Thursday, January 29, 2015

bring your baby to work day!

Remember when I used to get all jazzed about bringing Lola with me to work?? Well, it's for good reason. Having your sweet pup hanging out under your feet all day is just plain fun. Need a moment of stress relief? Pet your pup! Want to distract your coworkers? Invite them down to meet the dog! Really- dogs at work is the most fun.

But you know what's even MORE fun??

Bringing your Nuggie to work!

Sophie, are you stalking me? Everywhere I go, there you are. I will eat you.


Wanna guess why Millie got to spend the day at work with me today? I bet you don't even need three tries.

Yup, sick baby. Womp womp womp.

I'll spare you the play-by-play, but the bottom line is that now she has croup. And also, I should be given an honorary MD degree or something. I TOTALLY called this one, too. I'm 2/2 on properly diagnosing her issues before we even get to the doctor's office. If only they'd let me call in prescriptions...I could really save us some money. Oh, and I want a stethoscope, too. Then I'd be invincible.

So since contagious croupy babies aren't really embraced at her school, she spent the day with me. My goal was just to go in for a couple of hours and get my most urgent to-dos done...but as it turned out, she was quite a breeze of a work companion. She mostly snoozed in her Ergo. Or on the floor.

And since she's not mobile yet, even when she was awake, she was easy to just plop down on her pallet and she'd play with toys and entertain herself while I did productive Work Things. It was really quite fun. Plus, it had all the bonuses of bringing your dog to work- like cuddles when you needed a mental break, and providing plenty of distractions for coworkers and passers-by. I think people even like babies more than large black dogs, strangely enough. Although they weren't jazzed about her contagiousness, so maybe we'll call it even between Millie and Lola.

Anyway. It was nice to not have to use a day of PTO. Matt will keep her home tomorrow, so today was just a happy anomaly, but one I'm very thankful for. This goes down as Reason #2941 that I love my job: understanding about working parent issues to the max.

Remember in my past life (pre-Millie) when I had years of really hard decision making? changing things. Well, I'm gladly in a place where I don't have any really hard decisions to make right now. But it's like there's this void in my heart, so what I do to fill it is inflate really small choices into BIG FREAKING DEALS.

My current BIG FREAKING DEAL decision: which three Essie nail polishes do I purchase during Target's buy-2-get-1-free sale? Seriously. I've been debating this for over a week. It's a great deal, obviously. And I'm just SURE I need three new polishes. But like...which ones? You know how we've been sick for like 3 weeks? Well, we've had to get more than a few prescriptions filled at Target. And every single time I'm standing there, waiting for my prescription to be filled...I stare at the Essie display and debate my options. It's kind of insane.

Anyway, the sale goes through February 18, so I'm not pressured to make a decision too soon. I just can't decide. It's cold. It's winter still. I kinda want to get more dark winter colors!! But then...spring is around the corner. In April, will I regret not having bought any new pastels? Oh woe is me, this is so hard!!! (No, it's not. No need to tell me that this is ridiculous- I know already. But if there's a particular shade that you just KNOW I should get...feel free to tell me all about it.) Also, this can serve as a PSA in case you weren't aware of the sale. Now you can join me in stressing about the biggest $16 decision of your life.

And now I'm faced with another huge decision: what the heck do we eat tonight? We were still in sickness recovery mode last weekend and didn't do much cooking ahead for the week...and now it's time to pay the piper. Ugh. On the plus side, that's what Mexican restaurants were invented for, so yay.

Monday, January 26, 2015

goodbye, plague. hello, world.

I'm happy to report that the Plague of 2015 seems to have finally passed us by. Millie and I feel a LOT better, and Matt feels better, so...we're calling it a win. I don't know if my coworkers would agree, though. I went back to work today and was JUST SO VERY EXCITED to be out of my house, dressed, wearing makeup, having something to do, talking to people...holy cow. I think I experienced a day of what extroverts must feel like all the time. PEOPLE!!!! People everywhere!! People to talk to!!! Weeeeeeee peeeeeople!!! I mean, my enthusiasm for not being stuck in my house was so extreme that when I overheard some people wondering whether we may see a snowflake this week (which would naturally entail the entire city shutting down and staying home for days on end with nothing but eggs and milk for know, as in the thing I spend most winters diligently praying for), I gasped in horror and forbade Mother Nature from punishing us with such a thing. I am not ready for a snow week. Try me again next month, snow. This month, I love PEOPLE! 

Although we spent way more than our fair share of time just laying around, napping, groaning, and watching Gilmore Girls last week, at least one person in our family used their time 'off' wisely, choosing to master new skills and get super smart over the course of the week. I'll give you a hint: it wasn't anyone over two feet tall.

Look who decided she can sit independently now!

Look, ma- no hands!
She officially spends more time upright than toppling over, so I guess we call her a sitter? It's crazy. But it's really fun. She didn't wait long before she moved to Stage 2: sitting and grabbing whatever is nearby and looks awesome.

Who says grown-ups are the only ones who can sit on their tushies and eat all day long?
She can also sit up while babbling, spitting, laughing, and grunting. If she decides to whine or cry, though, she tends to crumple over. It's very dramatic.

Tonight she learned to splash in the bathtub with her left hand. Only her left hand, though. Right hand doesn't understand the game. I think she's going to be left handed, if handedness can be determined by observing the hickeys on one's hand and fingers in order to determine Hand Sucking Preference. According to that, the left hand is highly preferred. And also, it's the only hand that can splash. So I guess it's decided. Leftie it is!

But wait- I use my right hand to help me ponder my deep thoughts!
So we had book club on Saturday night. I was supposed to host, but because I actually like my friends and do not wish a plague on all of their households, I opted to host at Starbucks instead of in my living room. Pretty sure that was the right call. I already mentioned that we read The Rent Collector* this month and that I loved it. Luckily, I wasn't alone in my love. We had some ridiculously great conversation based on this story- we barely even had to use the discussion questions that were conveniently located in the back of the book (I truly love when authors do that, btw). That story just really lent itself to a lot of deep reflecting. Also, the girls in my club are super smart and have a lot of academic and professional experiences with poverty, power structures, literacy, and other themes covered in the book. I always love book club, but I especially loved this month because I felt like I left it a wiser, more compassionate person. Also, because I got to SEE PEOPLE. We haven't picked our book for next month yet- any suggestions?

I'm nearing the series finale of Gilmore Girls. It's taken me since October to get through this series re-watch, but it's been delightful. I'm a good 10 years-ish older than I was the first time I watched everything, so I notice things and relate to the situations differently than the first time through. Matt watches it off-and-on with me and tonight he was like "so how does the series end? Do they all die in a plane crash?"

Ummm...yeah. Because that's how rom-com series typically end.

Since I only have a few episodes left, I've been stressing (ha, not really. Promise.) about what to watch next. I think I've decided on Parenthood. I've actually never seen a single episode! I've always imagined it would be a show I would like (Reasons #1-48: Lauren Graham), but until ohhhhh, August...I just couldn't watch it. I's called Parenthood. Let me take a guess at what it's about. Hm. Probably a little more than jealous, bitter, childless Erika could handle for the past 5 years. BUT now everything's different and all that bitterness is only a distant memory (haha, not really that, either. but it stings a lot less.), so I think the time is ripe to watch. Plus, it's ending, so it's kind of a great time to get on board. I won't have to sit around waiting for new seasons to air and then make it to Netflix...but it's not so old that nobody remembers it or wants to talk about it. Oh, plus, Lauren Graham.

(One of my coworkers told me the funniest story ever today. Her 26-year-old brother seriously called her up the other day and was like HEY! Oh my gosh, I just discovered the FUNNIEST show on Netflix- have you ever heard of a show called Friends?? It is SO funny. There's this character called Monica, and she... and went on to describe the characters and basic premise and basically he totally thinks he just discovered this great little unheard-of show. My friend was so shocked she didn't even know how to respond...because he was dead serious.)

So anyways, now that Parenthood (both the show and the...thing) is in my future, now I can finally be cool and understand what all the hype is about. 

Actually, I'm pretty sure I already totally understand the hype about parenthood. There is absolutely nothing more incredible that a sweet baby who decides she's done playing and just wants to cuddle. Not to sleep- just to stare at her mommy. Be still my heart- this is what I was born for.

*Amazon affiliate link

Friday, January 23, 2015

such a special week...

So here we are on day 3,392 of The B Family Sickness of 2015...or maybe I'm exaggerating, but it sure feels that way. I think we all feel better at this point...but not enough better to like...get out of our pajamas or do anything remotely productive. I tried yesterday. I actually went in to work for a half-day. It seemed ambitious but doable before I left for it...and about an hour into it, I was like what the heck was I THINKING??! All that sitting upright in a brightly-lit office? Trying to whisper-talk to people? Yeah, no. And then last night my fever jumped back up, so apparently my body thinks going back to work is a terrible idea. So I didn't try again today. 

We all still have these terrible nasty coughs and off-and-on fevers, but it does seem like we're on the mend. A slow mend. And we better stay fully mended for a long time because now I've already used a full one THIRD of my PTO for the year and it's not even the end of January. WAAAAAAHHHHH.

Millie seems to be the best-feeling out of the three of us right now. Unfortunately, she's not really using her health and energy to pick up the slack around the house...??? Where have we gone wrong? Have we raised a spoiled brat? Ha, kidding. She still has this nasty cough and congestion, an on-again-off-again low fever, and obviously sometimes her ears are still hurting (you can tell because she will just SCREAM and writhe for however long it takes for the Advil to start sad!!), but she's mostly back to being her happy self. And that's good for MY soul- because watching her be happy and playful makes me happy. And I think the endorphins promote healing or something. Surely.

Plus, playing with her doesn't really use all that much energy. She doesn't even seem to care that I can't talk. As long as my arms aren't broken and I can help her fly...she's good to go.

So cute it hurts. 

Plus I get a free arm workout. Because let's see if we can calculate how many times I've done T25 this week...

On the down side, 'flying' a semi-sick baby means that there is a 100% chance you will get all sorts of bodily fluids raining down on your face and chest. Snot, slobber, spit up, name it, it falls on me. But still. A small price to pay.

When my arms can't handle flying any more, we move to the Jump Jump. She has started to figure out all the different features (buttons that make music, things that spin, things you can pull) and it is SO much fun watching her brain work. But NOTHING is as fun as when her favorite sister Lola comes over to play.

Lola's idea of a good time is taking a nice taste-test of all the aforementioned fluids that are constantly on Millie's face. YUM. And you might be a sick and lazy mom when instead of being grossed out by your dog licking/slobbering all over your baby's face, you think hey, that's one less time I'll have to wipe her face off! Score! Just kidding. I've never actually thought that. Promise.

In summary, being sick with a baby is tougher but ultimately better than being sick without a baby...because there's a baby. And the awesomeness of having her is far greater than anything else.

Plus, there are extra snuggles all day long. What's not great about that?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

almost wordless wednesday

It is Wednesday, right? Or close to it?

This house is down for the count. Sick baby (add in an ear infection to everything else), sick mama (I even have a fever. Haven't had one of those in like...a decade.), sick daddy. Misery. 

If I had a genie in a bottle right now, I would wish for the bottles to all the washed, the dog to be walked, and every stinking surface of our house to be cloroxed. But I don't have a genie. So I'm going back to bed. Waaaahhhh. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

not the best weekend's been awhile. I believe when we last chatted, Millie had "finally succumbed to some kind of cold or allergies or virus or Daycare Funk" quote innocent and optimistic me of last week. Oh Erika of last week. How naive you were.

Suffice it to say, she didn't just get better as I'd anticipated/hoped. If you're short on time, I'll summarize: since Thursday, she got a lot worse, leading to three trips to the pediatrician and one trip to the hospital so far. We are finally 'out of the woods' as of this morning's pediatrician visit, and she is actually getting better instead of worse. And now I'm sick. Tag, you're it!

I'm going to write out all the boring details, because one day I might want to look back and fondly reminisce about my daughter's first big illness and trip to the ER. Or not. But I'll definitely want to see and remember the adorable pictures of her in her hospital gown that was actually ridiculously cute. 

So Thursday I stayed home with her. It seemed to me that she had just your run-of-the-mill cold. We did lots of saline drops and Nose Frida* (XOXO I love you, Nose Frida. I always thought you would disgust me, but as it turns out, no. I just love you.) and sitting in the steamy bathroom and taking showers. Her eyes were kinda goopy (but not red like she had pink eye) and she started getting this deep, chest-y cough, so I called the pediatrician's office just to see if that was all par for the course, or whether I should bring her in. The nurse there thought that with the chest-cough, it would be worth bringing her in for a quick exam, so we did that. The doctor looked and listened and poked and prodded and agreed that it was most likely just a cold. He said she'd just have to ride it out, to keep doing what we were already doing, and mentioned a few things to watch for that could indicate that some kind of infection/complication was developing, and sent us on our snotty, coughy, merry way.

She was about the same on Friday, so Matt stayed home with her and I went to work. Her coughing fits got worse on Friday and she started gagging up her milk every time she finished a bottle- basically she would start coughing and it would be so violent that it would cause her to just regurgitate everything she'd swallowed. Hot, chunky formula. Yum! She was still basically happy, so we just kept doing our vigilant snot-sucking, steam-breathing routine. 

Overnight, though, her coughing fits started getting worse. It was obvious that they were starting to hurt her- after she'd finish a fit, she would clearly be in pain and upset. I can totally relate- I get bronchitis every freaking year, so I know how badly those deep coughs can hurt your chest. It seemed like that was what she was experiencing. She was decidedly more miserable on Saturday- her breathing sounded rattly and congested and she was spitting up every single drop of formula she swallowed. She also had diarrhea. We tried everything we could think of- giving her only two ounces at a time (still came back up), basically living in the steamy bathroom (while snot-sucking, while Vicks-rubbing), but her breathing continued to sound worse and worse. Our doctor had said to watch to make sure it didn't look like she was struggling to breath, but by midday on Saturday, that's really what it looked like. Her whole stomach and chest were involved in every breath, and she constantly sounded like she'd just run a marathon- nonstop panting. It was obvious that she couldn't take deep breaths. After browsing Baby Center and WebMD, we decided to count her breaths- our sources said that normal breathing would be 30-40 breaths per minute, more than that was concerning, and anything over 60 breaths per minute was dangerous. We counted a few different times (and granted, we're not doctors, so there's a chance that our counts (like, what counts as a breath?) were off) and were getting between 50 and 75 breaths per minute each time. This plus her general wheezy-ness and lack of energy and lack of being able to keep food down made us decide to call the on-call nurse.

The nurse chatted with us for 15 minutes or so, but ultimately decided that we'd basically been doing everything he would recommend, and hearing about her breathing, he decided to page our doctor for us.

Our pediatrician called us back, chatted with us for a few minutes, and said that while he could see her the next morning (Sunday), he really didn't feel comfortable waiting that long. He recommended that we take her immediately to the emergency room to have her breathing monitored. 

If you ever want to feel really panicked and sick to your stomach, try having your pediatrician tell you to take your daughter to the emergency room immediately.

Also, if you ever think "hey, let's move to the country! It'll be great, there will be cows and tractors and clean air!" sounds like a promising idea, please also take into account that if you ever wish to visit an emergency room with your child who is having difficulty breathing, it will take a freaking eternity to drive there. 

We got the the ER and in some strange twist of fate, it was one hundred percent the opposite of what I'd expected. When I think ER on a Saturday night in the midst of a really bad flu season in a college town full of alcohol-poisoned 19-year-olds on a holiday weekend, I have really low expectations. REALLY low. And I'm not sure what happened, but it was probably the most pleasant, efficient, and un-miserable hospital experience I could even imagine. We were seen quickly (probably because infant with breathing trouble, called in by her doctor puts us in front of guy with a twisted ankle in line, but whatever- I'll take it). They almost immediately took us back to triage and got her temp (a low fever, 100.3) and heart rate and whatever else. I told the triage nurse that I would be deliriously happy if this was just a paranoid first-time mom trip and there was not a thing wrong with my baby, but she shot down that idea pretty fast. She's working way too hard to breathe. It's good that you brought her in.

Well, points for not just being a hypochondriac, I guess?

They got us a room and had us change Millie into an adorable gown. I'm sorry. I just couldn't believe how cute she looked in this thing. It didn't hurt that apparently the experience of being at the hospital was fun and exciting for her and she suddenly became super happy and full of energy- like merely walking in the doors helped her feel better or something. Or maybe it was all the lights and new sounds. Whatever- it was wonderful to just see her perk up.

Where are we? What are we doing? Why am I wearing this? LET'S PARTY!
 A doctor came very quickly. I'm not even exaggerating- he was the calmest, most concerned, best listening doctor I've ever met. His bedside manner was off the charts. I have spent the rest of the weekend trying to figure out how I can get him to be my regular doctor (without actually going to the ER every time I have a need). This doctor was on point. He listened to our little health history, took notes about what her pediatrician said on Thursday and over the phone, and did a really great (in my educated opinion, ha) exam on our little panting nugget. He also complimented how cute she was, which is not important, but still appreciated. He agreed that her breathing was concerning, but said it in this way that didn't feel alarming or scary. He ordered chest x-rays, a steroid, and breathing treatments and said we'd reassess after those things happened. He also did a great job of explaining a bunch of things related to why he was ordering these things, which was really helpful, but not really worth repeating here. He also suggested we try to get her to take some Pedialyte, which Matt's parents had already gone to the store to get (the on-call nurse had suggested that, so we were already trying to get some).

Over the next few hours, she got all of those things- chest x-rays (not scary; they let Matt and I hold her up in a sitting position for them...and also gave her this tiny baby loincloth protector thing so that the rays didn't zap her tiny baby was adorable and funny), some Tylenol for the fever (first experience with Tylenol!), a dose of oral steroid (no problem, she was a big fan of all these fruity things in her mouth!), three breathing treatments (good times! She liked the respiratory therapist, I think.), and several ounces of Pedialyte (imagine you've had nothing except breast milk and formula for your entire life...and then you get a bottle of pure, unadulterated fruity sugar water. It wasn't hard to convince her to suck that down!!). A nurse also came and stole some of her snot and boogers via a regular bulb syringe (to send to the lab to test for RSV), and Millie was NOT a fan of that. After a lifetime of comfort and Nose Frida, she found the bulb syringe to be downright offensive.

What is this strange air you make me breathe?

What's next, Mom? I'm game for anything but that bulb syringe!
 I'm guessing it was the combination of Pedialyte, Tylenol bringing her fever (and pain?) down, and 'roids...but Millie quickly turned psychotically happy and adorable. And hyper. And precious. I think that random hospital people were just making up excuses to come in our room and see her.

Sophie? You come to visit me in the hospital? I WILL EAT YOUR FACE!!!

Sophie, you stay right there where I can see you while I breathe this funny air...
P.S. What is it about Sophie? Why do babies like that silly giraffe so much? Also- look how red her cheeks are when she has a fever!! I guess that'll be a good thing to know for future reference! Her cheeks match Sophie's!

Her chest x-ray came back semi-clear (as in, no sign of pneumonia, but did show some thickening mucus in her bronchioles), RSV test was negative, and despite her much happier demeanor, the breathing treatments didn't appear to actually be helping any. The doctor diagnosed her with bronchiolitis and said that since the breathing treatments weren't really helping, there was no reason to continue them or prescribe a nebulizer. He thought that the steroid would help keep her airways open, but that the key for us helping her breathing would be to keep trying to get (and keep) liquids in her, to keep her on Tylenol so that the fever didn't return and further distress her breathing, and to stay vigilant with our snot-sucking. After about 3 hours there, he sent us home and told us to follow up with our pediatrician on Monday- unless she started getting worse, in which case...come right back. Ya think? 

We got home super late and slept the sleep of parents trying to make sure their wheezy baby is breathing...which is to say, not much.

On Sunday morning, our pediatrician called us bright and early. He'd seen the paperwork from the hospital come in and wanted to check on Millie. We told him that she really seemed about the same as she did the night before- still not breathing super great, but at least she'd kept down some Pedialyte through the night. She didn't have a fever, but her cough was still terrible and clearly hurting her. He said that he really wouldn't feel comfortable waiting until Monday to see her and asked if we could bring her in right away. On a Sunday morning. Umm...have I mentioned how much I love our pediatrician?? It is a lot. Yes sir, we'll bring her right in.

He had all of her test results and everything when we got there. He did another physical exam and listened to her chest for a long time. Unfortunately, he agreed that she didn't seem much better than the night before. He did a lot of explaining about how bronchiolas and viruses work, and ultimately declared that Millie was straddling the fence of breathing okay. She was currently just barely on the 'safe' side, but her body was working hard to pull her back to the 'not okay' side. He said that she could easily start improving at any minute, but she was equally likely to take another turn for the worse, and if we saw any sign that she was getting worse, we had to take her immediately to the hospital and he would have her admitted. Until she started getting significantly better, he would want us to bring her in every day to be monitored.

So we returned home with a fresh dose of paranoia and worry. I don't mean to over-dramatize anything, and I certainly recognize that there are children with far more serious health issues- my heart truly goes out to those kids (and parents). I can't imagine the fear and anxiety that you must manage on a daily basis- I was a basket case after only a few days of it. But hearing your doctor talk about your daughter's inability to breathe so seriously like that- I mean, breathing is important. He didn't have to tell us what happens if she loses that ability. I can connect the dots myself. So we kept our hospital bags packed and redoubled our snot-sucking, steam-breathing, liquid-pushing, and breathing-watching. It was...not restful. After awhile, you get fuzzy about how bad/good the breathing is. Her stomach is really pushing and her shoulders are pulling in...I think that's the same thing she was doing at the doctor's office this morning...but is it a little worse? Or better? Or different? Arrrrggghhh!

We made it through another day and night of constant vigilance. She'd have hours where she seemed happier, more energetic, and healthier...and then hours where she seemed to regress again. She did keep down a LOT more liquids than the previous days, though- mostly Pedialyte, but also some diluted formula (per her doctor's instructions). So that made us feel a lot better. The doctor explained that not only would the liquid keep her from getting dehydrated (duh), but it helps keep the mucus thin and not so apt to harden up in her bronchioles, which was the most important thing. So we felt MUCH better since she was finally not spitting everything up.

We woke up this morning and my general 'I feel sorta crummy' had turned into full-blown yuck- really sore throat, ears hurting, bad cough, and lost my voice. So yay. That's two of us down, with Matt coming in runner-up by still not feeling great, but not as bad as the mama and the baby. We went to our daily pediatrician's appointment, and as soon as Dr. G saw/talked to me, he was like "oh, you have croup!", I thought that was a disease only babies got. Babies and me! He explained further that they usually just don't call it croup when it's an adult, but it's basically the same. He also used my new sickness (and ability to talk and describe how I feel) to continue his diagnosis of Millie, since we probably have the same thing. Like, since she tested negative for RSV, we know it's not that particular virus causing her issues, so he had a few other likely culprits in mind...but now knowing my symptoms, he was able to eliminate a few more and somewhat conclusively decide what virus Millie has...which is all just fun trivia, anyway, because it doesn't really matter- you treat it all the same, anyway. 

Mommy, do we live here now? Is this our house?
At any rate, although my practiced ear discerned no real difference in her breathing today versus yesterday, Dr. G was much happier with things. He also has the advantage of a stethoscope, so I'm sure that's the only reason. :) He said that her chest sounds much clearer and she's breathing at a more normal rate and with much less effort. He was thrilled and says that she has definitely turned a good corner. He still wants us to be vigilant and on top of things in case she takes a bad turn, but he seemed to feel much more confident that the worst is behind us. That definitely made US feel better! It also helps that Millie does just seem to feel better. Her coughing fits are less frequent, she's a little less snotty, and she certainly seems to have more energy. She's been playing and babbling more like her usual self.

So that's been our exciting weekend. I am so thankful for the amazing medical care we've received and for the compassion and prayers our families and friends have given us. I keep thinking of the families with truly sick children, and I just can't imagine how difficult that must be. Cute gown aside, being in the hospital and worrying about your child's breathing is not fun...and our experience lasted only a few hours. I can't even imagine those who practically live in that situation all the time. Although we will hopefully emerge from this weekend relatively unscathed, my heart is freshly aware of those who aren't so lucky.

 I hope your holiday weekends have been slightly less dramatic and a lot healthier than mine, ha. Also, please try to imagine what a failure all of my careful meal planning and laundry-doing and house-cleaning and exercising has been this weekend...ha. Best laid plans and all...but a healthy Millie (and me, I guess) is more important than all that. It can wait.

If you made it to the end of this, I applaud you. I will give you a book recommendation as your reward: The Rent Collector*. It's what we're reading for book club this month, and I haven't even finished it, but it is SO GOOD!!!! It has kept me company for many hours of watching Millie sleep...

Happy Monday, friends.

*Amazon affiliate link. Looks like I'll be paying a lot of doctors' bills this month, ha.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

on lactating...or not.

It's been another busy week, for all of the same reasons as last week. 

Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Oh, except this week we also have a broken-down car to throw in the mix, forcing us into carpooling and waiting on tow trucks to pick up the dead Civic in the garage. Extra fun!! We've been procrastinating getting a new(er) (slash maybe bigger??) vehicle for some time...and now we're going to be forced into it, I guess. Yippee.

You know what one of the worst things about being super busy is? When you look at your camera roll on the phone and realize you've taken NO PICTURES OF YOUR FREAKING ADORABLE CHILD in like...a week. That is a horrible realization.

I finally took a few this morning, because babies in bear-ear-hoodies are pretty irresistible. Especially this baby.

Oh, but don't worry- what I lack in cute baby pictures, I make up for in amazing videos of the Civic's engine making its funny sound. Courtesy of Matt, obviously. It's taking so much self-control to not share that riveting video!! When I was scrolling through my camera roll there was this momentary Oooh a new video!! Matt must have took one of Millie doing someth--oh, never mind, it's a car engine. Womp.

Millie finally succumbed to some kind of cold or allergies or virus or Daycare Funk...she's one snotty and sneezy little thing. Her snot is still clear (not green or yellow) (isn't it great that I'm sharing this pertinent information?) and she doesn't have a fever, so hopefully she's not too sick...but I hate that she doesn't seem to feel well. And that she smears snot on everything, let's be honest. That's nasty. I must admit, though- her health held out about a week longer than I expected it to once she started daycare!! I thought the Funk would hit hard and early...she must have a pretty sweet immune system to survive this long! 

It is worth noting, though, that the Funk arrived exactly one day after she finished the last of her breast milk. Coincidence? I don't know, probably. But maybe not. I am so awed and amazed and grateful and thrilled that we had enough donor milk to last five and a half months!! Half of her diet for five months has been breast milk!! I really just can't believe it. What a huge blessing that donor milk was to us and to her. I know many people seem a little wary (or straight up grossed out) by the idea of donor milk, but I am so glad that it was an option available to us. My (and many of your) blog friend Emily wrote a great piece this week about why she donates breast milk- I really loved her perspective...and I'm just really, really thankful for her and so many other women like her that are willing to share with those of us who cannot breastfeed our own babies.

Back when we were initially consider and planning adoption, but before we were ever matched (either time), I had contemplated and even planned on trying to induce lactation. I really felt like breast milk was SO important for babies and that breastfeeding would be such an amazing way to bond with our baby. Each time we matched, though, I ended up deciding not to. And then questioning whether it was a decision I'd regret...while continuing to decide to not try. At the end of the day (or this almost-six months, as the case may be), I don't regret my decision to not try (although probably my lack of regret is greatly helped by the fact that Millie got breast milk anyway, despite my failure to try). Although each of our matches came about three months before the baby was just seemed like it would be so much work (beginning to pump around the clock in hopes to stimulate milk production...which...pumping around the clock is one thing if you're doing it for your living, breathing child...but I can only imagine how I would have felt sitting attached to that  thing for hours a day with no guarantee of ANYTHING- milk OR baby). And I was scared of taking the herbs and medicine that would help my hormones to induce lactation- I have enough issues with my endo and estrogen without monkeying around with things. I was terrified that if my hormones started getting screwy, my endo pain would get out of check...and the last thing I wanted to be doing while sitting around and waiting for my maybe-baby to be born was sitting around in a whole lotta pain. And then there are the emotional effects of hormones. I can promise you I didn't need to be any more emotional. Oh, and at any rate, the odds of all this induction effort working at all are not all that great unless you've previously breastfed before- which I haven't, obviously. So it's not like my body would be like "oh, this again? Okay then," and jump right back into things. So it seemed like a lot of risk for something that probably wouldn't work...

But far and above everything else, my greatest fear was that it would work- that sometime before August 4, Millie's due date, I would have started lactating. And that would be great- but what if our adoption failed again? I know what that feels like. I couldn't imagine experiencing it again. And I really couldn't imagine surviving it if it happened with a baby that I'd been breastfeeding and bonding with under the influence of extra estrogen and whatever other hormones breastfeeding produces. Oh, and what- then after I give the baby back, I have to deal with cold-turkey weaning? Sitting around in pain, waiting for my milk to dry up, every single minute a constant reminder of what I just lost?

Oh hell no.

I don't know why I'm even writing all this out. I guess I just want to remember. I've had people ask- and not usually in a judgmental way, thank goodness- why I didn't try to induce lactation. And I guess the short answer is that I was pretty sure it wouldn't work, and I was terrified of what could happen if it did. And I am incredibly thankful to live in a world where safe and healthy alternatives to breast milk exist- God bless you, Similac and Enfamil and Gerber.

And plus, I've heard of (okay, like...fiftieth-hand. Not like anyone I know personally.) people spontaneously lactating under extreme circumstances- like without even trying to induce it. Even men!!! (I totally want to Google and find the stories where I've read about this, but I'm too tired. If you find one, leave it in the comments, ha.) So my philosophy was that hey- if this adoption works and this is my forever baby, God is welcome and encouraged to spring some spontaneous lactation on me. Ha. I won't turn it down! But as it turned out, he didn't, and I'm fine with that. There are a lot of nice fringe benefits to bottle feeding, as it turns out, so I just focus on those and don't waste a minute on regretting what I didn't try. At the end of the day, Millie is healthy and beautiful and smart and a great sleeper and deeply bonded to both Matt and me, who are equally responsible for her nutrition- and I couldn't be any more thankful for how we got where we are. 

(Speaking of nutrition and how smart that girl is- now she not only recognizes/understands her bottles by sight (like, gets excited and/or fussy when she sees one, depending on how starving she is), but we think she understands the word 'bottle''s just a working theory right now, but we've had to start using code words so that she doesn't get insane before the bottle is ready...Matt, are you getting Millie's nutrition ready? is how we usually have to phrase it now. Erika, her wholesome meal is on the counter when you're ready. She totally hasn't caught on yet.)

I have no idea how I got off on this insanely long tangent, but here we are. I guess Em's blog just had me thinking, and then we just ran out of our milk yesterday, and now Millie is bam, there you are. I didn't try to breastfeed, but I'm deeply thankful for women who are willing to donate. And I'm really impressed with women who are able to induce lactation, and I wonder how they got past all the emotional roadblocks and fear that ended up crippling me. And I am absolutely not intending to dissuade anyone from trying to induce lactation! I think it's an awesome thing to try- it just wasn't for me in my situations thus far. Who knows what the future will bring, though? Oh, and I'm also thankful (and maybe have never mentioned before?) that Millie's birth mom was willing and able to breastfeed her in the hospital immediately after birth. THAT is truly priceless on about ten different levels. We just love her and respect her so much. And I'm also thankful that almost none (literally...I know I think two people in real life) of my friends use formula and that they therefore gave me all of the formula samples and coupons that come in the mail to them. Ha. Those things were/are life savers!! 

Well, with that, I'm off to enjoy a few minutes of relishing the fact that I've already completed my 10k steps today and don't have to walk laps around my house before bed...and then go to bed. Have a happy rest of the week!

Monday, January 12, 2015

the meal plan

Although some things about life as a working mom feel overwhelming at times (so exhausting they drove me to blog on a Saturday of all things...haha, actually, it turns out some people actually read blogs on Saturdays! So it worked out.), I like to celebrate and share the things that I do feel like are working and making life easier for us right now. For one thing, pretty much the only reason I even know these things is because someone before me figured it out and shared it's only fair for me to do the same in turn. It's like the circle of life or something, I think. (P.S. I can't say 'circle of life' without thinking of this shirt and how much it cracks me up. If I ever saw someone wearing it, we would be best friends for life.)

In short, the things that make life as a working mom possible are:

1. Have a live-in maid.
2. Have a live-in cook.

Essentially, we should all just be Emily Gilmore- only nicer to our help. And our child(ren).

BUT, in the event that you do not happen to be filthy stinkin rich like Emily and me, I came up with a few hypothetical tips that could help with your lack of 1 and 2 above. Okay, never mind. They're not hypothetical. They're actually exactly what I'm doing right now because actually, I'm not filthy rich. I'm sure you never guessed that.

At any rate, when I returned to work in November, I quickly realized that one of the most important Life Things that I was going to need to revamp was our meals. For the last year-ish, we'd been using eMeals for our meal planning. We loved it. It certainly made coming up with meals and shopping a lot easier, and we were always really pleased with our meals. But it meant we cooked (and cleaned up) every (or most) nights. Which was fine when our days consisted of just going to work + going to the gym + dinner + doing whatever we wanted til bedtime. It was great! I loved the variety of foods, the new dishes and flavors I learned to cook with...all of it. But once Millie came along and I went back to work...well, I have basically 3 hours between getting home from work and her going to bed. There's a zero percent chance I want to spend 30-50% of that time cooking and cleaning. I want to spend every minute possible kissing these sweet cheeks:

So something had to change. 

My friend Amanda has mentioned over the years that her family's 'thing' is to just make one big dish (casserole or whatever) on Sunday and they just eat that reheated all week for dinners. To be honest, when I first heard that, I was like...yuck. I mean, who wants to eat the same thing for dinner for five nights in a row? Not me.

But once I realized that my desire to have exciting, fresh meals each night conflicted pretty badly with my desire to spend as much time as possible with Millie, that idea started sounding pretty smart. Boring- but smart. So Matt and I started doing our meal planning similarly. We plan meals and shop for our food for the next week on Saturday, and then cook several meals (on Saturday and Sunday) that will last us through the week. I still can't fathom eating the exact same thing for every single meal, so we usually cook three-ish things that will last through 4-5 lunches and 4-5 dinners. We include lunches in our plans because packing a sandwich is often the quickest way to ensure I go out to eat for lunch. Blech.

I found these meal planning sheets in the Dollar Spot at Target a few years ago- they're great! I just wish they had Saturday and Sunday on the top, since that's when our plans actually start...but that wouldn't really make much sense at all in general, so we just adapt.

A lot of the time we double recipes (like Matt went ahead and made two quiches on Sunday so that we could have them for more meals...not much more work up front, but saves a lot of work later in the week. Also, please note that these are crust-less quiches and generally healthy, so no need to judge that we eat a quarter of a quiche each as a serving, ha), and we also have a number of approved super easy and fast things we're willing to cook from scratch for a 'fresh' meal (like brinner, loaded baked (microwaved) potatoes, etc.) if we end up with not quite enough servings from our main meals. We always eat at our Mexican restaurant on Tuesdays (BOGO tacos) and sometimes we get extra tacos there to use as meals later in the week, too. Ha. They're cheap and fabulous (even reheated), so it only makes sense to me! There are a lot of catered events at my work- I don't normally get to partake in these meals when they're actually being served, but the leftovers almost always end up being available for the staff (and staff husbands who come for lunch, like Matt!) to eat on later. We can always count on there being leftovers for us to eat on Thursday, but often it'll work out that we get free meals there other days, too! This is awesome because FREE FOOD (it helps that we're not terribly picky eaters). That's why we usually leave a space or two blank, to account for unexpected foods...and if none arrive, we just go out to eat or wing it with a quick and easy meal.

None of this is terribly revolutionary, but I think what's been the most helpful is figuring out what meals work well for this kind of 'meal plan.' Obviously it's best if the foods are the kind that reheat well and don't get grosser as the week goes on. It's also good if the meals are filling by themselves- we don't really plan for side dishes. Sometimes we'll throw in an orange or banana or something, or maybe a salad if we're feeling super ambitious, but pretty much this is a one-dish shindig. Slightly boring, perhaps, but the beauty of not cooking + no cleanup (besides putting our plates, forks, and a Pyrex dish in the dishwasher) on weeknights is really priceless and worth a little monotony. So we want the meals to feel satisfying on their own, plus be relatively healthy. Oh, and I don't like the meals to be too similar to one another- like, not 3 varieties of rice-based casseroles. Or three soups. If I'm going to eat the same things all week long, at least they can be a little bit different.

Here are a few of our favorite recipes we've been using. You may notice that most of them are from Budget Bytes. That is because I am obsessed with that webpage and everything I've ever made from there is amazing. If I could marry a webpage...phew.

-Sausage and Kale Skillet- someone brought us this when Millie was a newborn and it was what introduced me to Budget Bytes! This meal is AMAZING and we make it...ummm...often.
-Lemony Kale and Quinoa Salad- we polished off this in one meal, but it was delicious!
-Bacon and Spinach Pasta with Parmesan- you start with BACON, so there's really no way this one can go wrong. It's awesome and reheats surprisingly well (pasta isn't always a sure bet in the microwave).
-African Peanut Stew- we've made this one SEVERAL times and I am kinda obsessed with it. Lasts at least 3 meals- it's surprisingly filling and satisfying, considering there's no meat in it!
-Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings- best c&d I've ever had, hands down. Sadly, I can't double this recipe because my crock pot isn't big enough, so we can only get 2.5ish meals out of it.
-Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Bowls- lasts forevvvvverrr. Like at least 4 meals.
-Sweet Chili Chicken Bowls- YUM. Similar to the taco bowls, but with an Asian flair!
-Spinach, Mushroom, and Feta Crustless Quiche- delicious, but obviously we make ours sans mushrooms because we are not disgusting. We do throw in other random veggies to make it more exciting, though!
-Creamy Chicken and Black Bean Enchiladas- super good, and the homemade enchilada sauce is awesome! Makes a lot!
-Paleo Chop & Drop Roasted Veggies & Sausage- one of my favorites- I actually took this to Thanksgiving dinner this year (minus the sausage)! Chopping up all the veggies takes forever, but it's worth it in the end.
-Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwiches- we haven't made this one lately, but I remember it being awesome the last time I made it.
-Crock Pot Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili- this is my go-to chili recipe, but I basically double all of her spices. I find it a little bland as use a heavy hand!! I also sometimes use venison sausage instead of turkey. That definitely kicks things up a bit!
-Zesty Quinoa Salad- not a very creative name, but SUCH a good salad. I've taken this to several potlucks and people always compliment it! Also, it gets better as the week goes on and the flavors all blend and soak together.
-Moroccan Stew- I discovered this one during my hardcore Endo Diet (remember the 'bird food diet'??) days, and it's just as good now as it was then. Yum.

Eating the same thing multiple days in a row is a lot less miserable when the food is awesome. But even if you're only planning to eat it once or twice, you should check out these recipes...because who doesn't like easy new recipes?

So this whole meal planning thing has made my working mom gig a lot more manageable. As soon as I start thinking about whining about having to eat leftovers again, I just ask myself "would you rather waste Millie time cooking and cleaning up?" and the answer is always no, and I just go microwave my soup and consider it a small (and privileged) sacrifice to 'suffer' through leftovers to gain time with my baby. I'm sure at some point we'll change things up and start cooking at night again, but this is really working for us for now. It also really helps that (and honestly, is probably ONLY possible because) Matt is an equal partner in all of this planning and cooking. I would die (not really, but maybe) if I had to spend my Saturday and Sunday cooking and cleaning up from all these meals. Luckily we tag-team, so Matt does at least half of it while I get to relax and play. That way it doesn't end up being a huge burden on either of us. I'm thankful for a husband who not only parents equally, but participates in every aspect of running our 'household' (which brings me back to sounding like I'm Emily Gilmore...) and doing the not-so-fun parts of adulthood (like cleaning) alongside me. 

If you have any favorite recipes that make awesome leftovers, please share!! Also, if you do happen to be mega rich and want to share your live-in maids and cooks with me, I'm open to that as well. Thanks!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

the most exhausting week

We survived the week in one (or three, as the case may be) pieces...but with not an ounce of time or energy to spare, as is evidenced by my lack of blogging until Saturday morning...the day widely agreed upon to be the worst possible time and day for blogging. But oh well. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead and all that. [Probably uninteresting side note: I just Googled to see where that expression even came from...apparently the Civil War! I had no idea. I'm not sure where I thought it came from, but not that. You learn something every day, I guess.]

I feel like this week really kicked my butt, and I've been reflecting to figure out why. I prefer to arrive at Friday afternoon feeling like I conquered the week, not like I just barely escaped alive. I can do the occasional just-barely-survive week, but I have no desire for it to become the norm, so when I have one of those weeks...I find it helpful to assess so that I can see what changes need to be made. Here's what I came up with.

1. Exercise. Honestly, I think one of the biggest reasons I feel so run-down is that I am physically exhausted from starting T25. Although I've been a very regular exerciser and gym-goer in general for the last 7 years or so, I've been WAY off track since Millie was this 25 minutes a day of intense exercise is a big adjustment for the ol' body (that is carrying a few more pounds around than it used to). T25 doesn't have any off days (except that Sunday's exercise is way less intense, supposedly- some kind of active stretching thing, although I haven't actually done it yet), so every evening it's like I take my achy, sore bones and throw them through the paces again to add NEW soreness on top of the old. So anyway. All of that to say- I am happy and pretty proud of myself for doing T25 every single day this week, but I think it can definitely account for why I feel extra exhausted.

In addition to actually EXERCISING every day this week, I'm still trying to get to 10,000 steps every day on my Fitbit. Since it's been too cold to go on walks around the neighborhood or downtown at lunch, this means that most nights at about the time I'd really like to go to bed, I'm stuck speed-walking laps around my living room, kitchen, and dining room to get in those last 2,000 steps. It's the most ridiculous thing ever, but whatever. That's another 30 minutes I'm not sleeping, though.

2. Work. It was just a crazy hectic week at work. In some ways, I prefer that- the time passes much more quickly and I don't end up sitting around missing my baby all day. But on the flip side, it's just mentally exhausting...and I get to 5:00 feeling like I got hit by a train. Plus, when I'm slammed-busy, I don't have time to make extra-long walks around the building, which means my steps aren't accumulating. Wah wah. Anyway. Although I will probably stay busier in general at work in the future (I got a promotion January 1, yay!), I do think this week was probably just a little more hectic than normal and things will probably level out a bit next week. Coming back off several weeks of vacation schedule just meant things had piled up.

3. The daycare transition. I already lamented the no-swaddle-can't-nap thing, and so far that has been the only problem we've encountered. And I think she's getting better/more used to it. I mean, she's still only sleeping for about half the time she used to sleep during the day, but her naps are getting progressively longer, so...I think by another week or two, she'll have mastered the art of sleeping unswaddled in a crib in a room with other people. Her teachers are really sweet, the other babies are cute (which REALLY matters, obviously!), and whenever I come in (in the mornings, to pick her up in the afternoons, and one day Matt and I just randomly showed up at lunch to play for a little while), the babies are always happy, peaceful, and being talked to and played with. Also, there are about 10 different exersaucers in her classroom...and since those are one of her greatest passions right now, it's like she's living at Disney World or something. I think it will be a great situation, ultimately. However, since she's been on a nap strike this week, she's a lot sleepier and more zombie-like in the evenings. We spend a little extra time looking like this:

Snuggles and cuddles are alright by me. She's still sleeping great at night, so I'm glad her overtiredness isn't manifesting itself by disrupting her nighttime sleep so far. I think that all in all I actually have slightly more time with her during the days now than we did previously, but for some reason I have less pictures (basically NO pictures except ones I already shared on Tuesday), which is tragic. Next week I'll do better. (Also, for the record- despite the fact that she refused to take morning naps any day this week at daycare, she's been asleep for an hour already here at home...proving that despite what she thinks, she does still need naps!! Oh, the glory of the swaddle...)

4. Personal time. Uhhhh...there has been almost none, unless you count the fact that much of the work day I'm technically alone in my office...but it's not like I'm just doing whatever I want. I think this definitely contributes to feeling exhausted. I'm an introvert- I need time to myself! I normally get that at night after Millie is in bed and Matt and I have some time to just do whatever we want. That time got cut this week because of adding in exercise, which bumped back our schedule of Getting Things now we have more to get done after Millie is asleep, which means less time to lay on the couch and decompress. I'm not sure how to change this- I guess when it comes down to it, I prioritize getting things done and being prepared for the next day more than my personal relaxation time. I'd much rather know that all the bottles are made and the clothes and diapers are clean and the diaper bag is packed and our lunch is ready. Soo...I don't know. Since we plan to keep working out and I'm not going to Get Things Done while Millie is awake and I can be playing or cuddling with her, this is just how it's going to have to be. I have Saturday mornings for me, I guess...and so here I am.

And now my sweet girl is awake and wiggling in her crib. This is probably the most boring blog ever (which works well, since no one reads them on Saturday anyway!), but I like keeping track of even the boring stuff sometimes...and writing helps me process. So...sorry, but not that sorry. Oh, but sorry that along with 'me time,' blog reading and commenting and responding to emails also fell WAY off the schedule this week, and I do feel bad about that. I promise to try to catch up eventually. Maybe after I finish playing with this sweet happy baby.

Have a wonderful weekend!!