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“Oh Lord, in Heedy O’liney!”
- translation: Oh Lord in Heaven Almighty.
— Ryan, 4

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Well Child Care and My Sanity

by Lela Demeter

As of late, I have been having issues with well child care and my insurance company.  Without getting into too much detail, my carrier believes in a yearly cap on well child care, which I have surpassed.

Well child care is defined as “health care services provided to a healthy child or newborn” (Google Define).  Now, I am extremely fortunate to have a very healthy child.  Well child care visits are the routine visits that an infant or child makes to insure proper health (and to get vaccines).  As any parent knows, the first year of a child’s life is essentially trips to the doctor’s office, as either well child or no.  Now, some insurance carriers can choose to forgo well child care completely, cap it, or cover it. If you are part of the fortunate group of the latter, bless you.

This brings me to my point.  Why is well child care not covered or partially covered by insurance carriers? 

First, vaccines are a necessity of modern life.  Many died in order for science to create vaccines which save lives.  If people in times past had the option of a shot with possible side effects versus a hard death at the hands of smallpox or mumps, many would take the vaccines.  As many countries currently do not have access to vaccines, this is a blessing that we can count on.  Even if you are on the side of no vaccines, at least you have a choice. Many don’t.

Secondly, in reality, what costs an insurance company more?  Paying for the shot or paying for the illness?  Realistically, the insurance company will also have to pay for the therapy I will need if something catastrophic happens to my kid. 

Thirdly, the insurance companies choose to pay for Viagra and JUST RECENTLY had to start paying for birth control.  It seems as though insurers want to play Russian Roulette with health conditions.  “We won’t pay for the pill and we will pay a percentage of an unplanned pregnancy.”  Ironic, maybe. Illogical, definitely.

With the current state of health care in America today, and the additional fears of epidemics, parents must be vigilant and become the best advocate for their child’s health care as they can. It is simply not safe to assume that anyone will be as involved as a parent is.

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Baby's Facebook Baby Book

Late Night Chatting
Image by slolee via Flickr

by Lela Demeter

Tonight my son sleeps for the first time in his big boy bed.  Obviously pictures were taken, grandma was called, and parents looked at each other in dismay as this evening shuffled in a brave new world in bedtime parenting.  And finally, as my son slept, I updated my status in Facebook -

“My toddler is officially without borders. The crib is now a toddler bed. I will be making the sweep of his room in an hour to see where he finally curled up to go to sleep. Hopefully it will be in his bed.”

I used to be the person who hoped that when I had children I would sagely inscribe every moment, every milestone in a beautiful album that my son would lovingly reflect on when he is in his elder years, after his father and I are gone.  I thought I would be the mom like my mom is – who saved seemingly every shred of paper, every picture and most of the trophies from my childhood, even after a house fire gutted the family home (everything save my ACT scores and the diary I kept when I met my husband).  My mom has saved my wedding invitations and my son’s baby announcements.  I assumed, just like with most parenting things, I would be just like my mom.

But, my mom also didn’t get to have a personal trainer standing ready at all hours in her living room (my Nintendo Wii and EA Sports) and she didn’t have an iPod to play symphonic rock songs to her infant either. And she definitely didn’t have Facebook.

Now Facebook has come under fire from the public, mostly in regards to privacy.  But, as a mom I have found it invaluable.  I joined when my son was six months old.  And while I suffered from a short addition to Farmville and Mafia Wars, I found solace in the company that social networking brings.  The irony of feeling like part of a community while sitting alone at a computer is apparent.

The reality of my Facebook experience is that whenever my darling boy ever had an issue, whether it be teething or sneezing or any other interesting malady I felt too ashamed to call my pediatrician with (I didn’t want to be THAT mom) I would post it on Facebook.  Nothing too TMI, but just something like, “Where do I go for cheap family pictures?” or “What can I give him for a stuffy nose?” and within seconds my knowledge base, comprised of high school friends, work friends, and extended family would chime in with support and good advice.

Sharing my son’s life is also easier with Facebook.  To date I have 20 albums and three videos posted.  I try to keep the albums short and try not to put anything way too weird or personal in them, and I do exclude people who are friends but may not be interested in my little darling’s attempt to turn off the kitchen lights.  But, to be able to share photos and videos with everyone all at once makes my son’s life something I can share with more people than just a few Polaroids at Christmas can do.

I try to keep up with his baby book. I really do.  But maybe one day, my son will post a video of me with my grandkids and my far flung friends can be a part of their lives too.

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A love letter to my husband

love note
Image by p-duke via Flickr

by Lela Demeter

Dear Husband,

When we first got pregnant, I never realized that having your baby would be like setting off a nuclear explosion in our marriage.  First, we were two.  And it was awesome.  You were my best friend and everything else in between.  We liked the same music and movies and you always could get me to laugh.  We got along so well, we figured ‘why be with anybody else?’  So we got married.  We both wanted children so we figured, ‘hey we could do this.’  So then when we became three that is when life really got started.  Us became a team.

Having our son made me Superwoman.  But you are the wind underneath my cape.  Here’s why:

1) Now, I work outside the home and its because of you that I can go to work – you are taking care of getting baby to daycare.

2) Maybe you don’t see it, but when you play with the baby for five minutes so I can go to the bathroom or wash the dishes, that is priceless.

3) When I was on maternity leave, I took the midnight feedings, but when you get up in the middle of the night because I am going to work, that makes me feel like a million bucks.

4) Our son looks like you.  He smiles like you.  I love looking at the blueprint for what kind of man my boy will become.

5) You witnessed the miracle of childbirth from an angle I didn’t see.  And you still hook up with me!!

6) You are the only other person on the earth who probably has the same amount of love for our baby as I do.  And you think that when I talk about him, its really interesting.

7) You don’t care that I am wearing two day old sweats, haven’t combed my hair or even brushed my teeth on the weekend, because you haven’t either.

8) I could put the carseats in the car, but thank you for doing a good job of it.

9) I am glad we worked out our parenting strategy early.  You are the bad cop and I will be the worse cop.

10) You are the kind of dad that I am proud to brag about to my friends.

I love you.  Let’s do this kid thing again sometime.

Wife

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A Working Mother’s “Stay-at-Home” Experiment

A 'New Found' Respect For Mothers
Image by ronmarshall074 via Flickr


by Lela Demeter
I am a working mom – 10 months out of the year.  Yes, I am an educator and I do look forward to June, July and August.  This summer vacation was especially poignant, because it would be the first summer I spent with my son, and the longest duration of time we had together since his birth and my subsequent maternity leave.
The anticipation for summer built from the moment I went back to work.  Admittedly, I had been looking forward to going back – there were a lot of things I needed to do at work and I missed the pace of the workday.  As a new mother, my day had a structure all its own, a seemingly endless cycle of waking, sleeping, feeding, and changing diapers.  After I had recovered from my son’s birth (an experience we were very fortunate to come through with flying colors), I missed talking to someone who could answer, and I would anxiously await my husband’s arrival home.  I did a majority of the night feedings – my logic was that he worked all day – and I would be at home to sleep.  I want to make it clear that I did not and do not resent either of my boys (married or birthed), but I was just ready to go back.  I love my son more than life, but I just felt like I was missing out.
When I did go back in January, my son was in the midst of a two week (thankfully) bout of colic.  However, one can only imagine how I felt that week.  However, with lots of coffee and an iron will, I was able to complete a graduate degree and work AND take care of my family in the six months until summer break.
So, when my job responsibilities came to a close with the end of the school year, I was ready to be a full time mom for a little while.  However, it wasn’t the idyllic time that I thought it would be.


My son, now eight months old, was a different person from the helpless infant of my maternity leave.  A blissfully mellow baby, he has become his own little person, complete with opinions and demands.  Immediately, I was back on the baby schedule of waking and sleeping, feedings and changing diapers. But, this time was different as the “happy blob” stage of infancy was OVER.  Now, my day was spent tackling a moving land shark of a child.  A child, may I add, that weighed over twice what he did during my maternity leave.
I began to become quietly desperate.  Forget sleeping in and enjoying a leisurely morning – I was on as soon as he was, and I wasn’t leaving for a job.  I started to hide out in my bedroom when my husband got home. Twelve straight hours of an infant began to wear on me – I wasn’t as patient with my son as I was when I worked.  I didn’t treasure the time with my boy, as I felt constricted.  I literally never had a moment without him.  I couldn’t focus on anything but him.  My house wasn’t any cleaner and I spent more money as I would go shopping just to escape the same four walls.
But, the benefits to me being around all day were obvious.   I was the first person to see my son crawl and the emergence of his first baby teeth.  Instead of reaching for his grandfather (his daily caregiver), he reached for me.  He began to recognize his name when I said it to him.  I love this kid more than anything and these small things were the balm of my desperate heart.
Now, as summer begins to swing into twilight, I am looking forward to going back to work.  Why?  Believe me, I am not in a rush to feel the mommy guilt of leaving my baby for eight hours a day.  I will miss playing with him.  I will miss being the alpha and omega of his daily existance.  But, for me at least, the eight hours a day I work at a job are my vacation from parenting.  When I hit the door of my car to go home, I am in mommy mode.  I get the twenty minutes from work to home to decompress and switch gears.  When I get home, I am all for my son, with a focus.  This is probably the second reason I work (the first being money), I feel like I personally am a better parent because I work, because I get to be away and come home and be completely focused.  As hard as it is to be a working mom, it is incredibly hard to be a SAHM.  Some people may disagree with me, but this experiment made me feel that working is the right choice for me.
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The Curse of the Sanctimommy

Mommy Sandwich - Week 2 my kids & me
Image by ~PhotograTree~ via Flickr

by- Lela Demeter

Most of the time, I think I am the world’s worst mother.  A good friend of mine told me that “jackets are the things God invented when mothers are cold.”  Yeah, well sometimes my kid doesn’t have a jacket and probably should.  Oh yeah, when my kid is whining, I am the mother that says, “Don’t sweat it, it will be okay.”  Yeah, baby talk doesn’t happen in my house and I have been known to watch the Bachelor in front of my kid and read excerpts from Wiseguy (the book that inspired the movie Goodfellas) aloud to my baby (hey, its reading and I only read the part about how to hijack airplanes).  In all seriousness, I know that I am not the perfect mom, but I put a lot of effort into trying to be as good as I can be.

Which is why it surprised me that I had a major sanctimommy moment.  If you have looked at any mommy blog, you will know that the sanctimommy is the mother who looks at another mom and either thinks or says something critical.  Like if you see a mom like me at the mall, and she is cursing the stroller because it has the audacity to adhere to the laws of physics and flip over because you have taken the equal weight of one side- your child and left weight on the other side- the diaper bag (this goes without saying that the diaper bag and child are approximately the same weight and considering my child is 20 pounds, this is a sad commentary on my packing issues), the sanctimommy makes a comment or thinks, “Man, what a disorganized mom, I feel sorry for that kid.”

I used to think that I was so scattered that I would never have a sanctimommy moment – but I did.  Picture this, my husband and I are doing one of the many truck shows that he takes (ahem, drags) me to.  Of course we have our baby, our junior mint, with us, because we have to start our boy young. Anyway, I look over and this girl (at least 10 years younger than me) is holding a tiny baby.  He is five months old and my husband and I are staring in disbelief because there is no way that our sprout was this little at five months.  Now, its about 55 degrees outside and while balmy for Chicago, I have our boy bundled up in jeans, a shirt, thick socks, a thick fleece sweatshirt, in the stroller, under a blanket and with protective ear wear.  This other little baby – t-shirt, blanket, no socks and no hat.

Now, I immediately go into Sanctimommy mode – this poor child must be saved.  And all of these thoughts go running though my head – low birth weight – obviously this girl wasn’t taking care of herself.  No clothes- and I notice the baby has blue hands.  And all of these thoughts fly through my brain and then I begin to look around.  It seems like my kid is the only one bundled up like we are going to compete in the Iditarod.  Further, everyone else is having fun and I am the one scowling at my husband that we are out past the baby’s bedtime even though the baby is peacefully sleeping 100 feet from the trucks (that I, of course, thought we were sitting too close to – what if one drove into us?).  Then I look at the girl and the baby.  She is holding him up and smiling at him – when she is not wrapping the baby tight in the blanket close to her.  And then she spent five minutes chatting with some friends and she left.  Total cold exposure for baby = about 10 minutes.

Stylish diaper bag
Image by eugene via Flickr

Such is the curse of the sanctimommy.  Sometimes we are just so worried about doing right by our own children and are so hypersensitive about how our own parenting is perceived by others that we sometimes can feel better or sanctimonious just because we need to feel as though we are doing a good enough job. In the working world, we perceive our job performance by praise or raises.  In the parenting world, we don’t get that feedback at all – everything we do is guesswork on a good day.  By the time we can see the fruits of our labor, i.e. well adjusted kids, we have enough life experience to realize that sometimes the best you’ve got is all that matters. Now, the next time I go out, instead of looking to see if I am the best mommy there, I will go back to what I like to do – eyeing up the other baby gear that the moms have and coveting it.

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All I Needed to Know about Life I learned in the first six months of Parenthood

six-month-old boy asleep in greataunt's arms
Image by Martin LaBar via Flickr
by Lela Demeter
As my child gets closer to the huge first birthday, I thought I would jot down some random thoughts that I have learned in the long, strange trip that is parenthood.
  1. Your kid does have a distinctive scream.
  2. Your own parents are crazy because they raised kids and you will be that crazy one day too.
  3. Old ladies don’t stoop because of old age, they stoop because they have spent years reaching down to small children and lifting them up.
  4. The best strength training is your child.  Just look at the gun I have in one arm.
  5. Your childhood begins and ends the moment you become a parent.
  6. You can cry and laugh when your child is laughing because it is the most beautiful thing in the world.
  7. You can fall in love with a tiny person who has no bowel control, can’t feed themself or speak a disconcernable language.
  8. Babies learn to smile at their mothers early so they get taken care of.  Its very similar to the smile a spouse has when they do something wrong.
  9. Babies are like the very elderly.  Both are helpless but are valuable and need love nonetheless.
  10. Being a parent makes you a better human being.
  11. You will sound like your mother. Deal with it.
  12. Being a parent is like being mentally ill.
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Lela Demeter is an educator, technologist and mother of one.

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Who are they kidding – that is no purse!

by Lela Demeter

I am addicted to bags.  I need to join a support group for my bag addiction.  Before I had my baby, I loved my bags.  Seriously.  Who wouldn’t?  If you gain weight, your purse still fits.  Many purses still look nice, season after season.  Spend a little bit of cash and your purse is an investment piece that doesn’t need to be dry-cleaned, in most cases, can be repaired and will, with care, last until your fickle heart finds another.

One of the biggest things I looked forward to when I got pregnant was that I finally had a reason to buy my coveted Coach baby bag.  When my DH purchased it, I thought all of my baby bag needs were met.  The morning I left for the hospital, I lovingly packed my Coach bag and went to have my little darling (with the bag safely stored in a closet at least 20 feet from where I gave birth).

Ha ha.

The first time I took my fall baby out (November in Chicago), I, like many new mothers, completely overpacked.  Diapers, wipes, vasoline, pacifiers, extra outfit, a thousand bibs PLUS my wallet and cell phone.  Do you know that some moms have the wherewithall to put a first aid kit in their bag (now that is good planning, or what)?  Forget the zipper.  That Coach baby bag was STUFFED and things were FALLING out of it.  Did I also mention that the idea of putting something that my little darling puked or pooped on INSIDE my Coach bag was completely repellant to me?  So I decided I was only going to use the Coach bag for “special” occasions. Until I brought it to a bridal shower (at a country club on Chicago’s Northside) and it flipped over and everyone at the shower saw my son’s and my (it was that time of the month) diapers.  GOOD TIMES.

So then I went in search of a utilitarian diaper bag.  Obviously a gigantic trash bag was out of the question.

Now, Google search “diaper bag” and the options are limitless.  Google “stylish diaper bag” and that is also a cornucopia of options.  However, the idea of a STYLISH diaper bag is about as unreal an expectation as pregnancy not completely decimating your body.

First off, cost.  Anything stylish usually costs money.  Anything stylish usually requires care.  And money and time to care about something other than the breathing, crying and complaining people you live with – is something that most moms do not have a lot of.  Just count how many “dry clean only” items you have in your closet (you know, the outfits that are sitting next to the purses you haven’t used in a while and the shoes that fit before you got pregnant and had the child).  Now count how many times you have worn them since having a child.  Now count how many times you have worn said outfit with said child. Same goes with the “dry clean only” diaper bag.

Any diaper bag that I carry must pass the PP (puke and poop), a.k.a the SS (spit and sh*t) test.  I must feel comfortable sticking things that either have been or will be puked or pooped on in said bag.  I am not sticking something that belongs in a PortaPotty in a bag that I have spent more than 50 cents on. Plus, if you plan on taking your child anywhere but the mall, plan on that bag being treated worse than your favorite pair of tennis shoes (i.e. dragged on a stroller, thrown into a car, falling off a car seat, being ransacked by DH, etc).

Very few new moms consider what should go in a diaper bag.  As mothers, we are usually prepared for any occasion or disaster.  Most times that means schlepping half the house with you.  Any “stylish” diaper bag is usually TOO SMALL to be packed in preparation for World War III. But, here is a short list of my essentials that should go in the diaper bag:

1) Diapers, wipes and diaper cream.  All of this can fit very nicely in a Ju-Ju-Be Be Quick.  The Be Quicks are affordable and very handy.

2) Your stuff – i.e. wallet, cell phone, day planner, makeup bag.  Prior to my DS, I was an overpacker. Ha ha. No more.  I am also putting these essentials in another Be Quick.

3) SEASONAL clothing.  Because I love mafia movies and Chicago style pizza, I will probably never leave the Chicagoland area.  Due to this, I pack clothing for my son like we will be traveling through at least three climates.  I usually bring a washable bag so I can stick the PP clothes in the bag so I can wash it.  New moms – nothing says love like machine washable.

4) Pacifier and pacifier holder.

5) Something to entertain the kid.

This is all you need to leave the house.  So, the criteria for a diaper bag should be: reasonably priced, requires little care, and maybe machine washable.


The first bags I looked at (after I decided that the Coach bag was my new work bag where it would be far, far away from my little pooper) were the Petunia Pickle Bottom bags.  Very cute.  Until I asked my DH how to clean brocade.  After he mumbled something about our checking account, I thought I would ask an expert.  When I found out that brocade can stain, I moved on.

The closest I have come to meeting the aforementioned criteria is the Ju-Ju-Be line of diaper bags. Every Ju-Ju-Be bag is treated like it will be shipped off for a hard tour of duty (which it will be).  Its coated in safe, stain-proof materials that require little care.  Sure, if you spill something, you can use the baby wipe – but the best part about these bags is that you can stick them in the washer and pull them out to air dry and your bag is as good as new.

These bags are reasonably priced.  In fact, one of the only complaints I have is that they are a little hard to find.  But most online retailers carry them.  But if you want to look before you buy, good luck finding one close to you.

These bags also come in all shapes and sizes.  Most of the prints do kinda scream “DIAPER BAG.”  But, they have debuted a new program where you can customize your own bag.  I personally own two Ju-Ju-Be bags – the Packabe and the BeTween.  The Packabe should really be called “the stuff as much sh*t in it as humanly possible without it exploding” and the BeTween should be called “the I am only planning to be out of my house for a half hour and I am hoping the kid does not poop like he ate a can of Beano.”

These bags meet my criteria for being durable and fairly (around 100 bucks) reasonably priced for a bag you will use over and over again.  As a mother, I am embracing my inner MacGyver and going for utilitarian and sacrificing a little bit of vanity.  Besides, I figure that I will never carry a small purse again – I gave that up when I got married and started carrying around my husband’s stuff.


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Yes, my house is this messy, or a defense of the working mother

by Lela Demeter

I am a working mom.  There I said it.  In the 21st century, after a historic presidential election, when we live in a time where we have more access to information than ever before, this is almost seen as a surprising phrase.  Why?

A 'New Found' Respect For Mothers
Image by ronmarshall074 via Flickr

Being a working mom does not mean that I don’t love my child or that I am so career focused that I couldn’t give it all up to stay at home with my little cherub.  It doesn’t mean that I care so little about my child that I would “dump” him on anybody who would take him.  It doesn’t mean that my husband and I are so enamored of our “country club” lifestyle that I work so we can afford vacations, new cars, and lots of toys (for ourselves).

What does working motherhood look like in 2009?  Well, my version of it is simple.   I CHOOSE to WORK.  There I said that too.  But, why?  First, and foremost, it is an economic necessity in my house.  My paycheck covers basic necessities like the family house and food.  I may not make millions but my contribution is necessary.  When my husband’s company discussed layoffs, the thought that helped us sleep at night was the idea of my income and insurance if the worst did happen.

Secondly, does this make me love my kid less?  Absolutely not.  In fact, it makes me appreciate him more – every minute I can spend with him is important.   Do I have “mommy-guilt?” Absolutely.  The only way that I feel comfortable with this whole situation is because my son is looked after by the THIRD most loving caregiver that exists – his own grandfather.  I will say without a doubt that my experience is the best possible situation out there for daycare.  My retired father is willing and able to take care of my son during working hours.  This creates a place for THEIR relationship to grow.  And growing up without grandparents definitely made this a priority for me to foster.

Finally, would I work if I didn’t have to?  Actually, yes.   Why?  Sure, its stressful.  I basically have two careers.  My house is a disaster and its lucky that I am wearing matching socks in the morning.  So why would I do it if I didn’t have to?

Working makes me a better parent.    A SAHM asked me if I had joined any Mommy and me groups, and I was able to tell her no – because I was fortunate enough to have peers at work who were like me – working moms.

I am the first female role model to my son and its important for me to show him that girls can do anything – that Daddy isn’t the only one that works and that Mommy isn’t the only one who works around the house.  Working allows me to feel no dependence on anybody – yet its because of the help of others (namely my parents and my husband) that I can swing working and parenting.  The best perk about working?  Sitting down to a half-hour lunch.

It also gives me a sense of self-worth and belonging.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t feel valued as a parent – this is still a major piece of my life. The problem that I faced as a new mom was something I had never felt before.  Prior to the birth of my son, I juggled work, marriage, graduate school and my hobbies. After my son (during my maternity leave), all of that came to a screeching halt as I cared for my baby.  After the shock of birth wore off, I began to feel terribly isolated, waiting by the door for my husband to get home – not to get relief from my infant, but to just talk to another adult.  I had absolutely no experience with infants and here I was, every waking minute connected to an infant.  Getting out of the house for seven hours gives me the opportunity to get a break from the constant demands of my child and allows me to come back to him with renewed purpose.  I looked forward to going back to work because it forced me to make time management a priority.  But it also made me realize that every second I have with my son is a gift and that I needed to make sure that the QUALITY of time was more important than the QUANTITY.

I envy SAHMs.  I do.  I would love to be financially stable enough to stay at home – many SAHMs are sacrificial lambs in the “mommy track.”  Sometimes I do feel like it is pretty selfish of me to work while someone else is “raising” my child.

I also never get a day off – it is hard for me to ask my parents to baby-sit when my dad puts in 40 hours a week in daycare – not to mention that I will be missing out time with my son.  But I also remember what tremendous sacrifice my parents made so my mom could stay home and its the look on my dad’s exhausted face after working 18 hours to support us that sometimes gets me in the car in the morning and off to work.  Some mornings I get up and think I am crazy for doing this.  But I do it for my family because I am the mom and this is my job.

Lela Who?

Lela Demeter is an educator, technologist and mother of one.

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