Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Who's down with OKC?

Time for installment #2 of my Four Trips in Four Months series!

(Apologies for the wonky formatting;
I don't have the mental energy to fight with this blog post.)

This trip started out as a SUPER-SECRET adventure. I began planning it early in 2014 in conjunction with a whack of dear friends from FSU who have all managed to congregate in close proximity to one another. I mapped out the trip without Bryn knowing and kept it a secret until the morning we departed!

I had done my best to keep Bryn totally confused about this trip. As I mentioned in an earlier post, he'd been given the following tidbits of information prior to our departure:
  • We are not leaving the US
  • We are going somewhere we've never been before
  • We will be visiting multiple destinations: we arrive and depart from different airports
  • We are flying to and from our initial and final destinations
I made a little worksheet to have Bryn fill in his travel predictions and gave it to him a few days before we departed. Surprisingly, he got most of the information right! He had things flipped around (SPOILER ALERT: we went to OKC first and flew home from Dallas/Ft. Worth) but he was, for the most part, right on the money. He later told me that the "number of friends/family" question gave it away! Ah well. I'd been doing my best leading up to the trip to make him think we were going on a sexy cruise to some hot destination in the Caribbean. I guess it's a good thing that I'm not totally awesome at keeping secrets from my special man friend?

Bryn's pre-trip predictions

This trip had been a beacon of hope and excitement for me for many reasons for several months as the details came together. First of all, my life is pretty darn lonely on a daily basis. Yes, I have Trudy. Yes, I have dear friends and family only a phone call/Google Hangout/FB post away, but otherwise, I'm pretty much on my own with Bryn. I planned this trip to reunite and reconnect with some of my (our) favourite people in the entire universe. Second, Bryn and I have not been on a trip that didn't involve an academic conference or a whack of family visiting since our honeymoon seven years ago. We were in need of a vacation! And, third, now that we are a family, it's time to start doing some real family vacationing!

Now, time to share all of the super-secrets!

June 11, 2014

We woke up bright and early, grabbed our bags (I'd packed Bryn's bag for him the night before), and hopped on the metro to the airport. I gave Bryn his first clue, which he read with great excitement:

Today we fly from here to there to THERE, we’re on the go!

Up soon, a jaunt from way down south to where the peaches grow.

So, can you guess? You have a clue… some info I will tell:

We’re flying first from MIA up north to ___________!

ATL! Our first day of travel involved two flights, so I gave him another clue right away.

Our second flight will take us to the place we’re going to stay.

A far off land with several folks… but who? I will not say.

I’ve heard it is a windy state with wavin’ wheat to see.

Our second flight departs from ATL to ________!

OKC! OKC! As soon as the cat was out of the bag, a flood of text messages were sent to let everybody know we were on our way. It was great to finally have Bryn in on the first part of the super secret trip and to watch him get so excited about the folks we were going to see. Did I mention I love surprises? Facilitating things like this make me feel so alive.

It was an easy day of traveling. Our seasoned flyer, Trudy, was a superstar. We flew Delta for both of these flights and were really amazed with the high quality of service. They insisted that we pre-board and were wonderfully helpful and accommodating. Very impressed, Delta. 

We landed in OKC in the early afternoon. It had been a perfect day... and then I had to go and lose my wedding and engagement rings. Devastated. Stupid me. Just before getting our bags at the OKC airport, I stopped in the bathroom to change Trudy and use the facilities. I was washing my hands and stupidly decided to take my rings off. In the chaos and hubbub, I forgot about them for a split second and exited the bathroom. When I came back, gone-zo. Nothing. Airport police were contacted. I asked everyone I could find. I've filed a claim through my renter's insurance. Though I'm 99.9% certain I'll never get my original rings back, I will get something to help me replace them. I've got a lovely ring I inherited from my Grandma Bracken and I think I'll use the claim money to get a band made to match. Silver lining, I guess?

June 12-13, 2014

We stayed with two dear friends who graciously put us up for the first few days of the trip. It was an EPIC FSU reunion full of MORE surprises, even for me! A few special guests joined the party and made it one of the most memorable vacations I've ever had.

We were all together for Sarah and Bruce's 11th wedding anniversary!
Congrats, guys. What a truly wonderful couple.

Trudy had a blast meeting some new folks and reconnecting with some of the people she'd met last year at SMT (music theory nerd fest) in North Carolina.

June 14, 2014

The surprises kept coming! Bryn learned on the Saturday morning of our trip that OKC wasn't the only stop on our journey. Poor guy - I gave him this clue early in the morning. Neither of us were very awake and we were quite exhausted from a few consecutive early mornings with a baby who was still on Eastern Time. I promise he was a lot more excited about our next stop than this video suggests :

Our time in OKC is quickly coming to an end.

How lovely it has been to spend some time with such good friends.

Now, what could make this trip of ours an even greater thrill?

How ‘bout a car ride south to TEXAS… first to _________________________!

We got a ride out to the OKC airport (thanks, Rob!) and picked up a rental car. We drove from OKC down to Stephenville, TX to reunite with some friends (the "he" of the couple taught with Bryn at Ithaca College two years ago.) They had their little boy four days before Trudy was born. 

Clearly, the purpose of this stop on our trip was to discuss the dowry and formalize an arranged marriage between our 10-month-olds.

June 15-16, 2014

Our time in Stephenville was amazing. Our friends were great hosts and it was a real treat to connect with friends who were going through the same baby-driven life transformation that we were.

We ate great food (most cooked by our talented and gracious hosts), traveled to Dinosaur Valley State Park, played board games, talked about being parents, and toured Tarleton State University.

I think this might have been Trudy's favourite stop along the way!

Bryn and Troy were together to celebrate their first Father's (Fathers'?) Day(s?) together. And Trudy and Winton got to know each other, which was awesome.

We're thinking a June 2033 wedding sounds nice.

While we'd been on the road at this point for almost six days, the surprises were not yet over!

June 17, 2014

Bryn had figured out at this point that our final destination was Fort Worth. I neglected to give him the last clue, which I think I had originally intended to give to him at the same time as the Stephenville, TX clue.
Oops. Here it is:

A few days there: we’ll spend with Winton, Steph, and Troy, how great!
A favourite friend may too pop by, he lives in the same state.

The day before we fly back home, we’ll have one last “hurray.”

Our final stop: ________________, great for an old time ‘Nole soiree!

In the end, the "favorite friend" (a certain cellist) was not able to come up for a visit. Next time!

We left Stephenville and made the short drive to Fort Worth where we found our dear chum Marty. He put us up for a night, fed and entertained us, and we hung out with a few other good friends.

June 18, 2011

We flew home from DFW to MIA on a later flight than originally planned. I got a text at 6am that morning that our first flight (to Charlotte) was delayed, making it impossible for us to catch our connecting flight. I called and re-booked us on flights that us into Miami only a few hours later than originally planned.

We drove our rental car back to the DFW airport and found some breakfast in the airport. We boarded our flight to Charlotte. As we've always done, right before getting on the plane we handed the gate agent our "gate check"-tagged stroller and car seat. When we arrived in Charlotte, our items weren't there. We were informed that they weren't "in the belly of the plane." Huh? How did that happen? And if they weren't here, where the heck were they? After some frantic, moderately-heated exchanges between me, Bryn, and several completely unhelpful airline employees, we were told to keep going, catch our final plane to Miami, and file a claim there. Ridiculous. We got to Miami, filed our claim, and were given a loaner car seat so we could safely get Trudy home. 

Our trip home involved an American flight followed by a US Airways flight. Apart from the luggage going missing, both companies offered lackluster service. We weren't allowed to pre-board with our tiny human and all of the employees seemed unhappy.

If you have the choice, fly Delta.

Our stroller and carseat arrived three days after we did. They went to Newark, NJ. No one knows why.

I have since written a letter requesting that the airline pays for our cab fare home. If they hadn't lost our stuff, we would have taken public transit. 


All of you--the wonderful folks we saw along the way--thank you for your hospitality and kindness. You are lovely human beings. Thank you for welcoming us into your homes and your hearts. Thank you for being a part of our lives. Please, even if we can't be together all of the time, let's make the most of the times we can (as we did on this trip!) and let's try to be together at least once every few years. All of you--you are amazing people. Successful, kind, funny, smart, interesting, inspiring!. I have nothing but love for each and every one of you. Please come visit us in Miami. You are always welcome!

Our tiny human was a superstar traveler on this trip. There were a few early mornings and a few fussy moments, but Trudy was great for the vast majority of our adventure. It was fun to see her explore new places and to meet people who both Bryn and I hold so dear.

So, tell me Trudy, what did you think of the trip?

That's two trips in two months... two more summer months remain and two more trips to go! Our next journey takes us up to the motherland in a little over a week. We'll be hitting a whack of cities in two provinces, attending a Rivington (my Mom's side) family wedding, and catching up with as many folks as we can (including 40+ Hughes, George, and Rivington relatives!)

Monday, June 09, 2014

Early June Updates

Well, I've recovered from my trip to Seattle a few weeks ago just in time to gear up for another trip! In a few days, Bryn, Trudy, and I are leaving for...

A SUPER SECRET (super sexy) DESTINATION (shhhhhhhhhh...)

I planned the trip. Bryn knows the dates we are traveling but does not have any idea where we are going. Trudy knows EVERYTHING but she's been sworn to secrecy. Bryn has been given the following information:
  • We are not leaving the US
  • We are going somewhere we've never been before
  • We will be visiting multiple destinations: we arrive and leave from different airports
  • We are flying to and from our destinations
I bought the tickets for this trip three months ago. I'm not sure if it's a good or bad sign that I've been able to keep the trip a secret for this long...

I'll give you a full report on the trip later this month in the June installment of:

In the meantime, a few updates:

Exercise. I haven't been doing much lately other than a lot of walking. Trudy and Bryn and I try to get out for at least one good walk a day. Most days we go out over the lunch hour and pack lunch to enjoy while we're out. We've had a car on loan to us from a friend here in Miami; he is away in Europe and graciously lent us his car while out of the country. We've used it to explore parks outside of our neighborhood, including trips to The Barnacle Historic State Park, Tropical Park, and A. D. "Doug" Barnes Park. We also took a fun trip to Dante Fascell Park which included fresh fruit smoothies at Pinecrest's Wayside Market.

It took me a while to feel back to normal again after the Seattle Trip. We've since realized that what Trudy and I both had was most likely Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (which, to my relief, is in no way related to/like mad cow disease.) My sister's kids in Victoria both got it after we left. Yikes. Poor Lulu (the littlest Jess) was in the hospital overnight. Thankfully everyone seems to be back to 100% again.

I did get out for a nice 15 mile bike ride on the morning of my 31st birthday (this past weekend.) Oh yeah, I had a birthday this past weekend. Whoopdee doo. A picture from my ride:

I'm going to push through the summer and get in a few rides where I can. I need to reevaluate my relationship with summer running. It's way too hot out right now to run for very long. I'm going to revisit my exercise plan for the fall after all of our summer travel is done. As we travel, I'm going to focus on walking and being as active as I can. I'm also going to focus on resting and relaxing. Yeah. Those things are important too, especially when on vacation!

Trudy's been enjoying our daily stroller adventures. I miss taking her out in the car seat in the stroller (facing me) so I took this video of her to see what she's doing in the forward-facing stroller:

God, I love that little mug so much.

Food. We've been cooking and eating well but I think I've gone off the rails a bit in this department as I learn to make more and more delicious things. I've relaxed and given myself the space and time to heal, recover, NOURISH myself, and regroup while I'm still breastfeeding. I'm going to regroup once that is done.

Here are a few recipes I've tried in the past few weeks:
  • Blueberry Banana Bread: I had some bananas and blueberries that were about to turn. I whipped them into mini loaves with this recipe. Delicious.
  • Curry Chicken Salad Sliders: These were amazing. I bought a rotisserie chicken and used most of it in this recipe. I used green onions instead of red ones. I put in as much mango as I could. So delicious. I made mine into wraps and stored them in the fridge. I lived on them while Bryn was out of town last week and it was just me and Trudy.
  • Chicken Noodle Soup: The rest of the chicken and some other veggie odds and ends were used up in a delicious chicken noodle soup. Simple. Satisfying. Trudy loved eating this.
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies: I made these to enjoy with some friends on my birthday. I'm not sure what happened with my dough but it was too wet to be rolled into cookies as the recipe requires. I ended up putting them in small muffin tins and they came out like peanut butter-stuffed two-bite brownies. Amazing. So good.
  • Out-of-this-world Corn Dip: I also made this for my birthday gathering. I was first introduced to corn dip by a certain special someone (RL!) in Tallahassee. This is a spicier version of a basic corn dip and it lived up to its name. It was out-of-this-world satisfying!

I haven't been the best about taking food pictures for the past few weeks, but I did snap a few. Check out this dinner - Oven-baked Blackened Tilapia with rice, asparagus, and homemade tartar sauce. Delicious and very easy.

And one other - a HUGE hit in our household. Sloppy Lentil Joes, served here on a bun with a side salad. I did not include the sugar that the recipe calls for and they were still amazing. 

This is a great go-to recipe when you don't want to do an intense cooking session and/or have some odds and ends to use up. Highly recommended. Six thumbs up in our household for these sloppy joes.

Family. I love our little family. I love being married to a professor. The summer is a magical time. It's even MORE magical now that we are a family with little Trudy. Bryn is home now all the time. We are always together. It's wonderful.

Our super secret trip is our next big family adventure. After that, we have another trip in July and then it's looking like Trudy and I will do a trip by ourselves in August.

Bryn has been doing amazing things so far this summer, as per usual. He was gone for a few days last week for FlipCamp in Newark, Delaware. Last year (the first for the conference, for which he is one of the organizers) was in Charleston, SC; we stopped by on our way north to Canada for a visit. While I was not able to attend this year's conference festivities, I tuned-in online to the streaming YouTube feed as much as I could. It was great to "be there" without being there.

We've had two family losses in the past few months which have reminded me how important family togetherness really is. Bryn's Gran in Victoria, BC died (his Dad's mom) and Bryn's Grandpa in Winnipeg, MB died (his step-Dad's dad). They will both be sadly missed. Trudy's first middle name Katherine is after Gran (Catherine.) We decided to go with the "K" spelling to include a tribute to my Mom (Kathleen) as well.

Dearly loved, sadly missed.
School. I have taken a lot of time in the last few months to think about my future. I am so close to the end of the student chapter of my life. What next? Do I go for it? You know, try for a real, grown-up full-time university teaching gig? Do I have the confidence to sell myself in cover letters and, should I be so lucky, in interviews? And what about growing our family? Do I have another kid right away? Do I wait a bit? Do I pick up a bit of adjunct work? These are big questions. At the moment, I've been thinking more and more about GOING FOR IT... yeah, you know, GOING FOR a big, real job that could begin an actual career. I feel like I owe it to myself to at least try. Why am I doing a PhD if not to at least attempt to be a professor? If only Bryn could carry the next kid...

Dissertation stuff is simmering nicely on the back-burner at the moment. I've got a few big projects with my research assistantship that are taking priority. I also had an article accepted (provisionally... major revisions...) for publication. I'm working on addressing reviewer comments and have a due date of July 1. More to come on this, if it actually happens. Thankfully, the research I'm doing for the article will be helpful for my dissertation. If the article gets published, it will be GREAT to be able to cite myself (!) in my diss. chapter on methodology. How wonderfully self-indulgent. "SEE MY BOOK." (Sorry, inside joke.)

I hear Bali is beautiful this time of year.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sleepless in Seattle

I am back from my first trip of the summer. Trudy and I spent 10 days in Seattle and Victoria, BC. It was a trip I'll never forget, that's for sure. Looking back on things now after being home for a couple of days, I can't help but feel a bit crazy for setting out on such a big journey by myself with Trudy. 

My parents always taught me that when you're going to deliver bad but not fatal news, start with the phrase, "everyone's okay." This gives the news-receiver an indication off the bat that, regardless of what information follows, no one is dead. Important. So, let me start by saying, everyone's okay! There were two trips to Seattle Children's Hospital in two days... but, in the end... thankfully... everyone's okay. 

Deep breath.

This trip was to attend the CMS Summit in Seattle, where I was giving a poster featuring early results from my dissertation. We left May 14 and flew back on May 23. The conference was May 16-17 at the University of Washington. Prior to heading out on the trip, I was feeling most apprehensive about the long plane rides and was not at all worried about the conference! I found this a bit surprising since so much time had passed since my last academic venture and since this trip marked my first time trying to balance baby and brains in such a public setting.

May 14, 2014

Our first day of traveling was amazing. We set out early on May 14 and flew from Miami to Seattle via Dallas/Ft. Worth. Even though Trudy was very busy and required a lot of zoo-animal-like handling, she was a tremendous little traveler. She napped a few times. She charmed the people around us. She was fun to play with. The sweetest thing she did was look out the window on several occasions to watch the world go by. And a lot of world went by! The view from our window seat as we approached Seattle was absolutely breathtaking. All in all, the trip there went off without any major problems.

We arrived in Seattle and were greeted by my parents who came down from Victoria to help out with Trudy while I was at the conference. We took my parents' car from the Seattle-Tacoma airport into Seattle; they had come down on the Anacortes ferry the day before. My parents had rented via VRBO an apartment for us right near the UW campus. We found the place quite easily, unpacked, and settled it. It was a gorgeous 2-bedroom apartment in a multi-apartment house about a ten-minute walk from campus right near all of UW's greek houses! It was shaping up to be a great trip. 

May 15, 2014

The morning after we arrive: 4:30am PST, 7:30am EST. Trudy was up, ready to go from the morning. I rolled out of bed, still hazy, to feed her and get her ready for the day. I put her on the bed to change her diaper and turn away for one second. Out of nowhere, I heard a horrible sound.


It was the sound of my precious monkey hurling herself from the bed onto the unforgiving hardwood floors below.

She cried, immediately. I ran to her, in disbelief, and scooped her up in my arms. I tried to calm her with words and hugs and kisses and bounces. We were both in shock. I tried to nurse her to calm her down. Nothing helped. I panicked. She's dead! She's broken! She'll never be the same! I'm a horrible mother. What have I done?

Trudy's thump was enough to wake my parents in the next room. At that point, I was still in disbelief and was quickly being taken over with feelings of embarrassment, and helplessness: she's going to be okay, right? We decided to take her in to the ER to be checked out just to be sure. Thankfully, Seattle's Children's Hospital--one of the top ten pediatric hospitals in all of the US--was a mere 5-minute drive from our apartment.

I was on the verge of puking my guts out for the drive over. We were quickly seen by a doctor and Trudy was assessed. She's fine. She never lost consciousness. She had a bump on her right temple and a growing bruise, and a little cut on her ear where she must have caught something coming off of the bed. No vomiting. No lethargy. She cried immediately. These are all good things. The doctor comforted me and told me that "these things happen" and told not blame myself. While I appreciated the sentiment, it was my fault. If I hadn't put her up on that bed, this never would have happened. 

I should have never said anything after the previous day's travel about Trudy being "a good flyer." She must have heard me. Very funny, Trudy. Very funny.

Oh, and did I mention that this day was my parent's 43rd wedding anniversary? Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. Sorry it started at 4:30am in the ER of a children's hospital. Yeah. Nothing says "I love you" like a screaming baby in the wee hours of the morning. Sheesh.

The rest of our first full day in Seattle was spent worrying about Trudy. She was fussy for the remainder of the day but okay. We pushed forward with our trip as normal, hoping that this would be the only hiccup. 

May 16, 2014

Our second full day started off with promise. Trudy seemed to be on her way to her old self. The bump on her noggin was going away and the bruise was fading as well. She'd made it through the night just fine. I was feeling hopeful that I'd make it to the conference which started that evening.

The weather was beautiful. The place we were staying had a wonderful side porch with a lovely view down into a valley. Trudy and I went out with my folks/Grandma and Grandpa for a walk and began "strategizing" how things would go the next day while I was away at the conference. Just as things seemed to be getting better, Trudy woke up from an afternoon nap with a fever of 102 F and seemed really lethargic. In light of a recent fall and potential undetected head injury, everything got really intense really fast. Were these things all related? Had the doctor missed something the day before? OH GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE TO MY LITTLE ANGEL!???!???!

Back in the car.

Back to the hospital we go.

At least we know the way...

I was a bit more hysterical this time because Trudy seemed so lethargic, feverish, and, for lack of a better word, floppy. During the intake process at the hospital, an unexpected thing happened to take this whole experience to the next level. We somehow managed to send up red flags for MERS... yeah, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. (My parents had recently traveled down from Canada... A FOREIGN COUNTRY! And Trudy and I had traveled from Florida, where MERS cases have been confirmed.) We were all given masks and whisked into an ER room where they put a "HIGH-RISK RESPIRATORY DISEASE" sticker on our room's sliding glass door. While all of this was happening, I was desperately trying to keep myself together and keep Trudy awake, terrified that her lethargy was due to her brain bleeding. Not soon after we were in our room, we quickly started garnering attention like we were the newest attraction at the local zoo. Nurses and doctors peered in at us with curiosity. Everyone who came in and out of our room put on masks and gowns. Yeah. MERS. Ridiculous. 

We were quickly seen by a resident who took Trudy's medical history. He soon realized that all the hoopla was for nothing. No MERS. Everyone calmed down. Another medical examination was done and Trudy's urine was collected. The doctor determined that what's going on with Trudy is, both fortunately and unfortunately, most likely a completely separate incident from Trudy's fall. Her brain is not bleeding: she's getting the flu. The fever was her body fighting off an infection. The lethargy was her dealing with everything and responding to the Tylenol we gave her to help things out. Everything's fine. 

Poor little bum. We got her home and the rest of the day was spent nursing and sleeping. The fever came and went; we were able to manage things pretty well with Tylenol and a lot of mommy time.

I missed the first night of the conference.

May 17, 2014

The next day was the only full-day of the Summit. Trudy was not herself and was still very sick. I managed to run over to the University first thing in the morning to put up my poster. The posters were to be up for the entire day for informal viewing, and the actual hour-long poster session was at the end of the day.

Given Trudy's general health and well-being, I made a decision in consultation with my parents that I would, reluctantly, aim for bare minimum participation: put the poster up and be there for the session at the end of the day. I did manage to catch the first lecture of the day before heading back home to check on Trudy. The rest of the conference was a bust. My time was spent at home with a hot, sweaty, sick baby falling in and out of sleep, mostly lying on my chest. There was a lot of crying. Trudy was crying. I was crying. We were both exhausted. Trudy wasn't nursing at all because her poor little throat hurt so much. It was a fight to get her to take Tylenol but it was the only thing that would help her nurse. She wouldn't eat any solid food. She must have been starving on top of everything else. It was a rough day. My parents were wonderful helpers. They brought Trudy over to the poster session and she ended up coming in for a bit of it.

In the end, bare minimum participation requirements met. Trudy needed her mommy more than anyone at that Summit, and that's just the way it was.

May 18, 2014

The next day we were set to leave Seattle. Trudy seemed to be on the mend. We packed up everything and drove from Seattle to Port Angeles, WA to catch the ferry up to Victoria, BC. It was the most fun we'd had in a few days. The drive was scenic and went by quickly. Trudy kept herself entertained for most of it:

It was a beautiful day for a boat ride. We drove right onto the ferry and were in Victoria about 2.5 hours later. I did 13 laps of the outer deck with Trudy in the stroller. She fell asleep sometime after lap 3 but I kept going to give her a good nap and to give me a bit of exercise. 

Such a beautiful and civilized way to travel, the ferry is!

We arrived in Victoria in the mid-afternoon. We stopped by to see my sister and her little ones before heading out to Sidney, BC to my parent's house. My friend Lee came over from Vancouver and spent the night with us. It was a great chance to catch-up and to have her meet little Trudy for the first time!

But, in the midst of all of this, I couldn't help but feel that something wasn't quite right with me... my throat was starting to hurt. And I was beginning to feel out of it. Just as Trudy was approaching 100% health, it appeared that things were going to get interesting yet again.

May 19, 2075?

Fever of 102. Chills. Aches. Extreme hot and extreme cold. Malaria. Blurry vision. Extreme tired.


Whatever Trudy had, I now had.

The good news? This was compelling evidence that Trudy's sickness was the flu and not related to her fall.

What year is it? Where am I? Most of this day was spent in bed. My Mom was able to take the lead with Trudy (THANK YOU) so I got the rest the body was demanding.

Oh yeah, happy anniversary to me and Bryn. So glad we are spending it thousands of miles apart. So glad my body is celebrating with the flu.

May 20, 2014

Feeling a bit better. No more fever but still aches and chills. Extermely sore throat. Unable to eat. (This blog post is getting really long. I'm no longer writing in complete sentences, it appears. Also, I don't remember a lot from these few days.)

Photographic evidence suggests that Greta and Henry and Lulu stopped by for a visit.

By this day, Trudy seemed like her old self again. Through all of the drama, I think she grew and changed. She looks to me now like more of a little lady and less of a baby. She's stretched out and now crawls like a champ. Oh, and there's lot of talking and hilarious tongue theatrics these days:

May 21, 2014

On my way back to feeling okay. My throat was still EXTREMELY sore and I wasn't eating much. We went to Victoria this day for a visit at the mall with Greta and ended the day with a walk to a local fish-n-chips joint in Sidney. I tried to ignore the razor blades in my throat and stuffed down some beer-battered fish and delicious chips since I hadn't eaten in several days AND GOSH DARN IT, I'M ON HOLIDAY AND THE FISH LOOKS DELICIOUS AND I WANT TO ENJOY MYSELF EVEN IF IT MEANS I HURT MYSELF. We stopped for some photos on the walk back from the restaurant. What a gorgeous place!

May 22, 2014

Still sick... but time to go! What the heck. Cruel world, why was I not able to fully enjoy much of this trip? Our journey home was spread over two days. This first travel day had us take the clipper from Victoria into Seattle. Trudy and I said our goodbyes to Grandma and Grandpa and made the three-hour journey to the Port of Seattle. Again, wonderful. The ferry is such a great way to travel. We took a cab from the Port to a Doubletree Hotel near the airport. It was a wonderful place to stay. We spent most of our time lying beside the outdoor pool, enjoying the weather. We found ourselves a 7-11 and I enjoyed a watermelon slurpee. It was the first thing I'd enjoyed eating in four days or so. Sugar waterrrrrrr. 

May 23, 2014

We packed up, made our way to the airport, and left at 9am PST for Miami. Trudy got some good crawling in before we boarded our first flight and was, yet again, an all-star flyer for the entire trip home.

We passed through Dallas/Ft. Worth again on the way home and landed in Miami just after 8pm EST. Bryn came to pick us up and I'd never felt happier to be home.

Survival Reflections

I am a planner. It helps me feel in control of what happens in my world. This trip knocked me flat on my face with all of the unexpected... with so many things for which I could not plan. I forgive myself for Trudy falling off the bed. Yes, it was my fault. I put her in a precarious situation and, given a moment of inattention, she did what's in her nature... she hurled herself into the unknown. I hope those of you with small ones or those of you planning to have them never have to experience the sound of a baby hitting the floor. Thud. It sounded like a side of beef falling lifelessly from a meat hook onto the floor of a butcher's shop. I still shudder at the sound of it. Thank God she's okay. These babies are made of hearty stuff, they are. I just wish they came with some kind of warranty (and a user's manual, for that matter.)

This was a physically and emotionally draining trip like nothing else I'd ever experienced. Trudy was so sick. And sad. To help her, I relied on what I've learned in the last nine months of motherhood. My parenting philosophy is basically try everything else and, when nothing else works, stick a boob in the baby's mouth. I always think of breastfeeding as a superpower. This flu was the first time my super powers failed me. She wouldn't nurse. She was miserable. My mind started jumping to all kinds of horrible conclusions: Is she done nursing? Is she done with me? What now? Am I going to get sick if she just stops nursing? Trudy wasn't interested in solid food so I started worrying about her starving. And then suddenly she developed explosive diarrhea. And then nothing (out the back-end) for days. And then a heat rash. I learned that I don't have a breaking point, I have several. All of this together broke me... and then somehow broke me again... and then again... I was the emotionally-drained equivalent of that lifeless side of beef lying on the butcher's floor.

What do you do when everything you try falls... er, I mean, fails

Babies don't give you a choice to stop. They don't stop until you help sort them out. I'd experienced this in small doses in Trudy's early days but never this many consecutive days, without Bryn for back-up, so far from home, with Trudy only wanting her mama, and coupled with getting sick myself. I cried so much on this trip. I cried, which only made Trudy cry more. They were some dark days but we made it through. Trudy has helped me learn perseverance and patience. Together, we grew in this experience. One thing I've learned about being a parent is that because babies are non-stop, you have a lot of chances to figure things out. Some days I feel like I'm trapped in a "Groundhog Day" type scenario. I get things wrong. A lot. But Trudy doesn't give me a chance to stop. It's all about embracing a very simplistic version of the scientific method. Observe. Experiment. No luck? Try again. Keep trying. And trying. Baby still crying? Try something else. The challenge is that the window of time to "get something right" changes as fast as the "right" response changes. This is made even more intense when you stick baby in a confined space (like an airplane.) I was scientific-methoding so hard for both of our travel days alone, I think I deserve some kind of Nobel Peace Prize. (I've now done 10 flights over several trips with Trudy, including 4 on my own. I'm going to do a separate blog posting with some reflections on my experiences flying with a tiny human.)

In the midst of all of the insanity, several important dates passed by. All of them received inadequate celebration. First, my parents' wedding anniversary.

I was so grateful to have had my Mom and Dad by my side for this trip. They were, as they always are, so unbelievably caring and generous. They both remained calm and cool through the worst of everything. They fed me and kept me going. They hugged and kissed Trudy as much as they could, and got in a few good days at the end once she was feeling better and we were in Victoria.

Trudy passed the 9 month-old mark while we were away!

And Bryn and I hit 7 years of marriage. SEVEN YEARS. That's a lot of years.

That's another thing this trip taught me. Everything is easier with Bryn. Everything is better with Bryn. Everything is funner with Bryn. I don't know how single parents do it. I hope every mommy out there has her very own "Bryn." Hug him. Keep him close. Don't travel without him.

I went into this trip nervous about the travel but excited to see my family and to revisit, if even for a few days, an adult world of thinking and talking. I was so excited to share my emerging dissertation research. I felt confident that I could, with the help of my dear parents, balance Trudy and everything else with ease. Looking back on all of it now, we survived. I appeared at the conference and made a few new connections. I learned. I grew. Trudy learned and grew. At the end of the day, all that matters is that everyone's okay!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Cloth Diapering

I participate in a little first-time Moms group on Facebook. One of my friends in the group asked me to share some of my experiences with cloth diapering. I decided to get a bunch of birds stoned at once here and use this blog to collect what I've learned about cloth diapers.

Now, in my research and time being a Mom so far, I've learned that diaper decisions are definitely on the list of "hot button" topics for parents (along with things like sleep training, breastfeeding vs. formula, methods of introducing solids, etc.) Diapering is one of those things that some people have VERY strong opinions about, making it a polarizing topic.

Generally speaking, I am not someone who judges others. I believe that every Mom does what's best for her family Let your kid cry it out. Or don't. Pierce their ears. Or don't. Feed 'em breast milk until they're 13. Or don't. (But please, dear Lord, immunize them... for my baby's sake!) 

My thoughts on cloth diapers, starting with the basics: 
  •  They are awesome.
  •  With long-term use, they save you a lot of money.
  • They take more time/work than disposable diapers.
  •  You’re more intimately involved with body fluids than with disposables.
A quick overview of the different types of cloth diapers (from The Fitnessista:)

Things that have worked for us and things I've learned:
  1. In the beginning: We didn't start cloth diapers until we ran out of all of the disposable diapers we were gifted by friends (thank you, thank you, thank you.) Those lasted until Trudy was around 10 weeks old. I’m glad we waited because, as many of you know, those first few weeks with a new baby are chaos and the last thing you want to add to the mix is learning how to use cloth diapers. Also, because Trudy was so small (even at 7 pounds) and growing, we didn't want to invest in too many newborn-sized cloth diapers out of which she would grow really fast.
  2. Buying Diapers: We did not buy a whack of cloth diapers off the start. We got trial packs from Econobum and Real Nappies, and a few from Kawaii Baby. We ended up going with Kawaii Baby—a company based in BC (though I’m pretty sure the diapers are made in China.) We placed a small trial order and have since placed two additional orders. I've done them all during 25%-off sales (which I think happen at least three times a year.)
  3. Number of diapers: We've found that our current amount is more than enough to last a maximum of three days between washes. You don’t need a lot – the fact that you have to wash the diapers every two to three days means you need only a few. Since Trudy grew out of some of the newborn diapers, we have 5 covers with 12 pre-folds (12 diapers, since you can reuse the covers multiple times as long as they don’t get really wet/dirty) and 10 pocket diapers.
  4.  It takes two: We bought two types of cloth diapers: pre-folds and pocket diapers (refer to above diagram.) I like the pre-folds with a Snappi and a cover. My husband likes the pre-stuffed pocket diapers. The pre-folds require less preparation but necessitate a bit more work to put on the baby. The pocket diaper requires more preparation but goes on fast for a quick change.
  5. It takes two, too: Speaking of husbands, I found great joy in summarizing what I learned about cloth diapers when I started doing research. He was on board right from the beginning because he'd heard that cloth diapering was a great way to save money, among other things. Husband-convincing may be something you have to consider when making a diapering decision. I put together a guide for Bryn to help him learn about cloth diapers.
  6. It's about balance: In the early days, I sometimes took “disposable diaper holidays” where I would use disposables for a day. This was an effective coping mechanism when I was feeling overwhelmed and needed a break from laundry. I think this helped me persevere during the time when the learning curve was so steep.
  7. Bamboo Diapers: I didn't like the bamboo diapers I've tried (these ones.) I’ve found that they don’t absorb as well as the others, are hard to clean, and take forever to dry (even in the dryer.) They cost more than the others, too!
  8. Folding diapers: There are tons of videos on YouTube that show you how to fold pre-fold diapers. I checked out this one and this one. The “jellyroll fold” featured in the second video is my personal preference.
  9. Diaper wipes: If you really want to save money, consider buying reusable cloth wipes which you can spray with homemade cloth wipe solution. We do this and I really like it. You wash the wipes along with the diapers. I make my own solution using water, baby oil, and baby shampoo to spray on the cloths. This site has a lot of awesome cloth wipe solution recipes.
  10. Diaper cream: I use CJ’s BUTTer butt paste. I have a 2 oz. stick of the lavender stuff and it is wonderful. I'm still on the first stick we bought, now after nearly 9 months of use, and it's still going strong! A great thing about cloth diapers is that they are supposed to cut down on diaper rash. We've had none, except for the times when we use disposable diapers! I use this site as a guide to cloth diaper-friendly pastes and ointments.
  11. Disposable liners: We used disposable liners for a while but have since stopped. Trudy’s poops are formed enough now (sorry if that’s TMI) that we can, for the most part, just dump the little logs directly into the toilet. Some folks get nifty little sprayers for their toilet which can help with cleaning and disposal.
  12. Wet pail vs. dry pail, wet bags: We use a regular garbage pail like this one for dirty diaper storage and line it with a liner bag. I’ve never experimented with a wet pail; seems like a lot of work to me.The smell with our pail is not even noticeable since we scoop poop directly into the toilet and wash the diapers every 2-3 days. You can buy a wet bag for outings (I have one of these) but a large Ziploc bag tucked in your diaper bag works just as well for me. I keep one of those with Trudy’s stuff to store any dirty clothes any way.
  13. Laundry, laundry soap: Your diapers will come with instructions on how to wash them. Cloth-friendly detergent is a must. We use Rock in Green Cloth Diaper and Laundry Detergent. Wash on warm/cold. I dry outside on the line as much as I can, or in the dryer on low without dryer sheets.
  14. Cleaning, sanitizing – The diapers sometimes get stinky. You can experiment with ways to sanitize and “strip” (deep clean) them every month or so. I’ve found that a good hot soak with a whack of baking soda works the best. I then run them through the washing machine (no detergent) on hot and hang them in the sun. Sun is essential to sanitize and clean. Also, keep in mind that you’ll have to wash the diapers a bunch of times when you first get them. Your diapers will come with instructions on how to do this.
  15. When going out, traveling – disposable vs. cloth - When I was first learning how to deal with taking Trudy out, nursing in public, etc., I minimized the challenges by using disposables when we went out. Now, I use cloth diapers pretty much all of the time with the exception of when we travel.
  16. Bigger clothes - I've found that, given the size of cloth diapers, I've had to put Trudy in bigger clothes than I might have otherwise in order to accommodate the bulk. I've found that two-piece outfits (like a top and pants or a dress with a little diaper cover/pair of baby undies) work the best.
  17. Delay in rolling, crawling? - I noticed that Trudy had to fight a bit harder to get moving given the additional weight of the cloth diaper. I don't think this is a bad thing at all--if anything, it will only increase the strength of her super powers and prolong the amount of time you can plop baby down and not worry about baby wandering off. If you're a really nervous Mom, this is something to keep in mind so that you don't freak out if things take just slightly longer than in those super light-weight disposables. The funny part with Trudy was that any time we put her in disposables, she would go crazy because all of the sudden her bum wasn't weighed down. Now, at almost 9 months, she crawls and maneuvers like a champ, cloth diapers and all. She also leaps tall builds in a single bound which, of course, is thanks to prolonged use of cloth diapers.
  18. Swim diapers - We have yet to use a swim diaper, but I do have a reusable one for her to use this summer when we go traveling.
  19. Cloth training pants, potty training - There is a whole world of cloth training pants for potty training which may be something we consider in a year or so when that fun begins.

Now, let’s break cloth diaper down, cost-wise (all in USD):
(I would say this is a good estimate for the first year)
  • $170.94 in diapers = $63.88 (first order; 4 pocket diapers, 3 covers, a dozen inserts, and a wet bag); $32.36 (second order; 2 covers, 3 pocket diapers); (third order; 7 pocket diapers); $74.70
  • $16.44 for wipes and solution (2 packs of flannel wipes; solution is just water, baby oil, and baby shampoo. I’m not including any cost for baby oil and baby shampoo since we were gifted these and you use very little in the solution.)
  • $12.99 for butt cream (one 2 oz. stick of CJ’s BUTTer has lasted us 9 months so far and it’s still going)
  •  $9.99 for three Snappis (diaper fasteners)
  •  $35.90 in laundry detergent (2 bags x $17.95)
  • $34.95 for diaper pail and liner
  • $84.00 in water… I have noticed an increase in our water bill. We now pay around $66.00 every three months ($22.00/month.) This is up from around $45.00 every three months ($15.00/month.) This is most likely a combination of several things, all of which are baby-related but not exclusive to our use of cloth diapers. Do we do a lot laundry? Yes. Would we do a lot of baby laundry even without cloth diapers? Yes. Baby baths = more water. I’m also home a lot more which means I always shower at home (as opposed to at the gym), cook more (which means more dishes to wash), etc.
  • $96.00 in electricity… again, a slight increase but it’s hard to connect this to cloth diapers. We do a lot of laundry. I try, when I can, to line-dry the clothes to cut down on these costs. And since I’m home more, I turn up the A/C more frequently than if I wasn’t here
  • TOTAL CLOTH DIAPERING INVESTMENT for Trudy’s first year (including everything necessary to keep Trudy’s bum clean, healthy, and dry) = $461.21 (USD)
Now, let's attempt a very loose disposable vs. cloth diaper comparison…

In the early days, I would say we changed Trudy’s diaper 10 times a day. Let’s say that lasted for the first 2 months. For the next few months (let’s say 3 through 6), it went down to 6 times a day. Now (at around 9 months), we change Trudy around 4-5 times a day. Let’s use 4/day for months 7 through 12.
  • Months 1-2: 600 diapers
  • Months 3-6: 720 diapers
  • Months 7-12: 720 diapers= 2040 diapers for the first year
Again, loose and conservative figures. Let’s ballpark the price per disposable at $0.25. (I did this based on an economy-sized box of Pampers Size 2 diapers available on Amazon.) 2040 x $0.25 = $510.00 (USD.)

Let’s add wipes into the mix. Let’s say you use 2 wipes for every diaper change. That’s 4080 wipes per year. Ballparking wipes at $0.03/wipe (based on an economy-sized box of Pampers Sensitive wipes available on Amazon.) 4080 x $0.03 = $122.40 (USD.)

If you control for (remove) butt cream and diaper pails from the equation, here’s a final comparison based on my experience and calculations.

First year - Cloth Diapers
(including diapers, fasteners, wipes, wipe solution, laundry detergent, water increase, electricity increase)
First year - Disposable Diapers
(including diapers and wipes; note that this could also include laundry detergent, but I wasn’t sure how to break that down)

$413.27 (USD)

$632.40 (USD)

Approximately $0.20/diaper

Approximately $0.31/diaper

So, modest savings over the course of the first year based on some quick math. You can do all kinds of Googling about cloth diapers vs. disposable to read blog postings from moms who have done various comparative cost analyses and come to similar conclusions. For example:

I’ve found that most claim that the real savings come in the second year of the baby’s life, since your upfront costs start getting spread over a larger window of time. Also consider that you can reuse diapers for subsequent babies AND there are online communities (like this one) to sell used cloth diapers! In terms of saving money, cloth diapers are where it's at.

And then there’s the whole environmental angle to strengthen cloth diapering’s argument. And avoiding exposure to chemicals in diapers and wipes

But apparently that's not as clear-cut as many cloth diapering advocates would hope. We'll leave that topic for another day...