Category Archives: I love the internet

Reader call: Money stuff

From the "heck if l know" file:

Shay’s Mamala writes:

"I have 2 questions related to money:

1. What do you and the readers think about saving for college? Is it a good
idea to have an account set up? What are your opinions about a 529 versus an
Education IRA? Is it better for us to concentrate on our own retirement savings?
College was not something that people in my family did, let alone saved for. I
maxed out grants and loans and worked several part time jobs to pay my way. I
don’t want my DD to have to juggle work and school and I certainly don’t want
her to leave college in debt like I did. However, I don’t know if saving
separately for her college makes sense. We could just use our own savings at
that time if she does not get funding from other sources.

2. Related to the above question and thoughts stemming from the posts on
digital organization. I wondering if other families use financial software
packages and if they are helpful in actually spending less and saving more. Are
they time consuming to use or can most information be automatically imported
into them from financial institutions. Do they make tax time easier? Not that we
have wads of dough to manage, but somehow I think we might do a better job with
our money if we were actually tracking it. What’s a good system?"

I know there’s an answer to both of these questions, and my suspicion is that a separate account is definitely the better choice for tax purposes (here in the US, at least, but I’d love to hear what Canadians, Aussies, people in the UK and other countries say). It sounds like some of this question is cultural, too, though, and that’s another interesting discussion.

And, yeah, question 2 is something I have no opinion on, but probably should.

I know you know, though, so please share.

Reader help for pregnancy qualms

Heather writes:

"During
your Christmas to New Years open thread I tossed out a little whimper
of an "OMG, I’m pregnant" and got a few very nice responses for which I
am grateful.
In the last year I have gotten engaged and married,
quit one job, moved 800 miles away from my family, didn’t work for
awhile, got a GREAT, CRAZY, HUGE job which I love{!!!}
and am only just now figuring out how to do. So … there has been a lot of change. I’m still not really dealing with the fact that I am pregnant very well.
Still, I’m eating right, taking the vitamins & fish
oil, went to the doctor yesterday and saw the heartbeat {I broke into
heartbroken tears, and now feel bad that this magical moment just felt
… ugh … awful} and asked the doctor for help finding a therapist
{because BOY HOWDY do I need one apparently}.

So, first,
thank you for saying at some point awhile back that it was ok to find a
therapist because that helped me find the guts to do it. Second,
right now I am trapped in the things that are changing and going away
{perhaps, I recognize, being a little overly dramatic about those
things even} and I know that I don’t understand the good things that it
will be replaced by.
Can you and the lovely ladies in the computer articulate the good stuff and help a woman find her way out of the dark?"

Boy have I been there.

Not with the job I love and marriage and move all happening at the same time. But with the "What have I done??" and "My life has hardly even begun–how can I have a baby now?"

Personally, I think it’s counterproductive to try to force yourself to think it’s all normal and happy and the best thing that’ll ever happen to you. Being uncomfortable with the change and transition, now that’s normal. I think it’s important to let yourself mourn your old life, and to explore the fears you’re feeling, and to know that it’s not all going to be great right away and that it will take a lot of time and energy and lost sleep to get to the new normal. But that the new normal is thousands of shades richer than the one you have now. The highs are higher and the lows are lower.

I could go on about this for pages, but I think it’s better just to turn it over to the commenters, who will do a better job in fewer words. Please work your magic, friends.

More on nursing and sexy thoughts

The people have spoken. From now on I’ll separate posts. Special thanks to Rachel for emailing me to bring it up, because I honestly never would have thought of it.

Product review of Cranium Bloom toys below.

The whole nursing/sex dreams question from last week reminded me of something I read years ago (I can’t remember where, for which I apologize) which was a stat that mothers who breastfed had more sex (by a lot) in the first year post-partum than mothers who formula fed. I had no idea why that would be when I read that stat, but it stands to reason that since breastfeeding produces oxytocin, which is the same hormone released during orgasm, moms with more oxytocin racing through their systems would be more interested in sex.

(Also, do I need to mention that nursing doesn’t inspire sexy feelings toward the baby? It seems pretty obvious to me, but I’m worried someone’s going to find this post and wig out about it without having any understanding of how nursing produces hormones so it’s a natural physical reaction.)

I wonder how that interacts with the feeling that many of us who’ve nursed have had at different times, which is that we felt "touched out," or just tired of someone else wanting something from us that involved our bodies.

Sexy hormones vs. overwhelming emotional responsibilities? My suspicion is that sleep is what tips the balance, and that mothers who are getting enough* sleep feel less touched out and have more sexy hormones.

And I have no personal experience with formula feeding exclusively, but suspect that the intersections are probably the same.

Any thoughts you’d like to share on that?

* and by "enough" I really mean "maybe 60% of the sleep you got before having a kid, but enough that you can remember your middle name on any given day."

Digital storage, eczema, T-Tapp, sex dreams

1) Alison is going to write a post exclusively about digital storage. I don’t know when it’ll post–maybe next week, or the week after–but be on the lookout for it. I’m so happy she’s contributing all her wisdom, and the whole keeper vs. purger concept has already helped me immensely. The digital storage thing is frightening me, but I’m sure she’ll help us wade through it.

3) Does anyone who’s been doing T-Tapp want to write up their experience? I’ve been getting emails from people asking me if it’s for real (from both a health improvement and weight-loss standpoint), because the T-Tapp website sounds too good to be true and too infomercial-esque. I figure it’d be easier to trust reviews from people we "know" from here. (My babysitter started doing the 15-minute workout last week, and measured after a week of doing it and has lost 2.25 inches off her waist.)

4) Here’s one for you to comment on anonymously. Anonymous writes:

"I am pushing past the embarrassing nature of this questions because I
really just need to confirm that other people have had the same
experience! My 9-month old daughter sleeps in bed with me in the
mornings after my husband leaves for work, usually between 6-8am. I get
her from her crib when she wakes, we lay down and I begin nursing, we
both fall asleep and it’s great. Lately she continues to stay latched
and sucking for what seems like that whole two hours, and I’ve started
having sex dreams (about my husband, THANK GOODNESS) during that time,
probably twice a week. I can only guess that it’s from the nipple
stimulation! I know it doesn’t make me a pervert, and I know there is
likely no way to stop it from happening (other than stopping the
nursing/sleeping set-up altogether), so I’m not necessarily looking for
advice. Just please let me know I’m not the only one!"

Hee hee.

Anyone?

"This just in") Thanks for making me runner-up for Best Family and Parenting Blog of 2007 on Performancing.com! Especially since I completely forgot to mention it while the voting was still open. Duh.

Guest post: Archivist on managing your kids’ stuff

Remember the post two weeks ago about organizing kids’ stuff? I got an amazing response from archivist Alison Langmead that I had to share with you. Alison writes:

"First of all, please let me reiterate that I am an archivist and records manager, not a professional organizer or life manager or any such thing. It is my job to help organizations maintain, access and
make use of their stored information for both the short and long terms. That said, more and more information professionals are starting to look in to the serious issue of personal information management as it relates to the information economy and other broader social trends.

I have read through all the comments (pre-January 5th) to the "Help with Organization of Kid Stuff" thread and I have found them fascinating from both a personal and professional point of view. One
general response came to me right away. In my experience, I have found that people have natural tendencies towards keeping their stuff or destroying their stuff. Some people, for example, feel lighter when they clear out an entire closet, while others feel only loss. I call these extreme types "Destroyers" and "Keepers." I think most folks would consider Destroyer a harsh term, but I love it. I’m a natural-born Destroyer. Think Shiva. Perhaps the term "Purger" used so often in this thread is better. On the flipside, "Hoarder" has a major negative connotation for me. So, let’s compromise and call these basic types Keepers and Purgers. Quibbles over taxonomy aside, I have found in both my personal and professional experience that there is a kind of personality continuum between these two ends of the spectrum, but
that innate tendencies do exist. Reading the comments to this thread, it has been very easy to differentiate the Keepers from the Purgers and all the gray areas in between.

All of this explanatory build-up has been to say the following: There is nothing so difficult or so emotionally burdensome in the personal domain as being a Keeper who feels social pressure to purge
excessively or being a Purger who feels social pressure to keep excessively.

Many commenters have noted thoughts such as, "I like to purge. Is this bad?" or "I keep everything due to an inappropriate sense of sentimentality." I am of the firm personal conviction that rebelling
against one’s natural predilictions does not help us as we go through life. If you like to purge, then you need to accept that, and work with it. The reverse also holds. This is not to say that we can always
just keep and purge at will. We are in this world with other people who have other tendencies and needs. In my professional life, I am constantly in the position of reminding people that the process of
information management is a necessary balance between keeping and purging (or, to be terminologically precise, retention and destruction). If we keep absolutely everything, it becomes almost impossible to find any one given thing, which is almost precisely the same state of affairs that we find if we destroy absolutely everything. Finding the balance, then, between appropriate keeping and purging is what we are all looking for in this thread.

But, compounded with this, I believe that there is general social pressure for women, mothers especially, to be super organized. It is as if we are all supposed to be born with the innate ability to keep it all together. Some of us do indeed have this capacity, others do not. But those who are not so inclined often feel that they are somehow inferior to those who can. This is a crying shame. We should feel free to do whatever makes us feel happy and healthy and what facilitates our ability to raise happy and healthy children. This will be different for everyone.

For some of us, however, it is not social pressure that is the problem, rather physical constraints. If you are a born Keeper who lives with a partner and a child in a 450-square-foot apartment, your living conditions will pose extra challenges for you. Some of the really creative storage ideas found in this thread could really help you out. Balance and acceptance will again always be key.

Enough with that diatribe for now. As promised to you Moxie, I have a few general comments that you and my fellow readers might find helpful.

1) There is a difference between the act of reducing your family’s holdings and finding a more compact way to store things. Decide which one of these things you want to do and do it. Do not confuse the two
issues. The first is an act of purging, the second, an act of keeping. They are both good and proper.

2) Scheduling things for purging can be a very good thing ("the one year rule," the toy "death row"…would "toy purgatory" be slightly less morbid? Maybe not.). But as other commenters have already noted, the key to this process is finding the precise right length of time to keep things before you purge them. Otherwise said, the trick to this is not the act of deciding to keep things for a certain period of
time, it’s deciding what that "certain period of time" is and what action you will take at that time. By the way, I am less comfortable with the "everything that fits in this small box" rule. I think it leads to preferential treatment on the basis of size and not meaning. Which leads me to…

3) When trying to decide what to keep and what to purge, the pros are always considering their mandates and their user base. Maybe this would be a good thing to do in the personal domain as well. Ask questions like, "Who am I keeping this for?" And, "What will they be doing with it and for how long?" BE HONEST. If you are keeping your children’s art for your own sake, then do it up right! If you are
keeping it because you want your kids to have it when they have their own kids, then do that up right as well! In addition, I couldn’t agree more with those commenters who suggest that you involve your children
in these decisions when they are capable. Finally, if you are doing it because you are
afraidthatyoumayonedaywishtoseeitagainbutthenagainyoureallyneedthisspace,

then it is my opinion that you should confront that fear and come to some sort of compromise. This might be a moment for the swift one-two of transferring the items to compact storage with a plan to revisit the items later on.

4) Charity is always a good thing.

5) I really do not wish to be a scaremongerer about this, but making digital copies of physical objects is absolutely not a panacea for these issues. I could go on and on about this, and will do so, if requested. Suffice it to say here that, unless you are willing to go to your CD’s every two years or so and make sure that all of the data you put on them is still there—meaning, you will need to open up the files and look at them—you might find that you have lost your records of these objects. All types of digital media are prone to corruption and failure. Hard drives even have an accepted "mean time between failure" figure associated with them. CDs, DVDs, hard drives, tapes…all of these objects _will_ fail. It is just a matter of time. Now, let’s all take a deep breath. We can get around this problem. It simply takes effort. You have to go back from time to time and check in with your stuff. Just make sure it’s still there. Copy it onto new CDs from time to time. By the way, professionally speaking, hard drives are preferred to CDs for longer-term storage, mainly because it’s easier to check in on your stuff with a hard drive. You’ll do it more often because you aren’t sitting there for hours swapping disks in and out. And, one more thing, it is now well-understood in professional circles that, for the long-term, digital objects are *more* expensive to store than physical ones.

I think I’ve been on my soapbox for long enough. Please feel free to ask any and every follow-up question that comes to your mind. I love talking about this stuff.

And, thanks, Moxie for putting yourself out there and maintaining this fabulous resource. I cannot tell you how many times I have read and re-read a posting at 3am reassuring myself that I am not alone with my perceived faults and my very real fears. With all of our similarities and differences, we are all fantastic mothers."

You’re certainly welcome, Alison. Thank you so much for your wonderful post! Questions, anyone?

Help with organization of kid stuff

Iowa caucus for Americans today. I’m really curious about how things will go. [Confession: I am so not paying attention to anyone but the top three contenders on each side, and confused the candidate Ron Paul with rapper Sean Paul (turn down your speakers if you’re at work). And every time I saw a "Ron Paul for President" sign I thought it was an ad for a new album coming out. I only figured they’re two different people the other day while watching CNN. Duh.]

Can we talk about organization? I am not a great organizer in general, and was barely holding on with the new holiday influx of toys. But yesterday my older son brought home a beautiful little pinch pot from his art class at school. And I realized I was going to have to start really processing 3D art projects and figuring out what to do with them. (I’ve been putting the drawings and paintings into file folders and saving them.)

Gah!

So I guess what I’m looking for is ideas from those of you who are good at this sort of thing. I could use ideas on processing the unbelievable amounts of clothing we end up with, the toys, the art projects, and the seasonal stuff. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like it’s all getting away from her.

I wish I could just shove it all into an attic or a garage, but I don’t have either of those right now. (I’d be willing to bet there are readers who could use tips on organizing basements, attics, and garages, if you’ve got any ideas for that.) And I watched a show about hoarders that scared the living crap out of me, and now I’m actually afraid I’ll get rid of too much stuff in an effort not to end up with stuff that runs my life.

What do you keep and what do you get rid of? How do you manage and store the kid stuff you do want to keep? Will I magically become organized if I buy a labelmaker?

Thank you.

Comments, Christmas week, and other crap

First of all, I know there’s something wrong with accessing comments on all the posts from before I switched domain names last Wednesday, and am trying to figure it out with the Typepad people. The comments are all still there, I just don’t know how to get to read them yet, but it will all get straightened out soon.

Second, I’m going to be out of town with very limited internet access next week (December 24-28), so I’m going to set posts to autopost every day that week. But in the spirit of combating the stress of that week, I’m going to put an open post up that stays at the top of the screen, so people can just stop by and comment about whatever they feel, whether they need advice, want to vent, or are just looking for some non-family conversation. If you’re feeling bored or sad or irate or like you could use a little community, please stop by and see what’s up.

Third, we’ve got another disgusting topic today. In the spirit of the vomit conversation from a few weeks back and the pee overflow question of Friday, can we talk about poop explosions and diarrhea? One of my co-workers was out a few days last week because his toddler had the stomach flu and they were just drowning in vomit and diarrhea. OK, maybe I could have used a different verb there. They were overwhelmed by keeping up with the substances coming out of both ends of the little lad. That’s better.

So we’re looking for tips on dealing with diarrhea. While we’re here, we might as well talk about regular old poopsplosions that newborns have.

I’ve pretty much got nothing on diarrhea.

I do know about projectile poop, though, and my biggest tip is to put layers on the child’s butt to catch the poop. That’s one reason I did cloth diapers at the beginning with each of my kids, and not the fancy pocket diapers either. It seems like the extra layers of prefold + cover helps contain the runny newborn poop so much better than a one-layered disposable can, or a pocket diaper that has the effect of a one-layered diaper. The times there was a big poop in a disposable or pocket diaper, the poop got all over the clothes. In a prefold + cover,it all stayed inside the cover.

I’ve even heard of people who use disposables buying PUL (laminated fabric, what modern cloth diaper covers are made of) covers and putting them over the disposables to make that extra layer to protect the clothes.

Another thing I know about is the two kinds of normal poop that can mimic diarrhea. One is runny green poop. Green poop happens when the milk runs through the kid’s system too fast. Sometimes that will happen with a stomach bug (and can continue to be green even after the other symptoms are gone). The other thing that can make green poop is if there’s a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, or the mom has oversupply. The foremilk is the first milk the baby gets, and it’s watery to hydrate the child, plus it has lots of lactose. The hindmilk is the milk that comes at the end of a nursing session, and it’s full of fat to bulk up the child.

If the mother has oversupply, the child gets mostly foremilk and can never drink enough to get the hindmilk, so they have too much lactose in their systems and their poop can be green. (Other symptoms of oversupply are: falling asleep within a few minutes at the breast then waking up ravenous an hour or so later; putting on weight really rapidly; and making little goat baby noises. If your child is doing this, you may have oversupply.)

The other normal poop that can mimic diarrhea is "drool stool"." When a child is teething, s/he produces drool, and lots of it ends up going down the back of the baby’s throat. (If your teething baby has what sounds like a smoker’s cough in the mornings, it’s from the drool down the back of the throat.) It passes through the stomach and will come out in the poop, as slimy long shards of drool. The drool can also make your baby’s poop so acidic you can smell it (eew) and can cause patches on the butt and anus that look almost burned from the acidic drool. (So now your child is in pain in the gums and the butt. Lovely, isn’t it?) Use a non-zinc oxide diaper rash barrier cream (plain old Vaseline or Aquaphor will work well) proactively each time you change a diaper to make a coating to prevent the next poop from touching the skin.

I hope you finished your breakfast before you started reading this morning. Please post your poop-related tips for all to enjoy.

Surviving Secondary Infertility?

Yesterday I found out that my friend B is going in today for a D&C. The baby stopped growing at 10 weeks. This is her fourth pregnancy, and she has one child.

I just feel so sad for her. I really thought the miscarriage/D&C/loathing-her-body/frozen-smile-when-other-people-announce-their-pregnancies stage of her life was over. She should have been able to relax as soon as she hit 8 weeks.

And my other friend’s friend, C, just lost a baby at 10 weeks, too. She got pregnant easily with her 3-year-old, and had no complications. Then last year she lost a baby at 20 weeks. Genetic problems–a fluke. So why is she back on the roller coaster again with this fresh loss?

For those of you who have been there in secondary infertility hell, how did you make it through? For those of you still in it, what’s the worst part? How do you maintain hope?