Monday, October 31, 2011

Rejoice in golden hues...

I love autumn.  It is by far my most favorite season.  I love the cooler weather, the crisp smell in the morning, and the, the colors in autumn are unparalleled.  I was so excited to be able to take Desmond to a pumpkin patch and for a drive out into Missouri wine country.  This time around, Desmond kind of knew what was happening and he actually enjoyed being out and about.  Unlike this one time (pictures from October 2010):

Not enjoying the splendor of autumn...

So uncomfortable...

Hating life.
We went to a farm in Augusta, Missouri, which just happens to be part of "wine country."  Yes, Missouri is home to several vineyards and the wine they produce isn't that bad.  This area of the state, just about 50 minutes west of St. Louis, was settled primarily by German immigrants, so a lot of the towns that are scattered throughout the area have vestiges of those old German towns.  It's such a beautiful drive.  We timed it so that we left around the time of Desmond's nap so that he could sleep the majority of the drive to the farm.  We got to the farm and it had a play area for kids, a maze, scarecrows, etc.  Nobody was there, so we had the entire place to ourselves, and got to have our pick of the better pumpkins.  I can now understand why parents go crazy over places like's so much fun to see your kid run around and enjoying the fruits of fall.

This time, we had better luck with the pictures (compare with above):

It's funny how I still think of myself as being 22 or o and then I look at this picture and notice that I'm starting to get wrinkles around my eyes and am floored.  I certainly don't feel 30...but I look it.

Now this is the face of a kid who loves fall.

Look at the tin man!  And Dorothy looks like she's in dire need of a bathroom.

I'm so in love with these guys...

He wasn't as creeped out as I thought he'd be. 

I mean, I sure as hell was.

He looks like a little mini movie director.

Desmond's trademark Eff Off face.


But this one's cuter.

We wanted to get a series of shots of him sitting in the tractor tire, to match the awful ones of him we took last year. 

We tried so hard to get him to sit by the tractor.

But he wasn't having any of it.

At a vineyard.
Ok, so now the cheesy part (Yes, I know the pictures themselves are super cheesy.  Humor me here, ok?)  I know I keep beating this dead horse over and over again, but being a mom is hard work.  Super hard.  Harder than anything else I've ever done.  I mean, learning how to write code in SAS is far easier in my book than being pregnant, giving birth, being the sole life-sustaining force for a newborn, and changing so much as a person with each milestone Desmond has achieved.  He's already shaking his head no (and wagging his finger back and forth for emphasis), can hold up one finger when I ask him "Cuantos aƱos tienes?," and teases me by offering me pieces of his food and then taking them away.  I'm not the same mother I was a year ago.  Heck, I'm not the same mother I was 3 months ago.  He is constantly changing and I'm realizing, that like the beautiful colors of fall, this milestone, these moments, will soon come to an end and I will never, ever relive them with him.

Being outside with Desmond, watching the wind ruffle his (very straight) hair, and seeing the most joyful, explosive smile on his face when he picks up the leaves and crumples them in his's the most wonderful thing.  Better than wearing new underpants wonderful.  I am trying to sit back, take it all in, and cherish these sweet, simple moments because in another year, he's going to be yelling "NO" at me instead of showing me, he'll be saying "one" when I ask him how old he is, and he probably won't offer me anymore of his food (he probably won't eat any of the food I offer him...sigh.)

So, here's to the last few weeks of fall and to rejoicing in those golden moments in life.  I'll take them when I can get 'em...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Deal for breastmilk???

Breastmilk is now mainstream, thanks to the help of the "deal-of-the-day" website Groupon, which offers gift certificates for local companies in your area.  You could get a gift certificate for, say, Mexican food at The Red Iguana and pay $20 for $40 worth of food.  It's a fantastic service and I use it frequently.  However, it usually caters to service-based companies, like restaurants, yoga studios, and massage parlors (parlors?  What are they called?  Centers?)  So, imagine my shock (and jubilation!) when I read a Time magazine article about a Groupon offer in Indiana to buy $10 worth of breastmilk.  It definitely caught my attention, so I read on...

The fine print explained what was going on: philanthropy. People who purchased the deal weren't getting cutthroat bargains on breast milk for themselves; instead, the money raised would be used by the milk bank to offset the cost of providing human milk to premature and sick babies in need. 
The charitable deals are courtesy of G-Team, Groupon's good-doing arm. The fund-raising represents a return to the company's roots: Groupon started as a social-action network in 2008 and later transitioned to offering daily deals. G-Team launched in Chicago in July 2010 and has since expanded to 65 other cities, or one-third of Groupon's markets; Indy came online at the end of August. 
Other G-Team offers have included homeless shelters, school districts and museums — essentially any not-for-profit organization. The milk bank, says G-Team spokesperson Kelsey O'Neill, was a perfect fit. "Everyone kind of has a soft spot for providing babies the nutrition they need," says O'Neill. 
After mom's own milk, donor milk is the next-best option for preemies whose mothers may be sick, taking drugs incompatible with breast-feeding or otherwise unable to provide breast milk for their infants. An increasing number of hospitals have switched to donor milk in their neonatal intensive-care units. 
 But the milk doesn't come cheap. Although it's donated by lactating mothers, milk banks have to pay to screen donors for disease. The banks supply bags in which the mothers freeze pumped breast milk, underwrite the costs associated with shipping and pasteurizing the milk to ensure it's safe for already immune-compromised infants. All that overhead adds up: donor milk typically costs $4.50 per ounce (30 milliliters). 
Some preemies take as little as 5 ml a day, meaning that the 132 Groupons sold could cover the cost of 9 liters (304 oz.) of donor milk, feeding 1,800 babies for a day. "That is huge," says Dane Nutty, IMMB's program manager.

I hope and hope that Groupon will offer the same deal to St. Louis and other cities around the country and that other milk banks hop on this bandwagon.  What a great service and opportunity to be able to donate a little to help a lot.  This is exactly the type of non-profiteering that I would like to build up and support (btw, Christy, this is the kind of breastmilk non-profit I was talking about before in that email...)  So, please, if you guys get a deal like this in your city, let me and others know about it so as many people as possible can "buy" (donate) and help provide life-saving, NECESSARY breast milk to babies all over the country, especially to those whose mommies can't make and/or can't afford to buy their own.

Poor economy and diaper rash: cause and effect?

According to data from the CDC, the increase in sales of diaper cream has increased, while the number of babies born and the number of disposable diapers bought have decreased at the same time (SOURCE).

Here are the hard numbers: the Centers for Disease Control reported that the number of babies ages 2 and under fell 3% last year while disposable diaper sales slipped a whopping 9%. And yet, there was a 2.8% increase in diaper rash cream, despite fewer babies.

This doesn't necessarily mean that the sluggish economy is directly the cause of what seems to be an increase in the amount of baby butts with diaper rash, but it's definitely interesting.  Although we cloth diaper mostly full time, there are days when we don't get to the laundry, or the diapers sit in the dryer waiting to be folded and put together...those are the days we use disposables.  And sometimes, we stretch it a bit, leaving Desmond in a diaper much longer than is necessary.  I mean, the type of "longer" where the little absorbent beads start leaking out of the diaper and pepper his privates.  That's when I start to feel like such a crap mom and commit to folding the diapers and putting them together.  But also, part of it is that the diapers we buy (the huggies organic cotton ones) are so expensive.  "Why not buy the regular diapers?"  We've tried them and found them to be more plastic-y and smellier (in a perfumey way) than the organic cotton ones, so we shell out a few extra dollars for a packet of 40.  That pack usually lasts us all month, but when we get really lazy with the cloth diapering, we tend to stretch it and leave Desmond in a wet diaper longer than he should be in one.

The average American baby bottom sees 6.3 diapers a day, and with parents shelling out an average of $1,500 a year for diapers, it's easy to see why some might turn a blind eye to a slightly damp diaper (especially when disposable diapers are so absorbent nowadays)
And of course, parents are doing everything they can to meet their families' needs with less money, but is it really at the expense of their tots' tushes? 
We wouldn't be surprised if other explanations beyond parents skimping on diaper changes included folks making the switch to increasingly popular cloth diapers, others pushing potty training earlier, which Pampers marketer Procter & Gamble suggested, and even just more aggressive marketing efforts on the part of diaper cream makers and retailers.

Market research is so interesting!  I mean, isn't it cool that local health departments use a type of market surveillance that, for example, alerts public health officials to a possible diarrheal outbreak in children when Pedialyte or other oral rehydration solutions fly off the shelves in supermarkets?  Too cool.

Worst countries for women

In so many places, in so many countries, women are treated as second-class citizens. They are denied basic human rights and can be physically and psychologically suppressed by their government, community, and family members. I am so grateful that I live in a country where things for women are pretty decent: I get to pursue a degree that before was barred to so many women, I have the ability to wear and look however I want, and I don't have to ask Billy or my father or my brother for permission to do anything outside of my own home. I'm very lucky that I grew up in a part of the world and in a family that values education and freedom of thought and action. Many women, simply through their place of birth, are born into a life of forced submission and reprehensible lack of basic human rights.

As we approach the season of giving thanks, of being grateful for all that we have, think about the plight of women just like you (or your wife, daughter, mother, sister) all around the world who struggle day in and day out for a better life for themselves and their families. If you have a few minutes, take a look at the pictures in the slide show at the link below. It contains pictures of women living in the world's most dangerous countries for women: Afghanistan, the DRC, Pakistan, India, and Somalia, and keep them in your thoughts as you go through each day-to-day enjoying some of the basic freedoms that these women lack.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


This post is just an excuse for me to post pictures of our trip to Atlanta a few weekends ago.  Billy had to attend a business conference there and I decided to tag along.  I had been to Atlanta years ago when I lived in Montgomery and only remembered going to the Underground Mall.  I wanted to visit the 3 Big Cs: Coca-Cola, CNN, and the CDC, but I just settled on CNN and Coca-Cola because I didn't want Desmond to embarrass me in front of public health professionals (a crying baby definitely does NOT get you any further when it comes to making connections and networking).

We used Airbnb again when we visited Atlanta.  We stayed in a suburb just east of the city that was only a few MARTA stops away from the city center.  It was a gorgeous house and we had a wonderful room and a big, beautiful bathroom.  We tried to tire Desmond out as much as we could so that by the time we got to the house, he would fall asleep easily (the owners stayed in another room for 2 out of the 3 nights that we were there.  Weird, yes, but we never saw them and the price to stay was only 70 bucks).  This picture is of their hammock in the backyard.

At the Atlanta Children's Museum.  He's wearing a little rain slicker thing and using the poles to "fish."

Going up the worlds largest, freestanding escalator to the CNN studios.

The News Room at CNN.  Much to my dismay, the Silver Fox (Anderson Cooper) only broadcasts from NYC.

Oh my God, the first time the Coca-Cola bear stepped out into the gathering area, Desmond's eyes lit up like nothing I've ever seen before.  He was so excited, all he could do was point at it repeatedly.  So, of course, we had to go see El Oso de Coca Cola.  I wasn't planning to buy the pictures.  But when I saw his happy little face, I knew I had to spend the $30 bucks for the set.  Billy didn't agree...but c'mon...look at his face!  (I, on the other hand, have seen much better days).  I sent this to my mom and she showed it to everyone she works with.  I was astonished because she works for PepsiCo.  She just said, "Don't worry.  I keep telling everyone that my grandson has betrayed me..." 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Winter is coming...

Has anybody ever read Game of Thrones?  I know it's being made into an HBO miniseries and has gotten a lot of buzz.  I'm halfway into it and it's just "meh" right now.  The main good guys in the book (the Starks), live in a place called Winterfell, where the threat of life-long winters is always imminent.  They always say "Winter is coming..." to emphasize that things are going to get pretty bad with the winter.  That's exactly what I've been saying to myself lately as the temperatures here in St. Louis drop to 55 degrees during the day and above freezing at night.  I am already starting to wish that fall would stay just a little while longer.  I'm not ready to endure a midwest winter yet.  And, most importantly, I'm not ready to keep Desmond inside all day.

Our backyard just as the leaves were starting to fall.

My office looking out into the backyard.

Drinking some goat's milk on a break from throwing leaves.

Frolicking in the park.

Luckily, there are a few odds in my favor: 1) our nanny is a huge outdoor person and takes Desmond outside, rain or shine, every single day she's with him.  She's been bundling him up and taking a blanket on the brisk days and we just bought him the cutest rain boots so that he could jump in puddles when it rains, and 2) we have several indoor fun options available for him in the city.

Trying on his new-to-him rain boots.  $5 at Kangaroo Kids.  And yes, mom, those are stains in the carpet and no, we didn't do them.  They were here when we moved in.  

I should start off by saying that I myself am not an outdoor person at all.  I hate being too cold or too hot, so you'll find me hanging out with Desmond outside in the spring or fall.  But you'll have to drag me out in the summer or winter (Desmond's restlessness is usually enough).  So, here's my plan for the winter months: There was a special for Gymboree memberships (2 months for the price of 1), and more than anything, it's a chance for me to be around mothers of children who are the same age as Desmond and for Desmond to play on bigger, better playgroundish equipment.

There's also a great place called the Magic House for kids.  I went in on a year membership with a friend of mine, so we get to go whenever we want for $30 for an entire year (tickets are usually $8/person).

There's also the Union Station, which has a little play area in the mall.  Desmond loved riding the rides (except we didn't put any quarters in them, so they were stationary).

Unsure of what to expect. 
Getting the hang of it.

Getting into the groove.

So excited...

And then we told him we had to leave.  He threw a fit.  :(

I'm looking into ads on Craigslist to buy Desmond a little mini-tent we could put in our living room, but other than that, I'm running out of ideas for things to do with Desmond when it's too cold to play outside.  Are there any cool indoor things you do with your toddler?  I don't want to have to take him out of the house every single day this winter, so any ideas would surely be inspiring.

Co-sleeping habits

Billy, Desmond, and I are part-time cosleepers: Desmond starts the night in his own room and then at around 1am, he'll cry out and we'll bring him into bed with us.  We have the crib pushed up right against our bed and we'll place him there when we bring him into our bed, but he ends up rolling over to be closer to me (since I sleep next to the crib) and takes up a lot of my spread out space.  Sometimes, I'll put him in between me and Billy but, like I've said before, Desmond hates to be confined under the covers, so we always have to put his little body above the covers, which makes it mighty difficult for me to roll over in any direction.  This diagram explains it perfectly (from Christopher Niemann's NYT blog, Abstract Sunday)

Christoph Niemann - Good Night and Good Luck

Christoph Niemann - Good Night and Good Luck
Christoph Niemann - Good Night and Good LuckAfter weeks of sweet-talking, serenading and heartbreaking Ferberizing, we think we have reclaimed our bed. Until a short trip or a quick flu undoes everything again.
Then, the second Billy's alarm goes off at 6:30am, Desmond starts partially waking up and starts rolling around everywhere, even on top of me.  He does this, on and off, for about an hour.

And then he's awake at 7:30am.  It's not so long ago that I can't remember the sweet, sweet feeling of a full night's rest and (weirdly so) that universal feeling of a full bladder when I wake up in the morning and the gratifying release of going pee first thing (every time I wake up because of Desmond, I have to make a trip to the, in one typical night, that's probably 2 or 3 times that I empty my bladder).

I just keep telling myself that someday, SOMEDAY, he's going to sleep through the night consistently. And I, too, will sleep through the night.  And everything will be good and mornings won't suck and Desmond will be a well-adjusted, sleep-loving, well-rested boy and I'll be back to my chipper old self.  Someday...

(Disclaimer: we never Ferberized Desmond, nor are we open to it.  Sorry, doesn't work for us, although we've heard miracle stories of how it worked for other moms.  I think it's important to sleep with give him a feeling of comfort and security that he may lack by being alone in his room at night.  I want him to associate sleep with happiness (as I do) and not have it be a traumatic experience for him in the very least.  So, that's how we roll.)

Nudity and the family

I have a question for everyone.  It stems from a discussion that I had with a certain someone who mentioned to me that her husband will cover up his bits anytime he's naked in front of his baby, a little boy.  I laughed and remembered Billy telling me the story about how a few times, while he was showering with Desmond in the morning, Desmond has pointed to Billy's penis and reached out to touch it.  It made Billy uncomfortable (and rightly so), and that started our discussion about how we wanted to approach nudity in our family.

I'm pretty comfy in my own skin at home.  I grew up used to seeing my mom naked...I would sit at the edge of the jacuzzi tub my mother had in her master bathroom (what 80s house didn't?) and watch her put her bra and panties on, roll on her deodorant, spray herself with perfume, and put makeup on.  It was all a very glamorous procedure.  I remember one time asking my mom while she was nursing John, my little brother, if milk came out of both breasts, and she told me, yes, that chocolate came out of one breast and regular out of the other.  To this day, whenever I go visit her or she comes and visits me, we have no qualms about getting changed in front of each other.  I also have no qualms about getting changed in front of my friends.  I grew up in the ballet world where the changing rooms are often segregated by sex (but really, there would be danseurs (male dancers) walking around not caring a flip if they saw a boob or two (but I would always try not to stare at the little jock strap things that showed their bums)) and quick changes happen in and out of tutus in the wings.  I learned to value the beauty of the male and female form and am not unnecessarily distressed when I see nudity in public (or on TV (hellooo True Blood)).  And I definitely am comfortable walking around naked in front of Desmond.

But, to tell you the truth, I see images like this and I get uncomfortable:

Why?  I'm not sure.  Maybe it's the age of the children and the fact that the little boy and girl are old enough to understand that mommy and daddy are naked.  I think about the fact that I, to my knowledge, never saw my dad naked (or at least I don't remember it) and I'm definitely OK with it.  I don't think that I would like to remember what my dad looks like naked.  And I know that Billy doesn't remember seeing his dad in the nudey, but his mom said that he did.  Would I want Desmond seeing me naked as he gets older?  I'm not sure.  Part of me is like, "what's the big effing deal?"  but then the other part of me thinks about that one episode on CSI where this kid is in the psychiatric unit because he had a weird relationship with his mom.  I'm not sure what the effect is on growing children and I sure as hell don't want Desmond to have any weird things going on about nudity or sexuality or anything.

I'm conflicted because I believe that I have grown up in a culture/society that puts a LOT of emphasis on the naked form in a sexual context.  For example, I believe that women's breasts are meant to breastfeed.  Period.  A woman's vagina is another story.  Therefore, I am much more willing to accept images of women's breasts or seeing them in person than a woman's in-betweens.  I would feel completely comfortable if Desmond, at any age, saw my breasts while I was breastfeeding my other children, but wouldn't feel comfortable with him seeing me completely naked once he has the ability to remember seeing me naked.  But why?  There are so many cultures where nudity (especially showing the breasts) is commonplace and normal.  In other cultures, showing so much as a sliver of calf is considered to be taboo.  Is there a psychological change that children go through where modesty becomes an important part of their identity and nudity, on behalf of their mom and dad, makes them uncomfortable or causes them to be confused about nudity in sexual terms?  Are there any studies about this out there that anybody knows of?  Is it more appropriate that children see only the parent that's the same sex of them naked and then only up until the age where they can start recalling things?  Should dads be naked around their sons for less time than mothers around their daughters?

What do you guys do in your house?  Was there an age for your child that you stopped being naked around them?  How did your experiences growing up with nudity in your family affect your decision-making now?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How a 14-month-old plays with other children

In 2 words: He doesn't. 

Watching, somewhat callously, as his friend Alexander falls off his chair. 
He then proceeded to take Alexander's chair.

Notice that he's not throwing the ball in Nico's direction at all.  

Walking away from a totally decent game of maybe, coulda-been catch.

Watching, impatiently, as a younger baby takes up "his" stair space.
Kids this age don't play together, they play side-by-side.  They hardly interact until they see shiny toy A in child B's hands.  Then it's all out war and all sense of politeness and propriety is thrown out the door.  Desmond will grab the toy and wrestle it from his poor "friend's" hands.  And then when the friend exacts retribution, Desmond screams as if this were the greatest injustice in the world.

When do they start learning to share?  Is it still too early to teach him?

A frolic in the ocean

Billy said this to me tonight and I laughed so hard, wine almost came out my nose.  I mean, frolic?  Who says that besides pretentious Englishmen talking about their holiday on the coast?  He was explaining to me how hard it was to learn how to boogey board and how that experience made him kind of afraid of the ocean.  His harrowing experience made me think about my 2-week-long stint as a full-time, 14-hour-a-day, stay-at-home mom while he was attending his orientation classes at Wash U.  And it was just like being tossed and turned over in a great big wave of water, not knowing where was up and when I was, if I was, going to get to the top to take a breath.  Yes, folks, it sounds overdramatic, but let me just say this: being a stay-at-home mom (or SAHM in mommy blog parlance) is no effing frolic in the ocean.

I've been lucky enough to have had a ton of help with Desmond: 2 very wonderful and competent nannies, Grandparents living nearby (well now not so nearby), and Billy having a job that allowed him the flexibility to go in late (so that I could catch a few hours of sleep undisturbed in the morning).  Plus,  I enjoyed the relative flexibility of being a part-time student (which made me a part-time stay-at-home mom, or SAHM for short).  For the first 5.5 months of Des's life, I would spend 8-10 hours with him during the day.  Those were dark times, my friends.  I had no energy to put him in the sling and take him places.  Oprah and Ellen were my dear friends during the day and any hours not spent trying to nurse, change, or placate Desmond were spent watching TV (watched every conceivable episode of CSI) and doing homework.  Looking back, I should have sucked it up and spent my time a park, walking around, etc.  But seriously, when it's all you could do to change your underwear that day, getting out the front door alone as a first-time mom with a bitty newborn is more than my mind could handle.

Sometimes I need a little help to get through the day.  Somedays, it takes the form of drinkable yogurt (mmmm...Kefir), others it's Burnt Caramel Rooibos tea with 2 ginger cookies.  And some days you just gotta throw your hands up in the air and have a nice glass of red wine.  

When Maria, our old nanny, came into our lives, it took such a weight off of my shoulders.  She adroitly took Desmond from my arms and, for the next 6 months, took such expert care of him.  I was now able to do stuff without having Desmond on my hip constantly needing my attention.  I know that it's not kosher to say these sorts of things out loud, and I sometimes admonish the hell out of myself when I think about all the time that other people got to spend with Desmond that I didn't, and I'd imagine how awful I'd feel if something were to happen to him and I could've spent more time with him, but truthfully, that time to myself helped to balance me.  I came back so refreshed and wanting to see Desmond and spend time with him.  I really do believe that I'm a better mother because of the time I get to myself each day.  I try to fill that time with productive (for me) things, such as working on my dissertation, doing yoga, going for a run (a 1-miler), reading a book...even taking a long shower.  But I try not to fill it with cleaning my house.  Spending valuable non-Desmond time cleaning my house is equal to spending time with a screeching Desmond: unforgivable.

I mean, look at this face.  Who can deny spending time with him?

But then some days I feel like putting this picture on an ad in Craigslist.

For two weeks when we just moved to St. Louis, while Billy was embroiled deep into his orientation to Business school, I spent 14 or so waking hours alone with Desmond.  In a city I didn't know, in a house I didn't feel quite comfortable in, with a baby that demanded all of my attention.  It was my first foray into full-time SAHMhood.  I HATED it.  Every second.  Waking up every morning was the worst part of my day.  I couldn't comprehend how other women did other women chose to do it.  I felt, again, like a failure.  Except this time, I knew I was one.  How could I dislike being around my son so much?  I came to realize that I had a huge mental and emotional block.  I had been spoiled and now was doing what I should have been capable of doing.  Why wasn't it working?  Why wasn't I able to go through the entire day with my son?  I think I had viewed spending time with Desmond as like a duty, so when I had to do it, I couldn't enjoy it.  I viewed his wanting my attention as an intrusion to what was supposed to be my time.  It wasn't until the very end that I finally realized that I could just sit back and let the interaction happen naturally.  I realized that I had to make sure that I fit my life into Desmond instead of making Desmond fit into mine.

Sitting back...

Letting him figure it out...

and having a great time.
Letting him run around...

and play while I sit back and take it all in.  And laugh at how much his stomach looks exactly like my dad's gut. 

It all clicked.  and I became a better, more present, more patient mother.  Now, I'm lucky enough to have a nanny come for 4 hours a day, 4 days a week, but whatever time I have left with Desmond that day is spent enjoying him, figuring out what he's babbling to me about, and getting him like nobody else gets him.  Props to all the mothers and fathers out there staying at home full time to raise their children.  For the short time that I have had to do it, it has definitely been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  Birth was easier in retrospect (even before the epidural).  It's no frolic in the ocean, but once you learn how to manage and swim through the waves, it can be the sweetest, most beautiful place in the world.

(are your teeth hurting yet?)