29 October 2012

"I can wear that!"

I am not crazy about Halloween. (As I have mentioned the last two years.) I rarely dress up, and I don't get the big deal. But this year is different. This year I have a toddler who is capable of understanding the concept of Halloween. Last year we dressed Ike up as a monkey. We got the costume at a yard sale for very cheap, but we didn't go to any Halloween parties or take him trick-or-treating or anything. It would have been way over his head. He looked adorable in his monkey costume, and we were glad we bought it, but in general there wasn't anything particularly thrilling about Halloween with a non-walker and non-talker.

I saw a pattern for a crochet sock monkey hat on Pinterest, and I knew that this year my boys would be sock monkeys. I whipped up Felix's hat very quickly. He is a newborn, and he doesn't really have opinions. If he doesn't like his sock monkey hat, he has no way of expressing that sentiment. Plus, he lacks the coordination to take his hat off.

Ike, on the other hand -

Well, Ike doesn't really like to wear his sock monkey hat. He likes the idea of the sock monkey hat, but getting him to wear the hat has been a challenge. I've taken to bribing him with candy to get him to wear it. I don't like bribery as a parenting method, but I figure for a Halloween costume, it's okay. After all, the whole point of wearing a Halloween costume is to get candy.

Seinfeld has said it best. (You can watch the whole thing, or you could stop at about 1:10, since that is where the relevance to this blog post ends.)

On Saturday our city hosted a little Halloween activity at a local park. A whole bunch of local businesses came and passed out fliers for grownups and candy for children. Ike very quickly picked up on the concept. He didn't say "trick or treat" (or anything remotely resembling the phrase). Instead, he just walked up to the people with the big bowls and said, "candy." He was hit or miss with saying "thank you" on his own. Most of the time I had to remind him, and usually he was so excited about having another piece of candy that it took him a moment to thank the appropriate person. Several times he just thanked whoever was standing closest to him, regardless of the age of that person.

I wasn't able to get a great picture of Ike on Saturday. He was so excited he just couldn't be still. These two are the best I have so far, and they should give you an idea of his costume.

The hat was definitely the most elaborate part, and even then it was a simple pattern. The pants and shirt are just gray sweats. I used some plain white material to trim the arms and legs like a sock monkey. And because I wanted to still be able to use the sweats in the future, I did not sew on the trim. Instead I used double-sided tape. That's just how crafty I am.

24 October 2012

Review: Pandemic

We don't own this game, but we have basically stolen it from Eric's dad. We love it.

Pandemic is a different strategic board game than most. It's different because it's collaborative rather than competitive. Either everyone wins, or everyone loses.

The idea is that there are four diseases breaking out around the world. The players must prevent the diseases from outbreaking and try to cure each disease, by collecting city cards. These city cards can also be used to travel and build research stations (which are necessary to cure the diseases and are vital to traveling around the world.) Each of the players has a specific role that gives him certain special powers in addition to the basic powers that each player has. After each turn, the diseases grow in a few cities, so it's often a matter of two steps forward, one step back. Every so often an epidemic card pops up, and that adds a whole new city to the mix and increases the rate of disease growth, thus intensifying the challenges in the game.

One of the things I love about this game is that you can adjust the difficulty level within each game. Usually when we are playing with new people we'll make the game easier, but when we play by ourselves we make it as challenging as possible. Also, the roles are assigned randomly, so each game can have a different combination of special powers for the players. This adds a fun dynamic and means the players have to adjust the strategy for each game.

There is an expansion pack, and it provides several different ways to change the game. We've played the game with a couple of the expansion options, but mostly we are happy to play the traditional game over and over and over again.

And one final note. This game makes me want to travel. It's a little counter-intuitive, because why should I want to travel to these disease-filled cities? But, I do. It's doubly-odd that this game makes me want to travel even more than Ticket to Ride, which is a game that is far more about traveling than Pandemic.

22 October 2012

Au Natural

About a month ago I was listening to Pandora (Internet radio, for the uninitiated). Pandora is funded by playing ads periodically throughout the music, and generally they try to target the ads based on what you've stated as your geographic location, gender and age. I've been disappointed in the ads that are played most often for me. Generally they are for products or services I'm not remotely interested in, and sadly, there isn't a way for me to tell Pandora that they've pegged me incorrectly. (I really like that Hulu has a little button in the corner where you can indicate whether or not an ad is relevant to you.) The most annoying thing about Pandora ads is the overabundance of McDonald's commercials. I hate McDonald's commercials even more than I hate their food, so these are particularly aggravating to me.

But nothing can quite top the advertisements for a nearby clinic/spa place that features "natural" breast augmentation. My initial thought when these ads started playing for me was to question how "natural" any breast augmentation really is. Let's be realistic. The most natural thing for my breasts to do is to do whatever they do after I breastfeed a few kids for a year a piece. That's natural. Doing anything else to them is not natural. I'm not saying I'm necessarily opposed to women who do choose to have breast augmentation procedures. I just question whether any sort of intentional changes to what the body would actually do if left alone can be called natural. I do not think the two ideas are compatible.

Second, I am bothered by our obsession with natural things. Not everything in nature is good for you body, and yet, when marketing folks use phrases like "all-natural" something in our brains makes us think the product must be good for us. Poison ivy is natural. Rattlesnake venom is natural. Molten lava occurs naturally. And yet, I do not want any of these things in my body.

19 October 2012


When Felix was born, Eric made a few comments about how much he looked like Ike. I didn't see it instantly, but as he's gotten older and become less squishy-faced, I cannot look at him without thinking about how much he looks like his older brother. I'm excited to see if a two-year-old Felix looks like a two-year-old Ike.

17 October 2012

Review: Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides

Eric's dad read this and then recommended it to Eric. Eric had barely started it when he recommended it to me. We actually got the book on CD to listen to on our drive to Seattle, but sadly, the CDs were not in great shape, and they kept skipping, sometimes skipping entire tracks. That wouldn't do.

Even after returning from Seatlle, I was slow to start Ghost Soldiers. I had already listened to the first little bit, and I knew that the topic would make this book difficult to read. The book chronicles a group of soldiers who fought and ultimately surrendered to the Japanese on the Bataan Peninsula. Then they endured the Bataan death march. Then they were sent to various Japanese prison camps. At the close of the war, most of those who were somewhat healthy were transferred to prison camps out of the Philippines. Those that were not well enough to be transferred stayed at the prison camp near Cabanatuan. As it appeared inevitable that the Americans would be retaking the Philippines, the Japanese began mass executions in some of their prison camps in the Philippines. Some of the prisoners were able to escape and share their stories with the Americans.

When the Americans learned that it was likely that more than 500 Allied soldiers were likely to be massacred at the prison camp near Cabantuan, the Americans put together a top-secret rescue mission. The book alternates between telling about the soldiers interned in the camp and the Rangers on the rescue mission.

I read this book in just a few days. (In fact, when I was up very late having contractions, I went ahead and finished it off.) It was incredibly well-written an compelling. The rescue-mission itself was compelling enough, but add to it the group of people that were being rescued and everything that they had endured, and wow. Ultimately, the men who were left in the camp truly were the sickest, which made the rescue mission all the more challenging. Not only did the Rangers have to get into the camp, they had to get over 500 unwell men out and then across enemy territory and into safety.

With that said, this book is about men who are held prisoner by the Japanese for a few years. It is gruesome and sometimes difficult to read. The book chronicles what happened to the men's bodies when they dealt with long-standing malnutrition, lack of adequate medical treatment and difficult manual labor. It also gives excellent background into the fall of the Bataan peninsula as well as why treatment in Japanese camps was so bad.

The only thing I disliked about the book was the lack of footnotes or endnotes. The author, Hampton Sides, states specifically in his introduction that he didn't provide footnotes because he didn't want them to detract from the narrative and literary flow of the writing. That is understandable, but there were so many points in the book where I wanted to know exactly where he got little tidbits of information. At the end of the book there is a bibliography, but as a person who majored in history, and still regularly writes reports with hundreds of footnotes, I like to know exactly where every piece of information comes from.

15 October 2012

Thoughts on Breastfeeding

The title was your warning. If you're not interested, I'm not offended. Also, this is a long post.

I'm a proponent of breastfeeding. There are the innumerable health and bonding benefits, and also, it is free. Nursing Ike was a breeze. We both picked up on it very quickly. I did have really tender nipples for a few weeks, but other than that I never really had any complications or problems.

I wasn't naive about nursing, though. I knew that it didn't come easily for everyone. Some women's bodies don't do it as well as others. Some babies don't pick up on it as well as others. I've talked to enough women and read enough women's accounts of breastfeeding that I wasn't expecting things with Felix to be a walk in the park just because Ike had been so easy.

The major difference in nursing my two boys is that I was able to nurse Ike within about an hour of his being born, despite the fact that he was taken to the special care nursery for observation right after being born. Felix was under observationfor so much longer than Ike. By the time they brought him to me it had been about 6 hours since he was born. When the nurse first handed me to do skin-to-skin cuddling (right after birth), he was rooting around, but the nurse was fairly concerned about his grunting. I asked if I should nurse him, but she said it was important to get his breathing regulated first. But he didn't get his breathing regulated and had to go to the nursery and be put on a machine that helped dry out his lungs. He was only on the machine for an hour, but then he kept grunting periodically, so even when I finally got to go visit him in the nursery I was still told I couldn't nurse him. I understood why I couldn't but it was still stressful to me.

I wasn't worried that he'd go hungry. I was assured that newborns can go for several hours after birth without eating. I was worried about the bonding we'd missed and chance for him to start nursing and start figuring out nursing right away.

When they finally brought him to me to keep, we immediately tried to nurse. At first he didn't even try. I did the tricks of touching his cheeks and his lips with my fingers and my nipples, and he had no rooting response. The nurse suggested just doing some skin-to-skin cuddling. She said this might get him rooting around, and it did. That was a good first step, but even when I tried to bring his mouth to my nipple, he wouldn't latch on.

And I don't mean that he got a shallow latch or he wouldn't open his mouth wide enough. I mean that he just sort of wiggled his head around and wouldn't close his mouth around my nipple at all. After several minutes of trying we were able to get it worked out.

Which is when the contractions hit. After Ike was born, I had minor cramping when I breastfed him. Nobody had warned me about it, but the nurses explained that it was because breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, which is the same hormone that causes the uterus to contract. Nursing would help my uterus return to normal faster. It was also a great way for me to know whether or not my baby was successfully nursing or just sort of hanging out there without actually getting any nutrition.

There was no cramping with Felix. These were full-on contractions. They were sometimes as bad as the ones I was having when I arrived at the hospital. They lasted pretty much the entire time I nursed, and then usually for a few minutes afterward. I was happy to know Felix was getting milk; I was happy to know my body was doing its job; I was not at all happy about these pains. Every time it was time to nurse I would cringe knowing what was about to happen.

The fact that Felix and I had been separated for several hours in addition to the fact that nursing was so painful to me, I think, made it much harder for us to bond. This lack of bonding made me feel guilty. The feelings of guilt did not help the bonding process.

By Sunday evening we seemed to have gotten things straightened out. He didn't latch on immediately, but for the most part he seemed to do okay with nursing. I decided he was probably okay to have a pacifier. Dumb.

Sunday night, just before Eric left, it was time to nurse Felix before sending him off to the nursery. He absolutely would not latch on. He had reverted back to that same odd behavior we started with of just sort of holding my nipple in his open mouth and wondering what to do with it. He was also getting very hungry and frustrated. I had to call in the nurse to help me. She gave me some great suggestions, like expressing a little bit of colostrum onto my nipple so that Felix would be enticed into sucking enough to get some nutrition. (Colostrum is apparently about as thick as honey and usually takes a baby about 10-15 sucks just to get a small taste. It would certainly be frustrating to deal with that if you were hungry RIGHT THIS SECOND!) Eric was able to get Felix nice and calm, and when he gave Felix back to me he was relaxed enough that he latched on, and patient enough to suck enough that he didn't quit in frustration.

When he was brought to me later that night, it was the same thing. Only this time Eric wasn't there to calm Felix down. And Felix was inconsolable with me, probably because he knew I was the source of the food, and I wasn't giving it to him. (Not for a lack of trying.) I called the nurse in again. She was able to calm him down, but he still would not nurse. We eventually decided to give him a little formula via a syringe attached to a skinny tube. He was given a teensy bit of formula, and it was enough to get him sucking on my nipple, with the tube also in his mouth. This worked, and I figured if we could just keep him in the habit of knowing how to suck, things would get easier when my milk came in.

During the next feeding he wouldn't nurse again. The syringe and tube trick didn't work. The colostrum on the nipple didn't work. Nothing worked. The nurse gave him formula from a bottle. I was too tired to beat myself up about it.

Later in the morning, it was much the same. Only this time the shift change had happened, and I didn't want to call in the new nurse, whom I hadn't even met yet. I ended up just caving and giving Felix a bottle with formula. This time I was too tired not to beat myself up about it.

So I was feeling pretty guilty about this, and then the day nurse came in. She probably had been informed about the nursing problems during the night. (In fact, the night nurse told me I'd be put at the top of the list for the lactation consultant who would come around in the morning.) The nurse recognized that I had given Felix some formula, and she asked what was up. I told her that I had just not been able to nurse, and I was tired, and he was frustrated and hungry, so I gave him some formula. She then warned me about the dangers of nipple confusion and all the reasons to stick with nursing and not give up. She was not attacking me in any way, but I was totally exhausted and very hormonal, and I just burst into tears. And I could not stop crying. I also told her that this meant my milk was coming in.  I did pretty much the same thing when the lactation consultant came in and when I talked to Eric on the phone. It was just not awesome.

The lactation consultant was able to give me some good ideas to help. She told me to call her in the next time I tried to nurse. The next time I started to nurse, I had her paged. By the time she arrived Felix had latched on okay, so she was able to observe his latch and make sure he could do it properly. (He could.) When I switched sides she watched and gave me more tips and pointers. She was really helpful, and she agreed that his impatience would be alleviated when my milk came in because he wouldn't have to work as hard to get some satisfaction. She also said to not use the pacifier anymore, which by that time I had realized was a mistake. She said to give it at least two weeks before introducing it again, which seemed like overkill to me. (He's been fine switching back and forth this weekend.)

Since coming home, Felix's ability to nurse really has improved. He latches readily and nurses thoroughly. I've been pumping as well, which has been helpful with the inevitable engorgement issues. I like the idea that one of these nights I'll be able to have Eric give Felix a bottle while I continue resting. I'm definitely going to wait until I'm 100% confident in his ability to nurse before we bring a bottle into play, though.

10 October 2012

Felix's Birth Story

I wrote this post and then realized its length was absurd. If you do not care to read it all, there are bullet points below the picture at the bottom.

On Friday night I started having noticeable, sometimes painful contractions. They began about 6:30, probably, and gradually picked up in intensity and frequency as the the night wore on. I ended up staying awake until like 3, timing them and making sure that this was the real thing. (In addition to the false labor I had blogged about from the Saturday before, I experienced a similar episode of regular non-painful contractions lasting almost seven hours the following Monday.) I knew this was really labor because the contractions were painful, were mostly growing in intensity, and were gradually increasing in frequency, albeit with a little variation in each of those categories. I eventually decided that maybe it was possible to sleep through some of the contractions, so I went to bed and slept off and on for about three hours.

Saturday morning we did last minute packing and room-arranging things. We got a hold of Eric's dad and let him know we'd need him to meet us at the hospital to pick up Ike. I worked through my contractions and used an online timer to see how frequent they were. I had two main objectives with going to the hospital:
  1. Do not arrive so early that I would be told to walk the halls trying to get things going.
  2. Do not arrive so early that I would be sitting around in a triage or labor room waiting for things to happen when I could be at home hanging out with my boy in his last few minutes as an only child and doing random last-minute things like dusting the coffee table and fireplace mantel.
When I had woken up at 6, things seemed to be progressing fairly quickly, and I thought we'd head to the hospital before the first session of General Conference started at 10. I was wrong. We stayed home and cued up Conference on the computer. When I had contractions I would stand up and lean over the arm of the couch and sway through them. They were painful but tolerable.

Sometimes Eric would try to talk to me while I was having a contraction, usually not knowing that I was having one. Once he asked me if I wanted some grapes. I didn't have the ability to answer yes or no, but I was somehow able to tell him, "I can't answer that question right now." In thinking about that after the contraction I realized that my ability to talk was not really hampered, it was my ability to think and make decisions - even one as simple as whether or not I'd like some grapes - that was totally impaired.

I hung out at home having contractions until about 11:30. I was hoping to make it through the whole first session of Conference (two hours), but at some point I realized that I would still have a 20-minute car ride, during which I'd have at least four contractions where I'd be forced to sit down. Sitting during contractions was an unbearable thought to me, so I wanted to go before the contraction frequency was too high.

We got to the hospital, and saw Eric's dad waiting for us. Eric helped him move Ike and his belongings, and I went into the hospital by myself to check in. I felt a little silly doing that, but it wasn't like Eric would be able to do much more for me than he was already doing. When I got to the reception desk I told them I'd been having contractions all night, and that they had been about 3-5 minutes apart for at least the last hour. Apparently it had been a bit of a busy morning, and they had to decide where to put me. There were no open triage rooms, so they put me right into a labor and delivery room and told me to change into the gown, etc., etc.

The nurse came in and started chatting with me. I have no idea what we talked about. Probably when my contractions started, how painful they were and that sort of thing. When she checked my cervix she was shocked, and told me that I was already dilated to a 7. I was also shocked. It had taken hours and hours of being on pitocin before I got to a 7 with Ike, and this whole labor had been so different than that. I figured that maybe I was up to a 6, based on my level of pain. The nurse very quickly got a few other nurses to start getting my deliver room ready. They told me I'd walked in so calmly they couldn't imagine I was as far as I was. Apparently some other laboring mom had come in earlier in near hysterics and was only dilated to a 3. I was feeling pretty tough. But not tough enough to tell them to skip the epidural. Amid the flurry of prepping the room, the nurse requested the anesthesiologist.

I got my epidural at about 1. It was very different than the last one. With Ike I literally had no sensation whatsoever from the waist down. I couldn't even wiggle my toes. With this one I could still move my legs, although not very effectively. I could feel the contractions still, so I had an idea of what was going on. The epidural was a little stronger on the left side than the right, but overall I liked that it basically took the edge off the pain without knocking out my feeling altogether.

At 1:40 I was dilated to a 9. I stayed there for a while, and at 2:25 my doctor arrived to break my water. (I had seen him momentarily twice before that point. I'm pretty sure he was delivering another patient right before me.)

The nurse kept checking me, and at about 3:25 the doctor came in. The nurse had made several comments about how low the baby was and how easy this was going to be. I told Eric I was going to do six pushes and have the baby. He did not believe me and asked how many pushes it had taken to birth Ike. I told him it was a lot more - almost an hour of pushing, but he was the first baby, and I was feeling good about this one. He was still incredulous.

I was right. Two contractions - three pushes each contraction - and Felix was here. He immediately gave a good cry, they wiped him down, and they gave him to me to hold. Then they took him away some more and did whatever else. Then they gave him back to me for some skin to skin contact. Unfortunately he was grunting an awful lot, so he got sent to the nursery for observation, like they had to do with Ike. He was under observation for almost six hours, and that was definitely the worst part of the day. But he's fine, and I'm fine, and everyone is fine.

Anyway, awesome labor and delivery. That is why I do not look like death in my pictures.

  • Contractions beginning Friday night about 6:30 and gradually picking up all evening and into the night.
  • Hospital at noon on Saturday.
  • Dilated to a 7 upon arrival.
  • Epidural.
  • Dilated to a 9 by 1:40.
  • Water broken at 2:25.
  • Pushing at 3:25. Two contractions, a total of six pushes.
  • Felix born at 3:34.
  • Easy peasy.

09 October 2012

He's Here!

Felix was born on Saturday, 6 October 2012 at 3:34 P.M. He weighed 6 pounds, 14 ounces, and we're both doing well. (Ike is still at Grandma and Grandpa's, so he's doing particularly well!) I'll be writing a blog post about the birth story sometime soon.

06 October 2012

Big Day

I have never written it on my blog, but I've not-so-secretly been hoping Felix would be born on 6 October 2012. Written in the (stupid) American system it looks like this: 10/06/12. That's a nice looking number. But it's even better when you remember that Ike's birthday is 6 December 2010 or 12/06/10.

Yesterday my doctor stripped my membranes. I hoped it would work, but I didn't want to put all my eggs in one basket. It didn't work with Ike.

Then I started having regular, painful contractions last  night. And they've kept up and are increasing. I'll head to the hospital in a little while. And I'll most likely have a baby today.

Now, to figure out his real-life name.