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Choosing a doctor for your kids

Choosing a doctor for your kids can be a daunting task for a new parent.  There are so many questions to ask, and many parents want a doctor that supports their own beliefs with regards to things like feeding method and vaccines.  

We were very blessed (and spoiled) with our first pediatrician.  He was fantastic!  He listened when we had questions and concerns.  He had wonderfully practical advice.  But, perhaps most importantly, he had a manner that could calm my first time mom fears quickly and easily, and reassure me that I was doing a good job!  Bear had colic and cried most of the time I was with her for the first 4 months of her life.  I was a basketcase!  Everything I was doing seemed wrong.  I remember one appointment perfectly, like a video in my mind, when he told me that sometimes, when things got to be too much, it was alright for me to put her in her crib, shut the door and walk away to calm myself down.  After all, how on earth was an upset mother supposed to help a baby calm down?  I expressed a bit of horror at the thought.  Leave my child crying in the crib?  How could I?  She would be scarred for life!  She would think I didn’t love her!  He noticed my expression, grinned and said, “Elizabeth, I promise you, none of my patients has ever died because their mom left them crying in their crib for a few minutes!  It’s going to be ok.  She’s not going to remember this.  It’s more important for you to keep your cool!”

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Unfortunately, soon after Lizard was born, our wonderful pediatrician took a position as the head of an emergency department at a children’s hospital in Ft. Worth.  We weren’t huge fans of any of the other doctors at that practice.  It was a large practice, and there were policies we didn’t like.  That was when our long search for another good doctor began.  

If you’re a first time parent looking for a pediatrician, it’s likely that you have a long list of questions ready to ask at an interview appointment.  I won’t give you another long list of questions here…there are plenty of those available all around the internet.  But, there are a few things I have experienced as a mother of five (and believe me, we’ve spent our fair share of time in the doctor’s office!) that you may want to consider during your search for a doctor.

1. The Reception Staff

When dealing with your doctor’s office, you won’t actually be spending much time interacting with the pediatrician you have chosen.  You’ll see the doctor for 10 or 15 minutes at appointments.  Most of the people you interact with at the office will be members of the doctor’s reception staff.  These are the folks you talk to when you make your appointment.  They’re always the first people you talk to when you have a question for your doctor.  If the doctor has a poor reception staff, you’re going to have issues, no matter how fantastic the pediatrician’s medical expertise.

I have encountered a couple different kinds of problems with a doctor’s staff in my experiences.  The first (and most irritating) was a staff whose members were just plain rude.  There is nothing more infuriating than making a phone call to an office that you pay to provide an essential service, only to have to sit on hold, or re-tell your problem to 8 different receptionists.  Trust me, at some point, your child is going to have some sort of accident or sudden illness occur that is going to be worse than you’ve experienced before.  You’ll be worried and scared.  This is not the time you ‘ll want to sit on hold for half an hour while the receptionist does her nails before she meanders down the hall to discover that the nurse is, in fact, back from lunch (and has been for over an hour), but she’s already back in a room with another patient…”Would you like to leave a voice mail?”

The second big reception staff deal-breaker I’ve experienced was one that kept losing my appointments.  I’d call, make an appointment for one of the kids to see a doctor.  The day of the appointment, I loaded up all the kids into the car and drove the hour into town for the appointment.  There was no record of my child’s appointment.  The first time it happened, I thought I must have written something down wrong, or maybe dreamed I’d made the appointment.  The second time, I thought I was going nuts.  The third time, I got mad and caused a bit of a ruckus…but decided to give them one more chance.  The fourth time, it was back on the search.  It was too bad, because I really liked the doctor…but since I could never get an appointment for the kids to see her, what was the point?

2. The Nursing Staff

Aside from the reception staff, the nurse at a doctor’s office is the next person you’ll spend a lot of time with.  If you call with a question about your child, chances are you’ll talk to a nurse, who will in turn go ask the doctor.  Then, the nurse will come back to the phone to tell you the doctor’s answer.  Often, that will prompt another question from you, which can occasionally (and annoyingly…for all parties involved) start the whole process over again.

If the doctor’s nurse does not return calls frequently, or if she is rude, you’re going to have a problem.  It doesn’t matter how great the doctor is if no one ever returns your calls.  If the nurse thinks she knows everything, and won’t listen to you about the actual situation, she’s not going to give you good advice.  Again, it’s not the doctor’s fault, but it does affect the quality of healthcare your child will receive.

3. The Waiting Area

I know what you’re thinking about this one…why does the waiting area matter?  As long as there are comfortable chairs and a TV playing the latest episode of “Doc McStuffins” what else is there to worry about?

Germs.

It’s a doctor’s office, for crying out loud!  For every kid that tromps through that waiting area for a well child check-up, there are ten more that come through with colds, the flu, bronchitis, stomach bugs…the list goes on. 

You may think those toys and books they keep in the waiting room are such a great idea when you go in for your interview with the doctor before your baby is born.  “Yay!  Books and educational toys!”  you think, “That’s such a better choice than TV to keep little ones occupied while they’re waiting!  And these couches…they’re so comfortable!  I like this office.  They’re really considerate of their patients!”

Run away.  Run away as fast as you can!  Couches can’t be disinfected.  I don’t care how conscientious the staff is, they cannot disinfect all those toys in the waiting room after every single child touches them.  How does one disinfect a book, anyway?  Or wooden toys?  Here’s my big news…they can’t.  So, in about 18 months, when you’ve come into the doctor’s office for your child’s check-up, they’re going to want to play with the toys.  Have you ever tried to explain to an 18 month old that they can’t play with the toys because of germs?  Let me save you the trouble…it doesn’t work very well.  Now you’ve got a very upset toddler who doesn’t understand why Mommy won’t let him play.  All of a sudden, those things that looked so welcoming when you first visited have become agents of doom.  There are viruses lurking on the cushions, bacteria oozing off the pages of those books, and that kid sitting across from yours at the child-sized table coloring sure looks like he’s running a fever!

Am I paranoid?  Quite possibly.  But, we’ve had to leave a doctor that we really liked a lot because our kids got sick every time they walked through that clinic door.  Even after I banned them from touching the toys and books, they continued to get sick after every visit.  One of these visits resulted in bronchitis that landed Bear in the emergency room one night…she couldn’t breathe.  Since we homeschool, and don’t actually go out all that often, it was really quite simple to track down the source of infection.  It was the doctor’s office.  I’m sure they tried very hard to keep things clean.  The waiting room always looked nice, neat, clean and tidy.  But, there are things you just can’t clean well enough.  And, their waiting room was full of them!


There are so many things to think about when you’re choosing healthcare for your baby…when you’re choosing everything for your baby, really.  I hope I’ve given you some food for thought to help you along in your quest.  I wish you luck in finding just the right place for your family!


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A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she had lost her phone.  She has been looking for it for a couple days.  Hopefully, by the time I finish writing this post and get up, she will have found it! 

It can really be frustrating when things get lost.  It’s even more frustrating when you look everywhere you can think, and you still can’t find it.  If you have small children who share your home, you must learn to think like a toddler if you want to find your missing item.  Maybe it’s your phone, maybe your car keys or wallet.  Maybe it’s the keys to the tractor.  So, for those of you who are lucky enough to have a toddler or preschooler living in your home, I’ve put together a list of the strangest places I’ve ever found my missing items…maybe it will help you locate that long-lost set of house keys!

1. The dishwasher

Thoroughly inspect every crevice of your dishwasher.  Look on the inside, look on the outside.  Check inside that little hollow area right under the door handle.  Bear hid my phone in that little hollow once.  I searched and searched for my phone.  It disappeared on a Friday afternoon.  We looked all weekend, but we couldn’t find it.  I was pregnant with Monkey at the time, and we decided it would probably be a bad idea for me to be alone at the house without a phone.  So, Monday morning, I loaded the girls into the car, and went to purchase a new phone.  All was once again right, and I had learned that I should keep my phone up in a higher location!  A few months later, we were giving the dishwasher a thorough cleaning.  I saw something weird in the gap underneath the handle.  I got a pair of kitchen tongs and managed to pull it out.  There it was…my long lost phone…found months too late.  It even still worked!  It became a decoy phone for the kids to play with.  It’s still wandering around the toy boxes to this very day.

2.  A child’s play purse…

…that is inside a stuffed animal backpack all crammed down together in the bottom of a dress-up box.  I can’t make this stuff up!  One of our dear children once absconded with the tractor keys.  For a week, my husband had to hotwire the tractor if he needed it (it just happened to be that time of the year when it was needed…often).  Daddy was mad!  We looked all around the tractor for the lost keys.  We knew one of the kids was responsible for the disappearance, but we weren’t sure which one…though we had our suspicions that it was Lizard.  We really thought they had been dropped outside somewhere, so we searched the entire yard.  I had the kids out searching every day.  One day, I had the girls inside cleaning their room, which looked like a scene from some sort of natural disaster stricken area.  Bear pulled out the backpack.  She looked inside, and pulled out the purse.  Lizard looked up and said, “Oh!  I wondered where this was!”  Then Lizard grabbed the purse and looked inside, wondering what sort of long-forgotten treasure she would find there.  Her face was priceless.  She looked up at me, and back down into the purse and sheepishly pulled out the tractor keys.  “I forgot!”  was all she said.  Then, she started laughing hysterically.  We showed Daddy, who was still a bit irritated, but glad to have the keys back.

3.  A bag of flour

This is one of Rhino’s favorite places to hide things.  Of course, being a family of seven, we don’t ever get the small bag.  Oh no…we buy the 25 pound bag.  I’ve pulled phones, keys, and toys out of the bag of flour.  It’s at that perfect height that just invites little hands to investigate!  Plus, it’s in a bag that’s in a box under the cabinet.  The multiple containers make it extra fun!

4.  Inside a table

This is Rhino’s other favorite place to hide things.  But, inside a table?  How does a small child put things inside a table?  Well, we have two tables that have an inside.  One is the coffee table.  It’s on wheels, so he can push it around the living room.  The top opens so that ideally, you can store blankets or magazines or books…whatever you need accessible but out of site.  It also has doors on the sides so you can access the inside that way.  Rhino likes to put things in the top, then locate them in the blanket stack from the side.  It’s a fun game…until something gets lost in the folds of a blanket.  Then, the mystery can quickly become a tragedy…especially if no one saw him put the item inside the table.  We looked for his “nice” for days once.  His nice is a little blanket that he always sleeps with.  We finally found it inside the coffee table, wrapped up in another, much larger blanket.

We have another table that folds up and stands against the wall most of the time.  It only comes out when we have company and need extra seating at meal time.  The chairs for the table fold and are stored inside the table.  There’s a little door on each side that opens so that the chairs can be removed.  It’s a neat little table that has been with me since my college apartment-dwelling days.  Since the children came along, though, many a small item has turned up inside that little table, sometimes fallen between the cracks in the folded chairs.  

 5.  In the tupperware drawer 

We were visiting my parents a year or so ago.  Rhino was toddling about with his sippy cup most of the afternoon.  When dinner time came, he was very thirsty, and really wanted some juice.  But, no one could find his cup.  We looked everywhere!  Still, no cup.  We finally caved and got out a fresh cup for dinner, but we still needed to find it before we left.  We didn’t want to forget the cup (we only keep a couple at home), and I’m sure my mom didn’t want to find the cup months later…no one enjoys that kind of surprise!

The next day, I happened to open the tupperware drawer (looking for something else, but still unfamiliar with they lay-out of my parents’ new kitchen), which was one of the lowest drawers in the kitchen.  Again, it was the perfect height for little hands to explore!  Low and behold, there was something bright orange showing from an upside-down stack of Ziploc containers (or possibly Gladware…who can tell!).  The color caught my eye, since everything else was clear plastic.  It was also odd for the stack to be in the drawer upside down.  So, I lifted the overturned stack, and there it was…the missing sippy cup!  Found at last.  We were all relieved.  


So, if you ever find yourself missing an item and you have little ones in the house, think like a toddler.  Look inside of stuff that’s inside of something else!  Your mom may have told you to look where you left it, or maybe to retrace your steps.  “It didn’t grow legs and walk off!”  Well, the moral of the story here is…maybe it did!  It just have grown some pint-sized legs and walked somewhere strange…somewhere strange and exciting-to a toddler anyway! 

 

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The impending birth of our fifth child has my mind racing about all things “new baby”.  One thing a lot of new moms have trouble with is breastfeeding.  I’ll save the bottle or breast debate for another time and place.  I’ll assume that if you’ve taken the time to read this post, you’ve already made your decision for once your baby gets here…or maybe you’re already breastfeeding.  You’re tired (there’s the understatement of the century!), and maybe a little discouraged because things aren’t going quite as well as you had hoped they would.

I am by no means a professional expert.  You can take my advice, or you can leave it.  It’s up to you.  One thing I can tell you, however, is that I’ve successfully breastfed four infants for longer than a year each.  So, without further ado, here are my breastfeeding tips for beginners.

Take advantage of help while you are still in the hospital.

The nurses you will meet during your stay usually have years of experience helping new moms learn all the ins and outs of breastfeeding.  You’d be surprised how much they can help.  Most hospitals also have lactation consultants on staff.  If one doesn’t happen to wander into your room soon after your baby is born, request a visit!  They are paid to be there to help you.  Many pediatricians’ practices also keep lactation consultants on staff.  If your hospital doesn’t have one (or if you don’t use a hospital), contact your pediatrician’s office for assistance.  The sooner you take advantage of help, the better.  Be an expert before you head home!

Educate yourself!

Hopefully, you’ve already started your research…before your baby gets here.  But if you didn’t, better late than never!  There are a couple of points to keep in mind.  The sooner you try breastfeeding your baby after birth, the better.  Give it a try as soon as they hand your baby to you.  Trust me, it’s a truly amazing moment!

There are a lot of common problems, many with fairly easy solutions.  Things like improper latch or positioning, lip and tongue ties, low supply, over-supply, thrush can all make breastfeeding challenging…but not impossible!  There are things you can do to correct these problems…some are easier than others.  Learn all you can about common problems so that you can recognize the signs and get the help you need!

Nearly all breastfed babies lose some weight during the first few days following birth.

This was a shocker to me the first time around.  I’m so glad that someone had the foresight to mention it to me before my daughter was born.  My oldest was fairly small to start with…she was born at 5 pounds, 15 ounces.  I had pre-eclampsia, and had to deliver a tad early.  We were both healthy after birth, but if I hadn’t known to expect a little weight loss, I would have been really scared since she was already so small.  I might have been talked into supplementing by some well-meaning, yet overly nosy people in my life.  So give breastfeeding a fair try.  Make sure you give it longer than a week!

Position is everything.  Make sure you are comfortable!

Find your favorite spot…couch, bed, wherever.  Get enough pillows to support your back.  Make sure you have something to drink nearby.  You’ll be thirsty, I promise.  Find a nursing pillow that makes both you and baby comfortable.  Personally, I like the Boppy, but a lot of people like other brands.  I even know a couple who made their own!  Find whatever pillow best fits your body best.  If the pillow you got at your baby shower isn’t working, don’t be afraid to try something different!

Make sure to get a well-fitting bra (or 6)!

This is something that will be difficult, even impossible, to do before your milk comes in.  There will be no doubt in your mind when that happens!  Your size will change dramatically on that magical day.  You will need a nursing bra before then, obviously, but it’s a good idea to wait to invest heavily in these garments until you know what size you will need for the long run.  Have an expert determine the size you need.  Try on several different styles if you can.  Sometimes, you’ll have to order your size.  There isn’t a store in town that carries my size (I’m kind of a big girl).  So, I have to order mine.  

Try out La Leche League for some great fitting and affordable bras.  It’s always a good idea to have several, because, well, leaks happen.  I also have different styles depending on what I’m going to do.  I have some that I can sleep in, others that I live in during the day, and a couple that work well under clothes I wear to church.  You just have to find out what fits your habits.

Get a good pump.

This is especially important if you plan to go back to work.  Make sure you have parts that fit you…yes, they come in different sizes.  You are going to be miserable if you’re working with a pump that is uncomfortable, and you might be tempted to give up breastfeeding.  Even if you are planning on staying home with your baby, a pump is still a good idea.  I always try to pump a little so that I can have a small stock of milk in the refrigerator…just in case I have to go out unexpectedly.  

Many insurance companies will pay for pumps these days.  It’s a good idea to call ahead of time to find out the procedure for getting one through your insurance.  Sometimes, your doctor has to write a prescription, and sometimes, you only have a certain window of time to get one.  It will be well worth your time to find out!

Every baby nurses differently.

Try not to compare your nursing experience with your best friend’s.  Don’t even compare your older child’s former nursing habits with this younger child’s habits.  Every baby is different.  My oldest took forever to finish each feeding.  I had to plan on at least 45 minutes for her to eat.  She was just a slow eater (and still is!).  My second was a speedster, but she liked to eat a lot more often than my first.  Number three had to play around a lot before he finally got down to business.  My fourth was another speedster.  Who knows what number 5 will do!

Trust your instincts.

If you think something isn’t right, get help.  Don’t wait.  The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get the breastfeeding relationship reestablished.  On the other hand, don’t let well-meaning friends and relatives (and even sometimes medical professionals) convince you that something is wrong when you know everything is going quite well.  Trust yourself.  You’re the momma.  You know you, and you know your baby!

When Rhino was about 9 months old, we got thrush.  I knew there was something wrong, but my doctor couldn’t “see” any problems.  This is quite common with thrush.  Sometimes there are obvious white patches in the baby’s mouth.  Sometimes, a mother’s pain is the only symptom.  I had to find a doctor who would believe me in order to get the problem solved.  Again: trust yourself!  Stand up for yourself and your baby.  Don’t let anyone else tell you that it’s time to wean just because you run into a little problem.  That decision is up to the two of you.

Don’t give up!!!

Breastfeeding can be hard.  There’s no doubt about it…it’s exhausting.  Being a mother is hard!  You’ve made a great decision for your child’s nutrition.  Don’t let anyone talk you out of it.  Don’t give up!  Get help when you need it.  Take care of yourself.  Trust yourself.  I wish  you the best of luck on this new adventure!