Friday, July 30, 2010


I think I might piss a few people off shortly...

Little O got the results of his immunology study last week, and the news was mixed.  They tested him about six weeks ago for a complete immune deficiency disease, as well as searching for antibodies to all the usual suspects that he's had vaccinations for.  The most important thing they found in that first series of blood tests was that he was lacking any kind of antibodies to pneumonia and tetanus, despite the fact he'd had all his routine jabs until that point.  In order to see whether this lack of antibodies was an indicator of a more serious condition, Little O had to be re-vaccinated for the pneumococcal and tetanus bugs (ouchee) and then after a month have his blood re-examined for new developments.  That second study was what we had the results for last week.

They showed that his tetanus booster had been a success, but of the 11 tests they ran for pneumococcal, only four came back with a positive result.  This, combined with other data, suggests he's right on the cusp of having an immune deficiency.  It's kind of annoying, actually, because while it means we don't have to wrap Little O up in cotton wool and become one of those families who sanitises every Goddam surface all the live-long day, it also means we have to take a very cautious approach to caring for his health.

Let's take vaccines.

Routine vaccinations can either be replica virus cells or live versions of real viruses.  In the case of children (or adults, I suppose) with immune deficiencies, it is extremely unwise to give them live virus vaccines because their little bodies wouldn't be able to fight it off, leaving them in danger of both becoming ill from the virus in the jab, and still not immune to the real thing, like measles.  Children in the USA have to have two particular live vaccines in order to go to school: varicella (chicken pox), and MMR (measles, mumps and rubella).  If you give the MMR jab to a child with a compromised immune system, there are very few drugs available to help them if they become sick, and they are at serious risk of complications - including death.

So, let's recap: We're still not sure Little O has an official diagnosis of an immune deficiency, and live virus vaccines can be life-threatening with children who do.  What do we do now?

Well, after a consultation last week, it was decided that the risks to Little O if he caught any of the four diseases mentioned (chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella) were much greater than if he were to react to the vaccines.  So we went ahead and vaccinated him on Wednesday against the varicella virus.  If he responds well, then after a month we can go ahead with the MMR.  If, however, he reacts badly, then we don't do the MMR.  Ever.  Ever, ever, ever.  So far though, he's been great after the varicella jab and I think he'll be fine with the MMR.  This is great news and a big relief for me.  I don't want him catching a horrendous bug and not being able to shake it off.  It has also reminded me of the importance of vaccinations.

Now to piss a few people off:

Why WOULDN'T you vaccinate your children??  Even when your child is at risk from the vaccine itself, surely the risk to their health from a serious disease is far greater?  I just don't buy into all this crap about not vaccinating children because it's all a money-making scam run by drug companies.  Those parents who refuse to vaccinate their children are selfish.  Selfish, not only because they believe that if every other child is vaccinated then there's no danger to THEIR kid and therefore they don't need to be stuck in the arm with a needle, but also because by exposing THEIR child to harm, they're also exposing MY child to harm!

Imagine if Little O had a very serious immune deficiency and we were strongly advised not to give him the MMR.  If another healthy child caught one of those diseases, they would be exposing my child to their condition, even though my child has no say in the matter.  And MY child would suffer far worse consequences because they have no immune system to fight it off.  Healthy children who are not vaccinated are not only a danger to themselves, they're also a danger to every other child they come into contact with.  You cannot tell by looking at a person if they are immuno-compromised, so you cannot deliberately avoid them.  By avoiding vaccines, however, you are endangering their life.  And that just isn't fair.

Please, please, vaccinate your children.  Don't avoid it because of your own fear of needles, or the fact you think drug companies are scamming you.  Don't put it off because you think if every other child is vaccinated, your child doesn't need to be.  Don't; because not every other child IS vaccinated, and sometimes it's for their own safety.  Please put others before yourselves, and think about the potential danger you could be exposing them to. 

My Little O is lucky this time.  Other babies might not be.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Little O is awesome

Little O met a MAJOR milestone today!

As most of you already know, my little boy has been tube-fed directly into his stomach since the day he was born, and we've always struggled to engage him with oral feedings because he has a strong aversion.  The aversion is due to his God-awful reflux (GERD), which has led to a vicious cycle  - he throws up - which makes him not want to eat - which means he doesn't try solid food - which means his reflux doesn't improve - which means he throws up - which makes him not want to eat - etc... etc...

Anyway, we've been looking for new foods and stronger tastes to help him want to taste and accept more, and this lunchtime we tried... dum dum dummmm... french fries!

Oh my God.

My Little O LOVES them! He likes to stick his tongue out and lick all the salt and grease off, and today he managed to do something he's NEVER done before. He bit off a small piece of fry, chewed it (with assistance), and then SWALLOWED it without choking!

There is no expression or emoticon obnoxious enough to express how I feel about this. It is the first step towards him being weaned off his feeding tube and I don't even care that fries are perhaps the very worst food you can eat. I just don't care! When a child who point blank refuses ANY food at all suddenly decides to bite, chew and swallow, then that child is allowed as many fries as they want.

My baby is a Superbaby. Feel free to gush in adoration.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stop being SO SMUG!

Money troubles are really starting to get to me.  Although Mike's salary can handle the mortgage and bills, if we want to ever have any fun then we need something extra coming in: namely, ME working.  My usual client isn't sending any projects my way at the moment, and no-one else is biting when I send out e-mails and make enquiries.

So, while we wait for other people to figure out how much of a fuckin' genius I am at making their work look brilliant, we have to figure out some ways to cut costs.  We're not massive spenders, to be honest (I can't remember the last time I bought a new piece of clothing), and most of our 'fun' money goes on the odd meal at Subway or buying new clothes for Little O because he grows like a weed.  Actually, he hasn't gained a single ounce in the last three months so we haven't needed any clothes recently, but the tales about his weight gains and losses are enough to fill an entirely new post, so I'll leave it there.

One of the things we've considered doing to save money is investing in cloth diapers.  I KNOW they're called nappies in the UK, but if I'm going to start translating British and American English every time I mention them then things will get very boring, so please just accept that Little O knows his bum-coverings as diapers, and we'll all be happy.  So yes, cloth diapers.  I've read a lot about them recently, but until Little O turned a year old, we had no time to devote to extra piles of laundry and we've simply chosen the more convenient route.  I think you'd find it hard to argue that we didn't deserve a little convenience in his first year....

So yesterday we started looking at purchasing some cloth diapers for real.  I went on to the Fuzzi Bunz website and had a poke around, watching the helpful 'care for' and 'application' videos, and generally cooing over all the lovely little baby bottoms wearing fluffy, colourful diapers.  However, nowhere on this website does it give prices, so you have to explore their sellers and distributors for a break down in costs.  I went to the Fuzzi Bunz Store website and was excited to see they sell packages of cloth diapers to save customers money.  "Whoo hoo!", I thought.  "This will be A LOT cheaper than buying disposibles!"

Oh, how wrong I was.  Numerous websites recommend buying four- to five-dozen cloth diapers so that you can do a completely separate load of laundry for them and not risk ruining your silk sheets with baby poop and extreme temperatures (one load hot, one load freezing cold).  Have enough, and you can spend only one or two days a week washing diapers, while your little one wears the dry ones.  So, when I was looking at costs, this figure of four- to five-dozen was firmly in my mind, and I went straight to the packages of 18 or 24 diapers to do some calculations.

18 One-size Fuzzi Bunz: $284.25
24 One-size Fuzzi Bunz : $442.80
(NOT including sales tax)

If you want to buy the recommended four- to five-dozen diapers, then you're looking at start-up costs for JUST DIAPERS of at least $1,000!!  Then you have to consider how to store dirty diapers (handy diaper pails or some smart drawstring pouches for about $15 each), how to wash dirty diapers (two washes: one hot, one cold), how to dry diapers in the horrible winters we have (tumble drier), and then all the other incremental costs like wipes, spare pads, paper liners ($7 for 100) that you don't necessarily NEED, but they make the cloth diapering experience much less stressful.

So... to get us up and running, we'd be looking at around $1,000 to $1,200.  The diapers are one-size, which is nice, and they'd last us until Little O potty-trains (if he's capable of it - we don't know yet), but we'd still have a larger water and electricity bill every month, as well as purchasing paper liners and wipes.  So every month we'd probably be forking out an extra $20 anyway.

Generic, Target-brand diapers are $13.82 for 82 size four disposible diapers.  We get through a box about every three weeks, so our monthly out-goings for diapers is about $20, and that's being generous.  Wipes are bought in massive, commercial-size boxes containing nine packages for about $9.  We go through one box about every six months, so our wipes cost us about $1.30 a month.

Let's run some numbers for the next two years, assuming it will take us that long to potty-train Little O.

Cloth diapers: Year One (12 months)
$1,000 start-up
$15.60 wipes
$12.00 spare pads (9)
$84.00 paper liners (100 liners for $7)
$30 - $50 extra water and electricity

= $1,161.60

Cloth diapers: Year Two (12 months)
$15.60 wipes
$84.00 paper liners
$30 - $50 extra water and electricity

= $149.60

TOTAL for two years: $1,311.20

Disposible diapers: Year One (12 months)
$240 diapers
$15.60 wipes

= $255.60

Disposible diapers: Year Two (12 months)
$240 diapers
$15.60 wipes

= $255.60

TOTAL for two years: $511.20

DID YOU READ THAT?!  We would actually spend nearly THREE TIMES as much on cloth diapers if we made the switch!  That's quite remarkable.

I have a theory on cloth diapers and the people who buy them.  Parents can be a little... smug... sometimes.  We hit upon a magic formula (and I'm as guilty as the rest of them - Little O sleeps like a fuckin' baby and everyone remarks on how well we must have taught him) and we like to feel that our parenting skills are infinitely superior to everyone else's.  Parents who spend a large of money upfront on cloth diapers watch other parents throwing disposible diapers in the shopping cart every month and feel VERY, VERY smug.  They forget, of course, that they spent a thousand dollars when their child was first born, and they forget how much extra water and electricity they use because it's absorbed in to their household costs.

Handily chosing to ignore the enviromental impact of disposible diapers (and this is actually a major concern for me, living half a mile from a landfill), I'd have to say that the myths about costs and convenience are just ludicrous.  Even if you invested in one-size diapers and used them for two children (presumably buying a few more because you still need that four- to five-dozen per child), you're still looking at extraordinary costs.  Yes, Fuzzi Bunz are in the premier league of cloth diapers and there are cheaper brands available, but if you're the type of parent who's going to invest in your baby's comfort, your own sense of smugness, and saving the environment, wouldn't you go for the brand that offers the most convenience, cuteness and brand-security?  I would.

So, cloth diapering families, stop being SO SMUG!  You are NOT saving any money!  Perhaps if I believed in buying Pampers or Huggies the pricing would work out more in your favour, but I don't.  My son craps in his diapers so we only buy generic brands, and I'm afraid that this equation just doesn't add up.

The next person who tells me they save $4,000 a year by cloth diapering will get an earful.  And a small lapel pin that says: "I am a self-righteous cloth diapering prick".


Friday, July 23, 2010

But you look ridiculous...

It has occurred to me this past week that people with tanned skin look utterly ridiculous.  Not naturally-tanned or dark skin, like my husband (as he frequently reminds me of his 1/16th Native American blood from his mother's side), but people who are naturally fair-skinned like me.

I went to see my therapist yesterday evening for the first appointment in three weeks.  I think that means I'm starting to get better, but it does seem that as soon as I get rid of one set of issues, another set leaps up to take their place.  Last night for example, we explored money troubles and having a second child, and I came away feeling really exposed.  I always look forward to my sessions for a chance to talk about ME for an hour (well, who wouldn't?), but I always come away feeling as though there were a hundred things I wanted to say and didn't.  I'm now even MORE worried about money and LESS convinced having another baby is right for us psychologically at the moment.  I think we're still going to put the plan in to action in September, but I will have to have had more work coming in if we're going to afford it.

ANYWAY, my therapist has clearly been in the sun recently.  She's in her 50s with silver grey hair, and I'm afraid to say that her skin colour did not suit her at all.  I'm used to seeing all the Wisconsin-ites have pale, flushed skin from the hard winters we have, so it's a bit weird seeing all these bronzed bodies come out this time of year.  We live about ten minutes from a beach on Lake Michigan, and if you walk down there on a sunny day you'll find the entire town baking in the heat and turning various shades of lobster and bronze.  Now that I spend most of my time outside keeping my me and my son OUT of the sun because of our matching ivory complexions (heh heh), it all just seems really odd.  Why would you deliberately want to damage yourself like that?  Why would you risk skin cancer, premature ageing, and even just a terrible sunburn, all for the sake of looking brown and shiny?  I don't get it.

They're running a campaign on the Style Network at the moment to get people to cover up and wear sun protection outside.  The most startling commercial is of a small child (could be a boy or a girl - it's wearing frilly blue underwear and no top) playing near the sea, and the words that run on the screen are something like: "One blistering sunburn in childhood doubles the risk of skin cancer as an adult."  The child then hears its mother's voice telling it to come back inside and it runs off.  I WAS that child.  I had so many, many cases of sunburn and heatstroke as a child that I've forgotten them all.  I know I have to be careful in the sun now, and I'm extra-cautious about Little O.  I don't think I'm at a particularly high risk for skin cancer anymore as I deliberately take precautions (hellooooo, factor 50), but it does make me afraid for my babies.  I want to be here for them as they grow old, and getting my skin to tan seems like it's a sure-fire way to prevent that from happening.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not the type of person to wear long sleeves and high necklines to avoid ANY sun exposure; I just make sure when we're out and about that we stay close to the shade and wear suncream.  I love a moderate heat (nothing above 30C/90F) and will happily take Little O to the beach on sunny days, but I just think we all need to be a bit more sensible.  That story in the UK about the tiny baby in Brighton blistering with second-degree burns while his mother sunbathed on the beach made my heart break.  I don't blame the mother for anything other than stupidity, because it is hard to protect a child under six months from the sun as suncream is only suitable for children over that age.  You don't want to stop a woman from having fun on the beach with her baby, but someone really should have pointed out the dangers to her child sooner.  If she wasn't aware of how much damage could be done then she needed educating.  But then, I think we all do.

Little O is currently laying here on the floor next to me, hitting himself in the head with a plastic drum lid.  Oh yes, that's my child.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fuck me, that was good.

I'm not going to apologise for being absent for a few days, because I've spent that time being extremely productive: I've read the entire "The Girl..." series by Steig Larsson.  And fuck me, was it good.

I haven't read any reviews of the series deliberately, because I don't give a shit what other people think about it.  To me, those three books are some of the best literature to have been published in the last few years, and I think it's a Michael Jackson-esque tragedy that the author died before he could create anything else.  (By Michael Jackson-esque, I mean that they both died too young, but also that they probably died in their prime - before they could produce anything crap.)

Lisbeth Salander is one of the most well-written and outstandingly brilliant female characters I've ever come across.  I simply couldn't stop turning pages whenever she was active in the plot, and I've lost a fair bit of sleep because of it.  She's just so... so... feminist!  Ballsy isn't a very feminist term - I suppose it ought to be some reference to ovaries or breasts, but that seems a bit weird - but she really is ballsy.  The girl has guts, and I admire Larsson so much for being a male writer who has caught the mood of young ballsy women everywhere.  She stands up for herself, but when the world is out to destroy her (or the entire Swedish government, whatever), she just bides her time, takes the abuse, and stores away information to use against them in the future.  She's a complete legend.

I loved Mikael Blomkvist too, but not nearly as passionately.  He's smart, but he just couldn't have done anything without Salander.

I watched the film of the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I felt that Salander wasn't nearly as skinny, ass-kicking, or downright weird as she is in the book.  I realise that you cannot possibly ever translate an entire novel comfortably to the silver screen (look at Harry Potter, for God's sake), but they could definitely have done more with Salander.  I know The Girl Who Played With Fire is currently in cinemas, but I think they ought to ask me to direct the third movie: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest.  I'd do a cracking job.

I want to know what happened to Camille though.  Maybe if they don't ask me to direct a movie I could write a fourth book instead, and we'd find out what happened to her.  Now there's an idea...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Oh, poo

I have a dilemma.

At the moment, my entire house smells like an odd combination of strawberries, vomited PediaSure and poo.  I can't seem to escape it, no matter which room I go in to and I'm blamimg Little O.

According to our insurance plan, we are allowed to order two flavours of PediaSure a month.  (The mind boggles as to why they think a child will be content only eating two different things a month, but that's besides the point.)  This month we have strawberry and chocolate, as well as some vanilla and banana cans left over from last month.  We tried Little O out on the strawberry stuff and he LOVES it!  Normally he couldn't give a toss when we offer him a drink, but now he's begun to lean forward and move his mouth towards his cup, asking for more.  It's quite something, and we're doing our best to encourage it.

The vomiting still hasn't ebbed, which I predicted would happen.  So now we have layers of stains on the living room carpet where he gets fed (I know, I know.  I should be feeding him at the dining table like a 'proper' family, but when feeds take an hour you need to have SOMETHING to do that doesn't involve using your hands, and I'm afraid putting the telly on is a simple solution).  These stains were once very white (Neocate), then cream (PediaSure), and now they're turning pink (strawberry PediaSure).  It's quite revolting, but I'm afraid cleaning the carpets every day is just not going to happen. Which is why the house smells like strawberries and vomit.

The real problem is the poo, though.  Little O is still training his digestive system on how to process longer protein strands, so he's creating dirty diapers several times a day.  But now they're... interesting.  They've changed colour so much during the last month or so that I'm still not sure what to do.  The initial changes were attributed to a possible C. difficile infection, which was treated with antibiotics, and it did improve things a little.  His stomach seemed to hurt less, which was nice, and the frequency of changing him declined a little - we were up to 10 or 12 dirty diapers a day a few weeks ago, and now it's more like three or four.  But I'm still not convinced that there isn't something wrong with his tummy.

His poo is currently pink.  Yup, pink.  Obviously I'm thinking the pink strawberry PediaSure is responsible for this, but I have NEVER SEEN PINK POO BEFORE.  It's freaking me out, to be honest.  I mean, when he was on certain antibiotics his poo was a bit purple, or a bit orange, but never pink!  It's alarming to unwrap a nappy and see that staring you in the face.  Oh, and it's not consistently consistent, either.  In the early mornings it might be almost as solid as a normal toddler's, but by 9am his 'present' is as runny as water.  And they ALWAYS have a really unusual smell.  There just doesn't seem to be any progress.

So what do I do?  I don't know whether to just keep pumping the PediaSure into him and keep my fingers crossed his body will eventually adapt, or whether to bother the GI clinic AGAIN with my concerns.  I hate being that parent and I do my best to solve riddles by myself instead of bothering busy clinics, but until now I've always trusted my instincts and my instincts have always been right.

It's just that right now I'm not sure what my instincts are.  Any thoughts?


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Two things

Two things of interest have happened to me the last few days.  Just two, no more.

Firstly, I have started applying for more work.  For someone who NEEDS to stay at home, this isn't exactly easy, but I've spent a few hours trawling Monster and Craigs List and have applied for four freelance proofreading positions that sound hopeful.  I'd really rather be doing copyediting or content writing, but unfortunately most of those positions aren't freelance or electronic.  So the idea now is to secure some kind of distance proofreading job with a single company, earn some dolla dolla, and then impress them so much with my mad skillz that they're begging me to take on more work of a copyediting- or content writer-nature.  Naturally, because I've only been at this for two days I'm optimistic.  After a month or two I will probably have given up and decided I'm useless.

Secondly, I had a row with some rather unpleasant characters over on and managed to win the argument for once.  This is pretty impressive, even for me, because normally I'm keen to keep up my oh-so-hilarious-feminist-parent vibe and don't really engage douchebags in conversations when it isn't worth it.  But last night there was a 100+ post thread all about ginger hair, and it wasn't exactly saying having red hair was a blessing.  On the contrary, people were posting jokes, comments, cruel vibes, and generally disgusting turns of phrases, and I just saw... well... red.

Yeah yeah yeah, having red hair is HILARIOUS.  I mean look at it!  It's GINGER!  Ya big freak.

The thing is though, it isn't really.  It's just my hair.  And I can't do a thing about it, either.  I could dye it, admittedly, but my freckles and pale skin would still reveal the truth, and anyway I don't think I should have to.  I went through a phase in high school of dying it various shades of brown or even brighter red, but since I reached the age of 18 I've pretty much left it alone.  Because actually, I quite like it.  It has always made me stand out (not that I've needed any help there, playing the tuba for thirteen years and being quite gobby), but it's also made me an incredibly strong person.  I mean, I've been made fun of for the colour of my hair since I was born.  Yup, since the very day I was born.  And I'm completely sick of it.  I'm sick of the disgusting jokes made about my crotch in particular (oh, pur-lease), and I just don't think anyone has the right to say the things they do to me in such revolting ways.

It's hair.  It isn't remotely funny, and now I'm at an age (and height) where I can stand up and spit at you without remorse, may I suggest you leave off the ginger jokes?  The contributors to that thread on were forced to acknowledge my opinion when the mods shut it down, and I'm not in the least bit afraid to delete YOU out of my life either.

Sometimes I'm in the mood for a joke and sometimes I'm not.  You'd have to know me exeptionally well to know the difference.  And as Tim Minchin so aptly put it: "Only a Ginger can call another Ginger ginger".