Friday, April 28, 2017

April 2017 in Review

Spring on the Blog

Spring has most definitely sprung! On the blog, we suggested some ways to celebrate that with this month's suggestions of "Why Don't You...?" and a trip to hear The Wind in the Willows with our Dog-Eared Page. We celebrated Easter with some ideas for what to put in a baby's Easter Basket (p.s. See our very own Easter Bunny on my Instagram Page!). Speaking of babies, I got personal in sharing what it was like to have diabetes while pregnant and about our son's third month alive! If you wanted to know more about me, you could also see what was in my purse. We also got a bit hospitable and discussed what to do when guests arrive, and shared a great film to watch.

Spring Finds

Newest podcast I'm obsessed with? Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History

A daring new idea for a building

Knitters: Help premie babies improve their health with this!

Brilliant tips on spring cleaning (and recycling. Everyday can be Earth Day!)

Dressing like an Adult (The article linked is more layered than the headline implies, but it was the thoughtful comment section that really interested me!)

A favorite activity just got even better 

Vintage Girls (in a Modern World)

The most accurate map you've ever seen

 Growing you #girlgang (aka Making adult friendships)

 Planet Money and Fresh Air both take on the tax season

Friday, April 21, 2017

Rec Five: Things to put in a guest room

1) Wifi Password and contact information- Living in a digital age, the wifi password is often the first thing a guest will ask for. We have a print out that we provide and leave in the room along with other items in a tray. Also, consider including your contact information on that same sheet of paper, on the off-chance your guests don't have it and need you.

2) Towels and toiletries- These are the other items we include on a tray for the guest room. Sometimes you forget things on a trip, so a little collection of travel-sized toiletries can be a life-saver for your guest. Providing them with a towel just seems like common sense- that way no one ends up towel-less and wet in the morning!

3) Fresh Flowers- Guest rooms are typically not the most used rooms in your home, and can seem stale as a result. Flowers are living things that seem bright and welcoming.

4)  Bottle of water and snacks- Save a thirsty or hungry guest from the awkwardness of trying to hunt around your kitchen for a glass or midnight snack!

5) Universal Charger or a charging dock- After the password, a charger is the most often asked for item my guests request.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What's In My Bag

Who doesn't love the voyeuristic pleasure of peeking into another person's life (we all read blogs here, after all?) For a woman, it seems to me, one of the best ways to see her day to day life is to look into her purse. So, I'm starting a new series that allows us to get to know different women through their purses. 
For my own, I'm pretty minimalistic and actually want to buy a different purse that can house a bit more. So comment below with what purses you recommend or what yours holds!

1) Pen and mini-notebook- for those moments you need to jot down a number, or directions or a really good quote, amrite? Plus, this pen has my glasses on the side!

2) Diabetic supplies- the two black pouches are my glucose monitor and my insulin pens. And, yes, the black is the most fashionable these carriers come. I literally never am without these.

3) Lip gloss- Although, I don't actually wear it very often? I need to become a real grown-up and learn to wear make-up better.

4) My wallet- I love the bright color and its real Roman leather from a trip there. The nostalgia factor is strong, but, like my purse, this probably needs to retire

5) The purse- I love clutches because they fit the diabetic supplies but don't feel huge.Plus, this one is very tongue-in-cheek with a Hello/Goodbye embossed on it. However, managing a baby and having this dangling from y wrist is less than ideal. Share your purse shopping ideas with me, please!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Ellis at 3 months

Ellis is 3 months old as of this week! He weighs 12 pounds and 3 oz.

He's still a serious, grump-prone little guy, but- dare I say it? We don't want to jinx anything!- he has outgrown his colic. Yes, there is still fussing, but it is fussing, not constant piercing wails of pain. Plus, it seemed like a light switched a week or so ago and he's so much more observant and alert! He definitely has his father's stubbornness, but he's also been very cuddly and wanting to be held a lot. He has the best smile when he chooses to show it. 

That "light switch" moment that lead to more observation and awareness is a milestone, according to the Wonder Weeks, book (any other mamas reading about Wonder Weeks?). He's also discovered how enjoyable sucking on his hands can be. He's always noticed his hands, even very early, but couldn't quite figure out their use before. Clearly, their use is being tasty.  He's also started babbling and making sounds a lot more, both vowels and some constant sounds. He's got a lot to say! 

Now that he's figured out he can suck on his hands, his fists are up by his mouth 24/7. He gets mad that he can't fit both in his mouth at the same time though! He still loves music, and watching the world with his little head popped over someone's shoulder too.  As you can see below, he merely tolerates walks in his stroller right now, but I think he'll like them more as it gets warm enough that he no longer needs a hat (hats are not his favorite!) 

This was the big challenge of the past few weeks- getting Ellis to take a bottle in preparation for going to childcare. We tried a lot of different ways to slowly ease into the situation, but nothing worked. Finally, Amos sent me away overnight, so it would be the bottle or nothing. I'm not sure quitting breastfeeding cold turkey is the best solution, but it was the only one that was working for us. 

My own feelings have been mixed; the decision to go a bottle or the breast was a tough one for us before we had our baby and every argument on either side has proven to be true. I did love the bonding breastfeeding provided Ellis and I, as well as the health benefits and even the convenience of it. However, I am really happy we made the switch to the bottle too. It has changed my and Ellis' relationship a bit, mostly because his Daddy was the primary food-giver for a few days; I definitely felt a bit second fiddle there! We now can both successfully feed him, (and so can our childcare providers) and that second fiddle feeling has gone away. It has been really special to see how it let Amos experience that closeness too. Most importantly though, we switched to a formula on the recommendation of our doctor and it seems to have really helped Ellis' upset stomach issues that were at the root of his colic. Less pain and a more cheerful baby, for the win! I know that bottle versus breastfeeding and mother's milk versus formula brings out a lot of really strong opinions, but, for us, this seems to be what works best for our family and our baby's health. 

We had a really good rhythm, where he went down at fairly predictable times and ate a predictable times throughout the night.... and then, bottle feeding happened. Parenting advice books seem to all say that once you get things down, something will come along to change up the schedule, and that certainly seems true. So, we are tired and all over the place on sleep, but that's okay. In fact it will likely continue because.... 

I am back at work today! That's right- maternity leave has come to an end. I've mixed feelings about it.  I love the creativity and stimulation; I love seeing people at work. However, I love my boy. But, as the daughter of a working mom, I know that really, childcare is just a chance for more people to love Ellis. The woman who babysat me since I was 3 weeks old came to meet Ellis while we were still in the hospital. Those are some pretty great bonds. We'll see if it is the right fit for us, and there will be some adjusting on all sides, but my own experiences with childcare were pretty positive, so I'm hopeful it will work. 

Doesn't stop me from missing him like crazy though. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Film Flick: A Night at the Opera

I'd never had A Night at the Opera- or any other night with the Marx Brothers- before now. Considered one of the most enduring and unique set of voices to movie comedy (or lack of voice in Harpo's case), the Marx Brothers are something unlike anything I'd ever seen before.  And despite the fact that A Night at the Opera was not the Marx Brothers first film, it was still  unlike anything movie-going audiences of time had seen before either.

A Night at the Opera was the brothers' first movie at a new studio, MGM, and it was also the first picture to feature only three of the brothers, rather than four. Due to these changes, A Night at the Opera would develop what would become the basis of all their following movies. When they had filmed previously at Paramount Studios, the plots to their movies were barely existent, and all who crossed paths with the brothers were sure to fall victim to their aggressive brand of comedy. However, MGM producer, Irving Thalberg insisted on a more coherent plot. He also sought to make the brothers more sympathetic to audiences, so, while the brothers' trademark chaos was still very much the center of the picture, that chaos was only unleashed on deserving bad guys. Instead, Groucho, Chico, and Harpo's characters would seek to aid the heroes of the story. Thalberg felt this way, they could get "twice the box office with half the laughs."

Still, Thalberg was taking no chances on what was comedic in A Night at the Opera. The film
underwent multiple rewrites with multiple scriptwriters. The first two were so bad all that remained of their work in the final film was two characters' names! Another scriptwriter was better, but got so fed up with the producer and brothers' constant hounding that, when they went to meet about the final script, they found the writer had left the building, leaving behind only a torn up script. According to Groucho's memoirs through, they were pleased with the work once they'd be able to piece it back together! 

Beyond just establishing the script, Thalberg also insisted that the Marx Brothers take the comic routines that would be used in the film to the vaudeville circuit to be tested before live audiences. Unless something got uproarious laughter, it was reworked or cut from the film. After the filming was completed, there was again extensive audience testing, and recutting of the film in order to make sure the pacing was perfect.

It is satire on a grand scale. The movie lampoons high society and Opera culture, while at the same time celebrating its beautiful music with multiple songs throughout. Obstinately, A Night at the Opera is about two young opera singers who are in love, and about a wealthy dowager bankrolling an New York opera production. While Groucho's character, Otis B. Driftwood, attempts to romance the dowager, played in the most elegant manner possible by Margret Dunmont, the audience is introduced to Harpo and Chico's characters when they stumble upon the young couple in trouble!  One is going to New York to sing, so, with help from the Marx Brothers, the intrepid hero sneaks on board the steam ship carrying everyone to America. Zany misadventures happen and their presence is revealed. Even more hijinks result as they attempt to evade justice and deportation. People are fired from the opera, and desperate measures are taken to ensure a happy ending. Nearly all following films would be modeled after this same formula:a friendship is established between the romantic couple and Chico, Harpo's character is always displayed as sympathetic,  the comedy happens amidst elaborate surroundings, and there is a fall from grace followed by grand scale chaos where everything is righted. The three brother's characters were also further refined and defined. Groucho- known for stinging one-liners- makes more sense. Chico's character gained a bit more intelligence to be able to have verbal tennis with his brother. Harpo's persona here- and in subsequent movies- take on more child-like behaviors (except when pursuing the ladies, that is!) 

Though some Marx Brother fans were not well pleased with the changes that came with MGM producing, the film never comes off as overwrought. Instead, it was a success, and one of Groucho's two favorite films they ever made (the other was A Day at the Races, also an MGM production). And there is good reason for it being a favorite with such moments as the famous stateroom scene (interestingly, this scene was nearly cut, and the version we see on the screen was a last minute ad-lib). In fact, A Night at the Opera is so popular that it placed at number 87 in the American Film Institute's revised list of Top 100 American Films. With that for a recommendation, don't you want to experience A Night at the Opera too?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Motherhood Musings: Diabetes and Pregnancy

I've written this post over several times. Each time it's scrapped because- well, it is a personal journey and it gets too easy to get bogged down in medical explanations and background knowledge. The thing of it is, is I have diabetes (You can read more here and here, if interested). Type 1, to be more exact, sometimes called Juvenile Diabetes though I contracted the disease as an adult. And the thing about diabetes is it makes everything more complicated. Including- and this should surprise no one- pregnancy. Pregnancy is already pretty complicated, despite the way movies on TV portray it, but, yeah, the disease instantly put me and our pregnancy into the "High Risk" category of pregnancies and that's what I wanted to talk about today.

Because you can't escape medical jargon completely when talking about diseases, here's what you need to know about Type 1 Diabetes. Your body makes this thing called insulin; it breaks down your food into a form of sugar or energy called glucose. This happens pretty instantaneously and you don't ever have to think about it. Anyone who is otherwise healthy who says they have low or high blood sugar levels (called hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia respectively) probably  (thankfully) has only the mildest forms of that, and their body can correct it typically pretty quickly. With Type 1 Diabetes, the body has stopped making insulin. So, we can eat food, but our body can't process it. We can literally starve to death, even while eating. Also- our blood sugar levels will soar really high. There is no cure for this disease, but it can be managed through medicinal insulin. It isn't as fast or as effective as the insulin made by the body, and it requires a lot of thought to manage, but it can help us. There is a danger that one can take too much insulin and get low blood sugar (low enough and it too can cause death). All of this is hard on the body, so there are a plethora of side effects.

Now, add pregnancy to the mix. That's when things get real interesting.

Needless to say, all this gets complicated. What it comes down to is management. I found out I was pregnant really early on (5 weeks, actually), and we were able to get in touch with doctors right away to get things locked down. Our regular doctor put us in touch with a specialist- A Maternal and Fetal Medicine doctor- who was in the nearest city to us. I also saw a diabetes educator who specialized in managing diabetes in pregnancies.

What they told us were the type of things that no soon-to-be-parents want to hear. The baby was at a higher risk for things like heart complications and spinal abnormalities. The baby's weight would also be a potential risk factor (because they get food from the mama, and it could have too much or not enough glucose in it. Meaning, the baby could grow too big too fast or alternatively be too small). After birth, the baby would also be at risk for several things immediately, the biggest of which was being at risk for hypoglycemia, because their bodies were producing enough insulin to deal with a high amount of glucose, but once the umbilical cord was cut, their bodies wouldn't be getting that much glucose and it could cause low blood sugar! Additionally, there were a lot of risks to me, mostly a heightened chance of getting preeclampsia, but we also found out my regular doctor had been mismanaging my diabetes, so my blood sugar levels were not where they ideally needed to be as a pregnant lady! Yikes!  Luckily, we had a great team of people. I saw them maybe twice a month throughout the first trimester and some of the second trimester. (Actually, frequent doctor visits will be a theme of this journey).

Being pregnant additionally had the strange effect of changing my sensitivity to insulin. Throughout the first trimester, even the smallest walk could sent my blood sugars plummeting, and I only needed a slight bit of medicine to process what I ate. As things continued, I became less and less sensitive and by the third trimester, was taking a unit of insulin for every 8 gms of carbs (this is roughly 4x the normal amount I would need to take!) Between the sensitivity and getting on different types of insulin though, my health was in the best place it had been since contracting the disease!

For us, the focus was really on the baby's health. We waited and didn't get the regular ultrasound at 20 weeks, because at 22 weeks, they needed an in-depth health screening that included both an ultrasound and a heart echo. This meant an hour and a half process first thing in the morning. We'd come up to Billings the night before, but I spent much of the night awake in the hotel, trying not to disturb my husband; I was that nervous about it. Once it became clear there weren't problems in the ultrasound, I had trouble keeping my eyes open, I was that tired!

Turns out, this would be one of many, many ultrasounds. Doctor visits for ultrasounds and stress tests increased until, for the last two months, I was in the doctor's office twice a week! I could have practically hooked myself up to the machine!

We had always planned on inducing at 38 weeks, on the assumption that the baby would be bigger (and that I was small). However, with the help of all these professionals, my pregnancy had seemed very much like a healthy person's, so our OBGYN was in favor of waiting until labor happened naturally. I'll be honest- I was very uncertain about this plan as our son had a HUGE head according to the ultrasounds (he still does) . As it turned out, what happened was what neither I nor the doctor expected. I did get some signs of preeclampsia and that necessitated the induction at 39 weeks.

I covered some of what happened during labor in Ellis Jerome's Birth Story, so won't retread that. However, I did want to touch on diabetes postpartum. First, it was really strange to go from so much medical support to almost none. I saw the OBGYN a few more times and that's it. I had to figure out how to manage insulin for a body that was flooding with hormones and whose insulin sensitivity was fluctuating wildly. Obviously, I know my body better than anyone, but it was a big change! Second was how the disease affected my body physically in postpartum. You see, I am one of those people who the weight just fell off of. And, yeah, I totally get how that could seem annoying to others who have had kids. Yet, this too was a result from the disease. Remember that part about starving up at the top? Well, what happens is, if your body can't process the food you are eating to make energy, it converts the fat. Since how much insulin I needed was changing so much, sometimes I missed the mark and my body couldn't get energy from what I ate, so it took it from the body fat. Silver linings, I guess, but trust me (since yes, someone once said they were jealous of this), I'd rather be healthy.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Dog Eared Page: Wind in the Willows

This was a wonderful thing, indeed, that the Badger should pay a formal call on them, or indeed on anybody. He generally had to be caught, if you wanted him badly, as he slipped quietly along a hedgerow of an early morning or a late evening, or else hunted up in his own house in the middle of the Wood, which was a serious undertaking.

The Badger strode heavily into the room, and stood looking at the two animals with an expression full of seriousness. The Rat let his egg-spoon fall on the table-cloth, and sat open-mouthed.
`The hour has come!' said the Badger at last with great solemnity.

`What hour?' asked the Rat uneasily, glancing at the clock on the mantelpiece.

`WHOSE hour, you should rather say,' replied the Badger. `Why, Toad's hour! The hour of Toad! I said I would take him in hand as soon as the winter was well over, and I'm going to take him in hand to-day!'

`Toad's hour, of course!' cried the Mole delightedly. `Hooray! I remember now! WE'LL teach him to be a sensible Toad!"
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Monday, April 3, 2017

Motherhood Musings: Easter Basket for a Baby

1. Books | 2. Clothes | 3.  Bunnies  | 4. Blocks

It's our baby's first Easter! Truthfully, Ellis wouldn't know or care whether he got a basket from the Easter Bunny or not, but it feels fun for our growing family to build these traditions just the same. Since very young babies (Ellis will be close to 3 months by Easter), are limited in what they can play with, I chose to pick less items, even if they cost a bit more. Books, clothes and useful toys were the order of the day! 

1. Books - Pat the Bunny is a delightful classic and perfect for even very young babies. The book is touch-and-feel, so it helps babies learn by activating their senses.  The simple illustrations make it easier for newborn eyes to be able to focus on the pictures. Guess How Much I Love You is another classic book. It has more sophisticated illustrations, but it has a nicely predicative set of words that will engage young children. 

2. Clothes- An adorable bunny ear hat and diaper cover may not be the most practical of items, but babies are this small for such a short amount of time! Use these as costumes for a photo you'll love forever. If you want more practical options, why not get an Outfit for Easter Sunday at Church, like this smart faux-vest outfit? A third choice is  a onesie, something you would probably get the most use out of. This one with Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit gives a fun nod to the holiday whilst still being something you can wear in the months ahead (till that next growth spurt, anyway!) 

3.  Bunnies - A stuffed bunny in an Easter Basket seems like a must, doesn't it? Yet, babies in their first year don't actually play much with toys, so are they worth getting? Though these two options are slightly pricier than a stuffy you might find in the Target dollar section, I'd contend they are worth it! The Wobble Bunny is great for kids in their third month on, as they beginning to develop the motor skills to grasp things and to reach for things. Even younger babies might enjoy the sensation of pushing the Wobble Bunny as they experiment with moving arms and legs.  This Blanket Bunny is another useful toy with fabrics of different texture and knots and "tags." These all have different sensations as baby touches. Plus it is easy to clear and you could even use it as a burp cloth if you needed (hey- no judgement. Sometimes things happen!)

4. Blocks- Peter Rabbit wooden blocks. Okay, my 3 mo. old won't be playing with these on this own anytime soon, but they make great decor in the meantime. The illustrations from classic literature also reinforces the importance of literacy. Being in a "literature rich" environment is key to kid's oral and written language development. You could probably make these with some decoupage, but if you don't have the time or inclination, why not purchase them at Etsy? 

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