Friday, August 31

So Far So Good

When I was in college, I had a couple of weird spots on my skin that I wanted a dermatologist to check out. So I made myself an appointment, stripped down, and bared my skin for the doctor. Because I'm a fair-skinned redhead, I asked questions about skin cancer, too.

Twenty minutes later, I left the dermatologist's office angry and embarrassed. "How old are you?" he asked me. "Twenty," I said. He huffed. "At your age," he said, "it is impossible to have skin cancer." He didn't even say "nearly impossible" or "very unlikely." He said "impossible." This idiot doctor made me feel like a fool for even considering the possibility that I was at risk for melanoma, and I left with no info on warning signs or anything. Yes, I was young, but that was no reason to treat me like I wasn't even worth your time.

Fast-forward ten years. Lately, I've somehow been reminded that skin cancer is out there. I went to a presentation on healthy habits and was reminded to get a skin cancer screening. I came across the blog of a 23-year-old who was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma. I signed up for a long-term cancer prevention study. Lots of things have been reminding me that cancer exists.

I decided to get screened. I don't have any particular concerns. No moles or strange spots or anything. But I worry that I'm in the high-risk category for skin cancer because of my extremely fair skin and it kind of freaks me out. This morning I had my appointment with a new dermatologist, and it was a hundred times better than my college experience.

I explained why I was there, that I had no immediate concerns but just wanted to be checked, and the response was "Good for you!" So much nicer than "Um, why are you here?" After a thorough check, I was deemed clear. No concerns at this time. But they suggested I come back for yearly checks just to be safe. I made my next appointment before I even walked out the door.

And you better believe I will be wearing my sunscreen.

Thursday, August 30


When I was pregnant with Milo, I gained a lot of weight. I managed to lose all the baby weight, but I held on to about 10 extra pounds that had slowly crept on over the last few years. When I got pregnant with Olive, I didn't want to gain as much weight as with my first pregnancy. But morning sickness and the dreariness of it all got to me, and I basically had a completely lackluster attitude about it.

I ate whatever I wanted and somehow that translated into weight gain. I was mad at myself for letting it happen, but I made no effort to remedy the situation. I think I had already given up on ever being thin or even average. I was 30, I hardly exercised, and I never have had an athletic or naturally thin body type. I figured that baby weight was mine for good.

And then I had Olive, and a few weeks after her birth, I was feeling like a huge fat cow. I hated looking at myself. I had no one to blame but myself and it was depressing. On top of carrying around an extra 70 pounds, I had a ton of ugly stretch marks around my middle. Everything was saggy and gross. And moms, you know how it is, feeling bad about your post-baby body and being so hormonal and tired that everything is magnified a thousand times. It was not a good time.

A friend of mine had done Weight Watchers in the past and was planning to join again after her baby was born. On somewhat of a whim, I signed up. Didn't really think about it, just decided something had to be done about this weight. I wasn't ready to give up yet. I started tracking my food and making small changes. Less bread. Less cheese. Fewer random snacks. Smaller portions.

And the weight started to come off. Five months later, I am down 65 pounds from where I was the day before Olive was born. That's two Milos. I figure I have about five pounds to go before I'll start maintenance, though I have no idea how to do that. I'm very good at gaining weight, and pretty good at losing it, but never staying the same. So we'll see how that goes.

But it wasn't just Weight Watchers that has changed me. For some crazy reason, a few months ago I decided it would be a good idea to start running. And before I'd ever even tied up my laces, I signed up for a 5K. When I signed up, the race was in 12 weeks, giving me plenty of time to train with the nine-week Couch to 5K program.

I'm now about to start Week 8 of the program, and the difference in my body is incredible. My arms and legs are more toned than they've ever been. Ever. My face and neck look visibly thinner to me. Pants that have been too tight for years are suddenly baggy. My wedding ring slips and slides around my finger. I'm wearing skinny jeans and enjoying them, for crissakes. Even though my tummy still has the almost-faded stretchmarks and extra roundness that are the telltale signs of having recently had a baby, I feel better about my body than I have since I got married.

It's not just outside changes that I am noticing, either. I can run 25 minutes without walking. I'm sure my heart is getting healthier. I can walk up more flights of stairs before feeling winded. Never in my life have I exercised as much as I am right now. And it feels pretty incredible.

Sometimes I feel guilty for leaving in the evenings to go work out. I miss the kids' bedtime, and there are few things I love more than reading stories and cuddling with Milo. But I'm so glad that he gets to see me put on my workout clothes and head out the door. He is learning that exercise is important. I want to set a good example for him and pave the way for his and Olive's lifelong health.

To sum up, I'm proud of myself. If I can make these kinds of changes, anyone can. Because I really like eating and watching television. My 5K is in exactly one month. And I am going to finish it.

Monday, August 27

She's Mine

Sometimes a wave of love so strong for my girl washes over me that I am completely pulled under it. My heart aches and my eyes fill with tears. Tonight as I rocked her before bed I noticed, not for the first time, how her eyes don't quite shut all the way when closed, in her most relaxed state.

Just like mine.

I inspect her toes, trying to see if her second toe will end up longer than her first.

Just like mine, like my mother's, like my grandmother's.

I gaze at her hair, in the sun, in the shade, in all different lights. Just to see how very red it is. And are her eyelashes strawberry blonde?

Just like mine?

This baby girl has my whole heart. She is all mine.

Wednesday, August 8

Happy Half Birthday, Olive!

First, the official six-month stats from the pediatrician:

  • Weight: 15 lbs., 14 oz. (50th percentile)
  • Height: 25 1/2 in. (50th percentile)
  • Head Circumference: 17 in. (75th percentile)

Olive continues to impress me. She can now sit like a champ and is working on crawling. She can't crawl yet, but she can get up on her hands and knees and rock back and forth. She can scoot backward and all around. She can definitely scoot herself across a room when the mood strikes, though she can't very well control which way she goes.

She's started solid foods, though hasn't done super well with it yet. She tends to gag a bit, though not frequently anymore. She doesn't really open her mouth for food, and when I do get the spoon in, she pushes it right back out. A few bites have been swallowed, but not much. She has, however, enjoyed sucking on apples, peaches, and pineapple. The oatmeal and peas, not so much. Go figure, right?

She is such a curious girl. Always reaching, stretching as far as she can so she can touch and feel everything around her. She loves toys, and toys entertain her for much longer stretches than they ever did Milo.

No teeth yet.

She is starting to babble again. For awhile it seemed she sort of quit speaking, but now she's finding her voice. And it's an awfully cute voice. "Wuhwuhwuh," she says.

She loves LOVES bouncing and jumping. Nothing makes her smile more. (With the possible exception of her brother and other kids.)

She has a cute, shrieky giggle. When we were checking out our minivan, the kids there were kicking around a soccer ball, not paying any attention to Olive. But she was paying attention to them. And she thought they were hilarious. She giggled for about five minutes straight. No joke. She could not stop laughing. I really, really wish I'd had my video camera, or even my phone, with me, because that video would have been priceless.

She has begun taking a fairly regular morning nap, about two hours after she wakes up. But it's all still a crap shoot, whether or not she'll take good naps. Sleeping is not her strongest suit.

Olive's hair is getting a bit longer, though it's still awfully short. Same color, reddish. She's got terrible cradle cap. Still. The doc recommended Selsun Blue, so we'll try that. I don't mind the look of it so much, but I worry that it is itchy for her.

She has been waking up typically once a night, and I feed her then. But she often wakes more than that and murmurs to herself. We have been turning off the monitor then, and letting her fall asleep on her own. We just need to figure out how to cut out the middle-of-the-night nursing session and I'll be so happy.

And ohmygoodness, do I love this little girl. I'd do anything to make her smile. She's not a snuggle bunny, but when she rests her head on my shoulder my heart just fills up with her. I have a feeling she's going to be a little fireball and give me lots of trouble as she grows up, but I still can't wait to see who this wonderful, amazing little person becomes.

This outfit is one I wore as a baby. My mom made it for me and recently brought it over for Olive. Pretty cute.
And it's even cuter with the bonnet.

Monday, August 6

How can it be time already?

I go back to work tomorrow. I can hardly believe it. I bet if I looked at a post back around September 20, 2010, I'd be able to copy and paste it here, because I am feeling (almost) exactly the same way I did then. (Then being the day I went back to work after maternity leave with Milo.)

I'm ready. I'm not ready. I'm excited to be back among adults and people who have conversation skills. I'm going to miss my sweet girl so, so much. How can I make it through an entire day without smooching her soft cheeks? How can I stand being away from those dimples? What will I do without her giggle and sweet smile? Those big eyes and toothless grin?

This time is a little different for me. I have more confidence in her care. I have less guilt, because I know I'm a better mom for working. But still... Will she know I'm coming back? Will she miss me? Will she do okay with her schedule thrown off?

In a way, all the car stress of the last week was a good thing, because it kept my mind off my impending return to work. But mostly it was bad, because I didn't get to enjoy my last few days at home. Today's the last day, and I'm trying to make the most of it. Extra snuggles, extra kisses. And I'm trying to cement the image of Olive's big blue eyes looking right at me so I remember these moments forever.

Saturday, August 4

My Husband Is a Soccer Mom

Oh my. So much has happened in the last week; it feels like an eternity has passed. I think I'll sum it up with the end of the story first (but you know I am Wordy, so I'll fill in the blanks after): We sold the Prius. We bought a minivan. I am now driving the Mazda, while Andrew is taking the minivan. We're 30, have two children, have stable jobs, and live in the suburbs. Eight years ago, you could not have convinced me that this would be my life, but there you have it. And I've never been happier.

But this post is not really about my station in life. It's about an incredibly stressful week and the quick turn for the worse the Prius took. You may remember my very recent post about the brake issue? After spending so much money on a repair and discovering that hundreds of dollars of other repairs were needed (namely the leaking water pump), we decided it was time to start thinking about selling the Prius and fulfilling Andrew's lifelong dream of being a soccer mom. We figured we'd sell the car in a year or two, no rush.

Ha! Hahahaha.

It was not long before Andrew began scouring craigslist for used Kia Sedonas. We wanted one that was still pretty new (2010 or newer preferably) without a ton of miles. And lo and behold, he soon found a 2011 model with 24,000 miles. It was in amazing shape and was only being sold because the lovely family that owned it was dealing with some unexpected medical issues and the bills were piling up. When we went to check it out, it was obvious how much they adored the van. They bragged about its features as if they were talking about their children.

We decided maybe it was time to go for the van and sell the Prius now. Why wait a couple more years when more things might go wrong, right? Should have knocked on some wood.

We made an offer on the Kia and began moving money from various accounts into our checking account so we could actually pay them. And we set the wheels in motion to sell the Prius. Andrew took it in to the shop last Monday to get the water pump fixed and an oil change. We figured we'd have an easier time selling it if it was all fixed up. A couple hours after leaving it at the shop, Andrew got a call from the mechanic. "You probably ought to just come out here. There's a whole bunch wrong with the car, but it'd be easier just to show you rather than explain it over the phone."


As it turned out, the struts were totally shot. I am bad at routine maintenance, and they should have been replaced ten thousand miles earlier. Whoops. The bad struts were causing the tires to wear extremely unevenly, to the point where my non-car-guy husband could immediately see that there was a major problem. It was kind of a wonder that none of the tires had blown already considering the damage.

(Quick time-out: I am furious at Toyota, specifically Hendrick Toyota at 67th and I-35, for doing a "complete diagnostic work-up" and failing to notice to the struts or the tires. Did the trained mechanic really not notice something that even Andrew could see, or did the Toyota tech ignore the problem intentionally? I can come up with no reason not to tell us. And I am half relieved/half terrified that the tires were so close to exploding but didn't.)

Nearly $1000 later, we had a fixed water pump, changed oil, and four new tires. The struts were just going to have to wait, because our wallets couldn't take it. (Did I mention that we're doing a bunch of landscaping right now and found quite a bit of termite damage? Good times!) Selling the Prius quickly was starting to sound better and better. Quick, before anything else breaks!

The next day (I kid you not, it was really the next day), I was on my way to my mom's house and all these warning lights suddenly flash on the dashboard. Car silhouettes with bold red exclamation marks and codes I couldn't begin to decipher appeared. I stopped as soon as I could, at a nearby McDonald's, and looked in the owner's manual. The VCS, vehicle stability control, was having a problem. The manual told me to stop driving immediately and contact my Toyota dealer. Terrific.

I called Andrew in tears. He calmed me down. Yes, this sucks. But Olive and I were just fine, and we'll get through it. It's just money. A whole lot of money going out the door. When I haven't earned a paycheck in six months. But it's just money. Okay, calm. I called my mom to pick us up, called AAA to get another tow. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Sigh. (The tow truck guy commented on the tires. "Those look pretty new," he said. "Yes," I said. "We got them yesterday." He clearly pitied me.)

Turned out the coolant was low. May not have been as dire as the warning lights indicated, but could have led to an overheated engine which is never good. Especially in 100+ degree heat, I imagine.

Once again, Toyota, in their amazing diagnostic work, failed to mention the broken struts, which I complained about. I got a weak apology and a lot of empty excuses.

We decided we must sell that car. Forget listing it on craigslist, we couldn't wait that long or afford to make the required fixes. Or wait for a buyer who would take it as is. So we asked Toyota what they'd pay for a car already on their lot. First the offer was $3500. Then the guy discovered the car was driveable and offered $6500. We said we were getting a quite from Carmax too, and he went up to $7000. Sketchy, since all this was based on nothing, not having even checked out the car in question.

We took the Prius over to Carmax, and after a practically enjoyable experience, got a $7000 offer. I cleaned out all the junk that afternoon, and that evening, I drove my (formerly) beloved car for the last time. A bittersweet moment, handing over the keys and the title. That was my first grown-up car; it carried me almost 92,000 miles across the country. But I had become scared to drive it. Every time I turned it on, I drove with hands clenched on the steering wheel, anxiously anticipating the moment when something else would go wrong. And that's not any way to drive.

Two days later, we officially purchased our Kia. And so far, we're loving it. It still surprises me to see a minivan out on the driveway, but I must be the slow one to adapt. Even Milo is already used to calling the van "Daddy's car" and the car that was once Andrew's car "Mommy's car." I'm just glad the whole thing is over. I had enough to worry about this week before any of this car stuff happened. Did you know I'm going back to work Tuesday? But let's chat about that in another post. This one is clearly too long already. (Thanks to both my blog readers for sticking with it.)