Monday, August 27, 2012


Kate is six months old. Is it really possible she's half-way to a year? I can't believe it. The picture above is my new favorite--she looks just like her dad. 

A couple nights ago, Jay wanted to go hiking and have a picnic. What with Kate's super long nap and things taking longer than we thought, we didn't get out the door until 6:30 at night. Jay keeps trying to convince me there are pretty places in Vegas, but I remain skeptical. When we neared Red Rock, a state park comprised of a lone red mountain among the brown, our conversation went like this:
Jay: "There it is! Isn't it beautiful?"
Me: Silence.
Jay, obviously disgruntled: "So it's not as pretty as St. George. Don't even say it."
Me: "I didn't say it."

But when we pulled up to the gates at 7:00, they were closed. A friendly guy at the gate said that, while they normally close at 8, the river was flooding so they blocked the entrance. We had taken a wrong turn on our way there and had unwittingly found a different branch of the park (which turned out to be FREE), so we doubled back to check it out. 

We arrived just at the end of that golden light hour photographers love, and as we trekked on a boardwalk that was built to conserve a "meadow" (meaning there were a few grasses and leafy plants and a smattering of small trees--positively lush for Las Vegas), we passed several people hauling SLR cameras. I always get excited when I see a bunch of photographers because it means I've found a good spot for future sessions. And it really was pretty.

I feel like I brag about my baby a lot on this blog. She isn't perfect, and I'm certainly not either, but she really is, for the most part, a happy, sweet, affectionate little baby. I can't get over it, so I tend to talk about it. I joke that I'm afraid to have more kids because what if they're not this good? Or maybe I'm not joking. Anyway, this open-mouth smile is classic Kate.

A month ago, Jay and I were driving to the store to get some ice cream when Jay's car died and wouldn't start again. Luckily, we were just a block from our neighborhood, so with Kate in the back seat, the two of us jumped out and started pushing. A couple good Samaritans helped us out, and one colorful guy who ended up living near us even took a look (car knowledge is so useful. Too bad we're just academics. Sigh.) and spent 30 minutes evaluating things. His girlfriend came out after awhile and saw me holding Kate. "That is the happiest baby in the world!" she said.

A few days later when we were having the car towed to the mechanic, the girl passed us on her way home and rolled down her window to make sure we were okay. She looked at Kate bouncing in my arms and said, "There's the happiest baby in the world!"

Kate loves her dad. I think I might still technically be the favorite because Kate is a smart girl and knows where her food comes from, but Dad is a close second. She lights up when he comes in a room, and she jerks her little arms around and makes funny noises to get his attention. Once he looks at her, she just grins. 

About a week after she turned five months, Kate started rolling onto her stomach during naps. I never actually saw it happen, but she would wake up mad because she couldn't turn back over. Though I don't think she's quite figured out rolling is a means of transportation, she's gotten quite good at rolling from back to front and front to back. Every once in awhile she'll forget how to roll on her back again. She's also made it several feet off her blanket on the floor, intentionally or not. She is like her mom and likes to sleep on her stomach.

Kate likes to be sitting upright or standing at all times. She's a strong little thing. After a couple days of shudders, Kate decided she really likes yams. Rice cereal is another favorite. She attacks the spoon like a little piranha and produces whiny grunts when she's not fed fast enough.

 Happy half birthday, Katester! We love you.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Health Insurance and Heartburn

{Photos by Katie} 

I believe there are several 'necessary evils' in life, including, to a certain extent, taxes, pollution, and insurance. While I'm a firm believer in and staunch supporter of capitalism, I find it rather twisted that healthcare, specifically health insurance, has become a publicly traded, for-profit multi-billion dollar empire. This means that the people who happily collect your premiums, the people who should have your back if anything were to happen to you, are doing everything in their power to draft contracts with enough exclusions that they won't actually have to pay out when your ox is in the mire. 

Jay's employer does offer health insurance coverage, but we can't afford the extra $545/month it would cost to add me and Kate to the plan. As a responsible citizen, I believe in being insured, even if I have to pay for it myself. Unfortunately, it is impossible to buy an individual insurance plan that is equivalent to even the crappiest group plan. The specific problem I am running up against, of course, is maternity coverage. Of the hundreds of individual health insurance plans available here in NV, I've found two  (2) that offer maternity coverage: both HMOs, both with one year waiting periods for not only labor/delivery costs, but also for prenatal care. Meaning that if I wanted my prenatal care covered, I would have to pay for this plan for a year before I even started trying to conceive. Aside from the sheer audacity of some corporate entity trying to control my reproductive life, it is mind-numbing to me that insurance companies can pick and choose which parts of me they deem worthy to insure. Heart? No problem. Legs? No sweat. Uterus? Nope. Especially in an era where the law states a fetus is part of a woman's body rather than an independent life, doesn't it make even more sense that insurance should have to cover it?

Isn't it a complete contradiction that they will pay for birth control pills, sterilization, and Viagra, but not for pregnancy? It makes me furious to the point of trembling and tears that women's rights--my rights--have been so universally snubbed in this manner. I see several major issues with this practice; here are a few of them:
  • Pregnancy is a natural, common, physical and medical condition, a normal part of life. It is unethical, unfair, and wrong to exclude it from coverage.
  • Lack of coverage for pregnancy and delivery encourages abortion. 
  • Maternity coverage should not be optional. Optional maternity clauses encourage only women who are planning on pregnancy to seek coverage, which significantly increases risk that the insurance company will have to pay out. 
    • Women without maternity coverage are up a creek in regards to unexpected pregnancy.
    • If maternity coverage were included in every plan, the risk would be spread across a wide population and premiums would significantly decrease for women seeking maternity coverage and only slightly increase for everyone else.
  • If child-bearing women don't have access to maternity coverage, hospital prices will necessarily increase due to uninsured women unable to pay bills.
Another women's health issue that virtually no insurance plans cover, save a few highly expensive corporate ones, is infertility, a medical condition that affects the body and impacts quality of life. It can be reversed or improved in most cases with varying degrees of medical treatment. How does it make sense that insurance will cover self-inflicted injuries or lung cancer caused by voluntary tobacco use (as it should), but it will exclude coverage for a legitimate biological deficit? Some people have cancer or diabetes or depression or hormone imbalances. I have infertility. It's not something I brought upon myself. It's hereditary. It's something that's wrong with my body that I should be able to get treatment for under my insurance plan. 

And while I'm ranting, did you know women pay much higher premiums than men their age, even without maternity coverage? Like, 150% higher?

Does it make sense that erectile dysfunction and birth control are covered benefits and pregnancy and infertility are not? It's like insurance companies will acknowledge reproductive health as long as it doesn't deal with actual reproduction. Speaking of which, where are all of the women's reproductive rights activists? They march in parades for the right to abortion and easy access to birth control, but they're nowhere to be found when it comes to fighting for the right to conceive or bear a child. It's like they've forgotten "reproductive right" refers to having children, not just preventing them. It seems that women's health in politics is polarized into caricatures: the left pushing for abortion and birth control and ignoring that there are those who actually want to be pregnant, the extreme right assuming all women should want to be mothers and denouncing contraception and all abortion. Really, both issues are flip sides of the same coin. If all of the above are legal, it is ridiculous that one should be covered without the other.

I wish I had the ability to put together persuasive arguments with organized points, but as much as I love the written word, that's not my strength. So, though this is little more than a rant, I think it's important to put it out there--if nothing else, to increase awareness. 

I disagree with most forms of government interference in my life, but I am grateful that stupid Obamacare does make it mandatory for most insurance plans to offer maternity coverage. I don't agree with the majority of the other 1,500 pages of it, and there were better, easier, less invasive ways to bring about healthcare change, but if it had to pass, I'm glad that's in there.

And in case I made you wonder, I'm not looking to have another baby anytime soon, but I would like coverage all the same. And if you're wondering what our decision is to this dilemma, it's probably going to be cheap individual insurance without maternity coverage but with a complications clause. We'll save up to self-insure and pay for my infertility, my pregnancy, and the birth of our child ourselves.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning's End

{Kate napping with Grandma in Texas before the move}

June and July were busy months for us. We loaded up our lives and our faith into a huge Penske moving van at the end of June and set off on our 1300 mile journey. Our one bedroom apartment's worth of stuff barely filled a single layer on the bottom of the 26-foot long truck. We'd reserved a 22-footer--the smallest truck that had a bench seat to fit the three of us--but they gave us a 26-footer instead. Probably the one time in my life I didn't want an upgrade. Add to that the ten foot cab and at least 15 feet for Jay's car and the towing hitch, and we easily had a 50+ foot rig. My mom and sister flew out and drove my car to Vegas, bless them, so Jay and Kate and I got to ride together.

I was scared to death of that truck. Scared to death of how big it was and how far we had to go. Luckily for me, Jay drove the whole way without complaint and turned out to have quite an aptitude for trucking. Total blessing. 

Can I just put in a Penske plug here? The truck was clean; the cab looked brand new and spotless. No funky smells (unlike our brief Uhaul experience a few years ago), lots of room under the seat, adjustable seat for Jay's long legs, no airbags so we could put Kate in the middle, lots of cupholders/cubbies to put stuff in, a nice radio with CD player AND aux port, comfy vinyl seats. And even though we were cranky about the bigger truck, they knocked $100 off the price. And when we got a bill for $100 worth of gas even though we filled it right before dropping it off, they removed all charges after I made a few phone calls.

We left Saturday around noon and drove to El Paso that night. We lived off of a bag of Panera bagels and a jar of nuts and a few other snackies. On Sunday we drove all day to Kingman, AZ, and could've made it all the way to Vegas, but opted to take our time since it was late and we couldn't move in until Monday, anyway. Kate was a champ, so good, the best baby in the world. She sat in her seat for hours at a time and just chilled. I pumped on the road and fed her bottles. One time we didn't stop to burp her soon enough and she threw up unbelievable amounts of half-digested milk. Even then she didn't make a peep, just smiled when it was over and wanted another bottle.

Poor Lucy, though, was another story. The first day she yowled constantly and scratched so much in her carrier under Jay's seat that her nails bled. She was freaking out in every sense of the word. Finally, the next day, I wised up and we let her free in the cab of the truck (despite her filth and my fears she'd go crazy and escape or interfere with Jay's driving). She was a changed cat. Like me, Lucy appears to be a control freak; I could empathize with her plight--I would rather be taken to Vegas under my own steam than dragged along in a cage, too.

That last day, only two hours from Vegas, a switch flipped and Kate decided she'd had enough. When we tried to put her in her seat, she arched her back and kicked her little legs and alternated between a piteous cry and a full-on scream. Kate rarely, if ever, cries like that, so it was hard for us to push through it. We stopped a couple times so I could nurse her and then dealt with the screams until she fell into a brief sleep, then started the process again. 

We had an adventure finding the property management office--even with Jay's skills, driving a 50 foot long truck in downtown Vegas was pretty stressful. Despite several frustrations with our property manager (didn't tell us until we arrived we needed a cashier's check, NOT a check check, for our deposit, meaning more maneuvering around Vegas in a huge truck, no gas or water on in our house, AC not turned on (though she said it was) so it was 96 degrees inside...) and despite not being able to get hold of anyone from the ward to help us move in, we had a good group of family and friends show up to help us unload the truck (bless you forever Wayne and Danielle, Stewart fam, Erik, and Dan!).

And by nine o'clock that night, it was just me and Jay, with Kate asleep upstairs, eating Cafe Rio takeout on the couch (there are two Cafe Rios within 5 miles of us. Jealous?) and looking around at the stacks of boxes in our new house.

I'm pleased to say we're mostly unpacked now, though we don't have any dressers, so the bedrooms are still a disorganized mess, and we don't have anything up on the walls yet. 

I love having more space, even though the upstairs is bare and furniture-less (besides our bed and Kate's pack & play), and I'm finding it SO much easier to keep everything clean(er)--at least downstairs. Which makes me much happier, because even though I'm a creature of chaos, entropy stresses me out.

Some Vegas family members asked the other day how I was liking Vegas. I could answer honestly that the pros definitely outweigh the cons, and I think we'll be very happy here.

{My family at a recent family reunion. Being close to them and Jay's Las Vegas relations are huge pros--big enough that they alone outweigh any cons.}

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Kate's Stats

Kate was making cute baby noises the other day, so I pulled out the camera.  Of course she stopped "talking" as soon as I started filming, but this video shows our happy, kicking Kate.

Kate kicks and smiles, July 2012 from mylifeintune on Vimeo.

Kate was supposed to have her 4-month checkup before we left Texas, but it just didn't happen.  I finally got on the ball and got her in to see a doctor yesterday.  I had to wait over an hour to see him, and he was nice but told me I'm "silly" for wanting to space out Kate's vaccines (not even that much!) (whatever, dude). I scheduled my next appointment with him, but I'm going to call back and switch to someone else. Mostly because I hate waiting.  (Why tell me to be 15 minutes early and then make me wait 1.25 hours to see the doctor? And, yes, I was early. Silly me.)

{Kate eats bananas}

Among other things (guy was a talker), the doctor said it's fine to start Kate on "real" food, but hold off on fruits (because once babies taste the "good stuff," they won't want to eat veggies).  Oops.  Here are a couple of videos of Kate eating fruits before we found out that's a no-no:

Kate eats bananas, August 2012 from mylifeintune on Vimeo.

I thought it was a myth when I heard you should start feeding babies foods once they start "showing interest" in them (what does that even mean??), but Kate is Interested. In. Food. She's always reaching for our spoons and cups and plates.  I can hardly drink when I'm holding her because she twists around and tries to grab my water bottle. So we tried her on a couple things. This go-round, Kate wasn't as into the strawberries as she had been the previous time.  I think she's going to be her father's child and be a fruit lover.

Kate eats a strawberry, July 2012 from mylifeintune on Vimeo.

{That noise in the background is Lucy being a spazz and chasing her ball around.}

We repented of our baby-indulging ways and steamed up some spinach for Kate. Needless to say, she was a bit disappointed:

She tried it, though. I think it was a little bitter, but she got over it:

In an attempt to be yuppie, I bought some organic brown rice the other day, and I'm planning on grinding it up to make some baby cereal. We'll see how that goes.

{Kate sleeping and sucking her thumb}

Here are Kate's five month stats:
Height: 24.5 inches, 25th percentile
Weight: 12 lbs 1 oz (with a wet diaper!), 5th percentile
Head circumference: 42 cm, 50th percentile

I was a little worried by how small she is, but that doctor wasn't concerned. I guess we just have a petite girl! He asked how tall my husband is, and when I told him 6'5", he was surprised. "Based on her numbers right now, she'll be 5'3" and 100 lbs," he said.

I was amused. Even with my short genes, I doubt any child of Jay's will be 5'3".

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Humble Pie

I had a vendetta against Texas for a long time.  Since my freshman year of college, in fact. You could say all that Texas pride rubbed me the wrong way--the Texans I met that year were nice enough individuals but quite obnoxious in groups ("Did you know Texas is the only state that can secede from the Union at any time?" "The Texas flag is the only flag that's allowed to be as high up as the American flag." "Don't mess with Texas!" "American by birth, Texan by grace of God.").  Anyway, when I started dating Jay and discovered that not only was he from Texas but he was heading to Texas for dental school, I was a little turned off.  Because I was never moving to Texas, y'all.  

But then I did move to Texas.  And I learned, among other things, that "don't mess with Texas" is an anti-littering campaign, not just a Texas-pride slogan.  And despite their crazy Texas paraphernalia, Texans aren't generally obnoxious about their Texan-ness.  I knew I'd probably be happy in Texas--I'm learning the wheres in my life doesn't matter so much as the whos and whats and whys--but I didn't expect I'd love it. That I'd miss it. That I wouldn't want to leave.

I loved the wooded parks, the peach orchard, the trees, I-410, the missions, the bluebonnets,  and Blue Bell ice cream.  Most of all, I loved the people.  Admittedly, not all of them (in fact, not even most of them) were "true" Texans--some were transplants, and some were just there, like us, for a couple years.  But San Antonio served as the catalyst that brought us all together.  I've never had friends like that before, and I'm not sure I ever will again.

When we left town for the last time in our enormous moving van, my tears mingled with the Blue Bell ice cream I'd salvaged from our freezer.  I was so sad to be leaving this place.  San Antonio was where I decided to marry Jay. Where we got engaged. Where we spent our first four years of marriage together. Where we received our graduate and post-graduate education. Where I had my first "real" job. Where we fought through infertility and weathered pregnancy and had our sweet baby.  We'd lived here for over four years, and it was home.  

Two and a half days and 1,300 miles later, we pulled into the driveway of our new home in Las Vegas. Ironically, I've never liked Nevada, either. (I even wrote a poem about it in high school. Maybe I'll post it here someday.) Already, though, I like it more than I thought I would, and we're blessed to be near some great people.  

So even though I'm still "homesick" and there's a Texas-sized hole where my old friends and favorite haunts used to be, Vegas is growing on me. It's not home yet, but it's close.

{Hey, karma, in case we ever have to move again, I really hate London and Oregon and St. George and Connecticut and Colorado. Hint hint.}