Counting Down!

The countdown is on. Only 4 weeks (or likely less) until we welcome baby #4 into the family. This has by far been my toughest pregnancy. I’m not sure if it’s because of my “advanced maternal age” or because it’s a girl this time. Either way, it’s not been pretty. Aside from the physical challenges I’ve had this time (I feel like I’m perpetually riddled with arthritis, a bum hip, a bad back and the list goes on), my emotions are all over the board. Laughing one minute, crying the next, irritable after that. Hubs is supportive, but at a loss. The boys I’m sure are sick of it. I am proud to say that I’ve at least managed to keep the tears to a minimum at work- or been able to shut my office door! My apologies to all caught in my emotional crossfire.

This time around it’s been different, perhaps due to my roller coaster of emotions, but the engagement by others is just not the same. I’m guessing that it’s probably my less than cordial, don’t touch my belly unless I know you well or you’re invited, demeanor? Who knows? But sometimes it’s a little sad because I feel like maybe I’m just not as welcoming about receiving questions. I was really feeling bummed about this. I mean, we’re having our first girl and I can only shoot daggers at anyone inquiring? That doesn’t seem celebratory on my part.

Apparently that only applies to adults. I was recently at Target (sans kids!) picking some items up, one of which was diapers. I’m browsing the diaper aisle, befuddled as usual at the fact that they have every single size of the diaper brand/style I want, except the size I need. I’m digging around the shelf looking in case some got buried. There was a mom also nosing around looking for diapers as well. She had a little baby boy and a pre-school age girl with her. The girl I notice keeps looking at me. I smile at her and go about digging around for diapers. What happened next melted my heart, and I believe horrified her mother.

Girl: “That’s my baby brother”, she states his name and points to the little boy in the cart.

Me: “Wow, that’s great! I bet you like being a big sister?”

Girl: “Yes, and I have a bigger sister too.” She gives her name too.

Me: “That’s great. You’re lucky to have a sister and a brother.” I’m amused at this point but also don’t want to get too personal because that would be weird and you never know how people will react. I notice she keeps looking at my belly. “I have 3 big boys at home and now there is a baby girl in my belly!”

Girl: “I bet she makes noise. Mom I can hear her baby making noise.” At that moment, she skips over to me and places her ear on my belly. “Mom, I hear her baby moving!” Her mom is beyond horrified, apologizes, and tells her she needs to always ask permission.

Me: “Not even an issue. In fact, that made my day.” I couldn’t stop smiling. I really wanted to be able to reassure the mom as much as possible that it really was okay. But, I get it because I know some people that would not be okay with that. But for me, I loved the innocent enthusiasm. It was a welcome change. So, when I have my ridiculous instants of emotions, I go back to that moment and the joy she had to “hear the baby” and am happy I was able to be part of that moment, and that my baby girl could be as well.

Grandpa Green

This may not be a normal “working mom” post, but we all have loved ones we lose, working moms or not. I really don’t know another way to honor my grandpa- besides making choices that wouldn’t have him hollering “Judas Priest”!

People that knew grandpa before grandma died knew he was a goofball. Not one ounce of him cared what people thought. He was always in the moment, enjoying life. He retired from the post office when I was 4, so I really only knew the “retired” grandpa. I can’t speak to how grandma and grandpa were as parents. I assume they were fine- my mom and her siblings turned out to be successful, productive people. But, I can tell you, he loved being grandpa.

He was very passionate about taking care of his home and yard. You knew better than to touch the walls going up and down the stairs at their house. I laugh because my parents wouldn’t say boo about the boys touching the walls. If they did that at grandpa’s house, they would for sure get one booming warning before getting a good ol’ fashioned lickin’. You didn’t mess with his grass either- that was his summer hobby. He liked woodworking too. He even built custom Barbie furniture for his granddaughters. Of course he painted them bright green- that may have been the only paint color he had now that I think of it…

As much as he loved us, you didn’t mess around with him. When he said something, he meant business. I, being the oldest, of course had to test the waters with him. My most vivid memory was when he and grandma were over watching me and my brother. My mom had explicitly told me to not go to my friend’s house a block over. I, thinking grandpa was too old to catch me, decided to run over there. I mean, what was he really going to do?? Well, he chased me all the way to their porch (he ran way faster than I thought possible!). He carried me home, dangling me by one arm, swatting my butt the whole way. In today’s society, someone for sure would have called CPS. I’m pretty sure people in our neighborhood just looked and said “good for him”. Seriously though, I thought that he was going to beat me senseless.

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Christmas was always a very special time with him. I think he loved getting the grandkids riled up on Christmas Eve telling us Santa was on the roof. We would plaster our noses on the window trying to look. Now that I think of it, that was actually one of the few times he didn’t yell at us about getting our fingers or faces on the window. Of course, he would usually do that after he had had a few adult beverages with the parents and neighbors. I remember Grandpa and his neighbor Tony having a great time together on Christmas Eve. The party didn’t start until Tony and Virginia came over. Even as a kid, I knew that was when things would get fun. Those memories of Christmas Eve are so nostalgic for me. I even told Hubs that this Christmas didn’t feel the same because that whole dynamic is different. But I suppose that is part of growing up.

Grandpa was always active too. He kept walking regularly even after retiring and managed to stay in pretty good shape (see above comments about him chasing me). He would often play Trac Ball with us in the backyard or ride around the yard on my brothers moped (that usually happened after a few adult beverages as well).

I remember when I told him I was dating hubs. He was not happy. Like many in his generation, plus from a smaller town, he didn’t quite understand the idea of an interracial relationship. I asked him to at least meet him and then to form his own opinion. So, when they met, I mentioned that hubs was a history major (this was well before med school) and that he was also in the Marine Corps (Grandpa was in the Navy and Army and very proud of his service time). Grandpa did manage to put him through the ringer a bit, he asked a lot of questions, but by the end of the day, they were swapping war stories and hubs was relentlessly picking his brain about all of his experiences. And of course them both being named “Robert” didn’t hurt! I joke with him that I think grandpa liked him more than me! I can remember going over there and they would sit for hours sifting through old documents while grandma and I would sit there and smile.

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The other thing he loved a lot was grandma. As an outsider you may not know it- they bickered ALL THE TIME. Grandpa yelling “Judas Priest June!” and she retorting “Oh shut up Bob!”. It often served as our entertainment growing up. Probably the most memorable moment was the Christmas before grandma died. We were all playing cards- all the grandkids, spouses, grandma, and grandpa. They started arguing about which way you deal the cards- do you deal to the right or to the left? I mean really arguing. Like we were laughing and peeing our pants because these two were so serious about which way to deal the cards. The best part is that we all still laugh about it. In fact, I don’t think we can all play cards without mentioning it.

When she died, honestly, he died with her. He really wasn’t the same again. He didn’t know how to function. So, for the last 9 years, we’ve had a different version of grandpa. Sometimes, he was hard to love. Sometimes, he was just plain annoying. Most of the time, he was just not the same. So, when he passed away earlier this month, I was surprised. Mostly because it’s what he’s been saying he wanted since grandma died and no matter how much he smoked and his health failed, he just seemed to be hanging on. So, I believe grandpa got what he wanted for Christmas, to be with grandma again. We just hope she was ready for him!

Maternity/Paternity Leave

Today marks my 2 year “blogiversary”. I thought I would “celebrate” by posting something a little different- but still related to being a working mom. I started this post over a year ago, long before my current pregnancy. I’m interested to hear feedback and/or discussion regarding this topic, although I know it can be sensitive, especially in our current political climate. So, for those that partake- enjoy, it’s my opinion and only supported by articles and blogs I’ve read online. Don’t expect it to be a thesis….

I don’t typically post controversial stuff on my blog. Well, unless you consider me working and having kids controversial, but then why read a working mom blog in the first place? Either way, I’ve noticed a topic that has popped up in the news on several occasions. No, I’m not talking about political candidate rhetoric. I’m referring to paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child. Now, I cannot speak about adoption because I’ve never gone through that process. However, aside from the fact that the baby comes from someone else’s uterus, you still have the emotional roller coaster, extreme lifestyle change and the “getting to know you” phase of a new person to take care of. So, it still applies. But, I’ll save that topic for people that have the experience to speak from that perspective. And for my male readers- I’ll cover my thoughts on paternity leave, just be patient, I’ll get to it.

If you look at the recent companies that have changed their policies regarding leave, the bulk of them are tech or “trendy” companies. They are looking to attract and keep, good talent. When talking with people, especially those that live outside of the US, most are appalled by our current leave policy- or lack of policy- in most cases. I’ve heard conversations on both sides of this- and have read the many comments on some of these articles which include valid arguments on both sides, along with ignorant, troll-like responses. So, because I can only speak about what I know, here are my thoughts on paid leave for parents.

I was fortunate enough to work for companies where I qualified for FMLA (12 weeks of leave with job protection) and that paid me for 6 weeks at 66% of my salary. Now, don’t get me wrong, I say that I was fortunate because a lot of people I’ve read about worked places where they had far less time, were not under FMLA, and did not receive any pay. That is unfortunate. I often think about the idea that when you have an employee who gets the flu, you send them home. You don’t risk them spreading the virus to others which can cause a huge decrease in productivity when you have several people out. I get it, getting pregnant is not contagious. But, attitude and morale are- and maybe more so. If your employee comes back to work depressed, stressed, and tired, that does not help anyone. If the employee is worth keeping, it’s worth offering perks that keep them there.

I do consider myself lucky. I could have not gotten paid, and I don’t know about you, but coming out of college with student loans does not lend a lot of flexibility to “saving up”. Not to mention all of the new “grown up” things that were then added. Plus, how in the world do you know how much to save? I mean, you can save enough for your medical costs (assuming you have a perfect, no issue birth) and then several months of money to cover living expenses (again, assuming that nothing goes wrong while you’re off). But even then, it would have taken hubs and I, on our meager salaries starting out, years to save the amount of money to cover the medical costs (roughly $5-8K for Elijah which was the most normal birth we had) and the household expenses for 3-6 months. Yes I know, it’s our fault we took out student loans, had a car payment, mortgage, utilities, food, etc. We could not have afforded to have any more time off unpaid. I only took the paid 6 weeks off to not affect our budget any more than it already had been. I was also lucky enough to not have any lingering health issues so returning at 6 weeks, although still too early in my opinion, was more doable than having to go back any earlier.

So, there is the financial side of this argument. Sure I suppose you can prepare for that technically. But what you cannot prepare for is the physical side of the process. Forget about the pregnancy itself, morning sickness, fatigue, and any other ailments pregnant women often experience. Let’s talk about the actual delivery. A good delivery would allow a woman to go into the hospital, labor for a short period of time and then pop out the baby. No IV needed, no drugs, no stitches and minimal bleeding. But, let’s be real. How often does that happen? Going by the number of women that I’ve known who have had babies, deliveries seldom go that way. Think about it, you are pushing a baby- typically the size of a small watermelon (if you’re lucky), through a part of the body that is substantially smaller than that. There is bound to be some scrambling of things happening there. The body goes through extreme pain and contortion (it feels like that anyway) in order to get the baby out. If not naturally, you end up with an incision in your lower abdomen. So, stitches in your abdomen or in your lady parts, either way, not fun.

Hearing all of that fun, messy stuff, can we talk about the fact that it is really only a woman who can have the baby? I’ve heard the argument that it’s not a company’s responsibility to provide paid leave for their employees, it’s a privilege. That’s correct, it is a privilege. However, why wouldn’t a business offer paid time off for employees. Let’s think about this. We have to assume that the employee having the baby is a good employee- otherwise why are they still employed there? Not to mention, the only employee that can physically give birth, is a woman. So for those that argue that if you can’t afford the time off, then don’t have a baby: that would limit a LOT of women to having babies when they’re young before entering the workforce (again assuming there are no financial challenges- see my remark about student loans), waiting until they retire (hello biological clock) or heck, why not just stay home and not work? It seems a little sexist considering women are the only ones that can actually perform the process of birthing. Again- adoption aside for this particular argument. I even heard comments along the lines of “that’s why women shouldn’t work”, but I’ll save those for another forum. I’m not interested in entertaining thoughts from the 1950’s at this moment in time.

Having said all of this, I’m not saying it only applies to women. It should be the same for men as well. What better support system than to have your other half there to help you when you’re exhausted, sore, emotional, etc.? Besides, it really wouldn’t be fair to say that only women can get this benefit. Yes, they go through the bulk of the process (remember my watermelon example) but men should be allowed to also have that bonding time with the newest family member. There is value in having full participation from all parents involved.

What could the down sides be? Your worker, who again I assume is a good worker as they are still employed, will come back re-energized and ready to contribute? The partner of that worker comes back knowing they were able to be there for some irreplaceable moments with their newest family member? This has been a very hot topic with a LOT of opinions, I get that. But I do also recognize our society is changing in a big way. People are yearning for more of a balance in their life. They want a rewarding career but also are seeing the value of having a family and not waiting until they are in their 40’s. I also understand that there are some businesses that cannot afford to provide this type of benefit. Maybe it’s time to look at other examples across the globe to see what works or doesn’t work. I’m writing about this not because I’ve been through this 3 times, and am about to go through this again. But because I hurt for those that are having children without any resources, or want children, and cannot because we as the leading country in the world, cannot put ourselves in others shoes and show understanding or empathy for people in situations different than ours. We can do better than that, if even making an effort to discuss in a civilized manner. It has to start somewhere.

 

 

Keep In Mind…

What’s a blog without one mention of the election? A good blog you might say!? I figured I would add my thoughts as it will be 4 years before I get the chance again. And who knows if this blog will be around then??

So, it’s that time again Every 4 years, the eve of the big election. Some of you may hide in a closet and wait for it to be over. For others, this is like the political Super bowl- regardless of who or what you’re voting for.  For me, I love watching all of this. I hate politics normally, but something about watching the electoral votes come in is just purely fascinating to me. Of course I’m sure there are people that would just like to watch TV without a political ad popping up. Either way, here are a few things I want to mention- and I will say- this post is candidate agnostic so you don’t have to lecture me about whatever party you hold near and dear. There are some observations that I’m trying to keep in mind.

 

  • Regardless of who you’re voting for, it’s not okay to demean people because they do not agree with you. On November 9th one of those candidate will be elected by our democracy to lead our country. And guess what, we all still live here! We all still have to work, shop, worship, etc. with one another. Consider life beyond November 8th.
  • In regards to the previous item, if it’s frightening, you know, life beyond November 8th– then GO VOTE! Whichever way you go, be part of the process and don’t leave it up to everyone else. As far as I’m concerned, I have no room to complain if I don’t participate.
  • At the end of this process, we are all still Americans. We may not agree with one another on everything, but that is what makes this country special. That is why, over centuries, people immigrated here for a better life. A life that is not oppressed, where they can practice religion, culture, and live their life outside of whatever cultural norm may have been oppressing them before. America is a melting pot of people and heritages that survived world wars, depressions and recessions, terrorist attacks, and countless things that would have, and people thought, should have, torn us apart. But we were resilient. Let’s not let our own democratic process divide all of us.

 

Enough of my soapbox, you get the idea. Even after this is all done, I still have respect for my fellow Americans. If you want to make a difference, participate! Treat people kindly and allow the process to run its course. And either way it goes, I’ll be celebrating on November 9th that it is finally over!!!

Bag Balm

Bag balm. We have a love hate relationship. It’s an AMAZING ointment to use for baby bottoms (it’s official use is for milking cows, but whatever). Seriously. My sister-in-law first told me about it when she had my nephew 11 years ago and we’ve been believers ever since. The stuff will fix diaper rash in no time. It’s not exactly great smelling, but it gets the job done. And when you’re dealing with a raw baby bottom, anything is worth a shot. The trick with bag balm, aside from its ability to moisturize, is that it is a protectant for the skin. So it is really hard to get off. You can wipe away the excess, sure. But just know there will be a little coating protecting that lovely epidermis of yours for a few more wipes or washings. It’s great. No need to reapply multiple times.

That’s where the love story ends however. Our first battle was several years ago when our sweet Aden was about 3 years old. He had the most adorable, fluffy, big curls ever. They were thick and fine and they fit his personality just perfect. aden

Aden decided that Bag Balm apparently looked like a “hair cream” and managed to wipe half a can into his delightful hair before we saw what was happening. Oh. My. Goodness. I didn’t know what was worse at first: the fact he had it in his hair or I would have to get it all over my hands just to get it out (as opposed to using baby wipes or a Q-Tip on their bottoms).  I mean, what’s a little extra moisture in his hair? Especially compared to having antiseptic smelling hands for a week? It couldn’t be that bad right? Oh, it was. There was NO way out.

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First, we scraped. That got the large chunks out, but it also mushed the remnants into his hair even more. We tried shampoo. Nope. We tried dish soap. That’s supposed to cut grease right? Nope. We tried homemade concoctions we found online. Nothing. Not a single thing was working to get that layer of grease out of his hair. So, the final option, a haircut. I was devastated and Aden, of course after being practically water boarded trying to get the stuff out of his hair, was not about to sit for a haircut. It took some patience, but my little innocent, sweet toddler went from his sweet 3 year old self to a small child after that haircut. He just looked so much older! And, it still took a good week to get that last layer of grease out.

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At the risk of totally humiliating myself, here is the rest of the story. Bag Balm and I stayed on speaking terms but had grown apart as the big boys were out of diapers and we thankfully didn’t have a lot of intestinal bugs. Well, until recently. Thankfully the most recent episode wasn’t as traumatizing as the first (at least not yet I hope). You see, it works great on babies, but really, it works great on all ages. When the big boys get a bug where they’re wiping a lot and it’s getting uncomfortable, we bust out the Bag Balm. Same with the adults. And recently, it had hit me. I don’t have the time to sit in a nice warm tub for hours on end (as much as I would like to), so we move to option B- option Bag Balm. Well, of course that day I had errands to run and quite honestly, I have about 2 options for clothing right now- maternity yoga pants and work pants. So, I opted for the comfy route (the yoga pants if you were wondering) and headed to the store. I wandered around Target, enjoying a rare moment at the store by myself, in no huge rush to get back. The bum was feeling better so why not take my time right? Well, I get home and we’re unloading groceries and hubs says, “Hey, you have a grease mark on the bottom of your pants”. I figure it’s just from chapstick someone left in the dryer. I look in the mirror. Nope. Not. At. All. I had a dark, wide, and quite obvious mark up the seam of the pants, basically covering the crack. I either had the sweatiest crack ever for a cool October day or had wet my pants and it had traveled up the seam. Nice. And, to make matters worse, it was a rare day where I was wearing a maternity shirt that didn’t cover my butt. So, the entire time I was at the store, I was walking around with my grease mark hanging out. That’s where it could get worse, I suppose. Maybe someone took a picture of me, unknowingly, and will post it online. Heck, maybe it’s already out there. So if you see it, just let me know. I want to be able to at least benefit from whatever ad money they’re making!

At the end of the day, I know I won’t break up with Bag Balm. Not with another little one on the way and one still in diapers. It’s too valuable not to have around. I just need to remember to keep my bum covered!

 

 

Big News!

I’ve been holding off on writing until we had everything confirmed and okay. We are excited to announce…our Baby Girl will be here in February!

The boys are thrilled and hubs and I are both in shock. I really thought our baby factory only made boys, so I was mentally preparing to be the only girl from here on out. We had always wanted 4 kiddos and knew that this was it. Boy or girl, it didn’t matter. Imagine my surprise when we found out it was a girl! Speaking of which, did you know that if you’re 35 or older, that’s considered to be of “advanced maternal age”? Well, because I have a dusty uterus, I was able to do the blood test at 10 weeks and find out what we were having. I really had a hard time believing it until we saw her lady parts on the ultrasound today (thus the delayed post). So, now I’m convinced (mostly) and preparing to better understand what this whole dynamic will be.

One of the most interesting things that I’ve encountered so far in my pregnancy- aside from the wicked hormonal changes- are all of the comments people have. Here are a few we’ve heard- but I would love to hear what others may have been told!

When someone hears that we’re having baby #4, these are responses we’ve heard:

  • “Are you Catholic?” Because apparently only Catholic people have more than 2.5 children?
  • “Wow, was that planned?” I’m not sure when that is ever a good question for anyone. I’m sure it’s not your business either way.
  • “How in the world do you do it?” You mean make the baby or manage the household? Those are 2 very different answers. I refer you to your parents or some knowledgeable adult for the first, and for the managing of the household, LOTS of communication is best.
  • “What in the world will you do if it’s a boy?” Geez, I don’t know. Maybe send him off to be raised by wolves? I mean seriously!? At this point, what is one more boy in this household?? I just would have needed more socks and Band-Aids.
  • “Don’t you hope it’s a girl?” I can’t lie, sure I was hoping it was a girl, but was preparing for a boy (see above comments). But most of all, I wanted a healthy baby. Honestly, I was a little freaked out the first week or two after finding out it’s a girl. It’s sounds so different from boys, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.
  • “Why would you want another one? Four is a lot.” Well, why do you want 2, or 1, or none? How about we refer to the earlier comment about it not being your business.
  • “How will you afford 4 kids?” Again, I refer you to the “not your business” comment. But if you just must know, we don’t say yes to everything and we try our best to live below our means. Which, while in medical school, means we don’t get to do super fun stuff all the time. It’s OKAY to say no!

There have been more, these are just a few of the common questions I’ve had. Apparently 4 kids is a tipping point in today’s society. Either way, we’re not letting anyone rain on our parade- I can just write about it and move on. Fingers are crossed and we’re praying that when the time comes for her to arrive, hubs will be at least able to get away from his rotation to be there in time. That just may be a fun blog post too!

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I’m Not Your Friend

After moving to the new neighborhood, there’s been a time period of getting to know the neighbors and the nuances of life here. Everyone is friendly and it’s a quiet area. There are several boys around Aden’s age so he’s having fun making new friends and playing outside. However, I find in most cases, I’m the mean mom. You see, we have a few rules in our household. Maybe this makes me a little cray-cray but whatever. Some of it is dictated by Aden’s allergies (I don’t have him carry his epi-pen yet as I’m pretty sure he would think it was a toy to play with) and other are dictated by the fact that we’ve experienced crazy and are hoping to prevent any repeat incidents.

 

Here are the rules:

 

  • When school has started, you do not play outside until you have your homework done. If you “forgot” your homework at school, you’re out of luck. I bet you’ll remember it next time! And for all of the people freaking out that they “need their exercise”, they play outside all afternoon in their after school program. So they’re all sweaty and stinky by the time I pick them up and have had their share of fresh air.
  • If you’re fortunate enough to play outside after homework, do not keep coming in and out of the house. Unless you’re about to pee your pants, stay outside until you plan on staying inside. If I hear you come in more than once, that’s a wrap. We don’t need a bunch of flies in the house and you certainly do not need to feed the whole neighborhood all of the lunch snacks I have in the pantry. It’s almost dinner time anyway.
  • Speaking of dinner time, when I call you inside for dinner, you better hear me and you better listen the first time. I do not want to be that crazy mom who is running around the neighborhood in my not so nice lounge clothes looking for you. If that happens, consider it being docked in pay and you’re inside the next night. And don’t even ask to go outside after dinner!
  • Don’t ask me 50 times if you can play in Johnny’s house. You have about 1 hour to enjoy and that means enjoy it outside. I don’t know Johnny’s parents like that so, no, you cannot play over there. Heck, I don’t even know what house they live in. Stop asking or you’re coming inside.
  • If you have your homework done, you’ve stayed outside and you came in at dinner and didn’t ever ask to play at Johnny’s house, you may get a chance to go back outside after dinner….if the streetlights are not on. If they are, that’s a night and it’s time to take a shower (because you stink like the outside) and get ready for bed. If you argue, you lose tomorrow night.

 

So, these are the rules we use. Maybe I’m mean, but it’s what fits our family and our kids. So recently, one of the boys came over and asked Aden to play outside. He, knowing the rules, told them he had to finish homework and eat before he could come out. They were a little puzzled by this. Aden, being the child who challenges everything, pressed me about why his friends can do certain things and he cannot. “Because I’m not your friend. I am your mom. My job is to make sure you can follow rules, stay safe, and be respectful. It’s not changing so stop asking.” He rolled his eyes and groaned. My reply: “That’s fine. You can stay in tonight.” Hopefully someday he will learn. And hopefully it’s before he’s an adult when we can actually be more like friends….