Thursday, July 31, 2008

Play Value (from last week)

Don't know why I never finished this one (I started it last week), but I think I know where I was going to go with it.

Last week The Boy got a present from the wonderful people at the treatment center--a new truck! I thought that it was rather nice that when they got a bunch of toys donated for all the kids at the center, they thought of our boy when they saw this one.

Last week he also received a wooden puzzle toy from Aunt M. This is a triangular board with 3 pieces cut out--a plane, a train, and an automobile. Can't find a picture easily so you'll just have to use your imagination.

Looking around the room (today, now), I see a hodgepodge of The Boy's toys and it's so interesting what he plays with and how much use he gets out of the items in his collection.

He has three different walk-behind toys like the one that I mentioned above (one isn't opened yet and we will probably save it for later). They help little ones learn to walk. Does he ever use these toys to push around and practice walking? Yes, but it's not his idea. He much prefers his table or his chair (a hand-me-down from Aunt L.--2 gorgeous child-size upholstered chairs) to push across the floor. The walk-behind toys have other parts to play with; buttons to press and little gears to spin.

He LOVES his Mega-Bloks, which are giant-sized Legos (bigger than Duplo), that Musical Daddy got at a yard sale for $2. He can't build so much yet although he is just learning to take things apart. He likes to hold two pieces and bang them together or crawl around the house with one block in his hand. That way, you know he's coming.

In the bathtub (we still use this on the countertop, by the way), he has stacking cups. He loves these too. He bangs them together and throws them from the tub into the sink. Sometimes he misses and throws them on the floor. With or without water.

Since he loves the stacking cups, I picked up a package of 8 small plastic tumblers from The Dollar Tree. Another success. We played with these together--I built little towers and he would take cups from the tower and wonder why the cups kept appearing, stacked. I also showed him how to knock the towers down. These cups are all over the house; that's a measure of play value.

Think about this, when you buy toys for children--what are they going to do with the toys? What are all of the possibilities (think "outside the box" here)? If the toy is supposed to be for a certain age group, is it for developmental or safety reasons? Certainly The Boy was too young to build anything with the Mega Bloks when Musical Daddy purchased them, but because we could see that they were not unsafe for him, we let him play with the blocks and he discovered his own games.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Treatment: Week 4

Tomorrow is Week 4 of The Boy's cancer treatment.

Let me just say that it still burns me up to have to say that my 11-month-old baby boy, the most beautiful little creature in the world to me, has cancer, no matter how "good" this particular type of cancer is. It's just a really hard group of words to say, about a sweetie baby.

My mom had cancer, and her treatment took place during my pregnancy with The Boy. She absolutely sailed through the process, driving herself to chemotherapy for all-day treatment. She'd go for a week and then be off for two weeks. And wouldn't you know it--she would bring in treats and themed stuff each time she was there. I think that the first time she just wanted to check things out, but after that, one week she brought Valentine's candy; the next week she brought St. Patty's Day stuff a little early; after that it was Easter/Passover; then it was Memorial Day, and I think that she finished it off with Flag Day or something like that. Chemotherapy is cumulative, and each week was a little bit more difficult. And, rather than getting time off for good behavior, they gave her the 6th week of treatment because they felt that she could tolerate it. She had a few episodes of neutropenia (and was in the hospital, where they put up a sign that said "No fruits or vegetables!" which is funny if you know my mother) during the process and required a few blood transfusions during the course of her treatment. Of course, she lost all of her hair. Her hairdresser cried at the wig store (she's had the same hairdresser for 21 years). My mother, on the other hand, was excited because she didn't have to shave her legs for months and weren't they just silky smooth! She had to have radiation which wore her out a bit and right at the end of her radiation, when she was exhausted, she came here to await (and wait and wait) the arrival of The Boy.

I am telling you this because even though my mother's ordeal sounds just like that--an ordeal--it feels somewhat less awful to say "My mother has cancer" than to say "My baby has cancer."

Okay, pity party over.

As I was saying...week 4 treatment is tomorrow. This is a pretty simple session, as are many of the sessions. He'll go to the center and we'll get a nametag to put on his ankle. Everyone there will faint from him as usual...he's cute (I might be biased) and he's a fun little guy. As soon as we get there, they call up to the pharmacy to prepare the various chemotherapy drugs. The Boy has his temperature and blood pressure taken and is weighed. While we wait for the chemotherapy drugs to come down, we play. There is SO much playing to be done at the center that he doesn't seem to mind that we're not at home. Often, we have snacks. The kitchenette has fresh fruit, fruit juices, occasional sandwiches, and donuts (we usually have a donut on our way out the door). Musical Daddy also has coffee.

Then comes the actual treatment. First, the oncologist gives him a check-up and talks with us about how he's doing. The nurse then accesses his medi-port, which means that they stick the needle in there. She flushes the line with saline and then draws blood for testing. I should mention that prior to our arrival we have already placed a generous amount of numbing cream over the port site, so this does not hurt the boy save for a possible pinch. Following this, she injects any "IV Push" medications into the line (which means that they're just a quick shot instead of a slow drip). The one that he receives the most is called Vincristine (or Oncovin). He also may receive Actinomycin-D as an IV Push. The last drug is called Adriamycin or Doxorubicin. Anyone who knows present or former cancer patients knows that this is the one that turns your pee red. Why? Because the drug itself is bright red. Adriamycin is a small IV drip that is preceded by an IV drip of Zofran, which is an anti-nausea medicine. In order for them to administer Adriamycin, the patient's blood counts have to be high enough. Last week was a "red" week, so we had to spend a longer time at the center. We also used gDiapers for a few changes immediately following that treatment.

After all of the treatments are done, the nurse flushes the line again and takes out the needle, and then The Boy gets a cool little bandage.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with our particular schedule change that is associated with chemotherapy, I'll go ahead and review it. We have to change The Boy's diapers every 2 hours for roughly 36 hours (the doctor said 24-48, and then she said just 24, so we decided to go with the treatment day and all of the following day until bedtime). Changing diapers every 2 hours is close to normal for us...except at night. As in, we have to wake him, and ourselves, every 2 hours, so that he can get a new diaper. Also, ordinarily he may go a little longer if he happens to be in the middle of a nap. Nope--we have to interrupt. Sometimes we can change him without waking him or at least we can get him back to sleep pretty quickly--other times we're not so lucky.

Last week, as well as after week 0 treatment, my parents were here and my mother helped with diaper duty. After week 2 treatment, my sister came in to visit and helped take care of The Boy so that Musical Daddy could get stuff done. She also babysat so that we could go see Dark Knight (excellent flick). Week 1, and this week, we're alone at home, so we're probably going to be a little more tired. And we're going to have to do our best not to bite each other's heads off.

I have to say--our relationship is really pretty good. We can communicate well and if one of us gets annoyed or says something that isn't the nicest, we forgive each other easily. Especially now, while our lives are turned a bit on their ears.

If Dogs/Babies Made The Rules:

I just pulled this from a friend's quote page. She doesn't say where she got it from but I thought that it was pretty cool. Hers talks only about dogs but the same could be said for babies. So here goes:

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
The Boy will often crawl up to the baby gate at the top of the stairs with a HUGE grin on his face to say hi to me or Musical Daddy as we walk in the door.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

Take naps.

Stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
One little squawk and I learn better than to eat something in front of him that he wants but can't have. Like mint chocolate chip ice cream. Although if he can't have it, I won't give it to him. Musical Daddy is a bit of a sucker in that regard.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
Or, get next to Mommy a lot and hit her up for milk.

When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
And laugh out loud, with big grins.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.
That's certainly our boy! And I hope that he continues to eat the way that he does, because his habits are very healthy! We've never measured his meals.

Be loyal. Never pretend to be something you're not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
Baby hugs make EVERYTHING better.

Be always grateful for each new day.

Delicious? Or not.

This morning, as part of my breakfast, I had a banana, at the perfect stage of ripeness. And, as is commonplace in our house, I offered some to The Boy. He seemed all too happy to share Mommy's food, but perhaps his body had other ideas because he backed away and started making horrible gagging noises. And in my squeamishness, I sat him down on the floor. Fortunately, nothing came of that...but he decided that he wanted the banana again! And the same thing happened!

At that point I decided to cut my losses and finish the banana myself. I guess The Boy doesn't like bananas anymore.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Free Energy!

It's not like there's this big ball up in the sky, beaming down free energy for everyone...

If anyone remembers where that quote comes from, if it is, in fact, a quote from somewhere else and not just the sharp wit of The Musical Daddy, let me know.

It's great weather to line-dry diapers! But then, every day when it's not raining or freezing is a great day to line-dry diapers. It's good for getting rid of any stains and odors (geez I sound like a commercial for The Sun).

While hanging up diapers this morning and while taking them down this evening, The Boy played with his little boat toy. I can't imagine that this big clunky thing was meant for water play. Musical Daddy got it at a yard sale so, of course, the price was right. I'd post a link but it looks like a pretty old toy that they aren't making anymore.

They just don't make 'em like they used to...

I was noticing today, while washing the frying pan in which I cook eggs, that my frying pan really looks crappy. We've really only had this frying pan since we moved into this house, and that was less than four years ago. How many of you can remember pieces of equipment that have just lasted for decades? From the big stuff to the small stuff, nothing is really built to last.

Like our dishwasher, which threw a hissy fit only a few weeks after the warranty ran out. The dishwasher that had been in the kitchen when we moved in was probably older than I am.

Many of the toys look cheaper too. Just looking at some of the plastic parts, they just don't seem sturdy like some of the toys that we had. Or maybe that's my perspective having changed, since everything looks big when you're small and everything looks small when you're big.

I've had a sore back all day, so I've been trying to take it easy. Except, of course, for going to the grocery store. I saved 35¢ by using my own shopping bags instead of the plastic ones. It used to be that you'd get 2¢; now you get 5 for each bag! Good deal. New Jersey is phasing out plastic shopping bags entirely, under new legislation, so I'd imagine that encouraging consumers to use their own or at least reuse the ones that they have (still gets you that 2¢) is a good idea.

Fortunately, The Boy had mercy on me and we napped together for about 2 hours this afternoon, and I did feel somewhat better. We went to the bank and then to get Musical Daddy's glasses fixed. I was considering a trip to the playground but neither The Boy nor I were in any mood to spend more time in the heat.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bumping the gDiaper review

Hey, I may as well get some credit for it!

from TheMusicalDaddy blog (but still written by me)

I had heard about gDiapers before The Boy was born, possibly before he was even conceived, because I was discussing the family history of sensitive skin on both sides and someone recommended them as an equally convenient alternative to disposable diapers. I tabled the idea because they looked to be too expensive and still a bit too difficult. I was also unsure of Musical Daddy's willingness to put up with the extra steps. I needn't have worried.

Fast-forward...past the first 2.5 months where The Boy was constantly breaking out from disposables and we made the switch to cloth diapers. Past month 7 or so when the poop started to look like poop and we needed a way to flush it (by the're really not supposed to throw poop in the trash). Here we are in cancer treatment land, and we are faced with the prospect of a baby who, every few weeks, will receive intravenous medication that will cause his urine to turn red or pink. We also noticed that for the brief time period before the surgery, when The Boy was in disposables, he was getting a rash from Pampers. So this sensitive skin stuff isn't in our head.

I purchased the starter kit for $25 at Whole Foods. The gDiapers starter kit includes 2 "little g pants", 4 snap-in liners, and 10 flushable inserts. Plus a swish stick and a little hook for hanging it. Not bad for $25, considering the cost of fancy cloth diapers. The instructions are pretty simple--shove the flushable insert into the liner (it is MUCH larger than the liner and is supposed to cause the liner to "bow" instead of being straight. Don't fold the liner.). Snap the liner/insert combo into the pants.

Put the diaper on the baby. Here's the first snag: these diapers velcro in the back instead of the front. Probably even more difficult on younger babies but not a picnic on The Boy either. I wasn't sure if I was getting a snug enough fit.

Change about as often as you would any other diaper. The insert is removed from the diaper. You tear the insert and let the insides fall out, and then you swish it a bit, and flush. The next snag: this may be gross especially if there's poo. You may want to rotate among covers to let them air-dry. Wash with normal laundry or with normal diaper laundry if you cloth-diaper. Since we were using gloves during toxic pee time, it was less gross to rip the insert. But babies are gross in general, so you get over it.

There was a poopy diaper, which was not contained very well. It didn't escape the whole diaper but it did get on the pant, rendering it unusable until the next washing. The rest of the diapering experience with these worked fine. No leaks, no other issues.

The whole process is more complicated than disposables and probably as difficult as cloth, minus laundry. However, price-wise it is somewhat expensive. The inserts run about 50¢ each, which is more than disposables, plus the cost of the pants and liners, which you'd have to buy in three sizes. That said, it costs only a little more overall and you neither have to do extra diaper laundry nor throw away a bunch of stuff that will take about a hundred years to decompose. If you throw away a gDiaper insert, it still breaks down relatively quickly.

There are also some options. Some people who use cloth diapers find it easier to use gDiapers when they travel.

Overall, I find gDiapers to be a good product for "sometimes" especially the times that we're using them. They are effective. They are cute. They are a bit difficult but not too bad...if you're looking for a part-time or full-time eco-friendly option, these work.

One of the many reasons I love my husband

Parents Magazine Rebuttal

Musical Daddy wrote this a few months ago after we read a really poorly written article in Parents Magazine. I just wanted to revisit it because it's brilliant.

Recently, my mother forwarded me a thread on the Slickdeals forums. CostCo online is now selling Bumkins All-In-Ones, fitted diapers, and diaper covers. Many people were excited about this new development, but just as many people were shocked and appalled at the idea of washable cloth diapers.

My feeling is that our dipes are more effective at holding things in there until he gets changed, so we do less clothing laundry.

The Wonderful World of Books and Bathrooms

This morning, The Boy and I went to our local library to hang out and were pleasantly surprised to find that it was storytime! Even though I had tried to sign up for storytime and it was full, we crashed it anyway and had a good time. Some friends were there as well.

The structure of this storytime at the library is pretty good, taking into consideration the attention spans of the audience. It was a wonderful mix of songs, stories, and games. One of the games involved children holding jingle bells (which get washed after every session). The facilitator gave The Boy a plastic toy with bells in it because she saw that he had been chewing on my keys, but apparently he was more interested in the other bells that had been given to our friend sitting next to us and took them away! Fortunately, our little buddy was pretty laid back about the whole thing and I managed to convince The Boy to play with what he had, which included my keys and the plastic jingling toy, and return our friend's bells to her. I don't think that she held a grudge.

Here's a really lousy segue: I wonder when The Boy will start taking books into the bathroom with him. I am pleased to report that we had a multi-faceted success on the potty this morning. We have the Baby Bjorn Little Potty, which was $10. It is small enough for most babies who are old enough to sit up, so that they can put their feet on the floor.

Read the bottom half of this entry to get some insight as to why we started the potty with The Boy. It had nothing to do with the fact that we think our child is so brilliant and so advanced and want to put pressure on him--he gave us some signs, so we're rolling with it. In teacherspeak, we are potty training on the spiral curriculum. That means that the student will cover a concept several times over the course of the learning process, and each time he goes over it, his understanding will broaden. Plus, anything that ends up out of the diaper--even if it is on the floor or on the lawn--is that much better for Mr. Sensitive Skin.

Also, please keep in mind that neither Musical Daddy nor I get any sort of compensation for the products that we mention in our personal blogs. Please. We just have found certain items that work for us and perhaps you may find them to be useful.

I got some of my inspiration, especially right at the beginning, from the Cranky Little Man website. She hasn't updated it in awhile, but her website has a nice little collection of advice for new moms, with breastfeeding advice, product reviews, and honesty about the scary newborn stage.

So okay...Musical Mommy was taken

The last thing I want to do is draw attention away from my husband's wonderful blog, The Musical Daddy. I also find it pretty funny that he's the one working on the math degree yet *I* get stuck with "logic" in my blog title. For those of you who are readers of the above-mentioned blog, you'll find that my blogging style is similar. In fact, the last entry was written by me. I wrote a review of gDiapers.

A bit about me, and my family, for those who are new readers or would like to hear more about us: Musical Daddy and I are both public school music teachers, and The Boy is almost 11 months old. Musical Daddy spent last schoolyear at home tending to The Boy while I went to work. His blog was originally created to chronicle the life of the stay-at-home dad.

The major disclaimer that I will write is that, for the sake of this blog actually being useful, it does get a little personal. Certainly not TOO personal, and without branching into the "inappropriate." I intend to keep the language clean, and since much of this blog will be devoted to discussions about the raising of children, it should be fine fare for anyone who is interested in these topics. So with that in mind...

I am a nursing, cloth-diapering, part-time co-sleeping, sling-wearing, baby-led solids encouraging mama. And when I put it like that, I sound like a raging hippie. I'll admit that my perspective has changed somewhat since having The Boy, but most of the choices that we have made as parents have evolved from our day-to-day actions. As in, they are "logical" choices. Hence, The Logical Mommy.

There was no "choice" involved in nursing The Boy; it was what I had to do. No question, no debate, no discussion. Even when it turned out that I'd be going back to work, I bought one of these and committed myself to, at least, 6 months of exclusive mama milk for The Boy. And then at around 3 or 4 months, I figured out that there was no need to stop before 1 year or even 2 years.

With the cloth diapers, there didn't seem to be any other option either. The Boy kept on getting these nasty rashes from disposables. I wasn't thrilled with the amount of garbage that we were producing as a result of him being in disposable diapers either. Thankfully, through the magic of the internet, we discovered that cloth diapering didn't have to be done with pins and rubber pants, even though we did start with those for a few days.

In our cloth diaper stash (you can skip this paragraph if you don't care), we have primarily bumGenius 2.0 OneSize pocket diapers (they have since upgraded!). They are fantastic! We also have HuggaBuns pocket diapers in a size medium and 1 Happy Heinys pocket diaper (yes, that's really what it is called). The pocket diaper goes on the baby like a disposable would, with snaps or velcro to hold it together. It has the waterproof cover on the outside and fleece of some sort that touches baby's skin. There is a pocket to put absorbent inserts. The All-In-One diaper is similar except that everything is put together. I find that it takes longer to dry. We have fitted diapers with matching covers from BluePenguin and a few from EcoBaby that I picked up on FreeCycle. Fitted diapers also go on like disposables but do require a cover. And we also have good old fashioned prefolds, which are pretty much the only cloth diaper that can be purchased in the big stores around here. For those, we have Bummis covers, mostly the Super Whisper Wrap. We have a Thirsties cover as well.

The co-sleeping came about because The Boy started sleeping through the night on his own at 2.5 months--actually, the same night that he was first cloth-diapered--but then changed his mind a few weeks later. He had stopped waking up to nurse, but then decided to phase night feedings right back in. First a 3:00 AM feeding returned, and sometimes Musical Daddy would bring him into our bed for me to feed him...but then none of us would stay awake for him to finish the feedings. Then he tried a 12:00 AM feeding instead. Usually for that one I'd go in to feed him and then put him back to bed. But then both feedings returned sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And he phased himself into our bed, nursing to his heart's content. Everyone got more sleep with the baby in our bed.

An added benefit was that he started to want more milk at night from me than he did during the day from bottles, which made pumping easier. This isn't uncommon, apparently, for babies to reverse-cycle and nurse more at night even though they will still sleep between feedings.

Sling-wearing: we got the NoJo Baby Sling as a hand-me-down from Musical Daddy's brother's family. We didn't use it when The Boy was very little but when he was 3 or 4 months old, we started to experiment with it. He is often carried in the sling during shopping expeditions. He will ride in the cart for awhile, but it's just so much easier to carry him close. He doesn't fuss. Sometimes he even falls asleep. The sling allows for constant snuggles while allowing for freedom of movement for parents.

Baby-led solids (baby-led weaning): one of the best decisions that we ever made. No question. And also one of the laziest, but in a good way. Baby-led weaning is based on the theory that babies will eat what they want when they are ready to do so. As they become more familiar with food, they will take less milk via nursing. The key is that the parents offer the food but the child has to pick it up and try it. Which is impossible with puréed carrots. Starting with soft foods--veggies and fruits--that are made into sticks and trees, babies as young as 6 months can start to eat at the table with the family. Much younger than that, and they might not have the ability to get the food into their mouths and may not have lost the tongue-thrust reflex that keeps food out of their mouths until their bodies are ready to process food other than milk.

That's the long rundown of how we do things around here. If you've read this far, GREAT! If you cheated and skipped to this paragraph, that's okay. I won't know.

Last month, The Boy was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor, which is in the kidneys. He had his entire left kidney removed and is going to have a chunk of the right one removed soon. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Musical Daddy has done a remarkable job of chronicling this whole experience. Read the post about the origins of The Boy's condition right here.

Thing is, for 5 days a week, everything is pretty routine for The Boy. He does the normal things that any 11-month-old does. And even for the other two days--the day of chemotherapy, that night, and the day after--he's still pretty much himself and we're the ones with the issues. All things considered, we're not doing too badly. It's been great having such an outpouring of support from family and friends, and it makes it so much easier to look at The Boy and his handsome smiling face.

That's about it...after spending an hour writing, interrupted by the sounds of The Boy who is asleep in his crib (a quick feeding and he was back in slumberland), I think I've covered "the basics" of our family and this blog.