Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Traveling Internationally with a 1 Year Old

We booked an international trip when our baby girl was less than two months old. She's 13 months now, and I'm writing this from Old Town Prague, as she naps quietly in the other room. It has been an amazing trip and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I have some tips and suggestions that I'm going to share with you here, but the bottom line is: If you are considering something similar, do it!

Because we booked almost a year out, we had 12 months of people telling us we were nuts. Everyone, from friends, to coworkers, to our daughter's pediatrician asked things like "Are you sure you want to do that?" and "Are your tickets refundable?" Even when we explained that she was easy-going and we would be fine, more than one person countered with "Well, she won't remember it." True, but we will. And she will grow up with the narrative that she traveled to three different countries right after her first birthday. Beyond the photos, it becomes a part of her story. A part of who she is.

While we were confident in our decision at first, these comments did start to seep in, causing us to doubt ourselves and our plan. My husband even asked me "Are you sure you want to do this?" two days before departure. We were nervous and worried, right up until the plane took off, and there literally was no turning back.

But it couldn't have gone better. All of the things I worried about were not an issue. Jet lag and the time difference? She adjusted after the first night. Finding milk for her bottles? Available everywhere, including every hotel we stayed at, at all hours.

I'm writing to tell you that you can do it. And it's not that big of a deal. However your child behaves normally, at home, is how they will behave in a different country. You may need to take it easy on some days and not pack in too many things to do each day, but that just makes it more of a vacation. Go for it. Remember, they're only 10% of the plane fair while under two (internationally, free for domestic travel). Once they turn two, you're out another ticket.

Some things I packed have been a life-saver, while other things I brought with me, but did not need. Before we left, I searched for advice on what to pack for an international trip with a one-year old and really couldn't find anything beyond window clings, which are a choking hazard. She attempted to eat one after about 30 seconds of playing with it.

So here's my list of must haves and don't needs, in no particular order.


  • Baby carrier. As long as they are used to using one, this will be a life saver. Our little one would get tired of being pushed in the stroller when we were out all day, and the carrier offered her a nice change of scenery, especially in the outward facing option. I used the Ergo 360. This was also perfect for the train stations and train rides, so that she was secured and safe.
  • Food storage containers. Not too many. I brought along more than I
    needed. Depending on their age and quantity of food, two containers for fruit for the day, an insulated thermos for milk and an insulated container for left-overs to bring on day outings. We brought along freezer packs, but it was a hassle to ask the front desk to freeze them and ice melts. We also brought along an insulated container for the milk, but ice melts and we didn't use it beyond the first few days. I started bringing an empty, clean bottle with us once I realized I could get milk anywhere, at any time. We let the front desk know we would be emptying the minibar and kept everything in there. Leftovers from dinner work as a snack for the next day, or even breakfast. I shopped at a grocery store for fruit for her. Bring a plastic plate, and I used a butter knife from room service. Didn't bring any foil but that would be useful, as well as a few extra plastic bags. 
  • Backpacks. Just your regular JanSport variety, nothing too big or with metal frames. We traveled with two large suitcases, two backpacks and one diaper bag. My husband was able to pull the two suitcases, we each wore a backpack, and I pushed the stroller with the diaper bag on it. It would be impossible to have four rolling suitcases with the stroller. Also, when I was wearing her, we pushed all of the bags in the stroller.
  • Benadryl. Okay, this one sounds bad I know, but hear me out. All those people who thought we were crazy for traveling with a 1 year old? Well none of them had done it before. But my friend's sister, who happens to also be an ER pediatrician and mother of two, told us early on to take some benadryl to have on hand for the flight. She had traveled to Italy and other countries when her children were young and said it was a lifesaver. Do not do this without speaking to your child's pediatrician for approval and the correct dosing (we used 2.5ML for our 22 pound 13 month old). Also, if you're going to do this, it is best to try out at home once to make sure they don't have an allergic or paradoxical (read: hyper!) reaction. We did this at a time when my husband was planning to stay up late and could watch her. I have to say I felt super guilty even considering this, until I did get her doctor's blessing. On the 11 hour flight from Los Angeles to Zurich, she was asleep before dinner was served, and woke up after breakfast. She had a solid 10 hours. DISCLAIMER: There did happen to be 30 extra business class tickets, and she was able to have her own seat that reclined completely flat. This will not be the case on the way home, and this is where my baby carrier will come into play. 
  • Business class seats. If possible, do this. We are both in education and never could afford $5,000 seats. But my husband is a mileage guy and knows that the best value on miles is when they are used for business seats instead of economy. You have to book a year out because they don't release many award mile seats for business, but it is so worth it.
  • Large stroller with inflatable tires. We love our BOB. I love how big it is,
    how much it can carry, how it absorbs shock and provides almost complete sun protection. It reclines flat so she can nap in it with no problem. But we almost did not bring it with us, because we thought it might be too big, too "American" for Europe. Best decision we've made. I do not know how we would get over cobblestones with an umbrella stroller, or even a stroller with larger wheels if they were plastic. We've even seen a man pushing one get caught on the trolley tracks while crossing the road! 
  • SPF blanket, sunscreen, hats and an umbrella. The SPF blanket was perfect to drape over her legs on days when she had on shorts and was being pushed in the stroller. I carried with me a loose-fitting pair of pants for her too since the best sun-protection is a physical barrier. The umbrella was great for when I was wearing her.
  • Children's Tylenol, children's Ibuprofen and a thermometer. Fortunately, we did not need to use any of these. But from my experience when we were in Oregon, they are good to have on hand should she spike a fever Over here, the grocery stores do not carry any OTC medication, not even for adults. They are sold at special pharmacies who have limited hours from what I can see. Our doctor also gave us antibiotics for her, because she had a bit of a cold before we left, but we never needed them. Our health insurance works here and the standard of care is just as high.
  • Purred fruit/veggie pouches and any favorite snacks. While I did not use the pre-packaged toddler meals, these were a great way to get in fruit and vegetables (she loves the kale, spinach and kiwi pure and also the blueberry and oat breakfast pouch) and worked if food was taking awhile after we ordered or if we were having a slower start to the day. In the future, I will focus on ones with veggies and grains, since fruit is readily accessible at the grocery store and easy to prepare, while vegetables need to be cooked. Buying fresh-baked bread and keeping it with is in the stroller while we were out was perfect. Her tummy is smaller and holds less, so she needs to eat more frequently than we do.
  • Dish soap, bottle brush, sponge. You can pick all this up at the store, but it was nice to have on hand for the first few nights. We flew into Zurich, and were all set to catch our connecting flight to Prague. But the flight was cancelled, and there were no more for that evening. By the time we got to the free hotel the airline booked for us, all the stores were closed. 
  • Multiple bottles. We brought 5, more than she uses in a day. I liked keeping a clean, dry one in the diaper bag just in case.
  • A backpack/leash. We brought one and did not use it because she still has that slow stagger of a walk that looks like she's going to do a face plant at any time. However, if she were a bit older and able to run or sprint, I would have used it in areas that are seemingly pedestrian, but there can be bikes or Segways. Be aware of your surroundings! Many pedestrian streets and even closed-off squares that seem traffic-free will have a restaurant delivery person on a moped zoom through. 
For example, below is a picture of our girl walking toward St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest. Looks like it is a pedestrian area, right? But do you see those black poles? That is a narrow part where cars zoom by at 30 MPH. When in a new setting, stop and scope out the area for awhile before letting your little one explore, even if you're by their side. I never would have expected there to be cars, because for blocks walking up to this, there were none allowed.
About 12 feet from where there are cars.


  • Packaged toddler meals. I bought a ton of Gerber meals, which she never eats at home. I was worried about not having food for her, and thought these would be perfect. I've thrown most of them out. Bring a few of their favorites to get you through the airplane ride and first night, but beyond that, you won't need them.
  • Too many clothes. We will have been gone a total of 3 weeks, and made it until day 11 without needing to do laundry. I was out of clothes but she still was not.
  • Too many toys. Bring a few of their favorites. At her age, 13 months, everything is a toy. She has had fun: clicking together the ketchup and mayonnaise mini jars from room-service; taking all of her barrettes and sample packages of diaper-rash cream out of a zip lock bag and putting them back in; playing with the hotel-room phone and remote; putting things in the trash can; taking things out of the trash can; walking around with a towel on her head and being invisible; getting tickled. Plus, you'll want to buy toys as souvenirs. 
  • Diapers. Well, you obviously need some, but depending on where you're going, they may be cheaper than back home. I brought a ton because I was worried about the quality and brand, but so far, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic have all had the Pampers 12 hour diapers that I use.
  • Any childproofing, unless you're really into that sort of thing. I don't really use any back home, so I didn't bring any on this trip. At home, we moved all of our cleaners into the garage, up high, and have one of those child-proof doorknob covers on the interior garage door. I have one latch securing my cupboard with photos and cards, but that's it. We have a coffee table with rounded corners at home, so when we were upgraded to an executive room at the Marriott with a small living room and *gasp* square corners I was a bit worried. But it's been a non-issue. We're always right there with her, and as it turns out, kids don't go around looking for sharp corners to head-butt.

Thanks for reading! If you've traveled internationally with a child of any age and have any tips or suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below for other readers, and myself! We have another trip booked in December, this time to Italy.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Cancelled IVF Cycle

When we flew into Zurich, we had about an hour to make our connecting flight to Prague. We made it to the gate with plenty of time, baby, luggage and stroller in tow and boarded last to minimize her time on the plane. We were belted in and ready to go when it was announced that the plane had been leaking oil and could not be flown until inspected and we would have to deboard. But not just yet, we would have to wait on the plane for 30 minutes until they were "ready" for us. Oh, and there were no other flights for the night.

If my life were a movie, this would have been an overt case of foreshadowing.

The whole reason we were going to the Prague at the beginning of our trip instead of the original 1 week in Vienna, 1 week in Budapest, and 1 week in Prague was to pick up my IVF medication and start the injections, As soon as my cycle started, which it never did.

Now we're carting around almost $1,000 is medication (Menopur) that  has to be kept cold. Have you seen how small European mini-bars are? The medication would cost us 4-5 thousand back home so we did save a lot, but we cannot do IVF here. Even if I started the medication tomorrow, there would not be enough time left in our trip for egg collection and transfer.

So we are back to considering IVF in the states, where it will be $10,000-$15,000 for the procedure, instead of the $3,000 that it costs in Prague. But at least we saved on the medication. Medication that I'm not sure TSA will let me back into the country with (if anyone has experience with this please, let me know!).

Another reminder that even the best laid plans go to waste. A lot of people travel for IVF - it even has its own term now, "fertility tourism." But it would be much different if I were just hopping over from the UK, where many of their patients travel from, and if I were getting the flights in time with my cycle instead of one year out and regulating with bc pills. 

At least we were planning to be here anyway and out trip was not created around this procedure, only modified for it.

I was down about it for a few hours the other day, but I have to remember just how blessed we are with our little girl. I want to make her a big sister, I do, but again I go back to there being a reason things work out the way they do. If our first IVF worked, we would not have her and I thank my lucky stars every day that it did not because I cannot imagine my life without her in it.

So for now, we remain a family of three. And my heart is full. She completes us. A sibling would be a bonus, but we are so lucky to have her. We always want more, and I imagine another her when I imagine having a second child. But every child is different, and chances are that the next one may not be the perfect world traveler. Many couples who struggle with infertility never have the luxury of trying for a sibling, and i am ever-aware of that.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Gennet IVF Clinic in Prague - First Visit

Yesterday was a bank holiday here in Prague, but we scoped out the fertility center where I will be doing my 3rd round of IVF. The outside of the multi-story building was very sleek and modern, as was the lobby when we walked in today, 30 minutes early for my appointment.

Most employees spoke English, some better than others. The receptionist told us we could take the lift to the 2nd floor and wait for my coordinator. As we walked past her and to the elevator, it was as if we were stepping back into time and into a sanatorium. There were those outdated tiles on the floor and very old wooden doors juxtaposed with the modern. I wasn't expecting it because Gennet which opened in 2013 and the exterior was so new. 

My coordinator came over to greet us and the first thing I noticed was her acid-washed jeans. Not a big deal, quit focusing on appearance, I told myself. 

And then my nurse walked in wearing a get-up so similar to Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest that it seemed to be a copy.

The first thing my husband and I had to do was give blood to check for STDs. This is also required back in the states for IVF, but our tests were outdated. After that, I was taken back to the exam room for an ultrasound. The doctor spoke limited English, but did his best with "Take your clothes off and sit on table." He went back over to his computer as I waited an extra few seconds to see if he was going to leave or give me one of those disposable sheets to drape over myself. Nope, he just sat at his computer, so I did as he said. Now, this did not make me uncomfortable in any way, as I realize that us Americans are a bit more uptight than the rest of the world...but it was a noticable difference and I could see ho it could bother someone not expecting it.

He said everything looked good and went over my protocol with me, which you can see below. Due to my low AMH level, I am on one of the highest protocols that there is.

My husband and daughter came back in the room, as did my coordinator who helped translate for the doctor who could answer our questions, but was clearly more comfortable speaking Czech. I am now waiting for my cycle to start. I took my last birth control pill on the 4th of July to time it right, per their instructions, but it has not started. It's just after midnight here, and I'm worried that it's not going to soon, which will throw everything off.

And we have already purchased nearly a thousand dollars in medication. Don't get me wrong, this is a fourth of the price back home, but what good are they if I can't start taking them and have the procedure? I am very nervous about that. And tomorrow, we catch a train to Vienna.

As soon as I start, that will be considered day one, and I am to start the Menopur injections on day 3. They want me to have a scan on day 6. Since we will be in Budapest by then, it is impractical to return because it is 8 hours by train, and I will need to be here for 10 days later in the month for scans, trigger, and egg retrieval and then embryo transfer (provided we have one). 

They wrote me a letter stating what they need on the ultrasound day 6 (follicle count and size) so that I can have it done at a clinic in Budapest and then Gennet will know how to adjust my medications, and when I should return. So, other than willing my cycle to start, that is my mission for tomorrow; to scan the letter and start contacting clinics in Budapest to find one that can help.

One more thing. I have several boxes of the Menopur - six I think - and it needs to be kept refrigerated. We left it at the clinic and are on a mission in the morning to find one of those big insulated bags to cart with us on the train ride to Vienna. So much for packing light. We're going to be lugging that around to two more countries!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

IVF in Prague - Switching Clinics!

I was all set to have IVF at The Prague Fertility Centre (you can read my first posting here, and the second posting after I had my Skype consult here) when I received an automated response a few weeks ago from the woman I had been corresponding with for several months: 
Dear Madam/Sir,

thank you for your email. The 10th of June 2016 was my last day as a member of team at the PFC clinic.
I wish you all the best and good luck in the future treatment or actual pregnancy.
My colleague Lucie Zerbini: will be a new contact for all my English speaking patients. So please contact her directly, I believe you will be in good hands. 
Take care and have a lovely day,

With best regards

This sudden change was very unsettling to me, but I told myself to calm down and that it would all be alright. At first, it was. My new English-speaking contact responded right away, and everything proceeded as normal...until I tried to get clarification on the dates of my treatment.

See, my husband and I (and Baby A, of course!) are flying to Vienna, then visiting Budapest and ending our 3-week trip in Prague. However, doing IVF in Prague will involve some back-and-forth from the other two countries. We need to take a 4 hour train ride (each way) to Prague from Vienna soon after we land to pick up my medication, for example, and I will need to return for ultrasounds and scans prior to the egg retrieval. Prague is only 4 hours from Vienna, but it is almost twice as far from Budapest, and we already have all of our hotels booked. 

I sent my new contact a tentative timeline of the dates and asked if these approximate dates seemed to be in line with what they were thinking. She responded by writing that exact dates could not be given, along with a lengthy explanation of how everyone responds differently to the medication, and that an IVF cycle doesn't work that way. I chalked it up to the language barrier and her not being familiar with my file and the fact that I've done IVF twice already, so of course I understand that dates cannot be exact. In response I mentioned that communication was a bit difficult, and asked if I could have another consult with the doctor. The first, and only, time I talked to the doctor, communication was literally difficult, as she could not hear me very well.

That's when I received this response: All your questions were always answered so I don't understand why you are saying that communication is difficult. 

Worried I had offended her, I tried to explain and reiterate that I would like to ask the doctor some questions. There has been no response, at all, and it's been almost two weeks.

So last week, I began seriously corresponding with Gennet, which I had originally considered. Right away, communication was much easier, as was their customer service. I like that they have a sister clinic in London, many more doctors on staff (similar to HRC), and that their website was much nicer. Okay, I'm probably not supposed to admit to that last one, but what can I say? Gennet was also on the original list of "approved" clinics our cousin who is a doctor said had as high of a standard of care as here in the US.

Their rates were slightly lower than Prague Fertility Centre (PFC), 2,200 Euro vs. 3,000.

IVF/ICSI package
The fee for an IVF/ ICSI package is EUR 2200 and includes:

-       Consultation and ultrasounds during treatment cycle
-       Tests for HIV, Hep B, C and Syphilis for both partners at the time of egg collection
-       Egg retrieval under general anaesthesia
-       Semen analysis of male partner
-       Fertilization ICSI, cultivation up to blastocyst, ev. assisted hatching
-       Embryo transfer
-       Cryopreservation of all remaining embryos ( classic slow freezing )
-       Storage of cryopreserved embryos/eggs for 1 year

They did charge 100 Euros for the consult, which I eagerly set up for a few days ago at 5am.

Since I already had my hormonal profiles, EKG and physical done, I forwarded my results to them. My consultation that morning with Dr. Martin Valachovic, senior IVF Physician, could not have gone better. He spent 45 minutes on the Skype call with me, versus the 10 minutes I had with the doctor at PFC. Instantly, I felt much more comfortable, and two days before we fly, I officially switched clinics!

While I am happy and comfortable with this new clinic, it is not to say that I am hopeful. Although their website advertises success rates higher than 40%, he said my chance of a positive pregnancy is about 10% given my low AMH level of .2. This is what the previous doctor from PFC had told me, and it is important to keep in mind, so that I don't get my hopes up.

Just like if I were doing IVF here in the states, he plans to put me on Menopur, a stimulation medication I am familiar with. He said that I will have the highest dose, and with that, we should expect to have about three mature eggs (previously, with an AMH of .4 back in 2014, I had 7 eggs). That's not a lot, especially given that of those three, not all of them will fertilize and develop normally. For my second round of IVF that worked, 6 of those 7 fertilized, but we only had 2 that were normal on day three. The others either had two polar bodies or were not dividing. This is not due to a fertility problem, but is instead age related. Starting at age 35, most women are going to start showing diminished egg quantity and quality. Yes, there are always out-liers and people who say "My grandma got pregnant at 53, with no problem!" but that is the general rule.

My last day of taking the pill will be July 4th, the day we fly. This will help time my cycle and starting the medication, which I pick up on July 7th. I will blog through this process while we're over there, of course. Wish us luck!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Her 1st Year in Review

If careful observation could slow the passage of time, my monthly blog entries over the last year would have done the trick. But just as everyone warned me, it passed in the blink of an eye. By far, it has been the most amazing year of my life. While I lament the loss of that helpless baby, I love seeing her grow and progress, and can't wait to see what the next year holds.

My friend Helen, new Mom to 3 month old Henry, said it best: 
I want him to simultaneously stay this exact size but also grow, so I can continue to get to know him and see him get even more cute.
I couldn't agree more. If I have any advice for new moms, it is document, document, document! I'm so glad I did because reading over some of these older postings, I am reminded of some adorable things she did that I swore I would never forget, but already have begun to. So here it is, a monthly update for every month of her first year.

Birth Story & First 2 Weeks
Two Months Postpartum
September, 3 Month Update
October, 4 Month Update
November, 5 Month Update
December, 6 Month Update
January, 7 Month Update
February, 8 Month Update
March, 9 Month Update
April, 10 Month Update
May, 11 Month Update
June, 12 Month Update

June, 12 Month Update

Our girl turned 13 months on June 26th, so for the majority of the month, she was 12 months old.

Her first birthday came and went and I still found myself 13 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. So I started the month with a commitment to loose those last pounds and also, a plan. Thirteen pounds in one month is a bit unrealistic, so I set the goal of loosing 10. My plan was to order ready-made paleo meals from Freshly (then, I tried Hello Fresh and Blue Apron), run more during my lunch breaks, supplement with protein shakes, do some weight-training (mostly squats and lunges) and join a weight-loss challenge with a few friends: eight friends at $30 each, winner takes $240. I was all set to win (at least in my mind) until my friend Delia upped the ante and went on a double century bike ride (that's 200 miles, folks) a few days before our weigh-in. I did end the month with a 10 pound weight-loss and, more importantly, healthier.

Because I was running 2-3 days each week during my lunch break, I wasn't able to visit her those days, which was tough on me. To make myself feel better, I tried to remember that although this was less time spent with her, it would help me live longer, ultimately giving me more time with her. Running also gives me such a mood-boost and a lot more energy. I cherished those lunch visits that I did have with her even more.

On the first Monday of the month, I showed to her daycare up around 10:30 am. Her back was to me as I entered the play-yard and I was able to watch her for awhile without her knowing I was there. She was sitting on the ground, watching the kids from the older classes walk by, on their way to the other play-yard. Keeping my distance, I saw her outstretch her arm, palm open, above her head. Several kids walked by before one of them bent down and gave her a high five. A few more passed, then another high five. Bless her heart, I thought, in my Mom's voice. I looked at one of the workers with a huge smile on my face and she told me "She does this every day. Sometimes a whole class will go by and give her high-fives" A germ-a-phobe's worst nightmare, but one of the cutest things I have ever seen, and something I will always remember.

Although she took her first steps on May 17th, she was not a steady walker until June 7th. It was so strange to catch her out of my periphery and see her little head higher off the ground as she walked around the house instead of crawling. Although still frequently falling gently to the ground, this was the first day that she really seemed to walk more than she crawled. And just like that, she became a walker. I love how she keeps her arms in front of her for balance, sort of like a tiny, cute zombie. She is so excited to be walking and seems quite proud of her accomplishment. She now walks all around the house and backyard too!

That first week in June daycare told us that we no longer needed to bring bottles to daycare. This came as a surprise to me because we were used to packing four of them, full of milk. We still send her with milk just in case it is needed when we pick her up (we have had a lot of appointments after work), but they now supply any milk she needs and give it to her in her sippy cup. I was happy to learn that she was eating enough food, and started to branch out what I was serving her. 

She loves mac and cheese, so I started making my own in the crock pot. It's so easy, just follow this recipe. I also like food that I can make ahead of time and freeze, especially when it has healthy ingredients hidden inside, like this recipe for toddler banana muffins with flax seed, wheat germ and quick oats. I even made extra and caught my husband snacking on them! I also made her a smoothie that weekend with greek yogurt, milk, flax seed, spinach, blueberries and mango.

We went whale watching that second weekend in June, and the highlight of the trip was when our little one saw a group of sea lions hanging out on a buoy and excitedly exclaimed "dog!" While it was great company with my friend since 6th grade and her family, we didn't really see much of the one lone whale that we trailed slowly while the boat rocked back and forth (Word to the wise: ask your spouse if they get sea-sick on boats prior to booking). We all went to dinner afterwards and I was a bit sad to realize that we would not all be getting again together until August or September because of our summer travels. Around the time we return from Europe, they head up to Alaska for a cruise. 

That Sunday, we purchased a couch at Living Spaces and our girl had a blast walking all around the store, exploring each new living room setting with me trialing closely behind. I realized that any place is an adventure for her, not just designated kid's places. She honestly had as much fun exploring that store as she did when we went to Pretend City children's museum!

As the school year started to come to a close, we started to get excited about our summer travel plans to Europe and months of uninterrupted time together and adventures. I do not know how the rest of the world not in education makes it through with just 2 weeks off plus holidays. I've always treasured my summers off, but not nearly as much as I do now with our little Bean.

Father's Day was a time to celebrate having the World's Best Dad a man that is "good enough." This started as a joke last year, when he requested that the photo plaque I was planning to get him said that instead of "World's Best Dad." This year, I found him a shirt that had a ship on it and read "I sail on the S.S. Good Enough." 

On June 20th, she repeated her very first word by request. I said "Baby A, say bye." and was shocked when she repeated "Byeeeeeeee!"  Right now, it is the only word she will repeat on command. I will ask her to repeat several different words, all followed by silence, until I say "Bye!"

As the school year drew to a close, it was so nice to have several minimum days with her, and to be able to bring her with me to work for our end of the year staff meeting, before taking her to the beach. She did not want to sit on my lap. Instead, she wanted to wander all around the library, where the meeting was held. As our principal was speaking, she toddled by him, eliciting interaction from him and interrupting his train of thought. Everyone commented on how happy she was.

Her being on the go so much has us really nervous about our upcoming flights. We have 10 hours to Heathrow, a layover of a few hours, and then 4 hours to Vienna! When we booked the flights, almost a year ago, she was obviously not mobile! People in business class who actually paid thousands of dollars for their seats (we booked ours with miles) are going to love us, as I pass their seat with her walking in front of me for the 40th time.

Her last day of daycare was June 27th, and I was actually sad that she would not see her playmates again until the end of August. It's amazing to think about the compete 180 I've done, from being so reluctant to leave her there, to not wanting her not to go!
See ya, daycare! Last day until the end of August.
Her desires and tiny emotions began to emerge toward the end of the month. She did start to develop some separation anxiety from me, even when I was still with her, but needed to put her down. While she often plays on her own, there are certain times, such as when I'm running late and trying to get ready, that she just wants to be held. I can do a lot of things with her on my hip, but apply mascara is not one of them. When she wants to be held and I put her down, she will start to cry and will even reach her arms up to me. Not picking her up when she's like this is one of the most difficult things in the world, but I am careful to not reinforce her behavior. Instead, I reassure her with words and pick her up as soon as it subsides.

My husband is a special education teacher and I'm a school counselor. I don't consider myself to be a behavior export by any means, but he dubs himself as one. Between us, we have seen so many behaviors exhibited by children that are actually the result of parenting, and it starts when they're little. Behavior is created, not innate. I've seen children as young as a year or two be reinforced for "bad" behaviors, when the parent thinks they are doing the opposite and curbing the behavior. I put bad in quotes, because their is not such thing as a bad kid. Adults,, no. 

For example, many children are only given attention for their off-task behavior. When they are playing nicely, they're ignored. But the second they do something wrong, the parent is down at their level explaining  why what they did is wrong (something a baby or even toddler developmentally cannot grasp), with the attention being extremely rewarding and the behavior likely to repeat or even increase. We try to be mindful of this, though so far there are very few situations it is relevant. The only example that comes to mind is that she wants to walk frequently and will sometimes now squirm or whine when we are out and she wants down. I will verbally tell her that I understand that she wants to walk by saying something like "You want down. Soon!" and then I will wait until she stops fussing (usually about 10 seconds later) and let her down. Distraction also works well right now, and there is seemingly nothing that an impromptu game of peek-a-boo can't fix.

At the very end of the month, she slept through the night completely (until 6:45), instead of waking for a 2am or 5am feeding. I think now that she is getting more substantial food, it is sustaining her. At first, it was difficult for me to give her less milk and have more food on hand because I wasn't used to it. But I found I can make things like multi-grain mini pancakes (adding flax seed and blueberries) and have them on hand for when she wakes up. On the 30th, she ate a whole one of these (it was a mini) and only drank 2 ounces of milk which was huge progress for us both! I do worry about what I will do for food while we're traveling (we leave in 3 days!), but our first hotel in Vienna does include breakfast, and I am packing a lot of pre-cut Gerber fruits, veggies, snacks and mini-meals.

  • Walks independently, everywhere
  • Imitating us: brushing her hair, raising her arm
  • Says dog, bye and uh-oh 
  • Tries to lift heavy things, and will carry them for awhile
  • Opens her mouth and says "Ahhhhhhhhh" when prompted, a "skill" we're teaching her in case she puts something in there and we don't know what it is
  • Takes objects in and out of containers. She transferred the earplugs we had ordered for our trip from one box, into our cleaning person's box of trash, and loves putting clothes and other random objects into the clothes hamper in her room.
  • Tries to put shapes (circle, square, triangle) in the sorter, but will give to me or take off lid after few attempts.
  • Blows kisses
  • Picks dandelions 
  • Follows simple directives such as "Bring me the book." 
  • Can open and close most doors
  • Crawls up stairis 
  • Knows how to get off the bed, tummy first
Things I don't want to forget about this month:
  • Walking around the house with a small towel or shirt over her head
  • Repeating "Byeeeeeeeee!"
  • "Uh-oh!"
  • When we're out and about and she sees another kid around her same age, they will walk up to each other and just stare. 
  • How she will climb on top of me to fall back asleep
  • When I say "The birdies are going to get you" she smiles and crawls into my arms.
  • How she points and then quickly retracts her arm.
  • Wandering around Pacific City in HB and how she walks out in front of people and in and out of stores
  • Seeing her in the pink and white dress I crocheted for her while I was pregnant. 
  • Those spontaneous kisses which I cannot refuse, even when she has a runny nose
New Foods and favorites:
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Multi-grain pancakes, with butter
  • Cow's milk, no more formula. About 16 ounces per day
  • Peaches
  • Adding ground flax seed to her food, like pancakes
  • Tried (and liked!) a kale slaw that I made, with a mayonnaise and vinegar dressing!
  • Baked sweet potato "fries"
  • Avocado, avocado, avocado

Monday, June 27, 2016

Important Routines

The word "routine" seems to have a negative connotation and imply that it is boring; something to get either through or over with. But our routines are what we spend the majority of our time doing. Because our daily actions turn into our weekly, monthly and yearly patterns, they become so intrinsically woven into our daily life that they become part of who we are. 

Our routines are the fabric of our being.

I remember my father heading out for morning runs when I was in middle school. He would leave the house before dawn and return while I was just starting to get ready for school. Although he never sat me down and actually had a conversation with me about the importance of running for well-being, somehow it registered. When I entered high school and didn't make the basketball team (on account of the fact that I didn't actually know how to play), track and cross-country came to mind. I never made the direct link to my father's influence, but it was there, as was the influence from my Mom. From a young age, my Mom took me with her to Jazzersize classes, which I loved, and we used to walk all over town, including to school and the grocery store.

I was on a run the other day and thinking about how thankful I am that I have running in my life and how it came to be one of the most important tools in my chest. Through the rough patches in my life, running has been my go-to activity. So much so, that I think of it as a panacea and a one of the key ingredients in a happy, healthy life. Running doesn't just make the tough parts easier, but also the good parts better. I hope that I can run throughout my whole life, just like this video.

My thoughts drifted to the routines and values that I want our little one to grow up with, and how I hope that one of those is regular exercise of some form. It doesn't need to be running, but I want her to get those endorphins in some way, to help shield and insulate her from the rough patches in life, like it has done for me. How can I facilitate that?

The answer became glaringly obvious: The best way to teach is to lead by example.

I feel this great sense of responsibility and also excitement  when I think about how I am her Mom and what role I play in shaping her experience in this world. I've dreamed about being a Mom my whole life and now here it is; show time. It is time to put into action all those child development and developmental psychology courses and articles I have read over the years and gather up all of the love my Mom gave me and give it to her. It's time to take what I cherish the most about my childhood and pass it on to her. It's also time to transform and reshape the less than desirable parts, so that I, along with her Dad, can give her the very best start in life. 

To be responsible for another human being is really the most important vocation in the world. Her childhood memories and experiences can be anything we choose to create, and will be something that remains with her long after we are gone. Is anything more important? 

Below is my list of what I plan to raise her experiencing on a regular basis, with the hope that these routines will become a part of her life when she's an adult.

Exercise - As long as we are alive, we're going to have stress. There are a ton of ways to handle stress that may help briefly in the moment, like over-eating or drinking, but only serve to make things worse in the long run. So many people seem to forget that alcohol is a depressant! I regularly tell my students that while we can't often control what happens to us, we can control what we do about it. Exercise doesn't make problems go away, but it certainly makes them seem smaller. Exercise has been proven to be as effective as anti-depressants, and that's why I run, even though I don't like it. We are in the process of adding to our home gym (garage) and are purchasing child gates (which we do not own!) so that she can be in there and watch us, safely. This was my husband's idea, he even said "I want baby A to grow up knowing we work out."

Attending church - Faith has not always been something that was there for me when I needed it, because I fell away from the Catholic church for many years. My journey back has not been easy, but it has been comforting. The stronger my faith becomes, the better I feel about how fleeting life is. Even when I was agnostic, there was no denying the comfort that I saw religion bring many of my closest friends, and I want that for her. We make going to Mass a priority on the weekends, but still have room to improve. Right now, we're attending at least twice per month, and we also go while we're on vacation.

Friends and family - Our family, which was never very big to begin with, seems to be shrinking. I always pictured my Mom as a part of her life and it pains me that she is not, at least not in the tangible sense. I want our girl to know and see that she has a very long list of people who have loved her from the start, and will love her no matter what, just like family. I also want her to know that we love family and are there for them when they need us, even if they have been unkind to us in the past. It's always best to turn the other cheek, be the better person, and forgive.

Cooking and family meals - I want my girl to grow up enjoying family recipes and the stories that go along with them. We rarely ate out growing up and this was part of the reason I weighted 115 pounds my senior year (I'm 5'7"). We all know home-cooked meals are healthier for us, but it's not just about what we weigh and how we look. I want her to have the cancer-fighting power of antioxidants and set her up for a lifetime of healthy eating. I also want to spend that time together in the kitchen preparing the food and all of the conversations about nothing (and yet everything) that will take place not just while we are cooking, but when we all put our technology aside and sit down together. To that end, I recently tried several different food and meal-planning delivery services before deciding on Blue Apron, which I will set up weekly when I return to work in the fall. Prior to putting this in place, it was all too easy to get busy and just have my husband pick me up fast food. The delivery also ensures variety, with me eating several vegetables in the last week that I hadn't purchased in the last year, but enjoy the taste of.

Daily walks - We walk at least 3 miles every evening, usually more on the weekends. While walking doesn't give me the endorphin rush of running, it is still a way to decompress and gives us more time to talk, and more time away from our technology. Our Baby A went on her first walk with us, around the block, my first night home from the hospital.

Reading - The flower girls from our wedding are approaching their teen years and their parents alternate reading to them every night until they fall asleep. I love this! I've been reading to baby A from the start, and she will now turn the pages of the books, though she usually does so when I'm mid-sentence. I joined a book club when she was a few months old, and also started going to our local library regularly for story time. Right now, I'm reading Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.

Having fun and being silly - Life is just too short to be taken seriously. If you're successful in every way but are always stressed out and don't have fun, what is the point? I want her to grow up seeing her father and I being playful with each other, laughing and having a good time even (especially?) when times are tough.

Service to others - This may not happen on a daily basis, but can certainly happen more than just around the holidays. I plan to start volunteering with her when she's older, but there are also a lot of informal ways that this can take place throughout the year. Sometimes, situations where we can help others present themselves when we least expect it.

The love and care of animals - I grew up with animals and loved nothing more than helping care for them. I wasn't always good at it, as evidenced by the guinea pig that I left out under the eves when it rained, and found floating the next morning (he was in an aquarium, not a cage), but I always enjoyed it. We currently have a dog and a cat, but plan to get a bunny or chickens for her when she is older. Because we're in unincorporated Orange County, we can have chickens, how cool is that? We also want to get a puppy. If it were up to her Dad, we would have one right now, but I'm afraid of a nip in the face, and want her to be a little older.

A grateful heart - It is so easy to forget everything that we have to be thankful for, even when we're going through tough times. Remembering how much we have to be thankful for needs to be an active, rather than a passive, habit. This can happen daily, in small ways such as thanking God in our prayers, or sharing one thing that we're thankful for before dinner. We also have a "Blessings" jar that my friend Andrea gave me years ago. You write down something you feel is a blessing and read them weekly, monthly or yearly. I want to cultivate that in her, and when she passively mentions that she is happy that "......" I want to shine a spotlight on it and be in the habit of saying "Let's write that down!"

Travel - Routine travel means that when we're on summer break (or, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Spring), we travel. It's what we do. I want travel to become the rule, not the exception, for her. I want vacations to be normal and customary, instead of something that happens once in a blue moon. Now, this doesn't mean that we will always going on international trips like we are this year. It may mean trips to Hawai'i, up to Oregon, or even a long weekend at Leggoland. I want breaking our routine to be a part of our routine, if that makes sense. I want her to experience different cultures, see the world, and instill in her a love of continuing to travel. Right now, she has three flights booked, with two of them being international. I can't wait for her passport to get some stamps!

Playing piano - The idea of me sitting down at the piano to play songs just seems so appealing to me. I imagine her by my side, singing the words or having me teach her to play. Maybe we'll play a duet. There's just one problem: I can't read music, and I've never played the piano before. But, we do own a piano that was my Mom's, and tomorrow, on what would be her 65th birthday, we are getting it tuned and fixed (two keys don't work). I have also found a student who will give me lessons for $20 an hour, and plan to start when we return to work. With any luck, I'll be able to play a Christmas song or two by December, besides Jingle Bells.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

May, 11 Month Update

Our little one turned a year (!?) on May 26th, so for the majority of the month, she was 11 months old.

Baby A climbed her way into May. She started climbing up onto our couch and walking back and forth while holding on to the back of it and looking out the window. I was surprised to watch her turn around and carefully get off of it. She climbed up onto her tiny swing/slide in the back yard, and stood at the top of the platform and started shaking the swing back and forth. She liked the sound it made and also seeing it move. I can't help but hover, but do my best to let her figure out what to do and how to get herself back down. I was very surprised that she seemed to know to sit down and inch forward instead of blindly step off the mini-cliff. Then, the very next day, I came home and found her with Daddy in the same situation. Intending to just film her on the top acting like a little monkey, I actually captured her very first time down the slide all by herself!

She also started to try climbing into the bathtub. Usually in the bathroom while I get ready, she likes to stand and reach for her toys that are in a basket. Slowly, she raised her right leg, while looking at me. While I am not opposed to the word 'no' it certainly loses its effectiveness when used all the time. Instead, I followed what they do at daycare, and gave her a directive to keep her feet on the ground.

My birthday was the first Monday in May and when I went to visit her at daycare, they told me she would be moving up to the next room "soon." Little did I know it would be the very next day! While this milestone was a bit difficult for me to swallow because it is one more sign she's no longer an infant, she took it all in stride. The very next day, she spent the morning with the "big" kids (1-2 year olds) and did so well, that she was in there with them for half the day the rest of the week! They spend quite a bit of time outside, and she absolutely loves that. When I visited her the next day, her pants and even her shoes were dirty from crawling all around the play yard. They are on a bit more of a schedule in there, which they are starting to prepare her for by having outside play time when she usually takes her morning nap, so that she naps later and longer. But, if she still falls asleep around 10am, into her crib she goes. She is also still goes back over to the infant room after 12pm.

She gets dropped off just before 8am and picked up just after 3pm. I love the fact that she will just have a little over 4 waking hours at daycare before Daddy is there to get her, because their nap-time is from 12:30-3:00 pm. Also, they do art every day, which I love! She already "made" me several things her first week, for Mother's Day. I treasure them like I never could have imagined, and already picture them amassed in boxes in the garage because I'll never be able to throw even one of them out.

At the beginning of the month, I stocked up on baby food, not realizing that she would be off and running eating with her food and wouldn't need it. Here I was still cutting up her food really small, and daycare gave her two chicken nuggets during my lunch visit and apple slices. I found out the next day she finished them. She also began using her spoon and even sometimes getting food in there with it! She loves avocado, which I have started rolling in brown rice.

By the second week of May, she was routinely going down the slide in our backyard all by herself, with less hesitation. She also started standing briefly, yet steadily, with no support and walking while holding on to Daddy's hand. Right now, it seems like she is learning something new every day. She will point to things that she wants, such as her cup or a trip outside, and understands a lot of what we say.

May 12th was my best visit to daycare by far. I visited her in the morning, just after 10am, when she was playing outside. As I entered the gates, I found her in the sandbox with her buddy. 

At times, she would crawl off and play, only looking back briefly to see if I was still there. While I managed to steal some kisses and cuddles, she was a lot more interested in playing with the other kids than she was in visiting with me. This made me so very happy! She's spreading her spreading her little wings. 
Because she is making the transition to the big kid's room, she now stays awake until after 12pm, most days. This is new to her, because she is used to a morning nap, an afternoon nap and an evening nap. But one Friday, she was falling asleep at the lunch table. She would nod off, wake for a bit and eat, and then fall asleep while sitting up. They took her back to the infant room for her bottle, but she never fell asleep. Then, Dad came to pick her up a little early and brought her to my school to visit. By that time it was 2:30 and she still had not had a nap at all, but was still smiling as she made the rounds and said hello to all of my coworkers. There are countless things I love about this baby, but her happy, easy-going temperament is at the top of the list!

I feel like we have the best of both worlds with her sleeping routine. I put her down in her crib once she falls asleep, and I go into our bed. When she wakes up for a feeding (usually around 3am), I pluck her out of her crib and snuggle with her in the guest room. I usually fall back asleep before she finishes her bottle. 

Around the middle of the month, she started snuggling like she used to when she was an infant, laying on top of me, instead of in the crook of my arm. I didn't know what she was doing when she put her leg on top of me, and feared she was trying to climb over me. But she snuggled down once her legs were on either side of my hips and it was the best feeling in the world! One morning toward the end of the month when her tummy was hurting because of the switch to cow's milk, she "pushed" me over while we were both sitting on the bed so that she could snuggle down on top of me.

We had her first birthday party on May 21st and of course that warrants a separate posting, here. She was amazing, as always, and genuinely seemed to have a good time. I love all of the 1,000+ pictures that my photographer took, but the one below is one of my favorites. When I ask her for a kiss, she opens her mouth wide, and leans in. This is how she kisses Daddy, her dog, and her baby. It is so sweet to me and when she learns to pucker up, I know I will miss this.
She's becoming more and more interactive and observant. She loves to point at things, and will sometimes bring me a book along with a command that sounds something like "Ga?"

On the last weekend of the month, we went to Pretend City and also the zoo. She had a blast at both and would walk around, using my finger for support. She would have a certain direction she wanted to head in and if I tried to go a different way, she would not. So I followed her lead. At Pretend City, she navigated by getting into one of the Little Tikes cars, and having me push her around. Then, when she saw something interesting, like baby chickens, she would open the door and go explore, returning to the car to be pushed again.

She also attended her first live theater performance and I was, and still am, shocked by how enthralled she was. The school performance of The Little Mermaid held her attention for a full 90 minutes! A budding thespian! 

On the last day of the month, my husband and I were sitting on the couch and she was going back and forth for tickles and cuddles. I moved so that we were farther apart, on opposite ends. She would walk to me, holding on to the back of the couch for support and fall toward me. I tickled her and she would laugh and laugh. Then, she would go over to Daddy, who would do the same and again, she would erupt with belly laughs. This went on for at least 20 times and was so much fun. There is nothing in the world that makes me as happy as seeing her happy.

  • FIRST STEPS 5/18 She was in the backyard, with her walker. I moved it a few feet in front of her, and she took two steps. Quickly calling Nathan to see it, she was able to do it again. Later that evening, she took 4-5 steps.
  • Now, 4-6 steps without support
  • Pointing
  • Can throw a ball, with pretty good aim!
  • Scribble with a marker or pen
  • Use spoon
  • Climb on couch, sit in kid's chair
  • Imitates gestures, such as learning to blow kisses. She puts her hand to her mouth and then outstretches her arm, right after watching us do it.
  • Bangs two objects together
  • Attempts to put shoes on
  • Pats baby on the back
Things I don't want to forget about this month:
  • Falling back asleep on me
  • Her little "oh" face
  • Unsolicited kisses
  • "Gunga, gunga, gunga"
  • Walking around while holding my finger. 
  • Purposely finding my belly button, or her Daddy's. When she sticks her finger in it, we giggle and then tickle her, which she loves 
  • Going back and forth to us on the couch for tickles
  • How much she loves being outside
Routines we're continuing:
  • Singing to her: You Are My Sunshine, Amazing Grace (bedtime)
  • Reading children's books to her. She will now bring a book over to me to read, but often turns the page before I have a chance to finish!
  • Evening walks
  • Crocheting. I finally finished those darn suns and am searching for a new project to take with us to Europe.
  • Nightly prayers
  • Morning snuggle time - she now sleeps in the crook of my left arm.
  • This little piggy. She now anticipates the "Wee, wee, wee all the way home" part and will smile and scrunch her shoulders.
  • Asking "Where's Daddy?" or "Where's Trevi?" and cheering when she looks
  • Lunch visits - every day!
  • Peak-a-boo 
  • Brushing her teeth
Routines we're establishing:
  • She absolutely loves playing in the back yard and going down the slide. As soon as there is shade, we go back there, around 4pm.
  • Playing in her pool and with her water table
New Foods and favorites:
  • Quesadillas 
  • Cow's milk (30% milk, 70% formula)
  • Prune juice, due to the milk
  • LOVES avocados, green beans and strawberries, Greek yougurt and cottage cheese