sleepy by the time of night that I have hands free to type that I can't stay awake long enough to do it. Which is more or less the reason that blogging in general has been so sparse in the past year or so.

* James has sprouted a tooth! Is it one of the two teeth on the bottom that have been pushing about as hard against the gums as they could without actually poking through? Why no, it's the one on top that came through completely silently which I didn't notice until he flung his head backward off of my lap. Sneaky little thing. I think I felt actual tooth on the bottom this morning though, so it's probably two teeth now. James is the latest of our children to get teeth, but he seems to be making up for it in volume.

* James also tried his first solid food tonight - vanilla yogurt. He ate about an ounce without much enthusiasm and a generally dubious expression. He's never been a fan of the flavor of anything except breastmilk. His reaction to Zantac was understandable, and I can't fault his being less than pleased with receiving formula in a bottle when he's used to human milk from the tap, but he also dislikes the highly sugary tylenol and ibuprofen, which the other kids have always enjoyed. I think he may become our picky child. I guess tomorrow we'll try applesauce. I haven't been too eager to get him on solids, but it's occurred to me that a nice solid meal in the evening might make him lose the need for a midnight meal, so I'm going to give it a bit more of a try.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


This has been a remarkably busy evening of doing not a lot. But between grocery shopping, nursing the baby, and attempting to work on some sewing, here I sit, up way too late and not having written anything. And since I need to work tomorrow, this will have to be it for tonight.

Friday, November 9, 2012

James at six months

17 pounds, 5 ounces and 27 inches. Not as huge as his brother and sister at that age, but a respectably sized baby nonetheless.

He smiles his way through life, showing off his delicious round cheeks and double chin. He even managed a smile at the nurse giving him his shots this morning, in the pause when she switched from one fat little thigh to the other. He has a very ticklish neck and never fails to giggle while I'm cleaning out under the folds under his chin. He also thinks his brother and sister are absolutely hysterical.

In physical developments, he is sitting unsupported, grabbing everything in sight and rolling all over the place. He hasn't managed to wiggle his way across the floor yet, but he still manages to work his way around to wind up a couple feet away from where he started. He has two teeth so, so close to pushing through, as well as four lurking close under the surface.

His coos are steadily turning into babbling. He's also discovering the upper ranges of his vocal register, making it a fun guessing game to figure out if he's really distressed or just performing vocal exercises.

I highly recommend having a jolly little fat man like James in your life. He's a happy baby at a very happy age, and we're so very happy to have him.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sweet relief

I haven't said anything about the election here (well, let's face, I having been saying much at all here for a while), because I've been so tense over the outcome I just couldn't do much more than sit and twitch nervously whenever I contemplated a Romney presidency. There's just so much hanging in the balance right now, from the environment to reproductive rights to health care reform to the economy that means we just can't afford a Republican president right now, at least not the sort of Shiite Republicans that seem to be getting elected these days.

So all I can feel right now is deep relief. Obama certainly isn't perfect, but he's good enough for the things that really matter.

Sad panda

Poor Alec was quite a sad panda today. He's been snotty and coughing for a couple days, but seemed perfectly chipper until this morning, when he actually asked me to put him down for a nap. He was clearly exhausted but having trouble staying asleep, so I finally bribed him to stay in bed with the Nook, on which he can watch Netflix and will sometimes get him to lie still long enough for sleep to catch up with him when he's fighting a nap particularly hard.

But then he came downstairs crying that his face hurt. I looked at him and saw how his eyes were red-rimmed and had dark shadows under them and took him to the doctor. And it was a darn good thing we managed to get that last-minute late afternoon appointment, because the doctor took one look in his ears and said it was no wonder he was miserable, since they're both infected. Poor little guy.

I'm trying to decide if three doses of antibiotic is enough for him to be able to go to preschool tomorrow. He perked up quite a bit with some ibuprofen, but was still clearly under the weather this evening. I guess we'll see how he is in the morning. I don't want to send him to school sick, but it's going to be a pain and a half to have to take him when I vote tomorrow.

Monday, November 5, 2012


For years, Katherine has been asking for pets: fish, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, a dog (her fondest wish), basically anything other than our boring old cats that don't like her. So after she showed she could handle the responsibility by feeding the cats on a regular basis, we started her on the lowest rung of the ladder of pet ownership : goldfish.

Tuesday evening, she came home with two goldfish with the seasonally appropriate names of Pumpkin and Halloween (my suggestion of calling the orange and black Halloween Kalanazoo College was soundly rejected). They swam around their new tank and all seemed well.

The next afternoon, Katherine frantically told me that Pumpkin's tail was caught in the filter. When we turned the filter off, it quickly became clear that he got caught because he was already dead. As he floated to the surface, we saw Halloween floating up there as well. Much distress followed.

We called the pet store to find out what might kill two fish in less than 24 hours, and not getting any satisfactory answers, scooped the bodies out into a tupperware dish to take them back to get replacements. But then the next morning, we looked in the dish to discover Halloween was still swimming around. We felt terribly guilty at the thought of the poor fish swimming around in three inches of water with a dead body all night, but put him back in the tank and went and got a new fish, Googly Eyes.

Then yesterday morning, Katherine came and told me that Halloween was once again dead. I went to check and he was once again floating at the surface. I poked him to get him into a better position to scoop him out and lo and behold, he started swimming again. At this point, all I could figure was that he either tended to list to his side when he slept or he should be renamed Lazarus.

As it turns out, Halloween actually died last night. In retrospect, a healthy fish shouldn't make you constantly wonder if it's alive or not. So far, Googly Eyes seems to remain bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but we feel awful at how disastrously Katherine's first foray into pet ownership has gone through no fault of her own. I knew that goldfish were short-lived, but I think we're all starting to get paranoid every time we pass the tank, wondering if the current fish will live out the week or not.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Falling asleep

It was a long, long day today. James is cranky from teething and slept poorly last night and Alec decided that his room would look better with two inches of clothing carpeting the floor from the tubs of outgrown clothes in his closet. And now I can barely stay awake. Which is all to say that I don't have anything interesting to say tonight, and I'm not sure I could stay awake long enough to type it if I did. So I'm doing the sensible thing and going to bed instead.

Lfie lately

* As I said yesterday, we came through the hurricane just fine. It got very windy, but didn't rain too terribly much. We never lost power, and while we saw a number of large branches and trees down the next day, most of our immediate vicinity was up and functioning. I think the suburbs were affected much more simply because they have more trees; I had not thought of that being an advantage of our blighted urban landscape, but silver linings and all that. All in all, we were very, very lucky, especially compared to New Jersey and NYC.

Really, we live in a very favorable weather area. We get about a foot of snowfall annually, it gets hotter than I would like in the summer, but still almost always below 100 and not terribly humid, we're not in a flood plain, we're not prone to tornadoes and we're tectonically stable. We do get hurricanes, but we have New Jersey absorbing the brunt of most of what comes our way.

* James is six months old. Stop it, relentless march of time! He has taken the longest of any of my children to produce teeth, but to make up for it, I can feel at least six right under his gums. Two on the bottom are very nearly through. Even though he's old enough and seems interested, I've been reluctant to start him on solids since breastfeeding is so easy right now. But if enough of those teeth pop through, I think I will swiftly reconsider my position on solids.

* Thanks to a generous grant from the Mom Foundation, Katherine is now spending two days a week at a local center for homeschoolers. It's called Talking Stick, and every bit as hippy-dippy as you might guess from a name like that. There are organized activities, but much of the day consists of putting children in a big room with lots of educational materials and letting them have at it. I'm not the sort of person who can take that approach in my homeschooling, but it definitely suits Katherine very well, since she can happily occupy herself most of the day with self-designed projects. I'm the sort of wet blanket who insists she learn to read though, so this is an excellent compromise. She can go make a mess for someone else to clean up, spend time with other kids and have people to help facilitate her ideas. When I picked her up last Thursday, she had completed a poster advertising for auditions for the play she had written. She had already played a dolphin in another play that day. Then the other three days a week, I'll do the organized academic stuff with her, which will be easier for not having to butt heads with her two days a week.

Friday, November 2, 2012

NaBloPoMo ho

It's that time of year again, isn't it? I have grave doubts about my ability to post every day for a month, but I'm going to take a whack at it anyway.

Halloween went just fine. We came through the hurricane with our power intact and very little neighborhood damage, so we were able to go on as schedule. We ended the evening with a very happy and sugared-up ghost and fairy, as well as a very happy dinosaur:




Monday, October 29, 2012

Blown away

So! We have a honking huge hurricane coming to get us. The eye of Hurricane Sandy is headed just south of us. We've brought stuff inside, stocked food, filled containers with water, and in anticipation of possibly losing power, eaten some of the ice cream from the freezer before it melts. Eating ice cream is an essential part of storm preparation that I think doesn't get emphasized nearly enough.

The schools and libraries are closed today and tomorrow, so we're all cuddled inside the house, hoping against hope that we keep our power and that whatever is giving Katherine a sore throat and fever is viral, not strep, because it will be a pain and a half trying to get her to a doctor. She's perked up after ibuprofen and a four hour nap (!), so I'm hoping it's just her version of what Alec had this weekend.

Right now, we're enjoying a warm meal of chili and cornbread while the wind howls outside. I'm grateful for our warm, safe house and at the moment, much more grateful than I usually am for our lack of close trees. Hopefully we will stay that way.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

That was the week and a half that was

Well! That was certainly a week and a half. No really, it's been an eventful week and a half. Although properly, it started two and a half weeks ago when I got a call from my mother on Thursday telling me she had been in the hospital since Monday.


I was in the middle of the grocery store, and while I called her back later, her phone kept cutting out, so I wasn't able to gather much more than that she had gone in for heart tests and they had decided to keep her for several days. She got out of the hospital the next day though, and seemed healthy enough to drive out to see us a week later for James's baptism.

So last weekend, my mother, her intrepid aide and my brother drove out to visit us and my aunt and uncle drove down from Connecticut as well. We don't get to see my aunt and uncle nearly enough given that we only live three hours away (thank you, weekend jobs), so we passed a lovely weekend catching up with everyone.

James was baptized on Sunday, wearing the traditional familial christening dress, now 106 years old. He was an absolute doll, allowing the minister to walk him through the congregation, smiling beatifically the entire time. He really is such a lovely, happy baby. If you're going to have a surprise third baby, I highly recommend having one like him.

My mother and brother stayed until Wednesday, so we got more of a chance to visit. And Doug and I went out to dinner alone with my mother so we could discuss various things about her health. On the whole, given that it was a conversation that largely revolved around what you could call end-of-life housekeeping, it was pretty good all things considered. It was established that yes indeed, we DID want to be called when she was in the hospital, preferably before she had been there three days. And my mother was even the one who brought it up, although my brother and I had gone in planning to talk to her about it. My mother had significant issues with her parents telling her about health crises - she learned about her mother's first heart attack through a letter written two weeks after the fact - so she's always felt pretty strongly about this sort of thing. Which is why it's been so surprising to me that this is the second time this year I haven't learned she was in the hospital until she had been there several days. We discussed making sure Doug and I both have all of the power of attorney we need (I have financial, but I'm not sure if I have health) and discussed other such cheerful topics as whether the insurance company would want any of her medical equipment back or if we needed to dispose of it. Not cheerful conversation, but necessary and good to have.

As it turns out, she was in the hospital because she's had a heart murmur her entire life, and they were doing a heart catheterization to establish what kind it is, but couldn't because there was too much pressure in her heart from fluid in her heart and lungs. So they admitted her for a few days to get rid of it and established that the heart murmur isn't a bit deal, so we only need to worry about that pesky congestive heart failure. She's not sure what her prognosis is, but as she said, it's never enjoyable to receive a diagnosis with the word "failure" in it.

Sigh. I don't feel ready for this yet. It feels like when you're dealing with a person in their late 80s or 90s who have a significant health crisis that really knocks them down and then have a series of little things for the next few years until the final big thing hits. So far this year, Mom has been in the hospital twice for her heart, once for a UTI that got out of hand and then got C. diff. Only she's only 74. It's too early for end-of-life conversations and accelerating loss of health.

So: family - good! Congestive heart failure - bad! Baptized child - cute! It was a long week but I guess that pretty much sums it up.

Friday, October 5, 2012

James at four and five months

My goodness, where does the time go? One minute you're crossing the tabs on your stick-like newborn's teeny-tiny diapers, the next minute you're straining to lift a fat, wiggly five month old. At his four month appointment, James was 15 pounds, 12 ounces and 26.25 inches. That's around 60th percentile for weight and 85th for height. So he's officially more than doubled his birth weight.

This is the handsy age. He grabs everything in reach, from toys to hair to plates, and examines them with scientific keenness before attempting to bring them to his mouth for the purpose of a vigorous gumming. Speaking of gums, he's been working on getting a tooth through for about a month now. Oddly, despite the fact that this is often a very drooly age, he barely drools despite the impending fang. He's still something of a spit-up volcano, although not as often. That has the effect of making the spit-up a more random event, lending a charming air of Russian Roulette to holding him without a protective cloth.

On the gross motor front, he went from happily lying on his back and doing half-rolls to one day rolling back onto his back every time I put him on his front. Then, the day he turned five months old, he rolled from back to front, and he's barely done anything else since. I will be interested to see how soon he can work up an army crawl. He's starting to take more than a few seconds to topple over from sitting to lying down. Katherine is very determined to teach him how to sit up, so we'll see if she can have him sitting independently before he's six months old.

He favors us with happy conversational cooing, with a couple consonants and proto-babbling being introduced just before four months. He's just happy, period. He doesn't seek out attention the way Alec did, but pretty much anyone who pays attention to him gets a big smile (not surprisingly, he's a very popular baby. I admit I'm hardly impartial, but he's got the sort of Gerber baby looks and cheerful mien that attracts a huge amount of attention in public). He adores his big sister and brother, and the huge smile he gets every time he sees them makes the aggravation of multiple children worth it.

Did I mention he's a happy baby? Happy happy happy. And we're happy to have him.


Monday, October 1, 2012


One thing making our lives complicated:

Our street is under major construction at the moment. Our water main broke at the beginning of August, sending an exciting 50-foot arc of water spraying into the air. As it turns out, our water main was built in 1917, so the city has decided that 95 years of deferred maintenance is probably enough and is spending the next six weeks replacing it.

It's making life difficult of course, since while it's still possible to drive on the street, whether or not we'll be able to get out during construction hours is a crapshoot. But it's interesting to see what a child's paradise our street has become. It's normally very busy, but now it's completely blocked off to through traffic and kids feel free to roam the street. I had no idea there were so many bikes on the street before now. So this is what it's like to live on a quiet suburban cul de sac.

Two reasons I'm proud of Katherine:

1. As we were on the last mile of driving home from Michigan, and I saw that the empty restaurant space in a local mall that excited us with recent construction, was going to be... Hooters. Katherine heard our disgusted reaction and asked what was wrong with "the owl restaurant." Hedging a little, I responded, "They aren't very nice to their waitresses." Katherine's reply: "Well, we won't ever go there then."

No, we most certainly will not, but I'm proud of her for deciding that on her own (she also hasn't mentioned Chik-fil-a once since I explained to her why we don't go there, which also makes me proud).

2. During math this morning, she was asked to solve 9 + _ = 17. Helping her out, I pointed out to her that she had recently solved 9 + 9 = 18, so what did she think you would add to 9 to get 17? She thought for about a second and said "8." Go kid! Now _that's_ what we're aiming for with math - not just mechanical adding and subtracting, but really seeing how the numbers fit together, and being able to figure out that since seventeen is one less than eighteen, you would need to add one less than nine to nine to get seventeen.

Man, I love our math curriculum.

The three step process that reveals the depth of my baby-brain deficit:

The birthday check B received from my mother and deposited in the atm was sent back to us because my mother forgot to sign it.

Reaction 1: What a pain, we'll have to send it back to my mother to sign or get her to send another and it will take forever, etc.

Reaction 2: What a shame I didn't catch it before we tried to deposit it. I have power of attorney for my mother and I could have signed it.

Reaction 3, a truly embarrassing number of minutes later: Hey, I have power attorney. I can sign it NOW.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Liner notes

* We're back from our whirlwind trip to the Midwest. My mother was pretty chipper and happy to see us, despite the chaos of five more people in her two-bedroom condo. I suspect she felt having James smile at her made it worthwhile. I can't blame her - he DOES have a very fetching smile.

Anyway, despite the hassle and fatigue of travelling cross-country with three small children and currently suffering from the world's fastest onset cold (slight sore throat Friday at dinner, then wham! Full on cold misery by bed), I feel better for having made the trip.

[Edited to add: well, a week ago when I started this, I was feeling chipper; now, I have a stomach bug, a sinus infection and James has decided to embark on an epic growth spurt. So I'm not so much with the chipper now, unless you mean the wood chipper it feels like my sinuses have gone through.]

* I've been back at work for a couple months now, although only working Saturdays to avoid the weeks on end of never having a day off together that's our normal life. I've started Sundays again this month though, so life is slowly grinding its way back to normal. Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.

Hey, remember our insane treasurer of the friends group at work? The one who wouldn't pay for anything, even when the group had approved the expense? We engineered a coup and got her voted out (really. We signed up every person we possibly could, got them to show up for the meeting and had them vote for our candidate). Life is so pleasant now. The new treasurer is positively giddy to hand out money. And he doesn't even accuse our manager of theft like the last treasurer, which is quite a bonus. I mentioned to him that it would be nice to have some money to refurbish the children's non-fiction section, thinking I might eventually get some pittance, and the next week I was told there was $300 for me to spend and more in the future. Oh my. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the possibilities, but I narrowed it down to the worse areas - science, recent history and geography and minority groups. I went on a shopping spree at the bookstore and got us a lovely number of books that recognize that Pluto isn't a planet, that dinosaurs are no longer thought to have been cold-blooded and even a book on that new-fangled concept global warming.

Next up with my last $100: a book on the civil rights movement that dates after 1968, a book on world religions that doesn't refer to Muslims as Mohamedans, and some books on Native Americans that don't make me cringe, just as soon as I get over the stabbing headache caused by reading reviews of books on Native Americans.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Best laid plans

Today was supposed to be the first day of school for us. But instead, we made the living room an unholy mess last night in the process of rearranging it for school. And then Alec kept waking up, and James kept waking up, and then it was past midnight, the living room was still a mess and I hadn't gotten to prepare anything for today and we had to go to bed for a night of terrible sleep, followed by an early morning featuring such lovely events as Alec breaking the new bookcase we had put together the night before.

By the end of all that, I decided one of the benefits of running your own school is that you can set your own damn schedule and aside from half an hour on Reading Eggs, school will start tomorrow, when hopefully everyone will have had some damn sleep.

I'm not interested in doing anything too rigorous this week anyway, because we're taking an improptu trip to Michigan next week. We had been holding off any plans for a trip out this summer, because it seemed better to ration B's vacation time in case it would be better spent on his being able to take days off to save my sanity. Personally, I wasn't terribly interested in giving up potential sanity time for the pleasure of taking a cross-country trip with two small children and a breastfeeding newborn.

But thanks to wonderful, wonderful summer camp, my sanity stayed pretty much intact. Meanwhile, my mother has been having problems with infection lately, so when I told B I was worried about her, he responded that he had the vacation time, so why not go out? Why not indeed, especially since Alec's preschool is closed for the next two weeks.

But first, we shall attempt some actual education tomorrow. Wish us luck.

Friday, August 10, 2012

James at three months

People who stop to coo over James tend to exclaim about how tiny he is (including an odd woman who was exclaiming how tiny he was compared to her baby who was a month older, when as far as I could tell they were exactly the same size), but I can never see it. Partly because at the 90th percentile for height, he isn't tiny for his age, but mostly because all I can see is how much bigger he is than the newborn that was so impossibly skinny we had to cross the tabs on his newborn diapers and 0-3 month pants fell right off him when I held him up.


firstdiaper P7250132

That's one month and three months. It's kind of astonishing how quickly a baby can turn from scrawny, sleepy newborn to a fat little flirt. In James's case, while he's been smiling regularly since six weeks (his first was at four, but they were pretty rare at that point), it was around 10 weeks that he suddenly turned on the charm and got really interested in the fun game of social interaction. Now, he pulls away from nursing and gives me a big grin and a long coo, and I have to be careful not to catch his attention so he doesn't get distracted from eating by the sudden need for a flirting session. And I must say, he's very good at flirting. He gives any object of his affection gigantic grins and earnestly coos at us. He's starting to really enjoy being sung to, although I wonder how much of it is the music versus the fact that I'm paying attention to him. He's laughing more and more, first at the mobile above his changing table and then when Katherine figured out that he loves having his hands clapped together.

His neck is ticklish, although I wouldn't stick your finger in too far since he has a prosperous artisanal cheese-making business in the many folds. He's still a very spitty baby, but we only intermittently feel the need to give him Zantac for his reflux.

So far, his current interests are: Me, his father, his siblings, the cats, his hands and anything dangling above his head, from mobiles to dangling toys to the ceiling fan. He can hit dangling toys fairly reliably and can grasp anything near his hands, but has yet to reach out to grab anything successfully.

In the gross motor arena, he can hold his body stiff enough to "stand" and support himself with his legs when held upright. He can hold his head and upper chest off the ground while on his stomach. He can routinely roll onto his side, and a couple times has rolled onto his stomach while on his side, but that was on the bed which isn't a very even surface. Still, I think rolling over from back to front is speeding up on us. He can wiggle himself around to 180 degrees from where he started while playing on the floor. Aaah! Independent movement - the beginning of the end!

His nighttime sleep continues to amaze me - usually from around 8 or 9 pm to 5 am, then another couple hours after that. I've actually started putting him down in the bedroom to sleep on his own. His naps aren't as great - they tend to be short, even in the sling, and you certainly can't think about putting him down. I did get a swing recently, and with proper sleight of hand, he can be put down asleep in it and stay asleep for probably about as long as he would have slept.

I love three month olds. They've left behind the crankiness and unpredictability of newborns, but they're still small and cuddly. They're the epitome of sweet and adorable. And I love our three month old most of all.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Five and ten years

Ten years ago last Thursday, I was in our new house, still surrounded by boxes and half-done home improvements, when I got a phone call in the middle of the afternoon on a Friday. It was one of my mother's best friends, telling me that my parents had gotten in a car accident driving home from South Dakota.

Five years ago tonight, I got a phone call from my mother telling me my father had died. The end of July has historically not been kind to my family.

There's a psychologist with a weekly program on our local NPR station who's quadriplegic after a highway accident where a wheel came off of a semi and came through his windshield. He says the last thing he saw was a big black thing coming out of the sky onto him. As a psychologist, he said he's found that most people have a moment like that, where something huge comes out of the sky and changes life forever. By my mother's accident, we had been getting a steady rain of tires between dying grandparents, health problems and my father's diagnosis. But the accident was the really life changing, derailing event. I went from your typical young adult in my mid-twenties who didn't have to worry about much more than myself and my husband to giving up plans for a second Master's degree so I could take care of my parents. I don't think I have to explain what it was like to lose a beloved father to a terrible disease.

And yet, five and ten years later, life has gone on. My mother lives her life with the help of aides, and has traveled all over the world. I hate how condescending much of the language people use surrounding disability, so I recoil from adjectives like "heroic" or "inspiring," but I do admire her adventurousness and her willingness to travel despite the difficulties. Similarly, I go through my days pretty normally and spent today dealing with one kid getting over sickness, another starting to get sick and a lack of water from the water main break last night (it sent water shooting over the top of three story houses - pretty cool).

I'm not sure exactly what my point is here, except that I miss my father and I worry about my mother. Disaster rains down on us and somehow we keep limping along.

Saying good night

I miss you Dad. I wish you could have met your grandsons. They both look like you.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fall planning

I've been using some of my lovely, lovely free time to do some planning for school next year. I came to the conclusion a while ago that while we like Five in a Row, it takes a huge amount of prep work that I just don't have time or energy for this year. I'm not planning on giving it up, but we'll row less often and focus more on canned curriculum that doesn't require much more than opening the book and doing the day's assignment. I feel like second grade needs a bit more structure as well, which will be easier to do with more of a focus on daily assignments.

So, the plan so far:

Language arts: Daily reading, Reading Eggs, Writing With Ease volume 1, something for spelling (All About Spelling and Spelling Power have both been recommended to me)
Math: MEP 2A and 2B, plus some computer games to help cement basic math facts
History: Story of the World volume 1. I intend to start the year with some prehistory, along with a unit on dinosaurs for science, then move into SOTW. K has a lot of questions lately that would be addressed by covering the Big Bang and the concept of evolution, we'll start there and progress up to humans before getting into recorded history. I also intend to do some heavy supplementing and maybe take some time out periodically for American History, since SOTW volume 1 is all ancient history.
Science: This is the area I don't have plans to use a specific curriculum for. I think we'll spend another year following K's interests. If they tend heavily in one particular scientific discipline, I might look into a curriculum, but otherwise I think it's better to take a broad approach.
Geography/Social Studies: This will partially be covered along with history. We will probably include this mostly with any Five in a Row books we do.
Art/Music: This is the exciting part - there's a homeschooling enrichment center opening right near us! So based on the sampling of classes they had this summer, we'll be able to get Katherine into some good art classes (and possibly something music based, but so far she steadfastly refuses to take a music class). She's also starting ballet this fall.

I've been thinking a lot about what to do with Alec as well. He's doing preschool two days a week, but that leaves three where he needs to be occupied. I don't think three-year-olds should be pressured into academics, but he's really interested in letters and numbers, so it would be nice to find some "school" things to occupy him while I'm teaching Katherine, and also some stuff to do with him while she's on the computer. There are computer games at the library that can occupy him quite a while that he can do himself, so I'm looking for more computer games that preschoolers can do independently. Puzzles can keep him occupied for quite a while, so periodically getting some new ones should help. Beyond that, reading together and books that help him practice the alphabet and counting should make him happy while Katherine is working independently.

I can't quite believe the end of the summer is so close. We need to come to some decisions about our long-term schooling plans, but for now, we have the makings of a fun year.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Oh hi

This time, I actually have a good excuse for going so long between posting - the "a" key on my keyboard broke, and that's a hard letter to avoid. Although I did get pretty good at messaging B without using it, but it tended towards sentence fragments, and paragraphs were problematic. Now, I have a new keyboard so I can write about Aaron the Alligator and his pal Adam the Alliterative Asp until the cows come home.

*As of three weeks ago, Alec was 38 pounds and 40 inches tall, 95 percentile for both weight and height. He's built like a brick. James was 11 pounds, 7 ounces and 24 inches. He's cracked the 32nd percentile for weight but is still 90th for height. He's gaining at about half a pound a week, so he's probably around 13 pounds now. Not too shabby for a baby who was 6 pounds when we brought him home from the hospital. He's theoretically still a skinny baby, but he has an awfully round tummy for someone who's supposed to be skinny. The doctor commented that he certainly didn't look like a baby who's failing to thrive.

*The kids are loving their summer programs, and I'm loving having them out of the house. Katherine has a new best friend, is learning archery, karate and how to swim and is having a fantastic time. And three days a week, I get to just sit and let the bsby nurse as endlessly as he wants to, while I get to watch whatever I want. It's funny: when Katherine was a baby, being home all day with a newborn seemed like the hardest thing in the world. Now, it seems like a vacation.

*I wound up getting the stupid portfolio in with no problem. As it turned out, I put far too much stress in over the meeting with the evaluator. I was worried about Katherine refusing to talk to her, and my portfolio not being detailed enough. Then she answered the door and it turned out to be someone I know from our homeschooling group (whose last name, it turns out, I didn't know). If I had known it would be her, I wouldn't have worried for a second. Instead, we chatted for a while, she took Katherine out to see her chickens and that was that.

Now, I need to submit our affadavit for next year before August 1. This shouldn't be a problem, since I'm more or less planning to print out the one I did last year and change the dates, but I'm having trouble remembering how close August 1 actually is. Plus, I have a glimmer of a memory that our doctor is on vacation until August, which presents a significant problem with the whole issue of get the medical forms dealt with. Ah well, we'll call the school district to ask how to deal with this and likely get 12 contradictory answers, but I doubt they're on the ball enough to come after us for educational neglect before we can get our medical forms in.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Two months


A week ago last Saturday, James turned two months old.

He's a sweet little baby. He's waking up more and enjoys looking at dangling toys and can hit them with his hand. He still loves the ceiling fan and contrasts of light and dark, but also exploring our faces and making eye contact. He's smiling more and more. Alec as a baby is a hard act to follow when it comes to smiles - James isn't nearly the sort of extroverted flirt Alec was, but he still gives us sweet little smiles which are all the more lovely for being harder to come by.

Mostly, he still devotes his time to eating and sleeping. He is a devoted nurser and spends quite a bit of the day eating. He no longer needs a nipple shield, thank goodness, and we achieved a new landmark this morning in church when I finally felt like he's good enough at latching on without crying or other nonsense to nurse him in church (it's not the sort of church at all where anyone would be bothered by my nursing a baby during the service, but my own hangups made it hard for me to try it when I wasn't sure if he wouldn't pull tricks like crying around my nipple for a while before finally latching). I look forward to the day when he doesn't want to spend quite a bit of the afternoon and all evening nursing, but I feel quite a bit of pride when I see his beefy little legs and a chin for every month and know that I'm responsible for every ounce of that delectable fat.

Part of the reason he eats literally all evening is that he's still sleeping like a champ. He's only two months, so sometimes he likes to mix it up and only sleep four or five hours, but he's still mostly doing a six to eight hour stretch at the beginning of the night, and sometimes even nine. He's developing a nice pattern of going to sleep for the night between eight and nine and sleeping to sometime between four and six. It's like magic. I knew there were babies in the world who sleep, I just never thought I would give birth to one of them.


Oh yes, more pictures at the usual place.



A week ago Saturday, Alec turned three years old. A week or so before that, we gritted our teeth and finally cut off the mop of curls, and just like that, my baby was gone and this little boy was standing there.

I won't know his actual measurements until tomorrow, but he's the size of most of the four-year-olds we meet. His language has suddenly exploded in the last two months, and now I hear about dino rexes and monkeys all day long. He knows most of his letters, can count to twenty and makes a mean Lego tower.

He's my big boy. And he's so very, very three. Happy Birthday, sweetheart.




A week ago Thursday, Katherine turned seven years old. How did my baby get so big? According to the doctor last week, she's 49 inches and 50 pounds, long and skinny. She's getting so competent. I feel like she's on the verge of big things in the coming year, where she'll move from being on the cusp of a lot of things to mastering them.

She's fantastically creative, an excellent big sister and an all-around great kid. Happy Birthday, big girl.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Airing of the grievances

I've been mentally composing blog posts for the past two weeks, but never quite getting to it because of the many things in my life conspiring to prevent me from typing. In no particular order:

* Alec has been out of preschool for the past two weeks. We had known about last week, because his preschool year ended a week before his summer program starts. However, he wasn't able to go to his last week of preschool, for absolutely infuriating reasons. For the past couple months, he's had molluscum, an utterly harmless virus that causes painless bumps on your skin. There's no real treatment for it, except for unpleasant sounding things like freezing or scraping the spots, or medications that may or may not work after a few weeks. So unless there's a problem, you just wait it out. It's really common, and as I said, he's had it for a couple months. Unfortunately for us, it's on his face, and the preschool called us concerned about a couple of the spots the next-to-last week of preschool. We humored them and took him to the doctor (K had it in preschool as well, so we recognized it right away), who wrote us a note saying that it was harmless and there was no reason he couldn't attend school. But the preschool director saw that it was contagious and refused to let him attend, even after talking to our doctor on the phone. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that he almost certainly caught the virus at preschool, but as far as I know, there was no effort made to inspect any of his classmates to see if they needed to be sent home because they had this terrible virus. Just Alec, because he was unlucky enough to get the spots someplace visible.

So we need to find a new preschool for next fall, because aside from being nail-spitting mad, molluscum can last for months and it's entirely possible he'll still have it in September. I'm hoping that the drive to his summer program won't be too bad and we'll be able to send him there in the fall. It would have the advantage of removing the time pressure of getting him potty trained before the fall.

Meanwhile, he's been home for two weeks, and he's developing an advanced case of Three, mostly in the form of finding it funny to defy us. Summer camp starts next week and it can't come soon enough.

* I'm still working on the stupid homeschooling portfolio. It's turned out to be more complicated than I expected, because I stupidly didn't read the stupid guidelines closely enough and discovered that while I had been keeping a stupid book log, it was supposed to be a dated stupid book log. I feel dumb now. And I've been a bit busy fudging reconstructing the stupid book log.

We're meeting with the evaluator on Monday, so I have to have it done by then. I should, in fact, be working on it now.

* I'm beginning to suspect that James has reflux. It took a while, because he hasn't been doing the classic arch away during eating, although he's starting to get fussier during feeds. Instead, he's falling in a pattern of eat for half an hour, fall asleep and sleep for 10 minutes, wake up when the acid makes it too painful and want to eat again to soothe the pain. Repeat on endless loop throughout the day. I can usually get one longer nap in the middle of the day where he can be put down, and he's getting pretty consistent with an 8 hour stretch at night, which is saving my sanity. But other than that, it's me pinned to the couch all day long, feeding him endlessly and I find it difficult to type around him. I know he's getting plenty of milk, because he does an excellent Vesuvius impression (in addition to the copious emissions from the other end). Meanwhile, I'm going slowly crazy sitting trapped in one place while my two older children engage in spirited attempts to kill each other. He's getting fussy enough that I feel justified in calling the doctor on Monday instead of waiting until his next appointment, nearly two weeks away. I might develop bedsores if we wait that long.

* This isn't actually preventing me from typing, but it's weighing on my mind: shortly after getting home from the hospital, I got a call from my mother's main health aide saying she was in the hospital after a period of atrial fibrillation. As it turned out, one of the smaller arteries going to her heart was 80 percent blocked, and she was placed on medication to break it up. But she's been very low energy ever since, and when I discussed it with her aide when they were visiting that one doctor at the hospital said she was showing signs of the early stages of congestive heart failure.

So yeah, that's super fun. I've known for a long time that people in wheelchairs often live shorter lives. If nothing else, Mom has a perpetual UTI because she has a catheter. It's sent her to the emergency room a couple times, and I'm sure at some point she'll get sick with something else and it will rear up while she's weakened and make everything far more complicated. But being prepared for the possibility of my mother starting to develop life-threatening problems doesn't make it suck any less when it happens.

* Oh yes, did I mention I have a cold? That's super convenient right now.

So to sum up: I'm busy and stressed. But I'll try to find more time to type after the stupid portfolio is in.

Monday, June 4, 2012

James at one month (and two weeks)

At the doctor on Thursday, James weighed in at 9 pounds, 1 ounce and measured 23 inches. Since he came home from the hospital at 6 pounds, 1 ounce, that's a gain of three pounds in a month. Not too shabby. It's good to know all that nursing is doing some good. In other physical developments, he's lost all of the hair on top of his head, giving him the same hairline that his great-grandfather had, and has developed a raging case of baby acne. This isn't the most attractive phase of infancy, but he's still cute.

What can you say about the developmental accomplishments of a one-month-old? He's having more alert periods where he's awake without wanting to eat. He's fascinated with the contrast between light and dark, which makes him enjoy staring at the woodwork, our hairlines and ceiling fans. He's making eye contact more often and has given me a couple smiles (although he gave his best one yet today to the ceiling fan. I guess the person who gave him life just can't compete). He's taking interest in dangling toys and has started trying to hit them. He's pretty good at holding his head up. All just about exactly where our other two babies were at at one month.

One thing that distinguishes him from his predecessors (and I have to touch wood, cross all my extremities and spit to ward off curses when I say this), is that I think this one is a sleeper. He usually sleeps for a 6-8 hour stretch every day, and at least one long nap, usually more. Mind you, the long stretch isn't always at the most convenient time, like 4pm to midnight, but the fact that he's capable of sleeping that long bodes well for when he's more clear on the difference between night and day. I've actually had to decide to break my cardinal rule of not waking a sleeping baby and not let him sleep more than three hours during the day. Trust me, that's a decision I never had to even think about making with his brother and sister. We can also put him down when he's asleep. At this age, his siblings were living in the sling, because it was the only place they would sleep. We use the sling with him, but it's not essential. We actually forget it sometimes when we go out, and it's never a disaster.

Another thing I hesitate to say is that breastfeeding is really going very well. He's obviously gaining well, and it's entirely on breastmilk. We've introduced bottles, although he's not a huge fan, but it hasn't even been one a day. He generally gets one to give me a break in the evening, but because he sleeps so well in the evening, it's often not necessary. We're still using a nipple shield, but today, in about hour 7 of cluster feeding (hurrah for the six week growth spurt. Blargh), I experimentally offered him the breast without a shield and he latched right on. I can't say breastfeeding a newborn is easy, but I can see a day in the future when breastfeeding will be the convenient experience everyone touts, as opposed to the draining, all-day-on-the-couch experience it is now.

So that's James so far: easygoing, loves his food, loves his sleep. I really can't complain (except during all-day cluster feeding days like today. I reserve the right to complain bitterly about those).


Monday, May 28, 2012

One month

James was one month old on Wednesday, but a screwup with our health insurance paperwork made us push back his one-month appointment by a week, which means I still don't know how much he weighs. Phooey. I'm not too worried because he's getting visibly longer and fatter. His stomach has a pleasing roundness and he's working diligently on a second chin. He's clearly about to outgrow newborn diapers, fits into size 1 and when I tried a cloth diaper on him today it was clear that while it was large, it fit just fine. So I don't need a scale to tell me he's gaining well, but I want to actually know how much, darnit.

In any case, I'm holding off on a one-month developmental update until we have his official stats. Since he's only a month old, it all boils down to "becoming slightly less larval." Cute, but larval.


Last Friday, we stopped by the Friends school that is holding the summer camp we're planning on sending K to so we could hand in the registration paperwork. As B ran into the camp office, the rest of us sat in the car and I realized that the group of students running around on the lawn were in fact playing Quidditch. I think K is going to have a great time at this camp.

Heck, I think I'd like to go to this camp.

My main worry is dropping her off the first day. In the past year, the social anxiety K has always had has ramped up quite a bit. When I tried to leave her in the gym for a homeschooler's gym class this spring, I wound up getting called back in to sit with her for the hour it took for her to warm up enough to feel ready to participate. Once she did, she was fine and stayed fine for the next six weeks of classes. So I'm fairly sure that once we get past the first day of camp, she'll be fine. It's just getting to that point. I don't have a lot of hope that we'll avoid any drama the first day because she's already showing anxiety. She started out gung-ho over the idea of camp, progressed to worrying about spiders and thinking maybe we should find another camp that wouldn't have spiders, and then finally to outright refusal to go, within the space of three hours.

We've never had to deal with dropoff anxiety before - K ran off into daycare and preschool with no problem. That left me wholly unprepared to have to peel her off of me and leave her sobbing on the gym floor, feeling like crap. I suppose we should talk to the camp, since surely any camp that takes children down to 2 has dealt with this sort of issue.

Sigh. You would think getting a child just like you would help you know how to deal with them, but no. Not really. Having been a shy and anxious child myself doesn't help at all. If anything, I wind up overempathising and I never know when to push and when to respect her boundaries. I suppose it has helped in that I've never showed her The Wizard of Oz because it terrified me at her age, and I think being the kind of child who got scared easily has helped me judge what movies and books are too scary for her. On the other hand, I mildly bullied her into seeing Tangled in the theater for a second time because the rest of the family wanted to see it and I still don't know if it was the right move. She enjoyed it at the time, but complained about having been scared for a long time afterward. Should I have respected her when she said it would be too scary? Or was it good for her to be exposed to a little bit of scariness? Damned if I know.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

So last week, B's aunt called up and offered to help pay for summer activities for the kids. Cool! we thought initially. Swimming lessons for K and help paying for the summer program we had just signed Alec up for the day before. But as we talked, it became clear that no, she meant actually paying for a full summer program for both kids. Oh my goodness. And yippee! It didn't take any time at all to find a four week program for K at a local Friends school that's right on the way to drop Alec off, and as a bonus, one of her friends is going as well. There are longer programs we could send her to, but I think four weeks will be a good compromise between getting her out of the house and giving her some introvert down time for the summer before we start school again.

I'm all agog at the thought that for a month, I'll have three days a week with only the baby. Yippee! I love my children, but I could really use some introvert time myself.


I keep thinking of other things to write as I go through the day, but the sleep deprivation has made them drip right out my ears in the 3.2 seconds a night I'm allowed to lie horizontal. Plus, ever shred of concentration I have right now is going to our stupid portfolio. I honestly think that it's a good thing to require homeschooling parents to prove to the state that they're actually educating their children, but right now I find myself in the bizarre position of actually wishing we lived in New Jersey, where the only requirements for homeschooling are a vague handwave in the direction of your school district to let them know you'll take care of that whole education thing, thanks. Since I'm not sure a million dollar check could convince me to live the same state as Christ Christie, that should adequately convey the degree to which this stupid portfolio is a pain in my ass.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


How you can tell James is a third child:

He's lying in my lap, blissfully asleep with a full diaper. And because he's a third child, I have no intention of waking him up to change it unless he starts developing diaper rashes or decides to protest. Until then, if it isn't bothering him, it isn't bothering me. As an experienced parent, my first priority is always on "blissfully asleep."


B's parents left last Thursday (leaving behind a rearranged basement, some very nice plants in the backyard and our eternal gratitude), which means shit is about to get real around here. B will be home from work for the next two weeks, which will cushion me from the cold hard reality of life with three children for a little while longer.

Life being outnumbered by our children is going reasonably well. We're getting a good bedtime routine down, and except for a stomach bug throwing it into chaos last week, the older children are actually going down pretty easily. The nighttime itself is much dicier - James will often go for at least one extended 5-6 period a night, but it might not always be at a useful time. Sunday, for instance, it was from 4:30 to 10:30. Not exactly helpful, baby.

Yesterday was devoted to figuring out how to get Alec out of the house for the summer. His current preschool has a summer program, but it's full time only, and that feels like a big jump from the two days a week we've been doing. So we checked out the preschool at our church today, which will let us do only a couple days of week on an individual weekly basis and have the advantage of being quite a bit cheaper. I think it will be worth it, even though it will be more driving. It will be good for all of us for him to have time out of the house with well-rested people who have planned activities for him, and it will save my sanity to have one less kid in the house.


As for the oldest kid, we're keeping her somewhat occupied with a minimal schedule of reading and math, and that's more than plenty for the moment. Last week, I had to ask to take over math instruction for the day because I couldn't figure out how to do it. In my defense, our math curriculum is designed to teach problem solving and algebraic thinking, so it wasn't just straight addition and subtraction. But still. Five terms of upper-level college math and a BA in computer science and I was so tired I had to look at the answer manual to figure out a first grade math sheet. Sigh.

I do have a few more things beyond reading and math planned to do soon to round out our portfolio. Do me a favor and bug me to get the portfolio done this week, since I really need to make myself do it while B is home and I still have some time and energy. Bleah.

On a completely different note, we managed to see Avengers last weekend. I think it might possibly have been the best action movie I've ever seen (and the least problematic, which I admit is pretty low bar, but I was pretty happy with how little cringing I had to do). The interactions, both positive and negative, between the team members was fantastic - of course, who would expect any less that great dialogue and character development from Joss Whedon?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

One week

We got home last Thursday, after a reasonably quiet hospital stay. Life at home with 3 children is remarkably calm for now, thanks to the heroism of B's parents, who do a fantastic job of keeping the older children occupied and relieve me of the need to worry about their physical needs, allowing me to spend my time on James's physical needs instead.

So how's it going?

Me: not too bad for a week post-surgery. I'm mostly off of narcotics. I'm still pretty tired and weak though, beyond just the tiredness of highly interrupted sleep. I spend a lot of the day on the couch, so it's easy to get illusions that I'm stronger than I actually am. Then today I walked up the stairs twice in relatively quick succession and later went out to Target, and was quickly relieved of any notion that I'm anywhere close to my normal energy levels.

I have all the normal lovely post-partum hormones, but one benefit of this being my third time around is I recognize them for what they are, which makes it easier to ignore them. That doesn't stop me from crying over a broken shoelace though.

Breastfeeding: I almost hesitate to say this, but I think it's going pretty well. We went through the usual first couple days of poor latching and frustration, then the discussion with the pediatrician over the large amount of weight the baby had lost. Like many things, I discovered that once you go through this with your third baby, it's all much less fraught. It also helped that with K and Alec, the problem was that my milk didn't come in until day 5, but by day 3, they were so frantically hungry they refused to try to latch any more. This time, my milk was actually coming in by day three, but James was having the worst time actually latching for any amount of time. So I suggested we try a nipple shield, got one from the lactation consultant, and had an entirely drama-free nursing session that ended with the baby falling off the breast like a swollen tick with a trail of milk drooling out of his mouth. And since then, I wouldn't say it's been easy, but we've been exclusively breastfeeding. He's producing plenty of wet diapers, lots of appropriately colored poop and had gained an impressive amount of weight at his first pediatrician appointment. The thing I could live without is his recent habit of spending ten minutes screaming into my nipple about how hungry he is before finally latching on and getting on with it. My best guess is that he's enraged over the fact that milk doesn't immediately squirt into his mouth the second his mouth gets near my nipple, which kind of sucks because it means I should delay introducing a bottle, since I don't want him to know there are easier ways to get milk. Of course, there's nothing that makes me feel more like handing him off for a bottle like trying to convince a crying, hungry baby to just latch on already, dammit. I know it will get better over time. It's just frustrating to make through to that point.

James: well, he's a newborn, which is to say that he pretty much eats and sleeps, with intermittent crying. He was 6 pounds, 15 ounces, and 21 inches, which is the 20th and 90th percentile for weight and height respectively. He is a long, skinny baby. When I heard his weight, I thought we would have to go out and buy some newborn size clothes, since all of our baby clothes start at 3 months due to our propensity for huge babies. But then I found out his length, and discovered that it doesn't really matter what size I put him in, he's going to swim in them. The only real difference is that in newborn clothes his wrists stick out too.

He has all four limbs, I swear.

At a week, he's already starting to have some alert periods when he's not also eating. He's also had a couple nights where he slept in some longer blocks. The six hours he did Sunday night wasn't as great as all that because he achieved it by cluster feeding until 2am. But Monday and Tuesday, he slept from 8:30 to 2, and then until 7, which is excellent for a newborn. Too bad I had stayed up until midnight waiting for him to wake up for one last meal before bed. I know far too well not to count on current performance guaranteeing future returns when it comes to newborn sleep, but I can even live with what he was doing before, which was eating every 2-3 hours during the day and 3-4 hours at night. It's a modest hope for that to continue, but hopefully realistic.

So to sum up: we're surviving, the baby is great and we'll see how things are going in a week when the grandparents leave.

Totally worth the chaos

Monday, April 23, 2012



James Corey Atkinson-Freeman was born today at 11:49 AM. 6 pounds, 15 ounces, with a healthy set of lungs. We're both a little shocked at how tiny he is compared to his brother and sister, who were both 9 pounds at birth, but he's absolutely perfect.

Baby tomorrow

Well, later today at this point. But in about 8 hours, we're leaving for the hospital and will hopefully have a spiffy new baby not too long after that. Oh my.

I know that this hospital has wi-fi (unlike the one I was in with Alec, where we were told they didn't, then discovered they did on my second admission when I brought along my laptop so I could watch movies), so hopefully I'll be doing well enough tomorrow evening to update with pictures and vital statistics.

Monday, April 9, 2012

So! I'm not sure where the past few weeks went. Busyness, mostly. I have at least one doctor appointment a week, I enrolled K in a homeschoolers gym class and I took K back to the urologist and the eye doctor. That takes up a lot of our days. Somewhere in there, we continue to provide our child with an education and I continue to gestate a baby.

* All goes well on the pregnancy front. An ultrasound on Monday revealed that Godric is estimated at 6 1/2 pounds (my doctor did an ultrasound Wednesday as well and estimated him at 5 1/2 pounds, which just goes to show what a big margin for error ultrasounds have at this stage. Personally, I'm inclined to go with the ultrasound tech, who spends all day long measuring fetuses). It also showed that he's very much like his sister. Firstly because he made it impossible to get any good pictures by curling up in a little ball and putting both his hands AND feet in front of his face. But also because he's lying transverse across the top of my abdomen. That would explain why my stomach is largest at the top and rather pointy. I can still wear pants that I had to give up before 30 weeks in previous pegnancies, because all of the baby bulk is above my waistline. On the plus side, since he's not in my pelvis at all, the pubic bone pain I've had before isn't as bad this time. K was transverse too, but was happily lying in pelvis like a hammock, while Alec favored various weird positions within my pelvis, often involving his head lodged in one of my hips. With both of them, at this point I was mostly wondering when my pelvis was going to split right in half, whereas now, it's painful but not as bad. On the down side, a baby lying right under my ribs is free to happily kick and punch away at my cervix and bladder, activities that my previous babies had to give up before 30 weeks. Ow. I'm not exactly thrilled by his habit of shoving his head into my ribs by pushing as hard as he can against my hip either.

Anyway, we already had a c-section scheduled (as it turns out, it's very hard to find a doctor around here who will let you attempt a vaginal birth after two c-sections, and at this point, I just don't care enough to try), so mostly I feel amused that Godric has decided to make it so very necessary.

* It's a little hard to absorb that I'm having a baby in two weeks. We're using our three-day weekend to rearrange our bedroom, and now that the baby's dresser is set up in there, I'm hoping we can dig out clothes and diapers tomorrow. At that point, we'll be at least minimally prepared. There are plenty more things we should do, like go through and see what bottles are reuseable and stock the freezer, but we'll at least have clothes, diapers and carseat ready.

* In other child news, K is getting glasses. I noticed a couple months ago that her reading was markedly better when she held the book about six inches away from her face, so this doesn't come as much of a surprise. I'm pretty sure she knew she needs glasses too, because she was vehemently opposed to the idea of going to the eye doctor, and every time the topic came up, she would yell, "I don't need glasses!" Not exactly a master poker player, dear.

Once she was actually in the chair, thankfully she was really very cooperative (something I was very worried about because she's been displaying a level of shyness and stranger anxiety lately that I find challenging, to put it mildly). She happily picked out a pair of pink glasses and was disappointed to find out she would have to wait for them, so hopefully it won't be a problem getting her to wear them consistently. Actually, I think it won't be a problem at all to get her to wear them once she finds out what life is like when you can see clearly. I'm going to be interested to see what happens to her reading and writing after she has glasses.

* I'm having a baby in TWO WEEKS. TWO. And then there will be three small people around here that we're expected to take care of and send to college. Eek.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


* I think we're finally starting to recover from Daylight Savings Time. I know it's nothing new for the parents of small children to hate the time change more than the general population, but truly, it's baffling to me how moving the clock an hour later can cause our children to wake up three hours earlier than normal. Sunday went fine, with both children sleeping until their normal wakeup times, which were an hour later by the clock. But Monday morning, Alec woke up at 5, which his body should have thought was 4. K woke up some time between 3 and 4, and couldn't get back to sleep until around she finally collapsed in a three hour nap around 9. Tuesday, everyone overslept, then this morning, the kids were finally up at their normal times. Yeesh. All this from a one hour time shift?

* In other news, I'm giving birth April 23. That's less than six weeks from now. Eek. How did that happen? And our total baby preparation is that we finally settled on James as a first name, mostly because we couldn't think of anything better. Oh yes, I also bought a cute little outfit when we found out he's a boy. Oh, poor third child. I hope you don't mind your total lack of fanfare and new clothes.

Part of it is that we need to buy him a dresser, which we can't do until the weekend after next. Once we do that, it will feel worthwhile to pull out the newborn clothes because we'll have a place to put them. That will also make it necessary to do the bedroom rearranging we've been planning. And I suppose when we have the tubs of baby clothes out, I'll find the infant diapers and we can get those ready too.

* Moving plans have been put on hold due to complete lack of anything remotely good on the housing market at the moment. I'm getting a little sick of finding only 1) wildly overpriced houses, 2) houses that are only the square footage advertised if you include the roof, and 3) obvious scams (why yes, we'd love to rent your 4 bedroom house for $500 a month! We'll just mail that security deposit to you sight unseen). We've re-upped with a six month lease, so we'll see what things are like in August. Meanwhile, I'm hoping to get some major purging and rearranging done, which seems to be my version of nesting. I want to get a better homeschooling space set up, and finally finish cleaning up the basement so we can spend more time down there this summer.

And now that I have all of this planned, all I need to do now is find some energy and develop the ability to walk without feeling like my pelvis is going to fall apart.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lost week

Last week started so well. The kids were better and we were set to start in on Hawaii and volcanoes. Instead, B came home puking on Tuesday and slept most of Tuesday and Wednesday. I wasn't throwing up, but felt like someone had dropped a 50 ton weight on my head. I managed to keep the children and house from falling into too much squalor and kept K on track with reading and math, but that was it. Thursday, B was well enough to go to work and I thought I might be in the clear, until I started puking. Thank goodness Thursday is a preschool day for Alec, because I spent the day dozing on the couch while K spent quite a lot of the day on the Nick Jr website. Does it count as education if she played a bunch of Team Umizoomi games, which involved math? Okay, preschool math, but at least a bit better then spending all day marinating in cartoons. Friday, Alec was home but thank goodness, so was B, so I slept most of the day and was something resembling better.

So here we are in a new week and maybe we'll actually get something I planned done. Thank goodness for Reading Eggs is all I can say. I hadn't planned to use a computer program to teach my child to read, but there's something about the impartiality of the computer that she responds to a lot better than having to read to another human. She's willing to spend large amounts of time playing and according to it, has advanced over a year in reading skills in the past month.

In other news, an ultrasound yesterday estimated Godric's weight at 32 weeks as 4 and a half pounds, which puts him right on track to be the same size as his brother and sister. Somehow I feel justified in my refusal to worry about growth restriction. He also appears quite healthy and active, and is quite definitely still a boy. So all's good on that front.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Random Updates

I had such good intentions last week of posting more. And then the puking started. First K, who was quite ill for two days and not terribly energetic for a third. Then Alec, who threw up twice one evening and played quite cheerfully in between. He napped more than usual yesterday and today, but it goes to show how much easier it is to kick a virus when you're not perpetually fighting the infection in your bladder.

Anyway, among other news:

- We saw Arrietty last Monday. It was just so fantastic. The pacing was slow, but the animation was so gorgeous that we didn't mind in the least because we just sat and took in all of the details. K loved it too, and we've started reading The Borrowers to her at bedtime. That's significant because it's the first chapter book she's shown this much sustained interest in. I think she inherited my difficulty with absorbing things through just listening without anything visual to back it up. I can read until the end of time, but I have real difficulty absorbing the same book if I hear it. Similarly, being told how to do something isn't nearly as helpful to me as a nice diagram or set of written instructions. Auditory processing is not my strong suit. Up to this point, K has only wanted books with pictures for her to look at as we read, I suspect because the pictures helped her keep up with the story. But we're up to chapter 5 of The Borrowers, so she can listen to longer texts without pictures if she tries.

- We took K to a new urologist a month ago. He was quite nice and K even liked him enough not to dive under the table upon seeing him, so that's an improvement. We're now on a regimen of frequent water drinking and cranberry pills, which seem to be working pretty well. We have a standing antibiotic prescription if we need it, but we haven't needed it so far. I'm really hoping this is a sign we're making progress.

- Our infant carseat picked up some mold on the straps while being stored in our last garage. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decide if it was possible to clean it off without damaging the strength of the straps. Finally, last weekend was the last opportunity for Babies R Us's baby equipment trade in, so I sent B out to get the car seat out of the shed so we could look at it again and decide once and for all if it was salvageable.

As it turns out, all of my indecision was rendered moot when we discovered that a squirrel had been chewing on it. Not to mention pooping in it. And at some point, apparently ran off with the cover.

Well, that certainly made the decision a lot easier. So now we have a new infant carseat. I haven't done any other baby prep, but Godric can now show up and we can at least take him home from the hospital.

I think I'm in a bit of denial about the fact that I'm 31 weeks pregnant and will most likely have a baby two months from now. Part of it is that having had two babies at the end of June, my internal pregnancy clock is two months off. Mentally, I feel like I should only be five months along. My body, however, is acutely aware that I'm 7 months and is letting me know it doesn't appreciate it with the joyously traditional pelvic pain of the third trimester. So I really do need to start thinking about baby planning.

*We're getting baby clothes back from the nephew who wore them last summer, although we need to buy at least a few 0-3 month clothes with long sleeves and pants, since a late April baby needs warmer clothes than a late June baby.
*We have plenty of small diapers, although I should probably order some more one size covers because unless a potty miracle occurs, we're going to have two in diapers for at least a while. Eventually, I'll have to decide what to do about the larger cloth diapers, which are getting decidedly ragged, but we have at least six months for that.
*We gave away some baby equipment, so we should decide what we want to replace. Do we really need a baby swing? A double stroller would be really nice. We can look through some consignment stores for those.
*We also really need to decide what to do about the bed situation. We currently have a queen sized bed, which hosts both of our children on a fairly regular basis, leaving and I desperately hugging the edges of the bed. Adding another child to the already overstuffed bed will require an advanced degree in Tetris. When Alec was born, we put K's old toddler bed next to ours for extra room, but he's using it now. So do we get a king sized bed? Buy a twin to shove next to our current bed which will eventually get used by one of the older children?

Two months is starting to seem awfully close, all of a sudden.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

FIAR: Owl Moon

We've been covering Owl Moon by Jane Yolen in a lackadaisical way over the past week. Owl Moon is the story of a girl who goes out with her father on a winter night in hopes of seeing an owl. So naturally we've been learning about owls and the moon.

You can buy an owl pellet online, but K's grandfather was visiting and brought a couple that he had found in the woods. Since these were fresh from the owl and not nicely sterilized like the ones you find online, I was quite grateful that he was there to handle the dissection. The reason pregnant women shouldn't change cat litter is that it can carry toxoplasmosis, a disease adults barely notice but is dangerous to fetuses, and the place cats normally pick up toxoplasmosis is from eating wild rodents. Even after microwaving the pellets to help kill the germs and taking care not to touch them, I'm not sure I would have felt safe being that close to them. Anyway, with the help of some plastic utensils and a multitool, the pellets were dissected and it was deduced that they were the remains of a bird and some sort of small rodent.


We spent another day reading all about owls. We also did a neat art project I found called Winter Birch Tree, where you put down masking tape to look like tree trunks and the moon, cover the paper in dark blue water color paint, sprinkle some salt on to give the effect of snowflakes, and then peel up the tape so you have a lovely nighttime scene of trees and the moon. If one wanted, one could use the opportunity to point out the use of shadow in the art in Owl Moon while adding shading to the trees. We didn't, or at least as far as I know since this art project happened while I was at work. K's two efforts didn't have much resemblance to those on the web page I found the project on, but they're lovely in their own way and she had fun.

On our last day, we read a bunch of books on the moon and solar system, watched several videos on Discovery Streaming, and then did a project on the phases of the moon. It was a fun and productive day, but not in a way that gives me a lot to talk about.

So that was our week of Owl Moon, which was really more like a week and a half. I've been trying to plan out what we're doing in the next few weeks. At 30 weeks pregnant, my energy is pretty low and getting lower, so I think we won't be covering a lot of books as thoroughly as I would like. I'm also not cleaving terribly closely to Five in a Row at the moment. K keeps giving me requests for topics that it doesn't cover very well, like London, or her ocean obsession or her longstanding request to make a volcano. Added to that is the fact that FIAR is a bit poor when it comes to racial diversity or really much of any diversity outside of the USA and Western Europe. So next week we're doing a book on Hawaii (to be determined based on what I can get from the library), which will address the volcano desire as well as some ocean life. After that, I'm contemplating Robert McCloskey's One Morning in Maine and Time of Wonder jointly, which will give us the excuse to spend more time on the ocean, and even throw in some dentisty, another subject of interest (no, that particular choice doesn't address the lack of racial diversity, but they're good books for the ocean-obsessed child). Beyond that, I'm not sure yet.

Books used this week:

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
See How They Grow: Owl by Mary Ling
Owls by Tony Angell
Owls : the Silent Hunters by Sara Swan Miller
Great Horned Owls by Doug Wechsler
I didn't Know That the Sun is a Star by Kate Petty
The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons
The Moon by Elaine Landau
Moon by Steve Tomacek
The Magic School Bus Get Lost in the Solar System by Joanna Cole