Saturday, October 31, 2009

Procrastination, Halloween style

So Jason and I decided to get all festive and dress up for Halloween this year, since we had a couple of parties this weekend. After my bout with costume perfectionism, we finally came up with a couple of decent, if not original, costume ideas. Since Cyrus already had a monkey costume, courtesy of one of his grandmothers, we decided that Jason would be a zoo keeper and I would be the Wicked Witch of the East (or is it West, I can never remember). You know, the one from the Wizard of Oz. Yes, I realize that it's a bit cheesy to coordinate our costumes with our child's but this way he could serve as an accessory to both of us - and really, isn't that what children are for, to accessorize their parents? Anyway, we figured when Jason held him he'd just be a regular monkey, and when I held him he could be a flying monkey. (Unfortunately, people at both of our parties mistook his costume for a bear...)

After deciding on our costumes, we then needed to procure the appropriate attire for a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, we didn't choose our costume ideas until Wednesday. Finally, on Friday, Jason stopped by a Value Village on the way home from work and found himself a safari shirt and a hat that would kind of pass as a safari hat. He found me a witch's hat, though it was a child's hat and looked a bit stupid. We still wanted some green face paint and maybe a witch's cloak for me, and maybe a better safari hat for Jason, so when he got home we head out to find said items. We tried a couple of Fred Meyers and even a dollar store, and then finally happened upon a Party City. We walked in, all hopeful in our naivete, only to find that they were practically wiped out! The shelves were literally bear, the hat selection was sparse, and when I tried to find a witch's costume, all they had were "sexy witches" - you know, really short skirts, tight shirts, fishnet stalkings - not really an Amber-style costume. Plus, they wanted $35 for it! The accessory section was all cleaned out too - a few child-sized hats, no adult hats, and no green face paint.

I looked at Jason and said "Well, I guess this is what we get for waiting until the day before Halloween!" It was kind of depressing, really. I mean, granted, Halloween stuff has been out since the beginning of September, but I guess I just didn't think that stores would be that wiped out.

In the end, we bought a little witch's broom, and I pieced together a few random items of black clothing and plopped my child's witch's hat on my head. Not the type of costume a perfectionist prefers, but I suppose it got the job done. And, as Jason pointed out, it's a good thing we started trying to dress up when Cy is still too young to care, because we can consider this year a trial run. Next year, maybe we'll put some real thought and effort it, and maybe we'll start planning more than two days in advance...maybe.

Cyrus as a zoo monkey with the zoo keeper...

Cyrus as a Flying Monkey with the Wicked Witch...

Cyrus worn out after too much Halloween...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flashback Friday: The Doggy Garbage Disposal

Hmm, I guess this is "post about my animals" week here at the Wells Family, because this Flashback Friday is about the exploits of my dog Jager. Jager is a mix of several breads, but her primary breads are Lab and Rhodesian Ridgeback. She is high energy, extremely friendly (some might even call her aggressively friendly) and more or less a doggy version of a vacuum. This dog eats anything and everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING. I've often stared in wonder at dogs who pick at their food, leaving some for later. This is not my dog. She wolfs her food down the moment it is set in front of her, and no amount seems to be enough. She also has a non-discriminating palate - she has consumed such things as chapstick, Clorox wipes, and even a pregnancy test (unused). But this post is about one particularly absurd instance of consumption.

It occurred in the summer of 2006 while Jason and I were working at camp. Jager was living there with us, and my general routine was to walk her from our tent up to my office where I fed her and left her for the morning. On one particularly hectic morning, I took her up to the office and didn't have a chance to feed her right away. What I didn't realize at the time was that our bag lunch from the day before was still in the office. About twice a week we got bag lunches (or as we called them, crate lunches since they were served in milk crates). These usually consisted of some carrot sticks, a few apples, and an entire bread sleeve full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. These were not ordinary bread sleeves - no, they were the sleeves that housed institutional-sized loaves of bread, usually around 35 slices. So a full sleeve of PB&J sandwiches included about 20. Now, this was also the end of the summer and we could hardly bear the sight of a PB&J, much less eat one. (Imagine if you had been served PB&J on cheap, dry, wheat bread twice a week all summer long.) So that sleeve from the previous day's lunch was pretty much untouched, and contained the full 20 sandwiches.

You can probably see where this is going. When I returned to the office, I fed Jager and was dumbfounded when she barely even picked at her food. Then I saw the crate and what was left of the sandwiches. All but two were gone - eaten in their entirety. Jager was moping around and licking her lips, so I shook my head at her and gave her some water. She finished that and wanted more, so I gave it to her. In my naivete, I probably gave her five or six bowls of water, not realizing that I was only compounding the situation. Jason had been off running some errands, and by the time he returned, Jager's poor belly was twice it's normal size. He, knowing much more about the dangers that can befall the overeating dog, immediately fear bloat (a condition in which a dog's stomach turns over on itself) and rushed her to the vet's.

By now, we're both worried that she has this awful condition that costs $1,000s to reverse and isn't even guaranteed. We knew we didn't have the money for the procedure, so I think we were both preparing ourselves that we may be saying goodbye to our beloved dog.

As it turned out, she did not have bloat, which an x-ray confirmed. The vet did, however, need to clear her stomach, so they induced vomiting. Upon her arrival at the vet's she weighed in at 93 lbs. After she vomited, she weighed 74 lbs - that's right, she consumed 19 lbs of PB&J and water. Fortunately, the x-ray and vomit-inducing medicine only cost about $200 - a far more affordable price than we had anticipated.

For a while, this was Jager's claim to fame - she was the dog who ate 18 PB&J sandwiches. But don't worry, because a few years later, she topped it. That's a story for another day, however.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Six Reasons I love Fall

Fall is pretty much my favorite time of year. With the exception of Los Angeles, I've loved Fall in every city I've lived in (there just isn't much difference between seasons in LA, I'm afraid - it's just hot and hotter). In New York, Fall was especially amazing, and I thought I would really miss that when we left. But I have to say, Fall in Portland is pretty spectacular too. Here are some things I love about Fall:

1. The perfect in between. I hate being hot, and I'm not crazy about being super cold either. Fall weather is kind of that perfect in between temperature, where I have to wear a sweater or long sleeves to go outside, but I also don't feel like whimpering every time I step out my door. Plus, I love that some days are bright and sunny and others are dreary and rainy, some days are good for being outside and some are good for cozying up inside.

2. Sweaters and Jeans. Enough said.

3. The food. Pumpkin pie, hot chocolate and warm apple cider, squash, casseroles, soups, chili - pretty much all of my favorite foods are popular or available during the fall, and that makes me smile.

4. Fall colors. I know it's cliche to love the colors of the leaves as they change, but I do. I think it's interesting that the vibrancy of fall is followed by a kind of bleakness with winter - almost like mother nature is trying to give us one last push of optimism before taking it all away for a season.

5. Thanksgiving. Yep, it's my favorite holiday. Nothing but food and family, because really, what more do you need? Fall signals that Thanksgiving is on it's way, and I get pretty excited about that. Of course, once Thanksgiving comes and goes, then it starts to feel like winter, and I mourn the passing of Fall just a little.

6. The smell. I don't know what it is, but I love the way the air smells in the fall. It even smelled good in New York, which is a hard thing for air to do in NY.

Ahh, Fall...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Costume Conundrum

As a kid, I loved Halloween. I looked forward to trick or treating and I planned my costume months in advance. Fortunately, my mom is an extremely creative woman and a talented seamstress, and she always willingly (or at least, that's how I remember it) spent hours creating whatever costume I came up with - a court jester, a senorita, a spider, etc. But I think some time in high school I stopped dressing up and I stopped looking forward to Halloween. It's become a kind of non-holiday for me. I'm honestly kind of envious of those people who still love dressing up and who still put tons of effort into coming up with and executing creative costume ideas, but I'm just not one of those people. And I've pretty much been fine with it, until now. Because now I have a child.

I hadn't really thought about it until recently, but I've decided that I want to be one of those parents who participates enthusiastically in things, and doesn't just watch from the sidelines. And this includes the spectacle of dressing up for Halloween.

I realize that my child is very young, too young in fact to understand or care about Halloween, and certainly too young to know whether or not his mom is enthusiastically participating in the festivities. But this year seems like a good year to start participating because, one, there will be pictures, and two, Jason and I are attending a few Halloween shindigs where costumes are strongly encouraged. So what the heck.

However, there is a very good reason why I haven't participated in Halloween costuming for the last several years. Somewhere along the way, I've lost my sense of creativity when it comes to those kinds of things. I just can't seem to come up with an interesting, creative costume for myself that can be made (as I believe the best costumes are) and that I haven't already seen a million times. So now I'm caught in the perfectionist's web: Do I let my desire to participate in Halloween outweigh my desire to have a unique, creative costume, or do I simply throw my hands up that I can't come up with the latter, and therefore forgo it all together?

Now, you might ask if this whole thing applies to Cyrus's costume too, since after all, he is too young to choose his own costume, which means I must do it for him. Fortunately, I've been let off the hook this year, as one of his many grandmothers found and purchased an extremely cute monkey costume for him. So he is set. But, this creates another whole dilemma - that of whether or not to try to coordinate my costume with his. And, on top of all of it, as you may all realize, Halloween is just a few short days away, which means that whatever I decide had better happen quickly or else I'll have no time to pull it off.

What's your opinion? Do you dress up for Halloween? Do you try to coordinate your costume with your child's? Do you go store-bought or handmade, and how much time and effort do you put in?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Pursuit of a Jogging Stroller

When Jason and I were preparing for Cyrus's arrival, I did copious amounts of research on all items baby-related. I spent hours pouring over my Baby Bargains book (absolutely indespensible if you are preparing for a baby, in my humble opinion) and spent days and days reading reviews on the Babies R Us website before completing my registry. One of the items that I found most overwhelming was the stroller. There were just so many choices, and such a huge range of prices. Jason and I spent one evening at Babies R US trying out strollers, and by the end, I was exhausted and confused. I decided to take the advice of the Baby Bargains book and just buy a snap-on frame for our carseat for a mere $60. It seemed to be a cheap, short-term solution that would get me through the first several months until I figured out what I wanted and needed.

I have to say, I'm glad I took this route. As it turns out, what I want is a jogging stroller, and I definitley didn't anticipate that all those months ago. While I used to be an avid runner (that's a story for another time), I haven't run consistently for the past two or three years. And, while I figured that I would probably take up running again at some point, I didn't figure that that time would come shortly after giving birth. However, seeing as how the baby weight has been taking it's sweet time to depart from my body, and the time and money for a gym membership isn't really in the cards for me at the moment, I have started going on daily walks with Cyrus through our neighborhood. It is a rather old neighborhood with very few sidewalks, lots of gravel roads, many, many hills and a little park with a 1/4 mile walking path. The hills have provided some good cardio workouts, but, I guess "once a runner always a runner", because that 1/4 mile walking path was just begging for me to start running it. And I have been. For the past five weeks or so I have gone on a 40 minute speed-walk 4-5 days a week, and have built up to running about a 1/2 mile within that walk.

I've realized pretty quickly that my little snap-on frame stroller just isn't cutting it. It's probably not the safest thing to be jogging with, or even speed-walking over gravelly roads with, and I'm pretty sure I'm giving it undue wear and tear in the process. Well, as luck would have it, right about the time that I started walking daily, a friend invited me to a Baby Boot Camp class (stroller fitness) and let me borrow her jogging stroller. It was one of these:

That's a Bob Revolution. It's pretty much top of the line. I fell in love. Then I saw the price...$399! Yikes. Remember how I can't really afford a gym membership? Well, then I really can't afford nearly $400 for a stroller! So I started shopping around, both used and new, and found that I could get a decent used jogging stroller for around $45, and a decent new one for about $150 or so. (I could even buy a used Bob Sport Utility, which sells for $300 new, for around $100.) However, most of these strollers had fixed front wheels - good for jogging, bad for everything else.

In the meantime, I realized a couple of things. First of all, I'm kind of a cheapskate. I knew at some point that I was going to have to buy a second stroller, and I knew that it would probably cost around $150-$200. But that was just for one stroller. I never planned to buy more than one additional stroller (after all, I have one already). So to buy one stroller that can only be used for jogging and then buy another stroller for everything else seems both unaffordable and impractical, especially since I'm not planning to train for any major running event anytime soon. Second of all, we plan to have more children, and probably at least one of those will arrive while Cy is still using a stroller, which means that at some point, I'll need a double stroller. And, if I keep jogging, I'll need a double jogging stroller too. So even if I could afford a Bob stroller, I just can't bear the thought of spending that much money when I'm going to have to buy another one in a few years.

So, with all that in mind, I had two choices: I could either buy a jogging stroller that can function in every day life as well, or I can forgo the jogging stroller and just buy an all-purpose stroller. I opted for choice #1. I realized that I would need a jogging stroller that has front wheel that can both swivel for maneuverability, and lock in place for more stable jogging. (By the way, that would have been the Bob Revolution, but again - money!) After doing some research, I found this stroller:

This is an Instep Safari, and it costs about $170 new. While not the top of the line, it's rated pretty well overall, and is far more affordable. However, still looking for a deal, I figured I'd try to find it used before I shelled out all that hard-earned cash. In fact, I have been scanning craigslist every day for the past month looking for this stroller. It is nowhere to be found. Perhaps it is too new, or perhaps it is just that good, but no one is selling. So then I went on, and found it for $135. Sweet! However, since I had never seen this stroller in person, or used it, and since I knew I'd be comparing it to my Bob experience, I figured I should give it a test run in person. So I went to Instep's website and found several places listed that supposedly sell this model. Easy enough, right? Wrong. No store seems to stock this stroller in the actual store - you can only buy it online! The one exception was Fred Meyer, but there it was all boxed up and not available to test run. I've probably been to half a dozen stores, and called at least a dozen more, and it just doesn't seem to exist in real life.

So here I sit. I desperately want my new jogging stroller, preferably before I destroy my current stroller. But I am nervous about purchasing it online in case I don't like it and it is a hassle to return. So in the meantime, I will keep searching for this stroller and keep praying that my stroller lasts just a little longer.

Monday, October 26, 2009

One of Those Days

The day started out all right. Cy slept till 8:00am, went down fairly easily for a nap at 10:00am, and then slept for 2 full hours, which doesn't always happen. Upon waking up he was all cuddly for a few minutes, until he pooped a huge poop, the magnitude of which I did not realize until I went to change his diaper. As I changed it, I realized that it had exploded up his back and all over his onesie. Of course, I realized this after poop got all over the changing pad cover to the point that it began spreading from the changing pad cover all over his arms and legs. Then, as I attempted to remove said onesie from his body, I further spread poop all over his back and head. Admitting defeat, I wrapped him in a blanket and gave him a quick bath, then removed the changing pad cover, all one-handed.

Then it was time for nap #2, which I falsely assumed would go as well as nap #1. Instead, he woke up screaming after 45 minutes and did not stop screaming, even while I held and rocked him until I fed him (though I'm sure he wasn't hungry). I tried putting him down for another nap, at which point he continued to scream until I picked him up and held him.

Of course, today was a day when I had lots of tasks planned - unpacking from our trip, giving the house a good cleaning that it desperately needed, installing Peachtree Accounting software so that I can do accounting for my dad's business, etc. I manged to get that last one done, but none of the others. As I sat at my desk holding Cy so that he wouldn't scream, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for getting at least one thing accomplished. Then I backed up my chair and heard a crunch. I turned around and saw this:

I wonder if killing the CD counteracts the fact that I accomplished something on my list...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Tribute to the Low Man (or Woman?) on the Totem Pole

In our house, there exists a kind of hierarchy of priorities when it comes to those who can't take care of themselves. At the top, of course, is Cyrus. I don't even really think I need to go into detail as to why - he is, after all, our child. Next comes our dog, Jager. Before Cy was born, she took top priority. (Some time, I'll tell you just how much of a priority she was as illustrated by her $1,000 doggy hospital visit - that's another story though). And then, at the very bottom, as a sort of afterthought, is our cat. Even her name suggests little attention or care - we simply call her "Cat". Hers is a story of accidental ownership.

Jager was adopted by Jason the day I left for New York, and she moved with him across the country (and back again, come to think of it). Cyrus was painstakingly planned and tried for. The cat, on the other hand, was discovered by me one December night when I was walking Jager through our Bronx neighborhood. It was snowing and she was huddling in a box. I didn't even rescue her the first time I saw her. I went back home with Jager, and then told Jason about her over dinner after he got home. I suggested we go back out to see if she was all right. We both knew, of course, that if the cat was still there we would be bringing her inside - neither of us is so heartless as to leave a cat outside in the snow. Well, she was there all right and so we brought her in. She was completely emaciated, and most definitely wouldn't have survived the night. She was so weak she couldn't walk. We fed her and made a little bed for her in a box, and then the next morning Jason set to work finding her a shelter. He called nearly every shelter in the NY-metropolitan area. Each shelter's response was the same - "Oh, you say she's inside your house? Well, congratulations on your new pet." The shelters were so overrun that they wouldn't accept an animal that had been taken in. We tried for two weeks to find her a home, and then finally accepted the fact that we had a new cat. That's how she got her name. We didn't want to name her officially when we thought we were getting rid of her so we just kept referring to her as "the cat". By the time we finally decided to keep her, the name had stuck and there it was - "Cat".

Now, some cats are quite fun and endearing...but this one is a little odd. She isn't skittish, by any means, but she can be territorial of spaces and extremely fickle - one minute she loves you and is purring loudly, and the next minute she's ripping your hand to shreds. I still kind of like her, but I'm a cat person - Jason merely tolerates her, on some days more than others. She claws the furniture and can be extremely needy in the most annoying way. She wasn't even supposed to make the cross country trip, but we couldn't find her a home with someone we knew and I just couldn't turn her out on the streets. So she still belongs to us, but kind of by default.

However, despite all of this, she has some cute moments. I realized today that I don't think I've mentioned her on this blog except for as part of our retched subletter experience. Obviously Cyrus is going to get more press time than either of our animals, but Jager at least has a label. So, I thought it might be time to give the cat a little attention, even if only via my blog. One of her few endearing qualities is that she creates some fantastic photo-ops just by chance. Here are some of our more amusing pictures of the cat:

Cat doing Su Doku

For some reason, nothing is as enticing to her as a pile of freshly folded laundry. Now, I didn't place those items on top of her - they were neatly stacked. She wedged herself underneath them for some reason.

Though I think most cats like bags, this one has an obsession with them. She seems to find it her personal responsibility to investigate any bag lying around, and sometimes she finds herself caught up in it. She dragged this bag all over the kitchen for about 20 minutes one night.

We had this bag of plastic bags hanging in our closet in the Bronx so that we could grab a plastic bag for Jager's walks. The cat decided that it made a nice bed. You can't tell in the picture, but it is suspended about four feet off of the ground.

Apparently we didn't feed her fast enough, because she sought out the food herself.

Maybe if she keeps doing cute things, we'll keep her a little longer.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

More Thoughts on Plane Travel

Cy and I flew home from Denver today, and I can't help feeling just a little proud of myself for having completed a round-trip flight with him by myself. Aside from the occasional rude passenger on the way there, and an unexplained 10 minute screaming fit as we boarded the plane on the way home, I actually feel that the whole experience went pretty well. I can admit now, I was kind of terrified that I would explode with anxiety over the whole thing. I had visions of 2.5 hours of a screaming child, a seat-mate who overflowed into my seat, rude comments about breastfeeding, unsympathetic airline workers, etc. I think a few things helped:

1. I used a carrier with Cy and just checked our carseat and stroller at the ticket counter. I know that you can gate-check those items, but our stroller situation is really just a snap-in frame for our carseat. I realized pretty quickly that at security I would have to remove Cy, take the carseat off of the frame, fold up the frame and put both through the x-ray machine, and then do the whole thing in reverse, all while holding Cyrus. This just didn't seem practical to me. By using the carrier, I was hands free and the security part was essentially seamless. Also, the carrier worked great when Cy fell asleep during the flight and I wanted my hands for drinking, or eating, or doing a Su Doku puzzle.

2. Breastfeeding. I toyed with just bringing expressed breast milk in bottles for the flight, thinking it would be easier, but I'm glad I didn't. Cyrus doesn't just nurse for food, he nurses for comfort. I was able to to nurse him when he got cranky, and basically just put him to sleep. I think this made the whole thing more enjoyable for both of us. Plus, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be to nurse him on the plane. He is still small enough, I supposed, that he doesn't really encroach on the seat next to ours.

3. I took advantage of pre-boarding. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but I saw a woman with a baby get on with the rest of the cattle today, and all I could think was, Why? Having a few moments to get the necessities out of my carry on luggage and get ourselves all settled without having to worry about hoards of people coming down the aisle really helped.

4. I had an aisle seat. On both flights, I was able to easily stand up and rock Cy when he got cranky or restless. I think this made a big difference for both of us. I would have felt really trapped had I been in the middle or on the aisle.

5. Cy is only 3 months old. Yep, I think this definitely helped. He will sleep in my arms, and he has no problem just chilling in my lap. I have a feeling that things may not go so easily in a few months.

A self-portrait as we wait for our flight to Denver

And now, a few thoughts about pre-boarding:

When I pre-boarded on the flight to Denver, the couple sitting next to me also pre-boarded. Now, as Jason pointed out to me when I complained about this, I realize that they don't ask you if you plan to pre-board when you choose your seat, but I really think they should. Isn't it the point of pre-boarding that you have a few minutes to get yourself settled without feeling pressured by those around you? When that other couple showed up right after I got to my seat, I felt like I lost my opportunity to relax and get organized for a minute, because I became instantly anxious about letting them get through. Granted, they were extremely gracious, but still. I think this should be taken into consideration. Just a thought.

Today, after they called for pre-boarding, I made my way to the gate and happened to be the first one there. The woman taking boarding passes put her hand on my arm and said "Wait a minute, this woman needs extra time" and then gestured to an older woman with a cane who was standing behind me. She took her boarding pass and then took mine. Now, I have no problem with this woman going first, but I have to admit I was confused. Weren't we both there because we needed extra time? Why was her need for extra time greater than mine? Sure, she took longer to get down the gateway than I did, but I'm pretty sure it took me longer to get situated in my seat. Was she in a special pre-pre-boarding category? I just didn't get it. I don't know that I've ever seen pre-boarders be prioritized, but maybe that's just me. Can anyone offer any insight for this one?

So, there you have it. Chalk it up to another milestone, if not for Cy, than at least for me.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Flashback Friday: The Story Behind the T-shirt and Tux

Last week, I posted this picture at the end of my post about Jason rejecting me in 7th grade:

This picture was taken just after Jason and I got engaged. As you may notice, and as was pointed out in two comments on last week's post, Jason is wearing a tux and I am in a grubby T-shirt. I guess this begs some explaining, so here it goes.

First, a little background info. In the spring of 2005, Jason and I had been dating for 4 years and all but three months of that had been long distance. We started dating when I was in college in Los Angeles, and continued dating while I studied abroad in South Africa, worked two summers at Trail Blazers Camp in New Jersey, and then while I lived in the Bronx to continue working full time for Trail Blazers. There is only so much communicating and relationsihp building that you can do over the phone, and it became pretty obvious by that Spring that we either needed to be living in the same city or we needed to break up. Fortunately, Jason opted to move to New York.

Since I left the city each summer to live full time at our camp in New Jersey, Jason toyed with the idea of working at a different summer camp. He even had several job offers with various rich-kid sports camps. However, our camp was in desperate need of lifeguards and Jason was a strong swimmer, so at the last minute, he turned down those other jobs and decided to move out to the wilderness and work as a lifeguard for the summer with a bunch of crazy kids. Oh yeah, and me!

Now this may sound like the perfect summer camp romance, but please consider a few things before jumping to that conclusion: First of all, I was essentially the assistant director at that time, and therefore more or less Jason's boss. We had very different sets of rules to follow. Also, our camp was intense in the strongest sense of that word. We lived in teepees, used latrines, went backpacking, cooked over open fires, all with inner-city kids, who were not only unfamilar with the setting, but also often came with their own sets of challenges and baggage. And the summer of 2005 was even more intense than usual for a variety of reasons that I won't get into here.

So, now you have the background. Now, when someone moves clear across the country for you, it's pretty obvious that marriage is likely in the cards. Jason and I had talked about it all summer, and had even looked at rings on one of our days off, so I knew a proposal was coming. But I like surprises, so I didn't want to know the specifics. (Are you starting to get a sense of how the clothing choices came to be?)Fortunately, Jason is extremely romantic and thoughtful, and pretty good at planning things.

At the end of camp, after the kids have gone home, the staff stay for an extra two days to help take things down for the winter. On the last day we have a big staff banquet, and then all of the staff leave early the next morning. Part of my job as an administrator was to make sure that all of the staff's jobs had been done properly before staff banquet could start. So on that afternoon, I was preparing to go pack up my belongings and then to go do some checks around camp. As I was heading out to my shelter, two co-workers, Kate and Jean, asked me to take a walkie-talkie with me. I thought this was a bit odd as the kids had already left, but I figured they just wanted to be able to reach me as they checked their sections.

So, I'm in my shelter and I hear Kate and Jean on the radio, calling me over to them. They were standing at the top of a path that led down to probably one of the most beautiful spots on camp property, a place called Vesper Glenn. It sits right down next to the lake and is surrounded by trees and flowers. Anyway, when I approach them, they both have very somber looks on their faces and they tell me that we have a problem. According to them, when one of the other staff members checked Vesper Glenn, she found beer cans, bottles, and other evidence of debauchery. Kate asked me to follow her and explained that I just had to see it for myself. Now, our staff that summer were a bit rowdy, but this stil seemed a bit far-fetched. I was beginning to wonder if there was some other plot hatching, but I went along with it anyway.

As we began walking down the path, Kate said the following: "The staff have really done it now. I think we're just going to have to cancel staff banquet and send them all home tonight." Mind you, it was already 4 in the afternoon. On hearing this, I became convinced that Jason was about to propose, so I got this huge grin on my face. However, I also thought that there was a chance, albeit very slight, that Kate and Jean were actually telling the truth, so I tried to hide my grin so that I wouldn't look too stupid if I ended up being wrong.

Well, fortunately, I was not wrong. As I got to the bottom of the path, I heard "our song" playing and saw this:

Yep, that's Jason in a tuxedo with two dozen roses ready to propose. This was my reaction:

He did it all right. He got down on one knee and said some amazingly romantic things, then presented me with my ring.

Of course, I said yes! As we kissed, I heard this huge cheer erupt. I looked out across the lake to the girl's dock and saw almost the entire camp staff cheering! Apparently, everyone knew about the proposal but me! In fact, they had been delaying the staff swim until after Jason proposed.

One of the best parts for me was hearing all of the effort that went in to staging this proposal. Camp is located in a very tiny town, and yet somehow Jason managed to procure a tux. The morning of, he made some excuse to me about needing things for the banquet and went out to buy flowers and pick up his tux. Then, he and another staff member dogded me as he headed over to get set up. Those little tables with white table cloths? They are actually milk crates covered in white camp sheets! At the last minute, he realized that the cd player needed new batteries and he had to run over to the girl's side to get batteries and then run back over to Vesper Glenn - all while wearing a tux in swealtering, humid New Jersy August heat. Here's a shot of what that looked like:

So there you have it. I was wearing a grubby t-shirt because that's pretty much what I wore all summer long, and I was caught by surprise. Jason was wearing a tux becuase he is romantic. And, to answer Kristen's question, the No Bull t-shirt was a left-over from college, when I belonged to - wait for it - the vegetarian club. Get it? No Bull? Yep, pretty clever, I know.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Five Things I Miss About New York

You may remember a few weeks ago that I wrote about reasons why I was glad I no longer live in New York. In that post, I did promise to write about some good things about New York, and that time has come. I supposed when you live somewhere for five or so years there are certain things that you get used to. As I was making my list, I actually realized that there are quite a few things that I miss (not surprisingly, several of them center on food) so perhaps I will consider this just part one of a series of posts. As a disclaimer, some of these things are not particular to New York, and some may even exist to an extent in Portland, they just aren't as readily available to me now. So here they are:

1. The Corner Store. This is a great little phenomenon that I came to rely upon while in New York. We had one within steps of both of the places we lived in New York, and fact had two or three to choose from within a five block radius. The corner store is kind of like a 7-11 or a mini-mart but less clean and with more character. Some were as tiny as a cubicle but still stocked several hundred items. Most were large enough to include a deli with various meats and cheeses and a hot griddle for Delicious hot sandwiches and breakfast items. They aren't really a place to do a large grocery shopping, but they are indispensable when you are in the middle of cooking dinner and realized that a key ingredient is missing. Of course, it's always kind of a crap-shoot whether or not they store will have your particular item. And, the items stocked definitely reflected the neighborhood and specific population where the store is located. Some stores were open 24 hours, but those that weren't almost never had consistent hours. The one closest to us was open as late at 1am and closed as early as 9pm, all depending on the whim of the owner. The stores were independently owned and the owner usually worked the store most of the time. Since we frequented them, they all knew us by sight. (I suppose it helps that Jason and I were two of maybe 5 white people who lived in our neighborhood). We actually have a version of a corner store near where we live now, but it lacks the character and charm of those in New York, and it just doesn't seem to afford the same level of convenience.

2. The Breakfast Sandwich. I guess this is more of an East Coast thing, but I just don't see it much around here. In New York, nearly every deli or corner store, or even restaurant that served breakfast offered some form of egg and cheese on a roll. While this was the basic, you could get it with bacon, sausage, ham or turkey and on different forms of bread. My personal favorite was a bagel. The eggs are fried on a flat-top griddle (not microwaved as in chain establishments) and everything is made to order. The cheese is almost always American (think Kraft singles) unless you request otherwise, but really, why would you? The American cheese melts and makes the sandwich all delicious and gooey. I admit, not the breakfast of champions, but oh so fantastic. And cheap - depending on your location, the basic breakfast sandwich was $1.50. It used to be my little treat once or twice a month to help me on my walk to the Subway. Once or twice I've ordered some form of the breakfast sandwich only to find that it is about three times as expensive and not even half as delicious. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to save my breakfast sandwich cravings for my next trip to NYC.

3. Lizzy's Fajita Seasoning. OK, this one is going to seem pretty silly, but you have to taste this stuff to understand. We found this by chance in one of the less-than-stellar Bronx supermarkets when we were looking for something to season our fajitas. It is a very simple blend of garlic and onion powder and salt and pepper, but the ratios are perfect. We didn't just use this stuff for fajitas - it was the perfect seasoning for all meats and veggies. I don't know why, but it made pork chops mouth-watering. Just last week we used the last of our jar. It cannot be found anywhere in the Western United States, and even when we were in New York, we could only find it in a few sub-par supermarkets. Just to prove how much we love this stuff, I will tell you that we have asked a few of our New York friends to buy us several jars and we will reimburse them the cost plus shipping. It's just that good.

4. Dunkin' Donuts. Another kind of silly one, I realize. (Remember when I said that most of these things are about food? I wasn't joking). Here's the thing: You can find Dunkin' Donuts here and there around Portland, but they are as prevalent as Starbucks in New York City - maybe even more so. Their coffee is better and cheaper than Starbucks (according to Jason anyway) and their hot chocolate is also fantastic. Plus, every now and again you just want a good donut, and Dunkin' Donuts doesn't disappoint. Jason mentioned the other day that all he really wanted was a Dunkin' Donuts so he could get cheap, good coffee on the way to work. I'm not really sure why there is such a discrepancy in the number of these stores between the two coasts. I guess East Coasters just like their donuts and coffee a little more old school.

5. Pizza. Yep, food again. It's true what they say about New York pizza being different. I didn't really get it until I lived there and now have moved back. Other pizza is all bread - the crust isn't so much crust as it is bread with toppings. The cheese is sparse, as are the other toppings. The slices are puny and are kind of greasy. Now, NY pizza is still kind of greasy, but not nearly as noticeably. The crust is think and dense and there is tons of cheese. Yes, tons. The toppings are generous, too. We used to order Canadian Bacon and Pineapple where the Canadian bacon almost covered the top of the pizza. The slices are hefty and usually one slice can serve as a meal. It is just all-around delicious. However, although I miss it, I'm kind of glad the pizza here isn't as good because now I eat a lot less of it!

Wow, I haven't even finished half my list. I guess we missed more about New York than I thought. We'll explore more of NY another time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Moving to Portland was completely worth it because...

...I've be able to see this cool girl six times since March - more than any other year since we graduated high school 10 years ago!

Because Elaine lives in California, about 1.5 hours from my dad and step-mom's, and because I live in Portland, about 30 minutes from her parents' house, we've been able to make lots of excuses to get together. For this most recent visit we decided to meet at my mom and step-dad's house in Denver (pictured), where, incidentally, it snowed today. The benefits of meeting in a neutral location, and, more specifically, at my parent's house, is that we both got spoiled and neither of us had to worry about much of anything. Quite a sweet deal, if you ask me.

There's nothing quite like a friendship that has lasted more than 18 years!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Babyworks - A Fantastic Cusomer Service Experience

Remember "Customer Service" meant "we care about you and your business and will do whatever we can to make you happy"? These days, Customer Service seems to be more about companies following strict policies and doing as little as possible to keep the customer happy. You often encounter inexperienced, indifferent, unknowledgeable individuals who are just collecting a paycheck and who couldn't care less about your particular issue. In fact, it is this customer service attitude that makes me dread calling anywhere when I do have an issue (which I think may actually be the point...).

Anyway, it is pleasantly surprising to me when I have an acceptable customer service experience, and downright shocking when an individual goes out of his or her way to make me happy. This has been my experience with Babyworks, a small mail-order
company based in Portland.

Some of you may have read my cloth diapering story that has turned into a bit of a saga. You can read my initial glowing review of Babyworks in Part 1, here. Well, as I mentioned in Part 2, I have some issues with the diapers I ordered and am having to send them all back to Fuzzibunz, the manufacturer, to be replaced.

Fuzzibunz has a strict policy that all returns must be accompanied by proof of purchase or they will not be accepted. Well, when I looked for my invoices, I found one but not the other. At the insistence of Jason, I called Babyworks to see if they had copies of my invoices and if so, if they could possibly e-mail them to me. They readily agreed to send over my invoices and expressed sincere concern that my diapers weren't working out for me.

Now this alone might seem like a pretty good customer service experience, but it gets better. the first e-mail came up with blank invoices, so I had to call back. I spoke with someone again and she apologized profusely and sent over the invoices right away. Well, because of some confusion with how we ordered our diapers, and back-orders and various other little things, the initial batch of invoices that sent over didn't match up with what we had. When I called up to see if they could resend and perhaps clear up the confusion, someone spent a good 10 minutes or so helping me figure it out and then re-did and resent the invoices to match what I have. At no point did she seem irritated or annoyed with me. When I expressed amazement to my mom that they were willing to put so much work into helping me with this, she commented that they didn't really do it right the first time, so i shouldn't feel bad and I shouldn't really be all that impressed. I disagree, and here's why:

First of all, it was completely my fault that I didn't have the invoices in the first place. I should have been responsible and kept track of them. I would not have been surprised if, when I called, someone either said that they no longer had the invoices, or at the very least acted irritated with me. Neither happened.

Second, at any point in our back-and-forth phone calls, someone could have said "This really isn't my problem, and I don't have time to keep helping you with something that was your mistake in the first place." But no one ever said that. Every time I called, I was met with kindness and patience. Truly a difficult thing to find these days in the way of customer service.

I have a few theories as to why my experience was so good. First, Babyworks is a small, independent company. They have to win over customers with stellar customer service because they won't always beat out larger competitors in the price department. Second, the women who work at Babyworks are not only knowledgeable about cloth diapers, but also seemingly very passionate about cloth diapering. They sincerely want people to use cloth diapers and to have a pleasant experience. Their efforts seem to extend beyond the bottom line into an actual desire to help people. I find this remarkable.

Not only will I continue to patronize Babyworks, and to recommend it to anyone seeking cloth diapers, I think I will also start seeking out other independent businesses in hopes of having similar positive experiences.

*By the way, if you are at all interested in cloth diapers, I highly recommend contacting Babyworks and at least asking some questions. They can help you figure out if cloth diapering is right for you. And because they are a mail order company, you don't have to live in Portland to use them.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Just Sit Back and Relax, Already!

Call me naive, but generally speaking, I beleive that all people are good at heart  I really do.  But there is something about airplanes that seems to bring out the worst in people, and I just don't get it.  Let me share some examples.

On several occasions I  have been on flights where, upon landing, the captain or flight attendant mentions that some people on the flight have close connections in this city and asks everyone on the plane to please let these folks off of the airplane first.  On at least one occasion, I was one of these people, and because of whether delays I had literally 20 minutes from the moment my first flight landed to the moment my next flight took off - we're not talking got to the gate here, we're talking touched down.  And of course, I happened to be at the very back of the plane.  The captain made his announcement, but, as I've seen on every other similar flight, no one listened.  Everyone rushed for the aisle and took their time getting their bags, while I sweated that I might not make my connecting flight.  As if this wasn't stressful enough already, it happened to be Christmas Eve.  If this were the only time I had experienced this, I might be able to chalk it up to  excitement/stress/anxiety over getting home for the Holidays - but it has happened on other far more mundane days.

I was actually talking to Jason about this very thing as he drove Cy and I to the airport yesterday.  And as if to confirm my assertion that airplane travel makes people rude, I encountered several more examples of unpleasant behavior on our flight.  To fully appreciate these examples, you should know that our flight was 100% full.  Ok, here they are:

1. A woman gets on the flight toward the end of boarding and she is carrying a large, round, hard case.  As she looks around at the overhead bins, searching for somewhere to put her case, the guy sitting across the aisle from me says very loudly  and with attitude, "Ship it next time".  As she continues looking for a place for her case, he says, again loud enough for her to hear, "Come on Lady, just sit down already."

2.  Another woman gets on with a small rolling suitcase and tries to put it in the overhead bin above her seat. There is a laptop case that is clearly small enough to fit under a seat but is making it impossibly for her to fit in her suitcase.  She asks around to find out to whom is belongs and when a guy pipes up, she asks kindly if he can please put it under his seat, where there is nothing being stored.  He replies "There is no room."  They go back and forth about why he can't put it there and the woman ultimately has to check her bag while the man has nothing under the seat in front of him.  Incidentally, she ended up sitting next to him, which I'm sure made for an uncomfortrable flight.

3.  There is a woman sitting behind me with a small child in her lap as well.  Before the flight takes off, both her child and Cyrus are being very good, but are making little babay noises.  The guy sitting across from her says "Wow, I guess we're not going to get any peace on this flight" loudly enough, obviously, that I can hear him.  As if those of us with babies aren't already overly concious of the fact that our babies could be loud and disruptive during a flight, someone has to point it out to us.

Now I suppose it is possible that all three of these people in the above examples are just rude anyway.  However, I don't think it's possible that several airplanes-full of people are rude in their every day life.  And I like to think that those three people sitting near me are also kind at some point in their lives.  So if that is the case, then what is it about airplanes that makes people say and/or do things that make others' lives more difficult or make others feel bad.  Is it the anxiety of flying?  Is it the fact that you are likley to never see these people again?  And, does a full flight lead to more anxiety and thus to more abandoning of basic human decency?  I don't know the answer.  But I do know that I now make a concious effort to smile to parents when their kids are being loud or taking a long time, to only put large items in the overhead compartment and wait to put my jacket in until the end, and to allow those folks with connecting flights to get off first.  Above all else, I try to keep my comments to myself so that, at the very least, I don't make someone feel bad.

Has anyone else noticed this airplane phenomenon?  Does anyone have any insight into what might make it so? 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Can't Stop Now!

I'm officially more than halfway through with NaBloPoMo and while that is encouraging, it also adds the pressure.  Today is a day when I would not probably write a post if I weren't participating in NaBloPoMo.  It was Cyrus's first airplane ride and I tackled that adventure all on my own.  It went surprisingly well, but it was still an early morning and an exhausting day.  Plus, I don't know if it was the airplane air, the high altitude and dry climate of Denver, or some kind of virus but I have a very sore throat and feel extremely tired.  I just don't have the brainpower to attempt an entertaining, thought-provoking, or otherwise intersting post.

I'm sure that some of you are saying "Well, Amber, then just don't write a post today. There is no reward for completing NaBloPoMo, there will be no strikes of lightnening if you miss a day - give yourself a break." Oh, if only I could.  But see, I started this and I don't want to be a quitter.  And, I beg to differ that there is no reward for completing this little challenge - I will have the reward of sweet satisfaction that I tackled and concurred something outside of my comfort zone and somewhat challening.  Also, I have been known to be a little competative, even if it's with myself or some unknown entity.  So I can't just not post today.  I had to write something, even if this is a bit on the pathetic side.  At least I haven't broken my momentum.

I promise to post something much more interesting and intriguing tomorrow!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Oh How Much Can Change in a Year

Exactly one year ago yesterday Jason and I found out that we were pregnant with Cyrus.  It probably seems a little strange to remember the exact date of that kind of thing, but I do. And I know the date because I remember feeling cramps on October 8, which was the due date of our first baby, the one we miscarried at 10 weeks.  And I remember thinking on October 8th that it was only the 17th day of my cycle (you keep track of these things when you are trying to get pregnant) and how cruel of a trick for me to be getting cramps on the very day that I was supposed to be giving birth.  And then nothing happened. I took a pregnancy test on day 26, and lo and behold, I was pregnant!  It was pretty much the perfect time because I think that if I hadn't gotten pregnant that month, I may have gone just a little crazy - in fact, I'm pretty sure I was already headed down that path.  As I'm sure is the case with anyone trying to get pregnant, it can be torturous every month that you aren't, and I think this is especially true if you've suffered a miscarriage - or at least it was for me.

So anyway, that blessed day came and suddenly our whole perspective changed.  We began making plans and before we knew it, our whole life had changed, and that was even before the baby arrived!  It is a rather interesting sequence of events that have led to where we are right now, and as I've been reflecting on it, I thought I would share.

We pretty much decided right away that raising a child in New York, and especially in the Bronx, just wasn't going to work for us.  Now I know lots of women who do raise kids in the Bronx, and I admire them greatly, but if you don't have to, why would you?  It's just hard in many, many ways.  Plus, we realized pretty quickly that we couldn't pay for child-care on our non-profit salaries, and we couldn't afford for me to stay home on just Jason's salary, while still living in New York.  So it was settled - we would simply have to leave New York.  The first question was where would we go and the second was, when would we leave.

Sometime at the end of October, well before we had told any of our family that there was a baby on the way, my dad called to tell me that the person who had been living in and managing the room rentals in his Portland house was leaving and that if we were thinking about coming to Portland in the next year or so, that we could take over.  Well, that pretty much answered the first question. Portland was where we wanted to live anyway, and now that we had housing it was a no-brainer.  However, we were still thinking we would wait until the end of the summer/beginning of fall to move - it just seemed a more convenient time for Jason's job.

Well, as a kind of side note, we decided to drive to Kansas for Thanksgiving, as that was where our closest family lived and we couldn't really afford to fly anywhere, and, we really didn't want to spend the holiday alone.  (Another key reason why leaving New York was bound to happen).  As we left our family and began the 20-hour drive back to New York, we both realized that we just really, really, REALLY didn't want to be going back there.  We were done with New York, and the sooner we could get out of there, the better.  So on that drive we decided that summer was far too long to wait, and instead, we needed to move before the baby was born.

We put things in motion right away.  We set a "Leave NY" date of February 28th.  We called my dad and told him he was going to be a grandpa and that we wanted to move into his house.  We gave our notice at both of our jobs and at our apartment.  We cautiously started telling people that a baby was on the way.

And then we were off. There was no turning back.  Even as we realized that the job market in Portland was somewhat abysmal. Even as we realized that the cost of moving across the country was going to be astronomical.  It didn't matter.  This just seemed to be the right thing to do.

So we somehow made it work.  We traded in our money-guzzling Saturn Vue (that is another story altogether - one that I may or may not have the stomach to tell) for a mini van with "stow-and-go" seating that would help facilitate our cross-country move.  We sold most of our furniture and cleared out more than half of the random crap that had accumulated over the five-plus years we had lived in New York.  And on February 28th we packed our van and a trailer, pretty much filling them to capacity, and headed west.

We arrived in Portland with a place to live and that was about it.  We had practically no furniture, no job, no plan, really - just a good feeling.  And fortunately, it worked out. Jason found a job that paid enough for us to pay our bills and included insurance (a big deal, I discovered, when you're about to have a baby).

Sometimes, it's hard to imagine that just a year ago our life was very different.  We definitely had more money, but we also had way, way more stress.  Life in New York is stressful, or at least it was for us.  When I saw the word "pregnant" pop up on that little test, I of course knew my life would change (how could it not with a baby) but I don't think I could have imagined it changing this much.  And yet, I'm glad it did.  It now feels like this is pretty much where we're supposed to be, at least for now.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Flashback Friday: The Perils of 7th Grade Romance

This week we are venturing back to the oh so terrifying days of Junior High in all of their awkward glory.  Surely you remember those days - when everyone is jockying for popularity, when boys and girls are starting to really figure out that they like each other, but don't really know what to do about it.  

Toward the end of 7th grade, this boy moved into our school.  I thought he was pretty nice and kind of cute.  We started spending a lot of time together, just talking and hanging out, often with a group of other people.  At the end of the year, our whole class went to Oak's Park and this boy and I spent almost the whole day together.  I realized that I liked him - you know, LIKED him, like, more than a friend.  And, as 7th grade girls do, I told my friends who all assured me that he liked me too.  In fact, I'm sure there was one of those fun chains where one of my friends asked one of his friends to ask him if he liked me, and I think that by the time it got back to me, the answer was yes.

Well, I must have felt very bold because I decided, probably after hours of consultation with my friends, that I would approach this boy and find out for sure if he liked me.  From there, I'm not sure exactly where I thought things would go, or if I had even thought that far ahead - I guess the point was really just to find out if we liked each other.  

As luck would have it, we took yet another 7th grade trip (what was with all of these class trips, by the way?), this time to a park, and we were all walking there together.  It just so happened that this boy and I ended up walking together, because, after all, we had become pretty good friends.  So as we were walking I decided that this was my big chance to find out just what was in store for me.  I mustered up my courage and led with this fantastic line: "So, I hear you kind of like me."  Smooth, I know.  And then I waited for his affirmation.

Imagine my surprise and chagrin when he replied with "Well, you shouldn't believe everything you hear."  Pause. Wait, what?  He doesn't like me?  Oh, the embarrassment!  Oh the hurt!  How could the friend chain have been so wrong?  My cheeks instantly flushed bright red and I stammered something incomprehensible, then proceeded to begin walking really, really fast, so as to put distance not only between myself and the boy but also between me and that horribly embarrassing situation.  I do believe I cried my little eyes that evening.  Alas, whatever visions I had of 7th grade romance had been shattered.

Sometimes, things happen for a reason.  That boy and I recovered from the awkardness of junior high and he eventually became my best friend, then my boyfriend, and finally my husband.  If I had dated that boy in 7th grade, who knows what would have become of our relationship.  Plus, now whenever we have an argument, I get to remind him (all in good fun, of course) that he broke my heart once upon a time!

Jason and I right after he proposed.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Cloth Diapering Story: Part 2

All right, when I started the first part of this story, I was loving my cloth diapers.  We have been using them for about three months, and up until about a week ago, they were working so well.  I was planning to write a glowing review of not only the cloth diapering process but also of the particular cloth diaper we use.  I am still committed to cloth diapering, but my confidence in our particular product is wavering a bit - we are having some serious leaking issues with our diapers.  I contemplated holding off on this post until the issue was resolved one way or the other.  But then I decided that maybe this is just part of the cloth diapering journey, and therefore worth discussing.

So.  I’ll start with a little bit more about the product.  We use a one size pocket diaper made by Fuzzibunz.  In the previous post I discussed some of the different options and manufacturers.  Pocket diapers have a waterproof outside layer and soft fleece inside layer with an absorbent cloth insert that goes between the waterproof and fleece layers (See figure 1 below).  The One size diapers come with two terry cloth inserts - a newborn size and a regular size.   The diapers are fitted with special elastic around the leg holes and across the back.  The elastic has various button holes with little numbers next to each hole that fit buttons on the diapers.  There is a place to adjust the elastic in the front and back of each leg hole and on either side of the back of the diaper. The leg adjustments go from 1 (the loosest) to 8 (the tightest) in the both the front and the back, and the  back elastic goes from 1 to 4 on either side.  The diapers close with snaps. There are two rows of snaps so that you can adjust the tightness as needed (see figure 2 below).  As your child grows, you adjust the waistband with the back elastic and the snaps, and you adjust the leg holes with the leg elastic.  

Figure 1 - Cloth diaper and insert

Figure 2 - Snaps 

The process of using these diapers has been extremely easy. Yes, it is slightly more work than your basic disposable, but I find the work load to be minimal.  They go on very easily – no pins or folding like our parents dealt with.  It took me a few tries to get the sizing right, but once we had that figured out, they pretty much go on just like a disposable.  When we remove the diapers, we have an extra step of spraying them off before putting them in the hamper. I only spray off the poopy diapers.   Sometimes we do this right when he dirties a diaper; however, more often than not I am by myself or it’s the middle of the night, in which case we leave the diapers on the side of the changing table and spray several off at once.  It probably adds an extra 5 minutes a day at the most.  Then I shake out the insert and put them in the hamper. We also use reusable wipes, which I also throw in the hamper and wash with the cloth diapers. 

The most obvious extra work comes with the extra load of laundry.  I do a load of diapers every two to three days.  They require a cold soak and pre-wash, followed by a hot wash and a double colds rinse. Then I dry them on low.  It takes me about 20 minutes to put the inserts back in and then they are ready to go.

When we are out and about, I just take a little “dirty duds” bag with me and I used flushable liners to get rid of the bulk of the yucky stuff.  When I change his diaper, I flush the liner and then put the dirty diaper in the dirty duds bag and I’m done.  Pretty easy.

After my last post, someone asked me about the extra energy and water costs associated with using cloth diapers. I haven’t done full research on this yet but I guess it basically costs the same as doing a load of laundry, plus a little extra for the prewash and second rinse. I have a hard time believing that this is comparable to disposable in either price or environmental impact, particularly when you take into account the water and energy needed to make the disposable diapers, not to mention their space in landfills. 

All right, so now I’ll tell you about some of the issues I’ve had with the Fuzzibunz product. One of my main problems with them in general is that you can’t use diaper cream because it doesn’t wash off of the fleece and then creates repelling issues (where the water pools and leaks out instead of being absorbed into the insert).  Generally speaking, babies in cloth diapers don’t get diaper rash as often as babies in disposables.  Cyrus, however, got thrush when he was two weeks old that led to a really severe diaper rash, and he has very sensitive skin, so we often have to use diaper cream.  In these instances we use a flushable liner, which actually sometimes makes clean up easier.  However, this is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.

Now on to the big one.  Over the past week or so, the diapers have been leaking out of the legs incessantly.  In fact, I’ve had to change Cyrus’s clothes almost as often as I’ve changed his diapers, which leads to more laundry.  This I don’t appreciate.  After looking on the Fuzzibunz website, I discovered that I could have some build-up issues.  I followed the procedure on the website to “strip” the diapers of their buildup but the leaking continued.  On further inspection I realized that the seams are leaking.  And not just on some of the diapers, but on all 24 that I purchased. I’ve switched to disposables for the time being just to avoid the hassle.

So I e-mailed Fuzzibunz and was pleasantly surprised by their response. They basically told me to send in my diapers and they would send me replacements.  Just like that, basically no questions asked.  So that’s where we are.  We shall see how well the new batch functions and I will update my Fuzzibunz review at that time.  For now, I still like the product, but I cannot recommend it. Check back to see how it goes. 

*For the update, click here

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Blog Fever and Being Shown Up

Apparently all of this posting has boosted my blogging confidence, and I now think that I'm capable of maintaining not one, but two blogs! Yep, that's right, tease me if you will, but I've started a blog for my child - well, about him really. I decided that I like this blog being about my experiences and perspectives, but realized that some of my family and friends really just want to hear about Cy (honestly, probably just his grandparents, but still). Plus, I'm pretty crappy at scrapbooking, so this is my compromise. At the moment the blog is open, but will soon be made private. If all two of you who read this blog want to read that one too, post a comment and I'll invite you. You can check it out here but know that I've essentially posted the first post here as well.

So about a month ago at Cy's 2 month check-up, we told his doctor that Cy absolutely despises tummy time. Every time we put him on his tummy he immediately dropped his head to the ground and began the closest thing to a temper tantrum that a 2 month old is capable of - screaming, crying and flailing of limbs. We told her that he pretty much just gives up. So she decides to see how he does on his tummy. She grabbed him by the arms and put him on his tummy. Here comes the being shown up part. His arms were straight back against his sides and the first thing he does is lift his chest up, mermaid style. then, he promptly rolls off of the exam table! Fortunately, the doctor was quick and she caught him. Making liers out of us already!

Of course, we get home, and he's having none of it. He flat out refuses to roll over, and though he gives it a minute or two before the wailing begins, he's still pretty unhappy on his tummy. Fast forward to this past Saturday and we have a friend over. After explaining just how much he hates tummy time, we put Cy on his tummy, and what does he do? Rolls over! Shown up again! We tried to get him to do it again later that day and the following day, but yet again, he was having none of it.

Finally yesterday, the day he turned three months old, I put him on his tummy and - voila! He rolled over. Still not convinced it wasn't a fluke, I put him back on his tummy and again! He rolled over! Four times in total and once this morning tells me we've reached another milestone! And, just for a little shameless bragging, here's a video clip:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Finally! Cyrus's Birth Story

Seeing as how Cyrus is three months old today, I thought it would be appropriate to finally share his birth story. Before he was born, I enjoyed reading others' birth stories, and had already decided that I would post mine as well. I figured that I would get it up not more than two weeks after he was born. Well, a few things have kept me from that, not the least of which is Cyrus himself. But, if I'm really honest, part of the reason that this is such a hard story to write is that it isn't the story I wanted to be writing. Let me warn you in advance, this is a looooong post. I won't be offended if you don't read the whole thing. I tried to pare it down as much as possible, but then, my labor was long too!

Jason and I planned and prepared for a natural birth, and by that I mean unmedicated, with as few interventions as possible. At the very least, I wanted to avoid an epidural and I wanted absolutely no part of a c-section. In my preparation, I read lots of birth stories and a few books, followed a few blogs and, most of all, enrolled Jason and I in the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth classes. There were 12 classes in total and they covered good nutrition and exercise, information on various forms of intervention and how best to avoid them, relaxation exercises, and strategies for our labor coaches - our husbands. We tried to go with a midwife at a Birthing Center, but it wasn't covered by insurance and we couldn't afford to pay out of pocket. We ended up with a midwife practice through Kaiser. And, even after all of our planning and preparation, I wanted some extra insurance for my natural birth, so we hired a doula, our childbirth instructor Sarah.

Now, I knew that if I had to be induced, I had a higher chance of getting additional interventions, particularly if pitocin was used, and a higher chance of ending up with a c-section. So, starting from 37 weeks, I began praying and hoping that I would go into labor. Then June 27th (my due date) came and went. I tried acupuncture, nipple stimulation, pressure points, and walking. Oh my did I walk. I met with one of my midwives and discovered that I was dilated at all - "Not even a dimple" she said. We decided that as long as I had a few non-stress tests, I could wait until July 11th, a full two weeks after my due date. The stress just kept building. I even tried the Murphy's Law of labor induction - at 41 weeks, Jason and I went to Black Butte for 4th of July, a good 2.5 hour drive from Portland, and at least 2 hours from the nearest Kaiser hospital. Still nothing. A few days before July 11th, I met with another midwife to plan my induction. If I didn't go into labor on my own, the I would come in at 6am on July 11th to be induced. Oh the stress!

On Friday, July 10th I had contractions off and on all day, and they were certainly stronger than they had previously been, but still nothing to get excited about. That night we took our dog to Jason's sister's and got ourselves all ready to go and then went to bed. We were nervous and stressed, but also a little excited, because we figured that at the very least we'd have our baby by Sunday night.

I woke up at 2:00am for no particular reason, and then about 30 seconds later I felt my water break. I bolted for the bathroom, calling to Jason as I went that my water had broken. Well, he decides that the best course of action is to just put down some towels and go back to bed, especially since my contractions weren't particularly strong. However, I realized pretty quickly that there was meconium, which can be a sign of distress, so I decided we should go in. After all, they were expecting us in a few hours anyway.

When we arrived, the contractions were coming every 3 minutes and lasting 45 seconds - usually a pretty good sign. However, they still weren't particularly strong and I was only dilated to 1.5cm, and about 65% effaced - not great for a woman who is supposed to be in labor. Now, one thing I have to mention is that our Kaiser hospital experience was amazing. The very first thing the labor triage nurse did was ask for our birth plan, and then she proceeded to inform the first midwife we saw of our wishes. This happened every time there was a nurse shift change. So they put me in a room, and Jason and I commenced waiting. We walked, I ate some breakfast, we walked some more. Around 11am, I thought the contractions were picking up so I asked Jason to call Sarah and I asked the nurses if I could go in the labor tub. Sarah arrived at about 1pm, while I was in the tub. Things had died down a little while in the tub, so I decided to get out and walk around.

Around 2pm, everything stopped. Nothing. No contractions, not even a twinge. The nurses wanted to start pitocin, but we asked them to hold off. We tried EVERYTHING. I walked all over the hospital, I got in the shower, I tried nipple stimulation, the whole thing. With each passing moment I got more and more stressed out, which I'm sure didn't help. I felt like time was just ticking away. At around 8pm, Jason asked our nurse, a fantastic woman named Ann Hathaway, of all things, if I could maybe get some sleep. I had been up for a long time, and we thought that might help. So I did. I slept for maybe 2 hours or so. Then I woke up with what I thought was the start of my real labor. I had a few strong contractions over the next two hours, so we called our nurse back in. Of course, the minute she arrived, they stopped. Finally, at about 1:30am, we consented to start pitocin, almost 24 hours after my water broke.

Even with the pitocin, which I knew could bring on brutal contractions, I was determined to labor without any pain medication. We called Jason's sister Angie, who had planned to be with us, and we got labor going. The contractions slowly built over the next several hours. I continued to walk around the halls as much as I could, squatting with each contraction to try and bring that baby down. At around 11am (this is Sunday morning now) we called Sarah back (we sent her home when labor stalled) as the contractions had really picked up. At some point I got back in the tub, which sort of helped, but not really. And yet, I still felt like I had it under control.

At about 2pm, I was in the shower, and the contractions were intense. I was exhausted, and really struggling. My labor nurse at the time, a woman who supposedly was very pro-natural birth, came in and said something along the lines of, "It's ok if you get help if you need it. Maybe you just can't handle this". Well, that was what I needed. I gathered myself up, and just started repeating to Jason "I can do this, right? I can handle this?"

We headed to the bed, and I found my groove. I was holding Jason's hand on one side, and Angie's hand on the other, and they were pretty much supporting my body weight, and Sarah was sitting in front of me. The contractions rocked my body, and I could no longer stay silent. Sarah told me to try saying "Yes" instead of no, and to moan deeply if I needed to make noise, which I did. All I could concentrate on was saying "Yes" as I was hit with each contraction. At some point, I threw up and I knew then that I was going through transition, which I had been told usually happened around 7 or 8 cm. At about 6:30pm I asked to be checked. I figured it wouldn't be much longer now. The midwife checked me and, are you ready for this? 4cm.

That's right, all that work, and I was only at 4cm. That broke me. I lost all motivation, and I pretty much knew at that point that I couldn't do it anymore. My supports tried to keep me going, Jason and Sarah and Angie kept encouraging me. We tried the tub again, but the contractions were peaking at the very beginning, giving me no time to prepare. Plus, I was so tired from having been at this for so long that I kept falling asleep between contractions, and then waking up in excruciating pain. We got a new nurse at around 7pm, Shannon, and she was incredible. She kept encouraging me, and holding me off as I began to ask for drugs. Looking back, my whole attitude had changed. I was no longer saying Yes with each contraction, but instead "I can't do this". At about 8:30, they all convinced me to get checked before I went ahead and got the epidural. I got out of the tub and threw up again. When the midwife checked me I was at a 6. Better, but I knew at that point that I if I had any hope of pushing this baby out, I needed to get some sleep. I caved and asked for the epidural.

At 9pm, I got the epidural and was surprised that I wasn't pain free. I felt intense pressure at the top of my stomach with each contraction. However, it was enough that I could go to sleep for a few hours. I woke at about 2am (Monday morning - 48 hours after my water broke) with intense pain in one little part of my abdomen, going straight through to my back. This is what they call a "window," where the epidural doesn't work in one little area and the a pain peeks through. But, because of the epidural, I couldn't really change positions on my own. I was stuck, and it was awful.

Finally, at about 4am I was fully dilated. I pushed a little, but they realized he was facing sunny side up. They reposition me to see if they could get the baby to turn and I laid like that for about an hour and a half. At 6am I began to push. By this point, there was no epidural, and I was at the highest level of pitocin. I pushed in every imaginable position - squatting, hands and knees, on my side, on my back. The contractions were coming every 1-2 minutes. Now, what I didn't anticipate was that I would be in pain in between contractions - excruciating pain in my hips and legs. I had no break.

A little before 8am, the midwife on-call, Tom, came in and checked me and said that if he pushed on my perineum he could see the head. I asked him for a rough estimate of how much longer and he said about an hour. Ok, I can do this, I thought. At 8am, the shifts changed and the new midwife on call came in to check me. She realized they had been tracking my heart beat instead of his, so she called for an internal fetal monitor. Then she checked me again and gave me some crushing news. After pushing for 2.5 hours, the baby hadn't dropped into my pelvis - in fact, he was still at a -2, where he was when I came into the hospital over two days before. Her words were "Your baby is doing fine, so you can keep pushing if you want to, but I'm not convinced he's going to be born vaginally".

That was it for me. I looked at the faces around me - Angie, Jason, Sarah, - and just said "I'm ready to meet my baby". Jason and I had a minute together and we decided to go ahead with a C-section - the one thing I had dreaded above all else. Even now, it brings tears to my eyes to think about it.

So, at 9:35am, on Monday, July 13th, 2 weeks and 2 days past his due date, Cyrus Thompson Wells was born via C-section. He weighed 8lbs 6oz, was 21.5 inches long and had a 15 inch head. Here are some labor stats for you:

Total hours in labor: 55.5
Total hours with pitocin: 31
Hours on pitocin with no epidural: 19
Hours pushing: 2.5

I have several thoughts on my labor, but seeing as how this post is already a novel, I will save those for another day. I'll just end with this: The process was not what we hoped for, but at the end of the day, every decision was ultimately ours, and, what matters most is that we got our baby boy.

Jason, Amber and Cyrus one day after Cy's birth.
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