Monday, September 26, 2011

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease Strikes

So what's new with us?  Not much except, Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (NOT to be confused with "foot and mouth" disease that animals get.)  Whatever you do, don't Google the term "Hand Foot and Mouth Disease" and look at the images.  You will not like it.  (But if you did just look and compare them to the pictures below, you will realize that we could have done a lot worse.  So we are thankful.  Yes, we sure are.)

Oddly enough, this nasty little pathogen targets kids but is not actually a big deal according to pediatricians.  While there is no vaccine or antibiotics, it's just an uncomfortable & unsightly illness. But make no mistake, it is highly contagious as long as there is a fever and/or bodily fluid from the blisters or anything else that makes contact with a non-infected kid.  I guess this virus races through daycare centers and playgroups because it also incubates for a few days before you even know you took it home as a souvenir.

As of today there are little blisters on Sidney's hands, feet, bum and mouth.  The bum and the mouth are the worst--of which there are no pictures.  Poor little thing has a giant sore on the bottom of her tongue so eating has been tough.  Behold the carnage:

Luckily I remembered we have a blender and that smoothies are pretty easy to make: just put some fruit, plain yogurt, banana, milk and ice in the blender---awesome.  Sidney gives Hand Foot and Mouth Disease a big smack right in the face while sipping a smoothie no less.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ken quoted in Financial Times Article

Mr. Ken, who wishes he had more time in a day or could clone himself to pursue all of his musical interests, hang out with the family, do his work and run marathons, will just have to settle for our measly 24 hour days.  But he does find time to tinker with technology.

Do you know the adage, "When you're a hammer everything looks like a nail"?  When you are Ken Moore, everything looks like a Theremin.  Case in point: the Wii Theremin & the Kinect Theremin.

Well someone at the Financial Times in London took notice and spoke to him.  Here Ken is quoted in the article, "Sonic Boom." It's about how new technology is influencing musical instruments.  Yay, Ken!

Update: I forgot to mention that a music man's work is never done.  When we were in Ohio/Virginia earlier this year, Ken was inspired to build his own web drum machine software.  You can make beats yourself and you don't even have to be musical (like me.)  It's great fun to play around with.  Click the image to see it.

[Note: You have to have the latest version of the Chrome Browser to run this app. So make sure you do--link for latest update is HERE.]

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Domestic Enemies of the Prius-Driving Mom

The ladies over at Rants from Mommyland, who are wickedly funny and hilariously true, have a running series entitled Domestic Enemies.  These posts capture the challenges that face every type of mom you can think of: Stay At Home Moms, Sports Moms, Ex-Pat Moms, Adoptive Moms, etc.  All of the posts are instructive about what it's like to be a certain kind of mom.  Some are more poignant than others but all are written with a sense of humor.  This inspired me to think about what kind of mom I am, because the more obvious ones have been written.  So I decided to delve a little deeper, to find something that defines my Mommyhood experience.  What could be more defining then how your schlep your offspring and all their stuff around all day long?

© 2009 SouthPark Studios

Domestic Enemies of the Prius-Driving Mom

First and foremost driving a Prius has a certain kind of, dare I say, "smugness" associated with it and South Park has a whole episode dedicated to putting Prius drivers in their place.  Everyone knows you spend less on gas and there is a debatable theory that you're hurting the environment less with your righteous investment in hybrid technology.  But no one has quite figured out what to do with the spent Prius batteries, so we shall see if that claim pans out.  Of course, a distinguishing feature of the Prius is its form factor--which is a hatchback.  It served all our needs as a DINK (Dual Income No Kids) + YUPPIE (Young Urban Professional) Couple.  Then we had a child who came with gear and it suddenly feels slightly inadequate.  But it's our only car so we make it work despite these enemies:

As a mom, you want deals on essentials in large quantities.  We didn't shop at Costco until after we had a kid because we never needed as much as Costco was willing to give us.  (You CAN have too much fruit leather by the way.)  But as soon as my daughter was born, we turned into wholesale consumers of diapers, wipes, paper towels & formula.  Only problem is, you need a car that can handle Costco.  With a car seat and any form of a stroller in the back of a Prius, you've just seriously jeopardized your capacity for large boxy items.  If you get impulsy and also buy a new HEPA Vacuum, a humidifier and a case of wine, you'd better be good at Tetris and hope the kid isn't claustrophobic with all the stuff stacked to the ceiling on either side of them.
Valet Parking
Why is it that these cars have been on the market over 6 years and valets still act a little nervous when they take the keys?  I know it has a push button start but even my 2-year-old has figured it out already.  And please, don't take offense when I ask if you'd like me to show you how to turn it on and/or make it go.  The old man at the Jiffy Lube spent a very amusing few minutes trying to get it into the service bay because he was too manly to let me show him how the car worked.

No, I don't want to race you and should I ever be ahead or passing you, please don't take it as a challenge.  I just need to get by you or you need to speed up.

Secret Mini-Van Envy
When we fly places and have to rent cars, sometimes we get minivans.  Can I tell you that it's like a vacation within a vacation?  Having so much choice of where to put stuff and people makes my head spin.  We just came back from Canada where we had a Dodge Grand Caravan and I was freaking out.  You mean I don't have to contort and strain my back to get my child into the car seat?  Or I don't have to make the Sophie's choice between the emergency roadside kit and the BOB stroller?  Or the side doors and the hatch open with the touch of a button?  Minivans are not sexy or hip but they sure are convenient.  Parking them in the city is not so fun but who am I kidding?  I only go to the grocery store, the park, co-op and Costco/Target/The Mall.  All of which accommodate minivans.

Spectre of a 2nd Child
It's just a matter of time.  There is no way my 6' husband can sit in one of the front seats with 2 kids in car seats behind us.  There just isn't enough leg room.  And don't get me started about how we'd even attempt to get a double stroller in there as well.

Four Adults Who Want to Go Somewhere
Today's car seats are a triumph of technology and padding.  Even the more streamlined ones that are suggested for smaller cars still have a decent-sized foot print.  In our case, the car seat sits smack in the middle of the back seat.  It allows 2 adults to sit uncomfortably on either side just long enough to get to a restaurant or a relative's house.  But if the child isn't accompanying us, it is fairly straightforward thanks to the LATCH system to remove it.  Just don't look at the seat and all the gross food, sand and debris that is now where the car seat was.  


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Birthday BBQing

Last weekend we celebrated Sidney's 2nd birthday by coupling it with our annual BBQ.  Mom, Cindy, Dad and Ann all came up for the festivities and we took on an ambitious challenge of providing all the food for once (instead to doing potluck sides).  I won't lie, it was a lot of prep but the meal was in-harmony with itself and all hit the table at the same time which is a risk with a potluck.  Naturally we had way more food than we needed but it was fine.  With roughly 14 kids here, things were high energy and no toy was left unplayed-with. (Except cup and monkey who were safely sequestered in Sidney's room--we can share but but some things are sacred.)

It became clear to me as I was watching the older (4-6 yr old) kids playing that they are a bit harder on toys and take much greater risks than the 2 year olds.  Things that hadn't even occurred to me like the fact you could climb up on top of the playhouse or careen around the lower garden a high speed on the scooter or throw the dodge ball hard enough to hurt someone or whatever.  These are just normal kids pushing the boundaries and seeing where the limits of behavior but it does catch me by surprise when you're used to what toddlers do as compared to what "big kids" do.

Overall though, it was a beautiful day that we were grateful to share with our family and close friends.

All these fantastic photos were shot by Cindy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Yoga Momma

Doubtless you've seen this illustration before or know exactly what is said by the flight attendant to convey the instruction.  Secure your own mask first before assisting others.  That can apply to a lot more than oxygen masks.

I've been a part of a class called Yoga Moms in Phinney Ridge for a little over a year and it is one of the most rewarding things I do for myself.  A lot of moms feel guilty when they take time or resources for themselves because to be a mom is to be in a constant state of giving, anticipating and sacrificing.  But this class is just for women who are moms and it has such a supportive energy and intension to it.  The teacher, Jen, used to teach the prenatal yoga class I took before Sidney was born and I really liked her approach and personality.  

That part of the airplane spiel above occurred to me tonight as I was doing my downward dogs and warrior poses.  I think one important way to be the best mom you can be, is really to "secure your own mask first" before you can help anyone else.  It initially sounds sort of selfish but really anyone who is a parent and caregiver HAS to replenish their well of energy and focus.  I'm so grateful that such a program exists that not only offers convenient evening yoga classes but also honors moms specifically by helping recharge our batteries and reminding us that nurturing one's self is part and parcel to nurturing one's family.

[I also want to thank Ken for being supportive of my yoga nights.  :)]

Monday, September 12, 2011

Radio GaGa

This all started after a "girls night out" with Sarah to the storytelling event.  After a stiff gin and tonic, I was regaling her of stories Ken should tell about his life.  He seems so mild-mannered yet he has this crazy creative energy that sends him off in directions you couldn't even conceive of.  Things which one just has to live through to be believed.  This is one of those stories.

This piece aired on KUOW last Saturday at Noon:  "Adventures in New Parenthood: Scambaiting"

(Kudos to Sarah for taking two very different narrators with very different points of view on this event and weaving them together so masterfully.)

Many of my friends who heard this puzzled as to why I wasn't more upset by it all.  Why didn't I scoop up the baby and take off for my mother's house?  Here's the answers:

1. If you know you partner and love them, nothing good will come from crushing their "spark," in this case, Ken's creativity.  You have to figure out how to work with it and coexist.  Otherwise, why are you with that person?

2. As new parents, the mother (very rightly) gets a lot of support and attention.  However, new dads can be just as discombobulated yet they are expected to just buck up and participate.  It can be thankless and feel very out of control.  And that can make you do some crazy things.

As someone who is no longer sleep deprived or detoxing from hormones, it seems very logical that  a new dad may seek out something he can do that is all his own and in his complete control.  You hope that it manifests itself in playing his guitar or drawing a picture or playing a video game or going out for a beer.  But then again when it turns out he's saving some naive online granny from a Nigerian scammer--as mad and incredulous as you may be--you can't help be just a little bit proud.

But maybe that's just me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago Today

Ten years ago today, Amy called and woke me at about 7am Pacific time and told me to turn on the television.  After staring numbly at the images for a moment, all I could say was, “This looks like a movie.  This looks like Die Hard or something.”  
I rode the bus into work early and noticed everything, as if my senses had been turned on for the first time. The brightness of the sunlight, the colors of the EMP building, the sounds of cars, the silence in the sky due to all the airplanes being grounded.  

I worked then at RealNetworks in the Broadcast Network division.  ABC News was a client of ours and did streaming through us.  It was the very early days of streaming video over the internet and all we had were postage-stamp sized video boxes that played at 56Kbps (kilobits per second) and 256 Kbps--so definitely not broadband.  But we all worked like crazy to keep the streams going and divert all our servers to keeping up with the demand on the system.  The number of hits to the live ABC News feed was astronomical--a double digit multitude of hits of any average day.  Many people around the country who couldn't be in front of a TV set wanted and needed to know what was happening.  I realized on that day how powerful the medium of streaming video was and despite how helpless I felt about what was going on in New York, DC and Pennsylvania,  I knew could do this one thing.   To help people stay connected to the news was what I could do. I monitored the feed all day and wave after wave of horror washed over me. I finally had to turn the sound down on my computer.  But the master stream stayed up all day and we like everyone else in the country braced for the dawning of a new era.

Having lived in Europe for a year in college prior to 9/11/01, I saw how other countries lived with the possibility of terrorism at any moment.  America became a member of that sad fraternity and became vulnerable--like every place else.   Things were no longer so shiny any more.  Not that there couldn’t be happiness or good things in life after this but things would always be marked by this event.  Total safety had always been an illusion and living with an edge of uncertainty became the new normal.  

Thursday, September 08, 2011

WDS Knows What's Best (...for it's bottom line)

When your dad is your dentist for all of your childhood (like mine), you get used to knowing the person who is doing your dentistry will do everything in his power to make sure it turns out right.  And because he made no money on it, he did what was needed--no more, no less.  That should be everybody's experience but economics and insurance interests conspire to punish that sort of long-term patient care approach.

I think a lot of people make the assumption that doctors and dentists must live high on the hog, raking in extraordinary fees just because they can.  We're led to believe that insurers have our best interest at heart and when they take a stand by only paying portions of the standard fees or making drastic cuts as WDS is now doing to Washington State dentists, that they are doing us a favor.

The perception of doctors and dentists hanging around the country club, driving BMWs and doing their job just for the money has never been my experience with my own dentist father, many of his colleagues or my own current medical/dental providers in Seattle.  These folks have all struck me as earnest people who have gone into the field of dentistry/medicine to help others.  The trade off of more schooling and carrying large debt loads to go through school to then to set up a practice are worth the desire to help improve people's lives through better health.

Many of the great doctors and dentists are "great" because they relate well to people, take the time to help solve problems and go above an beyond to take care of their patients.  But that does not necessarily make them great business people or insurance experts.   With the proliferation of medical and dental insurance, they have to see more patients in a day because they are paid less for visits and procedures.  It puts pressure on them to be quick and sometimes hasty.  It can possibly incentivize those with weaker character and struggling balance sheets to to do more unnecessary tests and procedures to make up the difference. More of their time has to be spent dealing with insurers and the cost of hiring someone to deal full time with insurers is part of the overhead that doctors must now support.  And it certainly doesn't help when insurers require practitioners to adhere to a dictated schedule of fees to be in the PPO or preferred provider programs.  These programs can become so vital to some practices (especially where WDS dental insurance is concerned) that it could represent up to 40-60%+ of a dentist's patients.

WDS knows in this economy, it has dentists over a barrel.  With so many of the insured being with WDS, they control the payouts for a majority of the patients in Washington State.  It's banking on most dentists, especially new ones, or commercial dental groups to carry on and absorb the cuts.  This does not bode well for good dentistry.  It puts practitioners at a crossroads to either accept the new decreased payouts and find corner-cutting in every possible area including care OR drop out of WDS as a preferred provider causing the patients to pay more for care they have previously received at less cost.  But I guess if one doesn't care about getting decent dentistry it isn't an issue.  Providers are also getting squeezed by rising costs of medical/dental supplies, office overhead, worker salaries/benefits, loads of malpractice insurance and general inflation--yet the insurers want to cover only a % of their fees or reduce the existing payouts further.

By being "cheap" or expecting medical/dental care to be virtually free, we as a society are supporting insurers dictating the care we receive and deserve that scanty care.  There is a choice to make and employers & individuals who sign on with these insurers like WDS have the power to accept these programs or not.  People need to realize quality care does cost money because it's worth it.   It's only your life and well-being after all.  Otherwise, by relying on an insurance company to dictate where we are seen, how we are treated and what procedures are acceptable--we as patients are saying that we think the insurance company--a business--knows better than our own doctors do.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Top 20 Favorite Toys for a Toddler (2 years)

What captures the imagination of 2-year-olds? Toys that are just their size or make them feel that they have accomplished something by building, buckling, creating or mimicking.  Also, toys that stimulate imaginative play of various kinds.  Here are Sidney's most favorite toys of this stage.  (Direct links to are clickable from the images.)

1. Baby Doll Paul
It's anatomically correct and will "pee" water after you feed him his bottle (but you don't have to use that function). You can also get a baby girl doll but this one came with a doll stroller I was buying at a consignment store so I couldn't pass on the deal. I actually like her having a boy doll. It provides a nice element of difference. The best thing about this doll is it's realism and the craftsmanship. The eyes open and close when it's laid down, the face has significant detail, the weight and size of the doll is a good balance. 

2. Doll Stroller
After encountering a doll stroller over at a friend's house, Sidney couldn't get enough of it.  It remains a hit with her and friends who come over to visit.

3. Fisher-Price Doodle Pro
Excellent travel and quiet time magnetic toy that has no caps or paper to manage.  

4. Kidkraft Play Kitchen
As I like to joke, Sidney has a play kitchen and so does Mommy--no real food gets made in either. This unit is made of wood, is compact, classic and not obnoxious like other plastic-y kitchen sets. While providing creative imaginative play, it doesn't have stickers/decals or obnoxious visuals so it can be displayed without fracturing your decor too much.

5. Playskool Busy Ball Popper 
I never thought Sidney would like this as much as she does.  At 18 months old, she wanted nothing to do with it.  One day, something changed and it became the "IT" toy for play dates and solo time.  Once she was able to activate the unit herself, there was no end to the fascination.  One word of caution, as is, it does play an annoying circus-themed song over and over again.  Not fans of this, Ken opened it up and snipped the wire that powers the speaker.

6. Buckle Toy
We call this "Mr. Buckles" in our house.  This is one of the best toys I've ever seen.  Period.  Our kid and her friends are obsessed with buckling buckles in the high chair, car seat, back packs, etc.  This toy is amazingly simple but utterly captivating.  Perfect for traveling and quiet playtime.  It's the kind of thing you wish you had invented yourself.

7. Color Wonder Pens/Paper
When the novelty of the magnetic easel fades, the next step is to allow them markers that won't get on everything.  These pens can't make marks on anything except the special paper of the same brand.  It's like magic for parents.

8. Kiddi-o Trike
Childhood's major milestone of your first trike is nostalgically captured in German-made tricycle brand Kettler and Kiddio-o.  These trikes are known for their quality and durability.  They maintain high resale value and are always in demand.

9. Step 2 Playhouse
When we would go to the community centers for playtimes, I was always struck by how delighted Sidney was to be in the tiny playhouses they had available.  She loved being inside it and playing with the other children.  We now love that having one at our house means she has a special place outside to take her toys or play with friends.  But I especially like this one because I can keep an eye on what's going on inside of it because of the open design but can still give her a little space.

10. Water table
I would consider this a mandatory summer toy.  Considering we have a child who has major aversions to being sprayed, sprinkled, misted or showered with water, the only other way to keep cool is to have a receptacle of water.  With pools of any size being more maintenance and something you have to keep eyes on at all moments with children, a water table is a great compromise.  Given that Sidney loves to pour water over and over again with her ever present "cup," we couldn't ask for a better summer toy.

11. Kid-sized Picnic Table
This is as much for our daughter as it is for her little friends.  Kids need someplace to sit outside when the weather is nice or you want to BBQ.  It's such a drag to try and get a tot to sit in a regular sized chair or at an adult picnic table.

12. Megabloks
Kids love to build. These sets give them lots of ways to do that.  The pieces don't snap so tight together that it takes forever to separate but they also provide a lot of variety for imaginative play.

13. Sand toys
Beloved "cup" came from a sand toy collection and resembles that light blue cup pictured.  Why does it capture Sidney's imagination and have to go everywhere with us?  Is it the square shape?  The orange color?  The cubed detailing?  Whatever it is, digging in the sand and sand toys are the bomb.  Buckets, shovels and sand molds are the best.

14. Wood Peg Farm Puzzle
I believe some one gave this to us at our shower and I was wondering when it would interest her.  We've had it out for over a year but just now she will pull out the piece and match it up with where it belongs and do it over and over.  Before she just liked the duck piece and wanted to chew on it.

15. Large Piece Jigsaw Puzzle
One of our PEPS friends reported that their daughter really loved big-piece wood puzzle jigsaws.  We got this one and sure enough the fascination of pulling something apart and putting it back together to reveal a picture is delightful every time.

16. Rocking Chair
Chairs of any sort that are their size seem to dazzle kids at this age.  A rocking chair presents it's own challenge by not being completely stable and inspires especially non-traditional ways of getting into it.

17. Kid-sized Adirondack Chair
We've seen a few of these at summer parties this year.  They do make great gifts since they are not top of mind for most parents but a welcome and stylish addition to any patio or yard.  Fun to sit in, of course.

18. Toy Dinosaurs
Sidney used to b-line for the plastic dinos at the library and there would be tears when we had to leave them.  My mother gave Sidney her own set just recently and dinos at home are a huge hit.  They play with her in the living room and in the water table.  My husband looked up the proper names of each dino and we practice saying them with her.  This set has a great variety.

19. Magnetic Fishing Puzzle
Friends of ours were about to take their toddler to Hawaii and bought this puzzle for him.  They let Sidney test it out before they left and she was hooked.  The magnetic aspect helps with coordination but that feeling when you "hook" a fish is so satisfying.

20. Books, Books, Books!  What list of favorite toys would be complete without books?  Maybe they are not technically toys but Sidney spends a huge part of her days looking at the pictures in her books. These are the favorites.  (Direct links to are clickable from the images.)