Saturday, December 26, 2020

Pandemic - more good

 Another good thing that's come of the pandemic is that we could focus on Little L's tummy.

Little L has some pretty major tummy problems. We figured out eventually he is lactose intolerant (he did ok with mom's milk but never could tolerate cow's milk). But there were other problems too. And we just couldn't figure it out. He kept getting lactose on accident and also getting real tummy bugs (tummy bugs are rampant in daycares if you don't already know this) so it was really confusing. 

We finally took him to Children's Hospital in Kansas City and spent about $2K on tests to have them tell us "we don't know what's wrong but it's probably some food intolerances." They suggested going on a FODMAP diet for people with inflammatory bowel syndrome, also called IBS. FODMAP is an acronym for all the foods that can set off IBS. It is all in the chart below.

There were so many things on there that we ate all the time like apples and beans and honey! It was awful but we thought we'd try. It quickly proved impossible with his insane ability to sneak food at parties and all the tummy bugs he kept getting. We got more confused.

Then the pandemic hit, and we were stuck at home. It was a great opportunity to carefully control the food and the tummy bugs our Little L was exposed to.  We did the elimination diet and added things back one at a time. We quickly figured out the hubby has some food intolerances too! He never knew this before. This was SUPER helpful because the hubby can communicate more clearly about what hurts his tummy.

We discovered both our boys react to the galactan group (this includes soy, cashews and chickpeas). They are particularly sensitive to soy - we have been putting this in the same category as milk and really keeping it out of his diet. The others he can take in really low amounts. Some of the others he is generally ok with but can cause problems in higher amounts like watermelon and veggies like Brussels sprouts. Once we got all of this out of the diet it became much easier to spot problems.

But things continued to be confusing. For example one night when Little L had nothing that should have hurt his tummy he was up all night vomiting. We knew there must be something else. We did some more research and eventually discovered GERD. This is for people with acid reflux. 

Aahhhh - now things were starting to make sense. Tomato sauce, peppermint, and chocolate were all ok with IBS but not ok with GERD and had been causing our Little L problems.

So now we are finally seeing some patterns that make sense. Little L has lactose and soy intolerance. He also reacts to too much galactans and fructans. And, we limit the GERD foods and try to give those earlier in the day to prevent acid reflux.

These diets are complicated, especially the IBS diet.  I imagine things will get confusing again once he goes back to school. By then hopefully he can keep track of what he eats a little more, which will help a lot. There are also some enzymes he can try taking and things like TUMS and pepto bismol help too. We will be working on this for a while. But we have come so far and I am very thankful.

Friday, December 25, 2020

A day in the life of the pandemic

 I've really appreciated seeing what it's like for others during the pandemic so I thought I'd share more about what our day is like here. This is a typical day from this fall.

7:30 am - wake up, eat breakfast (we like to cook oatmeal), get dressed and put in a load of dishes and laundry

8:30 am - Big L starts school in our little office with a 10 min class meeting. After, we have a short 'family meeting' to get organized. Then the hubby "goes to" work (up in the bedroom) and I start homeschool with Little L. 

8:30-11 am - Big L attends school by dong schoolwork in the office and occasionally attending class or working with friends on zoom. She comes out a lot for technical or other kinds of help. The study hubby works and occasionally stops down to grab a snack. Little L and I homeschool and are on call to help Big L. We go through the calendar and work on activities from our homeschool program. Sometimes he plays long enough by himself for me to check my email or wash a pan.

11 am - I make lunch while Big L wraps up school and Little L repeatedly demands my attention or sometimes plays by himself

11:30 am - we (big L, little L and I) eat lunch

12 pm - "movement" time - we do an online yoga class, run around the yard or a "hike" on the treadmill. Sometimes we get out to an outside playdate with another family, this is very carefully planned out with only families that are extremely careful and trusted. Lately (as cases have gotten really bad) we've been mostly just getting out with one other family.

12:30 pm - The hubby takes over on the kids and he eats lunch while I go to work (up in the bedroom). The morning is very challenging and I am grateful for the break. I often roll right into meetings (virtually) starting at 12:30 and am in meetings straight until 5:30 or 6. I try to get through my email between (or during) the meetings.

12:30-1:30 - Big L takes a break and plays chess or draws while Little L and the hubby tear around the house.

1:30-3 pm - Big L goes back to school in the office, which is similar to the morning. The hubby and Little L continue to tear around the house. Sometimes, the hubby has a work meeting or works a little somehow.

3 pm - The hubby turns on the TV so he can work. Altogether he gets about 6 hours of work in and I get about 5. 

6 pm - we have dinner together (husband makes it), and run another load of dishes and laundry.

7 pm - We put Little L to bed. The hubby takes some down time while I read him books because he is on for the next stage.

7:30 pm - I am off duty again and the hubby takes care of lingering complaints from Little L and the bedtime battle with Big L while I exercise and get back to work. 

8:30 pm - Big L goes to bed. I work until 11:30, while the hubby exercises and/or works. Altogether we each get about 8 hrs of work in each weekday.

Sat/Sun this is the time we buy groceries, clean the house, work on house projects or baking, and organize ourselves for the week. I have to be quite organized because the week is so intense. We are also quite exhausted by the weekend. In fact, I hardly make it through Fridays. 

The schedule works but there is nothing extra. I have to be incredibly careful about filtering requests at work so as not to overburden myself. This is not easy because saying no to everything is not so good for my career so I am also very carefully prioritizing - it is a constant mental exercise and I am often rearranging meetings or changing deadlines so that I can make it all work. One thing that is essential is that we are not doing anything outside of the house on the weekends. This is how we get it all done so that we can make it through the week. If there is extra time we also manage some baking/sewing/house projects and they have been a really nice distraction from the extremely busy work week and the constant difficult news from the pandemic. 

Pandemic - more good

 After writing the last post I realized there are more things I need to add into the good category - what's happened because of the pandemic. Don't get me wrong, there are many awful things, and I recognize that I have had it a lot better than most. But there's plenty to hear about the bad and I think it would be better for me right now to focus on the good, especially because there have been some really good things.

So, more of the Good:

1. We have all developed some new talents. For my big L, it's drawing. For my husband, it's home fixing and cooking (he's gotten especially into making sauces). For Little L it's learning about science (he has a whole spiel about how vaccines work that is truly amazing). For me, it's baking and sewing. I also got to do some gardening, I'm getting better at cleaning, and entertaining the kids. Basically, I'm learning to be domestic (in a 1950s kind of way). I wish I had learned these skills earlier!

2. We've saved some money. Money saved on childcare (and eating out, travel, and entertainment in general) turned into a treadmill (a really nice one!), a new basement floor, and re-grading our yard (not exciting but much needed). We also diverted some extra money into the kids college accounts and donations.

3. Home improvements. Being home made us finally get motivated to take care of some of the issues we needed to take care of. We refinished our deck, remodeled our basement bathroom, and did a bunch of small things like put up shelves and re-organized the garage.

4. I am becoming crazy efficient. To be fair, a lot of this might have to do with adrenaline. But I have started using some new methods to organize myself at work, get things done at home and keep track of things that are really effective.

5. Our family has gotten a lot closer. I feel so grateful that I enjoy my family enough to say this.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The good and bad of our pandemic fall

 The good

1. I got to see a new side of my kids. Especially my big L, who is really growing into a wonderful person. She is so responsible, and talented. I saw a lot more than I usually do in seeing her all day, doing school work and learning her new schedule.

2. I had a LOT of fun with my kids. In the summer, we swam at the pool (our pool, the club pool and the lake), berry picked, hiked around the neighborhood, baked and gardened. In the fall, we were at home more but still had fun. We have a lot of fun normally but the big difference during the pandemic is the feeling of time. During the pandemic, you have a lot of time to kill. Nothing really matters - whatever we don't do that day, we can just do tomorrow. It opens the door to a lot. We move in whatever direction we feel like and we don't worry too much about whatever plan we had. For example when we were at a fruit farm this summer, we saw some corn and stopped to check it out. It was so fun - I will probably remember stopping to look at the corn more than the fruit farm itself. normally we would not have felt that free.

The bad

1. we miss our friends and family soooo much

2. it is very stressful!

3. there is something that is harder to define, which is a deep disappointment in the culture of our country, particularly as a scientist, where people don't believe in the pandemic and at its root, they don't believe in science. There was a feeling (among myself and many other scientists) of screaming into the void. It was an enormous burden.

Pandemic update

Getting ready to homeschool, and then homeschooling, has had me constantly busy. Here are some things to catch up.

1. Big L's school. Last time I updated, big L's school was not offering an online option and we were looking elsewhere. After I requested to end her enrollment, as did many other families (about 60), they finally put together an online program. We mulled it over and then signed up. I'm glad we did - it has taken a lot of work off me. It was a very difficult transition at the beginning, but by around late September we had gotten the hang of it and were very grateful for it after that. There is a lot to keep track of and Big L has gotten pretty good at being responsible for most of it. She is learning some great lessons. She is also enjoying the flexibility in her schedule, which she fills up with art projects - often with her brother.

2. Little L's school. For Little L, I chose a homeschool program called Busy Toddler. He just turned 4 this fall, so I'm not so interested in teaching him really but more in keeping him busy so he doesn't drive the rest of us crazy. There are a ton of easy little active learning projects for every day that take minimal effort to put together, like throwing an egg around the yard to learn about gravity. There is also a big fan support group on FaceBook and I'm getting lots more ideas - like holiday related activities - from there. 

3. My school. At the end of the summer, I was convinced that reopening my school would be a complete disaster - 20,000 undergrads that don't social distance = not good. It turned out, it was only a disaster at the very end. The beginning - September and October - went surprisingly smoothly. The students stayed careful. Our lab stayed open, student cases stayed at a pretty low and manageable level. Nobody died (though one of my colleagues in my department was in the ICU with COVID for almost a month). In mid November, cases started getting out of control, the hospital did start to fill up but by then the semester was only over. We all hung in until Thanksgiving, students went home, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Now we are at the winter break, and I am so thankful. We made it through the fall, my little family is ok, the people in my lab are ok. Even most of my relatives managed not to get it. Now we all just need to hang on another couple of months until each one of us can get a vaccine!

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Face mask pattern

 I made my own face mask pattern! The pattern + instructions are a PDF here. I improved the pattern from two others I had been using. This one fits under the chin and over the nose. You can add little wires to help it fit around the nose but I've found that with the curve in this design it's not needed. Also I wear glasses to can tuck the nose part under my glasses like the true nerd I always strived to be. I've also chosen not to add a pocket for an extra filter - I use 3 pieces of quilting fabric, which to me feels like a good enough barrier (any more might get uncomfortable). One could certainly incorporate a filter pocket into this pattern though.

Another great feature is that it has adjustable straps! I finally figured out the web is an amazing resource and looked up some tutorials on how to make adjustable straps. I quickly found one I liked and applied it and love it. I made adjustable ear loops using pony beads. The instructions are here. (there are other options also! they are here).

The only major con that I can find of this pattern is that it's a bit bigger than others so it's not as easy to put in the mail. I just can't fit it into a standard size envelope. If you've got an easy way to ship (ie without having to go into a post office) let me know! 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Pandemic schooling

It is mid July, and K-12 schools all over the country are set to start in a little over a month (ours is supposed to start on Aug. 24). 

Except, we have a raging pandemic happening.

Our society is very far from being in a place to send kids back to school safely. So, the big dilemma is whether to send kids back and risk the unknown, or keep them home despite the terrible cost to their social development and your career.

We are choosing to keep our kids home. We knew all along this was the likely scenario, although I had a lot of moments where I hoped otherwise. The decision is now clear. Here is our reasoning:

1. It's not safe for my kids.
2. It's not safe for their teachers. 
3. It won't be consistent - I believe we will have constant interruptions whenever a kid or teacher tests positive.

And things that are making me particularly concerned:
1. Cases are exploding all around us - the chance of my kids interacting with someone that is positive while at school is well above where I am comfortable. This accounts for 90% of our decision.
2. Our school is not reducing capacity and is not capable of enforcing the rules around being safe (such as having families that are at risk quarantine).
3. Many people do not believe this virus is a problem, which means many families (and possibly teachers) will not feel the need to follow the rules.
4. Testing is abysmally slow and inaccessible.
5. Contact tracing is useless because of the privacy laws in our state. 
6. I no longer have any trust in groups in charge of decisions around school safety, public health and policy.

So, what does this mean for me?

I will continue to stay home with my kids, splitting shifts with my husband, not getting nearly as much work done as I could before, and feeling overwhelmed. And I am very lucky, because I can get away with that and not lose my job (though my career is a different matter - this is the topic of a future post).

A problem we are facing in particular is that our kids' school is not offering an online option. So, we must leave the school and find another one or develop our own homeschool curriculum. And, once we leave, it is difficult to come back - unless we pay for them to hold our spot indefinitely (for two kids, which is $2k per month - not a light decision). I understand why, but am very disappointed. In fact, the situation is leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth. Many other families will not return, and the school might not make it anyway. All of this is weighing heavily on me this week. Plus, I have a lot of work ahead of me to prepare for the year ahead of homeschool, and a possible permanent transition elsewhere.

Pandemic - more good

 Another good thing that's come of the pandemic is that we could focus on Little L's tummy. Little L has some pretty major tummy pro...