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Monday house update: My vision begins

August 31, 2009

If you’ve seen my first “Monday house update,” you may have noticed that my newly-purchased home needs some sprucing up.

Well, it needs a bit more than some sprucing up.

I suppose that I could be satisfied with the black streaks (or “ghosting“) on the walls.  And with the irreparably stained carpet.  And with the pink cabinets.  And pink countertops.  And pink bathroom fixtures.  (Okay, for financial reasons, I’ll have to be satisfied with some of that pink for a long, long time.  I’ll just have to let it remind me of salmon.  Or cotton candy.  Or Pepto Bismol.)

But something–oh, I don’t know, a desire not to be reminded of the previous owners’ filth and general uncleanliness–tells me that I wouldn’t be happy with blood-stained carpet (yep, totally serious) and grimy walls for long.  I mean, would you want to live in a house that reminded you of The Amityville Horror?

And this is why I have a vision.  A vision for my family’s home.  One that involves both short-term (i.e. relatively inexpensive and/or necessary) and long-term (i.e. more expensive and/or cosmetic) goals. 

Allow me to walk you through some of the components of this vision.

(Let me say first that I am very proud of this vision.  I’m not what you would consider a person with a great sense of style or visual artistry, so for me to cobble together paint colors and trim colors and cabinet colors and kitchen hardware and not make it look like my middle school art projects that Mrs. Browne all but said looked like giant mounds of dog poo is quite a feat.  So if you hate my vision, you can just kiss it.  You and Mrs. Browne both.)

 

The kitchen

For the kitchen walls, we’ve chosen Koi Pond.  (All of the paint–and yes, the primer–is from Sherwin Williams, who, like all other paint manufacturers, must employ a whole army of folks who just sit and come up with whimsically ridiculous paint color names all day long.)

koi pond

For those pink cabinets–which are not only wood but also paint-able–we’ve chosen to re-cloak them in Dover White.

dover white

And (here’s where I start getting excited and shouting, “DO YOU SEE THAT, MRS. BROWNE?!”) we’d like to replace the kitchen hardware with some sort of pewter (or “pewter-ish”) cabinet knobs and drawer pulls.

draw pulls

Okay, maybe not those knobs.  They’re about $15 a pop.

And then some day–some day far, far in the distance–we’ll replace the countertops (yeah, yeah, I’ll admit it, I salivate over granite countertops) and the floors (goodbye beige linoleum, hello hardwood).

But new wall colors and cabinet colors and hardware will make enough of a world of difference as it is!

The family room

The walls will be painted in August Moon.

august moon

The family room sits right next to the kitchen, and I do believe that August Moon and Koi Pond shall be the best of friends.

I’ve also considered replacing the pink tiles surrounding the fireplace (oh yeah, those are pink too) with some sort of glassy amber tiles.  Some day.  Some day…

The dining room

The dining room, along with the foyer and all of the hallways in the house, shall be painted our offical “house neutral” color: Navajo White.

navajo white

And since the dining room is flanked by the family room and the playroom (or what others will consider to be the formal living room, and what may some day be an office), the Navajo White will be flanked by August Moon and our chosen color for the…

Playroom

…that is, Latte.

latte

(I’ve noticed that the colors as they appear on my computer screen are not exact replicas of the “real life” colors.  To get a better idea of how these colors look in more natural lighting–of which we have plenty, hooray!–you can check out the Color Visualizer on Sherwin Williams’ website.)

And finally, some day–some day far, far in the future–I’d like to replace all of the trim (the baseboards, the door trim, and maybe even some crown molding) with cherry-stained wood.

cherry stain

I know, Mrs. Browne, isn’t that AWESOME?!

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Reading Rainbow is…GONE?!

August 28, 2009

“So, did you hear about Reading Rainbow on NPR this morning?”

Tim didn’t have to say much more for me to realize that one of the most beloved programs from my childhood had been cancelled.

The program that began with a most catchy and whimsical theme song.  (Iiiiiiiii can go anywhere…!)

The program hosted by Levar Burton, who inspired a love reading in an entire generation of children (and astounded many an 80s and 90s adolescent who proclaimed, “Oh my god, the guy from Reading Rainbow is on Star Trek!”).

The program that featured little kids all across the country introducing their favorite book to Reading Rainbow viewers.  (I so wanted to be one of those kids!)

The program that has been on the air for 26 years and has earned more than two-dozen Emmy’s.

(The program that could kick Dora’s ass in a heartbeat.)

The program that I am very, very sad to see go.

My sadness has less to do with the fact of the show’s cancellation (there are 26 years worth of episodes for future generations to watch, after all) and more to do with the reasons that were given for the cancellation. 

In an interview with John Grant, the director of content for shows at Reading Rainbow’s home station in Buffalo, NPR’s Morning Edition reported that:

The show’s run is ending, Grant explains, because no one — not the station, not PBS, not the Corporation for Public Broadcasting — will put up the several hundred thousand dollars needed to renew the show’s broadcast rights.

Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.

Grant says that PBS, CPB and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that’s not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do.

 “Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read,” Grant says. “You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read.”

I am not necessarily opposed to those who support creating shows that teach kids how to read.  In fact, I find many of these shows (Super Why! comes to mind) to be quite fun and enjoyable children’s television programs.

But the decision to support these shows at the expense of Reading Rainbow seems emblematic of the way that our society (de)values education at the moment. 

The way in which it prizes learning for its utility and not necessarily for its ability to inspire creativity or ingenuity.  The way in which it forces teachers to “teach to tests” and to view education as a mere transmittal of information and not as a complex intellectual, emotional, and imaginative developmental process.

The way in which it views reading as an act of mastering phonics and spelling and not as an activity–a love, a passion, a pasttime–that can take anyone anywhere.

And I so wish that Reading Rainbow didn’t have to be a victim of these values.

In closing, if you were (or even are) a Reading Rainbow lover, you may be  humming the show’s theme song to yourself at this very moment.  The song that told us that we could be anything if we only took a look inside a book.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

 

Check it out: the latest research on "Neonatal outcomes after elective cesarean delivery" (and VBAC)

August 25, 2009

The June 2009 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology featured an article on “Neonatal outcomes after elective cesarean delivery” (Beena Kamath, et al).  For those interested in the latest studies and research on VBAC and repeat cesarean, this is an article worth checking out!

Here is a summary of the study’s findings:

OBJECTIVE: To examine the outcomes of neonates born by elective repeat cesarean delivery compared with vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) in women with one prior cesarean delivery and to evaluate the cost differences between elective repeat cesarean and VBAC.

METHODS: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of 672 women with one prior cesarean delivery and a singleton pregnancy at or after 37 weeks of gestation. Women were grouped according to their intention to have an elective repeat cesarean or a VBAC (successful or failed). The primary outcome was neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admission and measures of respiratory morbidity.

RESULTS: Neonates born by cesarean delivery had higher NICU admission rates compared with the VBAC group (9.3% compared with 4.9%, P=.025) and higher rates of oxygen supplementation for delivery room resuscitation (41.5% compared with 23.2%, P<.01) and after NICU admission (5.8% compared with 2.4%, P<.028). Neonates born by VBAC required the least delivery room resuscitation with oxygen, whereas neonates delivered after failed VBAC required the greatest degree of delivery room resuscitation. The costs of elective repeat cesarean were significantly greater than VBAC. However, failed VBAC accounted for the most expensive total birth experience (delivery and NICU use).

CONCLUSION: In comparison with vaginal birth after cesarean, neonates born after elective repeat cesarean delivery have significantly higher rates of respiratory morbidity and NICU-admission and longer length of hospital stay.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: II*

The study does report that the group of unsucessful VBAC attempts (or those that ended in cesarean delivery) experienced the highest rates of chorioamnionitis (or inflammation of the amniotic membranes) and non-reassuring fetal heart tones as compared to the other groups in the study (i.e. those whose VBACs were successful and those who had elective repeat cesareans).  This does not seem entirely surprising, however, since both problems are more likely to occur during labor rather than before labor.  It’s also not surprising that these problems occurred more frequently in the group of unsucessful VBACs since non-reassuring fetal heart tones can often lead a care provider to call for a cesarean, especially with a mom attempting VBAC.

Also noteworthy is that the study reports that “neonates born by failed VBAC required the most significant measures of delivery room resuscitation, including bag or mask ventilation and endotracheal intubation, than did the other three groups.”  Thankfully, these infants took up the smallest percentage of the study’s population, especially considering that the VBAC group experienced a 74% success rate.

Howeverit is especially noteworthy that when the authors reported that the elective cesarean group had nearly double the rate of NICU admission and oxygen supplementation as compared to the VBAC group, they were including failed VBACs in the “VBAC group” population.  In other words, these rates were nearly doubled even though the “VBAC group” included those infants who “required the most significant measures of delivery room resucitation.”

And this is why the authors go on to note that

The differences seen between the intended elective repeat cesarean delivery and VBAC groups take on greater significance when one notes that the intended VBAC group includes neonates born after failed VBAC delivery, who required the greatest measures of resuscitation due to fetal distress, characterized by nonreassuring fetal heart tones and meconium-stained amniotic fluid. At the other extreme, neonates born after successful VBAC had the lowest rates of admission to the NICU, shortest hospital stay, and the lowest incidence of ongoing respiratory support.

For those interested in examining this study in more detail, check it out here.  In my humble, VBAC-supporter’s opinion, it’s an interesting and informative read!

*Worth noting is that the evidence in this study was reported as “Level II evidence,” which means that it came from a well-designed and controlled trial without randomization.  (Randomization would have qualified it as a “Level I” study, but this would have also meant that the researchers would have had to have randomly assigned women either to elective repeat cesarean or to VBAC.  And at least to my layperson’s mind, this seems like it could lead to all sorts of ethical quandaries.)

Check it out: the latest research on “Neonatal outcomes after elective cesarean delivery” (and VBAC)

August 25, 2009

The June 2009 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology featured an article on “Neonatal outcomes after elective cesarean delivery” (Beena Kamath, et al).  For those interested in the latest studies and research on VBAC and repeat cesarean, this is an article worth checking out!

Here is a summary of the study’s findings:

OBJECTIVE: To examine the outcomes of neonates born by elective repeat cesarean delivery compared with vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) in women with one prior cesarean delivery and to evaluate the cost differences between elective repeat cesarean and VBAC.

METHODS: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of 672 women with one prior cesarean delivery and a singleton pregnancy at or after 37 weeks of gestation. Women were grouped according to their intention to have an elective repeat cesarean or a VBAC (successful or failed). The primary outcome was neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admission and measures of respiratory morbidity.

RESULTS: Neonates born by cesarean delivery had higher NICU admission rates compared with the VBAC group (9.3% compared with 4.9%, P=.025) and higher rates of oxygen supplementation for delivery room resuscitation (41.5% compared with 23.2%, P<.01) and after NICU admission (5.8% compared with 2.4%, P<.028). Neonates born by VBAC required the least delivery room resuscitation with oxygen, whereas neonates delivered after failed VBAC required the greatest degree of delivery room resuscitation. The costs of elective repeat cesarean were significantly greater than VBAC. However, failed VBAC accounted for the most expensive total birth experience (delivery and NICU use).

CONCLUSION: In comparison with vaginal birth after cesarean, neonates born after elective repeat cesarean delivery have significantly higher rates of respiratory morbidity and NICU-admission and longer length of hospital stay.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: II*

The study does report that the group of unsucessful VBAC attempts (or those that ended in cesarean delivery) experienced the highest rates of chorioamnionitis (or inflammation of the amniotic membranes) and non-reassuring fetal heart tones as compared to the other groups in the study (i.e. those whose VBACs were successful and those who had elective repeat cesareans).  This does not seem entirely surprising, however, since both problems are more likely to occur during labor rather than before labor.  It’s also not surprising that these problems occurred more frequently in the group of unsucessful VBACs since non-reassuring fetal heart tones can often lead a care provider to call for a cesarean, especially with a mom attempting VBAC.

Also noteworthy is that the study reports that “neonates born by failed VBAC required the most significant measures of delivery room resuscitation, including bag or mask ventilation and endotracheal intubation, than did the other three groups.”  Thankfully, these infants took up the smallest percentage of the study’s population, especially considering that the VBAC group experienced a 74% success rate.

Howeverit is especially noteworthy that when the authors reported that the elective cesarean group had nearly double the rate of NICU admission and oxygen supplementation as compared to the VBAC group, they were including failed VBACs in the “VBAC group” population.  In other words, these rates were nearly doubled even though the “VBAC group” included those infants who “required the most significant measures of delivery room resucitation.”

And this is why the authors go on to note that

The differences seen between the intended elective repeat cesarean delivery and VBAC groups take on greater significance when one notes that the intended VBAC group includes neonates born after failed VBAC delivery, who required the greatest measures of resuscitation due to fetal distress, characterized by nonreassuring fetal heart tones and meconium-stained amniotic fluid. At the other extreme, neonates born after successful VBAC had the lowest rates of admission to the NICU, shortest hospital stay, and the lowest incidence of ongoing respiratory support.

For those interested in examining this study in more detail, check it out here.  In my humble, VBAC-supporter’s opinion, it’s an interesting and informative read!

*Worth noting is that the evidence in this study was reported as “Level II evidence,” which means that it came from a well-designed and controlled trial without randomization.  (Randomization would have qualified it as a “Level I” study, but this would have also meant that the researchers would have had to have randomly assigned women either to elective repeat cesarean or to VBAC.  And at least to my layperson’s mind, this seems like it could lead to all sorts of ethical quandaries.)

Monday house update: they tried to make me go to rehab

August 24, 2009

Tim and I have recently purchased our first home.  In fact, we closed on it just last Wednesday.

The adventure itself–what with the appraisals and the inspection and the financing and the pleading and cajoling to get the mid-divorce sellers to pay for a repair or two before closing–was harrowing enough.  And I’m glad that it’s over.

But another adventure has just begun.  Because the house is so filthy (which we already knew) and so in need of some minor (and some major) repairs that we have quickly found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a house rehab. 

And this adventure, much unlike the actual purchase of the home, has been exciting.  Exhilarating even.  And tremendously satisfying.  (At least the first weekend of it.  Ha.)

My plan is to provide weekly updates of this exciting and satisfying adventure here so as to take my friends and family and other readers on this journey with us. 

Obviously, I could create an entirely separate blog for this endeavor, but that just seems like far too much for me to juggle at the moment.  I am, after all, writing my disseration and raising two kids and certifying to become a doula and a lactation educator and writing a blog and rehabilitating a home.  I can hardly keep track of two separate email accounts let alone two blogs.

So I suppose that Birthing Beautiful Ideas will soon become a blog devoted to parents who are interested in childbirth and VBAC, are married to marathon trainers, and who are crazy enough to take on the task of rehabilitating a home.

A truly vast audience if there ever was one.

In any case, even if this adventure doesn’t necessarily involve giving birth to a beautiful idea, we–Tim, myself, and my family, who are are already essential and amazing parts of this rehab team–are giving birth to a truly beautiful home.

I hope.

But for now, it’s in rehab.  Like, “heroin addict who’s shivering, vomiting, and shaking in bed” rehab.

Just see for yourself.

 100_9694

It’s really a magnificent space.  But look at that carpet.  The filth.  The grime.  And this picture doesn’t even do it justice.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this carpet hadn’t seen a vacuum cleaner in years.  Or if the owners liked to run through a pile of dog poo and then smear it onto their floors.  Or if they didn’t give a crap (pun intended) about letting their dogs pee and poo on the floors.

100_9755

See that black liquid?  That’s a bleach and water solution.  And it turned that color after I washed just two vents in it.

100_9760

Sweet, spectacular cleanliness.  This vent, and this wall, and these baseboards were black–black I tell you–before my mom and I got our hands on them.

100_9759

How many times one ever heard someone say, “Hey, that house looks so much better with no carpet and just the padding on the floors!”?  (Many thanks to my father, who heroically removed two floors worth of carpet this past weekend.  And who, I should  mention, found a dried puddle of blood under the carpet in one of the upstairs bedrooms.)

One final thought after this first week of rehab-ing?

Bleach.  

Bleach.  

Bleach is my friend.

Runner's toes and woes

August 23, 2009

Some readers may recall that Tim is training for a marathon.  Well, you’ll mostly recall that he recently pooped behind a port-a-potty before one of his 18-mile morning jaunts.  (His excuse was that it was dark and he couldn’t find a toilet and thought he was pooping behind a  trashcan.  He either needs a better lens prescription, or he needs a remedial class in trash-can identification.)

The rain has since washed away the poo–and Tim knows this, because he went back to check–and this seemed to clear the slate for another half-gross, half-hysterical experience to befall my favorite runner. 

More specifically, it befell my favorite runner’s right pinky toe.

A few months ago, when Tim was first researching marathon training, he informed me that many marathon runners find that they lose one or more of their toenails during their training.

I don’t know why, but I imagined this tiny pink toenail just falling off one day–just, *bloop*, falling off in the shower or something–and regenerating a few weeks later.  Like a starfish arm.

Well, Tim did turn out to be one of those runners whose toenail fell off.  And the good news is that Tim’s pinky toenail is going to grow back.  Probably.

The bad news is that it has been anything but pink.  And it certainly did not just *bloop* fall off in the shower or something.

It all  began with a sore toe and a slight change in color.  First a few shades shy of chartreuse, and then a shimmery magenta, and then a hunter green, and then eggplant.  It was like one of those coal gardens I grew with my grandma when I was a kid.

And then Tim’s toe began hurting so badly that he could no longer run with shoes on and chose to run barefoot for half-an-hour in the grass just beyond the high school track. 

That, my friends, is dedication.

But I drew the line when Tim came home from work one day wearing thick brown socks and sandals

I could say that I drew the line here because Tim’s toe was now causing him so much pain that he could not bear to even fit it into a regular shoe.  But my concern was more along the lines of 25% pity and worry and 75% unforgivable shallowness.

“No.  No, no, no, no, no.  Socks and sandals will not do on a man who shares my bed with me at night,” I proclaimed.  “You need to show that beast to a doctor.  Now.”

And that doctor was my dad, who determined that Tim had developed a blood blister underneath his toenail.  And my dad could fix it, right at home, with a little tool that he could bring home from the ER.

“Blood blister under the nail, blood blister under the nail, I know I’ve heard that somewhere before,” I thought to myself.  “Where was it…where was it?”

And then it came to me.

“SWEET MOTHER OF GOD, I SAW IT ON THAT ONE EPISODE OF DEADLIEST CATCH WHERE THAT ONE GUY DROPPED SOMETHING HEAVY ON HIS THUMBNAIL AND IT TURNED BLACK AND HE HAD TO STICK A NEEDLE RIGHT THROUGH THE CENTER OF HIS NAIL AND OH MY GOD THE BLOOD THE BLOOD THE BLOOD!!!!!”

And this is why I didn’t follow either of my parents into the medical professions.

Tim was brave.  With my father (an ER doc) and my mother (a nurse) assisting, Tim’s toenail was summarily punctured (not with a needle from mom’s sewing kit but with some special nail-puncturing, red-glowy needle from the ER) and drained of its scarlet and then barn red and then burnt orange blood.  (Really, the colors have been spectular).

And now we’re just waiting for the nail to completely fall off and regenerate.

Just like a starfish arm.

Runner’s toes and woes

August 23, 2009

Some readers may recall that Tim is training for a marathon.  Well, you’ll mostly recall that he recently pooped behind a port-a-potty before one of his 18-mile morning jaunts.  (His excuse was that it was dark and he couldn’t find a toilet and thought he was pooping behind a  trashcan.  He either needs a better lens prescription, or he needs a remedial class in trash-can identification.)

The rain has since washed away the poo–and Tim knows this, because he went back to check–and this seemed to clear the slate for another half-gross, half-hysterical experience to befall my favorite runner. 

More specifically, it befell my favorite runner’s right pinky toe.

A few months ago, when Tim was first researching marathon training, he informed me that many marathon runners find that they lose one or more of their toenails during their training.

I don’t know why, but I imagined this tiny pink toenail just falling off one day–just, *bloop*, falling off in the shower or something–and regenerating a few weeks later.  Like a starfish arm.

Well, Tim did turn out to be one of those runners whose toenail fell off.  And the good news is that Tim’s pinky toenail is going to grow back.  Probably.

The bad news is that it has been anything but pink.  And it certainly did not just *bloop* fall off in the shower or something.

It all  began with a sore toe and a slight change in color.  First a few shades shy of chartreuse, and then a shimmery magenta, and then a hunter green, and then eggplant.  It was like one of those coal gardens I grew with my grandma when I was a kid.

And then Tim’s toe began hurting so badly that he could no longer run with shoes on and chose to run barefoot for half-an-hour in the grass just beyond the high school track. 

That, my friends, is dedication.

But I drew the line when Tim came home from work one day wearing thick brown socks and sandals

I could say that I drew the line here because Tim’s toe was now causing him so much pain that he could not bear to even fit it into a regular shoe.  But my concern was more along the lines of 25% pity and worry and 75% unforgivable shallowness.

“No.  No, no, no, no, no.  Socks and sandals will not do on a man who shares my bed with me at night,” I proclaimed.  “You need to show that beast to a doctor.  Now.”

And that doctor was my dad, who determined that Tim had developed a blood blister underneath his toenail.  And my dad could fix it, right at home, with a little tool that he could bring home from the ER.

“Blood blister under the nail, blood blister under the nail, I know I’ve heard that somewhere before,” I thought to myself.  “Where was it…where was it?”

And then it came to me.

“SWEET MOTHER OF GOD, I SAW IT ON THAT ONE EPISODE OF DEADLIEST CATCH WHERE THAT ONE GUY DROPPED SOMETHING HEAVY ON HIS THUMBNAIL AND IT TURNED BLACK AND HE HAD TO STICK A NEEDLE RIGHT THROUGH THE CENTER OF HIS NAIL AND OH MY GOD THE BLOOD THE BLOOD THE BLOOD!!!!!”

And this is why I didn’t follow either of my parents into the medical professions.

Tim was brave.  With my father (an ER doc) and my mother (a nurse) assisting, Tim’s toenail was summarily punctured (not with a needle from mom’s sewing kit but with some special nail-puncturing, red-glowy needle from the ER) and drained of its scarlet and then barn red and then burnt orange blood.  (Really, the colors have been spectular).

And now we’re just waiting for the nail to completely fall off and regenerate.

Just like a starfish arm.