Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Post-Christmas Post

Well, Christmas is over.  And it's just as well.  Months of planning and anticipation and in a week, it's all done.  Here is a photo that captures the magic.


I like the way my (extended and nuclear) family handles Christmas.  It makes it lower stress.  We tried going to 3 different places on Christmas Day once, and I swore never again.  So, a week before Christmas, we went to my aunt's house to do Christmas with my mom's family.  It was  nice and low-key, and because it was on Saturday, we could stay until a normal, decent adult hour.  However, because it was a week before Christmas, I had to get some baking done by then and I had to have some gifts purchased and wrapped, but spreading the deadlines out actually helps.  The kids received a few nice gifts that day and really got a chance to enjoy them before the rest of the onslaught began.

Thursday was our nanny's last day of work before the holiday, so that was the day the kids gave her their gifts and she had brought a sack full of things for them too.  So, they had those gifts to enjoy fully before more items arrived.  The children displayed approrpriate amounts of gratitude and thanks at all gifts received (though there was a close call with some clothes).

Mr. Long-Suffering and I both had Friday off of work, and it was nice.  I mean, just lovely.  I got a visit from a friend from the old neighborhood (someone who can keep me honest and remembers when I used to rat my bangs).  I prepped Christmas Eve brunch, finished up some more cookies, and we finished wrapping presents.  I do not think I left our house the entire day.  Perfection.

Saturday was Christmas Eve, and I hold a brunch on Christmas Eve morning.  This started after the year I swore "never again".  We realized that we would not see my mother over Christmas if we didn't come up with something else, so brunch was born.  Originally, it was just going to be us and my mom and her husband.  However, my husband invited his parents one year, so I invited my dad.  All in all, it was brunch for 10, and it was perfection.  My dining room table holds 10 in a cozy, cramped, family fashion, so it was just nice.  The food was good - though we did realize it's mostly me who drinks the mimosas since most of the champagne was left.  On Christmas Eve morning, we exchange gifts with my mom and the kids get to open the gifts that people we don't see sent to us (like my sister, some out-of-town friends, etc).  Again, the kids got a chance to enjoy their gifts before being made to go somewhere else.  This arrangement even ensured that both Bobo and I got to have naps.

Christmas Eve dinner has always, always been spent with my dad.  And when he was a boy, Christmas Eve was the bigger holiday in their family, so that is what we do.  We have Christmas Eve with my dad and his family.  It was just us and them (and I prefer the intimate gatherings and low-key celebrations).  We had a lovely dinner of lasagna (and we have always had lasagna as long as I can remember from way back when my father's mother was the one making dinner) and cookies for dessert.  I lounged on the couch and in a chair and did not lift a finger.  People served me food and waited on me.  Again, completely lovely.

We got home at my bedtime, I put the cookies and milk out for Santa and directed Mr. Long-Suffering on where to find the gifts that needed to be relocated under the tree, but I went to bed (crying because none of my pajamas fit and it wouldn't be until the morning when I would get new pajamas...at this, I told him that I obviously needed to go to bed because anyone who would cry over pajamas is obviously overtired).

I woke repeatedly through the night.  Elves?  Santa?  Chills, urgent trips to the bathroom, back ache, diarrhea, more chills...no, not chilled... too hot...I stripped off the sweat pants I wore to bed.  Eventually, I fell asleep and the didn't get up until about 8 (which is crazy, ridiculous late).  Chuckles was up a bit after 7, looked down the stairs and told us all about what wonders he saw, but we made him wait for Bobo. 

When Bobo got up, I took my sorry self (now wearing pants) down to the living room and plopped on the couch.  We did stockings, presents, and had brunch leftovers.  I stayed on the couch and put batteries in things.  Eventually, it was time to head out to my in-laws' house.  I got myself dressed, made Mr. Long-Suffering pack up the food and gifts and load the car and get the kids dressed.  We all got in the car and I said, I think you ought to swing by the hospital and drop me off for monitoring.  Take the kids to your parents' so they can get some lunch and see their cousins, then come back and get me (it's all very close so this wasn't a crazy request). 

So, I sauntered into the ER on Christmas morning (I had actually phoned the on-call doctor in advance so L&D would know I was coming).  I was whisked away in a wheel chair by a man named Joseph.  I was given a bracelet and two fancy belts to wear (and a gown!).  I propped myself up in the bed with cable TV and started watching "A Christmas Story".  This is when things started to go...not the way I had planned.  I figured they'd hook me up to a monitor for an hour, then let me go. 

Well, the on-call doctor wanted an hour of monitoring, an internal exam, and a fetal fibronectin test.  Mr. Long-Suffering returned (and hadn't dropped off the food, the gifts, the diaper bag or anything except the children).  The nurse did the fetal fibronectin test which is a swab that has to sit in the nether regions for 60 seconds and then gets removed.  It was one of the most pleasant (least unpleasant) tests I ever had performed down there.  The internal exam however was awful.  If there is ever a next time, I am going to request someone other than Stubby perform the test.  I want a former piano player with long, slender fingers. 

I continued to be monitored.  The monitoring is rather neat.  There are two belts and three lines on the chart.  The top line was the baby's heart rate, the middle was some kind of fetal movemement monitor (which in this case just showed a solid black line the whole time because Muse is a bit of a hyper wrestler) and the bottom line in a uterine activity monitor (contraction monitor).  The bottom line was up, it was down, it was spikey and in a sine wave.  It was all over the place.  There was no pattern and no rhyme (and certainly no reason). 

The hour of strips from the monitors were sent to the on-call doctor (whom I had never met).  The results of the tests were sent to her as well.  It turns out my fetal fibronectin was positive.  Negative is super awesome and means there is a statistically insignificant chance of pre-term labor in the next two weeks...positive doesn't tell you anything...could be today...could be 3 months from now.  From my internal exam, my cervix was soft and dilated a fingertip.  That's not bad, but hard and closed completely would have been better.  And now I was bleeding (thanks, Stubby!). 

So, the on-call doctor ordered blood work, IV fluids, a urine culture, and a diagnostic ultrasound.  If I thought the guy at the perinatalogy practice who didn't give me a guided tour of my uterus was bad, this was worse.  During diagnostic ultrasounds, you aren't even allowed to look at the screen and Mr. Long-Suffering couldn't come with me (so he watched A Christmas Story instead).    The ultrasound tech apologized about that, but said because of the kinds of work they are doing, he couldn't tell me anything and wasn't allowed to let me look.  But he did say he thought I'd still make it to a late Christmas dinner.

It took the IV team two tries to get an IV in (and I have lovely veins, I swear...I donate blood without missing a beat).  Everyone accused me of being dehydrated.  This is not my first redeo.  Of course, I had been drinking water and laying on my left side for almost a day by this point. The blood draw was fine, but I noticed my arm still wasn't healed from the one-hour glucose screening I had on Thursday (whose results I still haven't heard). 

The blood work came back unremarkable, the urine culture takes time but I could see that I clearly was not dehydrated (which was everyone's main concern), and the ultrasound showed my cervix was >4cm, but I was still contracting-ish on the monitor.  So, I was staying the night.

At this point, I started to cry.  Just a little.  Because really, spending Christmas night in the hospital by yourself is pretty sad.  I texted my friend, texted my sister, called my mom (who is not a comforting and reassuring presence in times of stress but once my sister knew, I had to tell my mom) who freaked out not helping me at all, and I sent Mr. Long-Suffering to go have Christmas dinner because his parents were making the kids wait until we got there to open their presents.  I got to have chicken piccata, peas, and cheesecake on a hospital tray.  The nurses did bring me pudding and Lorna Doone cookies, though (let's hope the GD screening was clear).

My sister-in-law texted me photos of the kids opening each gift and of my husband opening his.  My sister texted me pictures of my niece trying on all her new clothes in a fashion show plus pictures of food and fun.  My best friend joked with me that I would do anything to get out of going to the in-laws'.   My mom called and fretted.  I watched more of A Christmas Story (it was on again and again and again). 

The on-call doctor showed up.  She is genetics perfection.  Apparently she is smart since she made it through med school, she was gorgeous - young, great hair, had been a cheerleader in high school in Texas (I was now watching the Bears-Packers game so it was relevant).   She is the reason other women sometimes feel inadequate.  I asked about steroids (betamethasone) for lung development.  She said that everything looked OK, but since I wasn't her patient and my strips still didn't look great, I would be here overnight and my own regular doctor could deal with it in the morning.  She was very honest about it.  She said that right now, I wasn't a candidate for the steroids.  I had never heard anything bad about them and wasn't sure why they wouldn't be used, but she said that they lower my immune function and since they thought I had a touch of something, that would be bad, and they can cause pulmonary edema in the mother.   All-in-all not warranted yet.

The overnight was fairly uneventful.  My blood pressure was 89/47, which is typical for me and I assured them of that.  My IV continued to drip at the slowest rate known to man.  It was a series of minor inconveniences that just made me irritable.  By morning, I had gotten some sleep, but the contraction monitor was showing regular contractions a minute apart.  The nurse was very concerned.  She mentioned tocolytic drugs to stop contractions.  She headed out to call my regular doctor.  Nothing happened for a while.  My mother-in-law and mother descended upon my house like a welcome plague, and Mr. Long-Suffering came back to the hospital bearing my stocking which had facial wipes, a toothbrush, hand lotion, and chap stick...all the things I wanted.  My stocking was hung from the IV pole with care in hopes that soon I wouldn't be there. 

My doctor showed up.  He said I was not in pre-term labor, and he was surprised to see me in the hospital since I am usually so level-headed about these things.  Mr. Long-Suffering didn't like the sound of that and defended, "You can imagine how bad she felt if she thought she needed to come in."  They both nodded and agreed.  My doctor said that even with all the activity on the monitor, my cervix is over 4 cm and there is almost no chance of pre-term labor when the cervix is longer than 3 cm, so I am good.  He said as soon as the crampy feeling ended, I was free to go home.  I felt like crap and basically said so.  I was kept until I was able to say I felt good enough to go home.  I was also told that if I feel this bad again, it is OK for me to come back and be monitored again (don't think I'll ever want to do that again since this turned into some kind of 30 hour ordeal).  I ate lunch, took a nap, and got discharged just as soon as the lady three rooms down pushed out her baby and the nurses could get back to me.  (Did you know that people cheer when you have a baby?  I had no idea there would be applause.  Every time I have had a baby, the people looked grave and worried.)

So, I went home, people fixed me dinner, and I sat on the couch.  I called off work the next day (well, I worked from home since I was supposed to be 4 people this week) and took a 2+ hour nap.  Another guy asked if I could cover for him Thursday and Friday.  I said, "No."  I felt really good about putting boundaries in place and not taking on any more work until...not 5 minutes after I said no, the announcement came out from the secretaries that the father of that man had passed away on Christmas Eve and Thursday and Friday were the services.  I called him today and told him I would do what I could (since there is no one else), and if not, it would just have to wait until we were all back.  Today is Wednesday, I think.  I came to work for a bit today since there were some papers I needed to consult and didn't have them at home.  I was released from the hospital without any restrictions, so I can work as I feel able (I am still sick apparently).

So, that was Christmas.  It wasn't how I had planned on it going, but it will be a memorable one.  I'm glad it's over.  I'm ready to take down the tree and burn it, but alas, it's artificial, and I am not taking on any lifting or organizing projects this week. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I forgot Number 11

This should have been front-and-center in my last post.   It is such giant, important, earth-shattering news, I cannot believe I forgot to mention it.

Houston, we have a loose tooth.

Chuckles has been claiming loose teeth since the beginning of kindergarten as kids in his class were dropping teeth left and right.  I assured him the average age of losing the first tooth was 6.5 and that he was doing just fine.  And yet he'd still make me try to wiggle things that weren't even the slightest bit wiggly. 

So, when he told me he had a loose tooth Monday morning, I was skeptical, but I dutifully stuck my index finger in his mouth and poked at his bottom, front tooth.  And it moved.  Ewwww. 

I was so proud and sad.  My kid is losing his BABY teeth.  That means he's not a baby anymore.  Why I would be proud, I have no idea because even naughty, disrespectful kids lose their baby teeth, but that's what I was.

I assured Chuckles that Santa and the Tooth Fairy are old friends, and if they both have to visit our house Saturday night, that would be fine (they might even enjoy catching up and the Tooth Fairy will remind Santa to brush after a night of cookie-eating). 

I went to work and told all my coworkers about my discovery, and then asked them what the tooth fairy was paying these days.  We've settled on a $2 bill for the first tooth and a Sacajewa dollar coin (if available) for each additional tooth.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Three things (that might turn into more things as I get going)

  1. I told you about the MaterniT21 test that looks for fetal DNA in the mother's blood to determine whether there is a Trisomy (13, 18, or 21) or even cycstic fibrosis, yes?  Good.  Well, did you know that if you google it (as of last Thursday), the first 5 or so links are to Pro-Life websites?  I have nothing against Pro-Life people, though I profoundly disagree with their opinion and often their tactics, but this is ridiculous.  Seriously?  I mean, it's a test.  It gives you information.  To say that people shouldn't get the test or that it should be illegal is ridiculous.  I want the test.  I want the test enough that I faxed my ob 42 pages of journal articles about it because he was having trouble sorting through the bing results (which were even more heavily Pro-Life than the google results).  And you know what Pro-Life people?  Pretty much no matter what the results of that test, I am not terminating.  So there.  Nyah.  You ought to trust women to make sound medical decisions in the best interests of their families.  The End.  And nyah.
  2. The same technology that can allow you to test for fetal abnormalities can also be used to determine fetal sex and fetal paternity (very early...maybe 8 weeks or so).  So, I can see that there are times and places when the technology might be abused.  And you know what?  I still don't think that the test should be supressed.
  3. I watched football on Sunday (since I pretty much put myself on couch rest this Sunday on the advice of my favorite midwife who told me Saturday that what I was experiencing at a family Christmas party did not sound like typical Braxton Hicks contractions, and maybe I ought to slow it down).  Chuckles often talks about how when he grows up, he wants to be a Green Bay Packer (much to my disappointment because We Are Bear Fans and Packers are our arch-enemy).  But, I did tell him that I would root for the Packers if he were one (and that was about the only way I would).  Anyway, during this Sunday's Bears' game, Johnny Knox got bent in half backward where the hinge was his spine.  I am glad he lived, and I cannot believe he isn't going to be paralyzed after that, but I did tell Chuckles that maybe he might like to be a dentist or a test pilot instead of a football player.
  4. I told someone that I would be proud if my son joined the Air Force (or the Navy, Coast Guard, or Marines but not so much the Army).  This person was shocked that I find a career of military service to be something to honor.  Well, it is. 
  5. I did end up making some cookies from scratch and I made some toffee and Turtles, too.  But I am taking it easy now so I might only make two more batches this week.
  6. I am hosting brunch on Saturday (Christmas Eve) morning for the grandparents.  We're having mimosas, coffee, egg nog, French Toast casserole, two kinds of quiche but both will have bacon, fruit, and a chocolate Kringle.
  7. I haven't started wrapping presents and am seriously considering asking my husband to do it, but I do like him to be surprised on Christmas morning when he sees what he got for me and the children.
  8. In my little corner of blogs I have ben reading since back when we called the internet The World Wide Web, there is a little mini-baby boom going on (of second and third babies).  I'd like to state for the record that I am the farthest along and, hence, can be considered a trendsetter.
  9. I'd like to end with some photos. Remember my first market price lobster? Here it is.  I will call him Grabby. 

  10. And this picture is my three men looking out the window at the airport watching the ground crew paint lines.
Lastly, 11 years ago, for Christmas 2000, I purchased Mr. Long-Suffering his first digital camera.  I didn't know anything about them, and he didn't know he wanted one (and I wanted to know why the camera didn't take normal discs and what kind of racket were they running making me buy some other "non-standard" kind of memory cards?).  Anyway, here is a photo of me from that Christmas.  I am showing off my new diamond earrings that I got that Christmas, but all I keep noticing is how nicely maintained my eyebrows were back then.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Let's Have Some Fun on the Internet

I started online shopping in 1998.  At Christmas.  To buy my dad a calendar.  I bought his yearly calendar every year from Barnes & Noble until Amazon started carrying that calendar a few years ago.

My shopping history with amazon goes back to 2003 (which I just viewed since amazon keeps your buying history).  In 2003, I purchased 3 items:  ISO 9001:2000 Explained, ISO 9001:2000 Internal Audits Made Easy, and The Mother of All Pregnancy Books.  That must have been some year (and I was not pregnant at any time in 2003, so I don't know why I bought that one book other than I was eager to have a baby after having been trying for some time already).

In 2011, I purchased 75 items (excluding gift cards).  The range of items is wide (from vitamins to food to curtains to books and toys to clothes and cosmetics to magazine subscriptions, home & garden items, tools, and cloth diapers).  I've been quite impressed with them (and their affiliates and partners).  I always do Free Super Saver Shipping if it is available.  Oftentimes, the items arrive the next day or the day after (I don't have amazon prime or Amazon Mom).   When they do take longer, the merchants often throw extra stuff in the package to make up for the time delay.  You never know what you're going to get (I have the same experience with Oriental Trading Company). 

This love-fest on amazon is not a paid promotion and I get no referral fees or anything from them.  So now, here is my 2011 gift guide.

Books for Kids:  Anything from this series.  Books like "E is for Empire" (about New York), M is for Mitten (Michigan), L is for Lincoln (Illinois), G is for Garden (NJ), H is for Hoosier (IN), B is for Badger (WI), etc.  I've purchased several of these for kids and they are a big hit.

Gifts for Boys & Girls:  12 Jump Ropes  My boys happen to like to tie things up with them or pretend that they are water skiing.  I have heard of slightly older children actually using them as jump ropes.  A great bulk gift if you need stocking stuffers.

A simple stopwatch.  Do not underestimate the distracting powers of a stopwatch on a long car trip.  Or use it as a homework timer or a time-out timer.  Or race yourself to see if you can make it to the fence and back in less than 12 seconds this time.  Do it again.  And again.  And mom no longer needs to count while you run.

I've been really happy with these curtains.  I have a really wide picture window and these were the most inexpensive curtains I could find for such a ridiculously wide window.  They are not actual black out curtains but they do room darken (which is not why I got them).

I wanted the kids to love the Kid-o Bilibo (my husband calls it the Swedish Meat Helmet).  They have used the Bilibo (to sit and spin, push each other around, and race cars inside), but it's not been the go-to toy I hoped it would be.

I bought two voice changers for Christmas this year.  I am sure I'm going to hate myself for this, but I bet the kids love it.

We got a butterfly garden last year and loved it.  So this year, I bought one for someone else.  (You go online and set shipment of the caterpillars for June or so, they arrive, and you wait for them to cocoon and hatch.  It's neat.)

You need a magnetic flash light.  Or maybe you know someone who does.  Someone with a new car or a new house, perhaps.  In case of the zombies.  Or a flat tire.

Children's chewable vitamins.  Our pediatrician recommends Vitamin D for kids in the winter in our latitude.  He also said if you're going to bother, you should get one with iron too.  He said Flintstone's Complete was the way to go but those had Red Dye, Blue Dye, Yellow Dye, artificial sweeteners, etc, so I got these instead.  Also, avoid gummie vitamins (because they are bad for teeth and don't contain iron.)

Everyone needs more Dilbert in their life.

The shipping on this doll stroller has been lightning fast both times I have bought it (two days with free super saver).  I saw on another web site that perhaps I was socializing my boys to be boys (though they did have dolls already) so Bobo got a doll stroller for his birthday (which he uses to push dump trucks around) so I bought another one for Christmas for another boy.  I also think this would be a good gift for a girl since it's not pink.

I'm not sure whether this remote controlled helicopter is for Chuckles or Mr. Long-Suffering.  Either way, the reviews are better than Air Hogs.

My Dad needed his yearly calendar.  Does yours?

The quality on these light-up swords is about what you would expect for the price, but what kid doesn't want a light saber?  (And at a fraction of the cost of an officially licensed Star Wars product....one arrived not working but I only needed two...am waiting on word from the company about resolution for the third sword).

I hate winter.  This full spectrum light bulb is for me.  (Honestly, I hadn't seen the sun in 3 days...no wonder I was crying and doing dishes last night.)

Gorilla Glue.  Because my husband said Santa wants him to have nice things in his stocking.  Also, J-B Weld.

Chuckles, with his own money, bought Bobo construction paper.  This made me tell the kids a story about how when I was a girl, paper only came in white, manila, or yellow if you were lucky enough to get a legal pad somewhere.  My husband called bull on me.  I was incredulous.  I said, "Sure, construction paper had been invented already but you only got it at school...it's not like people had that at home."  Apparently, Mr. Long-Suffering had construction paper at home.  This is apparently the distinction between middle class and lower middle class circa 1982.  He probably got to use tape too.

If you buy someone a tie, you should also buy him a color coordinating pocket square.

As I didn't want to destroy my boys' nurturing side by not getting them dolls, I am also encouraging girls to look outside the doll bed.  I bought this Melissa and Doug Fire Chief dress up outfit for some sisters.  Chuckles got the police uniform last year and still plays with it often.

I saw this Lip Stix Remix on TV's Shark Tank last year and thought it was a great idea (so did Barbara).  I didn't buy it last Christmas, but I did this year.  I got it for someone who has a favorite lip stick color and will dig the bottom out of the tube.  Now she can remelt and remake new lipsticks out of what's left behind.  You can use it on under eye concealer too.

My niece is in to Gnomes this year.  But she always likes clothes.

And Muse is getting me this baby keepsake book.  Or maybe Santa is.

I didn't buy this aircraft carrier from amazon because the price is outrageous.  I bought two of them at my local Target for Bobo and my nephew.  Chuckles has a Matchbox Cars aircraft carrier that he loves, so Bobo wanted one too, but we thought he needed one that was more appropriate for a little kid so Imaginext it was.

My mom is getting Chuckles Snap Circuits.  I think I need to learn more about how circuits work, so I will play with him.  My mother-in-law is getting him some Ninjago at his request.

Love the taste of real butter but hate how hard it is to spread when it comes out of the fridge?  If so, you need a butter boat that keeps your butter cool enough to prevent spoilage on the kitchen counter but warm enough to spread.

Did you want to share any items you've found or hot gifts for this season?  You can buy until Monday on amazon for Free Super Saver by Christmas (I think).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Different (and not in a good way)

Saturday night, I sneezed.
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And then,
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I had to go change my pants.  Off to go do some Kegels now.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

All is Bright

Everything is going along swimmingly.

I am 95% done with any and all Christmas shopping for which I am specifically responsible.  At some point in the next 2 weeks, my husband will announce that we need gifts for his father and mother.  I will laugh at him and tell him that I asked him a month ago for ideas and would have been move than happy in November to take care of that for him, but not now.  Maybe gift cards.  Or something from amazon.  I really do love amazon.  Really.

I've decided that Christmas cookies are just too taxing this year and I am buying pre-formed dough from Chuckles's school.  I will bake and decorate those sugar cookies myself (with help of children) and pass them off as homemade.  I feel more guilt over this than almost anything because I like baking, however....

I have been having exercise-induced Braxton Hicks contractions, and standing and rolling dough and baking just aren't sounding all that fun this year.  Other non-fun things: climbing stairs, bending over to pick things up off of the ground, and walking.  You would be amazed at how many times per day you do those things.  I am really glad that my job involves sitting for 7 hours per day (or more if I don't feel like walking...my young engineers (minions) will retrieve documents from the printer for me). 

When not exercising, I still feel quite good.  I'm not sore or anything yet, though I am apparently quite large.

We went to a gala on Saturday night.  Many, many strangers asked me when I was due.  The good news is I look pregnant, not fat.  But I thought the rule was you never ever ever (ever) ask that of a woman unless she herself has first indicated that there is a baby in there lest you potentially embarass yourself.  The food at the gala was delightful, but the wine looked deliciously off-limits.  The band was good as well, but dancing is too much like both standing and exercising, so we ended up dancing to 75% of one slow song.  Not nearly enough.  The Stanley Paul Orchestra is one of my favorite live bands in Chicago.

I went downtown for a work meeting.  There was a bit of a walk from the train to the meeting.  I walked very slowly and all was well.  I started to feel a little bad on the walk back to the train, but all-in-all, I am still capable of taking care of myself.  Although, last weekend, I wanted to ride around Target in a motorized scooter. 

Have I ever mentioned that I carry low?  Well, I do.  Very low.  Like between my knees low.  In fact, I cannot wear maternity pants that go below the belly because the only thing below my belly is my bikini area...not really the kind of place you want a lot of fabic bunching up and puffing out.  So, I wear pants with a kangaroo pouch, but I think I might need to hang my jeans up for the duration because even having non-stretchy fabric below my belly now is getting a little...pinchy?

And the outside kids are doing well too.  Chuckles continues to enjoy Cub Scouts and be indifferent toward school (which is fine, really).  He delights in locating the Elf on the Shelf every morning before his brother wakes up.  He also likes to turn on the Christmas tree.

Bobo enjoys his tumbling class, has made great strides in speech (he's using an L sound now, though he's producing it by putting his tongue against his bottom teeth), and is finding numbers and letters everywhere (that's 3 and I am 3 years old).  I keep thinking of him as a baby, but he's not.  He's 3.  Now, if only he would wear underpants....

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Transference

We had our mini-re-org at work. I was mostly unaffected. I wanted to be left alone to do my job, and that’s been done. However, they want me to move my desk closer to …something. I don’t know. I guess they want me to give up my very remote office in the plant to come to our main office building and work in a cubicle.


I’ve had my own office for 8 years now. I have to say that I am a fan. It’s not a status thing because my office is in a trailer and it’s far from luxurious, but I love it because it’s quiet, no one is around, and it’s private. And mine.

With an office, I have always just pumped at my desk and gone right on working. I never felt guilty about the 40-45 minutes a day spent pumping since it was also productive time. The building they want me to move to does not have a lactation room (and I am pretty sure cubicle dwellers do not pump at their desks). Even with a lactation room, I would have to leave my desk and go to a room and just pump (I guess I could bring a book). But there is no lactation room. And I really don’t want to be that woman who agitates for what the law allows. And I don’t want to pump in the bathroom because it’s a bathroom in a factory. It’s not a place I’d want to feed my baby. I’ve told my boss my reasons for not wanting to move to the cubicle, but I am not sure he understands what a large deal it is for me. And I am blowing it totally out of proportion in my mind, because….

Transference. According to Wikipedia, transference is “the redirection of feelings and desires … toward a new object.” Basically that means, I am worried about something else, but that something else is too hard to think about so I am worried about whether I am going to end up pumping in the janitors’ closet with a wedge holding the door shut while I try to keep housekeeping out by pushing on the door and saying “There’s someone in here.” (True story, by the way, from someone who works in the building where they want me to move.)

I still hadn’t heard back from my doctor about whether he was able to order the fetal DNA test, so I called today. The assistant said it’s not ordered according to my chart but she would check with the doctor and get back to me tomorrow. And then it’s at least 2 weeks after that before I have results anyway (if they can even get me this cutting-edge, brand-new test). And then even if the DNA is good, it could still be cystic fibrosis, CMV, or toxoplasmosis (more tests I guess I should have). And I’m worried. For a variety of reasons. But the biggest reason I worry is that I won’t be a good enough mom to a special needs child.

I re-read the email Sarah Palin (you don’t have to be her fan to read this next part) sent to her family shortly before Trig was born. She believes in God. She sounded so accepting and loving toward her son both because he is her son and also because he is a creation of her God. She just sounded so “at peace” with the whole situation. I don’t know whether I can live up to that. Her email is lovely, though, so I am going to quote some of it because it does give me something to strive for (even for my “perfect” children and even though I don't believe in her God). She wrote the email to her friends and family as if it was from God.

They were told in early tests that Trig may provide more challenges, and more joy, than what they ever may have imagined or ever asked for. At first the news seemed unreal and sad and confusing. But I gave Trig's mom and dad lots of time to think about it because they needed lots of time to understand that everything will be OK, in fact, everything will be great, because I only want the best for you!

This new person in your life can help everyone put things in perspective and bind us together and get everyone focused on what really matters.

The baby will expand your world and let you see and feel things you haven't experienced yet. He'll show you what "true, brave victory" really means as those who love him will think less about self and focus less on what the world tells you is "normal" or "perfect". You will grow and be blessed with greater understanding that will be born along with Trig.

Every child is created special, with awesome purpose and amazing potential. Children are the most precious and promising ingredient in this mixed up world you live in down there on earth. Trig is no different, except he has one extra chromosome.

Some of the rest of the world may not want him, but take comfort in that because the world will not compete for him. Take care of him and he will always be yours!

Many people won't understand... and I understand that. Some will think Trig should not be allowed to be born because they fear a Downs child won't be considered "perfect" in your world. (But tell me, what do you earthlings consider "perfect" or even "normal" anyway? …)

Many people will express sympathy, but you don't want or need that, because Trig will be a joy. You will have to trust me on this.
So, I guess one of my worries is that I just won’t be good enough to be Muse’s mother if it turns out that Muse faces special challenges. Of course, intellectually I know that the chances of anything being “wrong” are low. And of course, my brain knows that I will be an awesome mom regardless (who will pump breast milk in her car, if necessary). But. But, I worry. It’s what I do. I am sleeping and working and having 18 people for dinner (someone brought an extra guest…YAY) and shopping for Christmas and keeping myself very busy so I don’t have time to dwell. But….when I am in the car by myself driving home, I worry. And sometimes, I cry.


I think back to when I was pregnant with Chuckles a million years ago. He wasn’t a big mover. I’d often have to drink some hot cocoa to get any movement out of him for hours on end. I worried. But when he was born, I was so connected with him. He looked just like his ultrasound profile photo that I recognized him immediately. I knew his cry. We were so connected. I loved him so much.

When I was pregnant with Bobo, I assumed it would be the same. It wasn’t. He moved in utero. A lot. All the time, really. When he was born, he didn’t look like his ultrasound, he didn’t look like his brother, I didn’t recognize him (though I did know his cry). The love wasn’t instantaneous this time. It took a while, but eventually, I came to love Bobo just as much as I loved Chuckles.

So, I wasn’t sure which way it would go this time around. Muse moves quite a bit. Probably more even than Bobo. I have these ultrasound photos (now in 3D, which they didn’t have with Chuckles). Muse seems to look like Bobo. Maybe I will recognize him when he’s born. Maybe I will know his cry in my heart as soon as I hear it. Maybe he will look like Bobo but have Chuckles’s coloring. Who knows? I am sure I will love Muse (either immediately, or eventually). I am sure I will protect him and do everything I can for him. But I am fairly certain I won’t be a perfect mom.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Menu

If you were coming to my house for dinner tomorrow (and you totally should because there is going to be way too much food for just the 17 of us), you would be dining on the following menu, which I share in the interest of regional diversity. I hear that in the south, they call stuffing “dressing” and sometimes make it with corn bread. I hear that some people have macaroni and cheese as one of the side dishes/casseroles. I even learned about people who eat, gasp, ham on Thanksgiving.


Appetizer course:
  • Veggie tray with dip (including black olives that children must, by law, wear on their fingers and then eat off)
  • Spinach Dip and Hawaiian Bread

Main Event:
  • Turkey (creole butter injected, cajuned on the outside, deep fried in peanut oil)
  • Gravy (homemade but without pan drippings I can’t quite remember how to do this…I’ll figure it out)
  • Hungarian sausage made by the little old ladies at the church down the street, possibly sauerkraut and pickled beets to go with it (totally not my thing, but everyone always enjoys it)
  • Salad (from a bag but I’ll homemake the dressing)
  • Rolls (heat and serve, or possibly Pillsbury from the tube, I delegated the purchasing of the rolls to a family member)
  • Mashed potatoes (with garlic, butter, and heavy cream)
  • Sweet potatoes, candied with butter and brown sugar
  • Stuffing made with giblets (from my mother-in-law)
  • Stuffing made with sage and celery (made by me)
  • Green bean casserole with French’s onions on top
  • Broccoli Cream Corn casserole (which is a cross between a quiche and a soufflĂ© and has bacon on top)
  • Corn, buttered (also delegated because I don’t care for corn, but I have heard that children like corn)
  • My mother is bringing something…I don’t know what it is…she said it has green Jell-o and pistachios in it. I’m not a huge fan of Jell-o salads myself, but she assures me that it is not a holiday without this.
  • Cranberry Jell-o (which I made for my husband...it's his favorite cranberry and so easy)
  • Cranberry relish (which is so good…I begged my mother-in-law to make it)
  • Cranberries from a can, turned out into a pretty dish, with the can marks still clearly visible 
The After-Party:

  • Pumpkin pies, 2, with whipped cream from an aerosol can
  • Apple slices, sheet cake size
  • Pumpkin crunch, possibly…I have the ingredients but I’m not sure I’ll make it
  • Various coffees, creamers, egg nogs, hot cococa, whiskey, rum, Kahlua, and Bailey's for the Irishing
  • Champagne, Korbel or Frexinet
  • Beaujolais Nuveau or a Heritage White (served with dinner...water and milk for the children, the pregnant, and the recovering alcoholics)
Skipping this year:
  • pecan pie
  • extra pumpkin pies
  • sweet potato pie
  • deep fried Twinkies (done in the oil before we put the Cajun turkey in)
  • any new recipes at all except for the thing my mom is bringing

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Follow-Up

Clarification: I feel like I should say that we’re doing OK. I mean, nothing is certain in life – ever, and certainly, we don’t know that anything is ‘wrong’ with this pregnancy. In fact, it is highly likely that everything is fine. We just don’t know. And for an information junkie, like me, you might think that was a recipe for crazy-making. But it’s not and I’m actually OK. If I was just saying that and didn’t mean it, I wouldn’t be sleeping well, but I am (when Bobo’s cough lets me).


The reason I’m OK: let’s assume we get a worst-case diagnosis (which we probably won’t but this is just for argument’s sake). There are worse things in the world than congenital CMV, Down Syndrome, or cystic fibrosis. In the grand scheme, problems with your baby go from the mild like having a baby elf ear to anencephaly with a whole lot of middle ground like asthma, albinism, and left-handedness (joke!).

So, really, we’re keeping it all in perspective. There are conditions that I would find much more frightening, and there are cases where we would opt for the amnio. And we even agree that there are conditions that would cause us to terminate.

So, the less-than-totally-reassuring ultrasound was on Tuesday. Thursday was my regularly-scheduled ob appointment. My doctor is originally from Long Island (his practice was in Hauppauge for years) so we small-talked about my recent trip for a good while (and the relative merits of dividend stocks versus bonds versus funds of stocks/bonds…good times at the ob). Then I hopped up on the table for my Doppler. I told him I went for my Level II and blah blah blah. He said the placenta thing was no big deal but if it’s not him performing the c-section to make sure my husband mentions it. Then I told him about the two soft markers, and he asked how the amnio went. He was shocked, *shocked*, that we had elected not to do it (and frankly, so am I). I told him my husband was not in favor of it, and I had to defer to him a little on this one (so not like me) because the benefit, in this case, did not outweigh the risk to the pregnancy and Muse.

I asked my ob if I could get the MaternitT21 test. He said, “Sure, if you tell me how to get it for you.” I handed him a piece of paper on which I had written the company’s name, phone number, physician ordering info, etc. He said someone (like a drug rep except, I guess it would be a test rep) had been in to talk to them about it. He said he hadn’t reviewed the journal articles and didn’t know how accurate it was (I said I have but I don’t know how reputable the journal was). So, we talked about that for a bit, and he said he’d call and find out how to get the test for me. Since someone had been in to talk to him, I assume that we are close enough to Chicago metro to get the test. He hasn’t called back yet.

If I don’t get the fetal DNA test, we might elect to have the amnio after the next ultrasound if the soft markers persist. Ideally, I would like the amnio at 36 weeks. If it sends me into labor, no big deal (well, actually 4 weeks premature is a tiny bit of a big deal in a boy but you get the idea). The results take 2 weeks so we would have them before a scheduled c-section at 39.5 weeks. If that doesn’t work out, we’ll probably take the umbilical cord blood at birth and have tests run on it. It’s a plan. And I do better with a plan.

In other news, Bobo had his 3-year well-“baby” visit. He got his new Prevnar-13 vaccine and I could not possibly be happier about this. My husband took him for the visit, so I actually got a call from the exam room to follow along with the appointment. I had guessed that he no longer had an ear tube in his right but still had one in his left. I WIN! Woo Woo. That’s just how it is (he had done the tiniest big of tugging at his right ear on the plane and I noticed a very small amount of drainage from his left during his recent cold…so I figured right side is closed up now and left is not). He passed his eye chart exam, his pulse is good and strong, his blood pressure was fine, he didn’t need a lead screening again. He is 36 pounds and 39-1/4” tall. Those are both between the 75th and 90th percentiles, so he’s proportional. He has a head cold (which we knew…see also, the coughing). He is on track and on target for everything. And every time someone tells me this, I am so happy because we had been so worried about him. But no more.

In different other news, in between the ultrasound and the ob visit, we had Chuckles’s parent-teacher conference. Not the most amazing conference I’ve ever had about him. The teacher asked us what our long-term plan is with him, “With all his eccentricities, are you going to put him in a lab school?” Uh, no, we were hoping you were going to teach him something here in our suburban, well-regarded, well-funded school system. Guess not. We’re holding on to hope for 3rd grade when they finally start the clustering by class for kids of same ability.

Chuckles is a handful, this much I know. He’s bright, but he is not a hard worker (or maybe just not self-motivated yet). He’s easily distracted and chatty (but I keep telling myself, he’s 6…seems normal and typical to me). He needs to learn about the joy and value of work. He’s never had to work at anything in his life (nothing, really..he’s athletic, has friends…once he gets over the shy thing, artistic, funny, somewhat musical, and smart…he even cooks and has family members ask him for the recipes he’s invented). I would really like him to have a teacher who would challenge him (as his father and I do…we do not accept that he’s only a kid and let him go on not knowing about internal combustion engines or WWII). I think if properly challenged in a classroom environment, he could learn about struggling to understand a concept and about the reward/payoff that comes with mastery. You don’t get that sense of accomplishment when someone asks you to count to 100 or tell time to the hour when you’ve been doing that for 3 years. I do understand about state standards and being measured against a standardized test…that’s how our school district got well-regarded, but this is my kid and I really would like them to teach him something.

So, he has an enrichment folder, but he needs to be self-taught and self-motivated to complete it in his free time (while also being expected to do the regular grade-level work…which I was assured is mandated by the state curriculum law). He feels a little punished because he has to do “more” work than the other kids. The teacher said he should feel grateful for going to such a good school that even offers him these opportunities. I see her point, but I think I understand Chuckles’s point more. He does not like to be singled out (that’s the shy). However, there is at least one other kid in the classroom with a folder and he likes her so I told him that he needed to step up and get some of the work done because she was getting ahead of him (very competitive, that child). We’ve already seen some improvement on the folder front, so we’ll see how it goes. And I already know who I am going to request/suggest he get as a teacher next year.

In other, other news, I have 17 people coming to dinner on Thursday and we’re frying a Cajun style turkey (again). We get raves over the turkey every year so we just keep hosting the holiday.  I can't wait to turn the cranberries out of the can onto a pretty crystal plate.  That contrast is the highlight for me.

Things for which I am thankful:  my family, our health, our love.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Level II

I don’t know where to begin, so I will start in the middle. It seems like the right place to start.


As I mentioned, I am AMA (queue forboding music). One of the perks of being a geriatric pregnant person is the Terrorist Threat Level Orange ultrasound (aka Level II). Because I live in a major metropolitan area, I have my choice of several maternal fetal medicine practices. I opted to go with University of Chicago because of geographical proximity (and it’s not like U of C is Joe’s Ultrasound Quik Shop).

I have been extremely satisfied with their practice (even the billing that’s all messed up is corrected quickly and cheerfully). Because well over half of all births in Indiana are paid for by Medicaid, my regular OB’s office often feels like one of those overcrowded trains in other countries where the people are crammed into the train with a very nice but firm stick (I’m thinking bullet trains in Japan and stereotypes of India). We’re all crammed in there together. The MFM practice is calm. Relaxing even. Well, it was once we found the volume knob on the TV.

So, on Tuesday, they scanned Muse for an hour. The ultrasound tech said very few things during this time. I kind of prefer a guided tour of my uterus but since he was typing captions on the photos, I was able to keep up. 4CH means a 4-chambered heart, CX is a nice photo of my 4.75 cm long cervix, Chor Plex is tasty, tasty brains and so on. Because this is a MFM practice, you go from the ultrasound room to a meeting with the doctor to go over whatever they saw (which I like to call the part where they just tell you your baby is big, beautiful, and they wish all their patients were just like you). However, we couldn’t go right in to see the doctor because he was delivering triplets just then. So, we had to wait. No biggie. They told us to go get something to eat and don’t bother coming back for at least a half hour.

So, Mr. Long-Suffering and I went for chili cheese fries and a chocolate shake at 10 am. I don’t think I could have looked any more like a stereotypically pregnant person if I had been holding my back and walking around barefoot. When we got back, The View was on TV (see volume adjustment). As a total aside, the correct answer, when asked “Are you sexually attracted to children?”, is “No.” I would also accept “Hell no!” or “Oh my god, no.” Anyway, it was only a few more minutes and we got in to see the doctor. He went over all the photos but they weren’t in the order they were taken and they weren’t in the order on his review sheet. Three kinds of pictures were saved for the end.

The first was the photos of the placenta. Apparently, Muse has a two-lobed placenta that does not cross the cervix. It’s a minor concern in a planned c-section. If it was undiagnosed, a vaginal delivery, crossed the placenta, or had umbilical insertion in the connecting tissues or on the smaller lobe, it could be a concern, but in a planned section, it’s fine. It is worth knowing about, though, because it’s important that both lobes are removed to avoid retained placenta and all the pain and blood loss associated with that.

Next, we looked at the heart (4CH). There must have been 30 pictures of the heart and Doppler blood flows thereof. The heart has an echogenic intracardiac focus. This is just a small area of the heart that is brighter (white) than everything else. It could be a small calcification or something – nothing of clinical significance. It could also be a soft marker for Down Syndrome. It’s a weak soft marker (depending on the study, it either doubles a woman’s risk or makes it up to a 1% chance).

Lastly, we looked at the bowel. It was echogenic as well. An echogenic bowel can be caused by one of several things: nothing at all, the fetus swallowed blood during a bleeding/spotting episode earlier in pregnancy, cycstic fibrosis, toxoplasmosis, CMV, and Down Syndrome. At this point, I really had wished we’d been able to do the combined nuchal screening and blood tests. As he rattled off possible casues, I had an answer for everything. My bleeding was between 3.5 and 5 weeks, which is before the fetus had a mouth so could not have swallowed blood. I am not a carrier of CF (checked while pregnant with Chuckles) so even if my husband is a carrier, the baby does not have CF. I was negative for toxoplasmosis in August, our cat lives indoors, and I haven’t been cleaning her litter, and I wear gloves when gardening and wash my hands afterwards. I donated blood (which pregnant, actually) and am negative for CMV, and Bobo does not go to childcare or pre-school. I do not visit elderly relatives in nursing homes.

And Down Syndrome. I told the MFM that I had the quad screen done, and I screened negative. I did not know my specifc numbers. My age related risk is 1:270. The receptionist called my OB. The office said my chart was down in medical records and it would take a half hour to get it faxed over. Ok, then. In the meantime, we went over family history, I was given a neuro exam to check the 12 nerves of my face, I had to breathe and be listened to. We were offered the amnio. We said we’d like to wait on the other test results before we decided. My husband (out of nowhere) said that the amnio results aren’t actionable, so why bother. I contradicted and said that we might choose to deliver at a different hospital if we had a known problem, plus I might make support arrangements for nursing if there were going to be any issues (though lip and palette are both cleft-free). The doctor merely said he had to offer it, but that he could talk statistics and odds with us. He said that no one really knows for sure but an echogenic focus in the heart and bowel are both weak markers for Down Syndrome. Possibly, they increase the background risk (not the age-related risk) by perhaps up to 10x (he really did hem and hawa nd perhaps and possibly that much...the studies just aren't there). He said that it isn’t really known how much, but it does increase the risk.  I asked about the MaterniT21 test (it's new...it looks for fetal DNA in the mother's blood.  It's highly accurate and non-invasive).  He said it wasn't commercial.  I said that it's been commercial for a month but has limited availability but is available in Chicago (apparently, not at U of C, though).  It's only $235...if you can find someone to give it to you.

I said that I would want to amnio if my "new risk" were greater than my age related risk. My husband didn’t want it no matter what but said that it was ultimately my decision. I asked the doctor whether placental placement in my specific uterus meant that the procedure was riskier than typical (answer: no). He asked us about blood types (both O+) and allergies to metals (yep, nickel) and drugs (yep, penicillin), etc.

Then we were asked to sit back in the waiting room. After an hour of that, I called my OB’s office and asked where my test results were. Many, many happy smiling patients and families clutching ultrasound photos came and went in the time we waited. Each of their consults lasted about 10 minutes. Ours had already been more than half an hour and we still weren't done. At this point, I was so happy I had eaten. Then the doctor came in, called my OB’s office, read them the riot act, and our results were faxed over. My age-related risk of Down Syndrome is 1 in 258. My Age+Screen result is <1 in 5000. So, even using the worst case scenario numbers of 10x increased risk, we’re still only looking at <1 in 500. That’s >499 in 500 are genetically normal. We opted not to get the amnio, and left the office about 5 hours after we had arrived. I am getting re-scanned in 8 weeks to follow-up on the heart.

That’s all I know.

Oh, actually, I convinced my husband that even outside of termination (or, interruption, as the doctor put it), results of an amnio are actionable. I convinced him that if there were a heart defect, I would prefer to deliver at the hospital where any necessary surgery could be performed. I wouldn’t have to be separated from him and the baby while they were transferred (or something). Though, my husband did say he would like to ride in a helicopter (but not with a critically ill neo-nate).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lawn Guy Land

Hi all. I’m just back from my first-ever trip to Long Island and the Hamptons. Oh, I know what you’re thinking, “What’s a frugal girl like you doing in a place like that?” Well, it’s simple. It’s November. The off-season is a great time to travel to expensive vacation destinations.


I felt like an explorer to a foreign and strange land trying to find out everything I could about Lawn Guy Land in the 2 days I was there. This was my first-ever trip to eastern NY. I had been to western (or Upstate) New York before but the Finger Lakes is not exactly the area people think of when they think of New York. I did not go to New York City firstly because I was staying 60 miles away out on the Island and secondly, because the marathon was going on and I wasn’t running it.

Let’s start with the day of departure. I left Chicago via Midway airport. Security through MDW was fine on a Saturday morning. Chuckles’s awesome car seat did not fit through the x-ray and was subjected to advanced interrogation techniques. I almost wish they had waterboarded it because it is just that dirty. I brought my umbrella stroller to hold the two car seats plus diaper bag. It did a serviceable job.

Our flight was not full so we had the whole row to ourselves. Car seats are only installed in the window seat. The way the belts buckle on your lap means that the buckle is directly in the middle of the children’s backs when the seat belt is used to install a car seat. Bobo was quite enarmored with unlimited access to apple juice and tiny bags of cookies (and fruit snacks). The kids were awesome fliers.

It was a clear day and I could see the following things from the airplane: all of Chicago and its skyline, my work, where we take our wave runner on Lake Michigan, Michigan City, Kalamazoo, Detroit, Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair, Ohio, Lake Erie, Ontario, Cleveland, Buffalo, Niagara Falls!!!, Lake Ontario (that’s 4 of the 5 Great Lakes…just HOME, no S), Albany, mountains, snow, Connecticut (which has lakes with some kind of odd shading in them like maybe depth changes or algae), Long Island sound, the car ferry, and finally the airport.

When we arrived at Long Island’s MacArthur Airport in Islip, we stopped to go to the bathroom and by the time we got to baggage claim, the whole thing had cleared out already and they were paging us to get our luggage. Very quick. Our rental car was an HHR. I ordered a full-sized car and this is what I got. I thought I would be getting an Impala or similar. The HHR was tiny with awkward to reach LATCH points for the car seats. Turns out, car didn’t have breaks either and my husband returned it the next day and got us a 4-door Ford Fusion, which was really nice and roomy (with good acceleration and satellite radio).

On Sunday, we drove out through the Pine Barrens to the Hamptons. I did not see anyone rich or famous. Actually, I may have seen rich people but they don’t wear signs indicating as such. I did not see anyone being trailed by a TV crew for a reality show. Everything seemed very old (or new but looks old). We saw churches that were founded in the 1600s. We saw a graveyard that I wanted to check out to see what the dates on the head stones were, but we were killing daylight what with the changed time and all so we needed to head. I saw BMW of the Hamptons, Lexus of the Hamptons, Audi of the Hamptons, Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar of the Hamptons, and then not a quarter mile down the road, I saw K-Mart (of the Hamptons). It was a very nice looking K-Mart and had (faux?) cedar shake shingles and a low roof line. We also saw a Crab Shack (not Clementes, link unavailable) on the side of the road. Based on the traffic right there (and the pedestrians crossing the highway), I would guess the food is pretty good. It looked like it was situated quite near a tide pool.

We went all the way to Montauk, which has a lighthouse that we climbed. We saw THE END (that’s what they call the easternmost tip of the state). Next stop: Lisbon, Portugal. The weather was glorious, especially for November. We spent a fair amount of time at the beach, which was rocky looking at shells and rocks and driftwood. It was high tide at about 4 pm, so there wasn’t much to the beach. We all touched the water (though I had touched the Atlantic Ocean before).

At this point, the sun was starting to set so we headed out to a local restaurant right on Lake Montauk where we watched the sun finish setting over the bay and I ordered my first-ever market price lobster. Turns out, I am not a fan of plain lobster. I like lobster bisque and lobster ravioli and lobster with pesto and pasta, but just a steamed lobster is not my thing. Pity.

On our trip back for the night, we needed the defogger for the rear window so both Mr. Long-Suffering and I were looking down at the stop light. When I looked up, the car in front of us was already through the intersection. Refreshingly, the car behind us had not beeped the second the light turned green.

The next day, we went to the zoo and then to Port Jefferson to watch the car ferry come and go from Connecticut while we ate lunch (crab cake on a bun and seafood bisque). Apparently, there are people who commute on the ferry every day. I hope there is a monthly pass.

We enjoyed the waterfront and Port Jefferson Harbor. It was low tide while we were there so there were a bunch of docks over land (and many of the other docks float as they might in a reservoir). I found it odd that on Sunday it was high tide at 4 pm and on Monday it was low tide at 2 pm, but then it was explained to me that Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean have vastly different tide times and levels. I found that disturbing. Aren’t they connected and not all that far apart?

Lastly, we headed to Cedar Beach at Mt. Sinai Harbor and hung out at the beach throwing rocks into Long Island Sound until the sun set. This time, it set over land, but it was still gorgeous. The weather had been wonderful (cloudless, cool but not cold).

That night, we were told we should try pizza. Now, I have lived most of my life in Chicago, where we know pizza. I loves me some Giordano’s or Edwardo’s, Lou Malnati’s or even Uno’s. So, I was skeptical. Once in a marketing seminar, I learned that the corridor from Chicago to Milwaukee is the only place in the country where frozen pizza sellers sell sausage pizza. In fact, many of the Chicago style deep dish pizzas have a sausage disk on the bottom, then a 6” layer of cheese (slight exaggeration), topped with sauce. So, we called and ordered 3 medium pizzas (cheese, “sausage”, and pepperoni). We were informed that their “pies” only come in one size. OK then, I guess we’ll take those. Also, a serving is called a “slice” not a “piece”. In Chicago, we say “peace-a-pizza” as all one word. I felt like an anthropologist in this strange and new world.

When the pizza pie arrived, we opened the box and were faced with these enormous triangles. You see, in Chicago, deep dish is served in wedges of the circle (then eaten with a fork and knife), but flat pizza (thin crust) is cut into squares (or as close to squares as one can cut a circle). So, here we were with these huge slices of pie that you do not eat with a fork. Apparently, you are to fold it so you can eat it. The sausage was not little pieces of cooked meat but more like an Italian sausage link cut into very thin slices a la pepperoni. It was different – salty - but not bad. I still prefer deep dish (and in fact, we are having that tonight because we have out-of-town guests for Bobo’s birthday party this weekend…he’s (sniff sniff) three).

On Tuesday, we headed back to the airport and did some mid-island (non-coastal) sightseeing in Patchogue (which I think I can finally pronounce thanks to repeated corrections from our host/tour guides). I’ve traveled in the US a bit, but this was only the second time I had ever seen day laborers standing around on the street waiting for work (the other time was in Vegas back during the housing boom…they would hang out at Home Depot and wait).  Chicago is union territory.  I think you could get your construction site firebombed for picking up day laborers. 

Long Island was much different than I expected. I had heard that it was densely populated and somewhat suburban. It did not feel either. It felt exurban-to-rural where we were. Maybe if we had been in Western Long Island (Nassau County) instead of Suffolk County. There were no sidewalks, everyone had septic instead of sewer, the water was unfluoridated, the speed limits on the roads (which were never straight or in a grid) were crazy-high, the mailboxes were down at the street and not on the houses, and hardly anyone had a garage let alone a two-car garage or an attached garage. Overall, I’d say we liked it. It just was not what I was expecting when I was thinking about suburbs of NYC. Maybe I was expecting Levittown.

Oh, the weather clouded up for the trip home so there wasn’t much to see from the plane but we did go closer to NYC and I saw bridges and probably the Statue of Liberty (which I had really wanted to see on this trip…I can’t say for sure I saw it, but probably). Once back in Chicago (where people are surly and rude…unlike on Long Island where everyone was nice and smiled), Bobo melted down in the airport, flung himself to the ground, and promptly got run over by some woman’s rolling suitcase. I’d say she was tailgating.

By the time we got to baggage claim, our luggage was the only luggage still on the carousel, but no one was paging us and helping us get our things together like they did at LIMA airport.

All-in-all the trip gets a thumbs-up from this would-be anthropologist (and apparent cultural historian/architect).

Now, you tell me:  How do you like your pizza?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Livin’ on a Prayer

Bobo wanted to quit trick-or-treating pretty early. He had a yellow sucker in his bag and could see no reason to go on. I mean, if I go home, I can have that sucker now, right?


Also, why oh why does Bobo, when given a choice out of a big bowl of candy by a kindly neighbor, choose Mounds or Almond Joy? Have I not raised him right?

Chuckles got in with a roving group 6-year old boys and ran roughshod over the neighborhood. I (and the spare candy bag and glow sticks) caught up with him a half mile away and made him trick or treat back toward our house so he could go to the neighbors’ (and the house that had a haunted tent on their front lawn that you had to go through to get to the front door).

That haunted tent house was much too scary. For me.

There was a car in the driveway with two mannequins and a red strobe light. Then in the tent there was dim lighting, a smoke and fog machine, chain saw noises, and as you were walking through the part with spooky, murderous mannequins, one of them jumped out screaming at me. With a chainsaw. Scary.

The guy with the chainsaw didn’t jump out and scream at the little ones. He saved that for me. Lucky me.

Snickers…it really does satisfy.

But 11 Fun Size Snickerses (is that the correct plural?) does not satisfy 11 times more. It just leaves me wondering when I can have an egg or some cheese or something with protein.

Also, how many peanut butter cups does it take to equal a serving of peanut butter?

Any candy that had the potential to remove Chuckles’s fillings from his head was confiscated and brought to work. My co-workers’ dental bills are not my problem.

One might wonder why I would even allow a kid who already had 2 fillings eat candy. I asked the dentist how a kid who brushes every day, flosses, and uses fluoride rinse got cavities. The answer was that it appears to be a genetic weakness. Whenever there is a genetic weakness in the children, I blame their father.

Our local utility sent us an energy usage analysis where we were compared to our neighbors (on a per square foot basis) to see our energy usage.  Apparently, there is an entire psychology thing to this…some kind of keeping up with the Joneses thing. My husband and I were quite smug about our exceptionally below average energy consumption (which is higher now that there are people in our home all day and we keep the thermostat up overnight for the child who refuses to cover himself with blankets (name redacted)). I bet back when we were DINKs who kept the thermostat low, practically off during the day, and kept it cold at night, we would have been considered positively miserly. We were the 1% (of lowest energy users).

Because we have a third son coming (soon!) and two already-active boys who show no signs of stopping eating, we “need” a new refrigerator. A bigger fridge. Much bigger. A fridge that is half crisper drawers and can hold 12 pounds of apples per week. Our current fridge is about 10-ish years old and came with the house. It’s about 17 cubic feet. We have a wall on one side of the fridge hole and a counter/cabinet on the other. There is 35-5/8” of room there. We found one 23 cubic foot model that will fit there. And we bought it. It’s pricey, but much cheaper than moving the fridge locale, which is what I was going to do. Expensive tall fridge is cheaper than mini-remodel. And it will save us over $100 a year in electricity. At that rate, it will almost pay for itself by the time it stops working in 15 years. Pay back period. ROI. Buzz Word Bingo. I’m surprised I got the capital outlay approved, but husband is far too smart to argue with pregnant wife. Smart man. Very smart.

On Halloween, I was the room mom (parent, but I have yet to see a dad) for the class party. There were 4 of us. I ended up just taking over because we had an hour and six activities. I am ruthless with a schedule. We finished on time barely…I had some super-short intervals on the CD player for hot pumpkin.

The saddest thing happened at the party. We were doing some Freeze Dancing. I was operating the CD player (Monster Mash, Witch Doctor, Purple People Eater) and would periodically stop it to make sure everyone froze. Two kids weren’t dancing. One said he just didn’t want to. The other was not allowed to dance. I felt bad that we planned a fun activity and the poor kid had to sit out. Had I known we would could have skipped the dancing and done two rounds of hot potato instead. I am going to email the moms for the other two parties and let them know.

As to the title of this post: Ohhhh, we’re half-way there…Whoah, Livin’ on a Prayer. 19.5 weeks down. Only 19.5 weeks to go.

Monday, October 24, 2011

“Fun” facts about me and Deep Thoughts from Jack Handy

I try to use air quotes ironically, if at all.


I gained another 2 pounds at my last ob appointment, which is awesome by my standards (65 lbs with Chuckles and 60 with Bobo).

My due date was officially changed to March 24th.

I think the world would be a better place if I did the traffic studies.

I’ve only given the finger while driving 3 times. But I have wanted to do so 16 times today already.

I have never smoked pot.

Even though I sometimes drive stick, I think driving stick shift takes too much brain power, but I will insist that my own children learn how to do it.

The car I drove today is 13 years old, and yet still gets 35 mpg. Yay for the ’99 Accord.

My other car is a “mom car”.

I silently judge other people way too much.

I walked a 4k on Friday and lived to tell the tale.

I do not own any apple products, with the exception of actual, you know, produce apples.

I have never purchased a song download, a ringtone, or an app.

My average household spending for clothes and shoes is usually less than $150 per year. We’re going to blow that this year with the Cub Scout uniform, maternity clothes, new running shoes, a knee-ripping epidemic in first grade, and two coats/jackets whose zippers failed catastrophically with metal fatigue. For now, Chuckles and I are pulling our zippers up with our fingers (to be fair to my coat, it is 10+ years old).

It took me just 37:39 to walk that 4k (which isn’t much slower than I could run it in). The “winner” did it in under 14 minutes. That’s fast. Like 5:45 per mile fast. But he only looked to be about 22 years old, so I figure kids have a lot of energy.

Last night for dinner, I made a recipe I saw on America’s Test Kitchen a couple of years ago.

I call it dinner, not supper.

I have decided not to give a crap about breaking Bobo of the binky.

I don’t really take many photos (of my kids or anything else). I didn’t grow up in a house that did that, and it’s just not that important to me.

I am incensed that a 5-pound bag of sugar now only weighs 4 pounds. Ditto a 12-ounce can of soup being 10.75 ounces. It’s messing up my fancy recipes that require cream of mushroom soup in a 12-ounce can.

I was recently at a family party and overheard someone say that no one flosses anyway and was shocked! Am I really the only rule follower out there? Here I thought I was all bad since I only floss about 5x per week. (Note: I also floss my kids’ teeth.)

However, to prove I am not perfect, I have been known to, ahem, “help” clear my nose when blowing just doesn’t cut it, if you know what I mean. Pick pick pick.

I do not have cable television (nor satellite nor U-verse nor Roku).  We have an antenna and digital TV, which was supposed to be awesome, sucks (the picture is unusable when it's windy...at least with analog you could live with the static...digital just isn't there).

I talked to a woman over the weekend who had unplanned, surprise twins 5 years ago. I do not think I said anything stupid.

I watch Wheel of Fortune more than any other show on TV (it’s on 7 days/week and never has any objectionable material in it at all so is OK with kids…plus Bobo is learning his letters this way and asks for The Letter Show).

I am learning how to parent and discipline different children differently. It’s a humbling experience. My two kids could not be more different. One needs a gentle touch and the other needs MORE (more everything…mine goes up to 11).

That makes me a little scared to have another (hi Muse!) but gives me confidence that I will be adaptable.

I try hard not to compare my kids to each other (and to others), but I fail. I think I took too many comparative blah blah blah AP classes in High School. I make comparisons on everything. I note similarities and differences everywhere. What I don’t do is verbalize these comparisons to the kids.

There are two rules in my home that are the most consistently enforced: (1) no shoes on the carpet and (2) we don’t fight about clothes. You will often see an adult on hands and knees crawling back through the living room to fetch an errant lovey before we get in the car or a child at the grocery store in pajamas.

I really don’t think first graders should get homework because most of them are not in control of their own schedules enough to do it by themselves. And then it’s just my homework. And I have enough to do already. I’m thinking 4th grade might be a good time to start. Or possibly middle school.

I’m a little sad that I’ll never have a daughter. I was kind of looking forward to raising a girl the same way I raise my sons to see whether the girly behavior is nature or nurture. I’m fairly mannish for a woman, so I was looking forward to playing ball and building blocks with a daughter. I have tried to get my boys interested in playing dolls with me. They will humor me for a few minutes and then move on.

I was asking my husband why in the world peanut butter and jelly are still sold in glass containers. It seems that from a cost perspective, it would save money in terms of shipping costs, etc to package and sell those in plastic. He looked at me like I had a third eye. The next time at the grocery store, he pointed out that almost all of it is in plastic…just not the kinds we buy. Apparently, no high fructose corn syrup in your jam gets you an express ticket to a glass jar. Also, buying peanut butter whose only ingredient is peanuts also gets you a glass jar. Who knew?

Muse just rolled, and I am the only one who gets to know that.

I don’t believe in cold medicine. I also deny the existence of ghosts.

I’ve never been to Europe, but I have a passport and have been to 3 countries outside the US…one of which I would never like to visit again.

Athletic shoes are referred to as "gym shoes" and are frequently worn on the weekends while running errands.

I think I would run a great meth lab and would meet all applicable safety and environmental regulations, but I am not the entrepreneur type, so it will never happen.

During Prohibition, I probably would have had a still at home, though. (Have you been watching Ken Burns’s documentary?)

Generally, I do not find long hair on a man to be sexy. Ashton Kutcher just looks skeevy.

Real men have facial hair. 

Marketers do not have me as an identifiable demographic segment, and it has been 5 years since I saw an ad that “spoke” to me (that was an ad for Canon printers, by the way).

I get a thrill when I remove a particularly bad stain from a favorite piece of clothing, and I just figured out how to remove yellow underarm deodorant stains from colored clothing. I feel like a rock star.

Once, in high school, we sporked a girl’s front lawn. She was a friend, and it was a friendly prank. We would have even helped remove the sporks from her lawn if she’d come out and noticed them. However, she didn’t come out until the next morning, and we were long gone by then. When we saw her Monday morning at school, she was on crutches and in a cast. She had come out in the morning, wanted to take a look at the extent of the sporking, and fell off her front porch breaking her ankle. I still feel kind of guilty about that, but I want to file it away under freak accident. These days, she’d probably sue. Torts!

I pronounce the word caramel differently depending on context.  It's a CARE-uh-mell apple (like an Affy Tapple), but it is car-MULL corn (like Fiddle Faddle or Crunch-N-Munch).
 
My name is Carrie.  It is pronounced like the word carry.  It rhymes with Mary, marry, fairy, Harry, hairy, Gary, Larry, and non-dairy.  People from Philadelphia get this wrong.  They pronounce Carrie and carry differently (and put a horrible, grating nasal sound into my otherwise fine name). 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pumpkins and Corn

On Wednesday, I took half a vacation day (the half?  10-2...love my boss for letting me do things like that) and chaperoned Chuckles's field trip to the pumpkin patch.  My favorite part was probably the pumpkin trebuchet (where the pumpkins landed with a SPLASH into a nearby pond).  The kids?  Their favorite part was a giant pit of dried corn into which they could fall and jump and dig (but not throw).

It was primarily uneventful though there were a few rough patches.  Each child was supposed to bring a lunch.  One child did not bring a lunch.  The child is also severely allergic to peanuts (and the Epi-Pen is not allowed out of the nurse's office and did not go on the field trip with us).  Most kids brought PB&J for the field trip, and that's what the cafeteria was going to send for the kid's lunch.  If I had a severely allergic kid, I really think I would make every effort to be a chaperone on that trip because I could bring an Epi-Pen from home.  At the very least, I would pack the child's lunch every day including field trip day.  It scared me a lot, and I am very glad that child was not assigned to my group (heck, I ate PB&J that day...there was no real handwashing facility, so I brought hand sanitizer with me).  In the end, everything worked out OK.  I think the child had a cheese sandwich, a apple, a water, and some pretzels for lunch and didn't end up having any reactions.  Not bad, really.

Another child fainted in the classroom right before we were going to head out for the buses.  Better at school than on the trip.  The child went to the nurse's office to rest while waiting for a parent, and we brought a pumpkin back for him/her.

Lastly, I got a really good group of kids (boys...since the groups were all boys or all girls which meant that the family of triplets did not all go with their dad).  I was so lucky to get a good group (and I thanked them all at the end of the trip for being such good partners and buddies for me).

There was a group with two best friend boys who punched each other the entire time on the bus (in a good-natured friendly way, but it would have freaked me out).  There were two boys who did not listen - at all.  They were told 572 times to sit down and face forward on the bus, they needed to be held back (physically) so as not to dart into traffic in the parking lot, wandered off without paying attention to whether anyone saw them wandering away, etc.  Certainly, there could be special needs going on there, so I don't want to complain about the behavior of the kids, but I think those kids should have been paired up with the teacher, the aide, or the student teacher since a parent with a group of kids is not really capable of providing the one-on-one supervision necessary in a public, group setting like that.  One mom who got such a group was exhausted when she got back on the bus, said she focused all her attention on the one kid, and was just really glad all the other kids followed her around as she chased after him.  I hope that's not how every day goes in the classroom where most of the attention is focused on a few children (who really do need the extra attention) and the rest are left languishing because they'll take care of themselves.

All-in-all, the pumpkin patch was an awesome experience, and Chuckles is so glad I went (and so am I).  Now I know most of the names and faces of the kids in his class (and many of their parents). 

++ We now return to our regularly-scheduled pregnancy blogging. ++

On Wednesday (aka field trip day) 3 separate people in three separate incidents asked me when I was due or whether I was expecting another baby.  I though the rule was that unless the woman or her partner told you or you actually see a baby leaving her body, you were never ever to ask.  Apparently, I appear pregnanct enough for people to feel comfortable enough to ask such questions.  17 weeks, ladies and gentlemen.  It's only going to get bigger from here.

Speaking of bigger, I went to get my blood drawn this morning for the Quad-Screen.  They needed my weight for some reason.  I had no idea how much I weighed, so they weighed me. I haven't gained any weight so far, probably.  I don't really know how much I weighed before pregnancy, but it's within a pound or two of where I am  now.  So, that's weird.  I think I gained 30 pounds in my first trimester with Chuckles (of course, I'm already at that weight this time around).

Friday, October 07, 2011

Recalibrating: Sixteen

So, under the new, compressed timeline, I am 16 weeks today (or maybe yesterday).  What's a couple of days difference?  Really at this point, I'm just happy to be in the ballpark of how far along I am.  I'll just get the month right.  I'm recalibrating. 

That being said, I am no longer comically large.  I am actually appropriately large.  No one at work has noticed (or at least not said anything).  I'm full-time in maternity wear now.  And why shouldn't I be?  I mean, I'm basically 4 months along. 

And now, here is the list of 8 reasons I took the wrong due date news so hard (when really, it's good news):
  1. I don't like to be wrong.  No one does.  But I am knowledgeable about pregnancy and the female reproductive system.  It's sort of a hobby of mine reading up on the various indignities our bodies must undergo.  How could I be so very very wrong on this specific topic?
  2. This isn't my first rodeo.  How did I not notice?  Though, to be sure, there was nothing to notice (except for the bleeding...which I joke is how I figured out I was pregnant the last two times).  But as I said to my mom, sister, and aunts when I told them the story...bleeding is the universal sign for I'm not pregnant, so how could I know?
  3. I did things in that month that I would not normally do while pregnant (hello water skiing), and I really hope I didn't jeopardize the health or well-being of Muse.  This is really the #1 reason, but I wanted to start off a little more light-heartedly.  In fact, I can't even remember what I did in June and my blog archives were no help in telling me whether I took prescription mobic back in June and early July. 
  4. I know I took Allegra which is pregnancy category C because animal studies indicate slowing in fetal weight gain and survival with doses 3 times higher than typically used.  Of course, I am not taking Allegra now so I don't anticipate any issues with that.  Let's assume I did take mobic (I am sure what I find will be reassuring). 
  5. Mobic is pregnancy Category D (after 30 weeks, C before 30 weeks) because taking Mobic during pregnancy can harm the unborn baby (heart defects, still birth, and lower neonatal survival).  If I did take it, it wasn't for very long and at a very low dose (much lower than what I was allowed to take by prescription and significantly lower than the levels found to affect a fetus).  However, I will mention it to my doctor, and I will have them inspect Muse's heart at the 20.5-week ultrasound.  That reminds me, I forgot to mention that the placenta (as seen in the confusing ultrasound) was high and in the back so probably very little chance of previa or accreta.  I asked specifically for location information (cervix is 5 cm too). 
  6. As for the alcohol consumption, let's just say it was moderate and I was never drunk and in a condition where I couldn't dirve a car or care for my children, so we'll assume I was caring for the one on the inside as well.  I would have been about 3.5 to 4 weeks along, so I don't even think I was supplying nutrients yet.  The literature is pretty biased on this front, so there isn't much to read.  March of Dimes is in the abstain during childbearing years camp and some other literature says moderate throughout is OK, so I'll go with it.  Can't change it now.  "But why would you drink when you were trying to get pregnant?" you might ask.  Well heck, I was trying to get pregnant and had just gotten my period, so awesome!  Except it wasn't my period.  It was...uhmmm...I have no idea what, but not my period, so we'll just say I was consoling myself slightly with spiked iced tea.
  7. Deadlines.  My Gantt chart is all messed up.  We have a host of things we'd like to accomplish before Muse is born.  I'd like to get some of them done.  If we don't, it's not the end of the world, but I don't really want Muse to have to spend his first night at home sleeping in a laundry basket.  And I need to find a place to put Chuckles in the car.  His car seat will have to be moved to the completely inaccessible third row, so I would like to get a captains chair for the center row so he an access the back without crawling in the tailgate.  Plus we need a bigger refrigerator (regardless of Muse, really).  And to get a bigger fridge, we have to reconfigure some of the kitchen (I actually hope we can just find a larger fridge that will fit in the hole we already have because doing a kitchen remodel while pregnant sounds totally un-fun...and in the winter when grilling is harder).
  8. It might sound brilliant to skip ahead a month and make pregnancy a little quicker, but it's not.  This is my absolute last baby ever and I guess I would've liked to have savored and enjoyed it.  I mean, obviously I felt fine that first month so I could have enjoyed my little secret for a while.  This sounds kind of sentimental.  I'm not really like that, but I'd like to have known, probably mostly because I don't like being wrong.
I did call the doctor and talked to the nurse about changing my due date.  Why is the nurse at the Ob's office so confused about reproductive matters?  I would assume she talks with pregnant women all day, every day.  Further, I would assume she has read a book on pregnancy and perhaps even had a baby.  Why did I have to spell round ligament pain for her?  Why was she confused when I said that i needed to change my due date due to an ultrasound?  I mean, I cannot possibly be the first person to whom that has happened.  I've even seen an Oprah show on "I didn't even know I was pregnant and then a baby fell out of me", so it's not like being a couple of weeks off can be all that uncommon.  She did agree to put the order for the Quad/Multiple Marker Screening up at the front desk for me and I retrieved it, so now I just have to go have the blood drawn. 

Other than that, things are progressing at light speed here.  It seems like just last week, I was only 11 weeks along and here i am 16 weeks already.

****Totally new topic****

Chuckles does not care for school.  He likes recess and lunch and gym/art/music/computers/library/science, but when it comes to things in his actual classroom, he's not so fond.  I'm having a really hard time with it myself.  I can sense his frustration, but I don't know what to do to help him.  I'm waiting for the first grading period reports to come out so I can schedule a conference with the teacher.

Part of it is the material they are teaching.  He knows it.  They do 90 minutes of phonics drilling every day.  That is not what he needs.  I don't even think they do math every day.  He loves math.  I just taught him guzintas the other day.  What?  You don't know guzintas?  It's division (goes into), but I don't call it that for him to make it sound more fun.  We do it at night when I am tucking him in.  It's dark and quiet and just the two of us and we talk about how many groups of 5 it would take to make 15 or 20 and how many groups of 9 it would take to make 27, etc.  Or if you took 35, how many groups of 7 guzinta it? 

A while back, he discovered the dictionary I got when I graduated 8th grade.  His children's dictionary didn't have the word he wanted to look up (I think the word was sullen).  My encyclopedic dictionary interested him for weeks.  He taught himself Roman numerals and proceeded to answer his homework (5+1=) one night in all Roman numerals (both his answers and the numerals were correct, by the way).  The teacher was not amused.  I didn't really care since his answers were right.  Maybe she doesn't know VI or XIV so she couldn't evaluate.  I am trying to teach him the importance of following directions and conformance except, for the most part, I don't really believe it.  Sure, sometimes you just have to suck it up, but isn't that a lesson that can wait until he's a corporate drone?

He also discovered the list of presidents in the back (ending at G. H. W. Bush, since you know, the book is old).  He then taught himself how to figure out how old they all were when they died (subtracting year of death minus year of birth).  I don't know how he did it exactly because he doesn't know borrowing yet, but I showed him a couple of tricks and he did OK. 

He needs more (or maybe less) from school, but he is no where (not even close) near mature enough to advance to the next grade.  He needs differentiation.  Is the school required to give that to him?  They gave it last year (and then I found out that information was not passed along to this year's teacher).  I had similar issues in school, but I liked school.  I didn't mind doing the busy work because it was easy, and I liked being good at something, graded, and ranked.  He hates the busy work. 

And the amount of homework!  He knows the answers, but his fine motor skills for writing out the worksheets are not so hot.  Sometimes a stupid read the story & answer three questions about the story sheet will take 40 minutes to complete (including me leaving the room because I get so frustrated...because if you would quit complaining and just do it already, you'd be done) and him crying because I insist that he form the letters the correct way.  Usually I just leave the room or go do dishes.  I've put Mr. Long-Suffering in charge of the homework on a few occasions because Chuckles and I are so similar we do tend to butt heads.

I'm out of my element here, but let's just hope I figure it out because I have two more coming up behind him and I don't want to have to reinvent the wheel every time.  Once I figure out how to advocate for my child, I will be set.  I'm sure each child will have his own set of superspecial issues I'll need to address, but once I have a framework in mind for how to phrase it with teachers to get what we need (positives and win-win for everyone), things will be easier.