Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's getting real, y'all...

I'm working on Hollywood's graduation party announcements.

She graduates in less than two months.

Which means she leaves home in less than five months.

What happened to this little girl?
*photo of Hollywood at about age five, eating Thanksgiving dinner:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Traveling with a baby - Part 1

So have I mentioned that we're going to Italy the first week in June?  (Squee!!) A few years ago, I told Hollywood that I'd like to give her a trip for her high school graduation gift. She wanted to go to London initially, but has since decided upon Italy as her trip of choice.  It'll be one last hurrah, if you will, with our daughter who will be flying the nest in August. (The Boy and Bumblebee are already planning out their graduation trips.)

When I first 'promised' the trip, I had no idea that we'd have a baby in our family the summer of Hollywood's graduation.  At first I considered leaving Goblin home (after all, this is Hollywood's trip. I want her to be the star of the show.)  But as the time grew closer, I realized I wouldn't be able to do it.  I'm still nursing Goblin, and plan to until she's at least a year old, maybe longer. I know that leaving her for nine days would not be easy on me either physically (can you imagine pumping to keep up with supply while on vacation?) or emotionally.  It's just hard being away from a baby for that long.

So I asked Hollywood what she thought, prefacing my question with the caveat that a trip to Italy with her baby sister in tow would be a different kind of trip than if we went without the baby. I offered Hollywood the choice of going next summer without Goblin, or this summer with her along for the ride.  She eagerly chose this summer.  Part of me still worries about this. Of course she chose this summer - she wants to go on her trip, and she wants to go now! But it's not something I'm dwelling on. The kid's getting a trip to Italy, for goodness' sake. Having to put up with her baby sister and all of the inconveniences she will bring is a small price to pay, right?

Several weeks ago, I started a thread on a message board talking about the trip. I was in search of tips or ideas on how to make travel go more smoothly. I was surprised by the reactions I received.  More than half of the folks who responded to my post thought I was completely, 100% batshit crazy for even considering international travel with an infant.  But there were some like-minded people who thought it would be doable, if I planned accordingly and had a flexible itinerary. I've always been a 'go with the flow' kind of mom. Seriously, I cart my kids everywhere.  I realize some parents aren't this way, and that's cool. Different strokes, and all of that... So the thought of bringing her along doesn't freak me out. The flight scares me a little (ok, a LOT) but actually being in Italy with her doesn't.

That said, I want to make the trip as enjoyable as possible, so I'm doing all of the research I can to find tips, tricks, and ideas that will help make traveling with a baby as easy as possible.  The first item that I'll focus on today is the one that I think will help me the most during the trip.

Babywearing -
For those of you reading who might not be quite granola-y enough to know what that means, it's basically carrying a baby around in a sling, wrap, or baby carrier. Goblin loves her Moby wrap - here's a picture of her in it. When she was tiny it was honestly the only way I could get dinner prepared or do anything productive.
*photo of me wearing Goblin in her wrap
I also have a cheaper snap on carrier that I keep in the car for grocery store trips and errands. I may have mentioned before that Goblin hates being strapped into her car seat. It makes her mad.  She's getting better about being in a stroller - as long as we're moving and if we're outside. But she prefers to be worn/carried best.

The Moby is great, but it gets hot, and, since it's a stretchy fabric, with heavier babies, it can get saggy after a while. So I don't think it's ideal for the kind of use I'm envisioning in Italy. So I researched soft structured carriers (they're like a backpack for a baby, made out of softer material.) and came up with my choice of the Boba 3G carrier. Of course I chose the Lila print, which is a cute purple design.  I plan to wear Goblin for most of the trip. The Boba has both a front and back carry option, but Goblin's still pretty little so I'm not sure if we'll try the back option yet or not. This carrier is designed to distribute her weight evenly between my shoulders and waist, so it's supposed to be pretty comfortable. I am going to get into shape for our trip (lots of stairs and walking in Italy, from what I hear) by taking Goblin out hiking on the trails in the area. But the carrier is also adjustable, so if I get really tired or sore, The Husband can take a shift carrying the baby.

Another advantage to babywearing in a soft structured carrier like this is that I can nurse Goblin while out and about and people won't even be able to tell. There's a sleep hood that can be used to cover the baby while nursing, although I don't even think that'll be necessary. I saw several YouTube videos that showed how to nurse in a Boba and you can't see a thing, even without the hood. That will be nice and it even means I can nurse her while walking or waiting in line for a tourist attraction.

I haven't decided if I'm going to bring a stroller with me. I kind of think it might be just an extra hassle, but we'll see.

As I continue to research, I'll post my thoughts on what might make the trip easier.  And then after the trip, I'm sure I'll laugh at myself because of course some things will come up that I couldn't predict.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Today I want to talk about my mama.

Here she is. Isn't she adorable?
*photo of KK in front of the IDB office in Des Moines.

She's an amazing woman, and an exceptional role model. She's also blind. I tend to quickly dismiss that particular attribute of hers, not because I'm blase about all that she's done in spite of her disability but because although it's definitely shaped her, being blind doesn't define my mother. If I had a nickel for every time I've been asked, "What was it like growing up with a blind mom?" I'd be a gazillionaire. I like to tell people of the fun my brothers and I had typing naughty words into her computer so that the screen reader program would say it back to us. I don't care how stoic you are, it's funny when a computer says "shit" and "damn" and "bastard" in its robotic, monotonous voice. Another response to the 'what was it like' question is the classic reply-with-a-question-of-my-own maneuver: "Dunno. What was it like having a mom who can see?"  It's all I've known. And really, you guys, it wasn't all that weird.

The reason I'm writing about her today is because she's moving away. Far away. Like 1,019 miles away to Washington D.C. where she's landed a sweet gig.  She's accepted the position of the Director of the National Library Service. According to the press release that announces her appointment:

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in the Library of Congress administers the talking-book and braille program, a free library service available to residents of the United States and its territories and American citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness, or physical handicap makes reading regular print difficult. Through its national network of regional libraries, NLS mails digital audio players and books and magazines—in audio and in braille—directly to enrollees at no cost. Music instructional materials are available in large-print, braille, and recorded formats. Select materials are also available online for download.
It's a great service, and I can't imagine anyone heading up that organization better than my mom. She clearly has the skills, education, training, drive, etc., but she's also a user of the services, and understands the value of having these materials accessible. A very clear memory I have of my mom when I was growing up is of her surrounded by a giant mound of laundry, (she had six kids, people!) folding away, while her talking book played in the background. If it was a good book, we knew not to interrupt her.  (Now that's been repeated in the next generation. My kids get barked at if they interrupt me while I'm deep into a book. Right or wrong, books have that power over us, don't they?)

Anyway. Mom and books go together like macaroni and cheese. Or peanut butter and chocolate. (Hmmm... I'm kind of hungry.) And it's a great accomplishment for her to take on this job.

Last week, she had a going away party given to her at work. (She's leaving her role as the Director of the Iowa Department for the Blind.) Many people went up to the podium to say nice things about her, they spoke of her accomplishments, shared laughter and tears. It was interesting to see that side of her. As her daughter, I've not seen her professional side very often. I know about it, of course, but watching her peers and subordinates sing her praises was something else.

Oh, and the governor too. He attended the entire program, and spoke of her accomplishments. This is Iowa's Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds, speaking at mom's going away party.
*photo of Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds speaking:

They also gave out hugs before they left:
*photo of Lt. Gov. Reynolds hugging Mom:

*photo of Gov. Branstad hugging Mom:

It was a highly organized, proper sendoff for a revered leader.

The family threw her a send off of our own on Saturday. But it was highly disorganized and not terribly proper.  My brothers (except for the one who lives in California), sisters-in-law, and nephews all met at Mom's to hang out on St. Patrick's Day.  My aunt and her family were able to make it. And my grandparents were there too, along with Grandma's dog, Tiny:
*photo of Gpa and Gma with Goblin:

As is usually the case with our family get togethers, it was informal, there was a lot of food, and plenty of beer. Oh, and basketball. And baby holding (This is Hollywood with Simon and a weird shadowy effect that my camera kept creating):
*photo of Hollywood holding my nephew Simon:

And Auntie M with Goblin:
*photo of Aunt M holding Goblin:

It was a day of cousins playing together:
*photo of Bumblebee playing with Izzy:

And of The Boy hanging with his baby sister:
*photo of TB with Goblin:

And my brothers and the dogs goofing around:
*photo of Erik and Korey on the tandem with the dogs running in the foreground:

We never really got into talking about what her leaving means to our family. We have so many memories of time spent at Mom's house. She's keeping it, though, and plans to return when she retires, but for a while things will be different. But, along with this change, new traditions will come. Certainly there will be visits to her out East. I'm hoping we get a chance to spend the holidays in DC one of these years, and for sure we'll head out there in the summertime.

I wish I had time to write more about my mom, what she means to me, and how proud I am of this achievement in her life and career. She will help so many people with this new position because when she faces a challenge, she attacks it with all of her will. She'll tackle D.C. like she has everything else in her life: with strength, determination, grit, and her trademarked charm and wit.  Look out, Washington.

We'll miss you, Mom. Congratulations and love you.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring Break Time!

This is spring break week for the kids. We're not traveling anywhere, but we are having a fun time. And it's only Monday!

The weather has been great, so we've been able to get out and play some softball:
*photo of TH playing ball with Bumblebee:

I splurged and got myself a jogging stroller, so we've taken that out for a few spins. Goblin isn't a fan of being confined, so we're working on that. But she was happy in this picture!
*Photo of Goblin in the jogging stroller.

Today we had a day on the town. Iowa has a fabulous science center and the current traveling exhibit is called Lost Egypt. Lots of cool stuff including a real mummy and some really cool ancient artifacts.  Oh, and a camel to take pictures on:
*photo of TB, Bumblebee, and Goblin on a camel:
Camel - Science Center

Then, of course there are the fun things like a pin wall:
*photo of Bumblebee's face pushing through a pin wall:
Pin wall - Science Center

And the static electricity ball:
*photo of The Boy and Bumblebee playing with the electricity ball:

Hollywood and The Husband got off work and joined us at one of Des Moines' most interesting restaurants: Zombie Burger.  It's a fun place to go, with an undead theme.

For example, my burger was called the T-Virus (ick!) and Hollywood got the Dead Moines. But it was tasty.  And the basket of bacon and bleu cheese fries was to die for!
*photo of the fam at Zombie Burger:
Zombie Burger

I have to go back to work tomorrow, but that's ok. It's supposed to be in the mid to upper 70s this week. That is so awesome. And I have Friday off, so it'll be a short week.

Monday, March 5, 2012


The Boy turned fifteen on Saturday. I can't believe it. Fifteen years since the day that I woke up at 2 a.m. with contractions and told The Husband we'd better go to the hospital.  "Yes! I don't have to go to work this week!" was his response.

Fifteen years since Hollywood resisted coming to the hospital.  She was three and a half and knew something in her life was changing. We'd been told The Boy was a girl (nice one, ultrasound tech) and so learning that she had a brother was even more unsettling to my precocious three year old.  Grandma Judy had to sweet talk her into coming to the hospital.

Fifteen years since the nurses gave him a bath and uncovered the beautiful curls that he still has to this day (although he prefers to keep his hair short enough to keep them in control.)

Fifteen years since that sweet, calm, little man with big blue eyes came into this world.

Today he's several inches taller than me. He still has big blue eyes, and he's still sweet and calm.
*photo of The Boy:
We celebrated his big day by hanging out at home.  I made him a tasty cinnamon coffee cake for breakfast. (It was a Pinterest recipe. Yum.) His request for dinner was jambalaya and ice cream cake. It turned out that two of my brothers and sisters-in-law came over for dinner too, so it was nice to have a celebration for him, even though it wasn't planned ahead of time.

The Boy got a kindle fire for his birthday, so he spent much of the day playing games on it and reading a book. That kid knows how to spend a birthday. He and I are two peas in a pod. Happy birthday, buddy. Best son in the world.