Wednesday, December 30, 2009

down by the riverwalk...

Zach and I are in San Antonio right now, taking a little break/anniversary trip.  Donovan is with my parents in Austin, no doubt being treated like a king by them and my sisters and dad and in-laws.  Apparently he doesn't seem to miss us at all, and has been in great spirits since we left yesterday.  I wonder if he'll be disappointed to see us again-- since we don't spoil him nearly as well as our families do-- or if he'll instead crumble and make a big show about how badly he's been treated in our absence-- something he's done a few times when being baby-sat by friends.

We arrived yesterday to rainy and very cold weather.  We walked around the Riverwalk a little, but then stayed indoors for most of the afternoon.  Dinner was had at a Mexican place around the corner, and I was surprised at how good the margaritas and food were.  I think I forget how good they can be when you're actually *in* Texas.

Today was gorgeous and much warmer.  We walked around the King William area, where I think I took a picture of each and every house.  Most of them are these HUGE colonial-style homes, and some are renovated but many of them look fairly run down, and it gives you the sense of a place that is very old and that was very much part of The South.  It was almost a shock, as Austin is so very different from this (or if there are areas if Austin that look like that, I've not been to them).  It's funny how these two cities that are not that far from each other really do have such different feels.  But then again, Austin feels pretty different from just about anywhere else in Texas...

We later went by the cathedral, and on to the Market Square where all the banners say Feliz Navidad rather than Merry Christmas, and souvenir shops are filled with Mexican fighter masks/capes, and wooden marionettes, and cowboy hats and sombreros.  I really forget how much stronger the Mexican influence is here, how quickly that changes as you travel south in Texas, and it was kinda fun to be surrounded by it.  Zach was noticing that it seems the cadence and rhythm of Spanish spoken here seems different even from how it's spoken in California.  We stopped for a margarita and nachos, and listened to mariachi singers visit the tables nearby, then walked back to the hotel where we enjoyed the sunset from our window and will soon get ready to head out again for dinner.

Families and young kids are everywhere here, and we've seen many toddlers about D's age/size, which makes us miss him a little.  We'll both be happy to see him again tomorrow.  We're also really, really enjoying the freedom to sleep in, to take our time, to figure out what we want to do, and just be together without planning everything around a certain small person's needs.  We're trying to figure out how we can make something like this happen a bit more often...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

first-world whining

I'm watching Zach and Donovan play outside through the window at my in-laws' house right now.  These trips are always filled with such great highs-- watching Donovan play with his family, getting to "show off" the cute things he does, etc.  For example yesterday a whole bunch of us walked down to the tennis courts at the end of my parents' street and let D ride around on his cousin's old bike, and he was cruising around on that bike (with training wheels) looking like such a grown-up kid and it was just killing me with cuteness and pride in him.

And I guess with all the highs, have to come some lows, too.  I hate to complain, because I love to be here and share this time with loved ones, and it's always so much fun.  But somehow even though we have all this help taking care of D, at the end of the day I still end up feeling even more tired than when we're at home.  Everything is a production, and things always go missing as we shuffle from one house to another.  D has a cold or allergies or something that's been making him miserable a lot of the time this past week (I'm starting to wonder if we should get his ears checked out again), and guess who's the only person in the entire world apparently who can make it better (and thus stop the incessant screaming for "MAMA! MAMAAAAAA!!!")?  Me. It doesn't help that after being spoiled by a good year or more of D going to sleep easily for naps and bedtime, in the past weeks he's started resisting again and I don't really know how to deal with it.  He's been so, so tired since we got here (and thus, very cranky), with all the extra activity all day long, but he's taking shorter naps and resisting them more and it's really starting to wear me out.

I feel like such a spoiled brat for whining.  Here I am, with a beautiful son and a supportive husband, not to mention a huge family that adore Donovan and do so much for him and for all of us.  It feels so good to be here, and so wonderful to watch everyone play with D and see him recognize everyone and start saying their names, etc.  It's just that it's also a lot of work, and I guess this is part of why people complain about the stress of the holidays.

On Tuesday Zach and I leave for San Antonio for a couple of nights, while D stays with the grandparents.  I'm nervous about how it will go, how he'll do without us around for that long.  But, the person who takes a very close 3rd place for D (after his parents), is Papaw so I think he'll be ok, and know he'll be in great hands.  And I think the break will do wonders for me and for Zach.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

there she goes, there in the moonlight, under the stars... tarantula

Jenny, Zach and I ran some errands this afternoon (including Zach's first christmas shopping of the season...), and one of the errands was to stop by Waterloo Records, down at 6th and Lamar.  I noticed last October that Waterloo IceHouse (next door, and where I spent pretty much every Thursday evening of my last 2 or 3 years of college listening to The Hudsons) had closed down and was being replaced by a new diner, but it was still a bit of a shock to walk past that very familiar spot and see a completely different place there instead.

Already feeling a bit nostalgic, I then walked in and first thing I saw was a big display of a Bob Schneider Live at the Paramount Theatre double-CD set.  This is yet another piece of Austin culture/college memories that is near and dear to my heart, as Danyelle and I used to go see The Scabs play all.the.time, back before they "broke up" and started demanding $20+ covers for their shows.  In fact, we'd get there hours ahead of time just so we could be right at the front of the stage at Antone's and make eyes at the guitarist (who, oddly enough, kinda looked like  Willy Wonka).  Then the horn section from The Scabs joined a salsa band called La Tribu, and that became another weekly staple in my schedule (and where Danyelle and I earned the nicknames of "the Salsa Queens", something she apparently still gets asked about to this day when she goes out in the Austin salsa dance scene-- I don't have many claims to fame, I'm quite proud of that one). Anyway, so there's the CD set and I'm looking through the song list and it's such a perfect mix of Lonelyland and Scabs songs together in one piece and then I see Tarantula listed, which was a Scabs song but also played by La Tribu and was one of my FAVORITE songs to salsa dance to, and I was SOLD.

And you'd better believe it was the first song I played when I listened to the CD, and man what memories it brought back.  I don't like to think that one has a single set of "glory days" and then they're gone, because frankly that's pretty depressing.  I think there are many things about my life now that I will look back on incredibly fondly, and I think I still have many more "glory days" (and months and years) to live yet.  But those nights of dancing and music and friends and fun were pretty amazing.  I can't help but smile when I think back on them.

The other day Zach and I were debating our New Year's Eve plans, and to be frank we might not do a whole lot.  We may not even stay up much past midnight.  I just don't know if I want to deal with the bar scene, with going out and spending a bunch of money, with then dodging a drunk drivers on the road driving home, not to mention suffering the consequences of all that lost sleep the next day.  Clearly, we've gotten a bit more boring over the years.  And, really, I'm ok with that.  There are many phases of life, and this is one of them and I'm very happy to be where I am.  But it's also fun to listen to this music and remember, to revel in the memories of that past phase.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Guess what time D woke up this morning?  Seven thirty am!
(and he went to bed around 8:30pm- local time- so even got a good 11 hours of sleep, woot!)

Guess what time I woke up this morning?  TEN!  TEN AM!

Yes, it was glorious.  D woke up a few times overnight, sure, BUT he slept in a bit, and most importantly there were grandparents to get up with him so that Zach and I could sleep in.  At least I assume Zach slept in, too, as I don't remember him getting up and he wasn't still in bed when I woke up, but I assume he slept in a little at least.  Can't let these sorts of opportunities pass you by, you know.

Unfortunately I noticed D seem a bit congested as he was trying to go to sleep last night, and that's continued through today.  I don't know if this is an oddly-timed cold, or if he might be showing signs of seasonal allergies.  He was definitely congested pretty much the entire time last time we were here, which I chalked up to a regular cold, but the fact that he's stuffed up again and right after getting here seems... suspicious.

Other than that, D is having a great time.  He recognizes everyone, or at least seems to, and has been pretty instantly comfortable with them (whereas he's been showing more signs of stranger anxiety with others).  Both my dad and Zach's parents have already started giving D some of his Christmas presents.  D helped his grampa make cinnamon rolls this morning, and then put together his toy wagon.  He's a very helpful guy.  He spent most of the rest of the day playing with all sorts of toys, both old (relics saved from Zach and Andrew's childhoods) and new, and family.  Jen and I ducked off and had a fun afternoon hanging out and shopping on South Congress.  I actually brought my camera along this time, and got some fun pictures, I think.  Hopefully can get to sorting through those in the next day or 2.

But, despite sleeping in this morning, I am still utterly exhausted.  And you never know what the night will hold (I already had to stop in the middle of writing this post to go help D fall back asleep after waking up crying) so off to bed I go...

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Had kind of a really awesome day today.  Early in the morning we headed over to Kathy's for nutella-filled crepes and yummy coffee.  D had a BLAST playing with their kids' Hess trucks, giving Zach and I a chance to actually socialize with everyone else there.  Kathy also gave me the great idea of giving D his "own" Christmas tree that he can play (aka destroy) however he likes, with the understanding that he then leaves the "real" tree alone-- this is something she did with her own son when he was 18 months old, and has apparently worked pretty well (her 2 kiddoes are now almost teens).

We got a short break at home for a few hours where I succeeded in getting about half our packing done but failed miserably at my attempts to get D to nap (he woke up at 4:30am and then slept maaaybe 30 mins in the car on the way back from Kathy's... and that's been all for today) before then heading out to Karen and Benjamin's holiday shindig.  More fun to be had, lots of friends about, great food, and played a fun gift exchange game where everyone seemed pretty satisfied with what they got (particularly those who have future "white elephant" exchanges to attend this season...).

So now, home, exhausted, D is asleep, Zach is about to head out to make an appearance at a farewell party for the interns at work.  We're about 98% packed and set to leave tomorrow morning for two weeks of holiday family fun.  I am VERY much looking forward to this trip, for many reasons, though I can't deny I am dreading finding out what will happen with D's sleep.  He always regresses a bit when we travel, and already his sleep this week (after a few weeks of being pretty good) has completely gone to pot-- he's waking up super early (see previous paragraph), and also won't go to sleep without me lying down next to him which is odd and he hasn't needed in FOREVER other than when he's sick... which I'm pretty sure he's not.  But then again, who the hell knows.  So I'm wondering how much earlier he'll start waking up, and how much needier he might become, for the next two weeks while away from home.  I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

indecisive, but with killer comedic timing

I've often had issues with being indecisive.  I'll stand in a store staring at a shelf or rack for literally 10 minutes or more, debating in my head if I really like that shirt enough to justify buying it, or do I really think D will like that toy for longer than 10 minutes, etc.  I read once that a classic sign of a potential shoplifter is someone who keeps returning to a particular shelf or corner of a store, and I wonder how many clerks have kept their eye on me because I do the exact.same.thing. while debating whether or not to buy something.

Unfortunately, it appears I have passed this, um, shall we call it lovely? trait onto my son.

He'll ask to do one thing, then as I'm helping him get to it he'll then start freaking out and apparently wanting this OTHER thing, not THAT thing, and then I try to help him help me figure out what this OTHER thing is, except he won't tell me (perhaps because he himself isn't sure yet), and we go back and forth and it's not pretty.  And the thing is, his language skills are skyrocketing to such an amazing level that he is or at least should be able to tell me what he wants or what he's thinking a lot of the time, and that's AMAZING. I so so so love it when I ask him a question and he gives me an immediate and firm yes or no answer, or when he tells me exactly what he wants to eat.  But it makes these other times, the times when I give him two choices and he just stares at me blankly (when I know he understands), or worse yet makes it quite clear neither choice is ok and then screams and makes that funny little scrunched-up pouty face at me (lucky it's so darn cute), those seem that much worse because I'm starting to get used to him actually using his words.

Last night he had just finished eating and was getting down from his high chair and I think I asked him if he wanted me to bring his chair to the sink so he could wash his hands while standing on it, and he very adamantly said no and seemed to be going off to play, then suddenly started crying and throwing a fit and I guess he'd changed his mind and he DID want to go to the sink except he hadn't bothered to try to communicate this to me before getting all mad, and we went back and forth for several minutes while I tried to figure out just what exactly was going on.  I finally realized he wanted me to move his chair to the sink, and so I did, but while doing so I looked over at Zach and uttered a loud "DUDE!!" out of frustration.

Next thing I hear, Donovan yells out his own high-pitched "DUUUUUUDE!!" and is looking at me with a big smile on his face, because I think he knew he had just done something really, really cute.  And I couldn't help but burst out laughing.

And, see, this is why toddlers don't end up on the curb next to the garbage and recycling on trash day.  Because just when you're on your last nerve, they'll go and do something so incredibly adorable that you just have to laugh, and that urge to toss them out the window melts into an irresistible desire to gobble them up in kisses.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Project 365 (one more time, with feeling)

Many of you remember how I recorded Donovan's first 365 days as a photo project.  I then tried to do a more general (meaning with anything open to be a subject as opposed to just D) 365 project for this past year, but quit midway through February.  I think I was kind of burned out on taking pictures every day, and had laid out a workflow that was not very sustainable to keep up with.

Now I'm seeing posts pop up around the interweb about this photo challenge, which can technically be begun at any point but seems most natural to do for a full calendar year, and am considering trying it again for 2010.  I've been seriously neglecting my camera that past couple of months, and this would be a good way to get back in the habit of wielding it a lot and hopefully also keep on getting better at it.

Most of you can probably stop reading this post right about here, as I'm about to start talking about my planned workflow and will probably be very boring for anyone not thinking about attempting the same thing.  It's ok, you won't hurt my feelings.  ; )

When I did Donovan's 365, I based it all off flickr.  I simply went back every so often and viewed my photos by date taken, picked my favorite one of him, and then labeled and tagged it and placed it in the set.  I often went a good week or longer between sittings, so days would pile up, but otherwise this was manageable enough.

When I tried my 365 for 2009 project, I decided to be more rigid about it all.  I would upload each day's photos that evening, then choose my "365" shot, place it in its own folder, then upload/tag/organize/etc the photo for each day.  I look back on this, and a lot of what I was trying to do was very silly.  For one, I had Lightroom and there was no reason for me to complicate things by trying to rename the photo or put it in a separate folder just for this project.  Also, it was fun to try to be artistic in editing a photo each day, but it was also unrealistic.  I love many of those photos I took in those 6 weeks of trying, but there was no way I could keep that up for a year.

So here's my plan for this year:

  • Take pictures every day.
  • Transfer pics from my camera to sort,etc, at least once a week, hopefully more often, but not necessarily every day.
  • Use keywords and a collection in Lightroom to organize the 365 photos (otherwise keep filenames/folder location intact).
  • Type the day (eg "X or 365") as a photo caption in Lightroom, which will then automatically show up as a caption when uploaded to flickr.  
  • Post photos to 365 groups on flickr (so far have joined two, not sure I'll keep up with both or choose one I like best) when I have a chance, but no need to do it every day.
So that's the plan.  We shall see how it goes.  I'll likely use a combination of SLR, point--and-shoot, and cell phone camera for taking these pictures.  The idea is to make a record of our year, as a photo journal of sorts.  I'm thinking of including little rules/challenges to myself, like only including one photo of D per week, or shooting a self-portrait once a week or month.  If anyone else has ideas/suggestions/recommendations I'd love to hear them.  I'd also love for you to join me.  ; )

Monday, December 14, 2009

raising a future nudist, apparently

Today felt like a very, very long Monday.  Like it should be the middle of the week already.  Not that it was a bad day or anything, but for some reason it felt very long.  Maybe because a lot happened today.

D spent most of the morning pants-less, until I suggested we go down the street to his friend's house to play.  He then quickly accepted putting on pants AND changing his shirt!!!  The magical powers of friendship... and someone else's toys to play with.  Of course, as soon as we got back home and did the first diaper change he refused to put pants on again, and spent the rest of the day pants-less.  I swear he must be extra warm blooded or something, I've been in pants, socks, and a sweatshirt all day.

Several weeks ago we sent a letter (in French and everything!!) and pictures to Michele and Gerard, our former neighbors in Switzerland.  Today we got a response back from them, which was so wonderful.  It turns out their son, who was got married about a year and a half ago (and graciously invited all of us to the wedding), and his wife had a baby girl a few months ago.  They included a few pictures, too, and it just warmed my heart to hear from them, and I instantly wished we could visit them.  I know they really enjoyed watching Donovan grow up as a baby, and were just so sweet to us the entire time we knew them.  (Michele also did point out that the people who moved into our house don't seem very friendly, have hardly said hello twice in the year they've been there.)

Less than a week now till we go to Texas for the holidays.  I think it's fair to say all 3 of us are counting down the days.  ; )

Sunday, December 13, 2009

six word sunday: Boo for rain... YAY for rainbows! =)

six word sunday challenge

Friday, December 11, 2009

On Stranger Danger and Parental (over)Protectiveness

A few weeks ago I read the TIME article on the backlash against "helicopter parents" and the paranoid overprotectiveness we have of our kids these days.  I liked the article and agreed with a lot of what they said.  As a Montessorian, I have a much more watch-from-the-sidelines approach to parenting-- I want D to know that I am always here if he needs me, but want him to have the freedom to figure things out on his own and be more independent.  I'm quite happy letting D play happily in his room (as he's doing now) while I sit in the living room, say, typing up a blog post. He's safe, happy, and getting plenty of unstructured free play time which we keep finding out is kind of a good thing.  (keep in mind, these moments might only last about 10 minutes or so before he wants my attention again...)

That's in the safety of our own home, though.  I still feel a stifling paranoia about letting him out of my sight for even half a second if we're anywhere out in public.  A few months ago I was listening in to my mom, several of her cousins, and my grandmother reminisce about when they were young, and hearing stories such as my mom's cousin, at maybe 5 years of age or so, pulling my 18 month old mom and her newborn baby brother in a wagon around the block, completely unsupervised.  That's just what people did back then, but if it happened now you'd probably get reported to CPS.  Kids cannot be left alone EVER, and are taught early about "Stranger Danger" and to avoid these potentially evil people at all costs, because otherwise you'll end up in a ditch somewhere.

Then I came across another article on twitter yesterday, about child kidnappings.  And this is the part that shocked me (emphasis is my own):
The U.S. Department of Justice reports more than 200,000 children are victims of family abductions in the United States each year. Of that figure, about 56,500 cases are reported to local law enforcement authorities and require investigation, studies show. In comparison, the U.S. Department of Justice reports an average of 115 stranger abductions a year.
(numbers confirmed here, too)

*blink blink*


Out of the MILLIONS of kids in the US, only 115 are abducted by total strangers each year?  This is what we're freaking out about?

You then pair those stats up with the ones for sexual assault.  It's estimated that 60% of sexual attacks happen to people under 18.  That's plenty scary, and certainly enough for people to start checking their neighborhoods for sex offenders and demonizing strangers even more.  Until you find out that the vast majority of those attacks (85%-95%) are perpetrated by people the victim already knows well (family, friends, etc).  Only a teeny, tiny minority are attacks by complete strangers.

So in a way, our kids are safer with a complete stranger than at your family reunion.

I'm not trying to minimize the horror of those instances.  But I think it's alarming how much fear there is about strangers kidnapping and abusing our children, when the actual numbers are so low.  And in fact, by emphasizing the danger of strangers (and completely ignoring the fact that it's those close to you that are most likely to harm your kids) we are causing further damage by not educating and preparing ourselves for the real threats.

Meanwhile, car wrecks are the leading cause of death for children 2-14 years old.  Each year 250,000 children are injured in car crashes, and 2,000 children die from them.  I just read an article in Glamour (Jan 2010, pg62) about the dumb things we do while driving and how dangerous they are.  For example, texting while driving (even if you don't have to look at your phone while doing it) makes you 8 times more likely to get in a crash-- and it the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level of .08.  Talking on the phone (yes,m even hands-free) makes you four times as likely to crash, and lowers your ability to process visual information (light changes, brake lights, etc) by 50%.  Every year 2,500 people die from cell phone related car crashes.  Eating and drinking while driving are also incredibly dangerous.

I wonder how many of us teach our kids to be paranoid of anyone they don't know but don't think twice about answering a phone call while driving with our kiddoes in the car.

I'm not trying to be preachy, I'm more just baffled with finding out this information... and thinking about how I will change my behavior.  I am intrigued by the "Free Range Kids" movement, and may try to read the book soon.  I might relax a bit when out and about with D, while being much more mindful of how I drive with him in the car... and avoiding it completely whenever possible (fortunately we live in a good area for walking to places).

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on all this.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

toilet conundrums

Disclaimer: Yes, this is a post about potty training, which means there's some possible TMI-worthy content. You have been warned.

So I'm thinking we'll give potty training (I know I'm supposed to call it "toilet learning" now but am having trouble getting into that habit) a try sometime in January.  I was tempted to start a few weeks ago, but since we'll be out of town for 2 weeks for Christmas (and it's tough to stick to even his regular schedule with all the family around) it probably is more reasonable to wait till after the holidays.

Unfortunately, I feel like I already missed a possible window of opportunity early in the year when we had several casual successes with the potty.  At the time I assumed those would continue, and that it was too early to try anything more formal.  Then months passed, he stopped showing as much interest in the potty or even wanting to sit on it at all.  Summer came and went, everything feeling busy and me hardly even thinking about potties for a long time.

Then recently D has started showing interest again.  He's always been fascinated with my going  to the bathroom (I haven't been able to go alone since D became mobile oooh, what, a year and a half ago?)  He's also seen Zach use the toilet a few times... indeed he once managed to get his hand in the stream of urine as Zach was peeing (suppose we shoulda seen that one coming, seeing how much he loves playing with water).  He's since learned the words for pee and poop, is interested in poop going down the toilet, and has even caught on to toilet paper and started trying to "assist" me.

What?  TMI?

So I think he's getting ready, but I'm kinda worried he'll back off again if I don't take advantage of the opportunity.  Then again, I'm also terrified of actually trying, wondering how it'll all go and how life will be completely different without diapers around (yes, it'll be great... eventually...  but what will it be like going out in public when he's still "iffy" and how many accidents will we have to deal with in the middle of Target?).

He still sometimes sits in his small potty chair, though he's shown much more interest in the big potty.  So a few weeks back I got one of those kiddie potty seats that goes on the toilet to make the opening smaller, and by happy coincidence we also inherited a plastic stepstool that's perfect for him to step up onto to reach the toilet.  And so the past few days he's had great fun playing a game that consists of taking off his pants and diaper, sitting on the toilet for a few seconds, getting back up, asking me to flush the toilet, sitting back down, and then tearing half the roll of toilet paper off so "wipe" his bottom (meaning he drops the paper in the space in the seat opening just behind his butt).

Part of me is VERY excited about this-- a) he's not scared of toilets flushing, which I've heard can be a great obstacle for many kids, b) he's interested in sitting on the toilet and seems to know what it's for, etc.

Then there's the environmentalist in me screaming about the water wasted from flushing the toilet 10 times in so many minutes, and all the toilet paper wasted.  And, while I want him to be familiar with the toilet and feel comfortable using it, I don't want it to become so much of a game that he forgets what it's *really* supposed to be for to begin with.  But on the other hand if I don't let him do this he gets all upset and I don't want to foster negative feelings regarding the toilet before we've even really begun.

And since all the potty training websites out there seem to focus on giving you the same list of ideas and protocols rather than much info on anything else regarding the process, I'm asking you veteran parents for advice-- Do I encourage him to play this way with the potty?  Try to limit it somehow?  Should I just let the kid be until January?  Am I completely over-thinking this whole thing?

Monday, December 07, 2009


D took his very last dose of antibiotics this morning.  Over the weekend he was still quite the grouchy pants, launching into a full-force tantrum if something didn't go exactly as he wanted-- which was often, since he himself couldn't seem to make up his mind about what it was he actually wanted.  But today went much, much better, I think he finally must be feeling more like his old self again, because the only times he got super crabby were at lunch when he was due for a nap, and at the Children's Discovery Museum this afternoon when we got there and the only thing we discovered was that they close on Mondays, and it was really cold, and D refused (REFUSED!!!) to wear a jacket.  And it really sucked at the time, but I think he was cold (ironically) and also disappointed about the museum, since I think he really did remember what it was and how much fun he had last time and so was likely bummed about not getting to go in after all.

Other than those two meltdowns we had a pleasant day.  He stayed pretty busy playing with his trucks and emptying every piece of clothing from the second drawer in his dresser.  Silly me tried to put them back, but no they CLEARLY do not belong in the DRAWER, silly woman!  No, their proper place is scattered all over the floor.  And also in the laundry hamper.  I don't think we can keep his dirty clothes in his hamper anymore due to this new habit of putting clean clothes in there, too.  He's very into taking things from one place and putting them someplace else, and then doing the reverse all over again, and it truly is fascinating to watch.  Turns out he's quite heart-meltingly adorable when he doesn't feel miserable and isn't screaming all the time.  I sometimes forget that...

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Blog with Heart Challenge (or, how to eradicate world poverty this holiday season!)

The other day I saw an update from the Kiva fanpage on Facebook mentioning the Blog With Heart Challenge.  The challenge is a call-to-arms of all bloggers to form lending teams on the Kiva website and encourage their readers to join the teams and make their own $25 loans.

Well, guess what, my lovely readers?  I've signed us up.  ; )

If you haven't heard of Kiva yet, they are a wonderfully awesome organization that links kind-hearted people like you and me with entrepreneurs in developing countries (real, live individuals and small businesses all over the world) so we can lend them money on a short-term basis to help them build or grow their businesses (click here for more info).

Now, I know this is a crazy time of year to be asking you to part with your money-- there's Christmas shopping to be done, and everyone's already strapped due to the recession.  But here's the cool part about Kiva (and why I hope every one of you will join)-- you're not giving a donation, you're giving out a loan.  Meaning you'll get your money back (and, in my experience, pretty quickly, too-- my loans have been paid back within a few months to a year or so).  So, really, you're helping someone out with their business essentially for free.  You can lend out $25 to the entrepreneur of your choice, and then over time they'll pay you back and you'll get your entire $25 back (unless there's a loss due to currency exchange).  It's a win-win. Sure, there is a chance they could default on you, but in my 2 years as a member and 11 loans given so far, no one has failed to pay me back yet.

How could you not give lend them money?? ; )

Here's what you do:
  1. Go to my team page.
  2. Click the big, green JOIN NOW button.
  3. Browse through the list of entrepreneurs and choose who you'd like to support.  (Be sure to select to have the loan counted towards the "Life is Good Blog" team.)  You can even pay through PayPal, meaning you might not even need to get out of your chair to grab your wallet.
  4. That's it!  
See how easy that was?  So head on over and give a little.  It'll make your heart feel all warm and fuzzy, I promise.

EDIT: A couple of commenters have brought this NYT article (a response to this original blog post) to my attention.  The article points out that Kiva does not exactly work directly from person to person as I stated above-- instead the loans are often disboursed by microfinancers before even being posted on the Kiva website, and thus a lender's dollars might not go directly to that exact person but back to refund the microfinancer who will then give that money out as a loan to a different entrepreneur.  After reading it went back to the Kiva website and found that Kiva does mention this in their How Kiva Works page (emphasis mine):

4) Kiva provides the funds to our Field Partners by aggregating the loan funds from all contributing lenders. Most Field Partners then use the Kiva lender funds to backfill the loan they’ve already disbursed to the entrepreneur. Disbursals can happen up to 30 days before, or 30 days after a loan request is uploaded to the Kiva website.
5) Over time, the entrepreneur repays her loan. The Field Partner collects those repayments and lets Kiva know if a repayment was not made as scheduled. We give Field Partners the option to cover both currency losses and entrepreneur defaults.

(The Field Partners being the microfinance institutions)
At the bottom of the How Kiva Works page is also a diagram highlighting this process:

The chief complaint in the article is that Kiva is not being transparent enough about how the loans actually work, but all the information is right there on the website and it was I who did not look through it all carefully enough to catch the differences (and it's not like it's hidden in fine print somewhere, it's all right there in plain sight).  So sorry about that.  However, I do not think any of this reflects poorly on Kiva itself, nor does it change the way I feel about the organization or what it does.  I still feel good about supporting them, and hope you will, too.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Ode to Mom

Today is my mom's birthday.  She's turning 60 years old.  The weird thing (and I hope she doesn't take this the wrong way) is that 60 sound *old* to me, but I look at her and she just seems so much younger.

So, since it's her birthday and all, it seems appropriate to write a little about how incredibly awesome she is.

I've always liked my mom.  Growing up I remember people often pointing out how much I looked like her.  Hearing that always made me proud.  I've never been one of those people that loathes the idea of "turning into their parent"-- I've always figured if I end up being like her as a person and mother, I will have done very well.  Sure, there were times I didn't like her all that much or didn't think she knew what she was talking about at all (mostly between the ages of 13 and 19 or so), but overall we've tended to have a pretty good relationship over the years, and I have always appreciated what a wonderful, selfless, loving person she is.

That appreciation has grown about a million-fold since having a baby.

I hear of friends whose parents aren't all that involved with their kids, and it makes me so, so grateful that Zach and I have the parents that we do, who dote over Donovan was much as they do.  As soon as we told my mom that we were expecting, she set out on a mission to find new yarn so she could start crocheting a baby blanket for her grandchild.  She asked about coming out to visit when Donovan was to be born, asking so timidly and worried about not being wanted (when I asked Zach if it was ok for her to come out his respinse was, "She wants to come and help?  Please!  Tell her to stay as long as she wants!").  So she planned a 5-week long stay around my due date, and through miraculous timing she landed in Switzerland literally just a few hours after I started feeling contractions.  Her help during those five first weeks as a mother myself was...  I can't state how great it was.  She did everything she could to help, from taking D on multiple walks all around the neighborhood to cooking dinner most nights to keeping D in her room at night so we could sleep a little better between the multiple feedings.  And through it all she was my cheerleader, giving her advice where needed but always backing me up and giving me the confidence I needed to feel ok taking care of that kiddo all day long after she left.  I know I would have survived without her there if I'd needed to, but I don't wish to think about what those beginning weeks would have been like without her help and guidance.  (You'd better believe that as soon as we get pregnant with our next kid I'll be calling her and booking her a flight to come stay with us again to help with the transition)
She and my step-dad have flown out to visit us many, many times since then, both out in Switzerland and now back here in California, and she continues to be an amazing help and inspiration.  She's the one that wakes up with him at whatever hour he chooses, urging Zach and I to get back to bed and sleep in some more, and taking him on long early morning walks whenever needed.  On one recent trip to Texas we arrived only to realize we had left the musical giraffe D goes to sleep with back here-- Mom raced out to Target (where I'd bought that giraffe a good year earlier) to try to find a replacement.  She often calls me to gush over his latest pictures, and I know she'll never get tired of me gushing right back to her on whatever super-cute thing he has done lately.  She is my inspiration and my model for how to be a good mom, and it makes my heart feel so full to know that Donovan will grow up with her as a grandmother (not to mention his other 4 grandparents, who all love and dote on him just as much).
Saas Fee

I could go on and on about all the other things that make my mom amazing-- the way she took a chance as a young 20-something and followed her heart to be with my dad in a far-away land despite her family being so against it; the way she moved back to the US twenty years later with four children and managed to raise us on her own, while working full-time AND getting her master's degree and never make us feel like we were missing out on anything; the way she puts everyone else's needs above her own (sometimes to a fault, and then we get to remind her to do something for herself every once in a while); the way she has tirelessly helped take care of her own aging parents the past several years; the way that, despite all the "mistakes" she claims to have made as a parent, we always felt loved and supported and like we could do anything.  But if I did all that I'd go on forever, when really all that needs to be said is, "Mom, I love you, and you're awesome.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Day 3 (& still miserable)

Poor guy =(
Taken from my phone this morning
Today has been the worst day so far.  He was unable to stay asleep last night without me laying next to him, so I spent the night in his room again.  He woke up this morning-- when body temp is supposed to be at its lowest of the day-- with a 103 fever.  He was also MISERABLE.  He managed a few minutes sitting in his high chair while eating breakfast, but other than that I have been holding literally all day long.  I am not exaggerating, people.  We've spent A LOT of time watching videos/pictures/slideshows on the computer (that whole limiting-TV-time rule has gone completely out the window) and that keeps him relatively happy, but only if he's sitting on my lap (thankfully I have my iPod Touch to keep me somewhat entertained-- I've been updating on Twitter a lot). If I try to get us to do anything else he screams, and only screams louder if I'm not holding him.  Monday and Tuesday he felt crappy, but had moments (even if only a few minutes) where he'd seem ok and play with his toys.  He hasn't done that at all today.

He still doesn't really have any other obvious symptoms, and I hate that b/c I feel like I'm missing something.  So when he woke up with a fever still this morning I called and made an appointment to see his pediatrician.  Of course we couldn't get in with her till 4:45pm, but that's when we'll go, I suppose.  His fever did respond to the Motrin I gave him this morning, but it should wear off in time for the appointment so we'll see what we get there.

I finally got him to fall asleep just now (after a good 10 mins of crying and trashing in his bed before he finally konked out-- it really sucks when there's nothing you can do to calm your hysterical kiddo).  I just slipped out from beside him, and I'm wondering how long he'll manage to stay asleep on his own.  Perhaps I can sneak in some food and maybe a cup of tea.  *crossing fingers*

I don't know what the doctor will say.  I guess we'll see.

UPDATE: Turns out he's got a double ear infection.  That would explain why he's been so miserable. And not sleeping.  So we're now giving Motrin routinely, along with an antibiotic for the next 5 days.  He was already feeling a little better in the late afternoon to evening (though he still looks like hell), hopefully the infections will clear up over the next day or 2 and he'll be back to his usual self.  Unfortunately tomorrow may still be rough till everything kicks in, but at least we now know what's wrong which helps A LOT.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

oh, elusive sleep

So last night kinda sucked as far as sleep goes.  D seemed to feel better in the morning, though by 2pm he was back to having a fever of about 102.  I called the advice line, they said if it goes longer than 3 days (started Sunday night, so thru Wednesday night) to bring him in to get checked out.  It does freak me out some that he doesn't have any obvious symptoms other than a fever (and seeming to feel like crap, at least part of the time) but he's still normal-enough-- and his fever low enough-- that there can't really be anything too seriously wrong with him, right?

I felt like a zombie all morning, and am being kind of psychosomatic about cold symptoms coming on, but felt somewhat better as the day progressed.  Zach also came home early from an event he was going to tonight, which meant he was in time to help with D's bedtime.  Very nice. I'm hoping for some decent sleep tonight.

As a random aside, I noticed that YogaBeans has a new post up.  That helped brighten my day.


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