Category Archives: Pregnancy

Updates and Free Printable for Parents!

A few updates:

♥  I am officially the mother of three kids under 4 years old.  I know because I now own a minivan.

Meet our newest sweetie, Miles.

Welcome Miles

The delivery went as planned, although I had a brief scare when he needed some oxygen after birth.  The medical team assured us this was a routine occurrence for c-section babies, as their lungs need some help drying out.  As promised, the doctors deemed him perfectly healthy after a brief visit (not admission) to the NICU for oxygen, and he was able to room in with me from then on as I had hoped.  We were even discharged from the hospital early!  After two days inpatient, I asked the attending when I could bust outta that place, and she said, “You and the baby seem to be doing fine- I’ll draw up the paperwork now!” It’s still amazing to me.  An uncomplicated hospital stay is such an odd experience.

My surprise escape from the hospital threw off my hubby’s secret plans to buy me a car while I was inpatient!  When I was texting him to arrange to be picked up, he was negotiating with the car dealership with the two older children in tow.  The car was not ready in time to pick me up, as he had hoped. But that meant I was able to accompany him on an extended test drive before the purchase, and I received my roomy, versatile, swiss-army-knife-of-vans (the Odyssey) later that week.

♥ I am still not used to having a typical newborn.

When I’m feeding Miles, I often check to see if I’m occluding his trach, only to remember he doesn’t have one.  I can’t imagine growing tired of hearing him cry, whimper, and “talk.”  I sometimes wish I could vent gas from his belly via a g-button.  When I bring him somewhere and I don’t need to carry a suction machine, resuscitation equipment or back-up medical supplies, I always feel like I’m forgetting something.  And I totally did feel like a nurse was going to chase after us when we left the hospital with him.

♥ Delayed nesting makes for strange priorities

When June was born, I wrote about being in a perpetual state of nesting before her birth as well as while she was in the NICU for months.  With Miles, I delayed nesting until after his birth, for the most part; I never took my estimated due date or his homecoming as a guarantee.  Now that we are home, nesting is happening in full force, leading to some strange decisions about how to spend my time.  Did I finally move the dozen boxes of diapers that have been stacked in the living room for over a month?  No.  I just grab a pack every time I run out at Mile’s changing table. However, I suddenly felt I MUST finish constructing the Indominus Rex puppet that I drafted for Rowan a while ago.  (Ok, so, on the scale of “first attempts at making a hand puppet” and “things drafted by hand from scratch,” it’s pretty awesome.  On the scale of puppets in general, it’s a little clumsy and misshapen.  The kids love it though.)


Also inexplicably high on my list: wiping down all of the kitchen cabinets and baseboards.  And working in the garden that I created in May and did not tend all summer. Thank goodness for the automatic garden sprinkler that came with the house. This is also my first attempt at gardening, and honestly…..I don’t know which plants are weeds and which are food.  I forgot WHAT I planted and where.  There weren’t many survivors.   Except for these.  I know these are carrots.  That I grew.


♥ A special needs sewing and DIY series is coming up!

Stay tuned.

♥ And now a printable! Laminate these “baby sleeping” door signs and never be bothered by a door-to-door salesman again.

I’ve used a hand-written sign like this for years, and I’ve finally got around to making a printable version.  It works wonders.  No more dogs going insane over a knock from FedEx or pushy electricity company reps or mysterious religious missionaries. Put one on the door as well as on the doorbell.  I recommend that you cut the signs out first BEFORE laminating, then leave a quarter- or half-inch border of lamination around the sign when cutting it out again after laminating. This will make it more waterproof than if you laminate the whole page and then cut the sign out, as the lamination pouch makes a better seal to itself than it does when there is a layer of paper inside.

See the free JPG and PDF versions of the printable below.

Baby Do Not Disturb Sign JPG

Baby Do Not Disturb Sign PDF



8 Strange Things About Expecting an Uncomplicated Delivery After Having a NICU Baby

If he can stay put long enough, we are expecting the arrival of our next little one by C-section next week. We are only now getting around to preparing the house for his arrival by sorting clothes, setting up the crib, and installing the infant car seat. The timing struck me as odd since we did these things months in advance with my son and daughter. We’ve been so busy, and it always seemed like we would have more free time to prepare sometime “later” than we had in the present moment. This was actually one of several things that have struck me as odd as I anticipate this baby’s arrival, as compared to the complicated early birth of my daughter two years ago.  (More about that here under tracheostomy and health related.)

8 Strange Things About Expecting an Uncomplicated Delivery After Having a NICU Baby

(for me at least…)

1. You never assume your pregnancy and birth will be normal and uncomplicated until it actually happens that way.

My first pregnancy with my son was complicated by symptoms of preeclampsia, although he made it full term and had an uncomplicated birth and nursery stay.  I had a second pregnancy a year after the birth of my son which ended in an early miscarriage.  During my third pregnancy with my daughter, I illogically assumed that by some “law of averages,” I would experience a normal pregnancy after having two difficult ones. Although ultimately proven false, this assumption did allow me to have a relatively anxiety-free pregnancy until her tachycardia manifested at a routine 30 week check-up and I was suddenly surrounded by doctors talking about Life Flighting me to the medical center downtown.  I made it another 4-and-a-half weeks, but June was then delivered early and spent 2.5 months in the level 3 NICU. So this time around, I made no assumptions either way.  I was neither convinced that everything would be fine nor that “something bad” would happen.  I just checked off every milestone as it came:

Made it through the first trimester without miscarrying, great.

Passed the genetic screening, great.

Normal anatomy scan, great.

Normal diabetes test, great.

No high blood pressure, great.

And now: finally made it full term!  Great!!

It may seem like not assuming the best outcome from the start would be less enjoyable or less peaceful than maintaining blind optimism.  I didn’t experience it that way though;  I appreciated making it past each milestone much more since I didn’t take it as a given.

2. Your pregnancy goes by quickly.

This may be related to having subsequent kids in general, as you are chasing after little ones rather than searching WebMD everytime you have a twinge or twitch. And if your NICU baby is still in the “medically complex” category, you have even more on your plate distracting you from your swollen ankles and food cravings.  I was even so blessed as to have minimal nausea; sometimes this time around I almost forgot I was pregnant. When I thought to check my pregnancy tracker app, I was always shocked to see how many weeks and even what trimester I was in.

3. You get to use baby clothes you couldn’t last time.

For most of her NICU stay, June was not allowed to wear clothing due to needing a warmer, having a central line, or some factor in her case necessitating  immediate observation of her respiration and coloring. When she came home in the “winter” (the Texas winter) at 2.5 months, she had outgrown a few items and others were out of season. She had also missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with us along with the cute holiday outfits.

4. You realize you don’t have to modify clothes for tubes and wires.

As I sorted through the clothes today, I often thought, “These pants won’t work with the pulse ox probe,” “That Velvro is going to stick to all the gauze,” and “There isn’t any access for the EKG leads or g-button.”  It was strange to realize my new baby (hopefully) won’t have all of those attachments!

5. You wonder what you’re going to do without all of those tubes and wires.

Despite the fact that my first child’s infancy was normal, now when I see strangers relaxing while their baby naps in a covered stroller, or in a corner or in the next room,  I can’t fathom how they do it.  June has required 24/7 visual-or-pulse ox monitoring since birth.  A silent trach plug can be fatal in a matter of minutes.  How can I switch gears with this little one, allowing him to sleep unobserved and unmonitired, trusting completely that his respiratory and cardiac systems will just do everything they need to do? I hope the switch will happen naturally somehow.

6. You will feel like you’re smuggling your baby out of the hospital.

This hasn’t happened to me yet, but I guarantee you that if I’m able to leave the hospital after 3-4 days with my newborn in my arms, I will be looking over my shoulder expecting a nurse to chase me down and take my tiny baby back to the nursery.  After all, they kept June for 2.5 months, and when she did get to leave with us, our car was followed by an entourage of nursing agency staff and DME reps to get us set up at home. We practically brought the hospital home with us.

7. You realize you’ll experience firsts that you missed the last time.

For us: hearing the baby’s voice, rooming in, being able to do skin-to-skin early, nursing without pumping, changing those first diapers (eeeek), giving the first bath, tending the imbilical site, dressing the baby, and the two most radical for us- introducing a newborn’s sleeping and feeding schedules into our home and having a baby in the house that can cry…out loud…

8. You’ll marvel at the fact that you made it.

I still can’t believe I’ve made it full term AND nothing weird has happened. So far.

Our “Homeschool Curriculum” Fall 2015

At the very beginning of this year, I shared why I am so excited to “homeschool” this fall.  I use the quotes because most of the time, “homeschool” with my almost-4-year-old son and almost-2-year-old daughter is woven into everyday playing and errand running rather than appearing more “school-like,” such as doing worksheets at a table.  But sometimes we do worksheets and crafts at the table, too.  And sometimes our sole goal is to make it through the day.  But ideally, these are the skills and activities we are aiming  for in a given week.

Homeschool Curriculum 2015
Our “curriculum” is a hodgepodge of different things.  I started my planning with the Letter of the Week Curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler, which I’ll refer to as LOTW.  It’s a great curriculum at an awesome price.  It features one letter a week with accompanying blending ladders, a Bible verse, and optional Spanish language vocabulary, plus one shape and one color per month. However, the LOTW falls squarely in the middle of my kids’ current academic levels, as my son knows the content already but my daughter is not quite ready to tackle letters.  But the crafts and activities are so cute, I decided to plug in and/or modify any LOTW activities I could into the content areas that are important to us.  This is the list of categories we are working on this fall and what we are using for these subjects:

Language Arts 

June does parts of the LOTW curriculum including an introduction to the letter in written, spoken, and ASL form and some large letter or coloring pages which don’t require advanced fine motor control.  I don’t think she’s quite ready to learn the alphabet, but I think she’ll enjoy being introduced to the ASL alphabet concurrently since many of the ASL signs she knows already utilize the letter handshapes.

Rowan occasionally uses some of the letter crafts from LOTW which require more fine motor control, like lacing.  Additionally, he has sight words on the felt board and letter discs to match to interesting words (both very cool activities from Confessions of a Homeschooler).  At this point, we just want Rowan to have access to things he’s interested in, rather than dragging him down any specific path or timeline. And with access to our local BBBS resale sites and a big homeschool resale store, we can try out different things without investing a ton in each rescoure. Rowan is quite interested in letters and reading, but he *really* wants to do everything himself.  He has maintained interest in the sight word felt board and letter discs, with game-like pieces that can be used independently. But engagement with the more directed, school-like activities have fizzled out very fast with him, including Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (Bad fit for now! Maybe when he’s older), Bob books (I think he’ll like them once he can read them himself without prompting and supervision from us) and Explode the Code (The uncertainty of what word the drawing is representing greatly frustrated *me,* so we set that one aside for now).  He can also complete lessons on ABC Mouse, but even in the guided lessons mode, the difficulty of the work seems to vary widely, and his engagement with it is hit and miss.

Sight Words Caterpillar Felt Board from Confessions of a Homeschooler

Sight Words Caterpillar Felt Board from Confessions of a Homeschooler


I separated actual reading from the “language arts” category above, which contains skills needed to read like letter recognition, letter sounds, phonics and blending.  For “actual reading,” I strive to read to the kids each day, signing along with the book in June’s case and having Rowan read frequently occurring words or sound some out from the story.  Thankfully, both kids love snuggling up with a book- with or without someone reading it to them!

Book worm

Book worm

Gross Motor

Both kids can participate in these activities, which involve moving, balancing, and generally jumping around.  The LOTW curriculum has a few activities and we also find fun ones on Toddler Approved like Alphabet Pillow Jumping and via Pinterest like Toddler Color Hop from Learn~Play~Imagine.  But mostly the kids take care of this category all by themselves.  They are forever climbing on furniture and building obstacle courses with the couch cushions.

Standard couch slide construction at the Safari House

Standard couch slide construction at the Safari House*

*A few notes on this:

1.  This is how the kids get their exercise when we’re cooped up for RSV season. Or when it’s too hot to go outside.  Ok, anytime they’re bouncing off the walls but we can’t go out, really.

2. Yes, this is the usual state of my house currently. Unless it’s Monday.  That’s pick-up-and-vacuum day.

3. That formless mass of energy is in fact Rowan.  I think it captured him quite nicely.

4. June’s looking on like, “I got next.”

Fine Motor

This is an area we emphasize with June because her history of prematurity, frequent hospital stays and her mild hypotonia all impede her natural process of learning these skills, somewhat.  Even with all of these factors, she does very well in this area.  So mainly we try to offer a variety of activities to keep her practicing.  LOTW includes tracing, cutting, and prewriting practice sheets which I sometimes provide to June, but they are a little advanced for her.  Mostly, we provide dry erase surfaces or regular coloring activities for her to practice holding markers and crayons, and we get the felt board out with felt shapes of different sizes for June to play with.  Much of the fine motor practice occurs naturally with household objects like picking up small toys, coins, and stickers, using latches and buttons on educational toys, and building with blocks.  Signing is also a huge fine motor work out.  We always model the correct execution of signs, and occasionally we focus on correcting June’s handshape or placement when we feel that she might be ready to perform a certain sign more correctly.  I anticipate that her interest in the ASL alphabet will propel both her signing accuracy and fine motor skills forward this fall.

For Rowan we replaced the LOTW letter writing activities with a dry erase handwriting pack (Lets Get Ready for School Activity Pack: Letters) and making our own word tracing worksheets which Rowan chooses the content for (translation: he’s tracing dinosaur names).  Rowan also gets much more than his daily quota of fine motor practice in by playing with Legos.

June with Let's Get Ready for School Activity Pack: Letters

June with Let’s Get Ready for School Activity Pack: Letters

Spatial Reasoning

Both of the kids are naturally interested in these activities, so we make various options available around the house including puzzles (toddler for June and preschool for Rowan), blocks and Legos.  We try to point out or make patterns in every day play.  Occasionally I also try to get the kids interested in the mazes and object hunt activities in their kid magazines- without much success; here again, self-directed activities are WAY more fruitful than mom-directed ones.

I had to text this to my husband because I couldnt figure out how Rowan made it

I had to text this to my husband because I couldnt figure out how Rowan made it

Sign Language

Because she cannot vocalize with the trach currently, American Sign Language is June’s only mode for expressive communication.  We play at least one Signing Time episode in the background during playtime every day.  Usually several.  The kids love it , and they know more than half of the signs in the series already. As part of our morning routine when we update the board with the day of the week, we sign the days of the week, numbers up to the current day, and review the signs for colors with the Rainbow Song from Signing Time. Greg and I are really striving to sign concurrently when we talk throughout the day, but that is challenging because true ASL is not a word-for-word translation of spoken English; even the basic sentence structure differs between the two.  But we always sign when communicating in basic sentences with June and when reading to her.

June signing "girl"

June signing “girl”

Art and Music

Art activities occur naturally around our house as well, and as part of the other learning categories.  Rowan likes to excavate dinosaur toys from playdough.  June likes to write with anything, on anything right now.  My written objective is to do letter, shape, and color crafts along with our current LOTW curriculum, but those are good intentions that just don’t happen, especially since the kids are self-directed in this area anyway.

For music, we listen primarily to Dinosaur Train and Jurassic Park (Rowan’s picks), Signing Time songs (June’s picks) and pop music (my picks) on my iPhone, YouTube or the radio.  Listening naturally develops into recognizing the rhythm, notes, and new vocabulary (English and ASL).  I’m always on the lookout for NON-ANNOYING educational songs on YouTube that the kids like. Current favorites are StoryBots,  Signing Time/Rachel and the Treeschoolers, and Coilbook.

Nervously watching June use finger paints- homemade so non-toxic, but still a potential danger to her trach. No corn strach in the lungs, please.

Nervously watching June use finger paints- homemade so non-toxic, but still a potential danger to her trach. No corn strach in the lungs, please.


We opted not to use the LOTW curriculum for counting activities because I felt we had ample opportunities to count during the day without printing many-paged activities out specifically for that purpose.  For June, we often count up to 5, like counting the medicine syringes she’s receiving (#medicallycomplexlife) and for Rowan, we often count up to 20 by counting up to the date, estimating the number of crackers etc we pour, and talking through simple addition and subtraction word problems that come up during the day.  We also have a Let’s Get Ready for School Activity Pack for numbers, but I don’t plan to use that until a later date when we venture into written math problems.

Earning money toward a model T-rex from the museum gift shop

Earning money toward a model T-rex from the museum gift shop


This is everyone’s favorite.  I try to do one simple science experiment a week that we improvise, like vinegar and baking soda variations, freezing stuff, or our weight capacity of boxes experiment, or experiments that stumble upon online, like Magic Milk from Lemon and Lime Adventures, DIY Dino Excavation Kits from Live, Craft, Love, or the Solar System Scale Model with toilet paper from Adventures in Learning.  Baking and cooking fall under this category, too, because any homeschool activity that results in chocolate for me is a winner.

Lesson learned: empty cardboard boxes are deceptively strong

Lesson learned: empty cardboard boxes are deceptively strong

Charting the outcome of box weight capacity experiment with Dada- plus a look at our "homeschool corner"

Charting the outcome of box weight capacity experiment with Dada- plus a look at our “homeschool corner”


Baking = Science Experiment

Baking = Science Experiment

“Field Trips”

We have to stay away from crowds and close contact with kids during the winter time due to June’s susceptibility to respiratory viruses, particularly RSV.  We also remain sheltered when June has a critical procedure coming up.  But whenever possible, we make up for lost time and jump on [economical] opportunities to learn “in the field” whether it’s nature observations at the park, community/holiday events, free museum days and discounted family memberships to a favorite spot (“the dinosaur museum” and the zoo).  So much learning occurs naturally as we encounter the unexpected on these outings, like when we happened upon a giant iguana (with its baby sitter) sunbathing on the steps outside the Natural Science museum.  The kids are so curious and observant at this age, even trips to the grocery store are educational, as they ask about people they see, our food choices and how money works.

Surprise iguana outside of "the dinosaur museum"

Surprise iguana outside of “the dinosaur museum”

An assassin bug that suddenly appeared on my NECK during a playdate at a new park

An assassin bug that suddenly appeared on my NECK during a playdate at a new park.  Luckily I was in an educational mood and researched it with the kids instead of converting it into an assassintated bug.

Those are our goals this fall!  We think of this list more like a flexible guide to our intentions rather than a to-do checklist. Life gets very busy at the Safari House, but thankfully, many of these objectives are accomplished through natural play.  In fact, with a newborn on the way in early September, I’m certain that in upcoming weeks those “naturally occurring” objectives are the only ones which will get done.  That’s totally okay.  Forecasts predict a season of Legos and couch slides in the future.

Maternity Sewing Links: Altering Pants

Originally I planned to share a tutorial on how I added waist and hip room to a pair of maternity pants by adding tapered upper side panels.  I soon discovered, however, that the pants were too worn out to carry on with, even though they fit beautifully now.  See….I know what I like, it doesn’t change in time with the store window displays, and I despise shopping.  If it were up to me, my current wardrobe would serve my needs forever.  This can sometimes blind me to the fact that a garment is beyond saving.  So rather than sharing my own tutorial, I’ve linked some awesome posts by other bloggers here on altering pants.  But take a lesson from me and assess the overall condition of your item thoroughly before deciding on altering. 🙂

Maternity Sewing: Altering Pants

Altering Pants to Expand Waist/Hips or Convert to Maternity

Adding a Pregnancy Panel Two Ways from me at Yes This I Know, which includes the wonderful post below from Shwin and Shwin

DIY Maternity Pants by Shwin and Shwin: Remove a non-stretch waistband and add a stretch maternity panel

Remove a Dart in Shorts or Pants from Refashion Co-op: This is a sneaky way to get some extra width in the waist of pants, if a dart is present.

Take Out (Expand) Your Jean’s Waistband Tutorial from Cotton and Curls: This is a fast way to add width to a waistband.  You’ll need to keep the work covered by your shirt, unless you are using the added fabric as an fashion accent to show off your alteration.

DIY Materity Pants from Your Favorite Jeans by Say Yes: Similar to the tutorial from Cotton and Curls above, this alteration adds width but also stretch to pants by using elastic for the panel inserts.

Adding Width to a Waistband from Mad Mim: This is a more labor intensive way to add width to a waistband, and you won’t need to hide the band with your shirt if you’re able to reattach the label over your work as suggested.

Maternity Sewing Links: Bra Making and Adjustments

One of the most helpful maternity sewing projects I’ve come across is how to sew your own bra and make adjustments to existing ones.  The running joke is that while you are pregnant or nursing, you can wear any size bra and at some point during the day, it will fit you.  The rest of the day is really annoying though.  Here are several wonderful links for making your bras more adjustable, as well as constructing your own.

Maternity Sewing: Bra Making and Adjustments


Bra Cup Adjustments from Cloth Habit: This is really for making pattern adjustments when sewing your own bra, but the information is useful for figuring out how to alter existing bras, too

Altering Bra Cup Sizes from Sushanna Bellydance Costume Tutorials: Includes a great idea for how to make your own custom cup pattern using duct tape

DIY Bra Extender from La Bouilloire Noire: This is a simple way to create a bra extender from an old bra.  You can also buy a pack of extenders at any department store, or if you invest in bra making supplies, you can cut your own from the hook and eye strips.

TIP: How to make a cross-bra strap DIY from Anna Evers at Plan B: This is useful if you need a cross-bra strap for your outfit or to keep your straps from falling down as your band size need fluctuates throughout the day.

How to Convert Your Favorite Bra into a Nursing Bra by Beauty Through Imperfection: This tutorial is great because it uses hook and eye closures that you can salvage from an old bra rather than purchasing a nursing bra conversion kit.

DIY Pull-Down Nursing Top from in-lala-land: Modify a tank so it attaches to your nursing bra.

Faux Cami from me! at Yes This I Know: If your bra is not totally agreeing with your top, attach the faux cami to increase coverage, nurse more discreetly or add a color accent to your outfit.

Bra Construction

Bra Making Sew Along from Cloth Habit: this is a step-by-step tutorial on making your own 2- or 3-pieced-fabric-cup bra (see link below for 1-piece and 2-piece foam cups) from a pattern you’ve purchased.  The whole Cloth Habit blog is about sewing lingerie, and has some great tips as well as a list of places to buy specialty fabrics and notions.

Make a Foam Cup Bra from Cloth Habit: This is useful for making an entire foam cup bra, adding foam to an existing bra, or making foam inserts to use as removable modesty lining.

How to Sew a Built in Bra with Cups by Pretty Prudent: Useful for constructing new garments or adding support to existing ones

A Better Way to Cut Underwires by Orange Lingerie: Good tips for this intimidating process.  Also, Orange Lingerie’s blog is another source full of bra sewing tutorials and tips.

Post-Hospital Haze II

We are finally emerging from the post-hospital haze, which is similar in almost every respect to the post-hospital haze from last year; it occurred during the same months, I went through the same cleaning rituals- mostly gutting the fridge and vacuuming dog hair- I FINALLY saw friends, and I’m working on reading a Brandon Sanderson book.  Well, I’m reading like 7 books but a Sanderson novel is in the stack.  I even delved into the accumulated DME supplies with intentions to write a post about them soon. Added to the mix this time though:

Adventures in g-buttons 

June got a gastronomy button during her hospitalization, and there’s been a learning curve involved for Greg and me.  They say don’t cry over spilled milk.  Well, what if the milk is spilled several times a day throughout your house and onto your toddler’s and your own 3rd, 4th, and 5th outfits for the day, and onto furniture and sheets, for several weeks and it attracts ants- a different species in each room actually- and THEN your steam cleaner AND your washing machine both break?  Cry then?  Well, I didn’t cry.  But I did harass hubby with play-by-play texts every day and then hand the children and the house off to him the millisecond he arrived home all of this week.

Adventures in hyperdrive

After a hospitalization, all of the normal elements of life are multiplied by a factor of 2, 3, 6, or 10…  The kids want to catch up on missed parental attention.  Medical bills and filing tasks have piled up. Lots of specialist check-ups have to happen after the hospital stay- especially because June had had so many med and surgery changes at once and she’s having some unexplained tachycardia.

Tachycardia Plse Ox

211 is her heart rate here. Ya that’s 100 points too high.

New prescriptions and new DME orders need corrected and followed up on.  New reactions to these new prescriptions and DME orders need corrected and followed up on (see above on g-buttons and a 211 heart rate).  And after each visit, phone calls must be made to keep the whole medical team (doctors, nurses, home therapy, schedulers, DME, insurance) in the loop.  Random house/life things have accumulated, like chasing down a lost insurance check to replace our roof, realizing the car inspections are expired, and troubleshooting brown patches in the yard before we get an HOA letter.  Also, Rowan has discovered video games via Lego Jurassic Park played on the computer.  And in true gamer fashion, he’s broken a controller in frustration and is breaking my keyboard key. by. key. Right now I have no zero button and no [letter missing from the word btton] btton.  I’m actally typing everything withot that letter and then atocorrecting.  Its tremendos fn.

Adventures in pregnancy

This pregnancy has flown by with no complications.  I’ve been too busy to think much about being pregnant aside from taking my prenatal pills and limiting my caffeine.  There were no weekly “what sized fruit is the baby!” tracking and no monthly belly photos.  I was, however, quite aware of and anxious about passing the points in pregnancy at which June was diagnosed with tachycardia (30 weeks) and when June was delivered early (34w 3d).  Both mile markers passed without incident, and I’m relieved. But now at 35w 4d  I’m acutely aware of the fact that I’ve only been this hugely and uncomfortably pregnant once, and I was on bedrest at the time with no children at home.  I’m tired.  My belly keeps knocking things over.  This baby is doing gymnastics constantly.  The heartburn is no fun.  Strangers look at me warily like I’m a ticking bomb. And this is the first time ever that I haven’t had a weekly look at my baby in the third trimester; because of my swelling and blood pressure issues with Rowan, I got a biophysical profile ultrasound and non-stress test every 4 days toward the end, and with June (who never made it this far in pregnancy) I had a weekly fetal echo cardiogram AND ultrasound.  In my experience, having an uncomplicated pregnancy is the anomaly.  It is an odd experience.

upcoming posts?

I have 11 posts drafted (incomplete and not scheduled) and two additional to add.  I have lots of good intentions. Lots of ideas.  HOWEVER, I will be very impressed with myself if I post again before the baby arrives.  See above.

QOTD: This Is a Job for Daddy.

Tomorrow marks one month that June has been in the hospital, and we had originally planned on just a 4-day stay. To recap, the various reasons the stay has lengthened include the switch from the two-stage LTR that was planned to the one-stage version, difficulty extubating after the LTR, which led to the need for a new trach to be placed, and most recently, June’s difficulty eating after the surgeries necessitated getting a gastronomy-button (g-button) and Nissen fundoplication.  Hospitalizations are always a wild ride for us.

During the hospitalization, I’ve been staying at June’s bedside during the week, and Greg has been working and caring for Rowan with help from family.  On the weekend, we switch, and Greg stays with June while I hang with little dude Rowan.  This is the first hospitalization that we’ve been able to switch off at the bedside because previously I was still nursing June.  It’s so nice to have this flexibility!  But it’s far from the ideal of having everyone at home. I’ve gathered several amusing quotes from the kids recently which note ways in which Greg was particularly missed in the situation at hand. Some things are simply a job for Dada.


Out of nowhere in the car, Rowan formulated a manufacturing business plan that I know Greg- proud Papa and engineer- would have loved to ask him more about: 

R (holding the new T-rex model he saved up for): Do we have model stuff at home? 

Me: To make dinosaur models?

R: Yes. 

Me: No, we don’t.  It takes big machines to make dinosaurs.  

R: It’s ok, we’ll just buy a big machine.

Me: Well it takes a lot of money, so what if we just buy a model that someone else made with their machine?  

R: No, models cost $25. I need my own dinosaur pressing machine. Is dinosaur rubber expensive?

Me: Yes. 

R: I want to buy expensive things but not use much money.

(Welcome to Capitalism 101, bud!)


At bedtime Rowan was scared by loud thunder.

Me: Do you know what thunder is?

R: Electricity.  

Me: Yes, well lightning is electricity and thunder is the sound. 

R: And can electricity go in water if lightning hits it?

Me: Yes, it can zap you if you’re in water.

R: Why?

Me: That’s just how electricity works. Would you like Daddy to teach you more about it?  

R: I want you to teach me more about it.

Me: Well, I didn’t learn very much about electricity in school, but Daddy studied it a lot.

R: Did Daddy have more school than you?

(I briefly discussed how Greg and I have the same amount of schooling- a lot- but Greg needed to learn about electricity to be an engineer and I didn’t need to in order to counsel people.  And I made yet another mental note to learn some basic physics.)


Also on the topic of science, this came up in the car randomly:

Rowan: Why did the forest catch on fire in Walking With Dinosaurs?

Me: Lightning hit it, and lightning has energy in it that made the fire.

R: Is it the same energy that’s in our muscles?

Me: Kind of. The energy in lightning is electricity, and the energy in our muscles is from glucose, sugar. [I’m questioning my answers as I say them at this point]

R: And why does fire eat everything?

Me: That’s just how it works…let’s ask Daddy….


I am expecting our third kiddo in September, and Rowan insists that he is growing babies, too. His 10 dinosaur babies will be born in September as well. While I was driving home from the hospital recently, Rowan surveyed the back seat of the Prius and asked,

“Where will all of the car seats go?”

Me: Your baby brother’s seat will go right between you and June.  Does that sound ok?

R: What about my 10 dinosaur babies?

Me: Hm, there’s no more space in that seat. What should we do?  Are their car seats small?

R: Yes. Me and Daddy will have to build 10 more car seats. They can go in the back where the dogs sit.


At the hospital, volunteers brought the toy cart to our room, and June got a Rubik’s cube.  I put it slightly off center and handed it to her.  

She looked up from it and signed “Dada.”

(It’s true, Greg is the Rubik’s cube expert in our house.)


I was just napping with June in the hospital bed and she woke up before me. She signed all about wanting to listen to the voicemail Daddy had left for her.  So I played it about 5 times, but I was so tired I fell asleep between each 45 second playing, and June had to wake me up again each time.  Finally losing patience, June signed “want” “you” “me” “stand up.”  She proceeded to stand up, emphatically signed “you,” and towered over me in the bed indignantly with all of her 2.5-foot-tall height until I sat up.


And other gems from this month:

While waiting for surgery, June wanted to put on some of her real clothes over the hospital gown. June seems to have inherited a fashion gene that skipped a generation in Greg and me. After helping her dress, I asked June excitedly- 

“Are you wearing a beautiful shirt?”

She replied quite seriously in sign language: “And shoes.”

Later she kept pointing to her pile of clothes signing “hat” even though there weren’t any hats there.  Clearly she felt her ensemble was not complete.



June loves shoes. She insisted on wearing some into surgery, excitedly signing to the surgical team all about her shoes during the transfer down to the OR.  The team kindly waited until she was under anasthesia to take them off.  


Several staff have joked with June, asking if they can have her shoes.  She answers matter-of-factly in sign, “You have your shoes.”


While he was waiting to visit June in the hospital, a kind stranger asked Rowan about his prized T-rex that he bought at the dinosaur museum recently. After roaring and playing pretend with Rowan, the stranger remarked,

“What a neat dinosaur you have!!”

Rowan stopped in his tracks and replied, “This is a *model* of a dinosaur.”


Driving home from the hospital one day, Rowan asked:

“Are we going in the direction of home?”

Me: Yes, we live northwest of here, so right now we are driving ‘north.’

R: And is this the road the snow comes down?

Me: Um, no, we don’t get much snow here.  Why were you thinking there might be snow though?

R: Because there’s snow at the North Pole. 

Me: Oh, well we’re only going a little bit north.  Not to the North Pole.


When you get a good overnight team at the hospital…

We’ve spent a lot of time inpatient at our children’s hospital and have stayed on six different inpatient units so far (Cardiovascular ICU, Pediatric ICU, Neonatal ICU, Progressive Care Unit, Pulmonology floor, and Cardiac floor). All of our stays have been a net positive experience, although my husband and I have both been known to butt heads with the care team occasionally when advocating for the treatment we believe is best for our daughter.  Our current stay in the PICU and PCU has been the best so far though, in terms of staff.  I’ve been impressed with the approach the doctors, fellows, and residents have toward each other and toward me, even when the people composing these teams changes.  (Attending doctors typically rotate in for two weeks at a time, fellows and residents duration on the unit seems to vary.) Somewhere up the chain, a healthy culture is being actively fostered which is leading to this consistently respectful and thorough approach across the changing teams. Or, I’ve just had a run of good luck.

I’ve been impressed with the knowledge and attention to detail in the nursing staff as well, particularly in the PICU.  But the best and most surprising part has been the quality of the night nurses.  Most parents of medically complex kids can tell you that night shift is….interesting.  Night shifts attracts several less than ideal  candidates for caring for your children.

While night shift occasionally appeals to a completely normal, skilled, experienced nurse, it also greatly appeals to:

* Nurses who are unethically working 16 or 24 hour shifts by working as a day nurse at another hospital before caring for your child, unbeknownst to their employers

*Inexperienced nurses who are paying their dues in the employment hierarchy

*Nurses with less-than-stellar professional reputations who an employer will hire to fill an unpopular time slot

*Nurses who lack the concentration, decisiveness, initiative, memory, physical ability, etc to keep up with the pace and demands of day shift

*Nurses who simply want a less demanding shift.  As one of our home health care night nurses told us once, “I just don’t like to work hard.” Hm.

These people (plus some good ones) are drawn to the night shift because most patients and family are sleeping and not asking for anything, there are not many doctors or superiors around, and the general attitude around the unit is often relaxed and lax as there aren’t many changes or surprises in their patients.

Unfortunately, these are the very same reasons that I want an *excellent* nurse taking care of my child at night…my kid and I are sleeping, we can’t ask for help!  There aren’t doctors around, the nurses have to act quickly and correctly if something happens!  And surprises are rare on night shift, so it may take the staff precious time to even realize when something is wrong in this deceptively usually-serene atmosphere!

Most of the time during this entire stay, I’ve had such excellent night nurses, I’ve been really curious why they are working nights. Thankful.  But very curious.  I’ve even spent several nights *away from the unit* catching up on sleep in a Ronald McDonald House room, which I am also very thankful for.  Tonight we seem to have a great nurse who agreed not to bother us much (psst….the secret code at night is to ask for “clustered care”) and we just got upgraded to a gigantic “hospi-condo” type room which has a couch bed for me. My swollen feet, aching back, and bowling-ball preggo belly are very happy.

My experience during much of this stay can be summarized as:

Mama from the Unit


Like all mothers of special needs/medically complex children, I’m used to being called Mom by my daughter’s dozens of care providers.  As in:

“Hi, are you Mom? I’m Dr. Vargas.”

“Ok, Mom, I’ll have you help hold June for this part.”

And, “Mom, does this plan of care sound good to you?  You have any questions?”

It doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, it’s amusing to be called ‘Mom’ by people who are five years younger than me and 25 years my senior alike.  

But now that my pregnant belly has come to dominate my form in my third trimester, I’m consistently being called ‘Mama’ by strangers, cashiers and passers by, even without children in tow.  As in:

“Hey, Mama, how you doin today!”

“That’ll be $9.57, Mama.”

And, “Looks like you got your hands full, Mama, let me get that door for you.”

This also doesn’t bother me in the least.  It’s actually even more amusing.  It’s as though my matronly air has grown so strong that humanity universally decided on a nickname for me.  Or like Spider-Man and his suit, my alter ego is trying to establish itself as my permanent default identity.  I think the game I like best is pretending that my “street cred” around here has reached critical mass, and in this ‘hood, I’m known simply as Mama from the Unit.  

Maternity Sewing: Adding a Pregnancy Panel Two Ways

Next up in the maternity sewing series is two ways to add a full pregnancy panel to a below-the-belly pair of maternity pants. The first way is for drawstring or elastic-waist pants, and the second is for less flexible waistbands.

Pregnant women are pretty sharply divided between those who prefer the below-the-belly waist bands and those who prefer a pregnancy panel.  I am 100% in favor of the panel because it provides better coverage- I won’t accidentally flash my belly if my shirt shifts, hangs, or flutters- and because it distributes the elastic pressure used to hold the pants over my entire belly instead of only on my lower intestines.  Apparently, I’m really prone to the myriad of reasons for GI upset during pregnancy, and I also have bouts of sciatica and round ligament pain which affect my midsection.  It is not an exaggeration to say that when I put on a pair of intestine-squeezing, below-the-belly pants, it initiates a countdown to debilitating abdominal pain.  So, when I find a pant style that is only available in below-the-belly, I use one of these techniques to convert it to a mercifully more comfortable full-panel version.



Converting drawstring or elastic-waist pants to a full panel

I forgot to take a before photo, but this method preserves the existing waist band, so you can see it in the photos below.  I had two pairs of these Old Navy maternity capris with an elastic waist band as well as a draw string.  This is a simple conversion that requires only a few cuts and a straight line of sewing.

1. Locate where the elastic is sewn down within the waist band casing.  You’ll probably see a vertical line of stitching somewhere on the casing marking this spot, and it’s likely at the back of the pants near the tag.  Cut through the inside wall of the casing at this point.

Cut casing

2. Cut the elastic to the left or to the right of the vertical stitching. Don’t cut on both the left and right because the elastic will retract into the casing where it’s cut.  Also take care not to cut the drawstrings if you have them.

3. Starting on the side you did not cut, begin to pull the elastic through the opening in the casing to remove it.  If the elastic won’t pull through, it is likely sewn down at another spot, so cut through the casing at that spot to either remove the stitching or cut the elastic free on either side of it, if you don’t mind leaving a little elastic remnant inside.  Once the elastic band is out of the casing, cut it free on the other side of the vertical stitching and discard, again without cutting the drawstrings.  You’re left with a little patch of elastic attached to the drawstrings.

Elastic remnant in waistband

4. Dealing with the drawstrings: if you don’t want the drawstrings, remove the elastic patch and the attached drawstrings at this point.  If you want to retain them, refashion the draw strings such that they are pulling on either side of the elastic so you have more give in the band.  I had actually already completed this step when I took the photo above.  I cut the drawstring free on either side of the vertical stitching and reattached each side of the drawstring to the corresponding half of the elastic.  This way there is a tiny amount of give when the drawstrings are in use.

5. Prepare your elastic panel.  You can use a pre-made maternity panel, upcycle fabric from an old garment, or use any kind of stretchy fabric you want.  Like my last project, I used the hemmed bottom of an old cami that no longer fit right but was still stretchy.

Cut camis


6. Pin the panel.  Because you’re preserving the existing waist band and it’s not meant to be seen anyway, there’s no need to make a traditional right-side-to-right-side seam which would hide your line of stitching BUT add uncomfortable bulk inside the band.  Instead, with both the pants and the panel right side out, arrange the bottom edge of the panel inside the waist band of the pants- exactly how the finished pants will look- and pin inside the waist band, taking care to keep the drawstrings low in the casing below the pins.

Add elastic panel

6. Sew the panel to the pants. After pinning, fold the elastic panel down around the outside of the pants to reveal your pins inside the waist band.  Using matching thread*, sew a straight line around the entire waist band where the panel and waist band overlap, being careful not to catch the rest of the elastic panel, the opposite side of the pants fabric, or the drawstrings inside or outside of the casing.  Remember, you aren’t sewing a typical right-side-to-right-side seam- the raw edge of the panel will be visible below the line of stitching inside the waistband…but only to the wearer!

*TIP: You may want to use elastic thread if your waist band fits snugly, and if you can manage it.  I haven’t gotten elastic thread to work on my machine, and I’d rather risk a break in the thread (which usually doesn’t affect the integrity of the garment and/or is an easy fix) than try to hand sew the elastic thread.

Sew panel to pants


You are ALL done!! Put on your new comfy pants and relax.

Elastic Full Panel

Converting side-panel, semi-fixed, or fixed-waist pants to a full maternity panel

I defer to those who have come before me on this topic.  I successfully converted this pair of side-panel maternity jeans to a full-panel using this helpful tutorial from bloggers Shwin and Shwin.  This tutorial can actually be used to add a pregnancy panel to non-maternity pants as well as existing maternity pairs.

Here is how mine turned out.  After the alteration, they became my favorite maternity jeans for all three of my pregnancies.

Maternity Pants