Preparations for the unknown

Packing for trips usually consists of whittling down enough clothes for a month (and the pile of shoes) until there are enough for just double the amount of time I’ll be gone.

(Stereotypical, I know, but I’m sure some of you ladies can relate.)

So imagine my consternation when trying to pack for a trip with an unknown departure day and time and for an undetermined length of stay that could happen anytime between now and six weeks from now.

At least I know what the weather will be like – a climate-controlled hospital room.

Ironically, I packed this weekend as a measure of sanity Jared, who leaves this week for the harvest field on the Hi-Line and likely won’t be home before my due date.

I’ll feel better if you have a bag packed and in the car, he told me, knowing I would probably wait until my first pangs of labor before putting anything in a bag if left to my own devices.

He was so well-meaning that I couldn’t dig in my heels and delay. Besides, he set up the crib, helped wash and fold onesies, and assembled all things baby for the nursery so I won’t worry about a half-checked to-do list after he leaves. The car seat is installed and diapers purchased and I have to admit I do feel less-anxious about our impending life change knowing that the pieces are in place for a semi-smooth transition.

So into the bag went yoga pants and tank tops and slipper socks – just in case climate-control isn’t just right.

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MT bus drivers to get criminal background checks

Yesterday the Montana Board of Public Education passed a new rule that will require every bus driver in the state to undergo a criminal background check.

File that news under: Long Overdue.

But is this really necessary? Why yes it is. A recent legislative audit of the 2011-’12 school year turned up 64 bus drivers who had criminal histories. Two of these had been convicted of drunken driving within the previous three years.

That’s only a very small percentage of Montana’s nearly 1,500 drivers – but still, it’s not something I think we want to risk. Not when it comes to transporting Montana’s school children to school and back safely. None of these drivers should have recent drunken driving convictions. And none of them should have recently had their licenses suspended.

So good on the Education Board for finally making background checks a requirement.

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Interested in sharing your birth story?

Today I heard from an English professor in Massachusetts who is working with a portrait photographer on a project they’re calling “American Birth Stories.” It’s an oral history of birth stories, and they’ve already traveled much of the United States collecting photos and interviews from mothers willing to share a birth story.

The reason for the call is their impending visit to Missoula July 29 through August 31. They already have some interviews lined up but are hoping to speak with more women.

From Kristen Getchell’s email:

we would need about 30-60 minutes of time and would do a portrait of mother and child.  Each participant will receive a link to a gallery of outtakes (many of our mothers love this).  We’re looking for mothers of all ages with a variety of experiences.  We have no agenda about the “right way” to give birth in this book; instead, it is a representation of the range of birth experiences told by the mothers themselves.

Also: “we are pretty flexible and willing to drive to meet people.”

Sound like something you want to do? Want to learn more and see some of their work? Go to for more, including a link to contact info. Or, use my Missoula mom contact info to reach me, and I’ll get you in touch.

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MT senator announces child protection bill while visiting Missoula children’s shelter

U.S. Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., was in town yesterday and stopped by Watson Children’s Shelter.

While there, he learned about the shelter’s operations from Director Fran Albrecht, talked to some of the kids staying there, and announced a new bill – the Protecting Children from Interstate Child Endangerment Act.

The Missoulian article provides a good synopsis. Here’s the full press release from Walsh’s office:

Walsh sponsors legislation

to strengthen federal law to protect children

Senator announces legislation

during tour of Watson Children’s Shelter in Missoula

(US SENATE)—During a tour of the Watson Children’s Shelter in Missoula, Senator John Walsh today announced legislation to protect children by strengthening federal child endangerment laws.

The Protecting Children from Interstate Child Endangerment Act corrects the inconsistencies across state child abuse laws and creates a uniform federal law for prosecutors to federally prosecute child abusers.  Currently, laws vary from state to state making it difficult to prosecute offenders who cross state lines.

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

“This bill gives law enforcement the tools they need to keep our children safe from negligence and abuse,” Walsh said.  “Having a uniform child endangerment law across the country will ensure every child will have equal access to justice, and it will make our communities a safer place to raise our families.”

During Walsh’s time as Lieutenant Governor, Governor Steve Bullock signed into law legislation expanding Montana’s child protection laws, creating a new offense of criminal endangerment to prevent child abuse in the state.

Walsh’s bill uses the Montana state law as a model for federal policy and creates offenses for the following forms of child endangerment, which currently do not carry a federal penalty:

  • Placing children up to age 14 in the physical custody of individuals who are known to have purposely or knowingly caused bodily injury to a child.
  • Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance, in violation of the law of the State in which the motor vehicle is being operated, while the child is in the motor vehicle.

The federal law would establish a penalty of $50,000 and/or 10 years in prison.

What Montanans are saying about Walsh’s bill:

“Working with over 1,000 survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault ever year, we see very clearly the devastating effects of child abuse on victims and their families,” said Melinda Reed, Executive Director of the Friendship Center in Helena.  “This new law will provide much needed protection to children across the country, and hold abusers accountable with tough new penalties.”

“Thank you Senator Walsh for sponsoring a bill that will create consistency across state child abuse laws,” said Paula Samms,  Director of the Lewis and Clark Child Advocacy Center of AWARE Inc. “Hundreds of children a year tell us the details of the abuse they have suffered at the hands of the adults they have trusted. These adults need to be prosecuted and these children need to be protected.”

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Just crack it open

In case you were wondering, the stork isn’t an adequate explanation to 4-year-olds about where babies come from.

I learned this myself in water aerobics class this week.

I tried telling my daughter that, but she knows her sister is going to come out of me somehow, one of my fellow momercisers said.

A first-time expectant mom said her niece didn’t buy the stork tale either and so she turned the question around on the kid.

Apparently stomachs crack open, like eggs do when chicks are born. Surprisingly accurate if you have a C-Section, I suppose.

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Pop-up Adventure Playgrounds free for summer

Remember using empty paper roll tubes as telescopes and string and cans as telephones?

Now you can pass the experience on to your kids while checking out one of Missoula’s great parks during Pop-up Adventure Playgrounds every Thursday from 1-3 p.m.

Here’s what Children’s Museum Missoula had to say about the new program and the partnership making it possible:

A free activity for families, Pop-up Adventure Playgrounds feature everyday items such as boxes, string, fabric and tape and encourage children to explore their natural play instincts. Children’s Museum Missoula encourages hands-on activities and learning through play and was inspired by the idea of Pop-up Adventure Playgrounds.

Pop-up Adventure Playgrounds, a creation of Pop-up Adventure Play, are part of a global network of organizations and individuals offering free, public events to support children’s opportunities for self-directed, open-ended play. Children’s Museum Missoula has partnered with Pop-up Adventure Play and Missoula Parks and Recreation to bring Pop-up Adventure Playgrounds to a local park every Thursday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Pop-up Adventure Playgrounds will continue through August 28. A full list of scheduled Pop-up Playgrounds is available on Children’s Museum Missoula’s website,, or by calling 406-541-7529.

So happy creating! (And did I mention it’s FREE?)

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Pandora’s Box

A cousin gave me some advice that I tried to heed and tried to get Jared to heed, but to no avail.

Don’t tell people what names you might use, my cousin warned. People are ruthless in making fun of them and feelings will be hurt.

This past week during a visit with my parents, we let slip some of the names we’re considering for Bob.

My cousin is really wise.

Mom didn’t like any of the names because they aren’t from the family tree. If Bob was saddled with a dead person’s name, we would pass down the history of that person when Bob asks why we chose whatever name we do. Hence, the family legacy will be alive and well – never mind that the names I like from the family tree Jared doesn’t like or are already taken.

Also, we can’t use a name from one side without using one from the other side. That uses up our two spots, and although Jared likes mine, he doesn’t want Bob to have four names.

Plan B: Use names from places we love. But that’s problematic because I want to use one from Virginia. Names like Prince George, Moomaw and Monticello aren’t really suitable for human use, though, and Jackson (River) is apparently popular right now for children younger than 5. The significance would be lost. And we can’t use Virginia, because, well, I have a crazy relative named the same.

Places in Montana roll off the tongue a little easier, but will kids make fun of Bob for being named after the lake their families camp at every summer?

That leads us to Oscar. I love the name and Jared is at least luke-warm on it. My family hates it. The entire week they found ways to sneak the name into conversation to show how horrible it is and how much fun other kids would make of Bob for it. Dad even named the brown trout Jared caught in the creek Oscar.

Just keeping the name Bob is sounding better and better all the time.

Any advice on how to at least manage the Pandora’s Box we opened?

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First comes love …

… then comes marriage,

then comes the incredibly rare monoamniotic twin babies born Monday morning at Community Medical Center.

Welcome to the world, little ones. And congratulations, Castillo family!



Photo by Tom Bauer of the Missoulian

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In ‘Workplace Policies for Parents,’ Montana gets a C-minus

When it comes to policies that support new parents in the workplace, Montana is just “meh” according to a new national report.

We’re not that great, but not so bad – unlike all the states surrounding Montana, which earned solid “F”s.

Montana has protections for workers (both state and private) who take medical leave, for nursing moms and … well, that’s about it.

Read on for the full breakdown:

Montana Earns Only a “C-” in New Study for its Workplace Policies that Support New Parents

In Advance of Monday’s White House Summit on Working Families, New State-by-State Analysis Reinforces Compelling Need for Congress to Act

A new state-by-state analysis shows how little the nation supports and protects working mothers and fathers when a new child arrives – and Montana has a long way to go when it comes to helping its new parents.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Apparently I wear really baggy clothes.

It wasn’t until an office barbecue a week ago that several people realized I’m pregnant.

Yesterday a co-worker said, congratulations! And I looked at him quizzically and said, huh.

You’re having a baby, right? he said.

Oh, yeah, thanks, I replied.

After he left the newsroom I asked my coworkers if it was really that covert that I’m expecting.

I did think your love of pizza and ice cream was catching up to you for a while, a coworker said.

The comment struck home after having seen a number 30 pounds higher than my first visit on the doctor’s office scale earlier in the day.

Didn’t the doctor tell you you could only gain so many pounds, Jared had asked.

Am I really that fat, I asked in return.

Well, no, he said, his sense of survival kicking in.

The only spots I’ve noticed are my boobs and stomach and maybe a little bit in my thighs, I said defensively. Except for my thighs, that’s all Bob.

Well, you haven’t been that active, Jared said.

I guess I’ll have to start walking more, because giving up ice cream is not an option.

And apparently, neither is giving up red velvet cupcakes that a coworker brought to share today.

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