Thursday, May 29, 2008

Random Dinner Conversation

At the table tonight. . .

Matt: Who does your hair better, Mommy or Daddy?

Harper: Mommy!

Matt: Who is funnier, Mommy or Daddy?

Harper: Daddy!

Matt: Who is smarter, Mommy or Daddy?

Harper: Me! I'm the smartest!

Friday, May 23, 2008

That Time Again

Last year I wrote a lengthy post about teacher gifts. I feel like I should qualify this by saying that there is no obligation to give gifts to teachers and I believe teachers are truly grateful for any gift, if they see it as a symbol of your gratitude. I wrote the post just in case people were looking for some guidelines and I do stand by my suggestions.

This year Harper has been in preschool and it is the first time I have had to wonder/worry about an end-of-the-year gift. (She didn't start until January so I was off the hook for the holidays.) I decided to have Harper decorate some blank note cards for the teachers to use. I like this gift idea for several reasons: Harper could do it on her own, the gift is consumable, it is clear we put some time into it, and - if the teacher isn't going to use the cards - they can be tossed into the recycling bin. Not that you need a tutorial, but here's how we made the cards.

1) I folded blank (unlined) 5 x 8 index cards in half.

2) Harper used mini-cookie cutters and washable paint to stamp designs on the cards. I thought about hand prints, but we probably would have needed larger cards.

3) I paired each card with an "invitation" sized envelope from an office store. I think the paint, index cards (sold in a set of 500!), and envelopes came to less than $20. A good investment, considering all the materials we have left.

4) I will bundle a set of nine cards for each teacher (three from each color scheme) and tie it with some wired ribbon.

Here's a sample of the cards:



An older child could certainly draw pictures on the front of the cards. We made these as parent gifts when I taught first grade and they were adorable. Harper isn't so into drawing yet and I knew she would get tired of that before we made 27 cards. The stamping was nice because she really did do it totally on her own and each card is unique because she was fairly random with the stamping. Sometimes the cookie cutters would get a bubble of paint in them, which is how some of the shapes ended up with a little swirly thing inside them.

We don't do a lot of crafty stuff at home and Harper was thrilled with the painting element, even though it took a grand total of about 20 minutes to stamp all the cards. She really wanted pink paint, which I didn't have, and was fascinated when we made pink by mixing red and white paint. I am going to try to make myself do more of this kind of thing with her, especially during times when I have someone to help out with Michael.

Because we only have three teachers this year, I'll probably also buy small-ish gift cards for either a coffee shop or book store and include them with the cards. Most importantly I will write thank yous to all the teachers for helping Harper to have such a fabulous first school experience. I'm also going to write notes to the program director and the nurse who were so great in helping us work through ways to keep school safe for Harper and her peanut allergy. They deserve a big thanks for putting up with this all year:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cutest Little Feet That You Ever Did See

Adult feet?

I can take or leave them.

Baby feet?

So cute!

Baby toes!
Baby shoes!

I love them so much I even put some on Michael's birth announcement.

I wish I had nothing to do all day but nibble them.

Michael's feet are especially appealing and hilarious because he still wants to keep them flexed all the time. Those kind of toes practically beg to be played with. I can't wait until it is warm enough to keep them exposed more of the time. I think baby feet might have magical healing powers. It is difficult to stay frustrated when you are faced with those teeny tiny toes.

Also, about the baby shoes? I know they are totally unnecessary, but they do serve the function of keeping a baby's socks in place. That is a bonus, especially in a house with a dog.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Growing? Yes. Sleeping? Not So Much.

Michael at one month, six days.

Michael at two months, two days.

Can you see the difference?

I feel like I have a million posts knocking around in my head, but it is so darn difficult to get to the computer. Last night Michael was awake from 2:30 a.m. until 4:30 a.m. I'm down with the needing to eat in the middle of the night, but needing to eat and then have a play session for over an hour, that I'm having trouble accepting. Oh, and Harper woke up just a little after 5:30 this morning. So there was not much sleep for me last night. And I recently reread my parenting contract -- life with a three-year-old and an infant does not include an option to nap.

At Micheal's two-month appointment, he was 8 lbs., 3 oz. which, according to the nurse, was almost on the chart. We'll get there.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Harper Time

We made our annual spring pilgrimage to the arboretum when my mom was here two weeks ago. I was sad to see the tulip area was under construction, thus ruining my plans for yearly Harper + tulips photos, but we still enjoyed the beautiful grounds.

Michael has gotten the lion's share of attention lately, both in our day-to-day life and here on this blog, so I thought I would take some time to share a few things/stories about Harper today.

I totally took advantage of my mom's willingness to feed/hold the baby to spend some extra time with Harper. One afternoon we made muffins. I have a 1/4 c. scoop I keep in the flour canister so I told Harper we'd need 7 scoops of flour to make the muffins. She helped count as we added the flour to the bowl. After putting in four scoops she looked up at me and said, "We need three more!"

Smarty pants.

Later that day we were eating the muffins and Harper said, "These muffins are great Mom! They taste just like you and me!"

Huh?


We ate dinner on the patio the other night and Harper was just thrilled about it. As we brought the dishes back inside she exclaimed, "That was a great feast!"


Harper has transitioned into a gymnastics class in which she goes in on her own. Previously her class involved teachers giving instruction and then parents helping their own children through the stations. We weren't sure how the transition would go, but Harper LOVES it. She tries things she wouldn't attempt when we were helping her and she is apparently very well behaved. (Whew!)


One gorgeous night last week I took Harper and Michael to the park after dinner. There were a couple of other kids there and Harper immediately went to make friends.

"I'm Harper and over there (gesturing to the picnic table where I sat with the baby) I have a nice baby named Michael."

The girl replied, "I'm Emma and I have a toddler named Cameron."

Michael should be flattered, she used to introduce herself and then immediately tell other children that she had a dog named Rebound.

During the same park trip I had reminded her not to climb up the slides. Harper and Emma were playing some sort of follow the leader game when Emma started climbing up a slide and told Harper to follow. Harper said, "My mom told me I have to go up the steps," and turned and ran in the direction of the stairs. I know it's a small thing, but I feel like Harper spends a lot of time purposefully doing the direct opposite of what I say that I was really proud of her for not blindly following the other child. On the way home I told her how proud I was. It is nice to have that kind of interaction. I need to remember to pay attention and "catch" her behaving more often.


At dinner the other night we were telling knock knock jokes, sort of. Harper doesn't totally get it and will just use two totally unrelated items in her jokes. For example:

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Cow.

Cow who?

Cow grass! (Cue hysterical laughter.)

I told a joke that went like this:

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Dwain.

Dwain who?

Dwain the tub, I'm dwowning!

Harper didn't actually find that joke funny, but some part of her understood it was supposed to be funny and so she tried to adapt it to her own jokes. For the rest of the night her knock knock jokes ended with, "sinking in the bathtub!" So her first joke would go like this:

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Cow.

Cow who?

Cow grass (long pause) sinkinginthebathtub!!!!

(Sigh. As I type I realize this was so much funnier in person. You'll have to take my word for it.)


I wish more of you could know Harper in person. I think you'd like her. She drives me crazy sometimes, but is impossible for me not to be crazy in love with her.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Monday, May 05, 2008

Breast Intentions

Well if the title of this post doesn't tip you off, here is the big, bold TMI warning:

I am now going to talk lots and lots about breastfeeding. If this makes you uncomfortable than feel free to leave and come back another day. Consider yourself warned!!!

The breastfeeding talk will begin after these photos of Michael. . .



When Harper was young we were really lucky in that I had very little trouble breastfeeding her. I think I even managed to realize this at the time. She took to it right away, I produced plenty of milk, and I never had one single complication. The biggest problem we had was keeping her awake to eat enough and that was just at the very beginning. Harper never would take a bottle, so the most difficult part of breastfeeding her was that no one else could ever feed her for the first six months of her life.

Michael has been eating fortified breast milk since birth, which means I have spent lots and lots of time with the breast pump. When he finally got the go ahead to try directly breastfeeding he didn't take to it at all, but he was so little I didn't fret about it too much. Now here we are, he's nearly two months old, and the child has still not taken to breastfeeding.

With the exception of middle of the night feedings, I have offered Michael my breast every time I've fed him, but he was still not getting it at all. Last week we had an appointment with a lactation consultant at the hospital where he was born (totally free, by the way, for babies delivered at that hospital). The lactation consultant helped me work with a nipple shield and at least made a good show of being convinced that Micheal would get the hang of it. Incidentally the pediatrician said that Michael was gaining enough weight that if I wanted to battle him over breastfeeding a bit she wouldn't be worried about him burning too many calories in the process.

So now Michael's feeding time looks a bit like this:

Part One -- Struggle with Michael and the nipple shield. About 40% of the time he just snuggles up to me and falls asleep. About 40% of the time he gets really, really angry and screams. About 20% of the time he seems to actually get some milk from my breast before resorting to one of the other two options.

Part Two -- Feed Michael from a bottle until he seems full. There has yet to be a breastfeeding session where he doesn't take at least another ounce from the bottle, and he usually takes two or more.

Part Three -- More quality time with the breast pump, to make sure the girls were emptied and keep producing milk.

The whole process, when you add in diaper changes, bottle preparation, and cleaning of all the bottles/equipment, can take from an hour and a half to two hours. Michael eats every three to four hours, from the start of the previous feeding. You go right ahead and do the math to figure out how much time that leaves when I am not engaged in feeding or producing milk. Not much!

This is not a sustainable way to live/function for us as a family. Especially on nights when Matt has practice and isn't really home until after Harper is in bed. If it weren't for continued help from our parents we wouldn't even be having this discussion because I would have had to ditch the pump long ago.

Here are my options:

1. Continue things as they are, which is not really much of an option.

2. Forget trying to get Michael to breast feed directly, but continue pumping several times a day so that he can continue to drink breast milk from a bottle.

3. Continue giving Micheal breast milk until our supply of frozen milk is exhausted and then switch to formula.

4. (The Best Possible Scenario) Continue to struggle with the direct breastfeeding until Michael gets it and we are able to ditch the pump and the bottles, at least most of the time.

Here are the reasons to continue feeding Michael breast milk/encouraging him to breastfeed:

1. I had a wonderful experience breastfeeding Harper and I want that bonding/closeness with Michael.

2. There are health benefits for both of us if I breastfeed him.

3. If Michael gets the hang of it we will be able to leave the house and I will have everything I need to feed him without any extra equipment. I loved that I could feed Harper almost anywhere with nothing to prepare or clean up after (diapers not included!).

4. Formula is ridiculously expensive.

5. I have spent so much time pumping to make this possible that I hate to quit now.

6. I really want to do it!

Here are the reasons to say we've tried this long enough and just switch to formula when our supply of milk is exhausted:

1. Unless Michael learns to directly breastfeed soon this just does not seem like a sustainable situation.

2. I spend so much time pumping and feeding him, I am hard pressed to find time to interact with Michael outside of feeding times. I don't feel like I have any time to enjoy my baby because the window of time when I'm not engaged in pumping or feeding I'm frantically trying to do everything else.

3. Under the current circumstances I have very little time to give Harper my full attention or any attention at all.

4. I have found I must pump at least once during the night to keep up my supply which leaves me with even less precious time to sleep.

5. Other people will continue to be able to feed Michael. Matt always takes one of the overnight feedings and that makes a huge difference in my ability to get some sleep.

6. There is at least one moment in every day when I want to collapse in tears because I just can't do this for one more minute.

So what do I do? The lactation consultant would have me give Michael at least another six to seven weeks to transition completely to the breast. The pediatrician says I have to weigh the benefit of breastfeeding against the stress of our current situation and will be totally understanding if I never use the breast pump again.

I am actually asking for advice here. I know that breast milk is the best for babies, but I also know that formula is not poison and may end up being the most realistic option for us. Please chime in here! I am calling on your collective wisdom for some guidance.

(Seriously, if you actually read all the way through this post, you must have formed some opinion. . . spill it!!!)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Results!

We have a winner! Erin correctly guessed what we used the pictured items for, and it was. . .


getting Vaseline out of Harper's hair! Woo-hoo for Erin, and also, ugh! Erin's guessing was aided by her memory that we have had a previous significant Vaseline incident. (Part of me is surprised more people didn't remember that; Tessie would call you skimmers!) I will be sending Erin a prize (If Erin were getting a gift card, do you think she'd prefer iTunes or Amazon?) I'm thinking that Emily should get a prize as well because her answer made me laugh the hardest. (Chicken pox, ha! And, thankfully, no!)

So here's what went down. . . Around 11 p. m. Monday night my mom (who was blessedly here for the week and is leaving tomorrow, boo hoo) comes into the bedroom holding a half empty and completely goopy tub of Vaseline and says, "I made a big mistake." She had inadvertently left the Vaseline on the nightstand when she put Harper to bed. Harper had enjoyed spreading it thoroughly all over one stuffed bear, her bedding, her headboard, her pajamas, and her head. Miraculously spared was a book of barnyard stories she'd been "reading" sometime during her busy night of getting in bed, smearing Vaseline all over, and falling asleep. We remove what we can without waking her and decide just to deal with the rest in the morning.

Tuesday morning Harper walks into our bedroom around 6 a.m. and says, "I put Vaseline all over my bear." I miraculously refrain from screaming and instead say, "Don't touch anything!" ushering her into the bathroom. There she is stripped of her saturated pajamas and plopped into the bathtub where the water beads up on her skin and multiple kinds of shampoo have no effect whatsoever on the petroleum jelly in her hair. My mom glommed her hair into pigtails and sent her off to school. We totally missed the opportunity to make some serious Pippy Longstocking braids. Harper's hair was so slick/stiff/greasy that we didn't so much brush or comb it as mold it.

While Harper was at school I decided to Google "removing Vaseline from hair" and got a batch of rather dubious suggestions, although one did turn out to be helpful. I also called the Vaseline company and wrote down their suggestion for removing the stuff from a person's hair.

Things the Internet suggested which did not work, and the order in which we tried them:

1) Baby Oil

In theory the application of baby oil was supposed to give the Vaseline something else to bind to and then be able to be washed out with regular shampoo. This did not work at all and I believe actually made things worse. Note to self: try to refrain from setting aside common sense when taking advice from the Internet.

2) Vinegar

This was also not helpful, stunk, freaked Harper out by stinking, but at least didn't make anything worse.

3) Ivory Dish Soap

While it may have washed the vinegar smell out of Harper's hair, it also had no effect whatsoever on the petroleum jelly/baby oil fiasco.

4) Baking Soda

Here we are back to the theory of giving the Vaseline something else to bind to. In hindsight this might have worked better if we'd put it on dry hair. It took a good half a box of baking soda dumped with desperation on Harper's head before deciding that maybe that wasn't working so well either.

Document A: A photo of Harper's wet hair with baking soda ineffectively worked into it.

We resisted the temptation to pour more vinegar over her head once it was covered with baking soda (Hello grade school science experiment!). More difficult to resist? Pouring lemon juice on it.

5) Lemon Juice

Harper hated the sensation of the bubbles caused by a lemon juice + baking soda treatment. (We should have made this more tolerable by warming the lemon juice a bit.) The adults involved (me, my mom, and Ann who had stopped by to drop somethings off) were unfortunately highly encouraged by all the bubbles. Surely we were breaking up that darn Vaseline now!

6) Coke

What? I know! We were desperate, my back was sore from bending over the tub for an hour straight, Harper was getting cranky. Why not Coke? One of the sites suggested it, I think.

7) Dawn Dish Soap

Because it's not the same as Ivory. Our particular bottle of Dawn also had oxy action! And still didn't work!

We begin to think about shaving Harper's head. I'm actually not kidding.

We dry Harper's hair, well as much as we think it can be dried, and then put her down for a nap. I call several local salons and kiddie hair cut places, every last one suggests Dawn dish soap. I take Michael for an appointment at the hospital and ask several nurses what to do, again with the dish soap suggestions!

Finally, Tuesday evening, we try the magic combination of materials and steps which will ultimately do the trick. Without further ado, here is the proven method for removing copious amounts of Vaseline from very thin three-year-old hair:

1) Generously coat dry hair with corn starch.

2) Wrap corn starched hair with plastic wrap.

3) Apply heat with hair dryer for ten minutes.

4) Wash corn starch from hair with Dawn dish soap.

5) Apply more Dawn dish soap.

6) Wrap soapy hair with plastic wrap.

7) Apply heat with hair dryer for ten minutes.

8) Rinse.





We ended up doing this twice, but the second time we did not use the hair dryer we just let her plastic wrapped head sit for ten minutes. After the second treatment, Harper's hair was pretty much back to normal.

*****
I once had a high school English teacher praise me for being succinct, let's hope he isn't reading!

*****

Also from the vat of home remedies:

We are giving a constipated Michael the occasional ounce of diluted prune juice. This is under our doctor's advice, of course.

*****

It has taken me nearly three days to complete this post, including the last half hour of one-handed typing. Even with an extra adult in the house I can't seem to get anything accomplished!