Tuesday, March 27, 2012

List Blogging: 3.27.12

Listening: lately I've been resurrecting old favorites (Ben Folds, BNL) and also been obsessed with this song.  At this precise moment I'm listening to Brian Hudson's Into the Black.

Eating: tonight's dinner was a delicious pork loin with rice and green beans, thanks to the wonderfully awesome Sasha and our Tuesday night dinner ritual.

Drinking: contemplating pouring myself a glass of the already-opened bottle of red wine on the kitchen counter...

Wearing: too-baggy jeans and a hand-me-down hoodie.

Feeling: tired. It's been a rough week sleep-wise. But otherwise, pretty ok.

Weather: rainy day today, which is annoying personally (I hate having to take kids out to the car in the rain, etc) but this winter's been very dry so I'm enjoying the sound of the rain tonight.

Wanting: more sleep, more free time, more time with Zach.  As usual. Oh, and for Thursday night to get here quickly so Zach and I can watch the Mad Men season 5 premier together.

Needing: maybe it's weird to say, but anything I come up with right now feels more like a "want" than a "need." Which I guess is a pretty good sign that I'm feeling better now than I was a few months ago.

Thinking: about how funny Quinn was today with his "the wrong trousers" impression; how sweet Donovan looks when he's drifting off to sleep.  

Enjoying: reading The Hunger Games. I just downloaded the ebook today.  I figure if I'm going to spend several hours in a day (and night) holding Quinn while he semi-sleeps, I might as well enjoy a good book at the same time. Thank god for smartphones.

Wondering: about our move to New Hampshire in a few months-- when we'll find a house, what classes will be like for Zach, the friends we may make, whether all the money stuff will work out, what the cats will think of snow. You know, all the important stuff.

Monday, March 26, 2012

When pediatricians get in the way

We were living overseas when Donovan was born. We managed to find an English-speaking pediatrician pretty easily, thanks to two separate recommendations for the same guy. We loved this pediatrician, he was cheerful and friendly and seemed to know his stuff. He was also extremely pro-breastfeeding, practically cheering at each check-up when I told him we were still exclusively nursing.

When D was about 4 months old he started dropping down his growth curve. Our pediatrician didn't worry about it right away, but when at 6 months D had gone from 50% for weight down to 25% he sat us down and expressed his concern. Perhaps my milk wasn't enough for him anymore, he said, and it was time to try using formula.

"We want to make sure he's getting enough calories and nutrition for his brain to grow properly," he said. Talk about striking fear into a new mother's heart (mind you, there were no other red flags- D was happy, active, and meeting milestones).

I'm not sure if he ever even asked about diaper output. He didn't mention seeking help from a lactation consultant to help increase my supply, if that was even the issue (and I was too naive to think about seeking one myself, or to know how to go about finding one).  We did try giving D formula, but he completely refused. We kept an eye on his weight and encouraged eating lots of foods with healthy fats and to nurse lots. It took till D's first birthday till we finally realized that our happy, very active, very healthy kid was just...skinny. His growth curve was simply a variation of normal.

A few months later, now living back in California, this strange thing happened where at about 10 months my milk supply plunged for a week or two (I noticed that D wasn't putting out many wet diapers all of a sudden).  We had a different pediatrician, but the experience was mostly the same-- up to then she'd been very supportive of breastfeeding, yet when my supply became questionable the only suggestion was, "Why don't you try formula?" Which D once again refused, and after a week or 2 my supply came back to normal and we nursed for several months after that.

Moving ahead a few years, Quinn had no breastfeeding issues until he started a 12 day nursing strike at 9 months old. I went in to see our current pediatrician (different from the previous two). She was out, and the doctor we saw instead was completely and utterly clueless. I don't think he even knew what I meant when I said "nursing strike." Thankfully by then I knew better-- I walked out of that useless appointment and found an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) in the area. Her encouragement, advice, and support played a major role in getting us back to breastfeeding again. Quinn is still nursing now at 15months and we don't have any clear deadline for when we may stop.

These are my own anecdotes, but hearing others' stories I get the sense that my experiences are not unusual (at least none of our pediatricians have "celebrated" breastfeeding by gifting bags of free formula for meeting a breastfeeding milestone, yes I know a few different moms to whom that actually happened). Many doctors today "know" that breastfeeding is "best" and certainly encourage and support it... as long as everything's going well. Yet most pediatricians have little or no training on how to handle the challenges that can arise. They won't even refer a mother to an IBCLC so she can get quality information and help. This is perhaps one of the biggest "booby traps" breastfeeding mothers face- we turn to our pediatricians for help (they're the experts, right??) and get well-intentioned bad advice that can derail a breastfeeding relationship.

If you're having trouble with breastfeeding and you want to continue (because when you decide to wean is up to you and your baby, no one else), please seek an IBCLC.  Find someone who is helpful and supportive.  Many breastfeeding problems can be solved with the proper support.

Do these stories sound familiar to you? Was your pediatrician truly supportive of breastfeeding?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Overnight getaway

One of the hardest parts about moving away this summer, will be leaving the friends we've made here.  We have some truly awesome friends, y'all.  Like Nicole & Sasha who offered to watch the boys overnight last weekend so Zach and I could have a night away just the two of us.  At first we'd planned to go out of town somewhere, but time got away from us and then the weather looked like it was gonna be crap, and so we ended up just using points to stay at the Embassy Suites in downtown Sacramento.  Which worked really nicely, actually.  And though it was not intentionally planned this way, our little escapade ended up being over St Patrick's Day which is also the anniversary of when we got engaged (yes we actually keep track of these dates, though probably only because it was on a holiday).

We escaped left the girls with the boys in the early-ish afternoon on Saturday and first went to REI to have a "shopping date" (yes, this is the sort of stuff we find romantic).  We found a pair of waterproof winter hiking boots for me for half-price, which should work nicely for snowshoeing in New Hampshire next winter.  Afterwards we checked into the hotel and settled in a bit, then went out for an honest-to-god nice sit-down dinner, with cocktails and wine and everything.  It was awesome.

Constructing a pillow fort. Please come back later. 

Despite the rain, we walked around Old Sacramento for a bit and then went back to the room to watch The Social Network (in Zach's words: "I don't know how true all of this is, but they did an amazing job telling it.").  In the morning we slept in late, had breakfast, and just walked around aimlessly a bit more before heading home again.  It was a short trip, but so very nice to get some time with just us-- especially since he's only home on weekends now, and most of that time is taken up with taking care of children and the house and, you know, life.  

Dono & Quinn did well in our absence, D got top watch several episodes of Curious George (which they discovered is on Netflix streaming).  Quinn managed to sleep well that night, though ever since he's been waking up a ton more which leads me to believe that he's trying to pay us (well, me, since Zach's been gone all those nights anyway) back for our overnight jaunt.  The little stinkpot.

Luckily, he's cute enough to make up for it.

16. Sunglasses #marchphotoaday

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Trayvon Martin and Self-Defense

I hope most of you are by now familiar with the name Trayvon Martin.  If not, please read on:

Trayvon Martin was a 17 year old black kid who was shot and killed last month.  What basically happened was that he was walking in the gated community where his father lives, just getting back from going to the store to buy some Skittles candy.  As he was walking, 28 year old George Zimmerman, self-appointed neighborhood watch captain, decided that Martin "looked suspicious" (you know, walking home talking to his girlfriend on the phone and eating Skittles) so he called the police. The police told Zimmerman not to pursue him, and that they'd be right now.

Instead, Zimmerman followed Martin in his car, got out and approached him with a gun (Martin was unarmed), and after a short scuffle Zimmerman shot Martin "in self-defense." Several neighbors called 911 while this was happening, and in the just-released tapes you can hear someone terrified and calling for help just before gun shots.  Martin's parents identify the terrified voice as his.  (I have not listened to the tapes bc I don't think I could stand it, honestly)

The police came to the scene and took Zimmerman's word about shooting in self-defense. They never questioned him, didn't arrest him, didn't even check his record (which isn't so sparkling clean, apparently, unlike Martin's).  The police said they didn't find any reason to question Zimmerman or his "self-defense" excuse.  Nevermind that Zimmerman is older and heavier than Martin was; or that Zimmerman had a gun while Martin was unarmed; or that it was Zimmerman who pursued Martin despite police ordering him not to.


I don't know about you, but I find this whole thing is baffling, horrifying, and infuriating.

In response to the public outcry, a grand jury in Florida just announced they will hear evidence about the murder, sometime next month.  This is a start, but if so many people hadn't called out this injustice, nothing would have been done.

Here are some links to more information about story:

The Curious Case of Trayvon Martin
Trayvon Martin: 15 Facts You Need To Know
Trayvon Martin's Last Phone Calls Triggers Call for Arrest
Up To No Good
Why I Cannot Write About Trayvon Martin

What can you do?

1) Spread the word.  This story deserves to be talked about, and sadly it is not an isolated incident but something that happens all too often in the black community (along with other minorities).  Too often these stories are swept under the rug.  Don't let that happen.  The KONY 2012 video spread like wildfire, but here's something that's within our very borders that deserves just as much attention.

2) Sign this petition in support of investigating this case and bringing George Zimmerman to trial.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Feminist Baby is unamused

This was Quinn's reaction to all the republican efforts to control every aspect of women's health care.


I know, kiddo. I can't quite believe it, either.  

Part of me wants to write a more in-depth blog post about these issues, but when I try to think of what to say I just end up screaming obscenities.  So I'll just say this:  The Handmaid's Tale is seeming less and less like a work of fiction, and more and more like something the GOP would suggest as a legitimate way to run our country.

Monday, March 12, 2012

the power of song

This past weekend was one of those weekends when we were all tired and a little grumpy, and like you're trying to just get through each moment rather than enjoy it.  Parts of it were still a lot of fun- a birthday party on Saturday, visiting a friend on Sunday.  But. Exhausting, challenging.  It felt like Zach and I were just trading the kids back and forth, trying to give each other a break and counting down to our next one at the same time.

Not surprisingly, Monday morning didn't go so great, either.  Despite a decent night of sleep, I was still all sorts of exhausted upon waking.  Thanks to DST the kids actually "sleept in" till 6:30am, which was nice but left a shorter window for getting ready for school.  And there's the general crappy feeling of Zach already having to go back to SF for work after a short weekend of being too busy and tired to really get to spend much real time together.

Long story short, I was feeling pretty annoyed by the time I got the kids in the car to drop D off at school.  While still in the driveway D asked me to put on "the new OK Go video," with which he has been obsessed lately (it is a pretty kick-ass video and song).  I have the song downloaded on my phone and he's asked to listen to it pretty much every time we're in the car.  I put it on mainly to keep him from whining and started driving with a dark cloud firmly over my mood.

We were just a few blocks away when I heard D's voice singing along to the words of the song.  I often sing along to it myself, but this was the first time I heard him sing in the car at all, to this particular song or any (in fact, the only other time I've even heard him sing spontaneously like this was a couple weeks ago when he started singing Puff the Magic Dragon while playing one day).  He didn't get all the words, but didn't seem bothered by this.  He just did his best, singing some words clearly, others a little garbled, his sweet, small, adorable voice just singing for fun.  In an instant my bad mood melted away and I couldn't help but smile.  I listened to him for a little while, then we sang the last verse together.  Through darted glances in the rearview mirror I saw that he was smiling, too.


Kids are amazing, aren't they? In an instant they can plunge you into the deepest, darkest mood with yet another meltdown or that incessant whining.  And just as easily, they can lift you up and remind you of all that's good in the world.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Movin' on up! (to lightroom 4)

I've been a big fan of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom ever since I bought Lightroom 2 a few years ago.  It's been a great tool for organizing our photos (keywords! Color labels! Smart Collections!!) and also exploring post-processing through the Develop module.  It's probably one of the smartest photography buys I've ever made (along with my DSLR and 50mm lens, though Zach's the one who picked those out).
When Lightroom 3 came out I downloaded the trial but never upgraded.  I wasn't doing much more than sorting & keywording photos, so the extra features didn't seem worth spending the money on if I wasn't going to actually use them.

Then the other day, Adobe released Lightroom 4.  I played with the trial and at first I didn't notice much that was very different or special.  But then I started noticing little things that seemed pretty great (go here for some short videos explaining the new features).  The one that struck me the most (and which may have actually been mostly an upgrade from Lr 2 to Lr 3, but still-- it's an upgrade for me now) is the Noise Reduction tool.

The main complaint I have about my current camera (Canon 30D) is the "noise" (graininess) that shows up when the ISO is set too high.  And since I'm often taking pictures indoors and of constantly moving children, I do a lot of shooting at ISO 1600 (the highest setting on my camera.  Apparently they go up to like 500,000 now or something).  Lately the extra noise in many of those photos has been buggin me more, and is the one thing that makes me want to upgrade cameras.  So to have a decent way to easily lower noise in the photos that need it without spending a lot of money on a new camera is pretty darn exciting.

Here's a sample of a photo I played around with. They're both edited the same way, except the top one doesn't have any noise reduction:
And this second one does:
(Look at the leaves and background to really see the difference.  You can also click on the photos to go through to flickr, viewing them larger makes it even more noticeable.)

So I went ahead and upgraded, it seems a worthwhile splurge and a fun "new" purchase to help me in my goal to make time for photography more often.  Should be fun to explore the new features more fully.  BTW it's $79 to upgrade if you have a previous version of Lightroom (with previous versions it was $99), and to buy new it's only $149 (used to be $300!).  Again, I swear this has been some of the best money I've spent.

Monday, March 05, 2012


Rose (again) 

A few weeks ago one sunny Sunday afternoon in Ft Worth, Texas, I was walking back to my hotel after the second day of lectures had let out, enjoying the sunshine and pondering life and serendipity.

So many things in my life have felt serendipitous.  I don't know if that's simply optimism, or a lot of luck, or both, but it really does feel that way.  For example, the location for the Montessori Refresher, in the same metroplex where my sister lived allowing me to visit with her, my adorable nephew, my brother-in-law, and finally meet his mother (I was headed back to my hotel to meet up with my sister for dinner that night).  

There are other things, too, big and small.  Zach was so disappointed to get rejected from MIT for undergrad, but him being at UT (and me in San Marcos) allowed our relationship to continue to grow through college.  Later on, just as we were about to announce a move to Chile, his boss handed him an opportunity to move to Switzerland, instead (with an actual paycheck!).  I think it goes unsaid how well that turned out for us, with many great memories and friends made along the way.  And while the job that brought us here to Sacramento may have been a bit of a bust (to put it mildly), everything else about living here -- our neighborhood, the friends we've made, D's school -- has been so amazingly wonderful.  I feel so much gratitude about how well all these things have turned out, scary decisions and experiences that brought us so much good in the end.

As I walked that afternoon and pondered all of this, I then looked towards the future.  We have this Very Big And Scary Thing ahead of us.  In a few short months we'll pack up all our stuff and move across the country to a place where we know no one.  Moving alone is scary, but the financial risk of Zach going to business school is what really ties my stomach up in knots.  We've been lucky over the years with Zach getting a healthy salary and decent bonuses, and we've been diligent about saving a lot of that.  Our "nest egg" has been a great comfort to us the past few years-- even as Zach left his previous job in Silicon Valley and searched for a new one, we knew that even if it took several months we'd be ok because of our savings.  But now we're about to sink those into business school and take on some debt, too, most likely, and that is a very, very scary thought.  We're taking that safety net out from under us and folding it aside as we then go climb up to the tightrope.  I'll be honest, it's easily my biggest apprehension about business school.

Looking back at our luck so far, part of me thinks that at some point it'll run out.  We can't keep having all these good things happen to us forever, can we?  The optimist in me, however, has faith.  So far, each time we've taken a leap of faith, it has led to good things.  This leap feels particularly huge, and I worry about where it will lead.  But, I'm choosing (or trying, anyway) to believe that this very big leap of faith will also work out, and in the end lead to good things for us as a family.


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