Monday, January 31, 2011

Miscellany Monday

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters

Finally! Something to participate in that makes a jumble of random thoughts okay. :) I love being random.....

1. Snow day
Or ice day. Whatever you want to call it. Zane said last night that he was really hoping we wouldn't have school today. I poo-pooed him and said that the weather channel didn't even put a percentage amount on the sleet we were supposed to get last night, so I was sure we would have school. I even put my phone on the nightstand, and when I looked at the clock and it was 6:05 I said, "Guess we're having school today." (District is supposed to make a decision by 6:00 a.m.) My supervisor called me at 6:12. Awesome.

2. Zane's grades
I don't think I mentioned it on here yet, but Zane made the honor roll. He finished out the semester with 6 A's and 2 B's. Which is exactly what his grades are right now a couple weeks into this quarter. For the rest of the year he'll be taking General Music instead of Art, because that's how they do optional ninth hour in middle school. He wasn't too thrilled about the thought of General Music at first, but he's really excited about it now because they're going to learn to play guitar for a two week period after Spring Break. He's thinking about taking Guitar as one of his electives next year. If he really likes it this spring, we may look into getting him lessons for the summer.

3. Running
I'm up to 1.25 miles on the treadmill now. Which I know that being able to run a certain distance on the treadmill doesn't always translate into being able to run that far outside because of wind, weather, etc. But before I took this up I couldn't run at all, so I'm pretty pleased. There's going to be a 5K fun run here in town on February 26th to help raise money for Reed (the little boy from Raegan's daycare with the tumor that I blogged about in this post. I've been saying for months now I want to finish a 5K (and wasn't able to at Thanksgiving because I got sick and it messed up my training), and I thought this would be a good way to support Reed's family and it would be really motivational for me. For anyone local, there's also a 2 mile walk, and registration is by donation, so you might consider doing it. Let me know if you want more details!

4. Organizing...., but I sure do feel good when I have things all in their place. :)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

No New Years Resolutions

We all know that most people break their New Years resolutions. I always do. Mine are always the same vague resolutions every year - I'm going to lose x number of pounds, I'm going to organize this room and that, so on and so forth. So I decided this year instead of making big sweeping goals, I was going to set smaller, monthly goals. My goals for last month were:

January's Goals
* Start Zane's college account
* Look into refinancing my student loans
* Put $x in our vacation fund
* Start going through basement closet
* Go through Raegan's clothes and sort out items that are too small
* Give clothes back to Olivia
* Change out the picture frame in the living room

I'm happy to note that there's one day left in the month of January, and I have accomplished every one of the goals I set for myself this month. Zane has a college account, and we have a plan for putting aside money for it monthly. I looked into refinancing my student loans, and decided that I didn't want to stretch my loan out even longer, so I'm going to stay with the one I have. I transfered money into our savings account specifically for our vacation this summer. I started going through the basement closet. It's not finished but I consolidated several boxes and only have a few more to go through. I cleaned out Raegan's drawers, and gave my mom the bag of clothes to get back to Olivia. (Thanks again Olivia - you saved us a TON of money last year!) And just today I picked up pictures at Wal-mart and put them into our big frame in the living room. So with all of this success, I decided to make myself another list for the month of February. All things that need to be done, but not too many so that I (hopefully) won't feel overwhelmed.

February's Goals
* Put $x in our vacation fund
* Switch car loan over to GPFCU (for a lower interest rate)
*Pay off Luke's credit card
* File our tax return
*Clean out Zane's drawers and closet and get rid of all clothing that's too small
*Mail Zane's registration for Salina Soccer Club
*Make my eye doctor appointment
*Clean out and straighten up my cookbook drawer in the kitchen
*Go to the gym/do a real workout on the Wii Fit four times a week

The last goal is something that I just kind of said outloud to myself over Christmas Break that I would like to get in the habit of. I didn't formally commit it to paper last month, but I managed to get to the gym four (and sometimes five!) times a week all month, except for last week, when I went three times and did the Wii Fit for 30 minutes one other day.

So I'll check back in at the end of February and let you know how I did. Some of them are easy (mail Zane's soccer registration - I'm just waiting on Luke to get it notarized) and doing our tax return is a given. It's just a matter of cracking down and doing it - taking five minutes away from everything else I have going on to get some important things done. Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pictures from this week - EDITED TO ADD MORE :)

Raegan is obsessed with putting on her mittens all the time. As soon as she puts them on, she holds them up and makes growling noises. Mittens=fantastic sock puppets!

I love this one!
I love silly Raegan can be!
I took this one just to show off her outfit. She was pretty stylin' at church this morning. :)
See, more Mommy-Daughter pictures.
I know I might be biased, but isn't she just the prettiest little girl? :)
Being silly with Daddy
Thoughtful Boo
Radar loves hanging out with Zane, no matter what Zane is doing

Bedtime Story

Another 6WS post

After several weeks of forgetting, I am participating in Six Word Saturday.

This is what America's come to?

The 150 Foot Slinging Snowball Xistera.

Financial Peace

I've mentioned on here a few times that I would really like to get out of some of the debt we've accumulated and start saving. I was so excited a few weeks back when I got an email at work saying that because not enough parents had enrolled in the Financial Peace class we offer on Tuesday evenings, it would be opened up to employees also. I've been saying for a while now that I would like to take that class, but that I think it's kind of silly to pay to learn how to reduce your debt. But for free? I'm on board!

The website says that the average family pays off $5,300 in debt over the course of the 90 day class. Wouldn't that just be fantastic? Because I'm taking the class, I get a code so that I can access all of these hints and calculators. So instead of blogging, I think I'm going to go check that out now. :) I'll be updatng as we start cutting debt out of our lives!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Second Shift

It's that time of year again - cold and flu season is at its worst. (Actually, the peak appears to be in February, but let's not split hairs here, people.) This means lots of germs passing around, and inevitably lots of sick children. That leads to lots of parents taking time off work to stay home with their sick children. Seeing as I work in a building of 100+ employees with all but 7 of them being women, the subject of working mothers figuring out what to do about having sick children is something I am very aware of.

The unfortunate thing about sick leave is that you only get so much of it. Obviously, this is because our employers are not made of money and cannot afford to continue to pay someone who is not working. But it does make things very tricky for a working mom. You only have so much sick leave, and you feel like you need to guard it with your life because you never know what kind of emergency might come up where you need a lot of time off. I am fortunate to be someone who rarely gets sick, so I was able to get my entire 7 week maternity leave paid for because I had the sick leave saved up for it. (I'll save my thoughts on the United States' ridiculous maternity leave policies for another post...) But what do you do when you run out of sick leave? Do you send your still sick child back to school, feeling like the worst parent in the world for doing so? Or do you take the time off without pay, and then later find yourself unable to afford the things that you and your child need?

Working and being a mom is difficult. Really, to only use the word "difficult" downplays how much of a struggle it really is at time. I came across the concept of The Second Shift through a friend's blog last year, and I've been thinking about it a lot lately. Even though Hochschild wrote this book over 20 years ago, I think what she had to say is still applies today. I guess in a way that's sad, because even though more people are aware of how working mothers are trying to juggle everything, things still aren't changing. According to this book, the extra work that a woman does in the home after working at her paying job adds up to one extra month's worth of work each year. Even when a woman has a full time career, she is still seen as the one who is primarily responsible for the couple's children.

Why is that? I can give an example from my own experience that illustrates this very well. Being Zane's stepmom limits some of the things I can do when it comes to him. I don't have the same "legal" status in his life that his mom and dad do. I couldn't make life-altering medical decisions for him, for example. I am on his emergency contact list at school. Anytime that Zane has been sick at school in the 7 years that I've been helping Luke to raise him, I am always the first person the school calls. I know that Luke and Zane's mom are both listed on his emergency contact form. I know that the school has Luke's work number, and Zane's mom's cell phone number. I know that the form clearly states that I am Zane's stepmom. Yet I am always called before Luke. (I assume they don't call Zane's mom first because she is non-custodial and lives 45 minutes away.) Perfect example of how the mom (even the not-quite-a-mom) is seen by everyone as the person mainly responsible for the children.

As I mentioned above, part of the reason this has been on my mind lately is because of all the illness floating around this time of year. Two women at work told me this week when they came back after being home the day before with their sick child, "I told my husband if Little Johnny wasn't better by today I was going to *make* him stay home with him so I could be at work." And this isn't the first time I've heard that statement. I've worked with another woman for a couple years now, and she is just now to the point where she actually asks her husband to stay home with their son if he's sick. (Note the "ask" instead of "tell" - Zane's school or Raegan's daycare don't "ask" me if I'll come pick up a sick child, by the way.) Why do working women still assume that they need to bear the full responsibility of taking care of the children? If you are a stay at home mom, then yes, by all means. You have chosen to raise your children as a career (and P.S. I am very jealous of you!) But I chose to teach as a career, just like my husband chose to assemble farm implements as a career. Why should I always be the one to set aside my career for my child?

Two things that I would like to note. One, I do not begrudge my child the time I miss from work if she is sick. I always *want* to be home with her if she is ill, but because I have chosen to have a career, I have to figure out a way to balance both responsibilities. And that's where Luke comes in (along with Point Two.) My husband does a wonderful job of trading off with me when the kids are sick. We discuss who has what going on at work and figure out how to make it work to the best for both of our jobs. We are very blessed to have our mothers both close by, so we also have backup if neither of us really can miss work. I know another woman whose husband was okay staying home when one of their kids was sick, but when the second kid got sick in the middle of the night and he was going to have to stay home with both, he assumed his wife was going to be the one to stay home now instead!

I'm not a feminist by any means, nor am I old fashioned. I do think that roles within the family structure have not yet caught up to the changes brought about in the last 40 years or so. I think that women should be able to have a family and a high powered career if they so choose. I also think women should be able to make being a stay at home mom their career, and the world should recognize it as such. I just wonder how to change things so that the inequality in the second shift isn't nearly as big as it is now.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Blizzard Blog Hop

The nifty little button above means that I'm participating in the 2001 Blizzard Blog Hop. For those of you that already read my blog regularly, in this entry I'm posting an intro that I've linked to so that people can come "meet" my blog and I can go check out theirs. So here goes. I'm always so awkward when it comes to meeting new people. :)

This is your run-of-the-mill mommy blog. I started it out as a way to keep track of my daughter Raegan's milestones. I would probably be considered a failure in many mommy internet forums because I suck at keeping up Raegan's baby book. haha So I figured, I like blogging, and with an interesting subject matter, I might actually keep it up this time. Up until a month ago, my blog was pretty much favorite recipes that I wanted to share, pictures and videos of Raegan and my 12 year old stepson Zane, and posts about Raegan's milestones. Then I ran out of picture storage, so I decided to start writing about current events and my thoughts on various topics. Then I started participating in a weekly writing workshop through Mama Kat's. I finally caved and paid for more photo storage, so if you follow my blog you're in for a semi-weekly dose of extreme cuteness, but you will still get my thoughts on current events and mommy topics. I don't find my blogging self-worth in comments, but if you do comment I will most likely respond. :)

Besides being a mom and stepmom, I am also a preschool teacher for our local Head Start. I have my master's in Early Childhood Education, and have a passion for working with children with special needs. In my spare time (also known as time I should probably be sleeping) I like to putter around in my flower garden, bake, and read. Thanks for stopping in and checking out my humble blog.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A request

There's a boy at Raegan's daycare who is only a month or so younger than Raegan. A couple months back they discovered a mass on his liver, and after further testing they determined that he has a rhabdoid tumor. If you click the link or google "rhabdoid tumor" you can learn more about it, but in a nutshell it's a highly aggressive malignant tumor that's very rare. It's believed to be genetically passed, and it only occurs in very young children. Apparently it's very resistant chemotherapy, and the prognosis is very poor.

I've known about the mass for several months now, but our child care provider updated me last week to let me know that this is pretty serious. At this point he's going to be at Angie's very infrequently because they are going back to Children's Mercy to do more chemo. If they still have no success, they will be going on to St. Jude's to look at other options.

My heart just breaks for this family right now. It really hits close to home for me, because (1)he's one of Raegan's "friends" at child care, and (2) he's pretty much the same age as Raegan. When Angie was telling me about the poor prognosis for this type of tumor, I was holding Raegan and I could feel myself just start to hold her tighter. I cannot even imagine how I would cope with something so horrifying. I honestly don't even want to imagine a scenario like this.

So all of this being said, please keep this family in your thoughts and prayers right now. If you would like to read about the efforts in the community to help the family, you can go here. If you are local and are reading this, please consider attending the auction and dinner that is being held in Brookville on Sunday, January 30th. If you read through the whole article I linked to above in this paragraph there's more information about the dinner. This family is facing a long uphill battle and even the seemingly smallest bit of help would be beneficial to them.

Who Let the Dogs Out?

My parents stopped by on Sunday with something for Raegan and Zane. It's one of those singing dancing dogs, and this one sings "Who Let the Dogs Out". Raegan was at first pretty wary of it, and even backed away from it the first time my mom turned it on. She really likes it now, and will point to it and sign please because she wants us to turn it on. Here's a video of her dancing to it. :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Writer's Workshop - January 25

I'm really starting to love The Writer's Workshop I've been doing for the last couple weeks. It's always such a good mix of serious and fun topics so that I can always find something I want to write about. For this week I glossed over the serious question of telling of a time you felt left out, because I felt like my last post was serious enough to last this semi-closed person a few days. :) Instead, I went with the fun topic of:

1.) If you could change anything about your pet, what would it be?

This question pertains solely to our beagle Daisy, becase Radar is pretty much the perfect cat. (Except for when he upchucks his hastily eaten meal all over our kitchen floor, like he may or may not have done today....) This is Daisy:

She's pretty cute right? Beagles are generally pretty dang adorable (you should see beagle puppies!) but let me give you a little advice Do not get a beagle. Ever. Even if someone pays you to get a beagle. Not worth it, my friends, not worth it. 

I would like to circumvent any blather about how "dogs are as good as you make them" now, by pointing out that I rescued Daisy (on the day of her execution no less!) from an animal shelter when she was 5 years old. So all of her bad habits were firmly ingrained by the time we became her family.

Daisy is an obsessive eater finder. THAT is what I would like to change about her. My dog has eaten pretty much everything imaginable, and lived to eat another day. I always joke that she's made a deal with the devil and she will never die. She's eaten a penny. She's chewed on a AA battery. She's eaten over half of a bag of Hershey Kisses. She's eaten a good portion of a box of tissues. She's eaten a sock. Yes, a sock. It came back out a few days later, whole. Not the same way that it went down. I swear to the good Lord Almighty that this is a true story. How could I even make anything like that up?

One of the annoying things about Daisy is that she is smart. If she dug out a tissue that fell behind my husband's nightstand, every single time she comes into our room for the rest of all eternity she will go root around that nightstand looking for another delectable tissue to consume. If the weeniest little corner of a bag of food is at the edge of the counter she will stand up and use the very corner of her paw to somehow whisk that bag of food onto the floor and into her jaws of doom. I really would not be surprised if someday she learned how to push a chair over to the counter. I would tell the world about my amazing trick dog that obviously sold her soul to Satan for her amazing powers, but I probably wouldn't even blink at the time.

So that's my dog. I would say that I'm probably much more of a cat person than a dog person these days. I love Daisy, but Radar is so much more low maintenance. We don't have to watch his every move and assume the worst when he takes off down the hallway. I do feel like it's only fair to point out that Daisy has done beautifully at adapting to Raegan. She lets Raegan pet/maul her every day, and rarely growls at her. She even suffers through good night kisses from Raegan most evenings. She's always excited to see me when I come home and I get a very joyful greeting. If I could just change that whole must-eat-anything-that-could-possibly-be-food problem, we would be set.

Irresistibly Sweet

My friend Samantha keeps passing on all of these really cool awards and surveys to me. I'm a bad blogger and I don't always do them and pass them on, but I really liked the questions on this one, so here goes. I don't know how many people who read my blog like to do this kind of thing, so I'm passing it on to anyone who reads this and wants to post it on their own blog.
You get a cool little button too! :)

1.If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing this? If you aren't anonymous, do you wish you started out anonymously, so that you could be anonymous now?
I started this blog mainly because I wanted a way to document Raegan's milestones and accomplishments, and I am crap at keeping up her baby book. (Seven years from now when I decide that I would like her to have a finished baby book I can come back here and fill in all the details. I don't fall into the "bad mom" category as long as I get the baby book done before she goes to college, right?) So for that reason, I really don't have a need to blog anonymously. Occasionally I wish that I did blog anonymously, so that I could talk more about stepparenting and issues related to that. I feel like I can't touch too much on this topic in a public setting because there are certain people within my stepparenting relationship that I wouldn't want to take my words and twist them.

2.Describe an incident that shows your inner stubborn side.
Just "an" incident? If you know me at all, you know I am S-T-U-B-B-O-R-N. :) Going 100% drug free for Raegan's birth. It was one of those things where I told everyone that I really didn't want an epidural or other drugs, because I knew if I had put it out there to everyone I would want to stick by what I had said. My labor was not easy - I was in labor for 28 hours total, I pushed for about 2 hours, and I was stuck at an 8 forever. Forever. But I had said I didn't want any interventions unless completely medically necessary, so by God was I sticking by that. Will I go the same route if we have another? Let me get back to you on that one....

3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror? Overall I'm pretty pleased with what I see. I have a few lingering pounds from Raegan, but other than that I think I bounced back fairly well. The only thing I really don't like is all of the stretch marks that being pregnant left me with. I've discovered that since I started running I have a better self-image. I'm proud of what my body is able to do and that helps a lot with any body issues I have.

4.What is your favorite summer cold drink?
I like strawberry lemonade, but I'm not someone who thinks you have to drink cold drinks in the summer and hot ones in the winter. I'll drink hot cocoa in the summer if we have it. :)

5.When you take time for yourself, what do you do?
Go out of town and go shopping. I love to go shopping by myself, much moreso than I do with anyone else. If I don't have *that* much time to myself, I like to read, mess around on the internet and bake. In the spring and summer I love to putter around in my flower garden.

6. Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life?
Run a 5K. Ultimately, I would like to run a half marathon or marathon someday, but let's start with the easiest race first.

7.When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person or always ditching?
I have always been an overachiever. And super shy. When I started taking smaller classes specifically for my major, it was hell because I had to actually SPEAK and participate in front of people that I didn't know very well.

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what would you see?
It's definitely not a moment that I *want* to see, but it's one that's been on my mind lately after going through old photographs. There was a span of a couple months before I went to college that was a very crappy time because of some select kids in my church youth group. There were a couple kids who were very involved in the church and very well liked by adults, who treated me, quite frankly and honestly, like shit. I had a few good friends in that youth group, and a few from the grocery store I worked at, who made life bearable, but it was horrible to see these supposed "great leaders" turn around and be hateful and backstabbing when adults weren't around. The ironic thing to me then was that some of the people who treated me the best were kids I worked with who were not Christians or had no church affiliation. I learned that the world is not all black and white - "good" people can do hurtful, cruel things, and people that are considered not good to hang around can be much kinder than the "preferred" kids.

9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog, or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people and events?
I'm a pretty closed person, so not always. I can blog easily about my feelings on current events or parenting topics. I won't share my feelings about everything publicly. Stepparenting again is one area that I keep pretty closed up about, just to keep my family safe. I don't really write to please anyone, so I would say in that sense I share my true self in my writing style. Things like what I just wrote above are very hard for me to share. I'm discovering that sometimes it's easier to just let it all out that hold it tight against you. When you hold onto something tightly for a long time, you might think that it's gone and buried and then a box of memories lets it all back out again.

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?
I don't really like talking on the phone. I make that exception for my mom and a couple friends, but beyond that I much prefer texting. If I had the time, I would love to lose myself in a book. I love reading, and always have. When I find a good book I can read it over and over again, but I love finding the treasure of a new book also.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cancun memories

One of these days I should try a collage with some new pictures! :) But for now, I'm having fun messing around with old photos. Seeing all of these pictures from our honeymoon makes me really want to go back to Cancun. I told Luke that I would like to go for our fifth anniversary. Well, the summer before our fifth, since I'm not allowed to take off during the school year. But how wonderful would Cancun be in the beginning of October? Not nearly as humid as it is in the summer, that's for sure. I guess we better start saving for that one now if we're really serious about it!
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Writing Prompt #3 - January 19

I really liked the writing prompt that I picked for this week. When I looked at the list it was pretty easy for me to choose this one, because I had just been talking with a friend of mine recently about how ridiculously over-involved children are these days. So without further ado, my writing prompt:

3. It has been said that kids these days are pushed into too many extra-curricular activities and are not given the freedom to play and be bored and to use their imaginations. Is this true?

I absolutely firmly 100% agree with this statement. The days of children looking forward to a summer of nothing but freedom and laziness are gone. Or a weekend of lying around. Parents start worrying about how to diversify their children’s experiences and fatten up their child’s entrance letter for college from the moment they make their entrance into the world. I feel confident in saying that the above statement is true; because I can name specific people that I am acquainted with who believe that more is, well, more.

I know of families whose children are in every conceivable activity. Sports all year around, with no real break between seasons. Summers filled with daily activities, so that it’s hard for the family to even figure out how to take a family vacation together. Mom and Dad juggling who is going to take which child to which activity, and maybe even having to call in extended family members to help with chauffeuring every now and then. All done in the name of giving your child “the best childhood” and the “most experiences for college.” Which is all fine and dandy. I am all for children doing more than just sitting on the couch watching television and playing video games all day every day. I’m all for the lessons of teamwork, cooperation and fair play that children learn from playing team sports. But since when do we have to start worrying about our child’s college admission when they are toddlers? Since when does a “good” childhood mean doing everything, and stretching your child (and yourself) so thin that they cannot truly enjoy a single thing they do? Why should “giving your children the best” equal impairing their ability to entertain themselves or find enjoyment with the simple things in life?

We have a middle of the road approach to extra-curricular activities. Zane played soccer and basketball every year from second to fifth grade. This year (sixth grade) he decided that he doesn’t want to play basketball anymore. So he doesn’t. He still plays soccer in the fall and in the spring. It’s always been the sport he is most interested in, so he’s focusing his efforts on that now. We live in a rather sports-obsessed town, where many children play sports all year round, maybe even two sports in one season. I am thankful that Zane has not succumbed to this mindset, that he knows his own mind and isn’t playing sports just to play. Luke and I started him in soccer and basketball when he was 7 because he was interested in both, and we thought it would be good for him to learn to work together with others and see his friends outside of school. Zane also plays the trumpet in the middle school band. Because he wants to. We told him last year when he wanted to play in 5th grade that he would have to play for the whole school year because we were paying for the trumpet. He’s not a huge fan of practicing, but he loves to play, and he even thinks he would like to learn to play the guitar now.

I usually enroll Zane in a few activities over the summer, because it gives him something to do, and it gives me some breathing room. He picks activities that he wants to do, but he certainly doesn’t gogogogogogo all day every day. He has time to go to his friends’ houses and hang around our house and even watch TV. I think Zane is able to entertain himself. He’s not so used to a constant barrage of activities that he gets bored when we have an afternoon at home. I really think that’s the way it should be. Zane’s college entrance letters may not be fattened up with a million activities, but he’s pretty dang good at the ones he has chosen to do. And I don’t have to do his homework for him, or sign band practice sheets for time he hasn’t practiced because he’s too busy running from one thing to the next. Family dinners and move nights are not an extremely rare thing to our family, and my children have time to be siblings and play together.

I know in today’s society my opinion may not be popular, or the norm. But I have a 12 year old who is growing up to be a pretty decent person – he’s smart, imaginative, funny and creative. And all of that without an extra-curricular activity for every day of the week.

Monday, January 17, 2011


So I finally got around to downloading Picasa, and I made my first collage tonight. I'm going to play around with it more tomorrow, because I would like for the text to be a little more prominent. Anyone have any good pointers on that for me? Tabitha, I remember last year you made some with colored blocks that you wrote the text in. Any pointers for me? :)
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Random pictures from the last two weeks

Wearing Daddy's stocking cap


At the park on that one nice day we had in the end of December
Raegan loves swinging!
Artsy shot - I think it turned out pretty cool
She always has her mouth hanging open when she's excited about something :)
Merry-go-round fun
Chilling with Daddy and Grandma J's house
Zane's soap and water mohawk
Snow day!
Trying on Daddy's ski gloves

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Thoughts on exclusive breastfeeding

Today is my day to write about headlines from the news apparently.

My friend Claire mentioned on her Facebook a couple days ago that a newspaper in England (where her family lives) ran an article about why you should NOT breastfeed exclusively for the first six months. While reading news articles on Google, I came across something similar in the L.A. Times. I assume that the small group of experts quoted in this article from the Times are the same ones from the article Claire's father told her about. Luckily for me, the link to the actual article from the British Medical Journal was in the Time article, so I could go straight to the source.

The article does not say that you should not breastfeed at all. Good start. Breastfeeding exclusively for six months is associated with no apparent growth deficits, although infants who are breastfed exclusively for that long have lower iron levels. Children who are breastfed exclusively for six months have lower risk of pnuemonia, ear infections and stomach problems. I liked that the study pointed out that children who have been switched over to formula were more likely to be admitted to the hospital with infections than those who were started on solids early. The possible concerns from the study are that waiting longer to introduce solids can lead to higher incidence of food allergies and celiac disease, along with iron deficiency. The research itself is actually very good. The article summarized the information well and looked at both sides. It's always good to go to the source if you can, because the media tends to sensationalize information.

Now for my own personal experience, which obviously is not going to be everyone's. I breastfed exclusively for six months. Raegan didn't have a drop of solid food until her sixth month birthday. She never had formula. Raegan doesn't have any food allergies (or food aversions like the article also suggests may happen) and at her one year blood draw she wasn't anemic. I'm not saying, "Well my baby is fine, so that means all babies are fine." Wouldn't that contradict what I just said in my previous post? :) My pediatrician noted that since Raegan wasn't really all that interested in solids (espeically iron fortified cereals) until she was 8 or 9 months, that I should be giving her a multivitamin with iron to combat anemia. Which is exactly what I did. So there's one way to combat the worry of iron deficiency from breastfeeding exclusively.

I don't know what the right answer is. One pediatrician in our practice says to wait until babies are six months old to introduce solids because of how it can affect future obesity rates. Another says you can start at four to six months, but not before four. (Which is what this article is saying.) For me, I felt best waiting until six months. For other parents, they may not feel so strongly. I guess the point of this post is that it's always a good idea to go to the original source of information if at all possible. The title "Breast May Not Be Best for the First Six Months of Life" from the L.A. Times article is kind of misleading, if you ask me. If you go to the original journal article, it's pretty clear that breastfeeding is still preferred over formula feeding. Which I agree with 100%! :)

Wherein I write a book about autism

My guess is that unless you live in a completely child-free world you are at least somewhat aware of the neurodevelopmental disorder known as autism. If you are a parent of a child under the age of two, chances are you've probably freaked at some point over something your child does that seems a little atypical, because the words "autism" flashes through your mind. If you work in the field of early childhood education, as I do, you are obviously aware of the disorder. Autism is on the rise. For years now the rate of autism has been 1 in 150. Just last year the CDC revised the prevalence rate for autism to 1 in 110. That means that if your children are in a mid-sized elementary school, there is going to be at least a couple children in that school who have autism, if not more.

Since I started working at Heartland Programs in August of 2006, I have worked with five children who have been formally diagnosed with autism or one of the other four disorders on the autism spectrum (Asperger's or PPD in my case). I have also had three other students who I would be my salary on as being somewhere on the spectrum, based on their behavior and symptoms they demonstrated. 

Autism is still such an unknown disorder. No one has discovered what causes autism. Regardless of what certain celebrities say, there is no cure for autism. There are interventions that can be beneficial to a child with autism, and can help a parent or educator to minimize their symptoms, but there is not a magical cure. Specturm disorders manifest different in every child. Some children never speak. I worked with a child my first year at Heartland that did not speak. Some children are very delayed in speaking. Some children abhor physical touch or eye contact. Some children self-stimulate (stim) by hand flapping, rocking, jumping or twirling. These children are a little easier to pinpoint. And some children have less severe symptoms. They talk, they learn at a typical rate, but they just can't quite figure out social situations or body language. A child with autism can be very challenging to work with, and I can only imagine the struggles that their parents face every day.

As I said earlier, autism is on the rise. There is much debate in the medical and scientific community over what has caused this increase. Some say it's just that we have become more aware of the disorder, and symptoms that were once attributed to a child being MR are now being classified as autism. Some say it's new toxins in the environment. And some say it's from mercury/thimerosal in vaccinations.

The vaccination/autism link has come up again in the news very recently, due to Dr. Andrew Wakefield's study on the link between autism and vaccines having been proved fradulent. This is not necessarily brand new information, because Wakefield's study from 1998 has been under investigation for well over 3 years now. If I remember right he was struck off the medical register sometime last spring. I did several research papers focusing on autism during grad school, and autism is a personal interest of mine, so I've been keeping up on the information. A lot of the reading I have done is professional research. Obviously Wakefield has proven that even professional literature can be untrue, and it's always important to look at the sample size and makeup before you take findings at face value. But I do put a lot of stock in research, especially over my friend Google. You can find some wacky information on the internet if you're not careful. :)

Through my reading I found overwhelming evidence over and over and over that there is not a proven link between autism and vaccinations, even the MMR that everyone focuses on. The whole mess of Wakefield's study being found fraudulent makes me sad. I'm sad for all of the parents of a child with autism who felt like they had an answer. Who felt like they had something to hold on to, something to point the finger at and say, "This is what did this to my beautiful baby. This is what changed our life." It's a tragedy that Dr. Wakefield published a study that was full of holes that most believe now was for financial gain, and it's a tragedy that no one caught the fradulence behind the study before it was published. Where was the board that reviews research papers then?

If Dr. Wakefield truly did engineer facts for his own gain, then it angers me that so much time and energy has been spent since then trying to replicate the study to prove or disprove his theory. Time and energy that could have been invested in finding the true cause, or finding new interventions to minimize the symptoms. As Paul Offit so eloquently put, "We are more compelled by our fears than our reason." I am sickened to think that this man may have struck fear into so many parents hearts just out of desire to make money.

Now. All of this being said, I have done a somewhat delayed vaccination schedule for Raegan. I did a lot of research. I knew the facts. And I still chose a delayed schedule. I would like to think that it wasn't fear that compelled me. I believe in the need for vaccinations. I also believe that some children have reactions to vaccinations. Some hypothesize that there is something in the biological makeup of some children that causes them to be more susceptible to things that would not cause harm to the majority of children. Such as vaccinations. Although the incident is small, some children do have reactions to vaccinations. When Raegan was 6 months old, she had four shots at her 6 month well check. She ran a slight fever. That's a pretty common reaction to vaccines, so that didn't concern me. But she absolutely was not herself for the next day or two. She was irritable, she didn't sleep or eat well, and she wasn't Raegan. That was when I decided to start breaking up her vaccine schedule.

I appreciate that our pediatrician is well aware of which vaccines are live virus and their schedule is such that Raegan would never receive two live viruses at the same time. I looked at the CDC's schedule, and I looked at our pediatrician's schedule to figure out what I wanted to do. Raegan has still gotten all of her vaccinations within the range that's considered necessary by the CDC. Our pediatrician usually gives the vaccine at the beginning of the range, so I break them up so that she gets one vaccination a month. For example, the CDC's range for the MMR is 12-15 months. Raegan got it when she was 14 months old. Two months after our pediatrician's schedule, but still within the range. The only vaccinations that I will not get her are the flu shot and the varicella (chickenpox). I know from experience with Zane and myself that we are no more or less sick the years we get the flu shot. The flu shot is kind of a crapshoot, really. Developers try to predict what strains of the flu will be most prevalent that year, and that's how they make the vaccine. And with chickenpox, children build a better immunity to the disease if they actually have it. Of course, chickenpox is a lot harder on a child the older they get, so if Raegan is 7 or 8 and hasn't had it yet, she'll get the vaccine then. I am blessed to have a pediatrican that hasn't argued with me. I know there are some out there that will belittle parents for making this choice. Mine never questioned my decision, which I am thankful for.

I do want to wrap this up by saying this. I believe in research. But I also believe in parents and their knowledge of their child. I believe that there are some children out there whose biological makeup does not react well to environmental factors, be it vaccines or something else. And there is much more to vaccination related injuries than just autism. There have been some other really serious adverse reactions to vaccinations.And how do you know if your child is the one with the ticking time bomb inside of them?  So by no means in this post am I belittling or demeaning any parent who choses not to vaccinate their child, or who chooses a delayed or very delayed schedule. At the end of the day, you have to do what YOU feel is the best for your child and your family, just I did what I thought was best for my child. I just hope that people will be able to take their focus off of Dr. Wakefield and focus their passion on finding the cause of autism. And a cure.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Saving money

I mentioned in an earlier post that I would like to start saving more money and becoming more financial secure. One of the simple little ways I'm trying to save money is by running our thermostat a little lower this winter. The last couple years our gas bill has been outrageous in the winter, and my hope this year was to be able to use that money in other better needed places. It helped that we had a very mild fall, and that I didn't even need to turn on the heat until the first week in November. I pretty much just didn't turn up the heat right from the start, so that we could hopefully just be accustomed to the cooler temperature. Right now we have the house set at 64 or 65 when we're at home, and 61 when we're away. I'm sure my mom is partially glad that she's not watching Raegan at our house this year! :) I'll probably continue to do it for the rest of the winter however, because our gas bill came last week and it was about half of what it was this time last year. Pass the blankets, I say!

I found a couple different websites here, here and here that have good information about how to turn down your thermostat, if you're interested. I liked that many websites said that it's a myth that your furnace will have to work extra hard to get back up to a higher heat if you turn it down during the day while you're gone. I'm not so sure about turning it down to 55 while we're gone, but I also don't turn it up to 68 when we get home, so there's that. I hope that someday we'll be able to get one of those really nice space heaterslike my parents and grandma and grandpa have, but in the mean time, blankets and sweatshirts are our friends in the Jones house!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Writing Prompt #3 - January 12

So the writing prompt for this week was really hard for me. I have had a really hard time deciding which one I want to write about. Really, I can think of something to write for every single one of the prompts, but since this is a public journal there were just some things I didn't feel comfortable with putting out there so the whole world could read. As is, I'm getting a little more personal than I usually do in a public online place, because I'm going to talk a little about Zane and custody. So if it doesn't make sense to you and you want to know more, feel free to ask and I'll give you answers in a less public way.

So out of the five prompts, the one I chose for this week is #3 - A moment you truly felt relieved.

When Luke and I started dating the summer of 2001, Zane was 2 1/2. Luke did not have residential custody of Zane at that point, but was starting to have Zane stay overnight more and more frequently. By the spring of 2002, Zane was spending the majority of his time with Luke, to the point of some stretches of unbroken time with Luke lasting longer than a week at a time. Between this and some unpleasant things taking place in his ex's personal life, Luke decided it was time to try for a change in custody.

It was so stressful and scary. Dads just do not get residential custody. He had a fabulous lawyer, and a very good case, but it was still so scary, simply because he was a dad. I went over to Luke's house the night before court, and by that point "the gig was up" so to speak, and Luke was *forbidden* to see Zane. It was a bleak, worrisome evening. I didn't stay very long because neither of us really felt like hanging out.

I made the choice not to go to court and went to work the next day. We hadn't been dating quite a year at this point, so I wasn't thinking about our future and family and all of that at this point. I tried to call Luke on my lunch and got no answer. When I still hadn't heard from him by the time I left work late that afternoon I was kind of worried. I walked out of the door and saw Luke's truck parked near my car. As I walked up to his truck I saw Zane's beautiful little towhead peeking out over the top of the dash. I'm tearing up thinking about it now. I cannot even describe my joy or relief at that moment, to run up to his truck and hear Zane's beautiful little voice say my name. I can think of several moments in my life where I have felt true relief, but there are very few that reach the profound relief I felt that day.

Sometimes I am so frustrated by Zane, much moreso these days as we enter the turbulent teen years. His age and all of the hormones and drama that goes with it, combined with the issues that come with the stepparent/stepchild relationship have made things a little rocky as of late. I need to remember to think back on this moment more often, and remember how things were and what could have been with a different outcome that day. We all are so very blessed that God touched that judge's heart that day and that he saw the truth.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More videos of Raegan

You might have to turn up the volume a little, but you can very clearly hear Raegan says "shoe" when I ask her what she has in her hands. :) A lot of times she says "shoes" as a whisper, and I love it!

Raegan loves to dance. She's been doing this thing lately where she always leads with her hand when she dances, like she's a ballerina or something. I had put on this Winnie the Pooh CD while I was starting supper, but she didn't start dancing until it changed from the peppy music to the "pretty floaty" music. She's such a silly girl. :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Snow Day!

To my surprise at 5:50 this morning, I got a call from my supervisor saying that school had been called off for the day. With not a whole lot of snow in the forecast (and plenty of advanced notice for the City to get out and prepare the roads) I really figured we would have school today. I guess the thought was that the superintendent didn't want to have to deal with the possibility of a lot of snow and having to call off school in the middle of the day (which is a nightmare to deal with, with so many kids in the district who walk to and from school). So I turned off Zane's alarm and told him to go back to sleep (the cat had woke him up) and then went back to sleep myself. Raegan being the beautiful angel that she is let me sleep until 8:30. I am so thankful for a child that usually likes to sleep in!

The three of us spent the morning lounging around (Zane and I watched Madagascar 2 while Raegan played) and after I shoveled the driveway we went to lunch at IHOP. It's kind of a tradition for us, because every time we've had a snow day or a no school day when Luke still has to work, Zane and I almost always go to IHOP. Raegan devoured an entire pancake, and Zane ate his share of pancakes, omlette, and ham. After Raegan's nap, we went to go pick up Zane's cousin Keenan, and while they played with their Halo toys, Raegan and I made a short trip outside. (Zane had already gotten his fill of being outside during Raegan's nap, when he played/shoveled the other half of the driveway.)

The following videos are from our brief time on the back porch. I'm not really sure that Raegan was all that crazy about it. She made some happy noises, but there was also a good amount of whining in there too. It must not have been too awful and torturous though, because she asked to go outside several times after we came back in.

Raegan was kind of bothered by the fact that there was snow on her gloves. She kept flapping them a lot.

In this one, Raegan mimics me saying snow several times, and she does the sign for "all done" at the end. I love when I can catch her milestones on video, so it's not like, "Oh, she's just making that up that her toddler can do all of those things." lol

Raegan's newest accomplishments

Girls AirwalkRegan Boot
Boots with The Fur :)
You guys, Raegan is amazing. I swear I'm not just a doting first-time mother. She is just that smart, and sometimes I'm in awe of her. :) She has the boots that I have pictured on the right. Yesterday she put them on completely by herself, with no coaxing or help from anyone. I was at the gym, and Luke said he looked down and she had her boots on all of a sudden. I know that putting them on the right feet by herself was just a fluke, but putting them on unassisted? Pretty dang smart. It's a skill you want a 3 year old to have mastered, but 2 year olds can do it if you work with them.

Raegan is also starting to put two words together, which some 18 month olds will do, but is considered closer to a 2 year old skill. She says "No Daisy" (no Day-ee)  and "Hi Bubba" a lot, and she will say "all done" sometimes after eating. Her vocabulary is huge, and growing every day. She's starting to say "thanks" and "thank you" (tank and tanka) unprompted (I model it for her every time I give her more food or do something for her, and she signs please unprompted whenever she wants more food or us to read a book to her or help her with something. Her new words lately (besides all done and thanks) have been cracker (cra-uh), fish (shish and does the sign for it), and teeth (tee). She points to her ears, nose, mouth, hair, belly, feet, and hands, and sometimes she will grab her tongue when you say tongue. She does the sign for all done, more, milk, please, fish, and she's really trying to do the sign for cracker, but she taps her wrist instead of her elbow.

Raegan's also very helpful right now, and LOVES to put away her coat at daycare and home, and put her dirty clothes in her basket. She wants to help me put away her laundry, but usually just throws wads of clothes into her drawer that I then have to refold. :) At daycare she puts her own cup in the dishwasher after meals and walks out to the van by herself when they go places.

Alright, I'm off to go look at gifted programs for my toddler. lol Just kidding. I'm not a big fan of pushing your child just because they are smart (i.e. Your Baby Can Read program). She's getting all of this just from being talked to and read to and loved every day. I tell the parents of my students all the time that it's not hard to raise a smart kid. You just have to put some time into it, and you don't have to do anything crazy like flashcards or drilling them. Make it fun and meaningful and they'll learn. :)

Chicken and Noodles

Chicken and noodles is one of my favorite winter meals. Not the soup, but the thick, creamy variety that you slather on top of a heap of mashed potatoes. Yummmm. Turns out, Zane likes chicken and noodles too, which I discovered when he said he ate them at a friend's house last week. Well, then. Time to make a batch at home.

Now I'm not the super ambitious type that will make my own noodles. It sounds nice and all, and I have good memories from my childhood of my mom making noodles and hanging them on drying racks. But I just wanted a simple tasty recipe to make on a lazy Sunday, so no noodle making for me. I searched around on the internet for awhile until I found a couple good crockpot recipes. I kind of made my own recipe by combining a couple different recipes together, but I was really pleased with it. I will probably add a little more liquid next time to get them a little runnier like the ones that my church made growing up. But if you like a nice thick chicken and noodle that's almost like a casserole, leave this recipe as is.

Chicken and Noodles in the Crockpot

1/2- 1 lb chicken breast, chopped (depends on how chicken-y you want it)
2 cans chicken broth (I used the low sodium type)
1 can cream of chicken soup (I used the 98% fat free type)
chopped onion or onion flakes (just a little)
dash or two of parsley
10 ounce bag of noodles

Cut chicken into smaller chunks and place in crockpot with all ingredients except for noodles. Cook in crockpot for 6-8 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high. Use slotted spoon to scoop out chicken and shred it. Add chicken back to broth. Add package of noodles. Cook on low for about 20 minutes, keeping an eye on the mushiness of the noodles. (This cooking time will depend on the strength of your crockpot. Also, if you use frozen noodles instead of the dry variety, which is what I use, it will take longer for the noodles to cook.) Pepper to taste and serve over mashed potatoes.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Six Word Saturday

Oooh, I found another writing prompt blog that I may (or may not) start participating in regularly. The trick for me is remembering that I want to do it weekly. haha It's called Six Word Saturday, and the point is to describe your life/day/something in a phrase of just six words. It's a good challenge for me, because I like to write. And talk. So here goes. My 6WS for today is:

Learning to parent a headstrong toddler.

I would say that's pretty self-explanatory, wouldn't you? :)

Good problem solving skills!

Raegan has always been really determined. She will practice and practice at a skill until she masters it. I also really like this video because of how she's singing and talking during her bath. She loves bath time!

(You also get a little preview of Zane's trumpet skills if you listen really closely!)

Friday, January 7, 2011

My recommendations

Here are some things that I have been absolutely loving lately:

MOISTURE THERAPY Intensive Treatment Hand Cream
This is Avon Intensive Treatment Lotion. You guys, seriously. There is nothing better for super chapped hands in the winter. My hands get really gross every winter thanks to washing them five million times a day because of the germy preschoolers I work with. My knuckles were cracking and bleeding before Christmas. I've been using this for the last two or three weeks, and they are almost back to normal. Find yourself an Avon gal, stat.

Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 6 Quart Slow Cooker in Stainless Steel
My parents got us a new crockpot for Christmas. It's a Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 6 qt. and it is awesome! It has this little spoon rest in the back that pulls out so that you don't have to lay your spoon on a paper towel or (ew) the counter if you take your crockpot somewhere. And as you can see from the picture, you can hook the spoon in the lid when you take it somewhere to free up your hands. It is fabulous.

I don't know if you all are familiar with Scentsy or not. If you don't have one, you really should get one. They have a little bulb inside that melts scented wax that you put in the top dish. There are some really good fragrances out there, and you don't have to worry about remembering a candle. My favorites are Baked Apple Pie and White Tea and Cactus. Mmmm, this makes me want to go turn on my warmer right now. Which is the one I have pictured above, by the way. Isn't it so pretty?

I also recommend Babies That Don't Fight Going To Sleep, but I apparently do not own one of those tonight, so I guess I'm not recommending from personal experience. Ha.