Friday, December 31, 2010

My baby the tease

Cole slept an entire six hours Wednesday night. But I didn't. Mothers always tell me, he'll start to sleep through the night but you won't. You'll freak out and double check his chest to make sure he's breathing.

I already check his breathing, so you can imagine my trepidation when he slept longer than he has since birth. But you can also imagine my delight.

Oh my sweet baby boy, I thought, how kind of you to learn to sleep just before your mother returns to work. What a precious child. I am so lucky.

With all my rest, I cleaned the kitchen, washed the laundry, cooked dinner and even spent quality time with the husband after Cole fell asleep.

All is smooth sailing from here, I thought.

So last night, after I tucked Cole in and kissed his little cheek, he woke up three times before morning. Thanksalot.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Guest post: I see you see me

Sometimes I get frustrated with my child. Not all the time, not even most of the time. Just when he won't sleep... at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m.... you understand.

When I get frustrated, I tense up. I don't handle him as gently. I don't smile. I don't purse my lips and tell him how cutie wootie his itty bitty tootsie wootsies are.

According to this guest post from Annie Kirschenmann, M.S., BC-DMT, NCC, Certified Corporate Business Coach, Cole sees, learns from and reacts to my behavior. Even at his age, how I react to him forms his impressions of the world.

I guess he and I better get back to that tootsie-wootsie conversation... :)

From Annie:
The camera moves slowly around the large room.  The windows are tall and light spills in, filling the space.  A woman gazes at a toddler.  The little girl has her back to the adult and is facing the wall, closely watching her fingers move in rapid, repetitive patterns.  The woman mirrors the girl’s finger movements exactly.  It is the beginning of a relationship.

This is from the film “Looking for Me”, produced in the 1960s by Janet Alder, the dance/movement therapist in the scene.  The child, as you may have guessed, has been diagnosed with autism -- a condition characterized by difficulties in establishing the ways of relating and communicating most of us take for granted.

What’s not so well known is that such a state is also a stage of infant development, referred to as “normal autism” (The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant, M. Mahler).  During this phase of development, the infant is basically unaware of anyone outside of herself.  Slowly she becomes cognizant that she in not alone; and the parent / child relationship begins with a smile. (See my last blog, “Smile for Me Baby”.)

Now junior is pretty much glued to you – watching your every move. 

Something really interesting kicks in at this point; little critters in the brain called mirror neurons.  As the name implies, it means that we “mirror” other people's movements in our brains; and by watching someone else’s actions, neurons fire in the same way as if we were doing that exact movement ourselves.

Mirror neurons are a relatively recent scientific discovery and have inspired a lot of research in the areas of neurology, development, empathy, how we learn. . .and even athletic excellence!  But what does it mean for you and your baby?

At this point, your infant has no verbal language, so everything he is learning and communicating is happening in movement, touch, expression, taste and sound.  He is taking in a world of information and forming impressions – about language, his self-esteem and sense of self, relationships, whether or not his world is a safe place – and much, much more.  These extremely impressionable pre-language months set the stage for much of what his life will be like.  You and the others around him are imparting the non-verbal messages that will help him determine this -- and when it comes to learning, his mirror neurons are very busy and play a critical role.

The impact also goes both ways.  Your infant is having an affect on you – and activating your mirror neurons.  It’s nature’s little way of helping you to develop strong empathy with her; to be able to read her needs and desires before she has the language to express them.  On a very primal, basic level, you are both “saying” to each other:

“I see you see me.”

What happens with the pair in “Looking For Me”? In a heart warming scene, after many sessions of movement mirroring on the part of the adult, the child turns and runs in the woman’s arms; they hug and dance around the room together -- a powerful testimony to the power of non-verbal communication.

Seems like a pretty awesome thing, doesn’t it?  It is indeed.  And you can use the level of communication intentionally with your pre-verbal child.  Begin by becoming aware of your own non-verbal messages.
    •    What are you expressing with your face?
    •    How and when do you move towards or away from your child?
    •    When you interact with your child, notice your own body.  What are exactly are you doing in movement? Are you relaxed or tense?
    •    How are you using the tone of your voice?

Over the next few weeks, practice noticing your own non-verbal behavior and really watch how your child responds to it, in movement, sound and facial expressions.  Then we will explore more tips for enhancing non-language communication with your child in my next blog, “Non-verbally Speaking”.

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 (  She can be reached by e-mail at:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Children are the best birth control

Children respond well to routine. Completing daily tasks in consistent order give cues to the little ones: after we read, it's bath time, after bath time, we sleep. Routines help them find order and security in the chaotic world around them.

So after a 9-hour car ride, (not routine), I lay Cole to rest in his Pack N' Play (he usually sleeps in his swing) and without a swadle. (He's grown too big and strong.)

When he woke up at 11:30 and 1 and 3 and 5 and 6 and 8, I wondered why.


But in the midst of my waking, feeding, changing and rocking, I could think of only one thing: vasectomy prices.

Exhausted and changing a diaper in the dark, I bent to carry Cole to his sleeping station.

One Hershey squirt later and he soiled the diaper I'd just changed.

Still exhausted and in the dark, I waited patiently, wondering if Hershey squirt traveled alone or with friends.

After a few minutes, I opened his diaper again.

And he peed on me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Correspondence with Cole: three months

Dear Cole,

You laughed! Oh how you laughed. Your sweet giggles and their laugh-ifty laughness. If a mother can fall in love with her child more than once, Cupid forgot what holiday it is and again stuck me with his arrow the day those sweet chuckles befell your mouth.

If you smile only for your dad from here forth, I shalt not complain.

Let us pause and revisit the laugh. No one will mind. I've watched it a thousand times and have yet to tire of it.

Cole, if you grow up not fitting through doors because your head is so big, others may not understand, but your mother will. Indeed, you are the most adorable baby in the history of reproduction. If you obtain an ego, it's deservedly so.

I can't believe I'm writing this already, but happy three-month birthday, Baby Cole.

No way are you this old. Someone must have thieved a few ounces of sand in the hourglass of life because surely, the minute-hand ticked too quickly.

After 90 days, you laughed. And while it's video brings me so much joy, now and then, sadness overshadows.

Sometimes I miss my parents, your grandparents, so much. I wish they could see you every day or every weekend or at least every holiday. But the distance between North Dakota and Colorado is great, and work schedules and winter weather aren’t always forgiving. They love you so much.  They miss you too. Thank you for laughing while the camera was rolling. Thank you for letting us capture your first (and so far, only) laugh and share it so they could see.

Sometimes I want to bottle you up and keep you three months forever. Since I know our full-time days and nights together are limited, I’ve taken to holding you whenever your eyes are open. So as soon as you awake in your favorite of chairs, I break from writing to cradle your little behind.

And at three months, your little behind isn’t so little anymore. I retired your newborn-sized clothes a few weeks ago. At your eight-week check up, you’d gained 4 lbs and 3 inches. You put away 8 ounces like sexy underwear you don’t want your grandmother to find. Sometimes your grizzly-like guzzling hurts you. Like at Thanksgiving in Colorado, for example.

At Grandma and Grandpa Ryan’s house, your dad and I learned what colic sounds like. I gained a new appreciation for single moms, dads, grandparents, etc. For three hours, you scrunched your face, punched your fists and if allowed slightly more hand-eye coordination, you’d have surely given your middle finger to the world.

Your belly hurt. And you insisted every one of the Rocky Mountain goats heard first hand.

And while I still have my hearing, I consulted with a financial planner to open a college-savings plan for you. Turns out, your dad and I aren’t saving enough for retirement. So until our finances are in enough shape to keep us eating through our 80s, we’ll open a little savings account for you instead. Never will your dad and I have enough to pay for your entire post-high school education, but we’ll save what we can. You won’t have everything, little boy, but you’ll have everything you need, and even some of what you want. I hear that’s the secret to happiness. Your welcome.

And speaking of happy, could you wait a couple years before you flirt with the ladies, please? Every time I go anywhere, women stop me in my tracks, asking your name, age, weight, star sign, etc. They practically throw their wedding rings over their left shoulders as you approach. I’m sure this is fun for you, but it makes buying milk an afternoon-long affair for me.

But at least that afternoon affair is one spent with you. Someday you’ll repay me in cash money. Until then, I'll accept ha-has and tee-hees :)

Love you,

I'm dreaming of an un-white Christmas

I missed last Christmas with my family because of weather. Perhaps you remember the holiday storm? Lucky for us, my husband and I are both on leave from work, so we can leave early or stay late if we need to.

And while I missed the family last year, Cole's due date was Sept. 25. You do the math. (Hi dad *hand trembling*)

The best Christmas gifts come nine months later. :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Raise him up religious

I avoided this topic to avoid hurt feelings, but I feel rascally today, so if you're easily offended, please avoid this post.

Cole has no religion. At least not yet. This is mostly because his father and I don't attend church.

Levi and I stem from different religions, but that isn't the trouble. The trouble is Levi was raised mostly without religion and I was raised in a religion I later abandoned. I hesitate to rejoin mine, and Levi is mostly apathetic toward his.

We want to raise Cole religious though, because we want him to have choice. We want him to learn the difference between Santa and St. Nicholas and Easter and the Easter bunny because it's easier to learn and then ignore rather than not know and learn later. The choice is entirely his, but raising him sans-religion takes some of his options away.

If I were qualified, I'd teach him about all religions and not limit him to the Christian ones. I don't anticipate Cole facing Mecca when he prays, but if he did, I'd be happy he found faith. Mostly, I just want him to understand and respect other religions. My biggest fear is he'll interchange words like "Muslim" and "terrorist." I want religion to teach him about the world, not teach him to fear it.

So, in choosing a church, this is what I seek:
* proximity: driving 45 minutes to- and from services isn't likely on Sunday mornings. Attendance is more likely if the church is nearby.
* camaraderie: with any hope, our friends will attend the same church or we'll find people there with whom we can make acquaintance
* openness: a church that uses Jesus to judge others is not appropriate for my family. The church we join will stand firm in its beliefs, but also respects the beliefs of others.
* interactive: if I join a church, I want involvement. I want to take my son to pancake fundraisers and Vacation Bible School. I want him to feel he belongs there.
* knowledge: Cole should feel comfortable asking ministers, pastors, priests, etc., tough questions and when he does, I want him to receive age-appropriate, reasonable answers.

So, anyone have suggestions? Anyone have this dilemma in their own families?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Corn causes cancer?

Interesting read suggesting contaminated corn causes cancer and birth defects. Creighton University, my alma mater, is part of the study.

"The mission is to find out if fungus on a corn-based products increase the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect, like spina bifida.

...a link has already been established in animals."
Read the whole story here.

Do you know how much corn Americans eat? Teens consume 15 to 20 teaspoons of sugar from the sweetener in high fructose corn syrup alone, according to this 2007 U.S. News and World Report article.

"An unusually high incidence of the birth defects has been observed in Guatemala, where corn is a dietary staple and contamination is frequent."

As if we parents didn't have enough reason to worry...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Video: Cole speaks

Cole's chatter is incessant these days, which is OK because it's kind of cute. I like to think he's proclaiming his love for his mother, but given he smiles only for his father, I suppose that's not quite true.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bye-bye to the babiest of my baby

Cole is growing too fast, like time, it seems endless but expires faster than 2 percent milk.

He's gained 4 lbs in eight weeks, a clothes size in a semester and now he carries on conversations about girls? tatoos? hunting? I don't know, but his chatter ceases only when he slumbers.

His little hands grow chubbier by the day. At birth, he would cast spells with his arms, waving them like a manic Harry Potter. Now he's more of a praying man with hands clasped and fingers intertwined. It's like he's pleading for religious education. And as the poor parents we are, we haven't baptized him yet... but that's an entirely different blog post.

Cole has grown accustomed to a bedtime routine which includes, in this order: a bath, half a feeding, a diaper change and swaddle wrapping, and finally the feeding's other half where upon my lap, he snuggles into soft, sweet slumber. Length of sleep depends on location. The automatic swing is his favorite, but its pendulum back-and-forth is a constant reminder: the clock is ticking and he won't stay small forever.

Christmas shopping in a department store, the newborn clothes struck me. My child was once that small. And not that long ago.

While I celebrate his newness and growth and changes and challenges, I also mourn his lasts... the last time he wore an outfit, the last pimple of baby acne or the last time his wizarding hands waved their magic wand.

A National Geographic program on developing babies said: as infants grow, they lose abilities while gaining others. Take sight, for example. A young baby can look at a scrambled picture of a mother's eyes, ears and nose, but still recognize her face. An older baby cannot, but an older baby can see shapes and objects more clearly. The benefit of the new ability outweighs the loss of the old one. That's what I tell myself too.

I already miss "newborn Cole" but as we bid him farewell, I have the benefit of making "new Cole's" acquaintance.

Thanks to Mariah from Thirty Mile Photography for this image.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Swing me to sweet slumber

I spoil my child. Medics say it can’t be done, not this early, but I spoil. I know it.

I spoil him because it spoils me too.

Cole doesn’t sleep well anywhere but his swing. The swing is borrowed from friends. it glides front to back or left to right. It’s automatic, it’s electronic, it’s a life-saver.

In it, he’ll sleep 4 hours easy, if not 5 and sometimes, once in a while, even 6. Oh sweet 6...

Anywhere else, the floor, his Pack N’ Play, his crib, he sleeps for two hours... maybe.

I don’t expect him to sleep much more than 4 hours a night, but the 1- and 2-hour alarm clock ails me, and I’m not even back to work yet.

My biggest concern is returning to the office. About that time, Cole will start to reach, grab and roll over, meaning he’s outgrown Miracle Swing.

Then what?

I don’t know if I can handle too many nights unsleeping when my employer relies on me during the day.

Advice? Anyone else have swing situations?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dear mommy bloggers: parenting hasn't made me want to jump off a cliff

I read too many the-sky-is-falling mommy blogs.

I’ve read them since before I even met my husband, something about sharing the most intimate details of a woman’s menstrual cycles, mucous plugs and Myrena experiences just fascinates me. 

I’d read so many horror stories, I jaded myself to the experience. Mommy bloggers (or at least the ones I read) made it seem like parenting destined a person for the loony bin.

And while this isn’t entirely untrue, I guess I’d like to say: it’s not so bad.

True, I don’t have the same freedoms and disposable income as my pre-baby past. And true, waking to a screaming infant three times a night doesn’t exactly make me Hark the Herald Angels.

But I do get a little syrup-y when he grins at me. The boy doesn’t smile at just anything, I have to work at it. So when he does, I complete a mental fist-pump before reaching for a clean diaper wipe.

And although playing Patty-Cake isn’t the most intellectually stimulating two minutes of my day, during that time, I think of playing the game as a child with my parents and also, of all the games we’ll play as he grows. Peek-a-boo? Hide-and-seek? Varsity football? I don’t know, but I anticipate the days.

I’m looking forward to the days of Friday night football and Saturday soccer. Some parents never attend their children’s middle- and high-school athletic appearances. My parents attended, I don’t know, 99 percent? They wanted to. And I want to too.

I won’t emulate every action of Ma and Pa Ryan, but I do plan to silently cheer from the sidelines as my kid scores or goal... be that for his team or the other. And I sooo want to be the mom with the photo-button pin wedged between the zipper of her jacket and the embroidered name of her child’s high school. And I’ll buy hand-sewn gloves in his school colors too. And then I’ll probably accompany him on his first date and job interview. Probably, I hope, maybe, please, insert smiley face with big nose here.

Anyways, after all the reading, I feared parenting would make bottles feel like handcuffs and diaper bags feel like a chain with bowling ball attachment.

It doesn’t. Or at least, it doesn’t have to.

Yes, some moms feel that way and some moms are even diagnosed with serious problems like postpartum depression or other forms of illness. I’m not denying their troubles.

I just want to say that the sky-is-falling mommy mentality doesn’t apply to everyone. Some of us are lucky enough to enjoy it.

But the woman who enjoy 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. feedings, they’re just nut-jobs... :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tummy time is bummy time

Cole HATES Tummy Time. The kid typically calms with a bounce or a bink, but not after an instant on his belly. Oh how he cries. He cries like I asked his first girlfriend to the prom.

Tummy Time is a daily activity for babies so they can develop muscles in their neck, arms and shoulders. Like its name, parents lay children face down on a blanket or with their heads and arms propped up on a pillow. Tummy Time reduces the risk of SIDS, and also helps reduce the chance of babies developing flat spots on their heads which can deform the child's skull.

We're supposed to do Tummy Time for 15 minutes a day, but Cole howls after two.

You = worst mom in the world, he seems to say between sobs and sniffles.

So we do it again. Because we MUST.

Experts recommend it. And I won't take chances.

Especially after I read this from Lisa Belkin of The New York Times' Motherlode blog.

Belkin writes of a study saying Tummy Time helps babies develop motor skills and teaches them to walk sooner. The study links age-when-infant-walks to IQ points and physical fitness.

The study also says children who "passed prewalking motor development marks" earlier had higher IQ scores by age 8 and by their 30s, those children had attained a higher level of education.

Now, it's obvious. Thirty-year-olds were raised before the "Back to Sleep" and "Tummy Time" campaigns. Babies of that generation slept on their stomach. To suggest Tummy Time impacted their development seems flawed. I wonder if the correlation between walking age and academic achievement is simply related to the child's natural aptitude rather than time spent on the back, front, upside down or even inside out.

Because even I hate Tummy Time.

I hate that we have to do it at Cole's best times of day, the times when he smiles and coos and practically wraps his arms around my neck, declaring me the Most Motherly Matriarch of all things Maternal. Which of course, followed by his you're-the-worst-mommy sentiments, makes Tummy Time even more hurtful. For me.

Since babies typically despise time on the tummy, professionals tell parents to try it when babies are their happiest in hopes the wee child won't upset so quickly. Thanks a lot, funhaters.

I don't think time of day matters with Cole, though. Happy or sad before, he is always the latter after Tummy Time.

But like I said, I won't take chances. So despite Cole's ill-will toward bouts on the belly, we'll continue to try. Although he cries and I cry and it ruins our entire morning, Tummy Time can't hurt... right?

Monday, December 6, 2010

How to calm a fussy baby

Cole must have listened to one too many B.B. King songs.

For two hours, he sang the woebegone melody of lost jobs and lovers and minds... or something like that.

Perhaps it was the newness of Colorado, the altitude or the broccoli I'd eaten for dinner, but nothing calmed him one evening while visiting my parents for Thanksgiving. All the familiar tricks, not the binkie, nor the bouncing or even an extra helping from the breast buffet would calm him.

For two hours, I rocked, my mom rocked, she bounced, I fed, she cuddled, I carried. Nothing. Nothing but salty tears and the face of a baby perklempt.

Using outside voices and reaching for the Tylenol, we theorized: buy formula. Maybe something was in the milk...?

He'd squawk and scream and when I held his face to my shoulder so to rub his back, he'd holler in my ear, and burst it's tender drum.

Perhaps he's possessed?

We removed his clothes, we sang lullabies, we even entered "fussy babies" into the Google genie and wished three times for relief.

Here's what we learned.

* Take the youngster outside, according to, although I'm guessing moms don't live in North Dakota
* Sing or play soft music, according to
* Swaddling, shushing, sucking, swinging and side/stomach, according to "The Happiest Baby on the Block"

Here's what I learned from Twitter and Facebook friends AFTER the night-o'-fussy occured:

* @LozaFina says a car ride, bubble bath or Gerald Levert music calmed her little one
* Sit in the bathroom with the lights off and fan on
* One friend's grandmother used to convince her to rub whiskey on the child's gums

For two hours we tried these tips and subsequently questioned our ability as mothers and counted the grays in our hair. We wondered how to calm this ailing child when all the expert advice failed us.

Enter: daddy.

Daddy, who for two hours, video gamed his early evening away. Daddy, who for two hours, didn't hear the wailing babe, because he was in the basement. Daddy, who for two hours, hadn't consulted the Google genie.   

Let me try, he said.

Instant calm. Or at least, calmer.

Dear Cole, daddy has no mammary glands. Ergo, heretofore, I am the superior parent. Calm for ME.

The moment their epidermises met, the young man's volume quieted to that of an ambulance siren, rather than the incessant racket of teenagers crying for Justin Bieber. In the library. In the morning. Before coffee.

Rub his belly, my mom said, reading from her computer screen, counter-clockwise.

So I fastened the binkie in Cole's mouth while Levi rubbed baby lotion on the child's abdomen. He didn't take to it immediately, but after a few minutes, Cole laid in a shoulders-shrugged position, snoozing.

I need ibuprofen, Levi said.  

And I need a cocktail...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My days as a Playboy Bunny

If there is anything I’m not, it’s a centerfold model. But for a couple days postpartum, I could have been.

** Dad: maybe now is a good time for you to not read... **

Since bleeding and tearing and a sore booty aren’t torture enough, Mother Nature keeps mothers rotund well after baby escapes the uterus. As a mother herself, you’d think she’d have a little compassion. Perhaps it’s biological birth control.

Reproducing is an ugly, swollen sticky note, reminding you to think twice before doing it again. ...And I haven’t even mentioned the flatulence yet.

My experience was unsightly:

* My fingers and toes felt like jelly rolls.
* My shoes didn’t fit.
* My thighs resembled Redwood trees.
* I wore my wedding ring on my pinkie.
* I put pictures of my ankles on milk cartons in hopes someone would recognize them and send them home.
* Five days postpartum, the lady in the nursing bra section of JCPenny’s asked me when I was due. Ouch.

I tried not to let it bother me. After all, I had a kid in the NICU and a house without running water. I had bigger fish to fry and no intention of not eating them. Diets would come later.

And then later happened.

About a week after our sojourn home, my body thinned out everywhere except my engorged and now plastic-looking looking chesticles. The width of my waist was thinner than that of my forearm, but I needed a 34-D braziere.

My nurse friend, Kyle, (who is a girl, not a boy and likes to tell people she had a sex change) said bodies swell once inflated with IV fluids like I had when I received the labor-inducing drug, pitocin. Note: the cankles.

After a few days, the body expels all those fluids and defies its natural state, she said, rendering Playboy bunnies where new moms are supposed to be.

How sinister is that? I finally look like Malibu Barbie, but I’m handcuffed with a husband (although awesome, but think how many free drinks I’d get if I could play the field??), a small child and a doctor’s note forbidding hibbity dibbity.

Like all good things, my post-baby bod didn’t last. I’m back to normal Katie-weight, just different shapes and sizes, i.e., the bowl full of jelly where my abdominals used to be.

I’m satisfied in this. The treadmill and I were never Facebook friends anyway.

Some women get really down on themselves, mourning their old bodies and contorting their new ones with control-top undergarments, butter-less diets and self-esteem below sea level.

I feel bad for them. I can understand the frustration. It helps to have a husband/partner obtuse to such benign beauty, someone like mine, someone more focused on changing our baby’s diaper than me trying to show off in a tight-fitting tank. He only noticed the obscenities I called “ankles” because I asked him to rub them so much. And he did. From the floor. Because sitting in chairs hurt his back to much.

Oh, memories.

Anyways, I’m more willing to show off my bod post-baby than before. Not because I’m particularly proud of it, but because no less than 74 medical professionals looked at my goods and reached their hands where even tampons don’t go. (TMI? Good. Remember that next time you leave the Prophylactics at home.)

But what about you and what about the other women? Are you proud of your new body? Ashamed? What did you do to reclaim it? Or are you too busy with housework/real work/breastfeeding/holiday gift wrapping to notice? Any good, mushy husband/partner stories to share? Or even better, got any really bad ones? I promise to throw cyber stones at the real assholes...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Video: Cole smiles

Cole's favorite time of day is after he eats and before he naps again, which to us, is the best time to change diapers. We take pleasure in his frown-free face during an otherwise unpleasant task. Check out my video. The cuteness is obscene.

PS: Thanks Grandpa Ed for the early Christmas gift!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ronald's cheeseburgers worth more than calories

Given that winter is the season of giving, this blog is the best I can offer this year.

So I ask for your help.

When Cole was born, Levi was unhealthy and not working. With maternity leave, neither was I. Given the complications of his birth, Cole required an ambulance ride to the airport, an airplane ride to Bismarck and five days in the city’s neonatal intensive care unit. He needed all these things and we’d have paid 10 times what we owe if we had to, but despite the humbling nature of accepting charity, we did it anyway.

From where we live, Bismarck is more than 100 miles away. We couldn’t predict Cole’s length of stay, but we could predict that with little income and huge medical bills, spending 70+ dollars per night on a hotel room would over-exert our fingernail-thin budget.

We didn’t have many sighs of relief that first morning/hours of Cole’s birth and in fact, a lot of that time is hazy to me. But I do remember the MedCenterOne woman with the embroidered teddy bear and stork on her vest, and I remember her offering Levi an opportunity to stay at Bismarck’s Ronald McDonald House.

It asks for $10 a night, she said. And if you can’t afford that, that’s OK too.

The Ronald McDonald House offers a place to stay as well as meals for families with children needing medical care. It’s nothing like a hostel, which is what I originally expected.

Each room has it’s own bathroom. Each facility is within walking distance of the hospital. Each family is bestowed meals, food vouchers, blankets, toiletries and stuffed animals. The houses have washers and dryers, internet access and refrigerators with shelves designated for the occupants of each room. With the exception of the laundry basket of clothes I used for a suitcase (I didn’t pack given the immediacy of the situation), staying at Ronald McDonald felt just like home.

I volunteered at Ronald McDonald House in my hometown a few times whilst in high school. I cooked dinners and remember slicing tomatoes while parents shared seats at an oblong dining room table and children with tubes in their noses washed hands before eating.

Like those families, our stay with the red-wigged clown cost us the equivalent of Nintendo game, meaning mounting hotel bills was one less worry for new parents already anxious and overwhelmed.

Some people make an effort to support local charities because the money then stays within the immediate community. Obviously, Ronald McDonald House isn’t located where I live. That’s why I needed it. Bismarck-area people don’t require a place to stay while loved ones receive medical care in Bismarck. But Jamestown area-people do. Although the charity itself isn’t located here, it very much serves people in this area.

Please consider giving/volunteering for the Ronald McDonald House nearest you. Ten years ago, I sliced those tomatoes, never thinking some high-school kid would later do the same for me. My charitable giving won’t amount to much this year, but I hope I can at least share our story in hopes of raising awareness and with any hope, maybe a few dollars too.

For more information about Ronald McDonald House, click here.

Cole at one week, posing with the two blankets and soccer Beanie Baby he received from the Ronald McDonald House in Bismarck.