Saturday, January 31, 2009

Danny's big little sister

Fiona Grace Meehan was finally born at 4:22 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31. She weighed in at 8 lbs 10 oz. Jim calls her Danny's big little sister. She outweighs his birth weight by more than 2 pounds. Here are a few more photos.

Based on the estimated due date, she was nine days late. However, the midwife thinks that she was more like two weeks overdue based on the wrinkly feet and very long fingernails. Miss Fiona already needs a manicure. I knew a girl would probably be more expensive to raise!

Here's an abbreviated version of how it went down ...
On Thursday night, I got my first clue that labor was imminent as I watched our son play on the floor, quietly chanting "Come out baby. Come out." I started having two to three contractions an hour while I was awake on Thursday night, but they stopped, I slept and the next morning I carried on with errands while Danny was at Parents Morning Out. A sleepover with Nana and PopPop had already been planned for Danny on Friday night. That afternoon as we coaxed Danny "Who's coming to see you soon?," he answered "Baby Ona." (That's what he calls her.) After Danny left, the contractions then began building slowly from about 4:30 to 8:30, manageable enough for Jim and I to take a walk and go out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant. By 9 p.m. the contractions were getting longer and stronger and I could no longer concentrate on anything. I had been watching You've Got Mail on Oxygen. By that time, I couldn't talk on the phone with the midwife. I had thrown up twice and was getting nervous that this labor would take a turn for the worse like Danny's (40 hours, throwing up the whole time). Luckily, it didn't. Labor progressed rather quickly from then on. I knew that I was probably close to delivery when I told my husband with every contraction, "I'm not doing this again." The midwife and her assistant arrived around 1 a.m. They started filling up the birth pool and when the water heater couldn't keep up, they began boiling pots of water to add to the half-full pool. From about 2 a.m. until shortly after her birth, I remained in the warm pool. The cord was around her neck, but Jim pulled it off. She pinked up right away and was breathing, but looked around for a few minutes before finally crying.

After getting dried off and cleaned up, I curled up in my own bed, on my own sheets and my husband and I spent the next hour alone with our newborn daughter.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

That'll be another pint of blood please

This week, former President Bill Clinton was in town to scold college students about public service. He told them, "I don’t think it’s good enough anymore to define your citizenship by being a good, honest worker and a taxpayer and someone who votes."

Seems like a perfectly apt definition of citizenship to me. But what the hell do I know, right? I'm just a selfish taxpayer and voter.

Jim did our taxes, at least the federal part, this week. After seeing that bottom line, he can't bear to finish the state taxes. I feel like we've been bled dry and we don't even make that much money. This year, we are getting back half of what we've gotten back in the past. While I don't like the idea of using government withholding as a savings plan, it has worked for us. Breaking even with the feds at years end should be the goal, but I don't have the brain power to devote to figuring out the W-4s. (I'd rather use my brain power to bitch about it on my blog!) That said, we know someone who is getting back more than he even put in. This person's take equals our input. And interestingly enough, under the new children's health plan Congress voted through this month, Jim and I qualify for free health care for our children. We wouldn't dream of using it. We pay for our own insurance through Jim's employer, thank you very much. So, in the end, we support ourselves and others who make just a little bit less than us. Why should we shoulder all this? How do I get off this merry-go-round? Do I have to find a cabin in Montana? Maybe I should move to Iceland or Belgium - their governments have collapsed. Maybe something more reasonable will arise from the ruin ...

As people who are good, honest workers, taxpayers and voters, I take severe umbrage at Clinton's assessment. Clinton advocates an increase in public service. Our president wants to make government service cool again. My question: How much more public service can the private sector and the taxpayer support? Do these well-meaning (and well-heeled on our backs, I might add) politicians realize that there will be a tipping point?

That tipping point is when Atlas finally shrugs and says "Enough is enough."

Pardon my caustic ranting ... I'm six days past due and very cranky.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The beginning of guilt

Tonight we got our first glimpse of what guilt looks like on a 2-year-old's face. It's been hard to tell whether Jim and I are getting through to Danny. Our disappointment or anger at his behavior doesn't seem to phase him. But as Jim was putting the finishing touches on our new booth cushions for our breakfast nook and Danny was eating dinner, it finally happened.

Danny was flailing about as usual at the dinner table. In the process, his tomato-sauce covered hands wound up on newly upholstered, but not yet Scotch Guarded, cushions. (I'll post some photos soon of our latest dollar renovation.) Our reaction was more to the tomato sauce on the new fabric than to him. We must have had really stricken looks on our face. He just stared at us somberly as we told him calmly, but in a very disappointed tone, not to touch the cushions with dirty hands. He started repeating slowly, "don't touch, dirty hands." Then he burst into tears. Jim got this incredulous, happy look on his face and said, "This is good." It is, of course, good to see him react to our disappointment. We don't want him to feel excessively guilty, but we do want him to want to behave, to know that he's done something wrong, something he should avoid doing in the future. Maybe he'll really remember not to put his dirty hands all over the furniture. Maybe he'll also start remembering to not throw toys, scream inside or flail about at the table.

But I nearly started crying myself as this little drama unfolded (partly because I'm pregnant, three days overdue and extremely hormonal). I felt a little bad for Danny. It was the first time that I've seen him learn a lesson and experience feelings of guilt. Jim went over and asked him if he needed a hug, which he did. Then Danny sat on my lap and let me feed him the rest of his dinner. All was right with the world again.

And here's a closeup of the latest fat lip:

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Toddlers are tricky.

Ours seems impossible sometimes. He definitely senses something big is going on. I'm cranky, achy, impatient and overdue. Friday night, the midwife stopped by around 6:30, definitely an odd event for him to have non-family guests over that late. Friday was particularly hard. It was a warm day, but the yard was very muddy, so we didn't go outside and there was no Parents Morning Out. By late afternoon, I suggested we all take a walk down the court across the street from our house. A walk is an opportunity for us to teach Danny about walking on the street, keeping out of the middle, walking on the sidewalks, looking out for cars, etc. Toddlers rarely walk in a straight line. Danny was all over the place, very unhappy that we kept steering him toward the curb. Soon, Danny started running along the road. We told him to slow down. He didn't. He bit the pavement, came up bloody and now has a fat lip. We told him that he got hurt because he didn't listen. Are we horrible parents or what?

Lately, he's having trouble with transitions that once were easy for him and us, like getting out of the tub, going up for a nap, sitting in the cart at the grocery store. The five minute warning system that we thought was mastered is in shreds. He starts fussing as soon as he hears "Five more minutes to play then we have to [fill in the blank]." Oddly enough, he doesn't do any of this for Nana and PopPop or anyone else. Jim commented last night that Danny just doesn't understand why we tell him what to do. I replied, "And he probably won't until he's 18 or maybe even older."

Lately, I just can't figure out why he imitates everything we do but won't do as we say. He sees us doing things around the house, like cleaning up, putting dishes in the dishwasher or sink, taking naps, taking showers, etc., but resists doing these things on his own or at our direction. I have noticed that when we're at playgroup, he'll mimic what other kids are doing, like cleaning up toys. Peer pressure may be working on him already, which makes me wonder anew whether I should put him in some sort of nursery school setting twice a week. He has started saying things like, "Put it back" as he's putting a toy in the basket. But he also likes to break the rules as he's telling me what they are. For example, he screams in the house and then puts his little finger up to his mouth and says "Shhhh."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The practice baby

Though today is my due date, I am not in labor. I feel more normal today than yesterday, unfortunately. Yesterday, I had back pain and called in a reinforcement (a k a Nana) to help in the morning. With Danny, I was more certain of my due date and went into labor on that day.

It's been a worrisome week, though. Between the ice and snow and my midwife having a family emergency, I've been on edge about whether the midwife would make it to the birth. But face it -- even if we were going to a hospital or birth center, the ice and snow would have complicated things. So now that I'm not in labor on my due date, I've tentatively made plans for the weekend. I want to go to a kids consignment sale on Sunday to find some summer clothes for Fiona and maybe some cloth diaper supplies. Hope I make it.

We've put a Cabbage Patch doll in the bouncy seat in the living room. It's the practice baby. The first night, the first thing Dan did was hit her. Jim and I came down hard, then gave him alternatives, like gentle patting, playing peekaboo or kissing. We've been talking for months about babies, what they're like, what they do (cry a lot, drink booby juice and sleep). Now her car seat is in the van right next to his. He seemed quite tickled when I told him that she'd be sitting there and he could talk to her.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Here are some photos of Danny's adventures in the snow this morning.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Here we go again

Though it's totally against my educational beliefs, I've started exploring preschool for Dan again. This is one of those issues where we have to carefully examine our motives before committing our most valuable assets - time and money. Right now, my motivation seems to be that Dan and I need a break from each other. Whether that's a good motivation, who knows?

He's been a bear lately, with lots of tantrums and defiance. But in the past few days, he's had a language explosion and become a bit more bearable. Of course, my assessments of him are often more generous between Friday night and Tuesday, I've noticed. I work all weekend and this past weekend, he spent the night at Nana and PopPop's house. He's nearly speaking in full sentences, having somewhat coherent conversations and making connections that he couldn't have made, or at least expressed, a week ago. For example, Jim and Danny were reading Family Circus in the comics this evening. Danny pointed out that the mom had a vacuum and some other cleaning supplies. Jim asked him, "What do you think she was doing in there?" He replied, "Clean." I can't wait to hear what he has to say about Baby Ona.

All the things he can do at the preschools I've investigated are things we can give him at home. I'm not big on preschools where the main goal is to prepare children for indoctrination, I mean, traditional school. The two programs that I have looked into use some combination of learning through free-play approaches that encourage child-led development, like Waldorf or Reggio Emilio, We could pay up to $200 a month for a two-day program in a home-like setting. But it begs the question ... why would I pay that much to mimic the home environment? Is it the social aspect I think he's missing? Most young children parallel play in large groups, not really interacting with other children. Danny does have play dates of varying sizes throughout the week, from one on one to up to 16 kids of varying ages at church. How will this integrate into our plans to home school? I can't see putting him in preschool and then taking him out when he's too old for a program. Just how do you explain that to a five year old? "Honey, you're too old for the schools we can afford because the government steals our money to fund schools we would never dream of sending you to." Maybe that could be his first civics lesson.

As much as Danny and I may need a break from each other, he'll need me more once Baby Ona gets here. Maybe we can get on a waiting list and revisit the issue in the fall. Besides, I can't very well put him in preschool now ... he curses randomly and asks for beer whenever Jim is drinking root beer or ginger ale or he sees a commercial during football games.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Van door update

The van door is possessed. When we close the newly fixed door, it opens right back up again. We have to try several times, using the key fob or either of the two interior buttons. Sigh.

But at least it opens automatically.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An almost TV-less morning

Danny has been getting too attached to TV. And, of course, it is partly my fault. Being pregnant, sick in the morning, exhausted (Danny now says "Mommy tired") tends to shape our morning. I do manage to get our oatmeal mix made the night before so all I have to do is add water. But, lately, I turn on the TV and put him in his high chair with his apple sauce while the oatmeal cooks. He's also been giving us trouble going to bed, mostly because he wants to keep watching TV after Curious George is over.

I've been worried about it because once the baby comes, from what my two-child girlfriends have told me, the TV may become a bit of a babysitter for a few weeks. I don't think all TV is bad, but we do want to start setting some limits. So this morning, I decided to not turn on the TV until Sesame Street at 10 a.m. Amazingly enough, he asked for the TV only once and accepted my answer without tears.

I got out a few toys and he brought out one that he wanted to play with. In less than an hour, he had exhausted his interest in the Aquadoodle, Megablocks, Funky Footprints mat and his Little People zoo and was downstairs "feeding the cat" again. A few days ago, we found him down by the cat's dish scooping cat food into a nearly empty bowl. Now, he's fascinated with the process. Next, I decided to start some sewing while he was occupied. He came over and I gave him a box of ribbons and sewing notions (yes, I removed all the pins and needles) and he played for about a half hour exclusively with zippers, bobbins, ribbons and snaps. Bonus: I got to sew one more diaper, this one from an old felted wool sweater and an old prefold diaper. Photo to come, if you're interested.

Silly me, I was afraid we had ruined his attention span with all that TV. He's now watching Sesame Street and I'm going to go finish my turkey meatballs and clean up the sewing notions strewn about behind me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blog housekeeping note

I added a new feature to the blog in anticipation of having little time and few brain cells with which to post. If you'll look to the right column, you'll see a little box labeled "Overheard." Here I've been posting some funny things said around our house lately. And now that Danny is contributing, I figured it would be a fun way to share his view of the world.

So ... if you read my blog through e-mail only, you'll have to visit the actual blog to see these little gems.

Monday, January 12, 2009

How to save $600 (and mommy and daddy's sanity)

A few weekends ago, we installed the baby's car seat in the van. The seating arrangement was not optimal ... Dan has a window seat which he adores, but Fiona would have been situated in the middle of the bench seat all the way in the back. And to make matters worse, only one of the power doors on the Sienna worked ... until today.

Jim has been pretty determined to solve this mystery. Our mechanic told us that the door's motor likely gave out and a replacement would cost $600. Yikes. So Jim took a look at the owner's manual. Apparently, the door can stop working if the gas tank door is open. Jim deduced from this that the door may really "think" that the gas door is open when it isn't. He undid the battery and then hooked it back up. Neither of us expected it to actually work. When it did, we were dancing in the driveway. Dan got pretty excited, too, clapping his hands and jumping (a new skill for him).

Now we can put the second bucket seat back so that I'll have one kid seated at each door. And I'm just thrilled that I won't have to maneuver the two of them into the van with only one power door ... aren't I just so spoiled?

Sewing projects of late

I reached my goal of a dozen newborn fitted diapers and started on the mediums. I have two so far. Also, I've made two wet bags to hold dirty cloth diapers. One is a draw string bag that I can hang up downstairs and one is a zippered bag for the diaper bag. I went to the fabric store Friday to scope out some waterproof fabric. I came up with two yards of felt lined tablecloth material in the remnant bin for a grand total of 82 cents. That forms the interior of the bag, while the outer material is made from some leftover baby-print fabric. None of these items are by any means perfect, but who cares? After all, these items are all for containing baby pee and poop.

Here are some photos:
Sew Baby!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Protecting us to death

A new law, apparently aimed at keeping lead-filled merchandise away from children, mandates that all products being sold for those age 12 and younger -- including clothing -- be tested for lead and phthalates. Those that haven't been tested will be considered hazardous, regardless of their actual lead or phthalate content. Sounds good on the surface, but obviously, the implications of such a law were not well thought out. Or were they?

A multi-billion dollar second-hand clothing and toy industry that helps millions of poor and middle class families, not to mention the environment and the people they employ, could have suffered. Just days after this new law came to the public's attention, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, otherwise known as the nation's smother mother, backtracked. They assured these shop owners that the law would not be applied to them.

Considering the current "let's spend our way out of this crisis" mentality, the real intent of such a law may actually have been to put a damper on second-hand spending in the midst of an economic downturn. It could have been quite the bailout for large retailers and manufacturers who are suffering from diminished sales.

The law is actually a very good example of how government intervention actually creates more problems than it solves. Large manufacturers and retailers say they can afford to test their products; smaller businesses cannot. Who suffers? The small businessperson and their employees and the consumer who cannot afford brand new clothes or toys and can no longer find them at second-hand shops that are afraid to sell the items. And instead of getting a second, useful life, those items would languish in landfill somewhere, leaching whatever lead they did contain into the groundwater.

There really was no need to extend this law to second-hand retailers anyhow. If a parent is concerned enough about lead, they can buy a lead test kit at a hardware store for less than $5 and test the toys themselves.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Life before baby

I seem to be posting a lot of political rants lately. Maybe it's because in a matter of weeks, if not days, I'll be back in the all-night nursing, a dozen diaper changes a day and fuzzy-brained exhaustion stage. Pontification will likely take a long break and in it's place will be cute stories about how well our toddler is adjusting to his baby sister and how much he just loves her and never hits her or screams at mommy for attention. Please tell me you're catching the sarcasm here ...

My due date (January 22) is fast approaching and I thought that I'd just update you guys on what I'm up to when I'm not pontificating or hanging out with Danny. (The photo: Danny likes to pull up my shirt and listen to the baby. I didn't think he could really hear her, but a few times, he has made heartbeat sounds when he's listening.)

I've been sewing diapers for Fiona. We've decided to give cloth diapers a shot from the get go with Fiona. It would have cost us about $100 a month for at least the first three or four months to keep two in diapers. I really hate spending $100 a month on one item, especially if it's disposable. (Ask me sometime how I feel about the cable company to which we pay a hefty sum each month.) And I really like that we take our trash out to the curb twice a month instead of every week. Anyhow, Dan is still in disposable diapers. We switched to Luvs, a cheaper brand that fits him well and costs us only about $30 a month instead of the $40 for Pampers. So far, I've spent very little probably less than $300 (and not all at once so it doesn't feel like it's left a dent in our bank account). I've bought some brand new prefold diapers and some used diaper covers and even gotten some for free diaper covers, but to make things easier on Jim when I go back to work and for outings, I've also sewn some fitted diapers out of old t-shirts, old socks (for the soaker pad), old prefold diapers, an old wool sweater in one case, and fleece fabric from my extensive stash. Here's a link to some photos.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Lock up your children

A local school official is reportedly on a "mission to figure out where more than 130,000 [random county] students should go to school." He considers it a "high calling." I generally don't wade into such debates since they have little bearing on our parenting plans. Besides, having a point-by-point argument with a bureaucrat is much like wrestling with a pig: you both get dirty and the pig loves it.

But this situation seems a good illustration of the educational gestapo's attitude toward our children: "We - not parents, not communities - must decide what's best for these students."

I've always been wary of people who are on passionate missions involving other people's children. They seem likely to be pedophiles, narcissists or just plain busybody do-gooders. Maybe I'm just being paranoid, though a man, a teacher, who lives several doors down from us, is now being investigated for having and sharing child pornography over the Internet and most teachers and bureaucrats proclaim their love and concern for the well-being of children while espousing harmful, nonsensical policies. As I've said before, "for the children" are the three most expensive words in politics and the worst excuse for unquestioned ideas.

The backdrop for this well-meaning bureaucrat's comments is the implementation of a diversity policy that forces the schools to frequently reassign students to achieve the [politically] correct balance of income levels among the families of enrolled students. The reasoning is that a school's test scores are higher when students come from a range of income levels. But I wonder, is it really better for students to be bused far from home to sit next to someone who is "different" from them just so test scores in that school will be higher? Should they be yanked from their communities, their neighborhood schools, their friends for this purpose? If you're really concerned about the children, continuity and stability should take a higher priority than diversity and test scores. Shouldn't it? And since when do students benefit from high collective test scores? (No need to really answer any of these questions, by the way. The answers are meaningless and only serve to justify an increasingly irrelevant system.)

A couple of assumptions about the government's responsibility here are frightening. It's not for the government to decide where or how we educate our children. It's not the government's job to decide how diverse our circle of friends is. It's not the government's job to catalogue what my children know and when they know it.

Those decisions are the high calling of a parent, not a government bureaucrat.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The twilight zone

Ever feel like you're in the twilight zone, where everything you hear defies logic and common sense?

On my way to work Friday, I was listening to NPR, not my usual fare. A teaser for an upcoming segment kept me listening. Are you cutting back on spending even though you've not been directly affected by the economic crisis? the announcer chirped. "Well, then you might be part of the problem."

My blood began to boil.

In the segment some guy began bemoaning how his sister, who hasn't even lost her job, is postponing a bathroom remodel because of uncertainty about the economy. He thinks that she ought to spend her hard-earned cash to help out the guy who could be remodeling her bathroom instead of using the money to build her family's safety net.

Now, let me get this straight: The people who are responsible with their money so that they won't have to burden taxpayer funded "safety net" services are responsible for prolonging an economic crisis primarily caused by people and institutions that took on massive debt with no savings to fall back on.

And these responsible people are now expected to help revive the economy by spreading their money around. Hell, the government wants everyone, regardless of credit worthiness, to go into debt. They're bailing out banks and automakers so they can continue to loan money to those with medium to poor credit. Did we learn nothing?

Soon, and very soon, Atlas will shrug.