Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Quick Update

Aerin is almost walking. She takes at least one step each day and has taken as many as 3 steps at once. She also has drawn 3 lines with a crayon on her new easel. She still won't use a sippy cup unless she's parched and it's the only thing around (and even then she'll only take a sip or two). She will, however, drink from a regular cup. She tends to bite down on the rim, so we only use plastic cups.

Her palatte is getting more sophisticated by the day - she loves calamata olives and barley with pepper (and other ingredients, but the pepper is the only one that babies don't usually like). Her favorite food is salad with vinagrette dressing.

The reason the updates have slowed down is that we just bought a new house! We close in mid-May, so there's lots to do.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Aerin has Magic Powers - Part 1

This is so long, that I've decided to split it into 2 parts. I'm working on the second part.

Aerin might well be the most successful lobbyist ever.

We arrived downtown at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning. It took us 30 minutes to park and get to the General Assembly Building (GAB). Parking in Richmond is always a hassle, especially when the Legislature is in session. We ended up parking in the Children's Hospital parking lot, so I got to see where Aerin will be having her surgery. It was cold and windy, but Aerin was nice and warm. She was wearing tights and socks and boots along with her long-sleeve shirt and sweater vest. I had her shiny sleeveless coat over all that and I piled blankets on her. I also got her mittens on, which is always a challenge (she usually pulls the first one off while you're struggling to get the second one on). I was still afraid that she'd be cold, so I put the visor of the stroller up and draped my coat over it so that she was completely cocooned and out of the wind. She was perfectly warm when I unwrapped her inside the building.

The GAB was packed. The March of Dimes wasn't the only organization lobbying that day - there were many others. Here's a quick rundown of how lobbying in Virginia works: The legislature is in session for 30 days in odd-numbered years (60 days in even-numbered years). During that time, delegates and senators attend committee and subcommittee meetings, as well as attend the actual sessions where bills are voted on. When they are not in those meetings and sessions, they are in their offices, meeting with lobbyists and members of the public. Since this year's session was a short one, every lobby group with legislation pending was eager to get some time with the Assembly members.

The VA chapter of the March of Dimes has been lobbying for years. They reserved a conference room, which made things much more convenient (especially for me). I was able to leave my bag of blankets and jackets there, which lightened up the stroller considerably. We visited the Assembly members in groups. Aerin and I were paired with Jamie Hall, the community director of the Richmond WalkAmerica and Richmond Chef's Auction, and Pat Simmons, the state director. These two ladies do amazing work and it was an honor to lobby with them. Aerin took to both of them right away. She was in high cotton because there were tons of new people to look at and all of them smiled and waved and cooed at her. I was afraid that the crowds might be overwhelming for her (they were a little overwhelming for me at first), but that fear was quickly put to rest. Aerin smiled and waved at everyone. Two girl cadets (I have no idea what kind of cadets they were - you couldn't tell from their uniforms) left their group (squad? squadron?) so they could ride in the elevator with Aerin. They told me she was the cutest baby she'd ever seen. There was a group of schoolchildren (5th or 6th grade) on a field trip and they actually gathered around us to coo at Aerin. She loves kids, so she was as enamored of them as they were of her. There was also a group of teachers lobbying and a couple of them gathered the rest of their group to admire Aerin. She has this unnerving ability to draw crowds. We had a couple of times where I got nervous and had to excuse us, but Aerin was never fazed. She left a trail of sunshine in her wake and did a lot of good for her fellow preemies.

I was dressed in regular business attire, but Aerin was dressed in super-adorable lobby attire. She wore a pink corduroy skirt, a pink long-sleeved shirt, pink argyle sweater vest, pink tights, and pink suede cowgirl boots (under which she wore pink argyle socks). She had a matching pink argyle tam, which she kept on for about half of the visits. After she pulled it off, I put in her curlies. The cowgirl boots were an especially huge hit. We got in to see every single delegate on our list in what I was told was record time. Aerin smiled and waved at every single one of them! Even when she missed her nap! I was flabbergasted. I knew she was charming, but I had no idea that she could be that charming when it was so important. She even laid her head on my shoulder and smiled coyly at some of the delegates. And a couple of them were privileged to see her scrunchy face, taught to her by her father. It's hilarious and was tremendously well-received.

Most importantly, each of the eight delegates we visited agreed to vote for our bill! We got a good chunk of time with every single one of them, which I'm told is almost unheard of. Aerin was so delightful that one of them gave her a little stuffed dog. We did have an incident where Aerin's diaper started to leak right in the middle of my little speech. I kept on going, but here was my internal monologue, "Please, Lord, please don't let this delegate notice that I am covered in baby pee. Please stop this diaper leak, Lord, and get us out of here before he notices." Aerin somehow was relatively dry. A diaper change and new tights took care of her. The entire left side of my shirt was soaked. Thank goodness I was wearing black. I rinsed my shirt in the ladies room and dried it as best I could with the hand dryer.

While Aerin more than did her job of showing how important the MoD issues are, I was the one who did the actual speaking. As a preemie mom, I can speak from the heart about MoD issues. Our main goal was to get the FAMIS eligibility up to 200% (FAMIS provides affordable health care to children of eligible families). This means that a child is eligible for FAMIS if his family's income does not exceed 200% of the federal poverty level. The eligibility was previously at 150% and I'm excited and proud to report that it's now at 200%. As you can imagine, this will cover so many more children who desperately need health care. Many of these children are preemies (there is also a program for expectant mothers - FAMIS MOMS) who absolutely must have good health care after discharge.

In our next section, we will explore the smoking ban proposals that met with mixed results and the post-lobby MoD luncheon.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Worst Group Photo Ever

We had a great time on our trip. We're still recovering, so it might be a couple of days before my next post.