Monday, June 30, 2008

Just say NO to Frumpy Mom

I admit it. I had fallen into the trap of being a "frumpy mom". So many reasons for it. Not enough time to shop for myself. Not enough energy. Wanting to save money for the family. Wanting to be perceived by my husband as a team player/frugal wife financially. Being perpetually pregnant/nursing.

There were symptoms. My daughter had commented over the past few years that I needed to update my wardrobe. It isn't that I don't own nice outfits. It is just that most of my nice stuff is for going out. And that rarely happens nowadays. Otherwise, it was mostly jeans and t-shirts from Costco. The last straw came when I was in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend. My aunt, bless her heart, never criticized me. It is just that she spoke at length about my favorite grandmother and about how well she always dressed. And the few times we drove by the Ann Taylor store she waxed poetic about how wonderful the clothes were there and how much she likes them. And she proceeded to show me some of her Ann Taylor clothes.

OK. I'm not stupid. I think she was trying to hint to me without being critical that I should dress better on a daily basis. So I thought about it for a while. I revisited my reasons for not shopping.

Not enough time to shop for myself.
This was probably true at one time. I was pregnant, then had a newborn. But this is no longer the case. I have a lady here working 5 days a week and I can squeeze in a 2-hour trip to a clothing store any time I want.

Not enough energy.
Such a weak excuse. I have the energy to do anything I set my mind to.

Wanting to save money for the family.
Yes and no. I mean, we have enough money. But saving is always good. I love investing, rather than going into debt, as a rule. But on the other hand, if one invests everything and wears "rags", what is the point of it all?

Wanting to be perceived by my husband as a team player/frugal wife financially.
It is good to not be perceived as a wildly out-of-control spender. But after 6 years of frugal marriage, I think my point has been made. Enough already. And also, men LIKE to be with a good-looking woman. And clothes *do* add to that.

Being perpetually pregnant/nursing.
Again, this excuse has outlived its time. I am nursing at present, but I found some cute clothes that work great with nursing. For example, I bought a few outfits with Over-Shirts and stretchy camisoles underneath. I leave the over-shirt unbuttoned on the top half to show the cute camisole, and that leaves easy access for baby.

To make a long story long ;-) I gave in to the irresistible urge to go to Ann Taylor and ended up going on a (for me)huge shopping spree. From now on I'll build my wardrobe probably one outfit at a time. But it was really fun. And I'm going to a party with the kids today and I am proud of the outfit I have chosen to wear.

Edited to add: I *did* get a compliment at the party on my shirt. :-D

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A very Special party

My 5-y-o DS's birthday party last weekend went well. A handful of kids from his preschool classroom came with their parents. Most of the other kids were children of friends of mine from the neighborhood. I realized that there were a lot of children with special needs in attendance, including the birthday boy's older brother, a neighborhood boy with Sjogren's Syndrome, a neighborhood girl with XXX trisomy, a friend's boy with autism, and neighborhood girl with profound deafness. Everyone got along great. I was particularly impressed by my friend's son with autism (age 4). Up to 6 months ago he was unable to attend gatherings without screaming at the top of his lungs for about 75% of the time. This time he was able to move among the other children, use the bouncer, and find his mother without becoming overly anxious. I told her that I was surprised that he progressed so far so fast. She told me that she really appreciated the comment because she is with him so much she doesn't always see the progress. But thinking back to prior parties that yes, he had made a lot of progress. Mostly what helped was his receptive language. She is now able to talk to him in advance about planning to go to a party, so he can anticipate it and isn't blind-sided by the change of routine.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Nursing Strike

The nursing strike has ended already, thankfully. But let me tell you what happened. Baby A caught this 6-day fever illness that has been going around town lately. DS-5 and Miss I caught it as well. Baby A's nursing habits had been getting worse over the course of the week, and Thursday night he would only drink from one side. By the time I woke up the next morning, the other side was hard as a rock. He nursed, one side only, then refused to nurse for the rest of the day. By noon I decided to pump because I was engorged and in a lot of pain. He ate some food by spoon and in the afternoon I got him to take 2-ounces of breastmilk by dropper. Whenever I tried to put him to the breast, he arched away, crying, as he had been doing all day. I did a search on Nursing Strikes and got some good information.

What causes it?

According to the La Leche League International, some of the most common reasons for a nursing strike include:

• Mouth pain from teething, a cold sore, or an infection (such as thrush).

• In an older baby, the baby is afraid Mom will scream. This is common when your teething baby bites and you react by yelling.

• An ear infection, which causes pressure or pain while nursing.

A cold or stuffy nose, which makes breathing difficult while nursing.

• Too many bottles or overuse of a pacifier, resulting in a reduced milk supply.

• A major disruption in your baby's routine, such as you returning to work.

• An unusually long separation from you.

Other causes include food sensitivity or allergy (most likely to occur in the early months), a cream or perfumed product applied on or near your breasts, or a change in the taste of your milk caused by a vitamin, a drug, or certain foods.

What can I do?

A nursing strike can be hard for even the most dedicated breastfeeding mother. If you and your baby are dealing with a nursing strike, now's the time to reconfirm your commitment to breastfeeding. With patience and support, you can survive a strike.

A nursing strike usually lasts between two and five days, or longer. While you continue to encourage your baby to nurse, you'll need to express your milk by hand or pump every few hours (about as often as your baby had been nursing). This will help prevent plugged ducts or engorgement, and provide your baby with the milk he needs. Try offering the expressed milk in a sippy cup, a spoon, an eyedropper, or a feeding syringe. Use a bottle as a last resort, because it could make the problem worse.

Here are some recommended ways to overcome a nursing strike:

Try nursing when your baby is asleep or very sleepy. Many babies who refuse to nurse when they're awake will breastfeed when they're sleepy.

• Visit your baby's doctor to rule out medical causes (such as an ear infection or thrush) and seek feeding advice.

• Vary your nursing position.

• Nurse in motion. Some babies are more likely to nurse when you rock or walk them than when you're sitting or standing still.

• Nurse in an environment that's free from distractions. It's common for a 6- to 9-month-old to go on a nursing strike as he becomes more aware of the world. Babies this age are easily distracted and often prefer to "snack" at the breast instead of settling down for a meal. Try nursing in a dimly lit, quiet room, away from the sound of the radio or television.

• Give your baby lots of skin-to-skin contact (try nursing without a shirt on or in a warm bath). A sling or carrier can help keep your baby close between nursing attempts.

• Try eliminating food (such as caffeine, chocolate, cruciferous vegetables, or spicy food) from your diet that may be irritating to your baby

It's easy to jump to the conclusion that a baby who doesn't want to nurse is weaning himself. But it is unlikely that a baby under a year old who has been successfully breastfeeding is ready to give up nursing.

I was amazed to get 7 ounces at my first pumping, and 3 ounces a couple of hours later. I never get that much when I'm pumping. And this time I used the Lansinoh cream because a couple of weeks ago when I pumped for the first time in many months I got a painful blister/scab where the side of the nipple rubbed on the apparatus.

He was sleeping around 5 o'clock when I snuck in there and nursed him. He was sleepy and did nurse. Although his congestion made it very difficult for him. I woke him up every hour and nursed him for the next few hours. He woke up and nursed at 3am and again at 5am and 6am. He has nursed again since. Whew! I was SO worried about him. He has a fever to start with. And then to watch him move close to dehydration was scary. (he was urinating but it was slowing down)

As of right now he is napping and nursing for short periods.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Crazy Summer Schedule

Summer is here again, along with the crazy schedule. My teenagers are out and about. DD-19 is staying with her dad in anticipation of going to Rome in August. DS-17 is staying over there as well, working part-time as a tutor. The popped in this past weekend for DS's birthday party. The party turned out well, by the way, except for the record-breaking heat. And I forgot to give out the party favors at the end. Anybody want a sack full of candy/toys?

Tuesdays and Thursdays are busiest because of martial arts classes, so here is a typical Tuesday schedule.

6:45am wake up DS for summer school.

7:15am neighbor picks up DS for summer school.

8:30am Miss I takes boys to preschool.

9-12 shower, pay bills, shopping, cleaning projects.

12:30pm boys and DS arrive home from school.

1:00pm leave house for swim class for 3 boys, leaving baby with miss I.

2:30pm arrive back home

2:45pm drive DS to tutoring service

3:30pm Miss I leaves

4:30pm pick up DS from tutoring service with car full of boys

5:00pm Jujitsu class for DS, need to entertain the boys and baby while we wait

6:00pm end of class, go home and cook dinner

8:00pm "storytime" which consists of reading to the boys individually. For the 9-y-o, also consists of playing a math game to hone math facts, practice reading Hebrew and sounding out words, and he also reads to me one chapter of a chapter book, presently the Bailey School Kids.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I love breastfeeding. It is especially great when it forces me to stop what I am doing and take a rest. I have been working on the baby's room and moved the bookcases to a new location because of the carpeting. Moving bookcases is a big deal because I earthquake-proof them by tying them into the wall studs, so it is a lot of work. Here is the newly situated nursery. My favorite addition is the blue rocker/recliner. It used to be in the office, a high-use piece of furniture where the kids liked to watch the DVR. Now with the new leather couches downstairs, the old couches moved upstairs and I got to take the rocker recliners and use them in bedrooms. Yay!

Here is Baby A, in his 17 1/2 pound glory.

And here is my recliner.

When I'm in the recliner, I have this view of the bookcases. The picture on the left says "Tranquility". My thoughts exactly.

Here are the coathooks by the door. I felt so handy. I used those plastic expansion shields and a level when I screwed this into the wall.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I got that compliment again

I was at the store and the sales lady asked about the baby, "So, is he your first?" "No, he's number 6" "You do NOT look like you've had 6 kids!"

I have been getting this comment for a long time. But today I put the question to her. What is a mom of six kids supposed to look like? Portly? No makeup? Scraggly hair? The lady got a twinkle in her eye and went on to help the next customer.

Can anyone help answer this question? What about walking dead with dark circles under the eyes? I mean what????

Something like this perhaps?

Friday, June 20, 2008

My latest project/passion

It all started a few months ago when my daughter said it was sad we had never video taped her as a baby because she would love to see what she looked like. My eyes grew wide and I told her that I had a video in a box in the garage. I had copied all of the baby videos from the tiny tapes onto a large vhs tape before her dad and I split up back in 1991. 3 years of adorable footage of her actual birth day in the hospital through her 3rd birthday and her brother's birth through when he was crawling. 4 hours of tape which I copied onto DVDs and mailed to everyone. Aunt and Uncle in Chicago, my mom and dad and my daughter. At one point, dd said she cracked up because her dad is heard remarking on the tape that he would embarrass her someday by showing these videos to her boyfriend. And there she was sitting and watching it with her boyfriend. :-D

Watching those almost 20-y-o tapes gave me the desire to get my hands on a video that my mom had made of the super-8 movies my grandfather had shot of us in the 1960s. I asked my mom and she sent it to me right away. I made DVDs and mailed them out to everyone concerned. It is SO easy to mail DVDs. I put them into a greeting card.

I also mailed around the 1 hour of footage from the Chicago trip last month.

My next project will be more daunting. My husband's parents have a large pile of super-8 film reels from the 1960s that were never put onto video tape. I asked them to bring them over this weekend to my 5-y-o's birthday party. I can't wait to get my hands on the films and see my husband and his family in their youthful glory. I think they all will get a huge thrill out of it. I know I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the old footage of my parents dancing at their wedding, and myself and my brothers toddling around. And even stranger and more touching was seeing my departed grandparents "alive" again. I could read my grandmother's lips so clearly after my parents' wedding mouthing the word "marvelous". It felt like I was looking into the past using the Camera Obscura from the Night Gallery(1971-Rod Serling). Too bad the old movies don't have a sound track. But I am grateful for what is there.

I intend to send DVDs out to my husband's siblings. I think they will enjoy the footage. I figure, none of us are getting any younger. We should enjoy these things as a family now. As I always say, Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.

Disclaimer: The above picture is not my stuff. I don't remember what the camera and projector looked like, but it was a web photo that seemed familiar.

Monday, June 16, 2008

No child left unabused

You have heard it. Comments like: It was meant to be. Everything happens for a reason. Other unintentionally hurtful comments.

And yet. And yet. I couldn't help thinking, as I sat there hurting inside watching the festivities last week and the elementary school's Blue Ribbon Celebration. There must be something I'm learning from this experience. Some way I'm growing inside as a person. There must be something to be gained as I sit in the perspective of a parent of one of the Struggling Children. It was a knife in my heart when ds told me he knew he was the "slowest in my class in math." Bad enough that it was true. Worse that he knows it. Worse that teachers have hurt him these past years with criticism after criticism. We KNOW his knows this material. Why can't he produce in on a written TEST! 2 out of his 4 years being threatened to be held back a year and watch all his friends and classmates go on without him. Not allowed to play Little League this year because of poor grades. Years of crushing homework loads. Slower processing speeds meant homework took him 2 to 3 times as long as an average child to complete. And schoolwork was left undone, so that came home too, adding to the load. And poor grades meant being enrolled in after-school tutoring, adding more work to the load. Adding on "intervention homework" in math, which is another word for an ungodly amount of more practice problems. All in the name of success. Teaching to the test. Increasing test scores. Doing great on the test so we can all bask in the glory of the Distinguished School. Blue Ribbon School. How many children have been harrassed/abused/threatened in the name of school pride? The banners make me sick.

I looked at the numbers again. My son is gifted in his verbal IQ. Anything over 130 is gifted. He comes by that honestly. My brothers and I were all gifted and placed in those classes. My parents never had to expend much effort toward our schooling. My 2 older kids were also identified as GATE (gifted and talented) students. Always a source of pride. Maybe vanity. It would never have occurred to me in the past to think that there might be some people present at a nice Blue Ribbon Celebration who were not celebrating. That there might be some parents who were putting on a brave face for their child, so the child didn't catch on, hopefully, to their pain. Hoping that their child could forget their struggles and for a moment bask in the glory of attending a high-scoring school.

This certainly has changed me. Special Needs used to be something I prayed never to have to be involved with. Something frightening. Change the subject quickly. Now my beloved son has Special Needs. He needs a little extra help in some areas academically and socially. He is a sweet kid who owns a HUGE piece of my heart. I can't embrace him without embracing all of his needs. I am a mom of a child with Special Needs. I will continue to educate myself to advocate for him with all the energy I have.

He does NOT have a character flaw. That gives me so much relief and I think his teachers will start to treat him better now. He has problems processing with some parts of his brain. That is it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Shocking success with school administration

I was called yesterday by the school to schedule an emergency IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting for today. The call was not a surprise, because I had dropped off one of my infamous letters at the school earlier in the day. I had been ruminating at home about the end of the school year and the upcoming IEE (Independent Educational Evaluation)and it occurred to me that some problems that **** had been dealing with probably had not been documented in his file. And if they were not documented, as far as the evaluator was concerned, they might as well not have happened at all. So I sent a letter to the school.
Dear Mrs. C***,
I want to make sure that certain incidents that occurred in school this year are documented in ****’s file. There were several incidents when **** was bullied and one time that he manifested self-mutilation.

The first incident of bullying was brought to my attention by a concerned mother on April 7, 2008. I was told that a mother who volunteered in ****’s class observed a number of children using a code word, “black,” whenever **** was approaching them. They would whisper it to each other when he approached as a type of warning. I informed Mrs. G**** of this the same day I found out and she replied, “Are they doing that again? I thought that stopped a while back.” So apparently **** had been bullied in the classroom before. Mrs. G**** informed me that there was a bullying assembly the following week and she would also address it with the class. The third incident that I am aware of occurred this week. **** came home very upset because he was told by a number of his classmates, most notably L****, that the end-of-the-year pool party had been canceled. **** suspected they were lying, as other students had told him that the party was still on, and wanted me to find out what the truth was. I called the host and the party is not canceled.

Last week I noticed that all of ****’s eyelashes were missing and I asked him what happened. He told me that he pulled them out during class.

**** will be receiving an IEE soon. Hopefully ****’s socialization and anxiety issues will be addressed.

As I suspected, the school administration was completely unaware of the bullying incidents, although they knew about the eyelash thing, since I had called them last week in a panic about it. So in 1 day we went from having a proposed 504 plan that dealt with accommodations for ADD only, to an IEP plan with 90 minutes of special ed help 5 days per week for writing and math skills, starting in September. He will also be evaluated to see if he could benefit from occupational therapy.
Oh, and I also took **** to the doctor a few days prior to all this and he *was* diagnosed with nonverbal learning disorder. The doctor kindly faxed the report to my home last night and I ran off 7 copies to bring to the meeting. The doctor also recommended physical and occupational therapy for ****. Interestingly, ****'s IQ testing results were 132 in verbal skills, which is almost gifted. 84 in nonverbal. And 78 in processing speed. Makes perfect sense. His teachers and I knock our heads into the wall wondering why it takes him so long to complete his assignments. Well, if your hemispheres weren't communicating properly, you would think more slowly too. So he has accommodations that he can do a smaller portion of schoolwork and homework and still get full credit.

I am very happy with these results. I think the accommodations will take some of the intense pressure off of him that he went through this year. And the special ed help will bring him up to speed, hopefully, in the areas of his deficit.

I brought a huge binder with me with his 8 by 10 picture on the cover. Inside it was chock-full of all of his assessments, reports, homework and handouts from the seminar I had been to. I combed through all that material and web material to glean any possible accommodations or services I thought might be of benefit, and asked for everything. Amazingly, I got almost everything before I even asked for it. The letter I sent yesterday must have scared them. I'm OK with that. I didn't send it out of malice, which I explained. I sent it to make sure that the IEE evaluator was fully informed. Perhaps this is a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. I felt a little guilty, also, because yesterday was the last day of school, and today was the day for the teachers to all clean out their desks. So on this one day, the craziest of all school days, the teacher, school administrators, and a district administrator took time out of their day to sit with me and try to help my son. I was deeply touched and thanked them. I was also glad to have my friend by my side. There is another mother at our school whose kids also take the bus and she and I have spent mornings chatting these past 3 years. We have become friends. She is the one who told me about TASK in the first place (where I took the seminar). And she has a special needs child as well. So I asked her to attend the meeting as my advocate, and she agreed. One thing that she told me a couple of weeks ago was that she heard it was good to bring a food item to these types of meetings. I decided to go to a bakery restaurant near here that makes the BEST oatmeal raisin cookies I have ever had, bar homemade. And I got a little case of those mini Arrowhead water bottles.

I am wandering though the rest of my day in a state of shock. I have heard so many horror stories about school administrations being miserly with providing expensive services. I thought it would take a lot more effort to get anything close to this for my son. My hope is that giving him intervention now will help him to have a brighter future.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Barack Obama Update

My old college friend Nancy has been super busy with the Obama campaign lately, but I heard from her just today and I wanted to pass it on. She has OK'd that I put her email into a blog post.

Dear Friends:

Thank you for all of the enthusiastic outpourings of well wishes that Barack and our campaign team have received in recent days!

Our Democratic Party nominee, my good friend from Harvard Law School, and (most importantly) the next President of the United States, Senator Barack Obama, will be in Los Angeles on June 24th at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for two major fundraising events, a general reception for 800 people and a private sit-down dinner for approximately 150 people.

The general reception is $2,300 per person. The sit-down dinner is for the high rollers among you (or those whom you may know), and costs $28,500 per pair of tickets (no individual tickets will be sold). One excellent opportunity for those of you in the 'high roller' category is to make a contribution of $57,000, which includes four tickets to the sit-down dinner, where Barack will spend time at each table and each pair of guests will take a picture with him. The $57,000 amount is also inclusive of access for two people to the DNC Convention (in Deniver, August 25 - 29, 2008, where Barack will formally accept the party's nomination), with convention floor passes, private reception passes and a guaranteed hotel space. (If you wish to buy a convention package but cannot attend the June 24th event, please e-mail me and I will facilitate that.)

I regret that we have no volunteer opportunities available for the events, nor will there be any discounts available for the stated contribution levels. If you circulate this announcement beyond a few personal friends and colleaugues, please ask them to reply to my campaign e-mail address,, instead of this address. Thank you so much for your understanding, and also for understanding it may not be possible for me to respond to messages regarding campaign matters other than this event for a few weeks (so it might be better to wait until after June 24 for those).

I encourage everyone to respond quickly if you are interested, because in addition to our usual CA Finance Team, we now are privileged to have many of Hillary Clinton's supporters joining this effort, as well as the DNC's national finance team. We may well sell out by week's end.

Please confirm your attendance by completing the attached form and faxing it back to 323-692-1433, in lieu of the fax number on the form. (The second page is only applicable to married spouses contributring the $57,000 amount between them.)

Join Senator Barack Obama

For An Event Benefiting The Obama Victory Fund

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

4:00PM – VIP Dinner

4:30PM – General Reception

Dorothy Chandler Pavillion

The Los Angeles Music Center

Los Angeles, CA

Requested Contribution: $2,300 per person

Limited VIP tickets: $28,500 per couple


Nancy L. McCullough, Member
California Finance Leadership Team
Obama for America

Member, DNC Credentials Committee

National Director, Harvard Lawyers for Obama

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Escalator Dangers

I heard another story about escalator entrapment again today. The child's green crocs were shredded about the toes, and the toes had multiple fractures. The child underwent surgery placing pins into the toes. Crocs, Wellington boots and other soft shoes such as flip flops are certainly a danger on escalators. As are shoelaces, loose clothing, long hair and children in general. There is apparently a danger of soft materials melting through contact with the side of the escalator. She shoe eventually sticks to the side of the escalator, causing the person to be dragged. Kids' fingers, hair and clothing can become trapped with disastrous consequences if the drop something on the escalator and try to pick it up. Entry and exit points are also treacherous.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The end-of-the-year scramble

Working hard to keep up with everything over here. I got the father's day gifts/cards together for the most part. But I still need to ask DH about FIL. And a nice wrapped gift is sitting there for my husband, so he can wonder about it all week, he he he.

Swimming is scheduled for the boys, and ds-9 started Jujitsu already. I called the horseback riding place and they will call me back to confirm his classes. We struggle so hard during the year with homework, I have to cram all his outside activities into the summer.

My daughter is taking a semester abroad from mid August to mid December in Rome. There is a UCLA extension-like program over there. I'm nervous to send her out of the country, but I just have to deal with it, ya know?

I sent out invitations for DS-4's 5th birthday party. He wants a bouncer party just like his brother.

Monday, June 2, 2008

It Worked!

The district lady called today and I got the IEE. She is sending all the paperwork to me now. She tried to talk me into agreeing to another team through the district, implying that it was six of one, half dozen of the other, but I didn't buy it. I told her how my husband is a doctor and does QME exams all the time for work comp patients, and how I thought that the IEE was the equivalent of a QME and how I felt it would help to have an independent evaluator. I also specified a couple of areas where the assessment team minimized negative test results. And even though my son might not need services at this time, having a better, more accurate diagnosis could help him in the long run as he goes higher in school and is expected to work more and more independently. She said she would be sending me a bunch of "legal paperwork", but that I would probably not find it difficult to deal with at all since I was familiar with the QME process.

YAY YAY YAY! Doing the Snoopy happy dance here. One more hurdle surmounted. Life happens one step and a time and this is all I can ask for at the moment.