Wednesday, October 31, 2007


These last couple of days of training have afforded me several instances of unwanted attention, but not attention directly related to my job or the class. These little vignettes are otherwise unrelated, but I found them interesting enough to share. Or maybe I'm just not as intellectually challenged by my class as I ought to be.

Monday at lunch, I headed to the mall food court. I parked outside one of the department stores, and walked through the dreaded first floor to get to the main mall. Mondays at noon must be particularly slow days for the cosmetics/perfume department, or else I had some sort of "sucker for overpriced junk" sticker plastered to my forehead, as I was approached by several pushy salespeople as I tried to speed through. I don't own perfume (most of it gives me a headache) and balk at spending more than $5 for blush at the drug store, so their advances were not welcome. I was tempted to explain to the lady who tried to tell me that her fancy nail buffer was the latest innovation that I have a $1 version at home that works just fine--but that would just be encouraging her to keep talking. I've walked through tourist marketplaces in third world countries with less obnoxious vendors. Sheesh.

Yesterday I had a run-in with the bathroom cleaning lady. I was pumping in the handicapped stall when she came in to clean. First she had to ask, in a rather annoyed voice, what exactly I was doing. After I explained that the power cord and the noise were a breastpump, for making milk for a baby, she started muttering about having to clean the stall I was in and how she didn't want to get in trouble for not cleaning what she was supposed to. I apologized for being in the way, and tried to ask for a couple of minutes to finish up and then I would relinquish my corner of the restroom for cleaning. After another minute or two, I cut my pump session short. As I was leaving, she did apologize to me and asked about the baby. She was older, but had nursed her own. Apparently she had trouble getting people out of another restroom in the building before finding me camped in this one.

Today's attention was less aggravating than the previous two days, but somewhat more mystifying. Walking to lunch, I believe I heard my first cat call in years. It might not have been directed to me, but the UPS driver (be still my beating heart) was looking right at me and the only other person around on the sidewalks was an older lady wearing a large shapeless overcoat. Not that I'm in any real haute couture myself--jeans and a black fleece slightly-nicer-sweatshirt. At Subway where I bought lunch, the cashier, and older (50ish?) man with an Eastern European accent called me beautiful. He also told me that the theme of the day was peace and unity, and had the air of the "would-be-eccentric-if-he-had-money" about him. Strange, but at least neither of my "admirers" were giving off those freaky-predator-stalker vibes, so I can safely be amused and flattered.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Practically a Vacation

I am taking a training class for work this week. Trystan has the tail end of a cold, and got his six month immunizations plus a flu shot on Friday, and the two combined have produced an irksome fussbudget who does not sleep more than 3 hours at a stretch. So this morning I was awakened by dueling alarms--my regular clock, plus the baby monitor. It could have been worse--he might have woken up 30 minutes before my alarm was due to go off, but at least then I might have gotten ready a little earlier.

My husband is staying home with Trystan and attempting to do a little work from home, so that meant that I had to take Charlotte into daycare before heading to my class--usually hubby drops off (or "puts down" as Charlotte calls it) and I pick up. She was unusually agreeable today, thankfully, and drop off went really well. Traffic was not quite as agreeable. Unfortunately, the class takes me in the same direction as most of the metro area, and only after a detour in the wrong direction for daycare.

While we were supposed to be working on exercises (it's a computer class), I snuck out and down the hall to the ladies' restroom to pump. With an extension cord stretched across the sinks and under the handicapped stall wall, I sat on the cold tile floor and tried to get comfortable enough to at least read a little of a fiction book I'd brought along. I do, at least, have a nice hands-free top so I don't have to juggle bottles and horns and worry quite so much about spilling all that effort in my lap or on the floor.

My day has had a bright spot: lunch. I had a little over an hour to eat where I please. I drove to the local mall and sat in the food court and had what very well might be my first child-free meal since Trystan was born that was not eaten a) at my desk at work or b) in the hospital cafeteria. I then had a few minutes left to walk around a shop or two and browse without worrying about strollers or running toddlers.

I've got three more days of this. Ahhhh. Heaven.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Pumpkin Patch

I did not grow up in the St. Louis area. Though I've been here since I started college (13 years now...boy do I feel old saying that), there are still a lot of things around town I am still learning, and many places that I never knew existed. Last week, Charlotte's daycare took a field trip to the pumpkin patch at Thies Farm. I had no idea this place existed. We really don't live that far away from the Creve Coeur location, and though I realized that there was some farmland and at least one nursery in that part of town, I didn't know there was a farm that was open to the public with a farmer's market, pumpkin patch, strawberry fields, etc. Not to sound like a commercial for the place, but I'm just mystified that I had no idea that it was there. I will have to remember the farmer's market in the future--they had a lot of good looking veggies in there, including beautiful bell peppers that were grown right near the pumpkins, instead of from Isreal like the ones from Schnucks seem to be.
The field trip was a lot of realy exhausting fun. For once, my "regular" work schedule was a benefit, as the group went on Thursday, one of my days off. I had signed up to go along and help, and was able to leave Trystan for the morning at the daycare while I accompanied Charlotte's class. We arrived around 9am, and I got to watch some of the class room dynamics as the kids finished breakfast and were branded (on their backs with stickers containg the school's address and phone number) and herded first to the potties and then towards the waiting collection of school vans and parent vehicles. Charlotte rode in my car--had she needed to ride in the school van, it would have been a pain as they only have booster seats and she's not heavy enough for one yet. I would have had to install her carseat myself in their van. Our group had 36 kids between 3 and 5 years old, and 11 adults--about half teachers and half parents. There were two school vans and at least a half dozen parent cars, and we looked like an odd sort of funeral procession as we drove the short way to the farm.
Each parent and/or teacher had 3-4 children to keep watch for in the farm's Pumpkinland play area--a neat kiddie play area constructed from haybales and tractor tires. If you havent' been there, it's a lot more impressive than that sounds. I had Charlotte and two other 3 year olds, and I decided that day that I'm thankful not to have triplets. At any one time, two girls would run one direction, and the other would run in the opposite direction. But, I didn't lose anyone and they all had a blast climbing through tunnels, across rope bridges, through the hold of a hay pirate ship (CinderCharlotte nearly lost a shoe there), down a big slide, and more. They had over an hour of playtime before it was our turn for a hayride. We had a tour of the farm, and the driver talked about all of the various things that they do (strawberry festival, Christmas trees, etc). Afterwards, there was a greenhouse with baby farm animals that the kids could look at. Then we all piled back into our caravan, and after all heads were accounted for, drove back to school. The kids got pumpkins and a mini coloring book to take home.
We enjoyed the farm so much that we went back again on Saturday, this time with my husband and Trystan, and some friends of ours. It was such a nice day Saturday that I think half of St. Louis County came also. Charlotte and our friend's son had more playtime in Pumpkinland. We skipped the farm tour hayride this time and instead hopped the wagon to the pumpkin patch to pick a few pumpkins of our own. They had obviously seeded the patch with pumpkins from another field, but there were still plenty on the vine, and all of them looked quite nice (not so bruised and beaten as the grocery store ones always are). I had Trystan in our front carrier the whole time, which made carrying a pumpkin kind of difficult (had one on my head for a while...that hurts). My husband would have carried them, except somehow we came away with three good sized pumpkins, and a very worn-out 3-year-old, which is more than one man can carry. Before we left, we browsed the farmer's market and picked up some fresh-picked sweet potatoes, pumpkin butter (like apple butter--there's no actual butter involved, just spicy pumpkin-y spread), apples (from Michigan as the Missouri crop was nonexistant this year, but yummy nonetheless), and a few other odds and ends. Both kids crashed in the car on the way home.

Charlotte, Trystan and I posing by a pumpkin horse.

This is Charlotte, looking for a little pumpkin amongst the giants. She's been very taken by a book called The Littlest Pumpkin.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Working and Schedules

I am currently working part-time, 3 days a week as a software engineer. The other two weekdays, I stay home with my kids. In theory, this is supposed to help free me (and my husband) to get things done that we’d be taking off of work for anyway—kids sick days, doctor appointments, errands, deliveries, etc. In reality, it seems much more difficult than that.
The sick day problem has probably given me the most headaches so far. I’m theoretically working Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and you’d think that the kids would have at least some of their sick days on Thursdays or Fridays. So far, I don’ t think that’s been the case for a single illness since I went back to work. My job is flexible enough that I can just go in on different days, without anyone blinking. The problem is daycare. If I work a Thursday or Friday, then I have to call and OK that ahead of time, so that they will have enough staff (obviously, I also have to pay more if one kid will be going 4 days that week instead of 3). I do still earn sick days, as does my husband, plus he has the flexibility to do some work from home. But I’ve earned like 2 total since returning from maternity leave (the leave consumed the rest), and we’re both also planning for known hospital stays.
Doctors, also, seem to want us to schedule appointments on other days of the week besides Thursday and Friday, so I get into the same issue as with sick days. In theory, I can be somewhat flexible with my hours, but it’s been difficult to impossible to make up hours with getting kids ready and/or picked up from daycare at decent hours, and managing break time to pump milk for Trystan. (Before you even suggest giving that up, the answer is No, that is non-negotiable for me. I breastfeed. Period.). Working from home is not an option for my job (protest all you like about my being a software engineer, but truly it is impossible).

As for errands, some can be done with the kids, and some just cannot. Unfortunately, until Trystan is walking and/or Charlotte is walking better, the number of things is more than the number I can do. Grocery shopping: by the time I strap Charlotte into the seat, and put Trystan’s carseat in the cart, there’s no where left for the food. The sling is an option, but that makes it rather difficult to pick up some things (and he’s putting his hands into everything). Doctor appointments for me: maybe if the case were severe enough, but Charlotte’s not patient enough. Picking up a package from the post office: I would need one hand to carry Trystan’s carseat (or push the stroller) and one to keep track of Charlotte. Where do I put the package? The sling is just plain out, because there’s no way to balance a box with a baby strapped to your chest (unless you have superior arm strength I suppose). Usually, my home days are spent doing kid-focused things: story time at the library, walks to the park, playing around the house. I sometimes get lucky and get some housework done when the stars align and both kids nap at the same time (I try to let Charlotte be involved in taking care of the house so that she learns, but some things are just not kid-safe). For anyone who thinks I have time “to myself” on my “days off”, I laugh.

Oddly enough, there are two possibilities for how to address my time issue: quit work altogether, or work more hours. The former has issues with money and health insurance, and is not realistic right now. The latter option seems counterintuitive, but might accidentally work. I’ve been kicking around going back 4 days a week instead of 3 after Trystan’s next surgery. That would still allow me one day off a week with the kids. We would actually have to pay for full-time at daycare, but that means that we have guaranteed childcare on any of the 5 weekdays with no special phone calls to make. Within a 2-week payperiod, it is also much more likely that I can flex a couple of hours here and there if I have to (my job allows flexible hours, but not partial sick days for appointments). Actually, within a 2-week payperiod, it becomes plausible to actually flex an entire day off so I could work 7 9-10 hour days and have 3 off days. Note I say “plausible” not “possible” or even “probable”. The other benefit is that at 32 hours/week I earn full-time pay for holidays (currently, only paid half for holidays), contribute less (none actually) for health insurance, and earn vacation and sick time faster. Obviously I would also take home more pay to start with (80% of my “regular” salary instead of my current 60%), but that’s actually at the bottom of my list of pro’s right now
If/when I make a switch, I will likely follow up this post with one about how difficult things are when working 4 days a week. I wish there were a better solution, but winning lottery tickets aren’t often found laying around where I can pick them up, and other creative financial plans haven’t been well-received by all stakeholders.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Six" more weeks to go

We've been six weeks away from having Trystan's colostomy taken down/repaired/removed/gone for something like 4 months now. The end is in sight, but for some reason that sight never seems to get much closer. I'm getting tired of waiting for this pot, but I'm continually assured that it will, one day, actually boil. At birth, we were told that he would probably be "all fixed" by 4.50-5 months of age. Before his last surgery (both times it was scheduled), we were told it would be about 6 weeks later when he would be "done".

We had another follow up with surgery this morning-the 3rd since Trystan's last surgery, his anoplasty (Honestly, I doubt I'm spelling that right, but the spell check is suggesting "amplest" as a correction...hah). We went back 1 week post-op for them to remove his catheter. At 2 weeks we had another visit and were given instructions and supplies for a dilation treatment that we have to do at home (A description of the same general process is here, if you really want to know). Today, at 4 weeks, another visit. The doctor said today that the final surgery will be in about 6 more weeks, though by the current schedule of dilations, he'd be ready in 4 by my calculation (what do I know).

Getting rid of the colostomy = baby who can poop in a diaper like every other baby = fewer medical supplies, explanations, worries about driving and traveling. It also means that we could hire (or beg) babysitters (or use a drop-off service like at the Y) without providing "training"
first (right now, the only folks who could really watch him for very long are the workers at daycare--even my In-Laws haven't tried changing his ostomy pouch). It will mean an increase in our use of baby wipes and diaper rash cream, but also means he can take a bath whenever we
feel he needs one, not just when his pouch needs a change (sometimes the things last hours, sometimes for days at a time, no predicting...), and that we can use baby soap and lotion anywhere on his body that we please (the oils in it keep the pouches from sticking, so we have to be really careful). There may even be swimming lessons in his future (I have the 6-12 month size swimsuit all ready to go, just in case!)

Only "six" more weeks.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ballet Lessons

We signed Charlotte up for ballet lessons through our local community
center. The class is half hour long, once a week, for 8 weeks, and cost
all of $24. That seems to be a really good deal, compared to the prices
for several local dance studios (that tend to run closer to $75-90/month
according to many websites I looked at). Charlotte loves to dance, and
I thought she'd enjoy the class-she took a toddler tumbling class about
a year ago and had fun (despite the class being poorly run by
alternating sets of teachers--which is why she hasn't gone back to

For her birthday, she got a ballet bag and cardigan sweatshirt from my
mother, as well as my baby's sister's first recital outfit (sequined
tutu and all) from when she was 3 or 4 and first taking dance lessons
(that same baby sister is big into dancing and even performs in a
semi-professional groups every Christmas). Charlotte was thrilled, and
loved to try on the outfit and play with the bag. I found her leotards
and tights at Walmart, and ballet shoes at Payless. She was excited
about all of it.

Her first class went wonderfully. However, she lined right up with the
other 3-year olds, also in their pink leotards and tights, and walked
off to the dance studio with the nice-looking instructor with barely a
backwards glance at me. The second class went just the same. She was
happy and enjoying her class, and practicing little twirls around the
house. Then came the third week. Trystan had surgery that week and I
was sleeping with him at the hospital, so my husband took her. She
threw a tantrum and would not go in the room with the instructor. The
4th week, Trystan and I were back home again, and dance class went

The last two weeks -5 and 6 of 8, have not gone well at all. Both
weeks, she's thrown screaming tantrums the moment we get dressed and
ready to line up, and will not go dance. The closest she would go is
outside the door to the room, watching the other girls through the
window, while holding desperately onto me. I have no idea what has
caused her trauma. She acts as if she's terrified of something, but she
can't (or won't) say what. She's never come back to find me missing
from the lobby, and except for a single fall the first week (for which
she earned an extra sticker and hugs from the teacher), she seems to
have enjoyed the classes.

The time is bad for me-5:30 on a Wednesday, which is a stretch when I
have to leave work, pick her up, driver her over, change her clothes,
and give her a snack and drink. I am also hauling Trystan along, and
he's usually hungry and fussy by the time we get there (I should have
plenty of time to sit and nurse him while she dances, if she'd just go
along into the room like she's supposed to). I don't know whether she's
just picking up on my stress, or what. I also don't know if she's just
having some sort of separation anxiety, though I'm not sure why. She
does go to daycare on Wednesdays, but is typically home with me on
Thursday and Friday (and the weekend), so she gets lots of Mommy time.
I have tried giving her lots of praise and positive attention for
dancing, and we've read Angelina Ballerina and played happily with her
dance costume at home. I have, admittedly, gotten rather irate with her
the last two weeks for her behavior--more for throwing loud temper
tantrums in public than for not wanting to go to class (she screams when
I suggest she go dance, and screams when I give up and head for the door
to leave..lather rinse repeat until we actually make it to the car).

I'm disappointed at her reaction to her dance class. I know some of my
reaction is because I took ballet and tap classes when I was little, and
remember them fondly. I enjoyed dancing a lot, in "pom-poms" in middle
school and the color guard in high school, and took a smattering of
dance classes in college. I was hoping that she would enjoy them too.
But the worst part is that I think she enjoys dancing, but is objecting
to the actual class. And I have no idea why. This reminds me of her
potty-training behavior (screaming fits whenever we suggest she go
potty, even though we *knew* that she had to go and knew that she knew
it also). This weekend, we had a playdate with one of her
classmates--the little girl and her baby brother are both within 2 weeks
of age with Charlotte and Trystan, and we all enjoyed their company.
Maybe that will help this week. And, maybe we're just out about $60 in
class fees and costumes and need to forget about dance classes for a
couple of months or maybe a year or two (or forever I guess).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rice Krispy Treats

I’ve been on a big Rice Krispy Treat kick since Trystan was born. Because I’m breastfeeding, with every one of Trystan’s hospital stays, I get meal coupons that I can use to get food from a patient cart, or as $3 off in their cafeteria. Hospital food is, well, hospital food, but it does have its bright spots. The cafeteria sells Rice Krispy treats that are about the size of a slow-pitch softball. That’s about 4 inches in diameter of crunchy, gooey goodness, for about $1.50. I ate a lot of those during Trystan’s first two weeks in the NICU, and had to have at least one during each of his last two surgeries.
I’ve made several batches at home since then, and I think Charlotte knows how to make them too by now. I can eat a whole pan of the things by myself in 2-3 days (it would go faster, but guilt settles in after about 1/3 of a pan….). Then again, how bad can they be—they’re mostly cereal (low-nutrient puffed rice, but still cereal) and the rest is marshmallows (sugar….yummm). Every now and then I consider adding some peanut butter or chocolate chips or even (gasp!) oats or other grains to sort of jazz them up (and maybe add a tiny bit of redeeming value to them). But so far I’m preferring my indulgence untainted.
Over this past weekend, I actually tried one of the pre-packaged ones at a company picnic. That was a mistake. After eating a couple of bites, I found my self sticking my tounge out repeatedly—like a dog with peanut butter stuck to the roof of its mouth—trying to scrape off the flavor, or at least air out my taste buds. I read the ingredients—Rice Krispy Cereal (so far so good), Marshmallows (that’s to be expected), Margarine (uh oh…here’s the problem). The list of sub-ingredients in the margarine were longer than the rest of the ingredient list put together. No wonder I hated them. I cook with butter. Real butter. (Also olive or canola oil. If really pressed by necessity of a recipe I still use shortening…but I’m getting farther away from that all the time). And I will admit to keeping a tub of “I can’t believe it’s not butter” (labeled as a “spread” made with buttermilk, not a “margarine”). But it’s been years since I’ve bothered with margarine. It’s not good for you, it doesn’t bake well, and it tastes nasty.
The moral of this story is: Thumbs down to pre-packaged Rice Krispy Treats. Thumbs up to the Childrens’ Hospital TreatsTheSizeOfYourNewbornsHead.

Monday, October 08, 2007


Trystan started on solid foods about a week ago. By "solid" I really
mean slightly thicker than the mommy milk he's been used to. You know,
baby mush.

In the grand tradition of disappointing babies with their first tastes
of real food, we chose baby oatmeal to start. If you've never had the
opportunity to taste baby oatmeal, well, you're lucky. It tastes (and
looks) a lot like powdered cardboard. Except for Trystan's, which I've
been mixing with mommy milk, so it tastes pretty much the same as what
he's used to getting from a bottle (or the source), except pastier.
Many folks choose to start babies on rice cereal rather than oatmeal,
which looks and tastes exactly the same as oatmeal but tends to
constipate them. It's no wonder babies spend their first couple of
months at the dinner table spitting their food out.

Tonight (or sometime this week), we're going to move to the next step:
vegetables. We're not cruel enough to jump straight to green beans and
peas (although properly prepared, peas can be quite tasty). Charlotte
got sweet potatoes as her first veggie, so Trystan will too. With
Charlotte, we used a variety of jars and homemade baby foods. Well, and
some non-baby foods like applesauce. I never understood baby
applesauce-you pay a small fortune for a tiny jar with the word "baby"
on it, when you can walk a couple of aisles over in the grocery store
and find natural applesauce made with just apples and water, and get a
large jar for just a couple of bucks. I digress. This time, I'm going
to attempt to make more of the baby food myself. I don't believe that
it will be a huge undertaking. I already have sweet potatoes, a
butternut squash, and a bag of organic carrots sitting in the fridge
awaiting their turn in the steamer. I'm planning to steam, roast/bake,
or nuke the veggies, and then puree them and then freeze in ice cube
trays. Last time I relied more on mashing up whatever we were having
for dinner (if it was baby-appropriate), and used jars of food for
everything else. If anyone has any advice here, please pass it on!

We've already waited longer than with Charlotte to start foods,
preferring to wait till after this last surgery. I'm not, however,
going to throw a large quantity of solids his way just yet, since he has
another surgery coming up (getting rid of the colostomy! Hurray!) And,
unlike a normal baby who would just start making stinkier diapers,
Trystan is still filling colostomy pouches with his solid wastes..and
the size pouch he's been using is getting a little small. If we weren't
about a month from getting rid of the things altogether, we'd probably
try to move up to a larger kid size rather than the newborn ones we've
had, but the larger ones are a LOT larger and we still have a couple of
weeks of supplies of the other kind to go through.

Well, to take this discussion back to where I started (and away from the
discussion of where it all ends), I believe that tonight's dinner menu
includes mashed sweet potatoes (with pork chops for those of us with
teeth). I hope he enjoys it more than his oatmeal!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Pickles, cheese, and a banana

I love having kids, but I hate it when they get sick. It's even worse when they get me sick as well. For years growing up, I really didn't get sick or miss much school. I think I was sick like 1 day in all of elementary school (truly--I remember being annoyed about that one day when several fellow 5th graders got awards for perfect attendance). I've been sick more often since Charlotte was born (since she started at daycare, actually), than I think I have in the previous 15 years.

Thursday when I picked up the kids there was a note on Trystan's classroom door about cases of stomach flu. Apparently he picked it up as well, and gave it to me. Saturday afternoon I tried to sneak away from the house for a couple of hours while everyone was napping and do some kid-free shopping and relaxing. About an hour later, I started not feeling so hot. After one quick trip to the nearest restroom, I gave up and drove home. Saturday evening was not fun--my stomach completely cramped up, and everything I'd eaten all day leaving by the nearest exit. No one else was sick (yet), so I was afraid it was actually food poisoning from a hamburger I ate at a festival earlier in the day.

Sunday morning, Trystan started throwing up. Babies and stomach issues are always a cause for concern, but even more so when the baby in question has needed emergency surgery after flu-like symptoms. Luckily, things seemed to be voiding him from both ends, and never stopped (so, just a flu and not a bowel obstruction this time). He threw up off and on till afternoon, and then started keeping down first pedialyte and then breastmilk. He's had one more incident first thing this morning, and I'm hoping it's the last hurrah. By about 28 hours, I was feeling ok again, and he's just now at about 24.

About midnight last night, Charlotte came into our room saying her tummy was sick. My huband took her to the bathroom twice, and nothing happened, so he let her suggle up in our bed. As I reminded him this morning, that was probably the wrong answer (the correct thing to do is go snuggle in *her* bed, as it has a waterproof matress pad...). Well, she tossed and turned and then spewed. In our bed. We picked her up and bodily carried her to the bathroom, spraying the bathroom en route (somehow she missed our carpet, but hit me--face, pajamas, and all). After changing our sheets and cleaning everyone up, we all got back to sleep--my husband in Charlotte's bed, Trystan in his own after waking up for a snack in the middle of things, me in our freshly-made up bed.

Today I get to play nursemaid--nursing one baby and playing maid to the other I suppose. Charlotte's tummy is OK so far this morning (knock on wood), but she's only been allowed peidalyte and some plain toast to eat. Trystan's napping. I finally am keeping down solid food--the first real meal since yesterday's diet of Propel, jello, and Ensure. There's a possibility that Charlotte's not really sick, but that her midnight escapade was fueled by the "nutritious" snack her daddy let her have before bed. Can you guess what that was?