Tuesday, October 2, 2018

10/2/18-- My Baby is Four (where the shark did time go?!)

Almost a month ago Jack turned four!  I have no idea where the time went, and I don't just mean these past four year, I mean this past month!  I was going to finally write up Jack's birth story (because it was kind of like one you'd see in a Hollywood movie), but time has just slipped away from me and now you just get this post-- the cliche where does time go; life is so busy?!

My current time management issues are my fault though because I've bitten off a lot; however, I think I can chew it all.  How did I get so busy?  Well for one, I finished the second Annie Aardvark book!  Yay!  Then I decided on top of family and my engineering day job that I'd also start a new blog, called STEM Spark.  Then I also decided it would be a good idea to launch the second Annie Aardvark book through a Kickstarter campaign right after launching the new blog!   

I took on all these things not because I'm crazy, but because I am just super excited and optimist about these projects.  I have been forced this month to be more efficient in the work I do, aka not spending so much time watching cute animal videos on the Internet! I also have the support of Bobby, which helps all lot in "balancing" it all.  Plus, now at age four, Jack is able to entertain/play by himself for short durations while I work (like 20 minutes is all you need to write up a Kickstarter thank you).  Watching him grow from a baby to toddler to pre-K child has been amazing! 

I'm so blessed to see him grow-- he's spatial reasoning skills are something to be envied; his vocabulary and letter/number reading is expanding more and more; and he's able to dress himself, which as an adult you think isn't that hard, but watching Jack learning to put a shirt on, while you realize just how much practice and learning a simple skill like dressing yourself takes!  Of course in his quest for independence (again, yay for dressing yourself), he's pushing hard on the boundaries we have set for him, and the tantrum seem even worse/longer at age four than at age three.  But I know it's all apart of the growing process, and I hold onto hope that soon-ish we'll find the happy medium of Jack's independence and parents' boundaries/rules (she said naively). 

I just have to also add that Bobby and I threw a pretty shark fin b-day party for Jack (if I do say so myself) in the middle of all these new projects... which is probably why we all had colds last week (kicking shark fin takes it out of you!). That and the"weather change" in Phoenix. We're no longer in the 100's!, although there's always a chance we'll have another 100 degree day in October, haha.  Anyway, we're all better now, so upwards and onwards! 

No sleep till Brooklynn...well in this case, no sleep till the Kickstarter is done and the book is released!  I hope everyone has had a great start to their fall! Oh, and one day I'll write Jack's birth story cause it's pretty amazing (of course I'm biased, but for those who do know the story, it is not much exaggeration to say it's something out of a movie).  Happy fall!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

9/1/18- Parent Confession 3

McDonald's.  Say what you will about the double arches, but for me McDonald's has been a parental lifesaver. I take Jack here about once a week , usually after work. And usually after feeling fatigued from the rheumatoid arthritis.

When you feel so fatigued, cooking and playing with your child can feel next to impossible. What's a RA, working parent to do? For me  the solution comes in the form of McNuggets, Apple slices and yogurt or fries (and now organic juice). The McDonald's of my yester years has worked to improve the healthy options, and sometimes their Apple slices are the only fruit Jack will eat (on his difficult toddler days).

Jack also loves the playground at our local McD, and I love that he is running around and getting out all of his toddler energy. All while I can sit and watch from a bench. I can get the much needed rest I need, and Jack can get the exercise and play he needs.

Another thing that I thank McDonald's for is you can find one on any road trip. They're usually open early and late, with a restroom and much needed caffinated beverage. It's a good place to take a break and stretch your joints on a long road trip.

So in this day of age of homemade, organic baby food (which we have totally made our own organic baby food, so I'm understand that choose as a parent, I promise), I don't feel ashamed to admit I take the kid to McDonald's once a week. It's a good option for us and for our needs. So that's my 3rd parent confession, I am not ashamed to take my kid to McDonald's.

Plus the toys in Happy Meals are kind of fun (Sorry Jack I took your mini Hungry Hippo game)!  So if you also visit the double arches with your kids, your secret (or maybe not secret) is safe with me because ba da ba ba ba, I'm loving It! Leave a comment on what places or restaurants have helped you out!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

8/16/18- Breastfeeding

A week ago I had the privileged to write about what it's like to be a parent with Rheumatoid Arthritis  (RA) on the site Fiery Bones, and while I covered a lot in that article, there was one subject I specifically wanted to talk about while being an RA mom: breastfeeding.  First I want to caveat this post with this-- when it comes to breastfeeding in the US, it feels damned if you do (cover up in public! you can't do that here!) and damned if you don't (I don't care your situation, you should be exclusively breastfeeding baby from the nipple for the next 20 years!).  So now with that caveat, I'll dive into my breastfeeding story.

From the start I was a low producer, meaning that on a good day, I made 5 ounces of breast milk for baby Jack.  Jack consumed at least twice that in the earlier days, and I think 5 times that by the time I hung up my breastfeeding hat.  So I supplemented with formula, and no way do I feel guilty about my baby being feed formula because he was being feed. Period.  That is what is important.  But for the first 3 month (aka maternity leave), I did feed him what breast milk I had mostly by boob.

And I remember how stiff and locked up my hand and elbow joints would get.  Since I didn't produce much milk, feeding sessions would be close to an hour.  And it was painful.  So I'd switch sides every 10-15 minutes or sit him down and pick him back up.  I had suspicions within a month or two that my RA was flaring again.  It was confirmed when I had a check up with my primary care doctor four months after Jack was born.

My primary care doctor recommend a couple of different things, and I did a follow up with my rheumatologist.  The rheumatologist recommended that I go back on Plaquenil for the RA. I had stopped taking the medicine during pregnancy with guidance from my rheumatologist. She didn't want to risk any side effects during pregnancy, as well as all my RA numbers were looking good. I was most likely in remission during pregnancy, which does not always happen to pregnant RA patients.  But now that I was having a flare, it was time to go back on Plaquenil.

Again, with guidance from my rheumatologist and Jack's pediatrician, I started the medication.  It was middle of the road safe for breastfeeding mothers.  At the same time, I was back at work, so I (and Bobby) had switched full time to bottles with Jack (he had them off/on previous).  I remember one week into being back at work (and Jack receiving bottles full time at daycare) that I might try breastfeeding Jack for nostalgia purposes.  Jack was not having it, and I ended up giving him a bottle.

But I was pumping at work, which is it's own beast. Again, the breast milk I pumped wasn't much, but I was still proud of the fact that I was providing a little breast milk among the formula that Jack was receiving.  I'd also wake up in the middle of the night, even though Jack now mostly slept through the night, to pump. Those 3 ounces counted towards the total, no way would I miss that!  However, the lack of sleep was definitely not helping the RA nor was it making me a happy mom.  I was not the best version of myself on the little sleep I was getting (it was hard to fall back asleep after pumping a half hour at 3 am, and since I couldn't fall back asleep, I'd stay up reading or checking emails/social media).

I don't even remember much between months 3 and 9 of Jack's life, since I was a walking, breast milk pumping zombie whose joints ached so much.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my time with Jack (and figuring out parenthood with Bobby), but I can't really remember what I did at work or conversations I'd have with Bobby.  I was in desperate need of Ibfropen and rest/sleep, but I wasn't ready to admit to myself that it was time to retire from breastfeeding.  According to society, I'd be a horrible mother and fail Jack if I didn't make it a whole year breastfeeding.

Then Jack got his first stomach virus at nine months, which is really scary when they're ity bity babies, but of course it all turned out fine (virus went away and Jack started eating again).  But since Jack didn't seem to be keeping any milk or pureed foods down, Bobby and I were in full on parent worry, red alert mood.  So much so, that while Jack was sick, I forgot to pump.  Once Jack was doing a little better, I put the pump supplies on and started the device up.  Nothing came out.  I waited a full 10 minutes before quitting.   I was like, no big deal I'll try again later, and I did try again yith the same results; nothing came out. So that was that.  At nine months, I was done providing breast milk to my baby.

Yet, it was a blessing in disguise.  I started sleeping 8 hours straight through the night (no waking up at 3 am) , and I started taking NSAIDs again (bless you Ibfropen).  I also felt relief that Jack wasn't getting diluted Plaqunil anymore (although the doctors gave their blessing for me to use that medication).  Yes, at first I was very conflicted-- I'm supposed to provide nutrients for a whole year to my baby. However, because of the extra rest/sleep and more free time (now that I wasn't pumping), I felt so much better and happier.  I hadn't realized how awful I had felt. But now I had a little more spring in my steps, and I was able to fully enjoy family time.  I was enjoying life more.

In summary, I feel like I got this unique experience of both sides-- the breastfeeding mom and the formula feeding parent.  I can empathize with both sides, and that I personally don't see breastfeeding as only one sided.  Before judging anyone on whether they choose to breastfeed or not, remember that they could be a RA mom who doesn't produce much and struggles to hold baby for a long time due to joint stiffness.  So let's support the parents who don't breastfeed, as well as the moms who nipple feed until 5+ years, and everything in between. Because damn it, parenting is hard enough without judgement, so let's support each in our breastfeeding decisions. Fed is fed! To breastfeeding and to formula feeding!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

7/28/18-- Book Review of "Irving Berlin: The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing"

I feel so lucky to be a part of the Kid Lit (aka Children's Literature) community because I get to [virtually] meet really cool authors.  One such author is Nancy Churnin.  I met Nancy through a picture book writers group we are both in, and I noticed that her book Irving Berlin: The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing was recently released.  I made a mental note to keep an eye out for it  hoping to check it out from the Tempe Library.

A few weeks ago, I took Jack to play at the Tempe Library.  I saw Irving Berlin: The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing sitting front and center on the new non-fiction book display-- so cool, and I was very happy for Nancy that her book was so prominently displayed on my library's shelf!  I was going to check it out, but confession time, I had 3 books over due and I hadn't brought them with me!  No big deal I thought because I could totally get the Irving Berlin picture book next time.

So a week or so later, I was ready to return my other overdue books and pay my fine.  Off I trekked to the Tempe Library.  I took care of the overdue book situation, and then went to retrieve Nancy's book off the new non-fiction book display.  But it wasn't there anymore.  Okay, I'll look it up in the library's computer system-- now the book is sitting in the children's biography section.  I'm old enough to know the Dewey decimal system, and so I know how to find 782.4216 BERLIN.  But the book wasn't there.  The computer system says it should be, but it wasn't.  Alright, time to grab the librarian.  She couldn't find it either.  We walked together all over the children's floor, looking for the book.  Finally, we surrendered, and the librarian marked the book missing.

Determined to get a hard copy of this book, I headed over to the nearest library in the neighboring community of Mesa. However, this library didn't even own a copy!  So they submitted a request to order one, which is great for Nancy (that means a sale - yay!), but not so great if you are as excited as I am to get my hands on a genuine physical copy of this book.  Now, I get to wait for either Mesa's copy to come in or for Tempe to find their missing copy (fingers crossed).  While I wound up patiently (sort of) waiting for a physical copy, Nancy was kind enough to send me an electronic copy (thank you Nancy)!

Few children's books pique my interest enough for me to spend this much effort getting my hands on them (let's face it, free time for a working mom can be shorter than a toddler's attention span), and the big question is: was it worth the quest?  (spoiler alert: yes!)

Disclaimer: I've been given the e-book free in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.

A Little About The Book

Irving Berlin was one of America's most famous composers, song writers, and musicians. The book opens with five year old Irving Berlin leaving his home:  the Cossack revolts in Russia resulted in his family's house burning down, so the Berlin family is fleeing to America.  The family, along with many other immigrants, sail into New York City harbor and as they all see the Statue of Liberty, they break out in song.  It was the first of many times that Irving tried to capture the sounds and songs of this new city, of this new country.  His mother and father both say "God Bless America," at the site of their new home; it is something that will stay with Irving for his whole life.

The book continues to follow Irving as a child, growing into a young man.  The book discusses how the sounds on the streets where Irving plays, the prayers in the synagogue where the family worships, the sounds of the apartment where Irving grows up, all these things will later influence Irving's music.  Young Irving sings on the streets, which leads to a a job as a singing waiter at a restaurant, which leads to his first song (sold for 37 cents).  This job also leads to Irving's first hit song (which is an international hit), "Alexander's Ragtime Band."  All the while, his surroundings continue (like working at a restaurant that plays jazz).

Later, Irving serves in the US Army (he also has become a US citizen) during World War I.  His job is to write patriotic songs for the Army, and he also composes a show for the troops called "Yip! Yip!  Yaphank!"  He composed a song for the finale of the show that would become the basis for "God Bless America," but the song was ultimately not used in "Yip! Yip! Yaphank!" When the US enters into World War II twenty years later, Irving wanted to help and inspire his country again, so he pulled out the unused finale song from that show, and with his journey to America and what his parents said when they arrived in the US, he finished "God Bless America."  The song was performed by famous singer Kate Smith on the eve of World War II (in 1938), giving people hope and courage.  Irving never took a penny for "God Bless America," donating all proceed to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.  "It was his thank you to the country that opened its arms to countless people from all over the world..."

My Review

My first thought is wow!  Such an inspiring and uplifting story about Irving Berlin and "God Bless America!"  I really want to get a hold of the hard copy now!  I want to be able to actually flip through the pages, admiring the actual ink of the illustrations and soak in the words.  It is such a well written, and beautiful story.  And the the illustrations are gorgeous!  The lighting of each illustration, and the theme of Irving's red scarf throughout, and the details of the background are so well done.  The illustrations really set the tone and match well the mood of the words.

I also love the message (well at least what I think is the message): that anyone can live the American dream.  In time when some Americans think that the American dream is only for those born in the country, it's such an important message--  an immigrant gave us one of our most popular songs about our country and what it means to be an American.  And to think about how that could have been lost if we had completely "shut the door" on immigrants.

I worry a little about some of the recent anti-immigration policies set forth by the current Administration, especially for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  If we "close the door," what or who will we be missing out on?  Brilliant minds with brilliant STEM innovations?  Innovations that could solve some of our biggest problems and challenges (water and energy needs, global warming, cures for diseases, and so on)?  And we can't forget the arts and language side of it too-- will we miss the next Irving Berlin and "God Bless America?"

And from what I gather from this picture book, Irving Berlin seemed to want to want to share the gift of the American dream with everyone in the US, so much so, that he wasn't willing to profit from it.  It's really cool that he gave all his royalties to such a good cause, the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.  He also gave all his profits for the song "This is the Army" to the Army Emergency Relief Fund.  That's pretty cool.

So yeah, I think this story is such an important one to read with our children.  To talk about immigration and what it means to be American (it's more than just a birth right to me).  I also like the mentions of Irving's beliefs and mentions of Yiddish and Russian words, which add another layer of diversity to discuss with our children.  Not to mention that it's also a great introduction to some fabulous songs (Irving truly was gifted); I really can't wait to share them with Jack on iTunes!  "White Christmas" in particular has a special place in my heart, as it's a favorite song (and movie) between my dad and I, so being able to share the story of the composer of "White Christmas" with my son will be pretty amazing (tear).   And of course "God Bless America" is such a beautiful song, so reading such a beautiful story/book about this beautiful song and the amazing person who wrote it, is just all around amazingness!

Alright just to sum it up: 5 out of 5 stars (using the Goodreads and Amazon rating systems) and totally worth the epic trips to the libraries to get this book in hand!  I can't wait for the hard copies to come in!  Thank you Nancy for sharing an e-copy and for writing such a fabulous book (and James Rey Sanchez for the beautiful accompanying illustrations)!  It's really a great read, so go get Irving Berlin: The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing from your local library or bookstore (or Amazon or website or where ever you get books)! Happy reading!

PS:  Nancy has some great teacher guides for the book on her website, http://www.nancychurnin.com/.

There's also a project for kids to do on Nancy's website: http://www.nancychurnin.com/make-america-sing/.


Friday, July 20, 2018

7/20/18-- Exciting Things!

I'm so excited!  I'm so excited!  I'm so... scared...sorry, couldn't resist a classic Saved By The Bell reference there.  But some really exciting things are happening here in the land of MomeeZee!  The first one is that I'm going to be re-naming my blog, as well as re-designing my blog.  I guess it's what business and marking folk call re-branding.

It was really cool-- I meet with The Crafty Chica last Friday for some blogger to blogger advice and insight.  Kathy is really passionate about helping other bloggers and small business owners, so every July she offers up consulting services (man, I need to lay off the reallys).  Her service was well worth it for me because she has given me some great tips, ideas (including blog direction) and motivation.  One of the big tips, and it's so obvious, is to have a blog name that people immediately know what the blog is about just by the name alone.  My friend Maira over at Enthusiastic About Life has also said the same thing, and I'm sorry that I'm just now listening Maira! 😊

As some you, my dear friends, may know, I brainstormed a whole slew of new names and put it to a vote with my friends and family.  I learned from Kathy (The Crafty Chica) that the first 5-6 things brainstormed are usually from our logical left side of the brain, and the next 5-6 things are from our creative right brain.  It's not really relevant; just a cool fact that I thought some of you might enjoy.  So anyway, I narrowed down the new blog names to two, and my friends and family have voted feverishly for their favorite. A huge thank you and shout to those of you who voted!  Stay tune in the next couple of months for the final name, and hence new blog!  I'll be having some fun things (aka giveaways) for the new blog launch!

Also exciting is that Jack will be in Pre-K starting August 6th.  My baby is a pre-kindergartner!  I'm so happy and thrilled for him to learn so new pre-k things.  Learning new things while unencumbered by fear and doubts, and to borrow from Maira, and with enthusiasm is such an awesome feeling!  He's going to have a blast.  I'm going to cry, but very thankful he's growing.  

And now a drumroll for the reveal... of the final... exciting.... piece of news I that have...brrrrum...I am working on the layout of the next Annie Aardvark book!  The title should be Annie Aardvark: Adding Ants, and it should be released this fall.  I'm most likely go to release the book through a Kickstarter campaign, right after I've finished the new blog, so please stay tuned/keep an eye out!  In the meantime, here's a sneak peak at an illustration in the new book. Squee, Annie's so cute!

 I'm so excited, I'm so excited!  I'm about to lose control and I think I like it! Hope everyone has something exciting going on in their lives!  Happy weekend! xoxo!

Friday, July 6, 2018

7/6/18- Summer STEM Experiment: Pool Noodle Math Game

How to make summer swimming a learning task, you ask? One where your math happy kid will grin and your language happy kid will groan?  Create a math game using a foam pool noodle of course!


A Foam Pool Noddle
Scissors or Exacto Knife
Permanent Marker (my fav is Sharpie)


1) Cut the pool noodle into 10 pieces (even is good, but it's fine if you don't-- I have no perfectionist requirement on cutting the noodle into even pieces).  This step should probably be done by an adult since scissors or an Exacto knife are involved.

2) Using the permanent marker, write one number, 1-10, on each pool noodle piece (also make a 7 ate 9 joke as you number).

3) Throw the numbered pool noodle pieces into a pool (this pool should be a pool you have permission to use).

4) Have the child(ren) retrieve the numbers you call out: "3! 10! 5!" etc.

Variations on the pool noodle math swimming games:

  • If you have an older child, tell them to retrieve 10-7; 36/6; 4+5; etc. 

  • If you have a child under 2, you can put shapes on pool noodle pieces and create your own shape game.

  • If you have a language lover, you can cut the pool noodle into 26 pieces and put one letter of the alphabet on each and create your own language game. 

Have fun swimming this summer, and always remember pool safety with your kids!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

6/27/18- My Dream Job

I had a scary dream, but with a happy ending, the other night.  Bobby, Jack and I were flying somewhere overseas (the destination I forget, but it's not relevant to the story).  We're on a 747, so it's commercial flight with 300 something passengers.  All of sudden, we have to make a crash landing on the sea.  Luckily, our pilots manage to land use on the ocean with minimal damage. Passengers have bumps and scraps, but no major injures.  And no deaths (woo miracle and woo subconscious for making that happen).

Which is great, expect we're all now drifting randomly at sea with nothing but seat cushions as flotation devices.  Thankfully the US Coast Guard shows up out of no where with a big enough boat to put 300 something people on it.  They attend to the wounded and give us blankets and water.  We are all safe and headed home.  It's a happy ending!

But the dream wasn't really about a fear of flying and crashing into the sea.  I believe the dream was about my day job.  I try to stay pretty vague on my blog about where I work to avoid getting into trouble with my company.  However, my author profile does indicate that I work on the search and rescue system for the US Coast Guard (and all my friends and family know that's the project I work on, so it'd not that big of secret).  So the fact that my family and I are rescued at sea by the US Coast Guard in my dream, that was not a coincidence.

I am proud that I work as a systems engineer on the search and rescue system for the US Coast Guard.  I have much gratification that a project I work on saves people lives (specifically, people lost or distressed at sea and require rescuing).  To me, it's a project that makes a positive impact on the world.  And I love that I provide for my family through such a positive project.  I'm pretty sure that's why I dreamed about the Coast Guard rescuing my family the other night-- there's great satisfaction that two of my ideals, providing for my family and positively impacting the word, can co-exist.

Sometimes I'm not happy with the limited work I've been relegated to, and a lot of the time, I'm not happy with some of the things my company does.  My project within my company is pretty great, but the rest of my company frustrates me. Executive leadership has done some things in the past that show that they care more about profit and shareholders than the employees that work there. They also take on some projects that I'm not sure meld with my personal values and ideals.  That is what has made the past couple of years really hard for me in terms of working there.

And while I search for what to do next, I'm going to try and focus on the good that the search and rescue system project does while I provide a good life for my family.  I think continuing to focus on the positive of my current work situation will make me a better optimist and in turn, will open up the door to my next GREAT thing. That is my dream. I wish that we may all find work that we believe in.  May we all find our dream.

That's Me (standing in front and) Sharing with Students What I Do for A Living