Monday, December 31, 2007

Have Dress, Need Shoes

Yesterday I made a quick stop into Ann Taylor Loft to return a skirt and attempt to use a $25 coupon that expired Jan 1. I ended up buying this dress for our New Year's Eve party tonight:

It's a color I don't usually wear, but it fits perfectly and the beaded neckline is gorgeous- the picture doesn't do it justice. It's also more of a pewter than silver so I think it's dark enough to look acceptable against my pale skin and reddish hair (and actually the model kind of has my coloring, so it must be okay). And the best part: it was originally $129, marked down to $89, then 30% off the sale price to $68, my coupon took it down to $38, and the skirt I returned was $35*- so I paid $3.27.

The only problem is that I don't own silver shoes. Rather shocking given the number of pairs in our collective closets, but true. And I definitely can't wear black ones with it. So I'm off to find inexpensive, but cute silver (preferably pewter, but I'm not pushing my luck) shoes before we dress up to say good riddance to 2007.

*I know it was still technically $38, but I'd already paid the credit card bill with the skirt on it, so in my mind, that was a sunk cost and doesn't count. JP tried to convince me otherwise (some nonsense about how our account could have been credited so it isn't a sunk cost at all), but I'm sticking to my story that the dress was $3 and therefore had to be purchased.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Baby Gear Reviews- 5 Months Later

Back in August I wrote a review of Landon's baby items at 3 weeks old. When we were shopping and registering for stuff I kept wondering what we'd need after those first few months. With a small apartment and budget, I really wanted things that would last beyond the newborn phase. So here's an updated list of what we have and what we like:


  1. Storkcraft Rochester Crib w/ Drawer: I still love this crib. It was $200 and looks great. Landon has slept in there since he came home from the NICU. I hear him babbling to his mobile and the cars on his bumper when he wakes up, and it's roomy enough for him to roll around in. He'll be in here until he graduates to a big boy bed (I have no idea when that happens, but I'm pretty sure it's a ways off).
  2. Ultimate Crib Sheet: very nice to have when your baby spits up all over the crib- just unsnap the sides and put on a new one over the still clean fitted sheet. It's soft on top and waterproof underneath. I've also found that his drool soaks through the normal sheets and starts to smell- this is quicker and easier to change every few days.
  3. Changing Table: I still really like having this- I know you can use any surface with a pad, but we found this one in the same wood as the crib for about $75 and I like the rails and security it provides. Plus, the extra shelves come in handy for larger items and stuffed animals.


  1. Graco Snugride Infant Car Seat and Stroller Frame: I still love this whole set (especially the stroller) and would highly recommend you get something like it rather than a giant travel system. Unfortunately Landon is getting too heavy to carry around in the car seat. We'll continue to use it a while longer, but we've begun looking for a convertible car seat (if you have any recommendations, let me know!). I'm really, really going to miss the stroller and the ability to just pop him in and out of the car base and stroller frame.
  2. Chicco C6 Umbrella Stroller: This is our regular stroller. It's lightweight, sturdy, and collapses easily, but I've noticed my feet constantly hit the wheels. It's a great stroller, but next time I'd go to a store and try out different ones before buying to make sure it fits my height and stride.
  3. JJ Cole Bundle Me: necessary if you live somewhere cold. It keeps him warm in Chicago winter weather without a coat or heavy clothes- we just stick a hat on his head and we're off. It's roomy and will last him as long as he fits in his infant car seat.
  4. Fisher Price Baby Papasan Chair: this thing was a godsend for about two months. Landon did all of his sleeping in here all swaddled up. I would absolutely buy it again, just for those two months, but it really isn't a playtime bouncer (the toy/mirror are pretty boring) and he quickly got too big for it.
  5. Fisher Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker: this is his our fun chair. Landon loves it- at first he just looked at the toys, then he was able to hit them, and now he grabs them and tries to stick them in his mouth. We often take the toy bar off and hand him other toys or books to hold while he's in there. I love that it will grow with him (it can be used as a rocking chair up to 40 lbs.) and wasn't too expensive. I think you need some kind of chair to safely hold the baby while he entertains himself and you get stuff done. I move this all around the house with me.
  6. Diaper Genie II: love this. There's lots of diaper pails out there, but this one is very simple to use (you only need one free hand, a very good thing) and has kept his room stink-free. You have to buy refills at $6 a piece, but they last for a while- after 5.5 months, we're only on #3.
  7. Sure Comfort Deluxe Tub: this worked well, but we only used it for the first 3-4 months (now he takes baths in the big tub with mommy or daddy). I think this a good model and it is nice to have even now for a quick wash when he spits up all over himself during the day.
  8. Evenflo Expressions Plus Highchair: we love this- it's compact, folds up easily, has 3 reclining positions for the back, 7 height positions, and is nicely colored. The tray is wide and snaps off to go in the dishwasher. I was sad we couldn't get the cool Fisher Price booster that snaps onto a regular chair (we don't have a kitchen table or chairs), but now I'm really glad we had to get a normal high chair. We stick him in here all the time to play with toys and books, and it's tall enough to let him see over the kitchen island and watch me cook or do things around the apartment (it's on wheels).
  9. Baby Bjorn Baby Carrier- Active: I wanted to love this, but we haven't used it much- maybe we would have if we lived in a warmer climate and spent more time out and about. It worked well for me on Landon's fussy days when I just couldn't hold him anymore, but buying a swing quickly rendered it unnecessary. It was a gift, but if we'd bought it, I would have wished we saved our money.
  10. Fisher Price Cradle Swing: like the papasan chair, it was priceless for the months we used it, but it didn't last long. It was expensive and big so I didn't get one at first, but having a colickly, acid-refluxy baby made me change my mind. I think it just depends on your situation- I'm glad we have it now for future babies and Landon spent many, many hours (and took many naps) in here between months 2-4, but he's already lost interest and it's getting small. I'm sure there are more interactive swings that would last longer, but the soothing, quiet nature of this one is what made it so magical.


  1. Gymini Total Playground Activity Mat: I think it's nice to have some kind of play gym, but it doesn't have to be this one. I like many of its features: the sides snap up to make a mini barrier around it, the big mirror, the toys can be switched around, and the bars can be removed leaving just the play mat to roll around on, but Landon never figured out the kick pad and I think that's what makes this one so expensive. As a gift, it's awesome, but if you're paying, you could probably do just as well with a cheaper one.
  2. Fisher Price Rainforest Waterfall Soother: we didn't use it at all for the first five months- I wasn't even sure why I registered for it, but we've been trying some light "sleep training" on Landon (basically just getting him to fall asleep on his own without having to be rocked until he's a dead weight in our arms) and it's a lifesaver. Now when he gets sleepy, I put him in his crib, turn off the light, and turn on this soother. He'll fuss a little, but is captivated by the moving water and sounds and quickly quiets and watches. The movements slow, the music gets quieter, and by the time it's done playing, he's asleep. We also use it if he wakes up at night- it gives him something to look at while he's trying to figure out how to fall asleep.
  3. Symphony-in-Motion Geometric Shapes Mobile: the best mobile, ever. He still adores it and I can depend on it to keep him busy for a full 15 minutes (this is not a "go to sleep" mobile, it's definitely for entertainment and you can swing it out of the crib at nighttime). It's pricey, but it's the reason I can take a shower every morning and it hasn't gotten old even after looking at it multiple times a day, every day. He still squeals and pumps his arms and legs like crazy- it was also the first thing he ever babbled to.
  4. Little Superstar Sing Along Stage: Christmas gift from grandma and grandpa. Great fun- lots of lights and sounds, and it isn't too big. It's already made him better at sitting up on his own.
  5. Books: this was the most important thing to me for Landon to have. He loves anything bright and made of cloth or plastic so he can stick it in his mouth. Dr. Seuss is already a favorite as is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.
  6. Bumpo chair: great- he likes sitting in this and holding his books. Not necessary if you have a bouncy chair, but we got it as a gift and I'm glad we have it. There was a recall because people are dumb and despite the smooth bottom and lack of any restraints, they would place the seats on counters or tables and leave baby unattended. The recall just involved Bumpo issuing you a giant warning sticker telling you not to do this. Ours came from Target, but I can't find it online anymore- maybe they stopped selling it after the recall. I hope not, it's a useful little seat.
  7. Teethers!! The big plastic ones you put in the freezer haven't worked for us- I think the cold on his hand bothers him and they're too big for his mouth. These blocks are fantastic- they can go in the bath, squeak, and are perfect teethers. Baby Einstein makes a duck with rubber teethers attached and it's Landon's best friend (he's talking to it right now).

Clothes, Diapers, etc.

  1. Outfits: Landon pretty much lives in the footed sleep-and-plays from Carter's. They're easy, keep his legs and feet warm, and you can put a onesie underneath for an extra layer. I've discovered I prefer ones with snaps around the crotch instead of a zipper all the way down. I almost never dress him in two-piece outfits that don't involve onesies- he has no hips (do any babies?) and the pants ride low, exposing his giant belly. It looks chilly.
  2. Burp cloths: we use a 12-pack of cloth diapers and they're great. Absorbent and inexpensive.
  3. Bibs: have lots of these. We go through at least 3 a day because of the drooling and another 2 from meal time.
  4. Diapers: we used Pampers Swaddlers and are now on to Pampers Cruisers. I know I should try the store brands to save money, but each Pampers pack has a coupon inside and I can usually find them on sale at the grocery store. He's never had a leak in these, so I just pay the extra dollar. We use store brands for almost everything else. (And FYI, in Chicago I've found grocery stores- Dominick's or Jewel- are the cheapest place to buy diapers and formula, though oddly, not wipes or baby food)
  5. Dr. Smith's Diaper Ointment: the best diaper rash cream. Landon had a stomach virus and developed a really bad one; we tried Desitin, A&D ointment, Boudreaux's butt paste, and finally this expensive stuff and after 2 days the rash was almost gone. Worth every penny.

So that's a lot of stuff- and to think I bypassed entire sections of Babies R Us (and have so far held out on getting any kind of exersaucer, though I'm quite sure Landon would love it). Most of the big stuff was used in stages: first the papasan and the swing, now the rocker and high chair, so it's not as bad as it seems. For advice from other new moms, see Magic Cookie's baby product reviews from when her son was a newborn and the list Shelley's doctor gave her when she found herself with a baby several weeks earlier than anticipated. And please add your own reviews or favorite items in the comments!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bikinis Already?

I made a quick Target run this morning and saw bikinis prominently displayed at the front of the women's section of the store. Really?! It's 20 degrees outside and we got a bunch of snow yesterday- just the thought of exposed skin gave me goose bumps. It also made me look at my stomach with sadness and a longing for the days of yore. While my old clothes fit and I now weigh less than I did before growing a Landon, my stomach has not returned to its previous form. Perhaps from a distance, if I was standing up perfectly straight and nothing was pressing into my middle, you might be fooled into thinking the extra skin (that is no longer needed but appears to be staying) is toned abs rather than pure squishiness. But you wouldn't be fooled for long. Sigh, I suppose it's time for a few sit-ups or maybe even going to the gym. The small mountain of Christmas cookies I've eaten over the past few days probably hasn't helped. At least I live in Chicago and can stay fully covered for a good five more months- and maybe the bathing costume will make a come back...

Friday, December 28, 2007

PJ Snow Day

We're in the middle of getting 6 inches of snow- it's making quite a beautiful scene through our big front windows. I'm in my new flannel pj's, Landon is in his kangaroo pj's, and we're both having a warm, snuggley day. There's a pot roast cooking in my crock pot and I've made a lunch out of leftover Christmas cookies and herbal tea. When we're back down South, I'm really going to miss this kind of day. I love the excuse to stay inside, not get dressed, and feel so cozy while the wind blows and the snow swirls outside. So far my biggest accomplishment has been making the tea. The never ending to-do list can wait, Landon and I are taking a snow day.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas, version 2007

Well, Christmas was different, but it was good. Christmas Eve went off without a hitch. The in-laws came over to the apartment in the morning to deliver their presents and eat a light lunch of crackers, meats, and cheeses (I had lots of fun finally using all those fancy serving dishes we received as wedding presents!). Dinner at the Drake was elegant, delicious, and champagne soaked. Unfortunately Landon's teeth decided to make their presence known and he was very unhappy all two hours we were there. We took turns dancing with him by the live band which brought out his smiles, and when that trick lost its magic JP abandoned his prime rib to run down Michigan Avenue in search of infant tylenol. Luckily there's a Walgreens almost every three blocks downtown and a dose of that made the little guy comfortable enough to fall asleep during the church service later on.

It was strange to be at a hotel on Christmas Eve; we've always done dinner at home and I never realized so many people ate out. The Drake is so expensive and I saw tables with 12+ people ordering bottles of wine- I just can't imagine being a part of that world (I was only a part of it that night because of JP's family). There was a large family sitting behind me- all the parents perfectly coiffed and dressed in Brooks Brothers and the kids miniature versions of their parents. They were perfectly behaved, having fun, and obviously used to having their apple juice poured into wine glasses by tuxedo clad waiters. It was so different from the Christmas Eves of my childhood, but they seemed to be creating happy memories of their own. Looking at the other diners got me wondering if/when I'll stop getting so excited about each opportunity to dress up and eat a nice meal. Despite marrying into a family used to fancy dinners, and entering into a profession full of them, I'm not there yet. I kind of hope I never am. A meal that's $100+ per person should always feel special.

Christmas Day was nice. Landon was his usual jolly self in the morning and even though he had no idea why the day was so special, it really was more fun to celebrate the holiday with a child- we were so excited on his behalf. Our apartment looked very cute with its cheap and eclectic mix of decorations and my brunch turned out delicious (I have to post the recipe for the egg casserole I made- I found it online somewhere and it's very easy and tasty). We opened presents around noon- by far the longest I have ever waited to open them, I couldn't believe how grown up and patient I was. I got some beautiful Ann Taylor clothes from the in-laws (this year I suggested that store and it worked out perfectly- for the first time I honestly loved everything she gave me and my work wardrobe is nicely expanded), the Harry Potter books 1-7 boxed set (I was so excited about that, I can't wait to read them all again and one day read them with Landon), cozy Victoria's Secret flannel pj's from JP that Landon loves to snuggle up against, and a few books and other little things. My parents gave Landon a Sing-Along Stage (as my mom put it, it's one of those noisy, flashy toys we don't have room for that grandparents buy for their grandchildren). He adores it- he finds the microphone to be very tasty and the sounds and lights are a source of endless fascination and delight. His mom and dad love the fact that the sound is adjustable and the songs are more catchy than annoying (so far). We got him a few of our favorite childhood books and some rubbery blocks that make the best chew toys (that makes him sound like a puppy, doesn't it?). He always has one partially crammed into his mouth and they're great in the bath tub. I gave JP a game night basket filled with our favorite board games, snacks, and beer. The evening ended with me beating him in Monopoly for the first time in six years (I had to throw that in there, it was a very proud moment for me).

So Landon's first Christmas was a good one. He was full of smiles and he seemed to pick up on the excitement surrounding the day. Everyone got along pretty well in our little apartment, which is more of a miracle than I'll ever explain in this increasingly public blog. Next year we'll be celebrating in Texas, hopefully in a house with a dog at our side, and continuing to craft our own holiday traditions.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is the big night for my family. It's the day of the fancy dinner in the dining room, the church service, the looking at Christmas lights, and the opening of the presents. Tomorrow is just for Santa and playing with toys. This year things are different- we're in Chicago and JP's family is visiting us. This means that for the first time in my life I won't be opening presents on Christmas Eve. Luckily I'm grown up now and can handle waiting 12 more hours, but if you had told me this when I was little, it wouldn't have gone over very well (not to imply that I wasn't a perfectly behaved, patient child...). One good thing about this first Christmas away from my family is that it's completely different from anything we would do in Houston- tonight we're having Christmas Eve dinner at the Drake hotel on Michigan Avenue followed by service at a nearby church. Tomorrow we're opening all the presents, we don't have stockings, and we're not having breakfast tacos and tamales for brunch. I may feel like I didn't really have a Christmas, but at least I'm not sitting here comparing everything to what I'd be doing at home- there's really no comparison to make.

Landon is having a marvelous time with all the attention. Yesterday we all went to Marshall Field's on State Street (I refuse to call it Macy's) for lunch at the Walnut Room underneath the great tree. He was in his Santa suit and practically caused a traffic jam around our table. The kid is a charmer. His stack of presents underneath our 3 foot Christmas tree is larger than JP's and mine combined (thank goodness he's too young to have any idea how spoiled he's about to be) and I'm about to put him in his most handsome outfit for dinner tonight.

So things are different, but getting married, joining another family, having a baby, and starting your own family are all about changes and the ups and downs that come with them (mostly ups!). Christmas 2007 will be a unique one and as long as JP, Landon, and I are together, I don't really care what we do to officially celebrate it. Merry Christmas Eve to you all, I can't imagine my year without this blog and all the support I've received through it. I leave you with a picture of Landon in the abovementioned handsome outfit:

I can't believe that a year ago he was just a little heartbeat on an ultrasound.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Thank you, readers, for sending me this comic on the theory of "airplaneseatreclineology" and how it explains the human condition. Cracked me up. Who knew seat reclining was such a mainstream and contentious issue?!

I hope your holidays are going well. It's about 5 degrees outside and the wind is howling. Landon is in his Santa Suit, JP is wrapping presents, and I am finally baking our cookies with Raffi's Christmas album playing in the background. It's warm, cozy, and quite wonderful to be inside together. Merry almost Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cookies, interrupted

I've spent hours on multiple grocery store visits preparing for our first Christmas at home. I did one last Target run this morning. I then spent 3 hours in the car going to the airport to pick up the in-laws (and grandma-in-law), delivering them to their Michigan Avenue hotel, and then battling traffic back to our apartment (all with a non-napping, increasingly annoyed Landon in the backseat). We're home. The little guy is happily playing in his high chair, the Christmas music is playing, the tacky lights are twinkling, and I'm all ready to bake sugar and gingerbread cookies before we meet everyone downtown for dinner.

And I have no butter. I have eggs, sugar, flour, etc. but no butter. I never use butter, but I was pretty sure we had a few sticks laying around- turns out, we just have the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter zero calorie spray. I'm pretty sure that would not work in my delicious, sugary, calorie-laden cookies.

So we're piling back into the car to get some freaking butter. If I wasn't craving raw cookie dough so badly, I'd probably just scrap the whole thing.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Best Way To Wake Up

Last night Landon slept from 10:30pm - 5:45am (yay!). I fed him a few ounces and since he looked a little tired, and I felt a lot tired, I stuck him back in his crib. There was some protesting, but I knew he needed more than 7 hours so I waited before going back in to get him. He fell back asleep and so did I.

Then at 9:15, for the first time since Landon was born, I woke up to happy babbling sounds rather than a screaming insistance that he is starving and no one has fed him, ever. I went into his room and found him rolled over (yay!!! his pediatrician was concerned that he hadn't done that yet) and talking to his mobile. He looked quite proud of his new position and was definitely enjoying the more exciting view. (He sleeps on his stomach because of the breathing trouble and acid reflux- both are exacerbated by being on his back.) I got a huge smile and then he continued his conversation with the yellow triangle. Sometimes I look at him and just can't believe I grew something this adorable.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Raffi! (and random updates)

A family friend just sent us the Raffi Christmas album. My childhood Christmas trilogy is complete: Raffi, A Sesame Street Christmas, and A Christmas with the Chipmunks. I love how kids are an excuse to revisit your own childhood!

And now we're off to our parenting class (that we aren't allowed to bring our baby to).

Class Update (because this is already a mixed-topic post): the parenting class was fine, though we didn't really learn anything new.

General Landon Update: he's feeling better, the inhaler has made a huge difference. It doesn't bother him anymore- he actually smiles when I put it over his mouth, which looks hilarious. I don't think he breathes as deeply as he did when he cried, but it seems to be working anyway. The Prednisone has made him projectile vomit, so we're not giving him that anymore. The pediatrician is calling me tomorrow to see if we should try something else or just wait longer and see if the mucous clears up on its own. For the first time EVER he slept 7 hours last night. There was great rejoicing in the LagLiv household. He's over 5 months old and still a terrible sleeper; due, I'm sure, to the craziness and upheaval of the last few months. Maybe now we can finally give him some sort of routine- I think we'd all benefit from that.

Airplanes, revisited

I had no idea my opinion that people should not recline their seats on airplanes would be so controversial- apparently many people feel quite justified to do so regardless of the comfort of the person behind them. The most recent comment:

I don't see how it's rude to recline one's chair, regardless of whether the person in the chair behind is with a child. When you pay for an airline ticket, you pay for the right to recline. If anything, you should be apologizing to him for brining [sic] your baby on the plane and making his trip much less enjoyable. Buy a business class ticket or suffer like everyone else.

Interesting... I'm not sure how the person in front of me's trip was less enjoyable. They took their maximum amount of space the whole flight, Landon was silent the whole flight, and after we landed she (not he) complimented me on his good behavior (she complimented me on his cuteness before we took off). I guess I just don't understand feeling so entitled to knowingly make someone uncomfortable. Of course you have the "right" to recline your seat, but that doesn't mean I can't find it rude. You have the "right" to do a lot of things that are rude. And I have a right to use my tray table and just try using a laptop or eating a meal on your tray when someone's seat is pushed back. I've never reclined my seat- I don't have a dire need for the extra space (lovely as 3 more inches might be) and I just picture the person behind me being all squished and I feel bad. If people kept their seats up, maybe we all wouldn't have to "suffer" so much on planes. And I'm pretty sure those people so full of entitlement to their maximum amount of space would rather sit behind someone like me who will keep their seat up as a courtesy than someone like them who won't.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Career Without Apology

I have a lot of half-written posts right now. Most concern the investigation- the after-effects, our thoughts on the appeal, and reflections on how it has changed everything and nothing about us as parents. I also want to write about CPS doctors in general, ours specifically, and how I think the system isn't helping those who need it and hurting those who don't. But I'm having a very hard time getting those words down- maybe I need more distance, maybe I need more therapy, I'm not sure. But they'll get done someday because I think they need to. Until then, I'll be writing about other random stuff and updating everyone on Landon's increasingly bizarre medical file. And so, without further ado:

At the suggestion of PT-LawMom I ordered Pink magazine- you can get 2 free issues, so I figured I'd try it out and at least I'd have two new things to read at the gym. Well, I have yet to go to the gym, but I love the magazine. It's smart and about real women balancing serious careers. It's not for working women who truly wish they were home, it's for women who love what they do and do it well. And I don't think any other magazine speaks to them (us? I hope to be in that group someday). It talks about being a working mom, but many of the articles are for women in general- how to manage finances, investing for retirement, asserting yourself at work, how women lead teams differently then men (notice the word "lead" - it assumes many of the women reading this are bosses and I like that), etc. Anyway, one article that really struck me was the "My Time" column which features a female at the top of her career path and gives a "day in her life" time line.

The "My Time" this month is an interview with Julie Greenwald, president of Atlantic Records. She leaves at 9am after breakfast with her two kids and gets home around 11:30pm. For the 11:30 entry she said "I sneak into my house, look at my BlackBerry and answer as many e-mails as possible. My family sees me only in the morning and on the weekends. My husband is the most understanding man on Earth."

What I liked about that quote is that it isn't tempered with anything. Plenty of male CEO's work those kinds of hours and you can read interviews with them in Fortune and Forbes (and like most of those men, Ms. Greenwald has a stay at home spouse). But when female execs are interviewed it seems like they almost have to refer to their children and how much time they get to spend with them- as if they know everyone is wondering about that and they need to prove they're still good moms, when the article is supposed to be about their business success. I'm not praising Ms. Greenwald's schedule- it wouldn't work for me, but you can't be a president without putting in a lot of hours and I appreciate that she's up front about that. I think that if she must be judged, it would be a step forward if she's judged as a working parent rather than a working mom. I'm definitely looking forward to future issues of this magazine.

One Day He'll Win the Lottery

After worrying about his coughing all weekend, we were finally able to get Landon to the pediatrician yesterday morning. The nurse saw his wheezing and retractions (a sign of respiratory distress when the baby is pulling the chest in at the ribs below the breastbone), and immediately got an oxygen saturation reading- it was 93%, definitely too low. The doctor came in and diagnosed him with tracheomalacia, an "extremely rare" disorder where the windpipe is floppy and closes completely after each breath, making it harder for him to take the next one. In Landon's case, the extra mucous in his respiratory system because of a little cold (he's had a runny nose) created a terrible, choking-like cough as the trachea collapsed on the mucous. Which is why the cough sounded so awful even though he didn't seem very sick (no fever, no change in temperament). She said it usually resolves by 18-24 months of age, but in rare cases requires surgery to place a stent in the trachea to keep it open.

He had two albuterol breathing treatments which did NOT go over well. I think the mask freaked him out, but at least all the crying made him inhale it well- his oxygen saturation was back up to 99% when we left. We now have an albuterol inhaler with an aerochamber to give him every 4 hours for the next two days and then every 6 hours until his retracting improves. He's also on the steroid prednisone for 5 days. He seems much better today and only coughed a few times last night. I'm so glad to know what's going on, and I'm even more glad it's not some serious respiratory infection I found during my late night googling, but man- how many more "uncommon" disorders can this kid have? He's five months old and was born a healthy weight at 36 weeks but still had RDS and de-satting episodes for 12 days, he had an undescended testicle, then digestive problems with everything but alimentum formula, then he had severe acid reflux, then unexplained chest fractures, then a mysterious bump over his eyebrow (that appointment is on Thursday), and now tracheomalacia. Some of those are more unusual than others- but all in one 5-month old baby?

As Maya said when I told her the latest, "someday he'll have something rare that's good!"

Sunday, December 16, 2007

5 Months!

I wanted to do a whole post about what Landon's doing at 5 months old, but my sister is here and things are busy, so maybe I'll write something for 5.5. Until then, a few pictures of the little big boy (as his grandpa calls him):

Playing with his special friend, Bonnie the cowgirl.

The rare tummy time smile.

Eating some squash and cereal in the big boy high chair.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Friends have asked me if being a mom has changed me and I kept saying that I didn't think so. Maybe in subtle ways, but I didn't feel a big transformation when Landon was put in my arms.

But this morning "Cold Mountain" is on TV and I just watched the scene where Natalie Portman's baby is put on the ground, uncovered in the freezing cold, to get her to tell some roaming Union soldiers where she's hidden food. She's crying and saying her baby is sick and shaking and oh my god, I thought I was going to throw up. I had such a deep, physical reaction to that scene that it shocked me. I don't even remember it from the first time I saw the movie. I know it's fake, but I had tears in my eyes and was holding out my hands to pick up that baby and make him warm.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Back to Reality

The party was wonderful- the champagne was flowing, the conversation was almost sparkling, and my dress was a big hit. Landon had a great time with his grandparents (or should I say, his grandparents had a great time with Landon), and while JP and I missed his snuggly little self, it was really nice to have some time to ourselves. The plane ride home was his best yet- he fell asleep just before take off and woke up right after the landing. (My last post referred to our flight out there).

Unfortunately, the feelings of peace and relaxation ended when we got home. Apparently Lilly got a little feisty while we were gone and knocked over our tree, smashed our ornaments, and tried to eat the garland. I was so upset- there was an ornament my mom's friend hand-painted for me when I graduated high school that is now in a million pieces. It had survived my many moves and this was its first time to ever be put on a tree. So sad. And the cat didn't look at all sorry. I'm now trying to get unpacked and organized because my sister is flying in to visit tomorrow. She's a college student with underdeveloped standards of cleanliness, but I still want everything to look nice. Besides JP's parents and grandmother are flying in right after she leaves, and it's easier to maintain order than create it. However, unpacking is made a lot more difficult when you have sick and fussy baby on your hands.

Yes, Landon is sick. He's had something of a stomach virus for about 8 days that has resulted in a ridiculous number of dirty diapers and, despite our best efforts, a diaper rash. The pediatrician said it usually takes 10-14 days for a stomach virus to run its course, but now his nose is runny and he's developed a cough. It started before we left but it was just a little one and he ate fine, felt fine, and didn't have a fever, so the pediatrician wasn't too worried (or at least didn't feel there was much we could do besides keeping him hydrated and happy). But while we were in DC the cough got much worse- it's now an awful hacking noise and his chest retractions have gotten a lot more pronounced. The coughing doesn't seem to upset him- although it kills me, he sound so terrible. I tried to get him in to the doctor today, but we didn't land early enough, so we have an appointment Monday morning. He still doesn't have a fever, but he has fewer smiles, more fussing, and an increased need to cuddle (which is pretty much what I'm like when I'm sick). We've each taken a long bath with him tonight because that's the only place he's still happy and relaxed. I'm kind of worried, the cough sounds so terrible, and I hate that we're now terrified of taking him to the emergency room. I hate that this investigation and Dr. K are affecting the decisions we make for our son. I'm sure the ER docs would want a chest x-ray- what would we do when they see the healing fractures? Tell them we already have a lawyer and DCFS investigator and case worker on speed dial?

And speaking of the investigation, I spoke with our in-tact case worker last week. Like our investigator, I'm pretty sure he thinks our case is a waste of his time and resources. He said the parenting class I found at Northwestern on Dec. 20 should be fine even though it's only one day (the classes they contract with are 7 weeks long and don't begin until Jan. 24). He said, "usually our classes are longer, but I think we can think outside the box a little on this case." Thinking outside the box?! Whoah. He's not doing a service intake on us or even opening a file- we just need to get him the certificate from Northwestern and we're done with him. Then we can focus on the appeal.

So it's back to reality. Messy apartment, sick baby, and DCFS. Hard to believe last night I was all glammed up and buzzed on champagne.

Airplane Etiquette

To the person in the middle seat in front of me:

When the woman behind you has a baby in her lap and two bags in her one cubic foot of leg space because the flight is overbooked with business travelers and their giant carry-ons, have a bit of courtesy and KEEP YOUR SEAT BACK IN ITS FULL UPRIGHT POSITION. Did you notice that I couldn't move once your seat encroached upon my 15 inches of personal space already compromised by a squirming infant? I would have enjoyed kicking the back of your chair, but it was no longer possible for me to move my legs. Airplanes are crowded and uncomfortable, but we can all work together to make the experience a little better for the person behind us if we just keep the seat back up. If you do it again, karma is going to put your ass in the last row window seat behind a person reclining their seat to the maximum extent possible. You're not claustrophobic, are you?

Lag Liv

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Letter Quandry

The flight to DC went quite well- over 300 were canceled out of O'Hare yesterday, but ours got out only an hour and a half late. Landon was a perfect travel companion. He sat quietly during our lunch at the airport Chili's, had a big poop before we boarded the plane, slept for an hour, and then smiled at everyone on board for the last 40 minutes. At one point we had all 3 flight attendants crowded around our seats fawning over him- he's such a flirt, giving them sideways glances and little coy smiles. After landing we cabbed it to the hotel, admired our fancy room (the shower is incredible- lots of sprayers, including ones in the middle of the wall- someday I will own a shower like this), and then spent 30 minutes reconfiguring the room to fit 3 suitcases, a stroller, a crib, the desk, other furniture, and the king sized bed. After some serious rearranging we loaded Landon into the stroller and went out to find dinner. We ended up at a scrumptious Mexican place in Dupont Circle with very tasty frozen margaritas (if you haven't noticed, I rate Mexican restaurants purely on the frozen margaritas- because if they do a good job there, the food really doesn't matter). It would have been a perfect day if Landon hadn't projectile spit up all over his crib, our comforter, the floor, my shoes, and JP's shirt before going to bed, but you can only ask for so much.

JP's parents picked the little guy up this morning and now I'm trying to accomplish things in the room while JP attends his meetings. My to-do list includes: research how to clear a stale mechanic's lien for dad, download the Texas bar application (apparently it's due Jan. 30- what?!), respond to lots of emails, type up address labels for Christmas cards, write the Christmas letter, and create Shutterfly photo albums for JP's parent's Christmas present. I dissected the crazy Texas property code and got the lien question answered for my dad, so I'm moving on to the Christmas letter. Now, I know a lot of people who mock the Christmas letter, saying it's just a way to brag and make your family sound better than the recipient's, but I love them. One of my favorite things about Christmas is reading the letters my family receives from relatives and old friends. Before facebook and blogs they offered one of the only ways to keep up with that group of people whose lives were closely intertwined with yours for a time, like college roomates and old coworkers, that you may no longer stay in regular contact with, but you still want to know how their lives have progressed. I hope that I'll get letters from college and law school friends because I really do want to know if/when they have kids and what they're doing in their careers in 10 and 20 years. Checking the mailbox is so much fun around the holidays and it's such a letdown when someone just sends a card with their signature- I want pictures and information! And, as a personal benefit, they're a great way to document your life. I made a scrapbook for my parent's 25th wedding anniversary and the most fun quotes in there were taken from old Christmas letters. So, in conclusion, written properly and with the intent to update rather than brag, I think the letter is an important part of the holiday card.

But what on Earth do I include this year? Almost everyone on my Christmas list knows about our 2+ month nightmare, and it did dominate the last quarter of the year, so it seems odd not to refer to it at all. But writing: "And in October, Landon was ripped from our arms and taken to a shelter while child abuse allegations swirled around [JP] and I..." just doesn't match my cheery holiday stationary. I suppose it's a sign of how blessed we are- that we've never had to wonder how to address bad events when summarizing the preceding year. I think I'll say something about how the challenges of the past few months have reminded us of the importance of family and friends... or something. I just can't not acknowledge the investigation at all, but I also don't want to mention it so cryptically that someone who doesn't know is intrigued and confused. Hmmm... maybe I'll start with the Shutterfly albums- playing with pictures of Landon photos is so much fun and I already miss the little fellow.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Bright Side

As I pack for our flight to DC tomorrow, I'm definitely seeing the bright side of not flying home for Christmas. The packing logistics are almost overwhelming- and I'm not dealing with presents and saving space for bringing more stuff back. Gone are the days of throwing some clothes in a suitcase, grabbing a magazine or two, and heading for the airport. Traveling with a 4.5 month old is much more complicated. The carry-ons are carefully filled with everything needed to support us for 24 hours without back-up: toys, Landon's favorite peek-a-boo book, his spit rags/blankeys, a wardrobe change for JP and I, two wardrobe changes for Landon, more diapers than he could possibly use, and enough formula and bottles for two days. (The forecast shows freezing and snow tomorrow, so a long airport or runway delay is grimly realistic.) The logistics are made more complicated by the fact that Landon will be with us in the hotel Tuesday night and then staying with JP's parents in Maryland Wednesday and Thursday nights, so his stuff needs to be separate and ready to go in his grandma and grandpa's car Wednesday morning. (Oh yes, we get a hotel room to ourselves for TWO nights- just think of the sleep, the glorious, uninterrupted dreams we will be able to have- and the sex, but oh my god the SLEEP!) I've been trying to think of everything we need to feed, clothe, bathe, and entertain a Landon overnight in a hotel room, but I'm sure I'm forgetting things.

This trip is for JP's annual company meeting and holiday party. His firm's headquarters is in DC so they fly everyone out for the event. I've missed the last two because I always had a final on the day of the party. This year, my last chance to go, our finals ended a few days early- and since JP's parents live right outside the city, Landon's existence didn't even stand in my way. I have a gorgeous dress (I found some non-obtrusive band-aids to cover the stitches), even more gorgeous shoes, and a hot date. We're all about escapism right now and this is going to be a fun few days away.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Decking our Halls

For the first time in my life, I will not be at my parent's house for Christmas. The holidays were divided early on in the pregnancy: JP and I would visit Houston for Thanksgiving and the baptism and his parents would come to Chicago for Landon's first Christmas (we never pretended it was about seeing us- it was all about who got to see the baby when). We spent out first two married Christmases with my parents, so it was JP's family's turn, and we really wanted to avoid packing up the presents and dealing with the inevitable airport delays. JP is an only child, so we knew it would be easy for his family to come to us. I'm excited to be in Chicago over the holidays- it's our last one here and the city is so beautiful right now, but it's going to be a little sad to not be home.

My family has always celebrated Christmas alone with just the five of us. Most of my friends find that strange- their Christmas is all about big family gatherings and all the fun and stress that comes with them, but I cherished our little Christmas. As a kid I loved our special family traditions: dressing up and eating a prime rib Christmas Eve dinner in the dining room, taking turns reading the Bible story, going to the 7:00 church service, driving around to look at the Christmas lights, and then going home to open presents. The present-opening had its traditions too: wearing cozy pj's, listening to our favorite Christmas albums (A Sesame Street Christmas and Raffi's Christmas album were huge), eating popcorn and sugar cookies, sitting on the floor around the tree, and taking turns opening each present. On Christmas morning I always woke up first and had the arduous task of rousing my younger sister (my little brother would help). We'd yell downstairs to our parents that we were ready to see what Santa brought, and then we'd sit at the top of the steps and wait for my mom to get ready and Dad to try (and usually fail) to get the ancient video camera up and working. After waiting for forever we'd finally be allowed to run downstairs to look at our gifts (my mom hates wrapping presents and interestingly, so did Santa, so our Santa presents were just out in the open). Our stockings always contained an orange, chapstick, and a toothbrush, among other little things, and we got one big gift each and a few family ones like movies and games to share. My dad always took us out to the driveway to see if Santa brought him a boat (and when I was really little, I couldn't understand why Santa didn't bring him one. He had been so good!). Christmas wasn't huge, but the Santa gift was always something exciting that we had waited and hoped for. We'd eat a big breakfast (complete with more Christmas cookies) and then play with our toys. As we got older and the toys didn't lend themselves to playing as easily, we'd go see a movie in the afternoon. Almost all of my mom's family lives in areas surrounding Houston so we'd often see some aunts, uncles, cousins, and/or grandparents at some point on the 25th or 26th. It was nice to see family over the holidays while keeping Christmas Eve and morning to ourselves. I think that's what I would like to do as JP and my family grows. My memories of Christmas are so happy and relaxed, and when JP and I are two full-time working parents, that is going to be lovely.

So that was a nice though unintended trip down memory lane... now back to the point: Christmas will be at our apartment this year with JP's parents and grandmother and I realized we didn't own a single Christmas item. Since we're moving to Austin over the summer I didn't want to buy nice stuff that may or may not work in our future home, so I thought we'd go fun and cheap. I bought an adorable 3 foot tree to go on the table, some multi-colored blinking lights (that I would normally hate but Landon is going to love), garland to string over the fireplace to pretend we have a mantle, and mini stockings to hang on the garland. We now have Christmas candy in a Christmas candy dish and little red bows attached to a makeshift Christmas-card basket. There are Christmas songs queued up on iTunes and I am going to try baking my mom's Christmas cookies. It will be different, and it might be a little sad (ok, I'm already tearing up just thinking about not being home, so maybe more than a little), but it's going to be special in its own way. We're together as a family (something that means even more than I imagined) and starting our own traditions. I think growing up is done in pieces, and this is just another one. Hopefully someday Landon will talk about our Christmas traditions with the same love and nostalgia that I feel for mine

Baby Santa

We took Landon to our friend's holiday party last night.

The wee Santa was a big hit!

Friday, December 7, 2007

7 Quarters Down, 2 To Go

Well, it's done. I think I did fine- I'm guessing just below the median (B-). I finished reading my notes around midnight last night and stopped bothering to transfer them into my outline around 11 since transferring is really all I was doing at that point. The exam had three fairly straightforward essays. You knew immediately what area of the law they were concerned with and it was just a matter of figuring out how to structure the response and what info and cases to fill in. I found myself staring at the wall and checking email a lot- it wasn't that I had so much extra time, I just wasn't that concerned. I knew I had something to write down and I knew that it would get down before time was called, I just wanted time to speed up and get it over with. I think about how hyped up I used to get for finals and feel rather pathetic. Or smarter. Think of all the energy I used to waste for pretty much the same grade.

And so ends another quarter. I enjoyed International Law and I wish I could have focused on it more. I enjoyed my seminar on Complex Business Transactions and I wish I could have kept my other two classes. I have no idea what I'm taking next quarter, but I'll figure it out before classes start on Jan. 3. Now it's time to catch up on a few emails, pick up Landon for some quality play time, and just relax at home. Oh- and I have two papers to write from past classes that I never completed. Not sure when I'll do those. Anyway, I'm happy this quarter is over and time is moving on.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Unbelievably Unprepared

My International Law final is in 12 hours. I still haven't done 80% of the reading assignments and I haven't even transferred the last two weeks of my sorry notes into my even more sorry outline. It's not looking good. And worse, I don't really care. Compared to everything that's gone on this quarter, this exam is really not a big deal. It's one grade of many and I already have a job. I did manage to attend almost every class so I should be able to write enough in my essays to pass. Next quarter I'll try to raise the bar a little higher.

Landon and I traveled to the DCFS office in Maywood this morning to meet with our investigator. Apparently they had to see Landon one last time in person (after not checking on him in 5 weeks) and I had to sign the new Safety Plan. She asked how JP took the news and sounded really sympathetic. She said that given the statutory language of neglect we had a really good chance of having the indication overturned on appeal. When I left she said she now had to call Dr. K and tell her the determination and "that's not going to be a fun phone call." I will never understand why that woman hated us so much, but it's nice to know she'll be mad out the outcome.

After leaving DCFS I dropped Landon off at Maya's for the first time in over 2 months. She couldn't believe how big Landon had grown and was so excited to see "her baby" again. The way she was treated in this investigation is absolutely infuriating. It was clear from the very beginning that she couldn't have caused Landon's breaks because they were too old- he had only been in her care for 7 days when this all started. However, the police still made her take a polygraph (which she of course passed) and then DCFS shut her down. Our investigator went out to see her and called her supervisor to say everything looked good. The evil witch responded with, "well, tell her to close for a week while we investigate." So Maya, scared of losing her livelihood and wanting to be cooperative, told her parents to find alternative care for a week and shut down. She sat at home for five days and wasn't contacted by DCFS once. She called our investigator, the supervisor, and the main office every day, and after those five days she just reopened. (JP and I used money from the fund to make her whole for that week - we felt terrible and we thought helping out a single mother victimized by DCFS because of us was a good use for some of the donations.) That was 8 weeks ago and still no one has called her. When I spoke with our investigator last week she said, "and can you believe they still have your babysitter closed down?!" They actually thought she wasn't working that whole time? She would be on the street! She pays rent and supports a child- how could they think that is acceptable? Especially since they determined JP and I were the "perpetrators" quite a while ago. I figured they had just forgotten about Maya, but nope, they remembered her, "knew" she was closed, and didn't care. Argh! (Wow, it's amazing how indignant you can get on behalf of someone else- I didn't think I had any indignation left.)

Anyway... obviously I'm not particularly focused on International Law right now. I'm going to at least try to finish reading through my notes and then I'm going to enjoy my first night alone with my husband in quite a long time. Tomorrow's exam can bring what it may.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

News, finally.

Our investigator, 5:15pm: "I have news, but I'm not sure you're going to like it."

JP has been indicated for bone fractures caused by neglect. That first night at the hospital we told the doctors that JP tossed Landon a few inches into the air when he was about 6 weeks old. Every doctor dismissed this as being unable to break ribs, but we kept mentioning it because it was the only remotely "rough" thing that had ever happened to Landon. Now, 9 weeks later, DCFS has seized on it as the cause of the breaks and has indicated JP for doing it. We're still trying to figure out what it all means, but the immediate result is that he has to take a parenting class, and until he completes it, we'll have weekly visits from the in-tact family services case worker. Our investigator mentioned several times that he can appeal and it "doesn't take that long". I got the definite impression that she didn't want this finding, but her supervisor was out for something and this was the best deal we could get. The supervisor even wanted to continue the Safety Plan until the parenting class was competed, which is beyond ridiculous, but after meeting with "bigwigs" above the supervisor it was decided that I could be the Safety Person until JP starts the parenting class and then the Plan could be discontinued.

I'm not sure what I think yet. It's such an unsatisfactory conclusion. It's not outrageous enough to make me furious, but it's not something I feel we can celebrate. Our investigator said they won't be petitioning in court or going back to the state's attorney, so that's definitely good. The neglect indication stays on your Illinois DCFS record for 5 years rather than 20 for child abuse, so that's better, I guess. She admitted they had no grounds for protective custody, even if we didn't agree to a Safefty Plan, so that's a relief. Our attorney found the determination bizarre, but thought it was very good we didn't have to deal with the juvenile court system. When we first met him Landon was in a shelter, so things have certainly improved. And it looks like they definitely went with our expert's report because Dr. K's insisted the only cause of Landon's injuries could be child abuse. She'd still have him in a shelter if possible, so at least DCFS was rational enough to think beyond her "medical conclusion."

There aren't any DCFS-affiliated parenting classes until the end of January, so we're looking for some to take privately. While JP is planning to appeal the neglect indication, the sooner we finish the class the sooner we can stop having any kind of DCFS intrusion in our daily lives and our lawyer reassured us that taking the classes won't hurt him in the appeal (it's not an admission of guilt). And we don't mind taking a class- we took a class about before the birth and maybe we'll even learn something worthwhile- it's the fact that we have to take one because JP is apparently a neglect parent that's so grating.

Obviously it's really hard on JP to be singled out like this. He adores Landon and it's awful to know that the resolution to this saga is, "oh, the dad did it." It's true he shouldn't have "tossed" Landon (it was seriously just above his hands), but that should never have broken ribs in a healthy baby. And we took him to the ER three times, the pediatrician too many times, and a GI specialist twice- none of whom ever thought he had broken ribs until we insisted on an x-ray. How could that possibly be neglect? He shouldn't have to fight an indication on his record. We're still planning to see a pediatric diagnostician at CHOP because I definitely believe something is, or at least was, going on with Landon's bones, and we're still waiting on the OI test results. Every doctor has stressed how hard it is to break ribs and that not much short of tight squeezing or hitting could do it. Babies that are dropped or in car accidents don't usually get broken ribs- and Landon didn't have any other internal injuries that usually accompany rib fractures- so basically none of it adds up. And it never did.

Wow, this is really one of my least organized or eloquent posts- I'm just really not sure what to think. JP's indicated. Our investigator didn't sound happy with the result. I'm Safety Person. We have weekly monitoring by a case worker. JP has to take a parenting class. He's going to appeal. Landon stays home. We don't have to go to trial. But JP's indicated.

So we're relieved, kind of. We know it could have been much worse and we have heard stories of much worse. We know that if our investigator hadn't believed us to be innocent our story would have been much worse. But we wanted to feel vindicated. We wanted to feel like celebrating. And we just feel pretty beaten down.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Day 60.5: No News

Of course, no phone call came from DCFS today. Every time my phone vibrated in the library my stomach tied itself into a little knot and deposited itself somewhere in my hip region- but it was always a friend or family member.

Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not. Either way, we're done having someone live with us and done trying to contact them. The Safety Plan expired Oct. 16 so we're not breaking any kind of agreement by being alone- and they've let us leave the state without checking on us, so obviously they're not very concerned. I have a feeling that if we weren't calling them, we'd never hear from them at all. So we'll just sit back, try to live our lives, and wait for word. Maybe I'll be able to actually start studying for that final I have on Friday for that class I never read for... or, maybe not.

Day 60: Still Waiting

2 months. 8.5 weeks. 60 days. Way too many hours. That's how long this nightmare has been going on. I remember waking up in the hospital on Day 2 or 3 and being shocked that we were still there- I was sure that all the accusations and questioning had just been a bad dream. Even as it become clear that this wasn't something I could wake up from, I never thought we'd still be involved, and still not even know where this is going, when Fall quarter ended.

The investigator called our lawyer this morning and said the person from wherever is in the Chicago office and will be reviewing our file today. She's supposed to call with the decision this afternoon. I don't know if this is the final decision or just the medical expert decision, but at this point, I think they're pretty much the same. I'm nervous and I know my stomach will drop when my phone rings, but at least we should know what we're fighting soon- if it's anything.

One of the things I resent most about this investigatory process is how impotent it has made me feel. I am normally the last person to be trampled on and I absolutely stand up for myself when needed. I have always been able to get what I felt was just treatment by knowing my rights and respectfully, but firmly asserting them. My behavior and actions now are almost unrecognizable. The old me would have revolted at the thought of meekly submitting to that horrible conversation I had with the supervisor yesterday. I would have been demanding to speak to her supervisor, to get clear answers, to be treated with some degree of professionalism, if not respect. The new me, the me who sat across from this woman as she pronounced they were taking custody of my child, weakly thanked her for the information and went back to my study carrel with my stomach in knots. They terrify me. They have so much power and almost no check against it. It's true they have to go to a state's attorney to get any legal backing behind their actions, but just the unspoken threat of them taking action is scary. Especially when it's already been taken against you with almost no justification. I know I should be making more noise. I should be talking to people higher up in the DCFS chain. I should be trying harder to reach the RCPA that I know is there and should be helping me. I should be writing to state representatives. I should be doing something more than waiting. But I don't. And while there's still a chance they won't indicate us, I won't. And I hate that almost more than anything else.

In other, rather big news, I had my dermatology appointment this morning. The doctor was concerned about the mole and asked if I minded having it removed and biopsied right then. I agreed (anything to keep me from outlining, right?) and the procedure was done quickly and almost painlessly. I have three stitches in the middle of my back that have to be removed in two weeks and the biopsy results should be back in one. I don't think he really thought it was cancerous yet, but given my family history and very pale skin he didn't want to take any chances. He looked over the rest of me and said I have "remarkably healthy skin" for being so fair and growing up in a hot sunny climate. If nothing else, at least I'll age well. That almost makes up for having to be to obsessive about sunscreen and long-sleeved t-shirts at the beach while my friends got all hot and tan. Now I have to figure out how I'm going to wear the backless cocktail dress I bought for JP's work party with a bandage in the middle of my back. A few months ago I really would have believed that would be my biggest worry right now.

Being the Squeaky Wheel

The Regional Child Protection Administrator called me back yesterday afternoon and said she wasn't the right person to talk to, so she gave me the number of the head manager of the DCFS office where our investigator and her supervisor work. So I called that head manager and she said she would track down the supervisor and have her call me. (All of this is happening in the massive undergrad library, so every time my phone rings I have to run down 3 flights of stairs to get somewhere I get a signal and can talk out loud.) I really didn't want to talk to the supervisor (she's the one who was so awful that morning they took Landon and has been pushing for an indicated finding ever since), but knew I should give it a try. The supervisor called about 20 minutes later and it was horrible. Absolutely horrible.

She wouldn't tell me anything about the case. She gave short 2-3 word answers for everything and had the most condescending, nasty tone I've ever had directed at me. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, I was just calling to find out what was happening in our case.
Supervisor: You should call your investigator.
Me: I have, but she hasn't returned my calls.
Supervisor: Well (in a "you idiot" tone), it's still under investigation.
Me: Okay, well the 60 days are up tomorrow, so I was hoping for an update.
Supervisor: We can get an extension if there's no decision tomorrow.
Me: Oh, okay, well can you tell me what is happening on the case? The last time I spoke to [our investigator] she mentioned there was someone coming from Springfield to determine who the medical expert would be. Do you know what the outcome of that was?
Supervisor: That hasn't happened yet. And the person isn't from Springfield.
Me: Oh, I thought they were. So when will they come?
Supervisor: Maybe tomorrow.
Me: And they're determining who the expert is?
Supervisor: That and other things.
Me: Like what?
Supervisor: (sounding exasperated) They're looking at the medical evidence.
Me: Okay, so we can expert to hear something tomorrow?
Supervisor: Maybe. Call your investigator.
Me: Okay... thanks.
Supervisor: [click]

I'm pretty sure that was Not helpful. And now I'm scared she's going to get mad at our investigator for being unreachable- and while she really hasn't been, and that's very frustrating, she's definitely been on our side in this and I don't want to jeopardize that. And who is this higher-up and where are they from?? Why can no one tell me anything about my own freaking case?! I was really depressed last night. We just don't seem any closer to any kind of resolution. I hate that we may have to take a risk in no longer agreeing to a Safety Plan- it should be over and we should freely be allowed to move on. Our lawyer said there are some state's attorneys and judges who may take our case because Dr. K's opinion automatically gives them probable cause, but he still didn't think it was likely. This can- and looks like it probably will- drag on into 2008. Pretty much everything I have to say about that contains copious curse words, so I'll just leave it to your imagination.

Maybe I'll learn something that doesn't make me sick to my stomach when I talk to our investigator this afternoon.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Tidbits and Some Good News

No real news, of course, but I'll do anything to avoid outlining International Law, so here's a bit of catch-up:

My mother-in-law is here as Safety Person and it is going pretty well. This is something of a miracle, especially given the tension already present in our little household. Yesterday she took Landon on a big adventure to the Marshall Fields on State St. (I refuse to call it Macy's). They went to eat by the big tree in the Walnut Room and the hostess seated them ahead of a 2-hour wait for lunch because Landon gave her several big smiles. While at lunch, he flirted with Cinderella who was in the dining room for some reason. Afterward, he sat in Santa's lap with a giant smile on his face- the picture is adorable. In every picture of me on Santa's lap, I look very suspicious and a little scared that I'm on a strange man's lap when my dad and his perfectly serviceable lap are right nearby. Not so with Landon, if you smile at him and have a warm body, he's very happy to cozy up with you. (Note to DCFS: this would not be the behavior of an abused child).

I have a doctor appointment tomorrow with a dermatologist to look at a mole that spontaneously appeared on my back. I'm sure it's nothing, but given my family's frequent history of cancer, I wanted to have it checked. I'll admit I'm a little worried- the last time I looked forward to a doctor appointment, it didn't turn out all that well.

This morning our lawyer called the supervisor and I called the Regional Child Protection Administrator (thank you, anonymous commenter, for telling me about them). We have yet to hear back from either one. The 60 days is up tomorrow, but now that I know they can grant their own extensions, I'm not sure what that means for our case ending. I couldn't sleep again last night just thinking about it. Since there are some of you out there who know the inner workings of DCFS- is an extension really that automatic and that easy to get? Is there any process or requirements to get one?

The good news: I just got an email saying the MPRE score reports are available and... I passed. By a lot. So that one night of studying, all the guessing and answer changing, and what must have been an enormous curve added up to something good. This is the first time I've been surprised by happy news in a while!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Year Ago Today...

... I was sitting in the law library trying to study for my four finals when it dawned on me that I might be pregnant. Once the possibility entered my head I couldn't focus enough to study so I went home to take a test. And it was positive! (I had just started my blog and no one read it or knew about it- not even JP- so I wasn't worried about telling the internet world before I told my own husband.) We were so excited that night. We knew we were embarking on a pretty amazing ride- and that most of the time we wouldn't be the ones driving- but we certainly never expected the amazing highs and devastating lows of the past year. He's worth it, a thousand times over, but wow... I wonder if we would have been so eager to start a family if we knew how little control we'd have over our lives from that point forward!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Still No Freaking News

Our investigator didn't call our lawyer or return his messages (or mine, but she never returns mine), so we still have no idea what happened with the expert decision. She doesn't work on Mondays, but our lawyer is going to call her supervisor Monday morning to try to see what's going on.

I asked him about the 60-day limit for the investigation and he said that's just a DCFS internal regulation and they can grant themselves extensions if they want. That was depressing news. I still think we're done cooperating on Tuesday- at least as far as the Safety Plan goes. For that to be a problem they'd have to decide to indicate, decide to file a petition in court, and the ASA would have to decide to take the case. I just really don't think those things will happen at this point (and neither does our lawyer), especially since the Safety Plan actually expired two weeks ago and no one did anything about it. The ASA would consider the strength of DCFS's case against us as well as the agency's actions during the past 60 days- I don't think any attorney would be eager to defend a child abuse indication against us to a judge. But I hate taking any risks with them. Maybe that's why they take protective custody right away- after that parents are too scared to push them on anything. I put up with our investigator not calling us and taking forever to do anything because I'm terrified of her supervisor. I don't call often because I don't want to make anyone not like me. This is ridiculous, and I know it, but the part of me that knows we were lucky to get Landon back so early doesn't know what else to do. Yeah there's rules they're supposed to follow and yeah we don't have to agree to a lot of the things they "suggest", but you have your kid taken from you and see how much you protest the restrictions they put on you when you get him back. I'll probably be mad at myself later for letting them steamroll me, but in the moment, it hasn't felt like pushing back was a good idea.

So, we have nothing but continued doubt, worry, and horrible memories. It would be really nice to have a resolution so I can focus on things like finals, Christmas, and my family.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

No News

As you probably guessed by the lack of a late afternoon update, there's no news. Our investigator didn't answer the phone or return our lawyer's messages, so we don't know what the higher-up's decision was. Maybe tomorrow?

I am letting myself be cautiously optimistic again. Our lawyer, who isn't exactly an optimist and who works solely on DCFS matters, feels that it's incredibly unlikely a court petition would be filed against us even if we're indicated (which would almost have to happen if Dr. K is the expert for our case). He doesn't believe a state's attorney would accept the case. The fact that they didn't take the protective custody case to a judge over 6 weeks ago, that 60 days have gone by without DCFS action and no changes with Landon, that our Safety Plan actually expired 2 weeks ago* and DCFS has made no effort to renew it, and that we were allowed to leave the state without any proof whatsoever that we went to Texas or stayed with my parents when we were there, all add up to make it very difficult for anyone to argue that Landon is in imminent danger and must be protected by the state.

I wonder if our investigator's goal all along was to let the 60 days just expire. I'm really hoping we're not worth the effort of getting an extension (although I'm not sure how much effort it takes)- according to Rule 300.110 it doesn't seem like our case would qualify for one, but the rules haven't appeared to matter a whole lot. At least by trying to get our expert approved over their own contracted doctor it looks like she's trying to avoid indicating (and her supervisor is letting her try not to)- it would have been easy enough under Dr. K's opinion. So our worst case scenario keeps looking a little less awful. We'd have to appeal, we'd have to deal with some monitoring and maybe a parenting class, but the thought of them taking Landon away again no longer keeps me up at night (although the memory of them doing so still does). Hopefully we'll hear something tomorrow.

* The last Safety Plan we signed expired on Oct. 16th. I thought maybe they let the lapse occur while we were away for Thanksgiving, but we've been back for a week and no one's mentioned it. We still have someone staying with us out of an abundance of caution- as long as we've gone through this much hassle for this long, we might as well be covered through the 60 days. But after that we're done. No more Safety Plans. We're going to be ALONE in our apartment for the first time in two months. JP and I are greatly looking forward to it.

Le Baptism

Because I can't really focus on International Law while waiting for our lawyer to call with the results of the DCFS expert determination, I thought I'd post a picture of the baptismal outfit. As I wrote earlier, we weren't sure we'd be able to fly to Houston, so I never bought anything for the baptism. Landon was supposed to wear JP's baptismal suit, but his head and belly were too big. His godmother offered to buy him one and this was the adorable result:

He also had white knee socks and little white sneakers, but all the pictures on Sunday feature JP and I too prominently to post them. This picture was taken Wednesday when he was modeling the different options. Thank goodness he seems to really like having clothes put on him- there was a lot of pulling stuff over the head going on that day!

The baptism itself was really wonderful. It was performed by the same Pastor who baptized a few of my cousins, confirmed me and my siblings, and married JP and I. Landon was perfect during the church service right up to the point we had to come up to the front for the ceremony. He then decided he was starving and proceeded to tell the entire congregation about it. Luckily, the water that was eventually poured over the top of his head distracted him from his hunger and he gave everyone a giant smile. He's totally going to be a swimmer- he loves water. He listened carefully to the children's message (we were in the front pew, so he was able to see all the little kids up close- he was probably relieved to discover he wasn't the only mini person in the world) and never made a peep during the sermon.

I realized how much I've missed my old church. We've been bad about finding one here in Chicago. This is partly because I was spoiled by my amazing church back home which my family has attended since it was founded in the commons area of a local middle school. It's Lutheran, but a very contemporary Lutheran (the church "band" has electric guitars and a drummer) and I haven't found anything that fits me nearly as well. The other reason (or excuse) is that 1L was so demanding I didn't really have time and now we're just in the habit of sleeping in on Sunday morning. JP grew up Catholic and attended Catholic school until college. He's not particularly religious, so he's fine with us not being Catholic or raising our kids in the Catholic church, but he's also not going to be the one out finding an alternative. Once we get to Austin I really want to try harder to find a church home. I think it's important for kids and I miss it for myself. Some of my best friends today were in my Sunday School classes back in elementary school and I loved the Sunday morning church routine growing up (if we got up for the 8am service, that routine involved donuts). Beyond the spiritual aspect, it's also just the best way to meet other young families and offers an amazing support system for whatever life throws at you. And life can throw some pretty crazy stuff.

Exams, Round 7

Yesterday was the last class of my last Fall quarter. I'm a little sad- I feel like I've completely missed it. I'm only in two classes, one of which is a seminar where our final is to be treated by our professor to brunch at The Peninsula hotel tomorrow. So I'm not too worried about that one. My other class, International Law, has a real final in 8 days. I haven't read for this class since October 3rd, the night before all this drama started. I did make myself attend, so I have pretty good notes- even if I have no idea what they mean. For the first time this quarter I am in the library. I'm surrounded by my casebook, course packet, printed-out class notes, laptop, and a big cup of tea. I am ready to begin acting like a real law student and trying to care about this exam.

And the person in the library carrel next to me is snoring. Rather loudly. If this was JP at night I'd be hitting him in the arm, ordering him to wake up, informing him of the offensive snoring, and then making him roll over. (Yes, I could just make him roll over without the waking, but I feel he should be aware that I'm not sleeping). However, I don't know this person, so I'm pretty sure I can't hit him in the arm. Argh! Snoring has got to be one of the most grating noises in the world. Maybe I'll take an early lunch and when I return, he'll be up from his nap.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

And The Fear Is Back

It's amazing how quickly I can be reduced to a shaking, fearful mess by DCFS. I've been feeling better, stronger, and more like myself over the past few weeks, but one little phone call from our lawyer with an update and- BAM, my hands are shaking and my stomach is churning.

The mythical higher-up from Springfield finally visited the Chicago office to decide who the expert is for our case. She was reviewing our file when it was discovered that DCFS had lost several crucial documents from our expert, Dr. B. He was called and immediately faxed over the missing items, but the higher-up had already left. She's returning tomorrow to finish up and make a decision. The fact that it's requiring two days and this much thought scares the hell out of me. I should be indignant and amazed that it would be this hard to choose between a pediatric orthopedic surgeon board certified in 1985 who can read and interpret his own x-rays vs. a general pediatrician certified in 2006 with no training in radiology or orthopedics. But this type of absurdity seems to abound in DCFS. Our investigator made it seem like this would just be a rubber stamp, but now I'm scared again. Dr. K's report says Landon's injuries were absolutely child abuse with no room for anything but an indicated finding. If she's the expert we'll probably find ourselves back at court and possibility fighting for custody. The supervisor already agreed to follow Dr. B's opinion and decided Landon's injuries were accidentally done by us or incidental to childbirth. How can we take steps backward? How can anyone possibly think Dr. K is more specialized than Dr. B? Why would it be this hard to make a decision?

Our investigator is supposed to call tomorrow with the results of the expert decision. Once that is done, a determination on the outcome of the investigation should follow quickly.

I cannot wait until my emotional well being is out of the control of DCFS.
Addition at 6:51 PM: I now feel much more calm. Any time a decision has been made quickly, it's been against us. If the higher-up had been done after an hour, I'm certain it would have been because she decided to go with their contracted doctor (Dr. K). By waiting for additional documents from Dr. B that shows she's really considering him. I'm still not happy about the fact it's taking real consideration when her approval was described as a rubber-stamp like requirement, but I'm not despairing. Yet.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Day 53

We are now on Day 53 of the "investigation." I spoke with our investigator last Tuesday (I waited to call until we were safely on Texas territory) and here's the latest:

She and her (evil, heartless) supervisor have read our pediatric orthopedist's and concluded that (1) JP and I are the "perpetrators" of whatever happened to Landon, and (2) whatever happened to Landon was not child abuse, but rather an incidental/accidental event. This is very good- the child abuse part of our investigation has been dropped. However, the evil, heartless supervisor apparently really wants to nail us on something. She wants us to be indicated for neglect because the fractures were old and we didn't know about them. Never mind the fact we took him to FOUR doctors, all of whom brushed off our concerns about the popping noise in his ribs, and that our insistence on a chest x-ray is what started this whole nightmare. Our investigator openly said, "my supervisor and I aren't on the same page." She said under the DCFS guidelines (which she reminded me I could look up online) to indicate on neglect there must be "willful and blatant disregard for child's health and safety". She said herself that all the doctor's appointments make that impossible. She said having our lawyer call and mention this to her supervisor would probably help. She also emailed her supervisor while I was on the phone to remind her that their 60 day investigation deadline is up on Dec. 4th and that's not very far away. She's still hopeful we'll be unfounded- that her supervisor is just making one last stand that has very little change of sticking. She did say that even if her supervisor indicates us she just wants us to take a parenting class and this will all end- that no one is talking about custody or petitioning in court any more. I reminded our investigator that we will absolutely appeal any indicated finding- even if all the indication means is a parenting class. For one, there's just the absurdity of having been indicated for child neglect, but that also stays on our record for 20 years and if JP ever wanted to coach, or if another child of ours was hurt, that indication could haunt us.

Overall I think the conversation was good. Our investigator was very apologetic- she said several times that this case should be over, that there's nothing left do on it, and it's just about making a decision. Our expert has STILL not been approved by that mythical higher-up in the Springfield office, but I asked our investigator what the chance was that he wouldn't be approved and she said "not much." It looks like we're just waiting for another rubber stamp. (I still don't really understand the role of this person in Springfield, but our lawyer is calling today to inquire further). On our end, we're still living with a safety person even though the last Safety Plan we signed ended on Oct. 16th. We decided (with advice from our lawyer) that since we've gone out of our way to cooperate so far, we might as well cover ourselves through the 60 days. We don't want to give anyone a reason to think Landon isn't safe. JP's parents are covering us through the deadline of Dec. 4th. Of course DCFS can get a 30-day extension, but I'm desperately hoping they won't bother with that. There is nothing left to be done and at some point we're going to refuse to sign another Safety Plan and see if they really want to take us to court.

So we continue to wait for official news of anything. If I let myself think about what this child abuse witch hunt has cost us so far I get so angry I can't function. This is our last week of fall classes- I only had 8 days this quarter as a regular law student. I haven't read since this started, I dropped half my classes, and I have no idea how I will take my final in a little over a week. My blog should have been filled with trivial posts about Landon, law school, Chicago, family, and fun. We're trying to get him to sleep through the night (no, he's still not doing it, all this has been hell on any schedule we have tried to create for him) and that's worth a few posts alone. I feel like I've lost 2 months with my son- between the NICU and this ordeal we've had fewer days caring for him alone as parents than the weeks he's been cared for along with others. I'm scared to fully trust that the child abuse allegations are off the table and I'm scared of how much longer this can go on. I hope it's only seven more days, but I'm rarely correct when making DCFS predictions.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Of Friends and Family

The Original Perfect Post Awards

We're back in the Windy City, with JP's dad present as Safety Person (a post on the continued absurdity and an investigation update is forthcoming). The trip to Texas was wonderful. I've never cried when leaving to return to Chicago- I love this city and it is our home now, but I cried yesterday. For six days I was able to let go of some of the stress and tension surrounding us in Illinois. The investigation was never far from my mind, but for the first time in a long time, it wasn't at the forefront. Landon met his aunt and uncle for the first time, JP and I drank a lot of properly blended frozen margaritas, my baby brother showed off what he's learned in two months of college by schooling us in beer pong, and we all got to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends.

I had hoped that this nightmare would be over by Thanksgiving- I had an image of us sitting around my grandparent's table in Texas thanking God that our lives were finally moving on. Obviously, that didn't happen; however, I found myself filled with thankfulness anyway for the amazing people in my life. This post isn't about how the hard times make you realize the importance of family and friends- I already knew that. It's an acknowledgement of how much their love and support can shine through your darkest times.

We moved to Illinois two years ago without knowing a single person in the state, but when a doctor's visit turned into a nightmare, our Chicago support system materialized. Friends visited us in the hospital with treats and distractions. A friend researched lawyers for us and called to fill them in on the background so that when I called on Friday, barely coherent after DCFS had taken Landon, they already knew my story. When Landon was released from the shelter, I had five local volunteers to be safety people. A friend slept on the floor of my living room for four days, under the threat of a psychotic cat, while we waited for my dad to be approved. Friends instituted a daily delivery of meals, and even coordinated to make sure we didn't have too much of one style food. I've gotten notes for missed classes and received incredible support from the professors and administration at the law school. I've had classmates I barely know donate money, ask how I'm doing, and send emails with support and research. People far away have made a daily difference as well. Friends of my parents donated money, sent emails, prayed, spread the word, wrote character letters for the hearing, offered to fly up as safety persons, and even made care packages for my mom and dad with meals, gift cards, and a day of a cleaning service. Family donated, prayed, cried, loved, and offered to do anything they could to help. My aunt left her family and moved in with us for two weeks. People I've never met sent legal and medical research, donated money, prayed, and sent emails of outrage, ideas for help, and support. No one who knew us doubted us, and so many of those we've never met joined in indignation. People have commented on how strong I've been during this, and I have been. But I think any mother be would when the options are: (a) break down and risk losing your child or (b) press on and do everything in your power to have him restored to you. So while the strength came from within, the ability to focus solely on Landon- to not spent hours sifting through google search results, legal cases, and doctors names, to ignore grocery lists and our dwindling bank account- that came from you all and I am deeply, immeasurably thankful for it.

At Landon's baptism yesterday I kept crying. Sitting in the church we've attended since the 80's, that my family helped build, that JP and I were married in, was very emotional. Old friends from my church youth group, whom I've known since elementary school but haven't seen in years, heard about the investigation and the baptism and came to the service to show their support. We had a few family members and five pews of family friends at the church. Landon has no idea how much love and support surrounded him, but someday we'll tell him. I believe very much in the importance of family, but I also believe that friends can be the family you make for yourself (yes, I just quoted Sex and the City in an emotional post that keeps making me cry in the law library). Without our friends- local, faraway, known, and unknown- this ordeal would have been crippling.

So to those of you who recognize yourselves in the descriptions above, thank you. To those of you who donated, thank you. To those of you who sent emails, thank you. To those of you who defended me in my own comments and elsewhere, thank you. To those of you I don't even know about, but who prayed for and thought about us, thank you. I don't think I believe that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, or even that God does everything for a reason, but I do believe that something good can come out of anything- even if the good sometimes seems small in the midst of the bad. You all are my good.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I adore margaritas. Actually, I adore tequila, and margaritas are a convenient way of delivering it. JP's birthday was largely overshadowed by the fact that we had just gotten Landon home from the shelter and were terrified of what else DCFS may do to us. Our lives may still be in DCFS's oh so incompetent hands, but my parents sent JP and I out for a belated birthday celebration tonight while they babysat. We went to a very delicious Mexican place where our bar bill far exceeded our food bill- in the words of my grandpa, "that's a successful evening out!". JP and I were able to dress up, drink, flirt, eat, talk, and drink a little more. And because you can't go anywhere in my hometown without running into at least 3 people you know, I ran into seven at the restaurant. It was wonderful to see familiar, caring, and supportive faces. It was a great night for us.

The day was good too. Mom and I left the boys at home and went shopping. We had a terribly successful Marshalls trip- terrible as in, we found way too many "so perfect I had to buy them" items. I found not one, but two, dresses to wear on Sunday, a gorgeous pair of black leather boots that mom bought me as a Christmas present, a super cute sweater, and a pair of black pinstriped capris that I can wear to work (my new test for whether or not I can buy a new piece of clothing: can I wear it to work?). The marvelous thing about Marshalls is the capris were Limited, fit perfectly, and only cost $14.99. The two dresses were over $100 regular price, around $60 Marshall's price, and on clearance for less than $40. I love that store. Someday when I'm a lawyer and not a student living off loans, I wonder if I'll stop shopping at places like Marshalls, TJ Maxx, and Ross. I kind of hope not- I get beautiful clothes for amazing prices. But shopping there takes time and patience- two things I may have in short supply as a BigLaw working mom. We'll see. I hope I never think $200 is an acceptable amount to spend on a single piece of clothing. Landon's godmother brought over an adorable Christening outfit complete with white knee socks and shoes, so we're all set for Sunday. Our family portraits turned out great yesterday. We spent way too much- they must love the new parents that come in with their babies. The little guy totally hammed it up for the camera. He finds flashes hilarious, so there were some good smiles.

Well, I think I've managed to type a coherent blog post after drinking two giant top shelf margaritas and while watching Die Hard 4. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!