Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Clubfoot Files: Our Nightly Routine & Pressure Saddles

I've had a few people stop by this blog who are also on the clubfoot journey with their little one (hi!), so I'm writing these Clubfoot Files to share what we are going through and what we are learning.  I know I like reading other parents' blogs about it - the more info you can arm yourself with, the better!  It helps to hear what real people are going through.  If this isn't your cup of tea, feel free to skip this post. I'll keep posting about other stuff here too. :)

Welcome to another session of the Clubfoot Files, age 20 months edition! 

It's been a while since I've written a post about it, mostly because the treatment of Harper's clubfoot is a very small part of our lives at this point.  Pretty much once you pass into the phase of normal night wear, things don't change too much.  You put the shoes on at night, and keep at it for the next few years.  Pretty awesome to know for those parents who are in the stressful stage of casting or early bracewear, right?

We have a pretty nice little routine going these days, and for quite some time I've wanted to capture this time of our lives to remember when Harper is done wearing her brace.  

With some tripod help, here's a picture of our nightly routine (with a cameo by pregnant belly and pregnant double chin!)

It takes us about 3 minutes to put the shoes on.  Harper is very cooperative and used to this routine by now. Except she is a very busy toddler so I need Tony's help for the entertainment portion of the show.  He holds her, reading a book or counting fingers or going through the animal noises while I put the shoes on.  I have to brag - I've become quite the expert.  I can get those things on in no time!  I no longer have to mark the shoes to know what holes to use.  I don't have to check the little windows to be sure her heels are down.  I know how to hold her foot in place while lacing the buckles.  All of this took practice.  I was unsteady and slow for quite some time.  I say all this just to let you other parents who are earlier in treatment know that (ok, I'm a broken record now...) it gets easier!  It really does!

For the record, she's not always naked during this process - it was just a warm day, post-bath :)

I wanted to share a piece of advice for those dealing with blisters or sores on the tops of the feet.  I've blogged before about how this has been an issue for us repeatedly.  She went quite a few months last summer with perpetual open sores... (see this post for more about that - and the treatment we used - duoderm!)  I used moleskin to pad the top tongues of the shoes and this helped and kept our sores at bay... sort of ... but with each new pair of shoes they would come back with a vengeance as she broke them in.  

And you know what?  Some kind reader commented that I should buy some pressure saddles, and I just never did.  I don't know why I didn't listen!!  Pressure saddles have been a lifesaver for us! 

See those white pads sitting on top of the tongue of the shoes (under the middle strap)?  Those are pressure saddles, sometimes called pringles (they look like the chips!).  They are made of the same silicone-ish plastic that the inside of the shoes are made of, so they are quite durable.  They have little holes where the straps thread through and they help displace the pressure that the straps put on the skin in that crucial area.  We haven't had any issues since we started using these.  Such a simple fix that I wish I had used sooner! 

{We bought ours from MD Orthopaedics, the same company that makes the shoes.  You can see the pressure saddles here on their website under Products.  I think it was about $25 with shipping to get these.  Well worth the price!}

That white stuff on the floor is the cornstarch we still use on her feet to keep them dry and help keep the shoes from rubbing.  We always have white dots all over the carpet!)

For quite a while, Harper has been able to stand in her crib with her shoes on.  She has no problem at all rolling over, moving around her crib, getting up, or even walking around with the bar on.  She just scoots her legs and makes it work.  I take this as a good sign that she's comfortable, but also that we will be able to make it work once she's in a real bed and might have to get up to use the bathroom at night.  (This is our next hurdle to tackle, and I'm not looking forward to it!)

Happy little cheeser.

This post is just my chance to check in further down the road of treatment and say that it all gets easier.  Each day, each month, it gets easier.  It's smooth sailing from here until that magical day when the doctor tells us we can stop wearing the brace forever (on which day I will be terrified.  and won't believe her.  and will have to ask "are you reallly sure???" 100 times).  

I have said time and again that clubfoot really is such a blessing.  It makes us appreciate the little things, like each step she takes.  It's treatable.  Easily.  It takes just a few years of work but then it's over! Gone!  Just like that.  What a blessing it is we have easy access to medical care.  That doctors are trained in a treatment method that involves little more than plaster and an expensive pair of shoes.  What a blessing that this beautiful girl is just as happy as can be, brace and all.

Check out all of my other Clubfoot Files posts here!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bead Board in the Kitchen!

Ok, so ONE YEAR AGO, Tony and I made some major changes in our kitchen.  I have yet to blog about them.  My thought was, well, I'll wait until it's actually done, with the little finishing touches and everything, before I blog about it.  Yeah, well, those didn't happen.  We pretty much finished the major part of it, scraped the ten inches of caulk out of our hair (ok, me, that was me.  i did 100% of the caulking), and then quit entirely.  Is our kitchen perfect the way I would love it to be?  No.  Are there some areas where I still haven't painted raw wood yet?  Yes.   But is it good enough?  Certainly.

Thursday, while Harper was at her children's morning out, I tackled a deep clean of the kitchen.  It took me quite a few hours, and it's been an unspeakable amount of time since I last cleaned like that.  Since I had actually scrubbed the flung food off the walls, I thought it was as good a time as any to take some pictures and put this thing out there in blog land.  Also, I probably won't clean it again until August when the baby is almost here... let's just be realistic. (But it was also morning and the sun was intense - forgive my terrible photo skills, please).

SO - the befores, shall we?

These are from waaaay back in the archives, but this is how our kitchen looked for many years:

It was a muddy brown color (which I picked out and replace the cream and PEACH it was before) with a random chair rail and everything was brown.  It felt oppressive after a few years.

As you can see, the opening from the kitchen to the living room was narrow, about the size of a regular doorway.  It felt so closed off and you could never talk/see each other if you were in different rooms.  Blah.

 Here's that tiny door from a different angle (and a different rug era, apparently).

We began scheming with my dad on how to open that doorway to give the rooms a more open plan feeling.  He insisted it wouldn't be that hard (it really wasn't).  

I blogged about that initial process about a year ago (womp womp).  But here are some pictures of them opening up the doorway.  They also raised how tall it was.

The process was helped tremendously by removing this large cabinet that blocked all view and was massively oppressive. 

Then, they cut some stuff.

And more stuff.

Big whole chunks of stuff.

And voila!  A large opening, with unfinished sides, tile to replace, and a big mess!

Oh, by the way - I'm so tardy on this post that Harper looked like THIS when all this was happening:

Ahhh chubby happy squishy baby!


Somewhere in the process (I forget all of the details at this point), I painted the walls.  I couldn't take one more minute of the brown.  The color is Sherwin William's Sea Salt (Behr matched), which I had seen so much online and loved.  In our kitchen, it came out more minty green than I anticipated, but I still love it.  It's fresh and bright and happy while still being subtle.  And a tiny bit beachy.  (the colors in my pictures here don't really do it justice).

We made plans to install beadboard on the lower portion of the walls, higher than where our chair rail had once stood, so I didn't waste my paint.  Annnnd it sat like this for a good 3 or 4 months probably.  Classy!

We wanted to wait until we had 1. the time 2. the money to do this project right.  So we were patient. (ish).

Here's what the inside of the newly-opened doorway looked like for a while.  The drywall had to be repaired in some spots where we took the cabinet out, but it was so much better anyway!  

Slowly but surely, we got molding up around the new opening, on both sides.  My dad reinforced the drywall at the top, knowing we would soon be putting a jumperoo-ing baby in that doorway!

 We also had the exposed sides of these cabinets to deal with, now that the big one was out.  We figured we'd bead board those suckers too.  So we looked at this for quite some time. 

Next, we put up the bead board.  This was a bit laborious, since we had lots of cuts to make (and an ancient borrowed table saw!) and our walls and doorways are painfully un-level.  Thank goodness nobody expects tutorials from me, because we mostly winged it.  I did use House of Hepworth's tutorials a lot!  My biggest tip is - remember, caulk is very forgiving!  I was trying to be a perfectionist about it, but some spots just had gaps.  The caulk worked wonders.  (also, read HoH's tips on how to install outlets safely with bead board surround - they require special outlet extenders).

We made some mistakes here and there, but overall I was pretty proud of us!  We did this part on our own and only tried to kill each other once.  

{{Funny story:  we were exhausted one weekend but determined to finish because we needed to return said table saw.  I was in charge of marking the measurements on where to cut.  This included outlets.  So, I measured well, marked away, and we went out and cut a very intricate, large piece of bead board (it was for under the window, so it wasn't just a square piece.  We had to cut out part where the window would be, as well as notch out for the molding around the window).  I'd say it was about a 30 minute cut job alone.  We then cut out the square for the outlet.  Welp, we came in to hold the piece up... and the outlet hole was wrong.  I drew it on the wrong side, so it was exactly lined up with...the space right next to the outlet.  It was a low moment.  But, luckily Tony was able to somehow laugh it off...}}

We took off our baseboards and reused them when possible.  We bought big bead board sheets and cut to size (having Home Depot cut them in half first for transportation purposes).  We used MDF for the top rail.  It's brown still in these pictures.  I knew I wanted the look of a thick top rail, without fussy curves or details, so this was a great, cheap way to achieve this.  I will say - it's not as smooth, even once painted, as I wish it were, especially for such a high-profile area, but it works.  There are so many other things we had to do - like mitered edges in corners, cutting complicated patterns into big pieces of bead board so we could have our seam under the window instead of next to it, making sure our height was level, even though our floor was not, etc --- but any good tutorial out there will walk you through all that stuff.

I caulked and painted for what felt like months (truly, because it took me that long!).  There were just so.many.edges.  And nail holes!  I was so sick of caulk by the end of it, I could have screamed.  Then I had to paint it all (with the same paint we use for our trim). No pictures of this unhappy process... but the end result!

On top of all this, we still had that doorway to finish off.  Once all of the frame molding was in, it all had to be caulked and painted.  but the hardest part was smoothing off the inside of the jamb - both sides and the top.  My dad helped us get started, but basically we pieced in drywall, and used joint compound over that to smooth it out.  We then used his shop vac with an attached sander plate to smooth it out.  I must have done 10 coats of this stuff... scraping it on piece by piece, then sanding it all down, then filling in low spots, and starting it all again... And yes, I did most of it because it was a detail job, and I just didn't quite trust Tony on that!  He did help with a lot of the sanding.  It took months of spotty weekend work.  It's still not perfect, but the imperfections are barely noticeable.

There were a lot of evenings and nap times spent like this:


But... we finally finished sometime last summer I think (mostly).  And the afters make me quite happy.

A much better view, right??  You can actually see in the living room!  And the sun from the big kitchen window filters through to the darker living room.

Like I said, we aren't fully finished.  We lost steam before we could finish this little wall.

 One day I'll tackle that.  One day.

We are really happy with how it turned out.  I know bead board isn't everyone's style, but I've always liked the look, and I feel like we were able to make a substantial impact with somewhat minimal effort and cost.  The space is lighter and brighter, and a much happier place to be in!  The one benefit of me taking so long to write this is that I can gladly say we still like the look and it's all held up beautifully.  

Of course, my kitchen wish list is still a mile long:

  • The cabinets.. Oh the cabinets.  Ok, they aren't even cabinets.  They are long pieces of plywood that someone put up and put 100 doors in front of.  Seriously.  You could slide a marble from one wall to the next inside the cabinets.  They have no dividers.  And 100 doors. (ok 26).  And don't get me started on the paint and lack of primer.  They weren't primed, I don't think... and the paint is the type that gets oily from touch and stains and is flaking off in large chunks everywhere.  We are going to have to majorly repaint them or have them resurfaced or something... neither sounds fun.
  • That terrible square fluorescent light?  Ugh.
  • New little rugs - ours are sad.
  • The two exterior doors have that same paint issue - they look awful and need repainting - but they are going to have to be completely sanded down first....
  • Tony is going to build us a new table!!  So excited about that - I can't wait to have a low one kids can easily sit at.  But that project's on the back-burner since we have nursery/office tasks to complete first.
  • Our Ikea Billy bookcase turned pantry that we currently have in the laundry room will soon be coming out into the kitchen so we can do more with the laundry room (more on that later!).  So that will be sitting where our completely non-functional wine rack currently sits (oh, well it does hold all of our misc junk now...).

Anyway, hope you liked this terribly long post.  Glad I finally wrote about it... over a year later!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Beauty in Sickness

Sunday afternoon, Harper surprised us by developing a pretty high fever during her nap.  She woke up sweaty and crying a cry that is so reminiscent of babyhood, one that is out of the ordinary and feeble and sad.  It was just a run of the mill bug, certainly something we've dealt with before.  She's actually still fighting off the tail end of it.  

But I couldn't help but be humbled, my heart heavy with love, at how beautiful this whole motherhood business is when our baby is sick and truly needs us.  Perhaps it's the strong-willed, independent, often chaotic stage of toddler that we are in now, but to feel her sweet head on my chest, her little body warm and breathing heavily, had me filled with joy.  To be sure, I was worried about her as her fever didn't go down, even with medicine, and I certainly never want to see her sick if I can help it.  Yet, in those moments, when it's happened anyway and  there's nothing there to distract me, when we are in our own little world, I can't help but feel so much love.  I wanted to wrap myself around her fully and hold her forever.  As I sat there rocking her and the minutes ticked by, I found myself nostalgic for our nursing days, when I felt the same so-strong tug of the unfathomable love you can have for your child, especially when they are so vulnerable and need you completely.   Her body was heavy against mine, fully trusting in my arms that encircled her.   I ran my fingers through her unruly curls, crushed by the weight of this beautifully blessing that we get to call ours. 

As a mom, there are so many things you just do because, why wouldn't you?  You bathe, you feed, you diaper, you play, you comfort, you feed again... and you do those things because you love your child and wouldn't think otherwise.  But so often, that intense and a little crazy love that makes you a mom is buried under the everyday.  Sunday was a beautifully sunny day with warm temperatures, and I had plans of us going to the playground to enjoy the fresh air.  Yet when the course of our day changed to soothing and lukewarm baths and me rocking a sad little girl for hours, I couldn't have been happier.  We had all day.  I could sit in her chair and hold her panting body for hours on end.  I wanted to.  Harper has never liked to cuddle, and I can count on one hand the times she's fallen asleep on me, save for the very first weeks of her life.  She's certainly at a stage now where she begs for you to hold her, but doesn't really want to be held. We're lucky if we can coax her into a hug!

So when she fell asleep in my arms on a lazy Sunday, even though I wished I could take her discomfort away, I relished these moments of holding my sweet girl and loving her with every fiber of my being.  As we rocked, I thought in her fitful sleep she was wiggling her fingers against my belly.  When I checked her hands, they were nowhere near it, and I realized her little sister was wiggling away inside me, as her big sister unknowingly cuddled close.  I had felt flutters before, but this was the first true movement I felt.  If I wasn't feeling the overwhelming, bittersweet, crushing love of a mother for her baby before, I certainly was then. 

This motherhood thing will take you by surprise sometimes.  Beautifully.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It's a Girl!

We found out this past weekend that Baby #2 is a girl!  She looked great at the ultrasound and was hopping all around!  We got some great 3d pictures of her little face.

I'm so excited Harper is getting a sister.  And I'm hoping since they will be close in age, they will magically be BFFs forever and ever ... or at least post-high school??

I'm busy pinning nursery ideas (basically I'm doing the room the same way I would have done it with a boy - maybe with a little more girlishness) and still trying not to throw my food up.  Yay!

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