Breaking the Blog Silence: Asbestos and Mesothelioma

Most Americans of a certain age–certainly anyone who’s ever bought or sold a home–know a little about the dangers posed by Asbestos.  A known carcinogen with fibers invisible to the naked eye, Asbestos is most commonly envisioned lurking in in the insulation of older buildings.  The reality, though, is that Asbestos has been used in a wide variety of applications over the years.  As our knowledge of its risks has grown, the EPA has banned particular uses of the Asbestos, but our government has yet to ban its use outright.

Asbestos exposure, however limited or incidental, can lead to Mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer that attacks the lining of the body’s major organs.  A person might have worked in a field where exposure was common, or she might have been the wife who washed her husband’s work clothes.  In the case of Heather, whose story appears below, she might be the little girl who hugged her Dad upon his return home from work every day, nearly dying years later from exposure to the fibers that hung undetected on his jacket. Unlike other cancers affecting the lungs, Mesothelioma has no link to tobacco use.  Despite modern medical interventions, including chemotherapy and radiation, Mesothelioma is nearly always fatal.  Often, the decline is both devastating and swift.


This week is National Asbestos Awareness week.  Please take a moment to read Heather’s story, share it on social media, learn more about Asbestos and Mesothelioma, and find out what you can do to help.

…in which I discuss what new moms really need in their hospital bags, according to me.


***Warning: in this long post, I acknowledge that childbirth (and the aftermath) isn’t necessarily glamorous, comfortable, or tidy.  I also specifically mention items like nursing pads, Depends, and mesh underwear.  Read at your own discretion.***

With so many friends currently “in the family way,” I’ve been reminded just how many “hospital bag checklists” and other baby gear lists exist in the blogosphere.  The intent is heartfelt: advising soon-to-be moms of all the necessary accouterments that will make their hospital stays more pleasant.  However, I’ve noticed that many of these posts (especially those written before the arrival of the author’s child), tend to be a little heavy on the precious and a little light on the practical.  As an unsolicited public service, I’d like to offer my take on what a new mom might actually need (and want) when the time comes.  I’ll preface my list by saying that I pack light for travel and can’t stand clutter, so my list might be a bit more Spartan than some.   Feel free to use, abuse, or adapt to fit your own needs.

For baby (packed in diaper bag, then packed in your bag):

  • Snap tees (1-2/anticipated day of stay plus an extra)
  • 1-2 sleeping gowns (if desired)
  • 1-2 pacifiers (if desired)
  • Seasonally-appropriate blanket (for photos, trip home)
  • Cap
  • Going home outfit conducive to car seat straps
  • Rear-facing infant or convertible car seat (left in car, installation checked before hospital departure and/or at local firehouse prior to labor)

Here’s the thing about newborn stuff: it’s tiny, as are they.  Most hospitals will gladly provide a pacifier or two upon request if you want to use one, and the little snap tee shirts (not onesies—remember that umbilical cord stump) take up about three square inches of real estate in your bag.  My hospital provided several of these tees; it might be worth asking if yours does as well.  We ended up not needing the few we brought, but they took up so little room, I didn’t mind.

In the hospital, Henry wore snap tees and a diaper most of the time.  Because he spent so much time sleeping, he was nearly always swaddled (in the hospital’s receiving blankets, which were perfectly sized for the purpose). Getting born, it seems, wears a baby out.  Because he was swaddled, he didn’t really need pants (plus, I worried the waistband might irritate his umbilical stump).  I learned to swaddle by watching the post partum nurses, so I just chose to work with the same materials they used.

Henry slept (very, very well) swaddled until he was old enough to roll, and for all of those months, my favorite swaddling blankets remained the flannels we took home with us from the hospital.  When you’re back at home, inexpensive Carter’s flannel and pricier Aden and Anais muslin also work well.  Swaddle sacks (here or here) were great when he was a little bigger, but I couldn’t swaddle him tightly enough in them when he was just born.  Not sure about swaddling?  Consider bringing a couple of sleeping gowns with open bottoms.  You’ll want fast, easy diaper changes. (Later, you’ll select zip-up PJ’s over snap-up for the same reason.  No one likes fumbling with snaps in the dark.)

You could bring a hat or two, but the knit cap the hospital provided stretched well and fit Henry’s average-sized noggin better than many of the others I had.  If you do bring one, hand knit yarn might work better than machine knit cotton in the early months because the larger stitches stretch to fit.  I used the hospital cap at home for a long time afterward, even when more attractive hats were introduced to the rotation.  It stayed put on his head– more than I could say for some.

If you’d like a pretty blanket to lay over baby in her bassinet, go for it, but know she likely won’t need it.  Instead, think of what will cover her (clothes, blanket) on the trip home.  What will the weather be like?  What will work well with your car seat?

The hospital will give you more diapers and wipes (or wet cloths) than you could possibly imagine while you’re there; you won’t need to bring any of your own.

Mom clothes:

  • Robe
  • Slippers
  • 2 pair of comfortable, loose-waisted PJs with necklines conducive to nursing (if that’s the plan)
  • Two nursing bras with reusable pads (I recommend Bamboobies) OR
  • Two tight sports bras with disposable pads if you intend to formula feed exclusively
  • One attractive-but-comfortable outfit for going home and in-hospital newborn photos (if you intend to have these taken)
  • Special jewelry (if desired)

To be honest, I remained in the hospital gown for most of my two-night post partum stay because it was easier to deal with (and because sitting up in bed was uncomfortable).  Pulling pants on and off every time the doctor comes in or one needs to use the restroom is unpleasant and impractical.  Eventually, though, I did shower and put on PJs because I wanted to feel like a human being.

The robe is an absolute must.  Hospital gowns are open in the back, so a lady will want a little modesty when up and about. You’ll definitely want slippers on the cold floor, too.  On the loose PJ front: you’ll want things comfortable. Even an uncomplicated birth leaves a person feeling a bit tender, so clothing that’s in any way constricting or irritating shouldn’t make the cut.  You’ll want things roomy in these early days because you’ll value comfort over style and because, unfortunately, you’ll still look four or five months pregnant (albeit softer in the middle).  If you’re going the PJ pant route, do bring two pair.  Also, don’t expect either pair to survive your stay without permanent damage. (Target is your friend on this front.) For nursing bras, I preferred cotton, cross-front styles with no clasps and reusable nursing pads.  Buy half a dozen pair of Bamboobies; they’re softer and more absorbent than the disposable pads, and they machine wash well.

I’ve read some packing lists that suggest bringing boy shorts or other granny panties and eschewing the mesh underwear the hospital provides.  I did not.  Cheap underwear—no matter how large it is—is uncomfortable.  The fabric is rough, and the elastic is binding, and I didn’t want anything that felt uncomfortable.  Mesh undies aren’t cute, but they’ll be in ample supply, they’re comfortable, they’re thin (no VPL), they’re disposable, and, in my view, they’re a no brainer.  I wore mesh underwear home from the hospital.  Really, who cares if they’re hideous?  You’re likely not going to feel like a model when you’re body is recovering and you’re sleep deprived, and no one’s going to see your undies, anyway.

Mom’s toiletry bag:

  • Regular make-up and personal care items (in travel-sized containers when possible)
  • Hair ties (3-4)
  • Headbands (2)
  • Glasses and/or contacts, case, and solution
  • Depends
  • Gum or mints
  • Anti-bacterial hand gel
  • Lip balm
  • Nursing salve or balm

You won’t need pads at the hospital; the ones they’ll give you will be bigger, better, and more absorbent than anything you can buy.  Leave your own pads at home, and bring as many of the hospital’s pads home with you as possible.  Depends are a good all-in-one alternative, and you might find them more comfortable and easier to deal with in the early days, too.

You won’t need Advil, stool softener, witch hazel, spray bottles or any other medical odds and ends.  You are, after all, in a hospital.  Ring the call button or wait for rounds; your nurse will be happy to supply whatever you need (including a peri bottle, which will probably be your best friend).  You likely won’t even have to ask.

Other Mom Essentials:

  • Compact digital camera (and charger)
  • Tablet (and charger)
  • Cell phone (and charger)

Could you bring the DSLR?  Sure.  Do you need to if you have a compact, high-res alternative?  No.  Save the space, and spring for the in-hospital professional pics (if they’re offered), or have newborn photos taken in the week or two after birth.

Here are the needs that should be met in this category: phone calls, photos, writing down information, playing music, reading, and recharging.  Figure out how to meet these needs in the smallest footprint possible.


  • Love your pillow? Bring it.
  • Love your husband? Your hospital bed is apt to be more comfortable than his, so bring his pillow and a comfortable blanket.
  • Make use of your post partum team.  If you intend to pump and have your own, bring it with you (even though it’s bulky).  Make sure that a nurse or lactation consultant shows you how to use it.  If you don’t bring yours or plan to rent one, make sure the nurses show you how to use one of the hospital’s.  In addition to their helpful pointers, you’ll be given lots of free pump bottles and parts, too.
  • If you plan to nurse, get help early and often (it’s not always as easy as a natural process might seem).  If you plan to formula feed (even once in a while), be honest with your nurse. Don’t take guff about your choice, and ask if they have any starter formula, bottles, and nipples they could send you home with.  They may not be what you choose to use in the long run, but, if it’s an avenue you think you might go down, they might be helpful to have on hand.

There you have it.  One mom, one baby, and hopefully, one carry-on.  Happy baby-having!


A long weekend of productivity

This weekend, Mark and I were determined to make the most of the one extra day we were gifted (thanks, Presidents Washington and Lincoln).  First, Mark used his fancy new shaving kit for the first time (more on that later), grabbed a haircut, then had his emissions test completed and re-upped his car’s state registration. Meanwhile, I collected a rental car and deposited my Subaru at the body shop. It sustained nearly $4,000 of damage after yet another driver proved incapable of looking ahead and paying attention to the hundreds of other vehicles on the road.  This is the third not-my-fault accident I’ve been treated to since moving here in September.  Sigh.

Around the house, we’ve been gradually changing out our burnt out incandescent bulbs for CFLs. The outside lights have seemed to die with greater frequency, so we’ve been replacing them accordingly.  Almost immediately, though, we noticed that the new CFLs cast an entirely different light than their old school counterparts.  The cool, bluish light of the new bulbs beside the warm, yellowish light of the old has been tormenting my Type A soul for weeks.  We would have changed them all to cooler CFLs, but we still had the competing warmth of the landscape lighting to deal with.  What to do?

Well, it seems that there’s now a CFL for every comer.  The color of CFLs is measured in Kelvin.  The whiter (warmer) the light, the lower the K-number.  The bluer (cooler) the light, the higher the number.  Check it out:


A quick run to Home Depot and we had warm, energy-efficient light all around.  We replaced all of our outdoor lights during Sunday’s nap time.  I shoveled the back walk for good measure while we were out there.

On Saturday, though, we did a ton of laundry, Mark ordered all new hardware for our kitchen cabinets and upstairs doors, then took Derby for a long walk as I made another trip to Home Depot.  Once home, I painted the entryway from our garage as soon as Henry went down for his nap.  Here’s a look after one coat. (I finished the second after nap time with the help of a husband and baby gate.)


The flash makes the new wall color look green, but it’s actually Sherwin-Williams Mega Greige.  All the walls in our house were painted creamy white when it was put on the market by its previous owners (which is fine), but the finish of that paint is FLAT– impossible to maintain with a toddler in the house.  In addition to needing a little color, our walls desperately need a degree of wipe-ability that they’re not currently delivering; ergo, painting was my nap time project this Saturday.

Saturday night, Mark put in a quick treadmill run while I made a dinner of “man-pleasing chicken,” maple-glazed brussels sprouts, rice, and fresh bread (with apple pie for dessert).  I wasn’t a huge fan of the chicken (too mustardy for me), but the rest was good.  Honestly, it was just nice to share a home cooked meal together; we’re more of a cobble-something-together couple during the week.

Sunday morning, I got out of bed in the six o’clock hour to tape and paint our powder room.  I was nearly done by the time Mark and Henry made their way downstairs, so Mark ran some errands (including procurement of Starbucks) to get Henry out of the house while I finished up.  Once home, Mark installed a dimmer switch in our family room and I, after much frustration, managed to finally get our printer on our home wireless network.  This was, quite possibly, THE accomplishment of the weekend.

After nap time, we headed out to two stores in search of a new mirror for the powder room to no avail.  We did return home with a take-and-bake pizza from Whole Foods, though, which was delicious.  After dinner, as with every other night, we watched the Olympics. And we were tired:


This morning, Mark had some errands to run, so Henry and I played, watched a little Sesame Street, and a little more Olympics.  Somewhere in there, I created this clever little sign for our kitchen:


A few weeks ago, our babysitter sent me a text asking for the password to our WiFi network.  I knew we had it written down somewhere, but there was no way I could remember the string of random numbers (nor could I provide any clear direction on where she might find the password in our hidden piles of cabinet clutter).  The little sign above allows anyone in our home to access our network password with a simple scan of the QR code I created; perhaps most importantly, I never need to remember the number (or locate it) ever again!  Instructions for this little project are here.

When Mark arrived home, he helped me remove two hideous brass boob lights from our foyer and garage entry and another equally ugly chrome-and-brass number from our powder room.  Using a little finishing sandpaper, liquid deglosser, a rag, and some Rust-Oleum spray paint, I repainted them in oil rubbed bronze and we re-hung them, saving a few shekels and making them tolerable until we’re ready to replace them (the bathroom fixture will get new, more modern glass shades eventually). I also painted the powder room mirror (which is living here on borrowed time).

All this done, we hit the couch again to enjoy more winter sport.  Well, Mark shoveled the six inches of fresh snow that fell today then hit the couch.  Usually, we have great plans for weekend productivity but wind up falling short of our goals.  This weekend, though, we are exhausted and successful.  Next weekend?  We sit.

I’ll leave you with a shot of Henry on Saturday morning, enjoying–in a spot of truly exemplary parenting–a double chocolate donut, shirtless, in his high chair.



A few things…

1. Yesterday, I hit the school treadmills after work and Scholastic Bowl. Proof:

Today, I did it again.

2. Earlier this year, my school installed one of these crazy things in the hallway outside our gym:

Yup, that’s a water bottle filler. 0-to-brimming in fifteen seconds or less. Efficient, and very cool.

3. I signed up for September’s Omaha Half Marathon. It’s hard to find the motivation to hit the treadmill in the dead of winter, so I went out and got myself some! Mark has verbally committed as well.

4. Archer Farms (Target) makes some good trail mix in big tubs. I like cranberry/cashew/almond. Check it out.

5. From the beginning, I preferred Tanya Harding to Nancy Kerrigan. Massachusetts roots be damned, Kerrigan was a brat. Tanya may be a criminal, but she was scrappy and had more impressive jumps than anyone.

6. I love the Olympics more than anything else on television ever. And I prefer the winter games.

7. Henry said “I love you,” intelligibly to me today. Twice. First time ever unprompted. He could have done anything he wanted for the rest of the night because I was so enamored of him.

8. Snow.

9. I do a mean Nancy Kerrigan impression. By “mean,” I mean “good.” And also probably mean. I also have a pretty good Kerri Strug.

10. It’s free admission weekend at the Adler Planetarium for employees of my husband’s company and their families. Yes on that!

Happy humpday!

Front Yard Sledding

Yippee! Sledding!
Another six inches of snow fell overnight and this morning.  Since temperatures today hovered just above freezing, we were finally able to take Henry outside to enjoy winter a little.  All of our days off this winter have been fantastic, but temperatures of ten or more below have made “enjoying winter” more or less impossible.

This afternoon, after Mark and I split the shoveling, we fashioned one of the huge, never-melting piles of shoveled snow into a toddler-sized sledding hill.  It didn’t last more than twenty minutes, but we achieved our goal.  Winter was enjoyed thoroughly today.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Chicago Restaurant Week

Photo via

Photo via

A great meal with great friends Kevin and Paige last night at Chicago’s Piccolo Sogno Due.  We each ordered off their three-course restaurant week menu; my picks were the zuppa (a hearty bowl of white bean and italian sausage), the lasagnette (chestnut ribbon pasta in a veal ragout), and panna cotta for dessert.  All three courses were delicious– the kind of rib-sticking fare an extra-cold winter calls for.  At $33, restaurant week is priced right. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy some of the city’s best eats at a fraction of the price.  If we still lived in the city, I’m sure last night would have just been one of several restaurant week meals.

More info on Chicago Restaurant Week here.