Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Loving on Public Montessori!

My kids go to the public Montessori school here in Pittsburgh. I’m frequently reminded why I love this method of instruction, and recently, we had one of those days where I just swelled with good feelings about school. Miles has challenges with the self-starting piece and does struggle to focus at school, but there is so much else about this type of education that works well for us that I just know this is the right place for our family right now.

The last Friday of every month, the school does something called “Marvelous Montessori Mornings,” where families can come to school and see what kids are working on in their classrooms. I try to get a sitter for the younger boys sometimes so Miles can show me some of his really tricky math stuff (he knows how to cube numbers…like exponents!). I also try to bring everyone along sometimes so Miles can show his brothers what he’s been working on.

This past time was particularly special because we got our letter that Felix has a place at school starting in the fall and we’re pretty sure he’ll have Miles’ teacher. So Miles got to give him a tour of what will soon be his classroom!

Miles was so peaceful and gentle showing his brother which works might be appropriate. Felix, normally so rough with materials at home, could just tell the rules were different at school and handled the works carefully. While Miles showed me some of the stages of seed growth, Felix separated eggs into baskets using a tiny spoon. And Oren crawled around on the floor.

Felix chose a work where he laid a gold ribbon on the carpet and Miles showed him how to walk along the ribbon, carefully and slowly controlling his body. It was so nice to see them all working together.

Miles’ teacher then commented that she wished schools would put siblings together, because she’s seen those interactions be really beautiful. I sort of snorted and laughed as hard as I could, because I know that when it’s good, it’s really good. But when the boys aren’t getting along? And they have access to screwdrivers and nails and school scissors? Dear God! Look out.

Today I have to pick Miles up early for a doctor’s appointment. Even though he’s been on spring break for 9 days and his last day of school was a half day, he knew which “day” it is in the cycle and told me where I can find him at 2:30pm. I checked with his teacher just to be safe, and sure enough he was right. Obviously!

Posted by on April 6th, 2015 2 Comments

Long Tank Tops: The Struggle is Real

Forgive this utterly first-world problem and allow me to tell you, it’s hard to find a long tank top.

This is a Target maternity tank. Look at the length on that sucker! I still wear it. It’s even longer when it’s not stretched out by a baby.

I’m a short lady with a large bosom, and most shirts either ride up or billow out, mandating a long base layer for me to avoid a breeze on my midriff. Before having kids, I could get away with a standard tank top, barely.

When I got pregnant with my first son, I discovered the Long Maternity Tank, and I love it. I still have 2 of those tanks, hard worn and threadbare over the past 6 years.

Yesterday, I polled Facebook to see where other people get long tanks, because I want to replace my maternity tanks. I’m done having babies, after all, but I still need a long base layer!

I was taken aback to see 78 comments on a thread about tank tops. Seventy-eight! People feel strongly about tank tops, as do I.

Many women who are long-torsoed seek long tanks. Many women who are large-busted seek long tanks. Many women just want one because nobody really wants her postpartum stomach flapping around in the spring air. But the tanks are hard to find.

The vetted results of my Facebook research, for which I must mention I am not compensated in any way:

–Target sells long, soft maternity tanks that women wear well past maternity.

Old Navy still sells their long maternity tanks, and they’re currently on sale for $8! Again, non-pregnant women are wearing them daily.

Old Navy has a “tall” line available online only, and many women who are not tall rely on these tanks and general tops to actually cover the midriff.

–Costco sells long camis. I define a tank as having wide straps and a cami as having spaghetti straps. I’m bountiful in the shoulder region, so when I wear a cami I look like a trussed pork loin. Other people feel excited about these camis.

(I should mention that some of the Costco camis have a shelf bra and some do not. Some women love a shelf bra. Some, like me, find it hits our bust mid-nipple and looks/feels ridiculous.)

American Eagle and H&M have some long tanks amidst their regular clothes

So there you have it. You, reader, are not the only person who needs a long base layer and who can’t find one of adequate length. But, solutions exist! I went with the Old Navy maternity tanks on sale. I’ll be sure to update when my order arrives.

Posted by on April 1st, 2015 No Comments

Rise

I have a few friends who sit down in late December and meditate on a theme for the coming year, and then make it so. I gave it some thought, and landed upon RISE.

I realize it’s the wrong time of year for setting intentions for the coming year. Everyone is coming out of hibernation, nobody seems super contemplative in spring. I share this now because I’m feeling good about the rising I’m doing so far.

2014 was a challenging year for me. Corey’s new job meant increased responsibilities for both of us, we added a new baby to the equation, and his arrival was tumultuous. I struggled with a number of interpersonal relationships in 2014 and had to shepherd Miles through a lot of obstacles at school.

When I was pregnant with Oren, I thought a lot about the Phoenix, this great bird who triumphantly flies up from the ashes. When I asked my cousin to paint a Phoenix on my belly, I was thinking at the time that my birth could be my chance for triumph, that the baby was the one who would rise from the fire.

I think, generally, 2014 was a long trial for me and this year I want to rise. I want to feel like myself again!

To that end, things have been looking up professionally. I had another essay accepted for publication and I’m excited to share that with you. I have a piece coming out in Dame magazine that I researched for a long time and began to write this winter, my first assignment after “maternity leave.”

Today, a friend asked me to run the relay portion of the Pittsburgh marathon. My initial reaction was to say no! No! Are you crazy? Not because running 6 miles seems daunting, but because training while solo parenting sure does. The family members of the marathon staff don’t really get to enjoy this great sporting event…except when we do!

I asked Corey what he thought, told him my big concerns about milk logistics for my will-be-8-month-old baby. He thought I should do it, and he’s right. I registered for the relay team and went on a bike ride today. My first step to rise up from the state of poor health my body’s been in for awhile.

Surely I know it’s amazing that my body grew a human body and has produced food to sustain that body. Basically, my body has kept Oren alive since November 2013. Not even basically. It has, and that takes a toll, especially since he arrived Earthside via hasty surgery. So now I’m motivated to rebuild and rise.

It’s easy enough for me to hold this perspective and feel excited, because my older sons are with their grandparents for spring break and I’m only in charge of one child this week. It’s been a nice reminder that I can still do all the things I used to do before there were intense, competing demands on my time. This week-long break from my big boys has let the other slivers of my self rise up to the surface, too. (also, I’ve gotten some sleep)

Who knows if I’ll get a chance to check back in. I’ll be busy training and working and parenting, and that’s just what I want to be doing! Still to come: fostering more authentic relationships with friends and maybe even going on a date with my husband.

Posted by on March 30th, 2015 2 Comments

On Childcare and Chilly Air

I’m starting to whine a bit now about the winter, even though I promised I’d have a good attitude about it until March 1. I really didn’t think we would have 8 days of school disruption in the second half of the month, though! It’s been expensive and annoying.

Schools have been closing not for snow, but for sub-zero temperatures. Children can’t stand out and wait for the bus in sub-zero temperatures, and the under-funded bus companies don’t (apparently?) have the right types of fuel or additives to prevent the engines from freezing.

Part of the problem is also that we live in a district where many of the children live in poverty and they don’t have the right clothing to enable them to stand at the bus stop in such weather. That’s a heartbreaking topic for another day.

My children are fortunate. We have heat in the cold snap. We have coats. What I do not have is childcare for Miles when school is closed on my work days or time to make up the missed days, since I only work part-time and all the other seconds of my life are filled with the very-big needs of very-small kiddos.

The younger kids can go to daycare no matter what is going on outside, because the daycare is in the basement of the caregiver’s home. F—- just has to scoot down her steps and she’s at work, so if we can drive or walk the kids there, they are taken care of!

Sometimes, a school cancellation means there is space for Miles at daycare, and off he goes with his brothers. Usually, he’s home with me watching too much television and building Legos while I try to work. Today was one such day. [I began writing this post 30 days ago and was so interrupted that I'm only getting to finish it now, at the end of March!]

I’m not sure what other working families do on such days. My kiddo is pretty big and wonderful right now as an almost-six-year-old. But he’s still a kid! It’s unrealistic of me to expect him to leave me alone an entire work day. We signed up for a Lego lending library subscription this winter. It’s like Netflix for Lego. Miles really only likes assembling the kits, so he doesn’t mind that he can’t mix them with his others to play. He builds them and sends them back, and this is perfect for about 45 minutes of distraction on days like this.

And yet I need to work!

So, despite the sub-zero temperatures, I hauled him to the grocery store and deposited him in the childcare there, where I get 2 hours to shop…or sit up front in the cafe with my laptop and try to cobble together some work time. Oof! I’m ready for this not to be something I worry about anymore.

Posted by on March 26th, 2015 No Comments

Eau d’Oven Cleaner

Have you read the “Default Parent” article that’s been circulating? I read it and boy, does it resonate. I’m the default parent and sometimes I feel totally overwhelmed by that. This week is a good example.

Even though my mother was here visiting for 4 days and got iced in and stuck here for a 5th day, even after all that around-the-clock extra help, my laundry and work load have gotten out of hand and the dishes heap to the ceiling and still the children need help with homework and bag packing and and and and.

Yesterday was this super tight day where a lot of dominoes needed to stand up or else the whole structure would fall down. In order to get the ingredients to bake Miles’ half-birthday celebration treat for school, I needed to get to Target before it was time to pick him up from the school bus…which meant I needed to get Felix to sleep so he would wake up.

Add in timing of baby nursing and I was actually running up the aisles with my boys in the cart so I would make it home before the bus.

There, sweating as I put away eggs and cupcake liners–had to be polka dot–I knew something bad would happen. I had to cook dinner while supervising homework while nursing the baby while also preventing Felix from destroying our house while also getting bottles and packed lunch ready for daycare in the morning. I had to do all those things in a tight half-hour window because I also had to take Miles to a class at 6pm.

Why couldn’t Corey do any of those other items? Because he’s not the default parent. He doesn’t even know some of those things exist.

Today, I’m spending the day working from home to the stench of the auto-cleaning oven because the 1-hour pot pies I tried to slam in the oven overflowed and filled the house with smoke somewhere in between word problems and “stop hitting the television screen with a metal truck!”

Logical-Katy knows that Wednesdays are freaking crazy and logical Katy would never have stuck in the Target trip or the dinner cooking. But actual-Katy still can’t quite get the timing down for parenting 3 boys in such intense ages. Planning ahead doesn’t happen, beyond recognizing that I was out of eggs and cupcake liners.

Of course, I recognize that I could have purchased some pre-made cupcakes and in my desire to please my first-born son, I made things a hell of a lot harder on myself. I feel so often that I don’t have enough love to go around right now, that my arms are always full holding one crying child while the other two plead with me to do something else important. So when my big boy requests “yogurt cupcakes just like Fletcher had with polka-dot wrappers,” I try too hard to make it happen.

Next Wednesday, I’d like to think I can order a pizza and forget about it, but that will require making sure I have cash on hand for the tip.

Posted by on January 15th, 2015 1 Comment

What I Found Behind the Sectional Sofa as I Searched for the Roku Remote

  • not a puzzle piece as suspected, but a moldy pretzel crisp entombed in a rubber band
  • a toy backhoe loader
  • a Camelbak cup containing a solidified, gelatinous substance
  • the back cover from an issue of National Geographic Kids featuring a lion cub
  • wooden beads shaped like hearts
  • many crumbs
  • a smooshed penny featuring a flamingo, from the aviary
  • a paper plate, apparently unused
  • several green Duplo blocks
  • a reading light utterly covered in masking tape
  • the Roku remote

Posted by on December 17th, 2014 No Comments

Working my Mother Brain

Part of this post title is a play on words to announce an exciting publication for me. I had an essay published on the Brain, Mother blog for the literary journal Brain, Mother. I’ve been reading that one since Miles was born, so I felt particularly excited to be published there. Plus, how cathartic for me to write about another angle of my birth with Oren that I’ve still been processing.

I’m also working my mother brain more as I transition into a bit more work-work. The younger boys are in daycare now. Yes, even Oren. Yes, even though he’s only 4 months old. I thought it would be harder to leave him behind, even part time, but I really only texted the daycare owner because I felt like I should be texting to ask about my wee baby on his first day there. Truly, I know he’s fine.

I’m going to acknowledge that this is a very privileged statement before I make it, but recently, my (childless) housekeeper scoffed at me for sending my young baby to daycare so I could go back to work. I didn’t tell her that I need to work, albeit part time, in order for our family to afford to keep her in work, but I wish I had!

I signed up for an assignment with a new client, an assignment I thought would be an easy service piece for an online publication. I should have known better! As my deadline creeps up, I find myself playing angry phone tag with corporate media relations folks and having to say things like, “You do realize this is on the record, right?”

I’m not an investigative journalist–really, most of my income comes from writing marketing copy–but I sure do feel like one as I pursue this story. If I were writing a behind-the-scenes blog post about this article, it would include me having to wait while lawyers debate my use of the terms “can be” and “remain.” Seriously!

The good news is that the project has tipped me off to a potential long-form article about a topic I find fascinating. I can’t wait to do more research, use that part of my brain, and get to writing. Hopefully, that article won’t involve lawyers.

Posted by on December 15th, 2014 No Comments

Becoming a Milk Donor

A bit ago, I blogged for work about my journey toward becoming a milk donor. In a nut shell, I went from not having quite enough milk with my first kiddo to having more than enough to spare with this third kiddo and so I’m donating the extra to a milk bank in Ohio. Why Ohio? Because we don’t have one in PA. We don’t have one on the East Coast any closer than Boston.

Milk banks provide human milk as critical food to premies in danger of NEC. Milk banks would love to provide milk to all babies whose parents would like for them to have human milk, but the demand for just these micropremies far exceeds the milk coming in to the banks. So. Sickest babies get first dibs from milk banks.

I so love the idea of my spare milk helping a tiny baby. I’m putting together my donation a dribble at a time–I need to gather 200 ounces for a shipment to the bank in Columbus.

It sounds a lot easier than it actually is.

I mean, sure, pumping once a day and bottling/labeling the milk is kind of a pain. I’m working it out, though, and it is what it is. Right from the start, this project was a community effort, since I’m storing my milk in my neighbors’ deep freeze while I gather up my 50 4-ounce jars.

It’s all the OTHER stuff involved in being a milk donor that’s making me grit my teeth a little bit.

Like, the paperwork. There is SO MUCH paperwork. I had to fill out a gargantuan survey after I answered the identical questions in a pre-screening phone interview. I had to get my pediatrician to sign off on a paper that indicates Oren is indeed a humongous baby who can spare this milk for the bank. I had to get my midwives to fill out a paper that indicates I’m a healthy lady.

Oh, and I had to have blood work.

You might assume, as I did, that this nonprofit organization would simply reimburse me for going to Quest for the required bloodwork. That I could just bip into a lab at my convenience, get the blood drawn, send the bill to the milk bank, and not think about it again.

Oh, no. Nope.

This is what they do. Preview: It’s insane, with so much room for error I can’t even imagine how this is a better idea.

They mail me, along with my shipping container for my 200 ounces, a blood drawing kit. It had vials, a tourniquet, freezer packs, labels…it had phlebotomy tools. All I needed to do was get someone to “donate” a needle and draw the blood. Then I was supposed to pack it up and send it away with the enclosed prepaid FedEx label and HUMAN SPECIMEN stickers.

Let’s revisit that paragraph: I needed to find a nurse to steal a needle from her employer.

Nurses have been fired for a lot less, and this was the response many of my nurse-friends gave me. I went the respectable route first. I asked my midwives, but they send all blood draws to the big corporate lab. I asked my PCP, but they send all blood draws to the big corporate lab. I asked my pediatrician, but they don’t do blood draws in the office, nor keep the needles around.

Finally, I found someone willing to gank a needle for me, but she didn’t feel comfortable doing the draw.

So my other nurse friend did some kitchen phlebotomy. Here’s how it went down:

I stuck Miles on the school bus and loaded the other 2 kids in the minivan. We drove to C’s house, where my children and her children wept and swirled around us. C’s son was actually tugging on C’s trousers, trying to pull them down as C stuck a needle into my arm at the kitchen counter.

I sat with my eyes squeezed shut telling Felix to just play with a ball and stop crying.

After 700 years, C filled the third vial and I felt her breathe the biggest sigh of relief known to humankind. “I’ve never drawn blood under these conditions,” she said. We packed it all up and I drove it to the closest FedEx, dragged my 2 youngest children in to wait in the longest holiday FedEx line possible, and learned I couldn’t send it from that location because they don’t do human specimen there.

I had to put everyone back in the van and drive to the main FedEx place, where I overshared the story of what was inside my package to the girl with the scan gun. She was pretty unphased, which allowed me to daydream a bit, wondering what sorts of things people send via FedEx at the main Pittsburgh location.

At any rate, I don’t have any major communicable diseases, as my labs came back in top shape. I’m up to 86 ounces of spare milk on ice and now that the boys go to daycare twice a week, I’ll probably start collecting milk more rapidly. I get about 4 spare ounces per day I remember to pump for the milk bank.

So many people have become involved now. I have to make it! 114 to go!

Posted by on December 3rd, 2014 1 Comment

Tumultuous

Fall is tumultuous for my family. My oldest son, Miles, has a hard time in fall and I can’t blame him. The weather swings in 40-degree arcs from sunup to sundown. One day it snows and the next we’re at the playground in shorts. With this drastic weather change comes transitions for our family in terms of work (Corey has events in fall that take him away from us in the evenings; I’m starting back to work) and school for Miles. It’s a mess and it leaves us all sort of scrambling.

This fall I submitted Oren’s birth story to Birth Diverse.

I realized the feature I researched my entire pregnancy went live the day Oren was born. I love re-reading it and thinking about this project again, because it’s an awesome one I continue to write about with the Sprout Fund.

I signed up to become a milk donor with the Columbus Mothers Milk Bank. More on that later, but it’s a tumultuous process for sure.

Then I packed up my family and we hauled out to central Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. If you’ve never traveled on a holiday with 3 young kids, you really must try it. Your meditation skills will be tested!

While we were in my hometown, my family arranged for us to visit Through the Fire Studios, a glass studio about an hour away from my parents. Eleven of us drove there with a jar of my grandmother’s ashes to incorporate bits of Gommy into glass keepsakes we’d each take to our own homes. It was a tumultuous, amazing experience.

I felt initially overwhelmed by the kilns. All I could think about as we knocked my grandmother’s ashes around was is a crematory this hot and loud? Were we disrespecting her bones as we sprinkled them on the table? What would she have thought of such a thing?

But you know what she would have thought? She would have been overjoyed that all 5 of her children and ALL of her granddaughters (well…not my cousin Greer, who has Down Syndrome and wouldn’t have done well in the glass studio) came together in one sitting. She would have sat on a bench and clutched her hands together and gushed about how nice it was.

We all got a lesson in how to handle the glass. Some of us chose to blow balls while others (including me) chose to make a “paperweight.” I use the quotations because I certainly won’t be using mine to hold down paper. I’ll be placing it on the mantle where I can look at it every day.

I made my choice because it seemed sturdiest, like something my feral sons wouldn’t destroy. Even if they hurl it across the room, I don’t think it will chip. They might maim one another with it, but Gommy will be safe.

I found the glass working to be intense. The instructor I had was very hands-off, words-on and allowed me to make and correct my own mistakes. Only when I was about to drip molten glass on my toe would he stick his hands on the bar to help me make an adjustment. I was very proud of how I was able to spin the rod with one hand and shape the glass with the other. I think Gommy would have been proud of us all for stepping pretty far outside our comfort zone to try something like this. I even used a blow torch!

Like so many things, the glass tools are set up for right-handed work only, so I was using unfamiliar muscles in unfamiliar ways to swirl the glass. I feel like the piece is complex and a bit wistful and I love it. It has a storm inside of it, and also serenity. I rather hope my sons choose to do something similar to memorialize me after I’m done with this body.

For two days afterward, my muscles ached from the heavy work. It was another tumultuous reminder of what we’d done, and I liked carrying around that physical reminder through our first holiday without my Gommy.

We’re home now, and the younger boys have started going to daycare so I can work longer hours. We’re hunkering down for winter, finding our new normal. It’s good to slow down a bit.

Posted by on December 2nd, 2014 No Comments

Angry Sing-Off

So we all know my kids get up at 5am. I really wouldn’t mind this so much if they were ready to get up, but they’re still tired and when they’re up at this time, they’re miserable, awful people. I wake up each day to the sounds of sobbing or screaming. Today was a screaming day.

We don’t know what else to do with Felix to make him stop screaming, so we dash into the back yard with him in hopes that we can get the sound epicenter far enough away that maybe one of the other children will be able to remain asleep. It never works.

We slump back inside and make eggs in the microwave and turn on a movie, because that’s all the parenting we can muster after we’ve been up all night with a newborn. Today’s feature film was the Lego movie.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I watch the Lego movie, I can’t stop singing that horrid “Everything is Awesome” song. If you haven’t heard it you need to go and Google it.

Miles hates it when I sing that song, so I sing it at him over and over as everyone cries and whines. It’s sort of like a private joke I have with myself–Everything is awesome even though there are 3 kids crying and the eggs are exploding in the microwave and I spilled coffee on the floor!

This morning, Miles couldn’t bear it anymore. He ran into the kitchen and started angry-singing back at me. “Everything is awful! Everything is dumb when you’re part of a team! Everything is AWFUL, mom!!!!!”

And there we stood, sing-fighting each other while the other kids cried. I’m pretty sure that we are both correct.

Posted by on October 21st, 2014 1 Comment