Thursday, December 28, 2006

I know how it looks, but, it wasn't me!

Peanut had gotten this little gingerbread house ornament as a Christmas gift. We never discussed the fact that it was edible and hung on the tree like all the other ornaments.

One day, Peanut's papa noticed that there were tiny bites missing from the base of the house. Hmmm....

Later, we found Peanut standing very close to the gingerbread house. "Oh O!" we exclaimed "What happened to the house, peanut?"

She glances around. Spots Pooh Bear at her feet. Picks him up, holds HIS mouth up to the gingerbread house and explains "Pooh!".

Saturday, December 23, 2006

ICE, choo-choo trains, kippis with Auntie Em

Auntie Em finally made her way from Denver for a short, pre-Christmas visit with us. Peanut & I picked her up at the airport and decided to start the day at the Gaylord Texan resort to look in on the ICE! show.

We arrived ahead of any crowds and so had plenty of space to shiver in the frigid air. Fortunately, the handed out complimentary parkas and blankets or else we wouldn't have lasted very long. Even with the parkas, we were all wishing for hats, scarves and gloves. Peanut got to stroll in tucked under an extra blanket. I was shocked at how cold it was - after all, they advertise its only 9C. Why that's like spring in Helsinki, I thought, no big deal.....

I wonder if there's any truth to the idea that your blood thins/thickens in response to the climate where you live? I know my body has somehow adapted because really 9C used to be light coat/spring gloves weather to me. Now, my teeth were chattering and I just wanted to get in front of a warm fireplace!

We didn't spend any longer in the ICE show than was necessary to admire the wintery nightscapes and snap some photos.

Out we headed to explore the massive resort centered around its miniature version of the San Antonio Riverwalk and Alamo all decked out for the holidays. Naturally, Santa here is a cowboy and longhorns were more common than reindeer, but Peanut did get her first sightings of railroads and choo-choo trains. They seem to hold universal appeal to toddlers as we could barely pull her away. Only the well-placed and HUGE koi fish in the river around the restaurant tempted her to the lunch table.

Peanut had learned how to toast with the Finnish "kippis" at Thanksgiving and was quick to enjoy the toast with Auntie Em who somehow added a crazy laugh at the end, making it all the more fun!

Tex enters his third trimester

We marked the beginning of Tex's third trimester with a test-filled visit to the doctor. Auntie Em happened to be in town and got to experience it all first-hand....

My appointment included the one-hour (non-fasting) glucose screen test for gestational diabetes which is given to all pregnant women here. I had eaten an small omlet with some cheese and ham in the morning, and tried to avoid all sources of sugars to make sure the test result was as clean as possible.

We arrived on time, but sat around waiting for 30 mins until I re-checked with reception. In a rather unfriendly way, the receptionist said she'd check with my nurse to see what was happening. 15 mins later, she called me back to drink the 50 grams of sugary, room-temp glucose. I had 5 mins to get it down and then we ran through the other usual check-up measurements after which I was shown to a room to wait for the doctor. His visit was also quick once he arrived - a check of the heartbeat and measuring my abdomen.

From now on out, we'll be back every two weeks.

I still had 30 mins before it was time to draw blood for the glucose screen so we took a fast driving tour of downtown Grapevine. At the appointed time, I went back to the lab so blood could be taken for the glucose screen, an anemia test and and Rh antibody test. Results later though I get the Rhogam injection pretty much regardless of the Rh antibody test outcome.

Back in Helsinki with Peanut, it was nice that our neuvola was never very busy. We would arrive and go directly to the door of our mid-wife and usually had no wait. Sometimes she was wrapping up a previous appointment, but then it would be 5 mins at the max. She handled all the measuring, most tests and appointments herself. The anemia test consisted of a pin-prick to my finger and she had the results immediately from a gadget on her desk. I did have to go to the lab downstairs for Rh antibody tests though never was given an injection since the results were always negative. There was never any mention of a glucose screen test - I don't know if they profile the mothers and test only those who seem high risk or if some sort of diagnosis can be made otherwise.

Oh, the weather outside is delightful!

Christmas is nearly here - I'm at home, blogging! Not shopping, not cooking, not decorating and its a beautiful sunny day, not much more you could ask for.

The nesting instinct is kicking in this time around not so much as a clean and prepare the nest, but as a "craft your way to readiness". Yes, Michaels, JoAnn's and Garden Ridge have become all too regular places for me to visit. Sadly, I'm not very gifted in the crafting sense as the number of "I'll just try it again" projects around here will attest to. But, its not the final outcome that counts, it the process!!

Since Christmas arrives before Tex, my family gets to be the lucky recipient of all manner of crafted gifts. I've made braclets, picture galleries, hand-printed sweatshirts and then there was the finally abandoned attempt at a hand-painted tea tray. It really wasn't pretty and I had to buy one in the end. Some of the more successful gifts I created with photos on Snapfish. I figured what could a grandparent love more than a coffee mug with their cute granddaughter or a calendar that features more adorable pics of her every month.

Inspiration hasn't yet struck me for Tex's craft projects, but I'm sure his room will be full of them!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sweet Dreams

With Tex on the way, we decided to move Peanut out of the crib as everyone recommends doing that well in advance of a new baby's arrival and move into the crib.

So, this past weekend, we went headed out to IKEA to test out beds. Fortunately, Peanut was as excited about a toddler-stretching bed as her parents. In toddler mode, its slightly longer than her crib with much more side-to-side flipping space. In full-length mode even I was able to lay down comfortably in it. This style had the bonus of have very low railing on the sides with a small toddler-sized entry slot.

Our biggest concern though was Peanut wouldn't want to stay in her bed. Yesterday as she climbed in for her first nap, I tried laying down next to her to show her it was time to sleep. Soon little fingers pried my eyes open and I had a small hand waving in my face. "Bye-bye mama," said Peanut giving me a rather insistent nudge to get out of her bed.

Five minutes later, Peanut is standing at the door. "Oh-o," she says and pulls me in to her room by my hand. She points out that all her stuffed animals had climbed out of bed! We put them back, put Peanut back and mama leaves again. We do this about four more times. Then, its quiet in there and Peanut has fallen asleep.

In the evening, papa & mama escorted Peanut to her room. She climbed straight into her bed, turned back and leaned out so we could kiss her good night. That was it. She drifted off to sleep and we didn't hear from her until morning when she called for mama as usual.

When I went to her room, she again said "oh-o" pointing to the little gap in railing to show how Witch had gotten out of bed.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Santa's smaller helpers

On Saturday, Peanut's Grandy and Nana were busy at the dog park in Gulf Breeze, FL, taking pictures of Santa's four-legged helpers to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

About 100 dogs & owners stopped by to have a photo taken and printed at the rolling stand. Grandy reports all went well and there weren't even any dog fights!

They raised more than $600 during the afternoon and will be back at Shoreline Park for more photos next weekend.

'Klaas visits Dallas

'Klaas, as Peanut calls Sinterklaas the Dutch variant of Santa Claus and Joulupukki, arrived in Dallas over the weekend to celebrate his birthday which is on December 5th.

All Dutch children know that Sinterklaas (the name is a corruption of Sint Nikolaas) lives in Spain. Exactly why he does remains a mystery, but that is what all the old songs and nursery rhymes say. Whatever the case may be, in Spain he spends most of the year recording the behaviour of all children in a big red book, while his helper Black Peter stocks up on presents for next December 5th.

In the first weeks of November, Sinterklaas gets on his white horse, Peter ("Piet") swings a huge sack full of gifts over his shoulder, and the three of them board a steamship headed for the Netherlands. Around mid-November they arrive in a harbour town - a different one every year - where they are formally greeted by the Mayor and a delegation of citizens. Their parade through town is watched live on television by the whole country and marks the beginning of the "Sinterklaas season".
Here in Dallas, Sinterklaas arrived at the Dutch Barn House where the Holland-America Club of Dallas had gathered to enjoy seasonal cookies, hot chocolate and other treats. As Sinterklaas rounded the room to greet the children, his helpers - the Piets, tossed out candy coins and chocolates to the little ones. Then, everyone gathered around as Sinterklaas opened his big book to read how each child had been behaving over the year. If they were good, Sinterklaas had some gifts for them.

Peanut was excited to see 'Klaas and the Piets until it was her turn to get a bit closer. She quickly tucked her head into mama's shoulder and looked everywhere, but at 'Klaas. Not too bad for a first meeting - at least she went close and didn't cry :-)

'Klaas from the Netherlands had also dropped by our home with some gifts, chocolate letters for mama & papa. Peanut had the hang of tearing open packages so she took care of opening everyone's presents.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Nurse-in at DFW Airport this Friday

From the local chapter of La Leche League

Many of you have probably heard about the mom who was recently asked to leave a Delta flight because she was nursing her 2 year old. A few moms came out to DFW airport last week, when all over the country several nurse-ins were held for support, but were rudely removed by the airport police.

So, the group is organizing a second Nurse-in for this Friday, Dec 1st at 10.00 am in front of the Delta counter.

Breastfeeding Rally To Take Place At DFW Airport
Maria Pokluda Tel: 972-745-8523 Cell: 214-684-1275 Email:
Amy Philo Tel: 214-705-0169 Cell: 817-793-8028 Email:
Nursing mothers and their supporters will be gathering on Friday, December 1 at 10 AM, at the Delta ticket counter in Terminal E of DFW airport.
On November 21, mothers and other advocates took part in a nation-wide nurse-in at roughly 40 U.S. airports. Like all of the rallies across the country, the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Nurse-in supported the right to breastfeed in all public and private locations, anywhere a mother and child might be, regardless of any issues of discretion. There was no formal national organization sponsoring this event, but amazingly, hundreds of mothers and other supporters turned out nation-wide. Unlike the rest of the nation, however, the supporters at the DFW Airport rally were harassed, insulted, and threatened with possible arrest by members of the DFW police (Department of Public Safety officers), and then asked to leave.
Though the right to breastfeed already exists, many people are unaware of this right, or may choose to challenge this right, or otherwise intimidate and cause discomfort for nursing moms, posing a great threat to the continuation and exclusivity of breastfeeding relationships and compromising the health of mothers and children, and the economic well-being of the society.
The goals of this Friday’s nurse-in are:
· To insist that the DFW Airport Police (DPS) apologize to the attendees of the November 21st rally for the unacceptable comments and threats, and provide documentation that training is being implemented to educate all DPS officers about the laws concerning breastfeeding in the state of Texas (specifically Texas Health And Safety Code Chapter 165 Section 002, which states “A mother is entitled to breastfeed her child in any location in which the mother is authorized to be,” as well as the definitions of indecent exposure and disorderly conduct). The DPS should ensure that in the future, officers will protect, rather than endanger breastfeeding relationships, by refraining from engaging in harassment of nursing moms and their children. The police should not approach breastfeeding mothers, but rather the mothers should be left alone.

· To hold Delta accountable for the removal of Emily Gillette from one of their flights and to insist that training procedures will be put into place to ensure that all staff at Delta and its subsidiaries will uphold and support a child’s right to breastfeed.

To call for airlines to revisit their breastfeeding and transport of pumped breast milk policies, to support traveling families and working mothers who must travel for business and be separated from their children. Current policies about liquid items, which restrict the amount of pumped breast milk allowed on board with mothers who do not have their babies with them, compromise the health of babies who depend on pumped milk, and force mothers to dump precious breast milk that they have pumped while they were separated from their children. This situation is especially harmful for babies whose mothers already have difficulty pumping enough to meet the child’s needs during times of separation.

· To call for immediate passage of pending federal legislation that offers civil rights protection for breastfeeding women in the workplace, and new federal legislation to protect the right to breastfeed whenever and wherever mothers and their children are allowed to be, regardless of whether any part of the mother’s breast might be exposed during or incidental to the feeding. This legislation will clarify rights that already exist, and nullify any business policies or laws throughout the country that are already in place or might come into existence, which would infringe on a mother and child’s constitutional right to breastfeed (For example, Tennessee law protects a mother’s right to breastfeed a child in public only as long as the child is younger than 13 months of age).

The issue of breastfeeding rights goes far beyond a woman’s right to nurse - it also encompasses a basic human right for children, the right to eat and to receive comfort and nurturing at the breast.
The Nurse-ins have been coordinated by volunteers.
For more information about this event, contact Maria Pokluda or Amy Philo directly.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Its the early bulb that gets frozen to death

In our ongoing yard project, I'm in charge of planting bulbs. A few weeks ago, I picked out a selection of early bloomers, mid-spring bloomers and late-bloomers. I even tried to do some color coordination!

Since it was mid-November, I thought it must be time to get them into the ground so that we could get a lovely selection growing up in the spring.

So, in went the crocus bulbs around the trees, in went the daffodils and Dutch lilies around the corner shrubs and in went the paperwhites for some December excitement. The tulips and hyacinths got bagged and tucked into the refrigerator to chill for a few weeks. These were all naturally bulbs from the land o flowers, the Netherlands.

When we got back from Florida just last week, I saw green sprouts of 4 - 5 inches poking out of the ground. The paper whites were busy bursting through! Great! Perfect timing, they'll be up in time for the holidays.

Unfortunately, looking around, I also so slimmer green sprouts where the daffodils and lilies had been put down. No, no, no!!! This is wrong!!! I guess the warm November sunshine had convinced them that spring was already here. These poor bulbs have a harsh reality to face once Thursday arrives and temperatures plummet into the frosty range. I'm afraid we've lost these flowers.

I still have the backyard to plant and now, a bit wiser, have all the bulbs keeping cool until around Christmas. Hopefully, by then I can safely drop them in and not see them again until spring really arrives.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Pulla time!

Grandma in Florida had made a special request for some 'rae' sugar from Finland last time Peanut's papa went there. 'Rae' sugar is in appearance the sweet equivalent of sea salt and is sprinkled on top of many Finnish sweet breads like 'pulla'. Last time I visited the IKEA food store in Frisco, I noticed that they stock it on their shelves, too.

Since Peanut & I brought the special delivery from Finland to Grandma and figured we should put it to use right away.

It was Peanut's first baking experience! She's been practicing at home with Playdough so I knew she'd be ready to handle making her own pulla rolls.

We pulled up a step-stool to the counter so Peanut could watch what all went into the mixer. She was also in charge of stirring the yeast, milk and eggs. After the requisite time for rising, Peanut was in the middle of the action with Grandma to begin rolling out the individual pullas. I could hardly get into the kitchen, she was so thoroughly in the zone!

Unfortunately for Peanut her bedtime came before the pullas were pulled from the oven. She must have had sweet bread filled dreams as she woke up and the first word from her mouth was 'pulla' (really!). After mama put on her slippers, we headed straight to the kitchen to give her a bite.

While I thought every crumb was delicious, Peanut clearly showed a preference for the 'rae' sugar and chopped almonds on top!

Has Peanut already gotten too old??!!

I just spent a wonderful week in Florida with Peanut visiting all her "grands" there. The short - only an hour and half - flight went smoothly as I picked out times that were least likely to be used by business travelers so Peanut could get her own seat on the plane.

But, I don't know if it was the impending holidays, ongoing struggles for airline employees or Peanut just looking more like a toddler than cutesy baby (don't get me wrong, I still think she's a cutesy toddler!) that no one offered any assistance to us. Here I thought an obviously pregnant lady and her toddler might get a little help with bags or strollers. Perhaps even a little extra smile from the flight crew or fellow passengers. Maybe a little extra time at security. Alas, no.

When I traveled with Peanut when she was just a little baby, it seemed everyone wanted to talk to us or to lend us a hand. In any case, we made the trip just fine and really didn't require any special help. We've done this enough times for mama to pack smart and Peanut to not be uncomfortable with all that air travel demands of little ones. Its just the 'is my baby really getting that big already' syndrome.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Making a down payment on Tex

At our recent 20 week prenatal visit, we were stopped at the receptionist on our way out. It was time to discuss insurance and payments for Tex.

The receptionist pulled out a worksheet where it outlined the "global obstetrical fee" (ie, the package deal for prenatal care + delivery of baby + postpartum 6 week check-up for mama. It excludes possible anesthesia (epidural) and post delivery hospital costs for mom and any baby-related care costs. Since we have chosen an in-network doctor and hospital, we got a special discounted rate of $2,369.00.

After we pay our annual deductible ($300.00), our insurance covers 80% of the remaining fee leaving us with a balance of $714. The entire amount has to paid by the 28th week of pregnancy though we could make interest-free payments up to that date.

As we tried to understand what else we could be billed for, the receptionist joked that anyone who enters your room will leave you with a bill, even the guy who sweeps the floor. She added that often the bills will beat the mama and baby home!

It was a very different approach with Peanut's delivery in Finland where a bill for 130 euros arrived weeks later in the mail. On the surface, it looks virtually free, but let's not forget the generous contributions Peanut's papa & I made through the years in taxes. I have no idea what the hospital charged KELA for the delivery so its really hard to compare the real costs. If I'm suddenly overwhelmed with free time, I'll let you know how it works out, but don't hold your breath :-)

Ice, ice, babies

Peanut likes to groove to all sorts of boppy hits on the radio. Her favorite stations are KLUV (98.7, "Oldies") and what has recently become the new 107.5, formerly a smooth jazz station.

107.5 plays "music that makes you feel good" mostly from the 80s and 90s. We were listening the other night, reliving our high school days, when Vanilla Ice hit the airwaves.

Soon, Peanut was singing along "ice, ice, babies"...."iss, iss, babies"....

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Table for one, please

"I'd like to sit all by myself -- like a grown up -- at my toddler-sized table. Well, not totally by myself. I'd like Pooh bear, Raggedy Anne, Ballerina Duck and Witch to sit with me."
... 10 minutes later...
"Now, I'd like to move to the recently rejected high-chair. No, I don't need any help. I'll just climb up myself and fiddle around with the clasp."
... 5 minutes later...
"All done. Now, I'd like to have a chair just like mama and papa's at the big table. No, no need to place that new booster seat you just bought on the chair. Yes, I know I can't really reach the table - its OK, I'll just kneel here."
... 3 minutes later...

Its mealtime at our house. Peanut's in toddler eating mode. That is, she's eating more or less, now and then. We thought that seating might be playing a role, in addition to just being an 18 month old. Changing the venue has helped. She enjoys her meals most of all when she's at her toddler table with her friends. It gives her some control over when she sits and for how long.

But, like all toddler parents, I worry about what she's not eating which seems to be a growing list each day. Fortunately, we can usually count on fresh veggies with dip, rye bread, oatmeal, cheese bites, Cheerios, waffles, eggs and fruit going in. Didn't see a lot of meats on that list, did you? Nope, neither did I. That's my biggest worry.

Dr. Sears has some super tips. I'll be trying them out 'spread it' and 'top it' during the coming week!

Most parents advocate for a strict approach - eat it now at mealtime or you'll go hungry and eat later. After all, toddlers won't starve themselves and can only eat what we give them, so there's no excuse for 'my baby will only eat crackers'. I suppose she won't unless you give them to her.

I've also dusted off my gourmet baby food cookbook for some fresh ideas and have been trying to think of ways to take foods/servings Peanut loves and apply them to other foods. For example, the girl loves corn on the cob because of its 'cob-ness'. Would chicken on a stick have the same effect? Dipping into ketchup and salad dressing is great; could we dip into a lentil puree? Pizza is just heaven. Perhaps its the single bite or that it comes in an interesting box? Could we make little boxes for pork chops & mashed potatoes?!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

H-A-double L-O-double U-double E-N spells Halloween!

Peanut's second Halloween in the US was action-packed. We had parties, pumpkin patches, costumes, pictures, decorations and the grand finale, trick-or-treating!

With Peanut's fascination for "pua-pua!" (aka, pumpkins), the pumpkin patches were the place to be. First, we went to the local Coppell patch behind the Rejoice Lutheran Church. A nice, manageable place. Peanut could dash around without getting into too much trouble.

The second pumpkin patch trip was more overwhelming. Our playgroup had a party at THE Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch. (Not to be confused with the Flower Mound Pumpkin Village, located right next to the FMPP, and looking very much like the FMPP. In fact, virtually indistinguishable. These two rivals even had it out in court this year.) Peanut went just wild there. She ran in circles around the hay mazes barely glancing at the Pooh Bear cut outs or pumpkins or scarecrows. She just had to get it all in. Children, parents and strollers were all over the place. I could barely get Peanut to take a break to celebrate with her little friends! Not that it got much better on the way home - Peanut just bopped around in her car seat and then couldn't even settle down for a nap at home!

The toddler party at baby school the next day was the most subdued toddler event I'd ever seen. Just quiet little ones sitting around their table, munching on snacks and the oatmeal raisin cookies I'd made. I was one of the moms "in charge" of the event. I also brought everyone foam craft photo frames. They all got some pumpkin, ghost and Halloween sticker shapes to decorate them with.

That evening, papa got home early from work so he could finish setting up our spooky patio. We had the glowing skulls and pumpkins, spider webbing (with spiders), glowing ghoul and best of all, the fog machine to evoke that Halloween feeling. Our home owner's association hosted a block party so we strolled there first to meet the neighborhood. I surprised to see well over 50 people there enjoying pre-treat hotdogs and snacks.

By 7 pm it was dark and the sidewalks were bustling with gangs of costumed children. It was really wonderful to see so many people out! Peanut's papa was sure we were going to run out of candy - I had bought three bags + some special treats! Peanut and her friend Leo also gave trick-or-treating a go. Sort of. Peanut was just thrilled to be racing down the sidewalk in the dark. She didn't really get the candy concept unlike her friend who mastered it in no time.

I liked the chance to say hello to the neighbors we rarely see. One of them was a dad who had set up a chair on the porch for the treat seekers. Though he seemed more wrapped up in the laptop he was typing on and the cell phone close to his side.

Peanut was happy once we came back inside. She liked to see the "babies" come to our door and quickly started handing out candies.

This morning she woke up asking for the "ghoul" and his "hand". When she thought mama just wasn't getting it, she went over to the spot we had him set up in the living room and firmly patted the ground. She's going to miss the ghoul, skulls and pumpkins -- until she learns about snowmen, Santa, reindeer, elves, presents, trees.....

Friday, October 27, 2006

Property of Peanut

Does anyone have a solution to the labeling of your child's stuff?

Now that Peanut is in baby school and regularly hangs out with a group of other toddlers, I have a need to have her sippy cups, plates, spoons/forks, etc. labeled with her name. Ideally, the label should be different enough from the other children's labels so I can see from across the room if she is drinking from her cup or her friends. Also, the labels would be dishwasher safe.

I currently just use pieces of freezer tape and handwrite her name with a permanent marker. Not pretty. And, not very practical since I have to re-do it every time. They have been easy to distinguish though.

I found several companies that sell labels, but wonder if they are really so durable:
Mables Lables
Name Stickers
Label It or Lose It

Thursday, October 26, 2006

No, Bau-bu!

"No, Bau-BU! No!" cries out Peanut when our cat Mauku tries to sneak out the door or climb on the sofa or gets too close to her Pooh Bear.

"No, Bau-bu!" says Peanut in a commanding tone as she lifts her leg up to nudge an awaiting Mauku aside when we come in through the garage door to the kitchen.

"Tii-tu, No!" a stern Peanut says as our other cat Miuku puts a paw on the kitchen table. BAM! goes Peanuts little hand on the table to startle Miuku into obedieance.

"Bau-BU! Bau-BU!" we hear Peanut yell as she chases Mauku across the living room.

I think Peanut's mama & papa need to work on using a gentler tone of voice when talking to the kitties and focus more on showing how to also be kind and loving towards Miuku & Mauku.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Going native

Our yard is in pretty lame condition. We haven't done much landscaping since we moved here -- and it doesn't look like any of the previous owners did either. The front yard is full of what I consider the 'basic' plants put in by the builders. Nothing spectacular to look at. The back yard is full of, well, nothing. We have two trees and that's it!

Since fall is prime planting season in Texas, we decided to get our yard into shape. At the same time, we're very interested in using native Texas plants that need less water and are better suited to the climate.

Peanut's papa even attended a Texas Smartscaping seminar to learn more about the plants and techniques for maintaining them. He's also keen on using less chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

So far, following the advice of the Dirt Doctor, he's rolled out a cornmeal-based formula as a pre-emergent and a week later, a molasses-based formula to help the lawn grow. The better condition your lawn is in -> the less weeds can grow -> the less chemicals you'll need goes the theory.

He's also using yard clippings and trimmings as mulch around the bushes.

The biggest projects have been refurbishing, or rather creating new, flower beds. Out came some corniferious ground cover. In went organic soil, a layer of wet newspapers topped off by a few inches of mulch. Now, it all needs to settle for a few weeks before we plant. The newspaper layer is there to prevent weeds from growing up and will decompose and be tilled back into the new flowerbeds.

As this is our first yard in Texas, the Natural Gardner website was also helpful in clueing us into what should be done each month. Another piece of advice I got was that around every big holiday (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day), you do something with your yard!

Big Tex says Step Right Up!

We made it to the State Fair of Texas right before they packed up this past weekend. What fun!

If it was deep-fried, we probably ate it. Fried Coke (yes, the drink!) was supposed to be the big hit this year. It certainly was a creative idea, but the stand selling it was oddly quiet and even somewhat depressing. I would've imagined excited employees whipping up batches, loudly proclaiming its wonders and serving it up with a big smile. But, no. There was no chatter, no big showmanship, no smile. We even tossed half the battery slush away.

Onto Fletcher's Corny Dogs... and deep fried cheesecake. Peanut's papa being Dutch was designated as our official lead taster. He thinks the cheesecake would be excellent if served cold. Rounding it out, the classic: funnel cake with powdered sugar. This even Peanut dug into heartily.

We cruised through the car show hangers checking out what's new. Peanut's papa 'tried on' a couple of cars. Peanut was busy pointing out all the wheels - one of her latests words.

Then we wandered into game row where all the balloons, basketball hoops, targets and other tests of your skills called us in. We couldn't walk through there without winning something for Peanut! $10 got us 7 darts to throw at a wall of balloons and a chance to win a toddler-size stuffed Curious George. Alas, we walked away with a glitzy frog pulled out from beneath the counter, but Peanut loved it anyway :-)

She even tried her own luck at a game where 'everybody is a winner!'. All you have to do is grab a floating duck from the whirling waters. She added a little stuffed butterfly to her prize collection that way.

The Fair also had a Petting Zoo (complete with kangaroos), displays of Texas agriculture, arts & crafts and all the other goodies that make a Fair. We had to skip the Midway this year since Peanut's too small and mama's belly is too big. Perhaps next time we'll get a sunset view of the Dallas skyline from atop the giant ferris wheel.

'Tis the season

Not that season yet, but that's no reason not to get into the spirit of things!

Fall is such a fun time in the US. First, here in Texas, the weather cools to wonderful degrees. Then, the holidays begin - Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's. There's so much to look forward to. Little ones of course make it all that much more fun.

Fall in Finland was more of a time to get serious again after the frolicking of summer. It gets cooler and then cold. It gets darker and then really dark. But, I still enjoyed the opportunity to bring out the candles to warm the rooms with light and the chance to enjoy the gorgeous fall nature.

But, back to gearing up for Halloween! Our neighborhood has been steadily filling up with pumpkins, scarecrows, tombstones, spider webs and other assorted ghouls over the past month. Some more than others. Peanut's a bit afraid of the bigger contraptions saying "no, no, bye-bye" as she desparately looks to her mama & papa to take her further away.

We just went this past weekend to pick up some decor. We were virtually too late! All the shops had shelves stripped clean of their frights and were quickly making way for Christmas tree ornaments.

Watch out though - Peanut's papa is hooking up the fog machine and lining the walk with glowing skulls and jack-o-laterns come next Tuesday!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

TV license witchhunts vs. begging for NPR

Which would I rather have -- public humiliation or incessant begging/guilt-tripping to make me pay my part to support non-commercial TV and radio programming? It should really take neither. We should all be responsible and socially-minded enough to voluntarily make a contribution to create educational and entertaining programs. But, we aren't. At least, I'm not. Peanut's papa may be, but, I'm not.

In Finland, there's now a big uproar about TV license fee records being made public so you can see who has and who hasn't paid the TV 'police'. In Finland, if you own a TV, you are required to pay an annual fee/tax than goes to fund the national broadcaster YLE. The license costs 208 EUR a year. I would get so angry everytime we got our quarterly TV fee bill - I didn't like being forced to pay for something we didn't even neccessarily watch or listen to. Or programming we didn't like. Or, it was just a matter of "principle" I liked to rant.

And, the only reason we were paying was because the TV police came to our door one day and I stupidly opened it. Yes, there really are TV police - OK, license inspectors - who go door to door to investigate if people have a TV and if yes, are you registered and paying your tax. See, doesn't that idea get your blood boiling!?

Now, in Dallas, where I consume loads of programming from National Public Radio (NPR), I feel good that we support them. We choose to. We give them an amount we think is appropriate and we can afford.

But, thank goodness our local NPR affiliate, KERA, was able to wrap up its fall fund raising early. At first it drives me crazy that the programming is cut short to let the announcers ask for money, beg for money, give oodles of reasons why people should call in and pledge. The, after a while, I begin to take pity on them. Its amazing programming and they have virtually plead that their audience toss a few coins their way to keep them on the air. They guilt listeners. They shame them. And, eventually, the reach their pledge drive goal and we are free for another season.

There must be a third way.....

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Reaching for pregnancy nirvana

I've been a closet yoga -ist for over 5 years now. I'm the type to pop in the VCR tape or DVD, roll out my mat in front of the TV and just practice at home. I'll be devoted for weeks and then months can go by without a single downward facing dog or mountain pose.

Back in Finland, I did enjoy the Friday afternoon Power Stretch session hosted in the basement/fall-out shelter of the Nokia Research Center. But, once I moved to NHO, it was just me and the TV again.

With Peanut, I picked up Shiva Rea's Prenatal Yoga DVD. There were three ladies - one for each trimester - in all the segments showing how to modify the movements as your body changed. Before I got there myself, I always felt so sorry for Poppy, the woman in her third trimester, who ended up sitting for half the poses.

The program was really an energy booster and made me feel much more comfortable with all the changes taking place. Who knows what impact it had on the actual delivery, but I diligently practiced my kegels and yogic squats in hopes of preparing myself.

I've now dusted it off again and try to get in two sessions a week while Peanut is at Baby School. Its not quite as soothing as the first time around. My body is much achier and doesn't appreciate the stretches as much. Perhaps its just a matter of persistence.

If you can get your S.O. into it, there is a nice segment on pregancy massage techniques!

I didn't use or enjoy the Postnatal Yoga DVD as much. And, after a couple of months, I was back to the regular workout version.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Avoid the "Terrible Threes"

According to the Dr. Sear's latest book "The healthiest kid in the neighborhood" - the "terrible threes" to avoid in foods for you toddlers are:
  1. high-fructose corn syrup
  2. hydrogenated oils, or "trans fats"
  3. Any color additive with a number symbol attached to it (e.g., blue#1, yellow #5, red #40)

High Fructose Corn Syrup has been on my hit list for some time already, but it is hard to avoid! Insidious! In just about everything save for water. I know sugar isn't great for you, but at least I know that. The "sugar free" lable on so many foods should sound alarm bells rather than tempting you to reach for this supposedly healthier food.

Hydrogenated oils are also very common in many foods as are the color additives he lists. Even though we try to be aware of what the food we eat contains and try to make healthy choices, it isn't easy to find processed foods (including such things as pasta, breads, pasta sauce, waffles, vitamins, salad dressing and other everyday staples I won't be making anytime soon) without these three ingredients. They are cheap for manufacturers to include in foods and so they will continue to do it. I am encouraged though by the growing number of organic products available from local grocery stores and even Wal-mart and Target. You still pay a premium, but its just a matter of economic laws taking hold to bring the prices and costs down.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Mama radar fails

Peanut had her 18 mos well-baby check-up today - though it turned out she wasn't so well afterall. She'd had a runny nose and cough for about 2 weeks, but it didn't seem nasty enough to take her to doctor separately. I figured it was just lingering.

But, no. Turns out Peanut has an ear infection, sinus infection AND conjunctivitis! Now, the last part, I did notice. When she awoke this morning both her eyes were puffy and had goop in the corners. The ear and sinus infection were a bit sneakier as she hadn't run a fever and had been generally in good spirits.

Then, I thought about it. I had heard her cry out during the past two nights and she was waking up earlier than usual. She usually sleeps like a log. I mentioned it in passing to Peanut's papa, but just passed it off that she was excited papa was home after a trip.

Ding, ding, ding. Hello, mama radar!

We decided to go ahead and treat with pencillin (amox and an eye drop formula) since she's been sick already for 2 weeks and waking at night. The doctor thought we'd probably be looking at another 2 weeks to wait & see if it clears up.

Otherwise, the 18 mos visit went just fine. Our doctor has a check list of developmental milestones she runs through at each visit. This time it was questions like
  • does she climb stairs if you hold her hand?
  • does she kick a ball?
  • throw a ball overhand?
  • use a fork/spoon?
  • eat veggies/fruits?
  • does she "help" around the house?
  • off the bottle?
  • how many words does she use (Peanut has about 15 unprompted - the dr thought it was plenty)

The doctor also recommended that Peanut begin taking a chewable toddler vitamin (1/2 tablet once a day). The shelves at the store were filled with brightly colored packages featuring Dora, Pooh, Disney Princesses and the classic Flintstones among other characters. There are chewables, jelly ones and even powdered ones. We went with Pooh since Peanut loves him and Tigger so (plus they were two4one and have stickers in the box -- i know, i'm a marketeer's dream shopper!!!).

As for potty training, she said don't even try yet. Keep the potty out, but no real effort until Peanut is two. We'll see. The potty is out. Peanut often tells us when she needs a diaper change. And, it'd be nice to not have two in diapers. But, I realize she'll do it when she's good and ready.

We also got a quick run down on how to use time outs since Peanut is now officially of time-out age. Getting a special stool and a timer were the keys.

And, to wrap it all up, Peanut got her second Hepatitis A vaccination and flu shot! Phew! Back next time at two years.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Just who is picking up my baby at Kiddin Around?

I wanted to share a true tale of what a friend has experienced at Kiddin' Around playcare in Coppell that should make you cautious about where its safe to leave your children.

Kiddin' Around is a place where you can drop your kids off for a couple hours of supervised play. Basically instead of the babysitter coming to you, you go to the babysitter. Its a great concept -- you don't have to plan in advance and there's always room for one more.

However, it is leaving your child in the care of strangers who don't know you or your children. There is supposed to be a very strict policy about showing ID when you pick up your child. This only makes sense in this day & age where sadly children are snatched by strangers or estranged family members.
For the safety of all the children, they must be signed into and out of the facility by a parent or an authorized adult. Authorization forms are available at the time of registration and picture I.D. will be required when picking up your child.
My friend recently took her 20-month old son to Kiddin' Around for the first time. Disturbingly, when she picked him up, no one asked for her ID. It hadn't been checked when she dropped him off either. They just asked for her son's name and went in to find him. The employees at the desk were different from the ones who had been there when she dropped him off so there was no way they could have known her.

She fired off an email to the owner letting her know what had happened in detail.

The owner responded promptly apologizing and promising to bring the issue up at an upcoming staff meeting. She then offered my friend a complimentary pass for another visit.

My friend took her up on the invitation as her son had enjoyed Kiddin Around immensely. Sadly, her second experience was no different. No sign-in procedure. No ID checks. No sign-out procedure. Again, the most basic security guidelines had been ignored.

She's awaiting a response from the owner of Kiddin' Around to her latest email highlighting the lack of adherence.

I haven't taken Peanut to Kiddin' Around and now am even more hesitant about it. Its no minor infraction to overlook the check-in and -out procedures that are the only things ensuring that children are taken away by the rightful person. Kiddin' Around is very popular around here, but I think anyone using it should consider the risky behavior of the staff and how it may endanger their children.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Living on One Paycheck

This morning's Dallas Morning News carried a story about making life for 2 + Baby work on one paycheck:

"We started preparing a year and a half ago," says Mr. Dunn, 31, who has a joint professional counseling practice with his wife in Frisco. "It's amazing what percentage of income we're losing."

But they're committed to providing their baby with a full-time parent and are preparing to move from a two-income household to one with a sole breadwinner.

Many families dream of being able to do what the Dunns are planning, and financial planners say anyone should be able to do it if they're willing to sacrifice.

I wonder how many people plan so well for this big decision? And, is really "anyone ... willing to sacrifice" able to do it? Or does the financial sacrifice just seem too much?

I have to admit that we didn't plan because we didn't really expect to find ourselves in this situation. When Peanut was born in Finland, the plan was for me to stay home the usual one-year while collecting maternity/parental leave pay from KELA (the Finnish Social Insurance Institution), and then I would head back to the office and Peanut to daycare. Then half-way into the year, peanut's papa was offered a tempting position here in Dallas and here we are.

Since we had committed to the idea that I would be home with Peanut for her first year, I continued to focus on being mama. Certainly, we considered the financial impacts of continuing on just one salary (and me not getting the KELA benefit), but did not have time to practice and save as the Dallas Morning News article suggests.

It isn't always easy. We have significantly scaled back and often can't do all the things we want simply because its not possible financially (though isn't that the case for most people anyway -- one paycheck or two??!!). We occassionally worry about how to save up for Peanut & Tex's futures as well as my retirement. But, we see the immeasurable benefit of having mama at home for Peanut in these short and formative years. And, I trust that the coming years will give us even more prespective on this decision and we'll be even more thankful for having the will to stick it out.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Congrats you're having a baby - here's your promo bag!

On our very first prenatal visit for Tex here in Dallas, we met with the dr in his office after the sonogram confirmed a little heartbeat.

On his desk was a large plastic bag that looked to be packed full of papers and samples. I thought to myself a drug company rep must've dropped off the latest goodies for the dr while he was out.

It turned out the bag was for us! It was brimming with coupons, free magazine samples, prenatal vitamin samples and other booklets and papers telling us all about what's out there for baby.

Now, I, like most people, enjoy getting a bag full of free stuff :-) Especially when its appropriately targeted.

What was interesting was the amount of ad space dedicated to the formula vendors. The bag was sponsored by Infamil and carried several marketing pieces about baby forumulas. I noticed that in UK, for example, all infant formula ads have to marked with a notice that highlights that breastfeeding is the most complete nourishment for a baby up to 6 mos. Here in the US, there is no such requirement. Our bag also had mail-in cards to sign-up for the formula clubs promising formula coupons, free toys, a free diaper bag, free formula samples and more, more, more. Who can resit?
Enfamil Family Beginnings

I also got free issues of American Baby (sign up online for free subscription), Fit Pregnancy (the swimsuit issue), Baby Talk (another free subscription available online) and Women's Health and Fitness. (Where was my sample of Cookie!!??) I flipped through all of them when I was feeling queasy in the early days and now often go back to look for decorating ideas, find out what all is available in baby strollers and to cut out pictures of infants for Peanut's photo book.

There were coupons and product brochures from Baby Depot, Babies R Us and a local guide to what's what for babies in the metroplex. All complete with lists of 'must have' items for baby -- some over the top, but I know I would have appreciated the ideas for my first baby. And, there sure is a ton of gear, clothing and what nots that you can pile up if you want.

One of my favorite pieces is the "as your baby grows - from conception to birth" magazine. It has the most amazing photos from inside the womb of how a baby develops. Incredible color images of this tiny miracle! The photos are from a book called A Child is Born.

In contrast to all this, in Finland, I didn't see a piece of promo materials until I received my KELA box. In it were some free diapers, baby lotions and condoms. No coupons. At the hospital they had also tucked away, out of sight, on a shelf some small purple bags from the diaper brand, Libero. I just happened to overhear a nurse answer another mom that yes, you can pick one up if you want to, you don't have to.... Never anywhere were there any materials promoting formula.

Also, once Peanut was born and registered in the national population registry, we received some promotional mail at our home for her.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Take two and call me in the morning

I've noticed a different attitude towards pregnant women and medications here in the US as compared to the advice I received from my midwife in Finland. In both countries, there are those who believe nothing is truly safe to take during pregnancy. However, I think everything that is considered OK is fine in moderation. I've popped a few Tylenol over the past few weeks to ease a powerful headache and lower my fever so I could sleep. I see it always a question of balance -- which outweighs the other: the medications questionable harmful effect or the benefit from the comfort of it (ie, make it possible to rest or eat).

What medications are safe to take during pregnancy - OTC
Here in the US, at my first prenatal visit my doctor gave me a sheet with a list of safe to take over-the-counter medications:
  • Tylenol or Extra strength Tylenol (ie, acetaminophen) for minor aches, pains and fevers. NOT aspirin or ibuprofen unless approved by dr.
  • Sudafed or Robitussin for cough. Robitussin DM for cough suppression.
  • Benedryl for allergies
  • Mylanta, Maalox, Riopan, Tums for upset stomach and heartburn.
  • Milk of Magnesia for occasional constipation.
My midwife in Finland only made suggestions when I asked about a specific symptom. I suppose the list in the US is because the volume of patients is much higher so they want to cover all the basics for everyone without having to field all those phone calls.
  • Panadol (paracetamol) was OK for aches, pains and fevers
  • Renni for upset stomachs and heartburn.
  • But she didn't like the idea of taking anything for allergies and even suggested avoiding the anti-histamine eye drops I used during summer.
Morning Sickness medications
I was fortunate not have any morning sickness with Peanut so I don't really know what the stance is toward morning sickness medications in Finland. I did have a dear colleague (Hi K.S.!) who suffered immensely for many weeks with powerful morning sickness and she never mentioned any medications.

The info packet my doctor in the US gave me states there are no medications for morning sickness, yet I know of several moms here who have taken various pills to help alleviate the nausea and vomiting.

Flu Shots
Its that time of year again. My US doctor told me at the last visit their office usually gets a supply of flu vaccinations for pregnant mothers and it is a recommended shot. He said I can get it elsewhere, but just to make sure its not a live virus.

My midwife in Finland was opposed to me getting a flu shot during pregnancy.

The flu shot seems to cause a large amout of debate over the thimerosal (a preservative which contains mercury) it contains, its general effectiveness and belief that it can actually cause the flu.

From what I've read, here's the scoop:
Thimerosal - Yes, its in there in most vaccines, but in trace amounts, says the CDC:
Is it safe for pregnant women to receive an influenza vaccine that contains thimerosal?
Yes. A study of influenza vaccination examining over 2,000 pregnant women demonstrated no adverse fetal effects associated with influenza vaccine. Case reports and limited studies indicate that pregnancy can increase the risk for serious medical complications of influenza. One study found that out of every 10,000 women in their third trimester of pregnancy during an average flu season, 25 will be hospitalized for flu related complications.
General Effectiveness - that is, will the vaccination prevent you from getting the flu?
Not entirely. There are hundreds of strains of the flu virus each year and the vaccination is made to prevent what is guessimated to be the most widely spread. This years vaccine actually contains three strains.

The CDC claims:
With the flu shot, when the "match" between vaccine and circulating strains is close, the vaccine prevents influenza in about 70%-90% of healthy persons younger than age 65 years.

Can you get sick from the vaccine?
Its a killed virus so its not possible to become infected by the shot itself. Any illness that you get after the vaccination is coincidental.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Its time for belly oil again

As my belly begins to swell with Tex, I've been looking forward to using my belly oil again. I picked up a bottle while we were in the Netherlands though it seems you can find it in the US as well with a little work.

Weleda, a German company specializing in natural products, makes the Pregnancy Body Oil I love so much. It just smells so delicious and I swear it makes my belly warm and tingly.

I found it in the apteeki in Finland when I went to look for a refill for my Palmer's lotion. There weren't many lotions so I decided to give it a try. I was pretty skeptical of a body oil at first thinking it would be greasy and messy. It wasn't and the warmth it generated (I'm sure it does!!!!) felt extra wonderful during the frigid winter mornings and evenings. Whether or not it helped with my skin - who knows - I didn't have any stretch marks and felt reasonably comfortable in my skin even as Peanut grew to her largest size.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Starting "Baby School"

I figured it was an easier for Peanut to understand that "today is a Baby School Day" rather than "today you are going to Mother's Day Out".

While there isn't much formal learning going on -- and I don't think that there needs to be for an 18 month old -- Peanut is learning about socialization, independence and creativity every Baby School Day.

When she went for her first day, mama also had to learn another lesson about separation and how independent her baby is. I managed to only go by the "school" twice that day to peek in through the two-way mirror. Every time I looked in, Peanut was busily engaged with caring for a baby doll, eating or playing with the fun toys they had for her. She looked happy to see me at the end of her five hour day, but was also pretty glad the next time we pulled up to the "school".

Now, Peanut cheerfully goes to her classroom, gives mama a kiss and takes off to check on her baby dolls. I'm so glad that she enjoys her time there. I'm certainly enjoying my time to browse the book store, do some yoga, take a nap, make dinner, make phone calls, paint my toenails......just catch up on life! I think everyone around the house has been much more relaxed since Peanut started Baby School.

In our community, many Mother's Day Out programs are hosted by local churches. Some begin as young as infants and have classes through pre-school. The 'teachers' are often members of the congregation who have their own children enrolled in the MDO program. 'Teachers' recieve about 15 hours of training, including first aid and CPR, during the year, but don't need to have any other qualifications. Prices for the programs vary, but most are around $150 - $200 a month for two days a week, five hours a day programs.

However, not all MDO programs are licensed by the state of Texas. In order to be licensed a center 0r home-based care program must meet a list of minimum health and safety requirements and be subject to reviews. You can search their database to see the current standing of programs. If a program is not licensed, they do not have to follow the minimum requirements - frightening because they are pretty basic guidelines!

When I looked at the programs in the Coppell area, virtually every one of them had a citation of one sort or another. Some just one paperwork related one, others a whole series of repeating offenses. One got cited for an incident of toddlers on the playground looking at each other's bare bottoms....

Wired chimes in on cloth vs disposable

Just came across this tidbit in the latest issue of Wired magazine.

In an article called "Good, Green Livin'" highlighting that even if Gore's Inconvenient Truth has you reviewing all your choices to make more environmentally-friendly ones, its not as easy as you might think.

On the issue of cloth diapers vs disposable diapers

Citing Rachel Olive, University of Queensland, Australia

Annual water consumption (gallons):
  • disposable: 761
  • cloth (home wash): 6,946
  • cloth (service wash): 17,908
Annual solid & water waste (pounds)
  • disposable: 1,308
  • cloth (home wash): 699
  • cloth (service wash): 686
Verdict: Cloth, if you can wash at home. Despite landfill issues, parents in drought-prone areas should consider disposable

Friday, September 29, 2006

Consignment sale confessions

I'm becoming a consignment sale junkie! I wouldn't yet call myself an addict - I don't get in line at 6.00 am, I don't have to be at EVERY sale and I don't haul away mountains of stuff. Perhaps, I should say I'm becoming a conisseur - I'm developing refined strategies, a critical eye, an ability to swoop & scoop with grace.

In reality, I only hit two (three, if you count that I went back to one!) sales: Divine Consign in Grapevine and Plano and the Rockinghorse Sale in Coppell. I do have one more in mind. This year I skipped the Just Between Friends sale because I found the one in Denton so small last time.

For Divine Consign in Grapevine, I arrived around 10 am on opening day. Good timing, no line, no mad rush, still plenty to look over the gear. This is the sale I also decided to visit again on 50% off day - just because it was close by and I wondered what would be left. Not a whole lot of high quality stuff. I did pick up a bag of toy cars for $0.50, a Fisher-Price Little People fire station for $2.00 and Little Tikes tool kit for $0.50.

Divine Consign in Plano was disappointing. Maybe I was late? But, I felt like the prices were higher and quality lower. I even saw some repeats from Grapevine. Won't make the drive there again!

The little Rockinghorse Sale in Coppell gave me the one big item I'd been searching for - table and chairs for Peanut. For $20, I got the cutest wooden giraffe and walrus back chairs for a matching table :-) Otherwise, its like a big garage sale, but just around the corner so I'll be back again! You can get in early to this sale on opening day with a $5.00 donation to the hosting church's youth group.

My hints for successful consignment shopping:

  • have a shopping list and focus on those items first - there were specific toys I wanted, everything else I skipped until I had looked for those first.
  • bring a few empty canvas bags to fill with shopping. Yes, some people drag an empty laundry basket around with them, but its not very practical.
  • there seemed to be tons of clothes available at all the sales so look over the other stuff first unless you are desparate for clothes.
  • if you MUST have a bigger item (stroller, beds, big plastic toys, bikes, etc) - you will have to be fanatical about being there first. Volunteer to get in on the pre-sales.
  • consign something yourself to get in early without the hours of volunteering - most sales let you shop at the first night as well. I suppose you are a consignor even if you only put one item up for sale!
  • peek around all the corners - both Divine Consign sales were spread over several unconnected rooms. One toy-filled and overlooked room was brimming with goodies because half the shoppers didn't even notice it!
  • move your big items into the roped off hold area - or better yet, have someone take them there for you - and continue shopping
  • I had Peanut with me. I also had lots of snacks and drinks for Peanut to keep her happy. She's a quiet, happy shopper so I knew it would be OK. If yours isn't, you'll be better off sans bebe.

Last two sales I know of for fall in the area both take place tomorrow!
North Dallas Mothers of Twins Club in Richardson and the
Metrocrest Parents of Multiples sale in Flower Mound.

Checking in on Tex

I've just had my third prenatal visit for Tex this week.

To catch up, at the second visit, which was around week 12, the nurse met us for the usual weight, blood pressure and urine check before we saw the doctor. This time we also had an ultrasound to make sure Tex's growth rate was on track. There was some confusion between the nurse and doctor so we ended up with just an external (on the belly) ultrasound since the doctor thought I was thin enough for it to suffice. Usually this ultrasound is internal (transv*ginal).

Indeed, we saw Tex waving around. The picture wasn't as clear as the internal would have been, but it allowed the doctor to make the needed measurements. All along, he continued in a very reassuring manner, telling us everything was very normal and on track.

This past visit - after a 40 minute wait in the waiting room - I again first met my usual nurse (whose name I still don't know!) and then my doctor. This time he measured the growth of my uterus and used a doppler device to listen to Tex's heartbeat. He summed up it was all fine, but didn't actually tell me any of the measurements.

I was offered an AFP screening test, something which is not offered in Finland, to screen for certain neural abnormalities, such as Down's Syndrome, spina bifida and anencephaly. It is an optional test, which he said about 50% of his patients opt for and didn't really make any recommendation for me to take or not take. It has a reputation for not being very accurate and
causing more worry than answers.

We should've been quarantined

Well, not really, but it sure seemed like last week wherever you looked around our home, you saw sick Peanut, sick mama, sick papa. Perhaps even the kitties were sick, but we were just too sick to tell.

Fortunately, Peanut was the healthiest of all. She made it through the week with just one little vomit episode and a couple of loose diapers. (Too much info?! Watch out - there's more coming). She barfed on our bed, into our awaiting hands cupped to catch her vomit. Then papa quickly scooped up a little vomit covered Peanut and snuggled with her to help her get over the nasty surprise. The things you do without even blinking an eye for your children. Amazing.

I spent much of the week on the sofa or in the bathroom, thanks to a stomach virus followed by a fever and sore throat. Papa had to go out of town after he recovered enough to get on a plane.

I was at a loss as to how to get through the days with Peanut. I was so tired and completely lacked any will to make/eat food, play games or go anywhere.

So, I turned on the TV for Peanut. We never have the TV on during the day so I didn't know if it would amuse her, but I needed some help. I didn't want to take her anywhere cause I thought she might be contagious, too. No family in town and I only know one babysitter. What else to do?

Well, Peanut just LOVED PBS Kids. She LOVED Curious George. She followed Clifford the Big Red Dog through all his adventures. And, some computer animated looking show about a tree sloth, monkeys and a green tropical frog was just fab. I tried to be involved - what's the monkey say? Oh, did he go into the tree? Dogs like bones......

Peanut could have cared less where I was or what I had to say. She lay down on the floor, tucked her thumb in and did not move for the entire show.

I felt a bit sorry for her. She usually wanders around the house and finds something to do, but also likes to do many of these things with mama, who could not this week.

Today, when I felt better, Peanut took the TV remote, pushed the red on button and waited. I had to explain how the TV is sleeping today and there will be no monkey show. Maybe, she'll forget Curious George....maybe not. TV is powerful stuff. Now, I really know why its recommended to limit TV viewing for little ones.

Some other activities I did manage to do with Peanut from the sofa were:
> blowing bubbles - fun for her, the kitties chased them and I didn't have to move
> sticker book - again, very little effort on my part, just handing her stickers
> coloring book
> hiding toys under the blanket
> reading
> puzzles

And, for next time, I've hidden away a Mr. Potato Head toy that will come out as a surprise. Its kinda like planning for a long flight - new toys, easy to play with while fixed in one spot, and kid-friendly snacks all packed up and ready to take out.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Prescription Prenatal Vitamins + DHA supplement

At the very first prenatal visit here in Texas, my doctor gave me a prescription for Citrical prenatal vitamins that included a DHA supplement. A prescription prenatal? Why? It costs $20 for a 30 day supply -- and that's with health insurance!

I had been taking a generic prenatal vitamin from the time we started thinking about having Tex since its important to get at least three months of folic acid in your system before pregnancy to help prevent some neural birth defects. With Peanut, I had taken the LadyVita vitamin for pregnant and nursing mothers which was available at the apteekki.

In the beginning, I asked the OB/GYN I had seen in Finland for a pre-pregnancy check-up which folic acid supplement to take. She looked confused and didn't understand why I wanted to take it. Hmmmm???

Then, once pregnant, I asked my midwife in Finland which brand of prenatal vitamin she recommended. She wondered why I would even be taking a prenatal vitamin. In her opinion, as long as I ate a healthy and proper diet, I didn't need any additional vitamins. "Those Americans just eat hamburgers and french fries so they are not healthy enough without vitamins," she scoffed.

Yes, that's probably true, but a pregnancy diet needs to be very carefully balanced and followed everyday in order to get the needed vitamins and minerals consistently. However, my philosophy during my pregnancy was to do everything in moderation and to continue doing those things I had prior to pregnancy (within guidelines of course!). I have virtually always taken vitamin supplements so that's what I planned to continue to do. I do follow a pregnancy diet and eat well, but know that I'm no nutrition expert and sometimes given to laziness in the kitchen.

Nonetheless, I was not wholly sold on the idea of prescription prenatal vitamin. My doctor explained its valuable because of the lower amounts of vitamin A and higher amounts of calcium as compared to generics. Most importantly, it came with the DHA supplement. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid considered to be key to healthy brain, eye and nervous system development. My usual source has been salmon, but I know I don't eat it frequently enough.

Though there is no official FDA recommended daily allowance for DHA, the concensus (I found on the Internet) seems fall between 200 - 350 mg/day for pregnant women.

So, my current solution is this: continue with my generic prenatal because its so much cheaper, drink some extra milk/fortified OJ for more calcium and pick up the a separate DHA supplement available OTC for less the $20 I would pay a month for the prescription vitamin. As a bonus, each box of the Expecta brand DHA supplement comes with a coupon for $1.50 off your next purchase.

I miss my maternity neuvola card

When I was expecting Peanut in Helsinki, I was given a "Maternity Health Clinic" card. Really a small booklet where at each midwife and doctor's visit my vital stats were recorded. The midwife and doctor also made the same notes into their own file. All by hand. I remember being surprised that the Katiloopisto hospital where Peanut would be born had no access to the information electronically - they, too, would have to decipher the hand-written notes from my maternity card.

I was told I should keep my Finnish Maternity card with me at all times so in essence I'd have my pregnancy health record on hand if I ever had to go to a different clinic or hospital. But, I liked it so I could keep track of how things were developing: my weight, blood pressure, blood test results, protein, glucose and iron tests, height of the uterus, Peanut's heart rate and position. It was fun to pull it out every once in a while at home to see how far we had progressed.

Here in the US, the notes are made by the nurse and my doctor into the folder kept at his office. A few times, I've even had to ask if I gained weight or how my blood pressure was as the nurse silently made her notes. I try to recall the details and write them down for myself in my own notebook. I suppose the idea is that if I need care, I will go only to his office and my selected hospital where my doctor will be available and aware of my condition.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Tex" -- arriving early 2007!

The latest news here is that Peanut will become a big sister next year! "Tex" will make his/her appearance in early spring 2007! We thought "Tex" was appropriate as the hospital forms pointed out, we will not just be having a baby, but a new Texan.

We're excited all around and, blogwise, I'm excited about lots of posting ideas comparing pregnancy in the US and Finland.

Its already been a vastly different experience even though we're only a few months along.

To begin with, the doctor wanted to see us as soon as we thought we might be pregnant. In our case that was barely 6.5 weeks along when the tell-tale signs were confirmed with an at-home pregnancy test.

In Finland, I had been advised to wait a bit later before contacting the neuvola - I called around 9 weeks. When I did call, the first question was "Was this a wanted pregnancy?" so they could determine which side of the health clinic to connect me to.

Here, we met the doctor right away. At our first visit, I gave up at least 6 viles of blood for a variety of standard tests: blood type, Rh, blood count, immunity for Rubella, screen for antibodies, hepatitis, syphilis and HIV.

Then, the doctor did a sonogram. I was amazed that you could see/hear anything so early! But, "Tex" was there - a little blurry blob with no distinguishable features, except a strong and clear heartbeat. It was the heartbeat the doctor was after. He was very enthusiastic and explained that once you hear a heartbeat the chance for miscarriage already diminishes to just around 5%.

In Finland, our first meeting with the doctor and a sonogram was at 12 weeks. Before then, we just assumed everything was normal and met with our midwife.

So far, we've paid $15 as our insurance co-pay. However, I've seen what the doctor's office is billing the insurance company:
$960 for blood tests
another $960 for sonograms and doctor's consultations.