My Birthday Reminder System

 

I’m going to be doing a whole series of posts on organization, because, well…. I love being organized. If things aren’t orderly I can’t think clearly.

A few years ago Jake and I found ourself missing our friend’s and family’s birthdays. We wouldn’t remember until the day of, which is just too late if you have to send something by mail. Not to mention it just feels chaotic– and I like order.

I am a believer in setting up systems and automating things so that I don’t have to try and remember myself. Because, as far as birthdays go, that had already proven to not be working for me. I started to think about what I needed to make this work– and I realized that being reminded on the day of the birthday would not be enough because on a busy day getting out to buy a card is usually not possible and then having it arrive that same day in the mail is completely impossible. So, I decided I wanted to be reminded of the birthday one week in advance to give me time to drop the card in the mail and then I wanted a second reminder on the actual birthday so that I could contact the birthday person personally. And after thinking about it even more, I decided one week was not enough to actually go out and buy a card and drop it in the mail (hello LA traffic!), so I decided I needed to buy all of my birthday cards at the beginning of the year.

So, this is how my system works:

1. I started by gathering all of the important birthdays of friends and family (specifically the ones I want to contact, send cards or send gifts). I have now included important anniversary dates of family members and even a few holidays (such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day).

2. I entered all the birthdays into iCal with an email reminder to send me an email 1 week before the event and again on the day of the event.

3. For the actual birthday cards, I went to Target and bought an expandable file with 12 pockets. I labeled each pocket with the month of the year and at the beginning of the year I put everyone’s birthday card in their respective month. I actually like to pick up random cute birthday cards during the year when I see them and just put them in a separate box, so sometimes I am almost done with birthday card shopping when the first of the year rolls around (it also helps prevent me from buying one cute card en masse and giving it to everyone when there isn’t a great selection).

4. So now, when I get the birthday reminder email I’m all set to go! I just go to my expandable file and take out the card and drop it in the mail. Voila, birthday cards are arriving on time! Also, if I need to give a gift, I’ve got a good 7 days to get out of my house and get something (or 2 days if I do Amazon Prime).

With a little up front organization, this has made birthdays much less stressful throughout the year. And I don’t have to buy belated birthday cards anymore!

– Erica

ps. When I see something that I notice would be a good gift for someone I add it to a list I keep on my phone. That way, when their birthday or Christmas arrives I already have a several gift ideas. This definitely decreases the stress at holiday time and ensures I buy gifts that feel more personable.

 

A Frozen Family

I’m coming back to the blogging world! Things have finally settled down and over the next few posts I’ll update you on all of our exciting changes.

We’ll start with Halloween 2016.

We’ve developed a lot of routines in our family. It’s good for the littles (and for the grownups too). Every Friday night we make homemade pizza and watch a movie, nicely dubbed “Friday Pizza Movie Night”.  The littles have only seen a few movies (Frozen, Sofia the First, and Little Bear) and the repetition doesn’t seem to bother anyone. By far, Frozen is the most watched of the three and Mila’s favorite character is Anna. So, naturally, when we started discussing Halloween costumes, she wanted to be Anna. And then very quickly decided that I should be Elsa, Jake should be Kristoff and Teegan should be Olaf. And that’s how our Frozen Family was born.

Childs Frozen Family

I’ve always had this dream of making homemade Halloween costumes for the kiddos, but reality makes that a bit unrealistic. I found Olaf, Anna and Elsa but couldn’t find a decent Kristoff costume. And surprisingly there aren’t any patterns for Kristoff costumes so I was forced to bring back some of my clothing sewing skills.  I went to JoAnn Fabrics and bought some grey felt, fur trim and embroidery ribbon.  And voila!

SMTD_Kristoff

Jake bought a wig and beanie hat online to complete the costume. I think I’m allergic to either the felt or the fur so after completing the costume it’s now been banished to the garage.

We met up with our neighbors (more to come about the big move we had this year) and went trick-or-treating together. Mila literally could not have run any faster from house to house, it was adorable.

SMTD_SolVistaKids

When we got home the kids opened all their candy and luckily for us they didn’t like much (or really any) of it. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the “candy graveyard” where they discarded all the pieces they didn’t like.

(In case you’re wondering how we make our pizza on Friday Pizza Movie Night): A few years ago we started making homemade bread, and we consistently still always make our own homemade pizza dough using the recipe in this book. It’s SO easy and it is better than any other pizza dough we’ve had (including restaurants). The kids eat cheese pizza but I make a black bean olive pizza, so yummy. We use this dough whisk and this plastic tub.  Seriously, try it.

-Erica

Yes, I’ve been MIA

Mila moved into a toddler bed and Teegan is mobile!

I know I’ve been MIA from here…. and I miss it. And I also really miss sewing — it just hasn’t happened.  It’s hard to find balance when you are working full time.  When I’m finally home with my family I don’t want to take any time away from the littles. And since we only have two bedrooms, Teegan takes his afternoon nap in our bedroom, which also happens to be where my sewing stuff is.  And at night, after bedtime, well, let’s just say….. it’s usually my bedtime too.

It’s been about 9 months since I broke my leg and things are healing. It only bothers me once and awhile, and not enough to warrant much attention. I’m looking forward to figuring out how to add running back into my schedule (ha!).

I’m off all of the immunosuppressants for lupus and am only taking plaquenil (which I will take lifelong because it’s proven to protect the kidneys, I call it “Vitamin P”).  And I don’t have any active lupus symptoms at this time- no cystitis, pericarditis, oral ulcers….. YAY!

AND my blood sugars finally returned to normal, which is so awesome. I was (self-admittedly) overly worried about it which was making me stressed out.

Mila hasn’t been eating well and has been complaining about tummy aches, so we are working with the doctors to try and figure out what is going on. And Teegan is delayed in some milestones, but he was born three weeks early, so I’m trying to not get too stressed out yet. But, I wouldn’t mind a few prayers for the littles and for me to stay strong.

So, that’s whats been going on around here. Hopefully I won’t continue to be such a stranger.

xo, Erica

 

 

Six Months!

It’s hard to believe that Teegan is already six months old. Everything has gone so incredibly fast this time. He’s not a little baby anymore! Teegan has such an easy going personality. He just wants someone to look at him so he can smile back. He definitely is a second child and unfortuntely is frequently waiting for attention becuase Mila tends to hog the limelight…

He just started sitting up for a few seconds at a time!

He just started sitting up for a few seconds at a time!

He had a lot of projectile spit up when he was first born. In fact, the first few weeks he would almost stop breathing because his spit up would come out of his nose and he couldn’t breathe. It was pretty scary. The ENT doctor scoped him and he was diagnosed with acid reflux. We recently switched to omeprazole and he is so much better. He eyes don’t water and he doesn’t arch his back like he used to when he would get a bout of reflux. He’s also gobbling down his bottles voraciously and his growth has taken off.  This week we started some oatmeal cereal, which he devours. He’s not so sure about the pureed carrots or avocados yet…

I also can’t believe this is my 7th week back at work. I was really nervous for the transition this time, but it’s amazingly gone really well. I am working full time but am hopeful sometime in the next year I will go down to part time (2 full days, 3 half days). Being back has been really nice in unexpected ways. My patients are really happy to have me back and they are excited for my family. With everything that happend during and after my pregnancy, I also gained more experience and empathy about what it feels like to be a patient and have unknowns and fears about your health– which definitely makes me a better doctor.

So now we’re just enjoying life as a family of four. I have my “parejita” (little pair) as my patients like to say.

-Erica

 

 

 

Knit Breastfeeding Poncho Tutorial

NursingPoncho1

When Mila was born I made my own traditional nursing cover, and I was also given a nice one as a gift. However, in practice, these nursing covers posed many challenges- if Mila wiggled or if it was windy the cover would move and expose me. And let’s not forget that it didn’t cover my back, so if I was wearing a top that I had to lift, then I would expose my back to everyone. And have you seen what a cotton nursing cover looks like after it has been stuffed in a diaper bag for a few weeks/months? Just a little wrinkly….

Before Teegan was born, I  ran across several different variations of nursing ponchos made out of jersey knit on Etsy and I instantly fell in love.

Nursing with Mila was never easy because I didn’t make a lot of milk (because of lupus), but I managed to breastfeed her until she was 10 months old and I found out I was pregnant with Teegan. Unfortunately, when Teegan was born, my lupus was much more active and my body was in general a lot sicker, and I didn’t make any milk AT ALL. I pumped and pumped and cried and cried, but eventually realized that it wasn’t going to happen. Teegan wouldn’t even be here if I hadn’t taken so many medications to keep my lupus controlled, and so, it wasn’t that surprising that my body was tired and just couldn’t do anymore. And then when I broke my leg I realized it might have been a blessing in surprise because my body needed the calcium to heal.

I’ve been able to gift some of my breastfeeding ponchos to friends who recently had babies. And you never know, maybe I’ll get to use one if we have a #3 someday.

Look at that precious baby!

Look at that precious baby!

So, here’s how I made my new nursing poncho:

Most jersey/knit fabric is 57-62 inches wide (as compared to your standard quilting fabric that is 44 inches wide), which makes it about 30 inches wide when folded selvedge to selvedge.  I recommend getting a lighter weight jersey, especially if you live in a warm climate, because your baby may be under this material for a considerable amount of time while nursing and we don’t want him to overheat.

1. Buy 1 yard of your favorite jersey/knit material.

2. Lay out your yard of jersey material on the floor folded right sides together, with selvedge edge to selvedge edge. The cut sides should be about 30 inches and the folded side should be 36 inches.

3. For an average/tall size woman, cut your jersey at 31 inches (if you are petite I would recommend cutting it around 29 inches, but remember you can always go shorter- you can’t go longer).

NursingCover14. On the right side mark 15 inches up from the folded edge and place a pin. Continue to pin the material together from this mark out to the selvedges.

NursingCover25. Sew a 1/2 inch seam where you have placed your pins (from the selvedge edge to your 15 inch mark). Turn the poncho right side out and you have a nursing cover that stays put!

YES, there is only one seam to sew to make this poncho! And because of the nature of jersey you don’t have to finish the other seams. This might be one of the easiest things you ever make.

HAPPY NURSING!

– Erica

 

Too Fast

I was recently reminded of how long it had been since I blogged, so this is a little update of what’s been going on!

Time is going way too fast. I can’t believe my maternity leave is coming to an end. Teegan just turned four months and he has dramatically changed in the past few weeks. He’s grabbing at everything, kicking up a storm in his baths, and even belly laughing! This is the time when things really start to get fun. Don’t get me wrong- he was a cute newborn- but it’s so exciting to start to see his personality and see his different moods!

Teegan

Unfortunately he hasn’t really mastered the sleeping through the night thing but I’m hoping he will magically figure it out since I’m going back to work, right??

My sister, niece and my mom recently came out for spring break. It has been spring all winter long here in LA, but it was a big change for them. We had lots of adventures including the LA Zoo (one of my favorite places), Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, the Science Museum at Exposition Park and a beach day in Malibu. It was really fun to see Mila interact with her older cousin.

The carousel at the Los Angeles Zoo

The carousel at the Los Angeles Zoo

Aquarium1

The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach

 

Petting the sharks at the Aquarium

Petting the sharks at the Aquarium

Cousins

Feeding Teegan

Feeding Teegan

Malibu Pier

The Science Museum at Exposition Park

The Science Museum at Exposition Park

My leg is better. I still get some pain if I do the elliptical (so I’ve put it on hold for now) but otherwise can pretty much walk as much as I want. I haven’t dared to try running again yet. I think that will be a ways off.

My fasting blood sugars are improved but some of my post meal sugars are still a little high if I’m not really careful about carbohydrates. I’m trying to stay hopeful that things may still improve over time.

My lupus is still more active than baseline but seems to be settling down. I think as time goes on this will keep getting better.

I’ve made a few things but haven’t seemed to get my act together to take pictures of them— so that’s my goal before I go back to work!

And here’s my little family of four….

LB_Family

– Erica

Simple Patchwork

Most of you already know how much I loved my obstetrician. My pregnancies were not entirely smooth sailing and having an ob that was calm and confident was vital for me. I’m not sure that being a doctor is an advantage when you are a patient- in fact, I think it’s detrimental. About halfway through my pregnancy with Teegan, I found out she was expecting a little girl. This provided me the perfect opportunity to make a thank-you gift!

My first instinct is always to use pink for girls (um, Mila has a LOT of pink in her room and her wardrobe), but it just didn’t feel right. I found an adorable owl print made exclusively for JoAnn Fabrics which I used on the back (unfortunately I don’t see it available online right now).  I used a few key colors- gold, burnt red, grey and yellow and then several low volume prints. Most of these are out of print now.

Patchwork (1)I have been in love with simple patchwork quilts these days. I used to cut 5 inch squares, but this time I cut 4 inch squares, which I like better. I did simple quilting on each side of the seams. I definitely love how it turned out.

Patchwork (2)

Patchwork (3)

Patchwork (4)

Excuse the pictures…. It was a dreary day when I took them (and I’m also learning how to use my new camera).

– Erica

A Broken Leg

This postpartum period has been both easier and more challenging than it was with Mila.

Teegan is such a good baby. He is not fussy like Mila was. He loves to be cuddled, snuggled and held. At night he sleeps right next to our bed and he will open his eyes every so often to look at me to make sure I am still there as he drifts off to sleep. People told me that little boys have a special connection to their mamas and I can already see it. He still gets up every 2.5-3 hours overnight to eat, but he goes right back to sleep pretty quickly. I can’t hardly complain about anything.

However, the same cannot be said for my body. I’m having a harder time recovering from this pregnancy. My lupus was much more active, requiring lots and lots of medications, in high doses. I was hoping I would be able to taper down off the medications right away after he was born but unfortunately things are still flaring.

The high doses of steroids caused me to have high blood sugars, necessitating insulin during the pregnancy. As I’ve started to go down on the steroids my sugars have not gone back to normal as I hoped and it’s possible I may end up with pre-diabetes. Nothing is for sure yet because I’m not completely off the steroids, but I’m a little nervous. I’m hoping my body will recover over time.

Also, the steroids weakened my bones. I started running after my postpartum visit which was so nice after being sedentary for so long (first for preterm contractions and then after the c-section). On my third run/walk I developed severe pain below my left knee and couldn’t finish my run. Turns out I fractured my tibia right below the knee. It’s a horizontal fracture that luckily didn’t displace the bone. So now I’m on crutches for the next 6 weeks. Luckily I have great help with the little ones. My mom was able to extend her stay for an extra week and now Jake’s mom and sister are helping out. It takes a village, right?

This is just a little bump in the road- I’m very blessed to have two adorable, precious babies and an amazingly supportive husband and a wonderful family. Hopefully I’ll find some time to sit at my sewing machine since it is my happy place….

With my mom and my babies at the LA zoo, before crutches.

With my mom and my babies at the LA zoo, before crutches.

-Erica

Meet Teegan!

This post is WAY overdue. But that’s because things have been busy. In a really good way.  There are only a few things about Teegan’s birth that resemble Mila’s, otherwise, it was entirely different.

As for the similarities– Both times my labor started with my water breaking (this only happens in about 10% of births), and both times I had pre-term labor around 31 weeks but they were born term babies (Mila was born at 37 weeks + 2 days and Teegan was born at 37 weeks + 3 days). Other than that, they were entirely different.

I was really hoping to have another natural birth with Teegan like I did with Mila, but unfortunately he had other plans for me.  Teegan was persistently breech during the entire pregnancy, which meant a c-section for me. I had ultrasounds at every visit (since I was in the high risk ob clinic) and he never budged from his position. He was always head up and his head was always on the right side of my belly (it truly felt like a big, giant baseball).  One week before he was born they attempted to do an external version, which was unfortunately unsuccessful. I was hopeful he would still turn on his own, but he apparently wasn’t on board with that plan.

My doula told me that many women seemed to go into labor at times that worked for them which seems like a biological protective mechanism. She used the example of a woman not going into labor until her other kids were out of the house (at preschool or with grandma) and mom could actually focus on laboring baby-to-be. This made so much sense to me and I think that is exactly what happened with Teegan.  I was really hoping to make it through Thanksgiving and also was hoping I would go into labor when my OB was on call (so she could be the one to do my c-section).

We had a lovely Thanksgiving at our house (with a tofurkey and fancy, disposable plates and cutlery) and that night when I went to bed I was very thankful we had been able to enjoy the holiday. I joked that my OB was on call that night so it wouldn’t be a horrible night to have a baby.  Then, at 4AM my water broke. Since Teegan was breech and they needed to do an urgent c-section, we weren’t able to labor at home, and instead had to rush to the hospital.

The c-section went flawlessly, without complications (and I was fortunate that my OB really was on call and able to do my c-scection).  Unfortunately I felt extremely sleepy during the procedure because there was morphine in the spinal so I didn’t feel as present as I was when Mila was born. Luckily Jake took pictures.

Meet Teegan ()

Teegan was perfect at birth. He weighed 6 lbs, 10 oz. He latched on without any trouble. And about 3 days later we came home with our new little man. And now we’re a family of four.

It’s incredible.

Oh, and how did we pick Teegan for his name? The week before he was born, on our way home from the external version, we drove past the Hollywood Palladium Theater and saw the band Tegan and Sara on the marquee. I wondered if Tegan could be a male name. We looked it up and saw that it is about 50/50 with multiple spellings. Immediately we knew that it was perfect when we found out it means “Little Poet” since our little guy had been writing his own story during the entire pregnancy.

Welcome to our family, Teegan.

– Erica

(I have several other posts to come… somehow I have managed to start and finish a baby quilt since he was born 6 weeks ago).

Breech Baby Boy

I was really fortunate to have a beautiful natural birth with Mila. After an unpredictable pregnancy it was amazing to know I was strong and it felt great to be in control of how she entered the world. We were blessed with an incredible doula and Jake was a wonderful birth partner. My labor was only 6 hours from first contraction to Mila’s birth which is on the shorter side for a first pregnancy (this is probably because I had preterm contractions consistently from 31 weeks on).

I have been looking forward to another natural birth with this guy, but he seems to have different plans for us. In fact, he seems to have been in charge this whole pregnancy. I’m so curious to find out if that holds true in his personality once he makes his actual appearance in the world!

Mila was head down the entire pregnancy. In fact, they couldn’t even do accurate measurements of her head because she was so far down in my pelvis! This guy has been persistently breech. He has never once been head down on any of my ultrasounds (and because of my medical issues I have had ultrasounds at every visit this entire pregnancy, now twice per week!).  Also, I can see his head when I look at my belly so I know which direction he is.

We attempted a ECV (External Cephalic Version) this week where they gave me medicine to relax the uterus and then three ob’s actually manipulated him to move to a head down position.  It was painful but definitely not unbearable and nothing compared to actually giving birth. They were able to turn him three times, but then he immediately proceeded to turn head up again. His heart rate dropped each time after they turned him head down as well (but it recovered pretty quickly).

So, now I’m convinced that there is a reason he isn’t head down. It’s not that he doesn’t know he can go that way, he just chooses not to.

I would really like to avoid a c-section because of the medications I am taking for my lupus. The high dose, long term steroids interfere with wound healing, the immunosuppressants make me more susceptible to infections, and the aspirin makes me more likely to bleed during the operation.

I’m still hoping that he will decide to change his mind and go head down before his big arrival, but I think I need to start accepting the fact that this may not be how he enters the world. And that’s ok.

I have a c-section scheduled for 39 weeks although it’s not likely he will actually incubate that long (although fingers crossed, who knows what he actually has planned?!).  We will have a more emergent c-section if I go into real labor or my water breaks before then.

I’m still incubating and trying my hardest to rest. It’s horrible to have the nesting instinct and not be able to act on it…. I’m 36 weeks now!

36 Weeks (1)

– Erica