Friday, July 30, 2010

Not so good news

Thankfully, our family is fine, we have our health, and everything is about the same.

The first item is, Musical Daddy did not get the high school band job for which he interviewed a few days ago. He didn't even make the second round. I'm glad that he was able to get in the door, because it means that there's something appealing about him on "paper" that caused them to invite him in. Even so, for him to have gotten this job would have meant an end to our immediate lifestyle worries. And would have also made both of us feel like there is hope for one or both of us in the teaching profession. With it only being the end of July, we have a few more weeks before we panic.

For the second item, we need prayers upon prayers, and if ever there were a time for a miracle, now would be a great one. There is a little girl, 10 years old, who has been fighting Wilms Tumor for about 4 years. She has received three different courses of treatment, and they have just learned that the cancer is back. They are a family who has great faith which is being tested over and over...please pray for Riley.

And hug your children.

Big boy stuff

The Boy had his very first haircut yesterday. At nearly 3, normally a kid would have a LOT more hair but, you know. The woman who cut his hair also gave my sisters their first haircut and has been cutting my mom's hair, and mine off and on, for 24 years. Even when she moved from a salon down the street to one 20 minutes away, we continued to go to her. She cried when my mother had cancer and went wig shopping with her. She cried even more for The Boy.

She just cleaned up the edges a little bit. And put in a bit of gel so that he could sport the little spiky bangs on the end. If anyone knows the name of that hairstyle, the one where the front sticks up, let me know.

As for the potty, we are still in the same place. Very rare trips unprompted, able to stay on schedule with pee if we pay attention, but poo is still random and difficult to control. We will probably wait until after his doctor visits to pursue potty training again in earnest, as they will probably have some insight.

Meatball is just THIS close to walking on his own. He stands alone for a little while as he plays sometimes.

We have a great NJ vacation planned. Musical Daddy also might have a second interview for a GREAT job, so our plans may change.

Also, Musical Daddy is doing a little caffeine detox. Fun for him. He's not going completely caffeine free--just going down to a little cup a day and the rest decaf.

We went to an indoor playplace yesterday. Review to follow.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Ebb and Flow of Activity

This past week was a very slow one for us.

On Tuesday, two volunteers from our area's Make-A-Wish came to visit us to talk about The Boy's wish, which is going to be a Disney trip. We're not entirely sure when we're going to do it yet. Waiting too long is almost like tempting fate, know what I mean? But we'll wait at least until one of us gets a job.

VERY cute: The Boy was asked to draw his wish, and he drew three circles in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

Also on Tuesday, both boys were running fevers. Remembering that we have two children who do NOT need to be rushed to the ER when they have fevers, we called the doctor's office. Tylenol and fluids. The fevers were gone after about 24 hours.

To be replaced by colds, one for each of them, that started on Friday.

After the fevers went away, we were still taking it easy, because neither boy seemed exceptionally energetic. But what that meant was, we didn't leave the house much, and we didn't do much of anything.

I also had a job interview on Wednesday which turned out to be a leave replacement position that would result in my being treated as a substitute and not earning any actual years of service in the district. I was just in the middle of deciding that I probably didn't want the job when I realized that they had said they'd make the decision that day, and they hadn't called, so they didn't want me.

The other job that I interviewed for also never called.

Being no dummy, I'm not going to publish the names of the school districts on a public forum. If you're curious, I'll be glad to tell you.

So the job search, since it is still going, isn't going well. Musical Daddy is postulating that when it gets to mid or late August and people suddenly leave jobs and they need replacements, he and I will be the best jobless rejects of the bunch, being that the candidates who know someone will have already been plugged in, and the first few rounds of the popularity contest will have been completed.

I hope he's right, because if he's not, then one or both of us is leaving teaching. It's been a great move for our family to relocate as we did, but I think I've pretty much shot my career in the foot. And someone needs to get a job. Maybe the nursing school thing isn't such a bad idea. A similarly underappreciated profession as teaching but people don't blame nurses if sick people don't get better. Or midwifery. That could get interesting.

The past few weeks before this one, we have been very busy. Frequent pool/water park visits as well as playgrounds and the Children's Museum, and the zoo too. A few meals out, a few meals in, a few outings for just the two of us.

I guess waiting around for phone calls also contributed to this week's relative lack of activity, but it is cyclical. Sometimes we want to be busy, and sometimes we don't.

But, unlike in cancer-land, the ebb and flow of activity is not related to terrible toxic drugs and is instead just a part of the natural order.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Review: Freakonomics/Superfreakonomics

"A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything."

My brother recommended these books to me. In fact, I'm not even sure whose copies I read, whether they belonged to my sister or what. But in any case, my brother has a knack for seeing things the way the are, without strong emotional coloring. So it is with these books.

Both books read relatively quickly, so it is something that even those who are most pressed for time can find a way to fit these books in. They are entertaining and thought-provoking. Best to read the first one first, but if you happen upon the second one and read it without having read the first, you won't be confused.

These books take historical and current events alike and explore the motivations behind the way that they work. No topic is off-limits. Teacher cheating, prostitution, drugs, abortion, and monkeys with money top the list. Some shocking discoveries are made through the use of statistics that were never designed to be used in the way that the authors and other researchers use them.

One of the main premises is the examination of incentives. More specifically, how can people be convinced to do things, and who really benefits? Cows emit more toxic gas than cars, but no one is suggesting we start using hybrid cows, and the dairy and meat industries certainly don't want their profit margins to decline as a result of environmental conscience.

Or, they could do something to negate the effects of emissions, and we can go on living our carbon-footprinting lives. Read the second book; it's quite astonishing. And cheap, and easy, which is why it won't happen.

You see, change is difficult. People don't want to do it, certainly not JUST because it is a good idea. Instead, people really only change if they feel they have something to gain and other options along the same lines as what they've been doing just aren't working.

You'd think that the guy who discovered that handwashing in hospitals saves lives would have been hailed a hero, but you'd be wrong. Because for the doctor at the time to increase handwashing would mean a change in routine AND an admission that he could be carrying something on his hands. His skilled, educated hands. Just to be clear, though, I am referencing this example because of my experience with hospitals, not out of disrespect for doctors.

As a person who likes the hidden sides of things and, more importantly, the logical, rational, and EASY solutions whenever possible, I appreciated these books greatly. I would recommend them to anyone with the caveat that because of some sensitive materials, relating to sex, drugs, and violence (but not Rock n Roll), parental guidance/previewing is suggested. This is not the type of life-changing text that will have you red with rage over the state of our worldly affairs. It's just not that deep. Instead, these books will have you saying "a HA!" and perhaps will pique curiosity in your everyday life.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Concerto

It's been a long time, before this past month or so, that I've worked seriously on a concerto. I've never actually performed a concerto in its entirety, despite having learned a few, and I probably performed more concerto movements for my juries (for the non-musicians, juries are performance final exams, where the student plays and is evaluated) than I ever did in public. And, to be honest, even those movements were over my head at the time, and getting through the jury was more about survival than musicianship.

But that's no way to play a concerto.

As I am polishing and struggling and working my way through this piece of music, I'm thinking about how long it's going to take me to learn it at even the most rudimentary level. But I can get there. And then how long it may take to get to the point where I can play it really comfortably...and then, how long will it take for me to REALLY be able to perform this piece of music. I'm certain that it's going to be a long time.

Then again, I have a long time. I don't have any set date by which I need this piece to be ready. I have an idea in my head about places to perform it, but nothing that requires me to know it even by the end of this calendar year. So I can take my time and immerse myself in the playing of this concerto, which is really what a performer should do anyway.

The execution should be flawless, the performance effortless. The work behind it diligent and painstaking. Rewarding. Not necessarily fun, at least not until the "hard work" is done.

It's also my main source of "me" time.

Monday, July 12, 2010

It's almost time

to say goodbye to my 20's.

Yes, I turn 30 in less than an hour. Technically I was born at 1:49 AM but who's counting.

So now what?

I'm very much in limbo right now. I want a new job for my birthday. For Musical Daddy to get a new GOOD job would be a similar joy.

I'll be 30. I'm not giving up anything. I don't have to tell myself to act my age when I have already been doing it. I don't dress like a teenager and I don't drink like a college kid. I take responsibility for my children.

I admit I'm a little jealous of the moms who still wear bikinis. Not that I wore bikinis too often before having kids but no one wants to see my belly. I couldn't be bothered to spend the money or the time on something to prevent baby-belly. Ultimately it isn't important.

I'm doing pretty well for my age. Skin is good, hair has just enough grey to give me that grown-up cred, no meds, no health issues. Thank heavens. I weigh about the same as I did 6 years ago when I got married. Maybe 5 pounds more, but that's it. Clothes don't all fit the same, but having kids can do that.

I'm not the professional success I thought I might be. Moving hasn't helped matters. I need to get back in the game in some form. Perhaps I should consider writing a bit more music.

I wasn't sure if I'd have kids by age 30. Or be married by then, even. So at least I overshot in one category. With my husband and, in particular, my children, I have experienced deep, intense joy. And pure unadulterated pain. Looking back on the time before I had them, I can honestly say that I knew nothing of joy and pain.

I hope to retain my good-health status. I'll probably have to work a little more for it as I get older. I already feel crappy when I eat crappy food. Even if it is REALLY good. But if I make the effort to eat fresh food and real food, and keep sweets and junk out of the house. I'm not going to set unrealistic goals for myself or my family .

I'm tired. When I wake up I'll be 30.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy Birthday, Meatball!

It's been quite a year for you, little man.

Meatball is happy, healthy, big, strong, saying a few words occasionally but not consistently, ALMOST walking, eating everything he can get his hands on, and bringing us more joy that we could have ever imagined.

He was born during a truly difficult time for The Boy and his medical treatment, but we are so lucky to have him. And now they have each other.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Review/Rebuttal: "Does Breastfeeding Cause Divorce?"

I really thought we'd seen it all with ridiculous claims about breastfeeding and the lactivists' evil plot to destroy any sexy notions regarding our ferocious sweater kittens. I was certain that the foolish rumors regarding what would happen to those of us who breastfed our children for a long time, with "long" meaning more than 3 months, could only go so far. Surely the Pediatrics journal article which stated that about 900 little lives would be saved if 90% of women breastfed exclusively for a baby's first 6 months (CBS News story here) would convince at least a few more people to give it a more earnest try and convince a few other people that, hmm, maybe there is something to this breastfeeding thing, so let's not pick on it too much anymore.

And then I read this blog post:

Does breastfeeding cause divorce?

Aside from just answering, "Um, no, problems in relationships cause divorce," I decided to take a look at this-here article and talk about exactly how wrong she is. Because she's barking up the wrong tree if she really thinks that breastfeeding, itself, is the cause of marital problems.

News flash to anyone who wants to have a child: It's hard. It is WORK. It is time consuming and nerve-wracking and if you can't deal with it, don't have a kid. AND if your partner can't deal with it and you have any expectations that they are going to be of any use in caring for your child, then you need to make sure that they either get themselves together or stop wasting everyone's time and get lost. Or, don't have a kid with him if he's going to be a loser about being a dad.

After presenting the charge of 90% of women breastfeeding for 6 months exclusively and quickly saying that she votes "nay," the author decides to go off on a ridiculous tangent regarding maternal/fetal health:

Sure, I’m all for solving the deficit and saving lives, but aren't there far more insidious foes out there than suboptimal breastfeeding rates? For example, smoking during pregnancy is said to cause more than 1,000 deaths annually. And yet, more than 12% of women report smoking during the last three months of pregnancy. I’ll go out on a limb of deductive reasoning here and say that 12% is not the same 12% that breastfeed exclusively."

Really? Because that has anything to do with the topic at hand? I'll bet you a freezer full of milk that there's a LOT more money spent on smoking prevention and smoking cessation than breastfeeding initiation and promotion. Try again.

She goes on to make additional outlandish statements:

"Where are the statistics on how many marriages have been saved by limiting breastfeeding? Or simply what postpartum independence has meant for women’s mental health, and their confidence and trust in their relevance outside the domestic sphere?"

Postpartum independence implies that you deliver a baby and then you're "free" because you're no longer pregnant. That's a common reason that women give for choosing not to breastfeed. "I want my body back," they say. Sorry, mom, but when you have a child, you don't get your body to yourself until they're old enough to NOT want to be held all the time and fed (regardless of how) and changed (where you frequently get peed/pooped on). Figure that, considering the physical demands of a small child, you'll be carrying around a non-walking or semi-walking child for over a year. You'll be changing 2 or 3 years worth of diapers. You'll get puked on. Your kid will eat spaghetti and meatballs and then give you a hug. And even all the strollers and bouncy seats and jumpers and playpens in the world can't prevent you from having a LOT of physical contact with your little one. You don't "get your body back" for a minimum of 5 years.

"When baby comes home from the hospital, there are those few first magical days of shared responsibility with your lab partner. And then, inevitably, someone’s got to take charge. With breastfeeding, there is no question who is in charge: the authority, the source, the expert, the ultimate backstop. And for many, so begins the road of resentment. A road on which it is very difficult to make a U-turn."

Regarding this paragraph, way to turn a distinct positive into a negative! Nice work, really. See, I would think that with breastmilk being the ultimate in mommy-fix-all-better, the healing medicine, the REAL pacifier, as well as food for growth and development...that it would be a GOOD thing to have this on hand (or on breast) whenever the child has a problem. And before anyone says that it's unhealthy to fix a child's problems with food, the nice thing about breastfeeding, which isn't just for food, is that when the season of nursing your child has ended in a peaceful fashion, the child finds healthy ways to solve problems, as in, when mom used to nurse a baby/toddler to make him feel better after falling down or getting hurt, she now gives hugs and comfort to that older child.

In terms of the sharing of responsibility and taking's usually mom anyway. Many formula-feeding mothers will attest to that. Mom pretty much always knows best. Mom pays more attention to certain details, and mom usually ends up taking on more of the work. With breastfeeding, after the initial period of establishment, it is a big responsibility that requires a small amount of work. Mom wins.

"I nursed each of my children for respectable terms – 3 months, 5 months and an almost embarrassing 10 months. I stayed at home. I worked. I used a pump (and there is nothing stylish about the Pump-In-Style). I nursed in the Nordstrom’s "Mother’s Lounge" and pumped in the dressing room at The Gap. I breastfed in the front seat of the car on I-95, though never while driving. I even breastfed on a bathroom floor in Dallas while wearing a bridesmaid’s dress. It was novel, it was never elegant, and it always struck me as more science fiction than biblical."

10 months of nursing is embarrassing? Lord almighty what would you have done if you didn't have formula? And what in the world were you doing on the bathroom floor nursing? If you nursed in a bathroom, pretty much ever, that's probably one of the reasons why you find nursing to be such a burden.

"I do not resent breastfeeding, my children, or my nearly perfect husband. I do resent the expectation that after carrying a baby for nine months, American women should surrender control for six more months."

See there it is again--do you really have that much less "control" without breastfeeding? Do you really "get your body back" and have so much independence? If your child is sick more often and you have to take off work more frequently because you formula-feed, and your job and career suffer, are you that much better off?

Oh, and if you really want to go out getting plastered and staying out until all hours of the night and dumping your kid off with other people all the time...maybe you did yourself a disservice by having a child and you certainly did your child a disservice by NOT GROWING UP. Sow your wild oats, THEN have children. It's not a good idea to raise a kid when you're still busy acting like one.

"Because it’s not just the physical and time commitments that breastfeeding requires (which at 6 to 18 hours a day is, no doubt, significant). Being a nursing mother overrides everything. It dictates what you do and don’t eat and drink, your sleep schedule and where you can go, when and for how long. It even holds sway over what you wear. For an entire six months."

I've had very few issues with what I have had to eat and drink. I've had to give up dairy for a little while with both of my boys, but I was able to phase it back in. I have been able to have a grownup drink here or there if I want to. The science on that is that your milk alcohol level is about the same as your blood alcohol level--if you can drive, you can definitely nurse. And that translates, in terms of percentage of alcohol in the milk, to the milk having as much alcohol as orange juice if the mother is completely drunk (not that ANY mother, regardless of how she feeds her infant, should be completely drunk if she is going to be caring for children).

"In a word, be careful what you wish for. Blue-ribbon breastfeeding goals could -- in the extreme -- lead to increased divorce, depression, and long-term damage to the delicate ecosystem of gender roles in our families, workplaces and society. At the very least, the effort sanctions the message to women that their children and domestic duties come first. For women and researchers for whom long-term breastfeeding is the answer, the question certainly needs to be asked: at what cost?"

The author concludes that breastfeeding can jeopardize the balance in a relationship and lead to unhappy marriages due to an unfair division of labor in the care of children. Furthermore, she says that for mothers to put their children first when they are little infants is a bad thing. Funny, I find it to be a pretty decent idea in some form or another, although both parents would do well to agree upon these sorts of issues before having children together.

Our therapist had told us that, first and foremost, we as a couple need to take care of each other. We stand together and meet our emotional needs with each other. We take emotional leave of our families of origin and become a new unit. Once children are involved, they need a LOT of care and attention. Parents have to devote more energy than they thought possible to the raising of their children, particularly when they are small. Yet, the marriage/partnership comes first in that both partners draw strength from each other and love from each other to give love to their children.

If a mother breastfeeds her children knowing that her husband resents the child for breastfeeding or, more likely, resents the mother for doing so, then of course the mother will view breastfeeding as the problem and dislike doing it. When really, it is the father who is the problem, if he has issues with a baby receiving breastmilk. Frequently, fathers who have issues with mothers breastfeeding have major control issues, and there is probably a problem in the relationship that has nothing to do with the child. Whereas, if the father of children is supportive of his wife, if he appreciates the efforts that she makes in providing his children with breastmilk, which is the biological imperative, she feels loved and supported. If she then sees her child in his father's arms asleep, and he tells her "go ahead, sit down and relax, or go out for a bit" without making her feel like he is "babysitting" for his own kid, it reinforces their relationship.

So, to put the marriage first does not mean to do so at the expense of the children, nor does it mean that the affection shared with the children can be any sort of substitute. But since children are now in the picture, building the relationship while keeping the children in context is healthy and is really the best way to do it. Sure, it's a major investment during those early years, but if BOTH parents don't treasure that time, they'll miss it, because it's gone in a flash.

It is both dangerous and foolish to think that breastfeeding really causes marital problems. In reality, life with a newborn is stressful for both partners, and many of the issues that are commonly associated with breastfeeding will come up regardless of infant feeding method. Many MANY people who have children, regardless of their age when they become parents, are really not prepared and have little to no knowledge of what to do next. Breastfeeding makes a convenient scapegoat.