Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Don't pass on the pacifier

Remember how my child likes bouncing? Well he prefers his pacifier more. Or me less. Both are fine.

Yesterday, I forgot his blue binkie, leaving it home while running errands 40 miles away. The drive was fine, the little tyke made hardly a peep. But when I took him to my office, he got antsy.

Just pick up a pacifier at the store,
my coworkers said. You’ll thank us later.

But I didn’t listen.

My child is an an angel. His second love to bouncing? His car seat. He won’t need one, I thought.

Note: if you find yourself in a similar situation, be ye not so stupid.

Bouncing at the office did the trick, but that didn’t last through lunch, a feeding and a trip to the Ol' Wal-Marts.

It started in the canned vegetable aisle, he squawking as I analyzed the spice severity in chili seasonings. Cole cried in the cart, so I held him.

He also cried when I held him, so we bounced.

I got a few stares and several smiles. One Chatty Woman even struck up a conversation about her own children, but amidst the screams, those conversations are complicated to carry. I smiled when her lips stopped moving, but truly, I missed every word.

And of course, in typical small-town fashion, I ran in to people I knew. Sigh. People who were so excited to meet little Cole, but then fast-pitched him back to me when his cries turned to a sweet symphony of jackhammers and car alarms. 

Still, I thought I could handle it. He cries. I bounce. This usually solves the problem. So I bounced my bawling baby in the cereal aisle, debating between regular flavor or honey nut.

Chatty Woman returned. In my attempts to hear her, I stuck the knuckle in his mouth. Perhaps it was from the ringing in my ears, but she sounded like she needed a Sucret and some salt water. Good thinking, Chatty Woman. Again, I heard not what she said other than “finger” and “germs” but I didn’t care. Frankly, I preferred my rioting infant.

Chatty Woman sauntered towards produce as I ducked into dairy, but Cole’s one-man fire alarm remained sounding.

Fine, I sighed, resigning myself to the looks, stares and although infrequent, a few glares. Let’s book-it to baby.

As if she were a mosquito attracted to my knock-off perfume, Chatty Woman reappeared, lips moving AGAIN, and me with my mouth open and free hand upturned. We’re headed to the pacifier section, I hollered over my shoulder, ignoring the niceties I should teach my son to observe.

I may take my time choosing brands of breakfast, but I made haste in the baby aisle. In fact, I didn’t even waste time paying for the pacifier before I opened it. Like I'd already made the purchase, I tore the packaging, swiped the nuk with a diaper wipe and quashed what sounded like the high-pitch of a screeching microphone.

I’m not sure if it was one second later or two, but instantly, his eyes closed.

I fastened Cole’s car seat belt immediately, a trick I’d learned earlier that day. Strap him in when he’s kinda asleep to avoid waking him when he’s really asleep.

Dear Crystal: I owe ya one.

Although the awkward glances subsided, I hadn’t erased them completely. I chose check-out No. 12 because the associate there looked like she mothered children and maybe even grandchildren of her own.

According to the look on her face, she had neither.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful for turkey and traveling this Thanksgiving

If walking in another woman’s shoes gives perspective, then someone should have thrown a strappy sandal at my head months ago. 
One of the benefits of nursing is the inability to do anything else. Honey, could you fix dinner? I’m feeding the baby. Telemarketer? Gotta go, feeding the baby. Oh sorry, religious-people-who-knock-on-the-doors-of-strangers, I can’t answer. Baby’s hungry.
And while that’s awesome, I give thanks for more than just a good excuse this Thanksgiving.
Although nursing limits the flipping of pancakes, it does not limit the flipping of channels. That’s how I came across such enlightening entertainment as “I’m Pregnant and Homeless,” a show about 29-year-old Misty. Misty and her husband couldn’t find work and couldn’t afford the rent. At nine months pregnant, the couple lived out of a tent and a van, washing in the river and peeing behind a tree. 

I guess all is well that ends well and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Sometimes I wish our burdens weren’t so heavy, but I always had shoes in which to walk. Some mothers, like Misty, have no shoes at all. 
Shame on me for ever feeling sorry for myself.

The year 2010 was the most life-changing ever, but with change comes challenge. 
My husband and I lived separately my entire pregnancy. After losing his home in the flood of 2009, Levi moved in with his grandmother in the country. I stayed in my one-bedroom, in-town apartment. It made little sense to move all my stuff to his grandmother’s and then move it again to our house, which was/is still under construction. Plus, imposing on an already over-generous woman seemed like sticking jeweled fingers into a charity basket. 
Because pregnancy is so demanding, the dads traditionally spoil the moms-to-be. Boys carry the groceries, tie the lady’s shoes and make midnight Taco Bell runs followed by a 2 a.m. stop for pickled ice cream.
Living alone, those luxuries were foreign to me. And even if we’d lived together, I’d have still carried my own groceries, fastened my own laces and driven myself to the drive-through. Suffering from a herniated disc, my husband was in more pain than me. 
The pain was so bad, he couldn’t work. And with no work comes no paycheck.
Concerned about finances, I fretted about every scenario. As I saw it, to pay our bills on time ever these were our options:
* Levi work and hurt himself further = husband in chronic pain and more hospital bills
* Levi take off work, watch the baby and I’ll skip maternity leave
* Levi take off work, I’ll take maternity leave but work part-time anyway
* Levi take off work, I’ll take maternity leave and then when I go back to work, also find a part-time job to make up for lost wages ---> as the days progressed, that seemed one of the best, yet most heart-breaking options. If I worked 12 hours a day plus a 1.5 hour commute, when would I ever see my new baby?
Despite all the help from family, friends and coworkers (and we had a lot) our under-construction house had no heat, no running water, no appliances and only a few unpacked boxes as my due date approached. We were close to move-in ready though, I can’t complain about that. Nine months pregnant, I slept on the floor of my apartment after my coworkers helped me and my mangled husband moved every piece of furniture. 
Baby’s time in the NICU was almost a blessing. Cole could stay in a hospital with good care and running water while our family and friends moved the rest of my stuff out of my apartment, unpacked boxes and made our house a home. They did all that while Levi and I stayed in Bismarck, waiting as our son recovered. 
Levi and I returned to our unfinished house and I did, indeed, share a home with my overly-generous grandmother-in-law who never seemed to tire of our company. So long as she could hold the baby, she seemed even happy about it. 
The first nights with the baby, I spent them alone although the house was full. Determined to figure it out myself, I wouldn’t let my mom, in town from Colorado, rock the screaming infant to sleep. That was my job. And the job of my husband... but given his state, sitting felt like steak knives from his rear to his ankle. He couldn’t even sleep in a bed and instead, slept on the floor with his knees propped on the couch. So I paved the primary nights of parenthood alone, sobbing along with the baby into the monitor for Levi’s help when I resigned myself to the conclusion that I needed it. 
A week after our return, our house had water and most of the major appliances. We were in. We slept in the living room, so Levi could rest on the floor, and Cole slept in a swing borrowed from good friends. 
It wasn’t ideal, but we were home. Under a roof. With walls and heat and water that ran through a faucet.
Life got better for Misty too. 
Her husband traded work for temporary housing. She’d lost 15 pounds during her pregnancy because of poor nutrition, but her baby weighed more than Cole at birth. She and her family struggle to make ends meet, but they too are together. 
If every closed door opens a window, than the window unlatched for me belongs to a little house in Colorado. Given my maternity leave and Levi's disability, neither of us is working, so neither of us need worry about scheduling holidays with our employers. Cole's uncle and maternal grandparents can spend six days and a national holiday with their only nephew/grandson. And I can enjoy the extra time with my family.

Perhaps our situation isn't ideal, but this Thanksgiving will be. For that, I am thankful. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Car-buying advice: Don't let the dealers drive all over you

I don't know anything about cars, but I do know a lot about research and a little about bargains.

I bought my car whilst with child, and wanted a safe, dependable vehicle that would allow me to still afford diapers once baby arrived. 

Before my purchase earlier this year, I researched the beejesus out of autos, deciding what kind was best for me. I also solicited the advice of experts I trusted: former used car salespeople, mechanics and the mother father of all barterers: my dad.

Note: a friend called today, seeking my car-buying advice. That made me feel important. The truth is, I've done this only once. I'm no expert. I did save myself about $2,500 off sticker though, so with any hope, one or two of the tips I learned can help you too.

Before you buy:

* Determine what type of vehicle is best for you using sites like ConsumerReports.org. Since I live in the great white wilderness and drive daily on gravel, I wanted something with good tires and 4-wheel drive. Despite the Consumer Report ratings, I chose a Jeep Grand Cherokee after numerous owners I knew reported rave reviews. Consumer Reports says Grand Cherokees are unreliable, not as fuel efficient and not as valuable as other vehicles in it's class. My point? Despite what the experts say, pick what's best for you in your area. Mechanics here aren't familiar with foreign vehicles like Subarus and Volvos. Consumer Reports doesn't factor in the additional costs associated with driving a vehicle 100 miles to service it OR chancing an imperfect repair job.

* Determine the vehicle's worth: Kelly Blue Book (kbb.com) and NADA.com will ask what year the vehicle is and how many miles are on it. Based on that info, it will spit out an estimated value for the car. Even if you forget your last name, KNOW THIS. It's like mana in the deal-making desert.

* Research fees, closing costs, taxes and other expenses not listed on the sticker price. Some states/dealers charge $500 just for paperwork. If you're state is like this, consider crossing the border.

* Shop at the end of the month: both dealers and sales associates are more desperate the few days before payroll. More desperate = more likely to deal.

* Shop at the end of winter: this is tricky if you need a car now, but if you can stand to wait, wait until January or February. Consumers don't want to shop outside in the cold, plus, their pocketbooks still cha-cluck with emptiness from the holidays. With fewer buyers, dealers compete to make sales. Dealer competition = buyer victory.

* Shop during a PR crisis: Toyota sold several cars at bargain-basement prices after its recall this year. Use that to your advantage.

* Prepare a list of service work, parts, upgrades you want in addition to the vehicle itself. In your offer, say you are willing to pay $x with a, b, and c work done. I wanted floor mats, mud flaps and and an autostart. My dad bartered for all he wanted PLUS a year's worth of oil changes. He's good.

* If you're uncomfortable negotiating, bring someone who isn't. I'm a little weird in that bartering for me is fun. I like finding good deals, it's like overcoming a challenge. Some people save stamps? I save money. These car-buying meetings will be long, exhausting and awkward. The dealers will do all they can to confuse you into spending more money. If you are unsure of yourself, bring a back-up.

At the dealer:

* Prepare to walk: nothing expresses disinterest like leaving. A customer on the fence is a customer dealers know they'll need to entice with a better offer. Besides, cars are cars. Whatever model you chose, a million more are for sale just like them. This is your bartering power.

* Don't be afraid to hurt the salesperson's feelings because you won't. They don't have any. Not when thousands of dollars are on the line. No matter what deal you make, they and their company are making money. Your salesperson will give you a well-rehearsed song and dance, maybe even a couple back-handed insults, but car-buying is business. They wouldn't sell the car if the company wasn't making a sufficient profit. Don't let them make you feel bad.

* Insist on a third-party inspection: In some places this is common, in North Dakota, it isn't. Pay an unaffiliated mechanic you trust to inspect the vehicle and see if it needs any work or will need expensive repairs soon. Pick their brains. Ask them questions like: would you drive this car? What would you pay for it? What are some of the common costs of ownership? Do you see anything which needs fixing soon? Hint: if even all you do is require the inspection, the dealer may get nervous and do it for you. My third-party inspector was just a friend who gave it a quick look, in the dark. But the dealer didn't know that and made sure the vehicle was in tip-top shape, afraid I'd walk if it wasn't in pristine condition. In my case, the original dealer gave it another inspection and found a crack in one of the valves. They fixed it, free of charge. If you're inspector finds something wrong and you still want the vehicle, see if the original dealer will fix it for you or at least fix it for a reduced price.

* Play hard to get. And don't accept their initial offer. Whatever deal you make the day you walk into the showroom will get sweeter if you leave. Tell the dealer you need time to think about it, especially if they're meeting you in the middle. Even better: tell them you have an appointment to see similar vehicles at another dealer and high-tail it for a Heiniken. Let's say you offered $18,000 for a car with a $20,000 sticker. Maybe the dealer countered with $19,000. If you request time to think about it and leave, the dealer may call you, reducing the price. Mine did.

* Don't sign anything until you are sure. My salesperson hand-wrote my offer in pencil and wanted me to sign it. He wrote something like:

taxes, license and fees
I intend to buy.
Sign here:

That one caught me off guard. I wouldn't sign it because I didn't know what the taxes and fees would cost me and I had a price point *luckily* I would not cross. I guess I don't know what the purpose of such an informal contract is, but it isn't necessary. Just say no.

* Know your price point and stick to it. It's easy to say "no" when you know saying "yes" means spending the next five years eating beans out of cans. A good way to do this is to play with numbers on the dealer's websites. Most of them can calculate monthly payments based on the car's price, your down payment and trade-in, interest rate and other factors.

* Shop for auto loans: your dealer may offer the best rate, but double check your own bank and a few others. This is also a good way to know your price point. If your budget is $10,000, depending on interest rates, you may only have $8,000 to spend on the vehicle + tax, title and fees.

* Know the value of your trade and accept nothing less. You can do this using the kbb.com and nada.com sites listed above. If the dealer won't give you what the trade is worth, consider selling it privately. 

* Get a Carfax auto report. These reports indicate if the vehicle has had any accidents and/or some of it's service history. If the dealer won't get one for you, hit the road. The car is a lemon.

And this video is from my grade-school buddy (and first boyfriend ever, teehee!) Dan Jones. Not only is it helpful, the dude is kinda funny.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Correspondence with Cole: two months

Dear Cole,

Today you are two months old. You no longer fit into newborn-sized clothes and my return-to-work date too quickly approaches. Pretty soon you’ll be breaking fragile objects, bones and someday, maybe even hearts. I look forward to the day you walk, but fear your walk across the graduation stage. Though that event is years away, these first two months took less than a second on the stopwatch called life. Surely the next few years will fly by like the hundred meter hurdle. 

Already this month, you’ve met milestones like smiling when someone smiles at you. That someone is usually not me. Despite my over-exaggerated expression of pearly whites and the muscle strain side effect of arching my eyebrows, you avoid my eye contact and save your smiles for daddy. Although your neck coordination is limited, I believe you are doing this on purpose. Remind me to ground you for it later.

When I do get a beam from you baby boy, it’s usually after the third time you roused me from my slumber, threatening to break windows with your screams. This is when I need your smiles most. And since daddy sleeps through your squawking, those smiles are mine alone. Someday I’ll teach you to share, but for now, I'll keep them to myself.

To verify you meet your other milestones, an official from Right Track visited this month to ensure development is on schedule.

It is.

Given your stint in the NICU, this is a relief.

The Right Track woman asked if you had trouble eating. Yes, I thought to myself, you have trouble eating too much, too fast. Instead of dessert, you prefer bouncing after ever meal likely because of gas bubbles in your belly. I don’t know much about inside your belly, but I do know what comes out of it. Those bubbles expel with more frequency and ferocity than a grown man on a baked bean and broccoli diet. Godzilla on a whoopee cushion sounds as quiet as a whisper compared to you.

As your father and I discuss our religious backgrounds and how to raise you as a man of faith, my biggest concern isn’t the church affiliation we choose, but how quiet the services are. Surely, you’d save your sacred symphony for the most holy and hushed of moments, embarrassing us to the point of preferring limbo if it means not blushing at your baptism.

Your gassiness upsets your tummy, and because of all the bouncing to counteract it, my appendages will soon match diamonds in terms of strength and beauty, from hoisting you up-and-down, up-and-down. In fact, given your affinity for spring-loaded stepping, I’m sure you’re destined for a career in either basketball... or pogo sticking.

Your daddy had surgery this month, a surgery he’s needed for more than a year but delayed until you were born so he could help me with you. He was in a lot of pain and the first chance he got to feed you, he declined. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to, it was the feeling of Freddy Krueger radiating from his rear to his ankle. The pain rendered sitting to give you a bottle almost impossible. Since the hospital performing the procedure was 100 miles away, we left you with your grandmother overnight. Your father and I missed you, couldn’t wait to come home, whereas you probably didn’t want to leave. I don’t doubt your grandmother added chocolate candy to your bottle and let you stay up past your bedtime. She spoils you, but don’t forget, I produce the breast milk, OK? Don't forget to love me too... :)

Now that the surgery is over and your father is on the mend, he takes advantage of his new found health, taking pleasure in bath time, tummy time and even changing diapers. Sometimes I catch you two cuddling on the couch and I know you’re likely plotting against your outnumbered mother, or at the very least, practicing for the next tournament of tooters.

Because your father can’t work as he heals and I’m still on maternity leave, our little family is celebrating Thanksgiving with your maternal grandparents and Uncle Mike in Colorado. It’s your first trip out of state, which we know you appreciate because given your birthday airplane ride, you’d clearly do anything to travel.

Notre Dame could win a National Championship, but I’m still not sure that compares with your grandparents’ excitement to see you. In fact, I’m not sure they care to see your dad and I, but ooohh the baby. We want to see the baby. Family and friends encourage us to go on dates, get house work done, go hunting for deer/bargains... all so they can babysit. It’s not out of consideration for us; they have alternative motives. They just want to spend time with you. And who can blame them? You’re quite famous. If you could write, I’d sell autographed copies of your Jamestown Hospital ad in the newspaper, but as such, I’ll just christen them with your spit up instead. I’m sure I’ll make a fortune, but I’m not sure I’ll share it with you. We’ll just call it even for all those diapers you soil... see above.

Love you baby,

Friday, November 19, 2010

Baby's first road trip

Today begins day one of two, heading to Colorado for Thanksgiving. I have a baby on the breast and a husband with a bad back, who can't sit for long intervals and must avoid lifting more than 20 lbs... I are smart.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Best Christmas/holiday gifts for the wee ones

As the holidays approach, my mom enlists me to create my annual, "What do you want for Christmas?"-list.

Since I'm a little on the broke side this holiday, instead if starting my shopping early, I've started my list-making early instead.

So far, I've come up with these ideas for my son. Perhaps these are good ideas for gift-giving and receiving in your family.

Note: there are the ideas of me and some awesome Twitter/Facebook friends. No one paid me to post them.

* Recordable storybooks: like this "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" version for about $20 from Amazon.com. It's perfect for families like mine... I live with my husband and son in North Dakota but my parents and brother live in Colorado. If they record their voices in books like these, little Cole can hear his grandma, grandpa and Uncle Mike all year long. (Hallmark sells them too but purchases aren't available online.)

 * Books of any kind, really. Especially board books. They stand the tests of chubby fingers and regurgitated applesauce. 

* Savings bonds, savings-account investments, contributions to baby's 529: little babies don't know what presents are and even toddlers appreciate the gift wrapping more than the gift itself. A relative bought me a $20 savings bond when I was young, it's worth more than $600 now. Cha-ching. Read more about 529s here.

* Personalized winter wear: Ok, these hats won't always fit, but they are darling, handmade and can be purchased at any size. PLUS if your child has a small head, big ears, or affinity for rainbow colors, etc., crocheter Heidi Bear can custom-make them. This is Cole, sporting her pumpkin design. Check out Heidi's Etsy website here.

* Scrapbooks, photo albums or any sort of collected mementos: This gift gives twice. The child's parents will also thank you. If you like photo books of the online variety, try Shutterfly.com, Snapfish.com or kodakgallery.com. Don't forget to first register with shopathome.com for 25 percent to 30 percent off your purchase.

* Quality time: give the gift of memories... bake cookies, go hunting/bargain hunting, spend the day at the zoo. Your little ones may not remember, but they'll appreciate the occasions anyway. BONUS: Take lots of pictures and use them for gifts next year. :)

Happy shopping!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cole shakes it

Cole doesn't like to just sit. He likes to bounce. 

His dad, however, prefers another method.


PS: I don't endorse shaken babies. Just dancing ones :) 

An even blacker Black Friday

Looking to save some dough this holiday season? Look into ShopAtHome.com. Seriously.
I’ve written about this before... but I'm going to tell you again because I heart it so much. My friend works for ShopAtHome and it is AWESOME. (She doesn't make any money when I write this though, I just wanted to share how I learned of it's existence...)

I live in the middle of nowhere, so when it comes to gifts, I’ll make most of my purchases online. If you too, live where only corn grows or you like to avoid the crowds, shop in your pajamas, fear daylight, etc., perhaps you’ll shop online too. 
More than 352 merchants offer discounts and deals through shopathome.com... oh wait... 352 merchants whose name begins with “A”... 375 with “B”... 444 with “C”... etc. for a total of more than 2,000 different stores. You’ll find what you want.  

Don't forget to buy locally if you can though....

But for stores 50+ miles away... here are some of the discounts shopathome.com offers:
Buying gifts?
Kohls: 4 percent cash back
Barnes and Noble: 8 percent cash back
Cabelas: 4 percent cash back
Target: 5 percent cash back
Verizon: $35 dollars cash back
Pictures/Holiday cards?
Shutterfly.com: 25 percent cash back
Snapfish.com: 25 percent CASH BACK 
Wal-Mart.com: 3 percent cash back (you pick them up at your friendly, neighborhood branch)
shoes.com: 12 percent cash back
Famous Footwear: 13 percent cash back
DSW: 8 percent cash back
Crocs, Inc.: 7.5 percent cash back
Priceline.com: 3 percent cash back  <---- this one RoCkS the hiz-ouse! "Name Your Own Price" is already a bargain!
Travelocity.com: 3 percent cash back
Holiday Inn: 6 percent cash back
Choice Hotels: 7 percent cash back
Home improvement?
Home Depot: 5 percent cash back
Even Ebay offers 3 percent cash back... :)
All you have to do is visit shopathome.com and register. Search for the store you want using the toolbar, or type in search words like: “computers,” “video games,” “Barbie” or “Silver jeans” and chose the merchant with the best deal. 
Click on the store of your choice and shop as usual. You’ll receive the cash back once you’ve earned at least $20 in total cash back. You can use that extra money to pay off the credit card bill OR better yet, the after-Christmas sales :)

If you find any good/better deals, let me know. I'm always looking to save some cash myself :)

Happy bargain hunting! 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Raise the bar on raising children

* The "What to Expect the First Year" mommy book tells readers to comfort a crying infant as soon as possible. To not may result in a frustrated and angry child with a diminished ability to communicate.

* Grandmothers advise bottling water for a hiccuping baby. Grandfathers say its not the water, but the temperature, that's the problem: Hiccuping babies are just cold. NICU nurses say do nothing, in fact, don't even worry. Hiccups happen, they said.

* Keep a child awake so he'll sleep at night, parents of adult children say. Overtire your child and he WON'T sleep at night, "What to Expect" says.

One need not look far for advice on parenting. The problem is, however, advice is sometimes conflicting.

The New York Times parenting blog writes today about various parenting styles and philosophies. Some parents make child-rearing into a competitive sport while others take a more laissez-faire, do-what-feels-right, approach, it says.   

Are you a member of the "directed play category or do you belong on the "what's-directed-play" shelf?

My child is seven weeks old. His play is limited to making funny faces and staring at ceiling fans.

I wasn't raised in a "must-be-the-best"-type household, but I was raised with every opportunity to excel. My mother, a teacher, had me reciting the ABCs and reading books before I graduated from training pants. I attended private schools and I took math and reading classes designed for students a year ahead of me in school.

My brother and I were banned from watching Bart Simpson, let alone movies of the Rated R variety. My parents never let us have TVs in our rooms and Nintendo wasn't something we owned until my brother and I aged in the double digits.

I don't say that to brag. I say that because I'm not sure any of it mattered. Don't tell my mom.

Despite my parents' best efforts, I'm not sure the censorship and the pre-kindergarten learning sessions made a significant difference in my outcome as an adult. The unruly kids in school, the ones who watched MTV and whose parents didn't seem to mind if they consumed alcohol as high schoolers, Facebook makes it seem that they are as happy and successful as me.

So what's the best way to raise a child, how do you know and who do you listen to?

I'm not sure how parents determine if they successfully raised a child, but if that success is measured in "ability to pay bills," "number of times not in jail" and "perception of overall happiness," it seems that all my childhood friends are faring just fine.

Does parenting style matter? Does the nature in nurture vs. nature over-rule any parenting influence? What about the extreme cases, where small children are abnormally violent and angry? Does that come from parenting style? Or is it inherent in the character of the child?

How do you raise/plan to raise your children?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tease me you devil

Forgive my absence on this blog... awesome relatives of mine are hanging mirrors, lifting plywood and completing other end-of-the-house-building-project projects. Did I mention I moved into my new house just after the baby was born? And since I was half-moved-in, half-moved-out of my Jamestown apartment, I spent my ninth month of pregnancy sleeping on the floor? Well, I'm writing about it, with no complaints.

Expect an update this week.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cole is practically the next Justin Bieber...

Jamestown Hospital is using Cole's birth story in a print ad set to run in The Jamestown Sun.

Cole was born with a potentially life-threatening condition of his lungs, called a pneumothorax. Learn more about it in this post and this video staring the young Mr. Anderson. Physicians at Jamestown Hospital diagnosed him immediately, saving his life. Today, Cole is just fine. Doctors say they can't even tell he had a lung problem and when he grows, he'll be playing sports just like all the other kids.

We are forever grateful to Jamestown Hospital. Check out this ad in the Nov. 11 and Nov. 23 Jamestown Sun.

Click on the ad to see a larger size.

PS: Best get baby Cole's autograph now before he's too busy walking red carpets.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Guest post: Smile for me baby

At six weeks of age, my son has many expressions including: angry teenager, fish face and IHaven'tEatenInTwoHoursI'mFlippin'Starving. He's gifted us with brief grins all too infrequently, according to the mommy books, true smiles, not just brain synapses, occur sometime between four and 10 weeks. One smile occurred the day after my birthday. Baby tooted soon after, but I'm sure it was still a smile specifically for me. Surely, baby's true smiles aren't too far away. Until then, I'll take whatever I can get, even if followed with a full diaper.

Certified business coach, Annie Kirschenmann, writes about the power of smiles. A baby's smile is like a reward for a job well done. Smiles mean a baby is comfortable and cared for, she said. 

According to Annie:

Every proud parent knows the exhilarating instant I am about to describe:

You have been wondering. . ."Is she really looking at me?  Is he curling his lips because of gas?”  Then - the magic moment when there is no doubt – you know your precious infant recognizes YOU.

Exactly how do you know?  While gazing with focus right into your eyes. . .she smiles.

In The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant, psychologist Margret Mahler describes it this way, “. . .(the infant’s) smile gradually becomes the specific, preferential smiling response to the mother, which is the crucial sign that a specific bond between the infant and his mother has been established.” (Italics are Mahler’s). 

Thus the first relationship is born.  I love that we, as human beings, announce our arrival in the interpersonal world with a smile.  It is one of our first – and most primal – communications.  It says we are safe, cared for and accepted.  In a smile, the baby is expressing and receiving a “pre-verbal” communication – before he has the words to name what is happening.  And so pleasurable is the activity she will actively seek to smile and be smiled at – often.

This means smiling is rooted deeply within each of us.  Because of its social origins, the smile is so basic to our communication structure that we can become anxious when this signal is absent in those around us.  Smiling can reduce stress – in both the smiler and the receiver.  Research also indicates that you can improve your attitude by the simple act of putting your face muscles into a smiling position.  It can also have a positive impact on our vital signs. 

Of course, all this makes smiling powerful stuff!  (And these data points are only the tip of the iceberg – there is much, much more going on in that simple facial movement.)  But back to you and your kids.  Armed with this little bit of information, you can make some choices about enhancing your relationship with a smile.  

A friend I hadn’t seen in several years had become a father in the intervening time.  I asked how he liked being a Dad.  He said, “Oh, my stomach hurts.”  (!)  My look of curiosity must have been compelling, because after a pause he continued, “I am laughing all the time!”  This did not surprise me.  You see, kids smile / laugh naturally and frequently.  Adults?  Not so much.  In fact, children laugh over four hundred times in a day -- compared with the adult average of 15 per day.  Ouch.

So parents and caretakers, you might be a bit out of practice!  Fortunately, kids are experts.  Start by making a choice to really observe her.  When she smiles, look directly into her eyes and smile back.  Often.  Make a point of initiating a smile toward your little loved one.  Often.  Not only will you strengthen your relationship with him; as a side benefit, you are going to feel better and be healthier yourself.

The first language for all of us is non-verbal.  For a while it is the only communication your baby has and she is speaking volumes all the time.  So are you.  Further, this powerful non-language exchange is shaping her experience and sense of self.  More on this in my next blog -- I See You See Me.

Annie Kirschenmann is a board certified Dance/Movement Therapist and a non-verbal communication expert; a Nationally Certified Counselor; and a Certified Corporate Business Coach. She holds her M.S. from Hunter College (NY) and her BA from Macalester College (St. Paul).  Annie’s award winning master’s thesis is on the therapeutic benefits of smiling, laughter and humor.  She is the owner and lead coach/consultant for A.K. Coach and Company (AKACoachAndCompany.com).  She can be reached by email at:  Annie@AKACoachAndCompany.com

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fitness secrets I learned from my son, sorry Jenny Craig

Sometimes, all that will console my child is a good jockey on the knee. It's like he's Christopher Robin's Tigger and bouncing is what he does best. 

Although it keeps me from completing various activities requiring two hands... like folding laundry, cleaning toilets and washing dishes in the sink, I don't yet mind... Probably because it means I don't have to do things like fold laundry, clean toilets and wash dishes in the sink.

In fact, my son is sitting in my cross-legged lap right now, snoozing as a flap my legs like butterfly wings.

I can't stay in this spot forever though. In fact, as I held him yesterday, I stood, flexing my calf muscles a million times a minute. Don't worry though, I can multitask. I watched Sex and the City 2 at the same time.

And while getting out of chores and enjoying girl movies is benefit enough, all this muscle flexing and toning is nice too. Come swimsuit season, this new mother will bounce right into another full-time job: hot mama.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Frugal Feast Friday: deer sausage and sauerkraut

Deer gun season opens in North Dakota today and to mourn celebrate, I cooked with the meat of gunned-down Bambi. Nothing is more frugal than free, right?

Note: I don't have bones with hunting as long as the meat goes to a good cause... like my belly. I just don't like scary people with weapons... and the ugly apparel associated with them. Sorry Cabelas. I actually think harvesting and then eating deer, pheasant, etc., is more civil than farm-raised meat... at least those critters lived cage-free. Hey, if hunters can shoot things, I can fire a few jokes, right?

To cook with North Dakota's favorite entree, it seems only appropriate to combine it with the state's favorite side dish: sauerkraut. Like any dish, this one tastes better with the homemade stuff, but the canned goods work OK too.

May I introduce, Katie's deer sausage and sauerkraut creation:

1). Heat sausage link in skillet of water. Slice 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces once cooked fully.

2). In another pan, simmer half a can of kraut and frozen vegetables of your favorite variety. I chose a stir-fry mix and then added additional frozen carrots and corn. PS: If you're nursing, avoid broccoli and cauliflower as they'll make for a gassy/fussy baby.  

3). Combine meat and veggies and let simmer together on low heat until flavors blend about 30 minutes to an hour. 

Normally I'd serve this on a bed of seasoned noodles or rice, but my grandmother-in-law gifted us with fresh baked buns, so that was our carb for the evening. I like the pasta version best, as it takes some of the sauerkraut sting away and allows for just the right amount of tangy flavor. When boiling the noodles, season them with salt or even better, garlic salt.

 Bon Appetit!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

day care dilemma

I toured a day care yesterday and drove home in near tears.

It wasn't the day care, it was me.

On the tour, many children played with toys the center rotates so the children have new objects to manipulate and explore. The youngest of them was too small to walk, so she wailed in an automatic swing as a caregiver prepared her bottle.

I'm not ready for that... extended periods of swinging and wailing for my son.

No matter where he goes while I work, he'll inevitably become a lower priority than what he is with me. All caregivers have multiple children calling for their attention, but at my house, my son is the only one. Sure, he cries. But he's never left to cry while I meet the needs of several other small children-- all of whom are not mine.

Not rushing to a screaming child isn't necessarily bad. I'm sure caregivers aren't neglecting any children. And waiting a few minutes for food and attention likely teaches patience. But the thought of him in an automatic swing all day make me sick. My son can't crawl or walk yet. He's easy to care for, and therefore, likely won't receive as much of it.

If staying at home were an option, I'd take it. At least for a while longer. I *LOVE* my job and almost missed it this election season. Plus, financially, my little family can't get by on one salary.

I want a day care where someone will hold him and read him books. I want somewhere clean and loving and where the caregivers have years of experience plus children of their own. If anyone has any suggestions, I'm open.

I'm very fortunate. My son will be three months old when I return to work. Many mothers don't get that long. But even still, my son seems too young a boy to go full days without his mom. Or maybe it's I'm too new a mom to go full days without him.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

postpartum depression reflection

So The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is now recommending ob-gyns screen for depression in pregnant and postpartum moms because depression symptoms not only affect mothers, but their children as well. 

According to the College, as many as 25 percent of women will experience some form of depression. This says nothing of the less severe baby blues, in which a woman bawls over something as insignificant as spilled breast milk. I don't think this finding is all that OhMyGoD shocking given a woman drowned her children in a bathtub and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Not every mom's experience is (obvs) as severe as Andrea Yates', but surely, after giving birth many women feel:  

* solitude: suddenly she's alone everyday when she was previously surrounded by coworkers and friends 
* exhaustion: babies wake every two to four hours to feed... and that's assuming they aren't colicy or unneccessarily fussy
* helplessness: calming a crying baby isn't always an easy task
* anxiety: in case caring for a newborn isn't daunting enough, new mothers have to learn to do this without the earning power she once had. The United States and Australia are the only industrialized countries that don't provide paid leave for new mothers nationally, though there are exceptions in some U.S. states., according to USA Today.

I know I had those feelings, and I have a happy, healthy baby who's cries I can typically calm with a hot meal, a firm burp or a clean pacifier. Plus, I had an arsenal of adults to help me.

I'm not qualified to make this judgement, but here's a theory.... based on my own experience and relatively no other, outside evidence. Perhaps postpartum depression is part situational... the way a person gets depressed when they mourn the death of a loved one, lose a job or experience some other life-changing event. If a mother had more support, say maternity leave but for daddies, the U.S. would see fewer cases of postpartum depression.

Dads can take parental leave too and ensure a job remains for them when they return, but with zero income for an extended period of time, many families would flounder. So dads don't. Maybe they take a couple days or even a couple weeks, but given the huge life alteration that is a newborn, perhaps it would behoove their family life, work life and all around contribution to society if they took more.

I am very fortunate. My husband can't work right now due to injury... OK, that's not so fortunate. What's great about it though is he keep me company in the middle of the night when baby needs a feeding, diaper, cuddle-time, etc. My husband can take over when baby's fussiness frazzles me. And, most importantly, he is a trampoline I can bounce ideas and issues off of. I don't have to feel bad interrupting him from work or waking him at night since he doesn't have the pressure of an 8-5 right now either.

If more mothers had the luxury of another adult at her aid during the day, perhaps the incidence of postpartum depression would decrease.

Through its studies, the College determined postpartum depression can adversely affect a child's cognitive, neurological and motor skill development. Perhaps we owe it to the children and their families to research treatment like this, rather than the kind that comes in a pill. I'm not saying pills have no use, I'm just saying its possible some mothers might not need them if they had adequate support from the beginning.

Monday, November 1, 2010

And the Frugal Feast Pampered Chef winner is...

The Frugal Feast winner, as generated by random.org, is No. 1, Kevin Cleary of two become one. a blog he and his fiance write about their wedding-planning adventures. In his latest post, Kevin writes about saving money on his TiVo by meeting up with some creepy guy in a Walgreens parking lot. Kevin maybe goes a little too far to save a buck... :) I hope these Pampered Chef cookbooks from Heidi Bear save him both money and time. Congratulations Kevin! I'll need your address for shipping :)