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Link Roundup – November 26, 2018

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s officially time to start planning for Christmas!

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Here are some parenting links from around the web this week!

E D U C A T I O N

The Fleeting Magic of Scholastic Book Fairs via The Atlantic

Jeff Kinney: ‘Let children read anything; I’ll never say no to a book’ via The Guardian

The Children’s Picture Books That Defined 2018 via Romper

How Americans Feel About Affirmative Action In Higher Education via NPR

As Humanities Majors Decline, Colleges Try to Hype Up Their Programs via The Atlantic

The Future Of Learning? Well, It’s Personal via NPR

The Dual Immersion Solution via Edutopia

Why You Can Expect More Entrepreneurs to Follow Elon Musk’s Innovative Education Blueprint via Fee.org

The 2018 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books via New York Times

H E A L T H

The Significance of Michelle Obama’s Fertility Story via The Atlantic

America Is Blaming Pregnant Women for Their Own Deaths via New York Times

One-third of US parents plan to skip flu shots for their kids this season via CNN

Northwestern study adds fuel to discussion over sesame allergies, food labels via Chicago Tribune

Doctors Test Bacterial Smear After Cesarean Sections To Bolster Babies’ Microbiomes via NPR

Experimental Drug Shows Promise Protecting Against Peanut Allergies via Wall Street Journal

Anti-vaccination stronghold in N.C. hit with state’s worst chickenpox outbreak in 2 decades via Washington Post

For Autistic Boys, the Subway Is Actually Soothing via New York Times

When a Vasectomy Becomes a Guys’ Weekend via The Atlantic

What explains America’s mysterious baby bust? via The Economist

Infant-Sleep Deaths in Focus in Fight Over Role of Consumer-Safety Agency via Wall Street Journal

My Daughter With ADHD Started Using a Weighted Blanket, and I Saw a Change in Her Almost Immediately via Popsugar

The Future of Football Has Flags via New York Times

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My Chronic Illness Conditions

One of the worst things about being chronically ill, at least for me, is that being diagnosed with one condition has opened the floodgates for me to discover a bunch of other conditions. I wanted to take the time to briefly talk about my major conditions and how they affect my life, as a woman and a parent.

I was diagnosed with my first major condition, Chiari malformation, in 8th grade. I was diagnosed with my most recent condition, psoriasis and likely psoriatic arthritis, in early October, when we first moved to our new city to live near family and for my new job.

Chiari Malformation: When I was in 8th grade, I started passing out at school. After seeing multiple neurologists and specialists across the US, I was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation, which means my brain tissue extends into my spinal canal. There is no cure. Many have brain surgery to slow progression of symptoms. I have not yet because in my case my neurosurgeon is not sure it would help, so we are just watching it for now. It is often comorbid (co-occuring) with hypermobility disorders, such as GHSD, and POTS, both of which I have been since diagnosed with and both of which complicate surgeries and can cause them to fail. My symptoms with this include ever present head and neck aches and pressure and dizziness.

Generalized Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder: This disorder is in the same family as a condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome-Hypermobility type. According to the Ehlers-Danlos Society, “joint hypermobility is a term to describe the capability of joints to move beyond normal limits.” I am hypermobile throughout my body in many joints, thus the generalized. This hypermobility causes pain, dislocations, subluxations (partial dislocations), and other symptoms that can make moving very painful and my joints ache, especially when being coupled with my likely arthritis.

POTS: Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome is a condition I was diagnosed with this this summer when my ENT referred me to a cardiologist because my resting heart rate was 123 BPM. POTS relates to increased blood volume when changing position (such as standing up), causing symptoms like dizziness, blacking out, and rapid heartbeat.

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A Short Birth Story

My tiny Jellyfish miss was due in mid December 2017, the 14th to be exact. I knew her exact date of conception since we were actively trying when I got pregnant, so there wasn’t any guesswork surrounding her due date.

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I was excited that she would be born long before Christmas. In my family we have many December birthdays, and I grew up hearing how miserable several family members felt about their near Christmas and New Year’s birth dates. My oldest child, Ace, was born four days after his due date, and being a second baby, I had high hopes that Jellyfish miss would be born on or before her mid December guess. Baby’s First Christmas outfits, bibs, and ornaments were bought. Her coming home from the hospital outfit was a tiny elf suit!

Do you see where this is going?

In early December there was a full moon, and I was sure she would be born then. Nope.

On December 10th I started acupuncture in hopes of ripening my cervix and getting her ready for decent. Nope.

On December 15th my husband finished up his last week of work before the holiday break and we were sure she would come soon. Nope.

On December 17th my midwife discussed options for induction, should we get that far… but the hospital was booked up until 12/26,. Of course, very few staff would be there on Christmas, and the days before were already fully booked for inductions and c-sections. She assured me that we probably wouldn’t need that induction date, and that she would see me soon.

You have to know where this is going now.

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Lion at Four

Lion’s fourth birthday was actually three months ago, but I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with so many other things that I never did his four-year update! Better late than never, though!

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Recent picture from our family photoshoot. Photo credit: Eric Elofson.

The quality that always impresses me the most in Lion is his kindness. I’m sure I said it for his two and three-year updates, but I’ve only seen his kindness grow. He has so much empathy and is always very aware of how others feel. He is the best big brother ever, helping Panda get dressed, cheering Panda up, and playing with him constantly (even when they’re at school and Lion has friends his own age around). His teachers also relay stories of Lion’s kindness, like when he noticed that Panda was sad and gave him a hug to make him feel better. His teachers also comment on his great ability to share, eagerness to help and great teamwork skills.

Lion also has a sense of justice, concerned with how others are treated and whether things are equal. One day he mentioned another child’s name that I’d never heard of and told me he wanted to invite him to his birthday party. I asked if they were friends and he responded that some of the other kids in the class were being mean to this boy, so he wanted to invite him to his birthday so that child would have friends. Another time, he told me that he didn’t want to have a play date with another child anymore because that child was mean to other people in his class. And yet, Lion is also very quick to forgive.

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What Am I Thankful For?

This year has been crazy with so much happening and so many things that were awesome. But we also have had our share of upsets as well. We are navigating new times in our lives, as we always seem to be doing. Doesn’t it seem like the moment we have our normal figured out, it changes?

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This year was the first year both kids are in preschool. It’s been awesome so far and both kids are excelling. Little Bug has been especially surprising because he is pretty shy in new situations, but he is doing so well despite being the youngest kid in his class. His teachers are constantly telling me how polite and sweet he is, which makes me feel like I am winning because those are two things that I really want my kids to be. He’s making friends, having fun and I can see that he loves it. And LeLe is rocking her year as well. This kid LOVES school. She is obsessed with the social aspect of schooling, which is really interesting to watch as a person who is an introvert.

In October of this year, LeLe suffered a serious injury. We were attending a college football game and she jumped off a sidewalk into what we thought was a regular puddle, but was actually runoff from a steam vent and was boiling hot (this area was not marked, and was almost 15 feet from the actual vent). She ended up with severe burns on her foot and ankle that resulted in weeks of doctors’ appointments, constant dressing changes, debridement, and potential for physical therapy at some point. She is healing so well and now that we are almost two months out, it looks like she will be able to avoid physical therapy as the skin grows back. It is amazing how quickly she has healed and how good her burns look now. This was scary, frustrating, and so sad too, but she did so well and is almost completely back to normal.

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Moving with toddlers

It’s been almost three months since the Starfish family moved from Chicago, Illinois to Lexington, Kentucky. Now that we are mostly settled in, I think it’s a fair time to reflect on and share that experience with you all. I will weave in some tips, many of which come to you as a result of my own missteps!

I vividly recall one of my lowest parenting moments during this period – I was serving the girls dinner after nearly a week of moving upheaval and was absolutely exhausted when one of my girls insisted that she needed to go potty. When I pulled her out of her highchair and took her to the downstairs bathroom, she insisted that we go upstairs to the particular potty that this child thought was the only vessel in the entire world that could possibly contain her pee at that moment. When I balked and told her to pee in the downstairs bathroom, she threw a major temper tantrum. We’re talking the works – we had screaming, we had a dramatic flop onto the floor, we had sweat and a face the color of a strawberry – it was a level 10 tantrum.

And then when my other one decided she had to also have a tantrum for an unknown toddler reason, I broke down. I called Mr. Starfish (who inconveniently was on his third business trip of the past four weeks, in the midst of our move) and started crying myself. Hard. Like the kind of crying where you can’t catch your breath and you are sort of hiccuping through huge waves of emotion. And not to be outdone by my toddlers, I also included a dramatic floor flop for good measure.

Somehow I managed to literally and figuratively pick myself up off the floor. And somehow I got those girls off to bed that night and we all survived. But my goodness, my point is that moving with toddlers is not something to be taken lightly!

And that whole story leads me to my first toddler moving tip: go easy on yourself, your spouse, and your kids. I do not typically have emotional breakdowns in front of my kids, but I sure did it while moving. We also ate a whole lot of fast food during the week when none of our moving boxes had arrived. My girls didn’t read as many books on a daily basis as I’d like. And I am pretty darn certain at least two baths and multiple teeth-brushing sessions were skipped. In the end, we were able to get back on track pretty quickly and easily. When I was in the midst of my own tantrum, Mr. Starfish quietly instructed me to walk over to the TV, turn on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and take a break. Great advice if you ask me. Moving is overwhelming; take breaks and shortcuts when necessary. This is the time to let some stuff go.

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Destination: Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An

Because our tiny family started on Kauai in Hawaii, city life has never been our favorite, which means that now living in a big city like Taipei can be wearing at times. We were looking forward to going somewhere more remote and accessible, and being in a place that definitely had activities for our four-year-old adventurous daughter — being by the beach would be a bonus!

That’s why Hoi An in Vietnam is ideal, especially if you’re looking for an affordable trip where you could easily spend a couple of weeks with kids. Not only is Hoi An a UNESCO World Heritage site, there’s also such good food, amazingly friendly people, gorgeous spiritual history, and sweet beaches that are all easy to get to.

Start on Two Wheels

If you’re an adventurous family, rent a motorbike. It’s one of the most efficient ways to get around, and there aren’t a lot of strict rules about licensure, insurance, or all of that. On two wheels, you’re able to get to everything from An Bàng Beach, where restaurants even have little play areas set up for kids to an amusement park on your way to learning how to make one of the traditional paper lanterns at the Phô Hôi Lantern Workshop. Our daughter loved riding the motorbike so much that she fell asleep twice in between us in the afternoon sun as we made our way from place to another.

Our toddler loved riding the motorbikes in Hoi An so much, she'd nap on them!
Our toddler loved riding the motorbikes in Hoi An so much, she’d nap on them!

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