Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sometimes You'll Take OK News...

A few weeks, maybe months, ago we noticed something weird about Ellie's eyes. As she tries to focus, sometimes they dart back and forth. I thought it was muscle weakness, that maybe it was straining her eyes to much to focus on something. We knew she could see and that she could follow an object across a room, so we weren't worried.

When the Early Intervention nurse mentioned it, and advised she see an eye doctor, I still wasn't worried.

When I mentioned it to our pediatrician, who called in an immediate neurology visit, I started to get a little concerned. I learned that the medical term is "nystagmus," and it can be a sign of about 40 different conditions ranging in severity. In many cases, babies lose vision because of it.

It could've been something she was going to have anyway or it could have been caused by her previous medical history, specifically some of the drugs she was on.

What else is new?

So I panicked. Researched it on the internet. Tried to stay calm for our neurology appointment. I needn't have gotten too worked up. The neurologist quickly ruled out a neurological cause. That's good, since a neuro cause would have been life-long and completely irreversible. That's the kind of damage we don't need.

In the grand tradition of neurological consults, he did get us worked up about other issues (things that may never even happen and I'm choosing to ignore until they do) but told us this one wasn't one of them. Instead, we were off to see a pediatric opthalmalogist at Mass Eye & Ear.

Fun, fun.

So yesterday, she went. Mike went, since I had to work, and it was a good thing too... because I hear that watching someone torture your child is not a good experience. (I suppose I already know that, though...don't I?) Anyway, three people poked at her eyes, subjected her to eyedrops and vision tests, talked to Mike about things we've noticed, etc.

The end diagnosis was the best possible scenario. She has congenital motor nystagmus... basically, her eyes are always going to do that. They may shake less as the muscles strengthen, but she will always have to struggle to focus. Once she finds her "null point," an angle at which her eyes can hold steady to look at something, she will be fine. She has no vision loss but she will most likely need glasses later in life. Most people with this condition wear glasses but can drive without restrictions.

At least she can see. We'll find a way to work around the rest.

As I said, sometimes you'll take OK news and it will make you happy. We still don't know what caused her condition -- it's even possible that she would have had this regardless of her birth history. It could've been something that happened in the womb, something I did or didn't do... we'll never know. But at least we know now that it will only mildly interfere with her life.

She's going to be OK.

So I'll be OK too.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Family Walk Time

Every night, we take a family walk. We strap Elissa into the stroller and Penny into her harness and we walk three big loops around the Windsor property. Three.

For those who are unfamiliar with our apartment complex, we live on a giant hill. Three loops is a LOT of uphill work.

The past couple of nights have been humid and icky. And even though we wait until the sun has started to set, it's still gross.

And yet, we keep going out and taking our walks. I guess it's partly the exercise that keeps us motivated. I mean, we both need a good amount of cardio in our lives. But mostly, it's the time spent with our little family. Penny loves it, keeping pace in front of us, as though she's the pack leader. Ellie talks to us--or Bessie Cow--the whole time. And Mommy and Daddy get to work out all kinds of plans for the future and occasionally settle a "dispute."

We may not do this forever, but I think we've started a new tradition for ourselves. Every night, we get to drop everything for an hour and just stroll. Well, ok--haul ass up a giant hill. But you know what I mean.

And I feel pretty damn good after we get home. Blending fitness with family time might be just the thing I needed.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Back at Work

So I've been back at work part-time for a little over a month. It was kinda like dipping my toe into the water to check the temperature. Last week, I had to dive head first back into things for a week-long program we run every June.

The Dutch were here. I love this program and the students we hosted this time were lots of fun. I ran around all crazy for them all week, even getting a DVD recording of the Netherlands vs. Cameroon World Cup match to the cocktail reception on Thursday night. (Actually, that was a BLAST! And according to the Dutch, I have now made "friends for life." Sweet!)

Now they're back in Holland and I'm back at my desk full-time. Wrapping things up, getting back into the swing of my job. It's weird to be here just as I was before I had Ellie. Mike is at home, so I'm not worried, but I definitely miss her.

Last week was particularly tough. I felt so distant, so removed from my home life. I'd come home and I'd have no idea when she ate or pooped. How long did she nap? Did she learn something new today? Was she happy or cranky?

It's hard to feel so distant from my baby after all that time I spent being obsessed with her every move. There was a time when Ellie was all my brain had room to think about. Now, I have to go on with my life, pretending to care about other stuff.

I'm sure with time that it will all balance out. Maybe one day I won't feel quite so torn in half.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Many Legs & Many Hats

Yeah, I'm still here. It's been a while, I realize... my longest blogging dry spell (from this site, anyway). I'm a bad blogging Mommy. Tsk tsk.

I suppose you could say I have a lot on my mind. And it was a crappy week. And I'm not exactly sure what to do with everything that's happening in my life right now.

Ugh. I'm confused.

I started composing this blog post in my head (I do that sometimes) about a week ago... at 1 AM when I had insomnia. I had just had unpleasant encounters with someone from work, school, and my personal life and I had a lot to mull over. So I was sitting in bed, thinking - half about my life and half about why-in-the-hell-I-was-awake-at-1-AM - and I decided to go get a notebook to get it out on paper. Sometimes that helps me get to sleep.

I went into the office to get a notebook and instead encountered one of those giant centipede things. It was all up in my diploma frame and ready to eat me alive. With a can of aerosol Pantene hairspray (yes, there's a hole in the ozone with my name on it), and one of Mike's shoes (because mine don't fight insects as a general rule), I battled it to the death.

Once victorious, I was too tired to write anything. And this blog post was shelved. Indefinitely.

So here I am, barely able to remember what I was going to say, but I think it was something about juggling. And how I have always sucked at it because of my poor coordination.

But in the days following that night, I have worn so many hats, I can't remember which hat I left all those thoughts in. And really, between the Mommy Hat, Writer Hat, Student Hat, Admin Hat, Wife Hat, Housekeeper Hat, Pet-Owner Hat, Friend Hat, Daughter Hat, and Sister Hat.... well, jeez. What was I saying?

Oh yeah. Juggling. I suck at it.

What I've learned this week is that I can't wear more than one hat at a time. If I do, I really can't concentrate well on either one. I just don't give either "hat" it's due amount of attention.

On the other hand, I can't wear any one hat for too long, because my other hats feel neglected. But now I have too many hats to have enough time to give them all the attention they need. Does that make sense?

I'm only one woman.

I only have one head.

So, I needed to vent. Here I am. Back at work, still in school, adjusting to days away from my Ellie Belly, and trying to be the supportive friend I've always been. Oh yeah, also trying to write for a career. In my alleged free time.

In case you were wondering, there's no Free Time Hat anymore.

Now, I'm not complaining. I really am looking for a solution. I can't help that I have all of these responsibilities, and I don't resent any of them. I want this to work. I do. I just don't know how to get a good hat rotation schedule.

And yeah, I need to spend more time with that Exercise Hat.

Fat chance.

But that centipede encounter did teach me something. Sometimes in our lives, we need to put our thoughts away, arm ourselves with shoes and hairspray, and beat the living daylights out of a problem. How many legs that problem has is beside the point. When it's time to step up and do something, that's all you have to concentrate on.

With a little hard work, and some forethought, maybe I can get ahead of the problem and be waiting there, shoe in hand. Finding the problems before they find me might be the only way to keep up with my life for a little while.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm a Cheater

Elissa slept through the night last night. In her crib. Seriously!

But I have a secret... She's getting help. No, it's not Ambien (sickos). I'm slipping a teaspoon of rice cereal into her nighttime bottle. We've been doing this for a week and it's really working!

For the first few nights, though, we had her sleeping in her bassinet in our room. I think the bassinet pisses her off, now that she is older. She likes to stretch her arms and legs out when she's sleeping (like her Daddy, I guess) and it wakes her up when she punches the sides. Understandable. She's too big.

Thankfully, the crib was ready to go! So we put her in it last night and it seemed to do the trick. She slept from 9 pm until almost 6 am. That's a full night's sleep! I guess now that she isn't hungry in the middle of the night, there's no reason to wake up.

I realize I'm not the first mom to discover this, but I thought that I should share it with the new moms who haven't yet. When her belly is full, she's happy and she can sleep. I suppose it's good for her too -- who doesn't want a good 8+ hour stretch?

Hopefully, life will get a little easier around here. Just in time for me to go back to work full time.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ellie's Friends

When I was a little girl, my "imaginary friend" was a life-size plus doll that I absolutely adored. I talked to her, played tea party with her, and brought her with me everywhere. Granted, I was a little older at the time than Ellie is now, but I can already see her growing attached to her own "friends."

Ollie Octopus - Ellie's Under the Sea playmat is her favorite place to hang out. She "talks" to her octopus for an hour every day and even reaches to touch his face. I've never heard a baby simulate conversation to this extent before -- it's impressive. And if it's any indication of things to come, we're all in trouble. There's a talkative toddler on the way!
Bessie Cow - When we were at MGH, a charity group called Project Sweet Pea delivered a tote bag filled with gifts for a baby girl. (Look them up, they're amazing!! They bring gifts to all NICU parents.) In the bag was a purple cow toy - half blanket, half plush. We brought it home and kept it in her room, all but forgotten. When our EI case manager suggested we give her a toy to self-comfort, it seemed like the perfect choice. She LOVES Bessie now. And since we've been using it, she hasn't had any crazy crying fits. Bessie always calms her down.
Piglet - Before she was born, I bought Winnie the Pooh plush ring toys. They were too adorable to pass up. As it turns out, Ellie loves to play with them before she can put her arm through the ring. She can also try to eat their faces. Her favorite one to eat is Piglet... I guess since he's the smallest and she can grab his face. Anyway, she really likes chatting with these guys too!

I suppose if you think about it, Ellie likes calamari, steak, and bacon... Huh. Still, it's nice to see her connecting language with her toys, especially since she seems to know she should talk to the animals' "faces." Isn't it amazing what instincts we're born with?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Plotting Along

In fiction, there are two types of writers. Plotters and 'Pantsters.' Plotters like to plot their novel ahead of time -- a road map to guide them on the journey from the beginning to the end. Pantsters fly by the seat of their pants -- whatever happens is usually a big surprise to them as they write along.

When I write, I like to be a pantster. I enjoy creating characters who have a goal. Then I take these characters, throw them into a mess, and see what happens. Chaos ensues. But sometimes, I stumble upon something worth keeping.

In my life, however, I like to be a plotter. I'm not sure why I strive to control the uncontrollable, but I keep doing it day in and day out. I cite my blog post about scheduling as an example. And even though Ellie's birth taught me that you can't plan these things I'm already at it again.

Oh yes. I have big plans for the course of the next five years. When will we have #2? Will it be a boy or a girl? How many children will we have? Where are we going to live? What's our plan for working and managing the house?

Most people have an idea of these things. I have an outline. As though I could sit down and script it right now.

So why can't I shut off this annoying habit that I have? Why can't I live my life like the pantster I wish I was? Why do my characters get to have a freedom I don't?

This weekend, as I was explaining to my mom the birth order of my son and second daughter, and their approximate birthdays, she stopped me. She said simply, "Maybe you should take a break from planning things for awhile."

Maybe she's right. Maybe it is that simple.

I think I'm going to give it a try.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Diaper Madness

My daughter is a poop machine. I suspect that if we could harness her daily production of waste into a reliable source, we could end the energy crisis. Or at least reduce our electricity bill.

We left the hospital with TONS of freebies (that's what happens when you ask every nurse for three days to give you diapers to take home--sweet!) but those were gone within about two weeks. It works out anyway because Ellie has already moved from size 1 into size 2 diapers, so we wouldn't be using those now anyhow.

I have learned quickly how ridiculous the cost of diapers can be. I estimate that we could use the money we're going to spend on diapers in the next year to buy Ellie a used car for her first birthday. All attempts at negotiating such a deal were short-lived. The child continues to poop in her pants.

Now, at the risk of sounding like an advertisement, I found the best deal on diapers online. No, they did not pay me to say this. Most moms probably already know about it, but I was pleasantly surprised. For the moms who don't know, go to

I got a case of $41.99 diapers for about $30. Free shipping, marked down 11%, then with an extra 10% coupon for being a first-time customer. They mailed me a $5 coupon for my next order too! If you want to order from them, I can "refer" you and we both save money too. Enter my email address at checkout ( -- you get a discount and I get a coupon in my email.

Alright, I'm done. But honestly, if I wasn't resourceful I wonder how much I'd be paying for diapers every year. Plus wipes and Desitin. And since my little angel has allergies, that Aveeno stuff is necessary but much more expensive than the Johnson & Johnson alternative.

Any other suggestions on how to cut some expenses? I'll take 'em!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Head & Shoulders

Ellie's latest project is to catch up on her head control. Understandably, her neck isn't very strong. I guess when you spend about a month and a half without moving, you need some time to catch up. Especially if, technically, you've never really had to support your head before.

Details, details.

When the Early Intervention assessment team came out a few weeks ago, her head control and neck strength was her weakest point. At three months old, they rated her head control at a one-month level. Yikes. But Ellie doesn't back down from a challenge. Oh no.

By the time the EI case manager came back last week, Ellie was already making great strides. She could push up a little bit and turn her head. Her chin would drag the mat, but at least she was able to go back and forth. I said we'd keep working at it, so that's been our focus all week. Lots of mad tummy time over here. She's even got a special tummy time mat to keep her from getting angry (she gets frustrated that she can't see anything and starts screaming!) I think the mat is doing the trick!

Since last Wednesday, she's been rolling over like crazy. Once she gets onto her belly, she can push up to get a few inches off the mat now! She can actually look at you. In fact, on Friday I put her on her back on the playmat and sat down to do some work. I could see her, but I'd looked away to finish typing a thought. Ellie did not approve. She had rolled over onto her tummy, lifted up her head, and yelled once at me. Subtext: "Pay attention! Look at my cool, new trick!"

It is a cool, new trick indeed. And I'm one proud Mommy. Tomorrow is our weekly EI visit and I can't wait to see what she says when Ellie does all her new tricks!

Friday, June 4, 2010

I''ll Pencil You In...

I need a schedule. Any kind of semblance of a routine will do, actually. Making deadlines on the fly, never knowing when I'm going to eat my next meal... these are not behaviors that are conducive to a low-stress environment. And I can feel that stress affect the way I parent.

I don't want to be playing with Ellie thinking, "Man, I really need to write that article about Botox..."

Not cool.

But what the heck am I supposed to do? Parenting advice is the single most contradictory subject I have ever encountered. Speaking as a woman who researches things for the heck of it, that's saying a lot. Do I listen to "Never wake a sleeping baby" or "Don't let the baby sleep through a feeding?" Do I let her dictate the schedule or do I try to keep her on a created schedule?

All I know is that, whatever it is that we're doing here, it's not working. I'm grumpy and exhausted. And it's not that she doesn't sleep at night -- she does. In fact, that's the one area that seems to be pretty much on schedule. Bedtime is good. We rock at bedtime. So how can I make the rest of my day run smoothly?

Now, before you all say, "That's what having a baby is all about!" and I have to throw something out you, hear me out... I'm flexible. I'm all for spontaneity. I'm just wondering if I should be providing some structure to our day. I read once that babies like structure. It helps them stay calm, stress-free, all that good stuff. I'd like to give Ellie what she needs.

Unfortunately, that also means that I have to write for a living. All I'm asking is for two solid hours of work during the day... that seems reasonable, right? Two hours. That's it. But right now, since my princess cat naps all day and I get short bursts of free time, I get nothing done. And if I can't write for money, I can't pay bills.

How do I make this all work?

Ok, ok. Maybe I am asking too much. She's not even four months old. I get it. I just have this undying urge to be Super Mom--you know, have a clean house, get all my work done, vacuum in pearls, and bake a brisket. But I guess that, unless I learn how to function without sleep, that ain't gonna happen.

Stupid perfectionism...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lots of Firsts, All At Once

The past 72 hours have been fraught with My-Angel-Is-Getting-Bigger moments... It's crazy. When people tell you this baby thing goes by quickly, they aren't kidding. I feel like it's been only a few days sometimes, then others it feels like she's always been here.

My internal clock is all sorts of confused.

Anyway, Ellie is a professional roller-over(er)? She can roll over. In fact, at one point today, she rolled over on her playmat, propped up on her elbows and yelled at me. I guess I wasn't paying enough attention to her cool new trick. She's working on rolling back the other way... we'll get there. It's a big step for a baby that's supposed to be "behind" on these things.

I'm one proud mama.

Then yesterday, as some of you may have noticed on my FB status, she put her binky back in her mouth. I wasn't home, I was working (of course). But my mother-in-law was on duty and she's pretty good at recapping play-by-plays like this. Apparently, she picked it up, hit her chin a couple of times, then got it into her mouth. The success freaked her out, it seems, because her eyes got really big and her mouth opened and... oops! Out it fell.

Again, we'll get there.

But then last night, my favorite new accomplishment occured. Ellie laughed. Not the cooing in delight thing. Not making happy, inarticulate yelling noises. A bona fide laugh. We were playing, getting ready to take her bath, just me and her. I made her laugh.

It made me cry. I can honestly tell you, no lie, that in that moment I saw everything I'd been through with her just disappear. None of it mattered anymore. All the stress evaporated. All that worrying seemed ridiculous.

My little girl is here, she's healthy, and she's happy. I'm getting teary all over again.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I Hate Clothes

I'm going to complain for a minute here.

I hate clothes. I hate buying them. I hate trying them on. I hate trying to convince myself that they look nice on me.

Pants are too short, busts are too big, waists are too long. The clothes they are making now don't fit real people. Ok, so I am a bit overweight, but I should still be able to find clothes that fit.

And has anyone else noticed how cheap clothes feel now? I used to buy t-shirts at Old Navy that weren't see-through. What the heck is up with that?

Alright, alright. So the point of this blog post.... I spent far too much time this weekend trying to find clothes that looked good on me. My pants don't fit right these days because I have pudge in new places (thanks, Ellie) and I think my hips are wider. Argh. I have a constant indentation around my waist. And pants hurt sometimes.... like these work pants I'm wearing right now.

I refuse to buy new work pants.

So I tried on everything in my closet. I even bought some new stuff, which was quickly regulated to the "wear this when I'm hot" pile. Let the downward spiral of no self-esteem begin. Every item I put on made me feel worse. I'm over it now, but for a little while there I was going to just go everywhere naked.

Then I remembered my stretch marks and I put on some clothes.


These stupid size charts they use are WRONG. And they are not helping to make my body-after-baby journey a joyous one.