Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Ok, I'm not really going to talk about the Universe. I lied. But I do have a bunch of other cool, and some not-so-cool, things to talk about on varying subjects.
As you may have noticed, I really haven't written much lately. Turns out, becoming a mom has taken away much of my free time. I would have more if my child napped with any consistency or for any length, but she doesn't so I don't. *shrug* What time I do have is usually spent catching up on chores, or just reading. You never realize how much mental energy it takes to keep up with a child and work full-time until you have to do it. Add in tax season and craziness at work (annual evaluations with a completely crazy supervisor, woo) and I've been feeling a little overwhelmed. But in some ways, it's brought me to a good place. It's all forced me to take a good look at my wants and needs, to figure out what is unnecessary stress in my life. Take my garden, for instance. What will be the most satisfying for me? Well, obviously I want to still garden. But, fighting with the weeds and grass in the actual dirt area we have isn't working for me any more. I don't have the time, and I don't have the money to make it right. So this year I'm focusing solely on my garden boxes. However, I am willing to put more time and money into those than I have been. Since they're also the most productive part of my garden, the ROI should be pretty good. And I don't have to stress about what I haven't been doing.
The other benefit of the garden boxes is that they're portable. It sounds like we'll have to move out of our place sometime soon. We were really hoping to stay here until we move out of Alaska (sometime next summer-Shane just found out that he'll finish his degree next Spring!) but there's been a change of regime. Our old landlord sold the duplex, and the new landlady wants to move in downstairs. For now, they've moved in upstairs. Apparently the plan is to fix up the upstairs (to try to rent it out for an exorbitant and crazy amount - $2500!!!) and then move downstairs, where we currently are. She hasn't given us a good timeline, so we're just trying to find something before we're forced to take something at the last minute. Bleh. Again, though, it's making us look around at our Stuff. What's necessary, what isn't? We might have to rent a smaller place, so what can/should we take with us and what should be gotten rid of? I'm paring down the baby stuff a bit (clothes which we were given but won't re-use for a second child, some of the baby blankets which we don't need) and I'm even going through a formerly untouchable category: my books. The idea is to pare down before we actually have to pack it all up.
We have also gained some things recently, however. One of Shane's relatives bought a couch (on clearance) which she didn't like when she got it home. So she bought another couch, and needed to get rid of this one. She gave it to us. Yay! We actually have a decent couch now! We got rid of the second half of our horrible, ugly, broken Cat Pee Couch (seriously, we discovered when we moved it that the cat had been peeing in one corner--thankfully, it was so uncomfortable that we never sat on it!) and put this lovely new couch in its place.
Our upstairs neighbors have moved out, since the new landlady is moving up there. Someone rang our doorbell by accident asking about a piece of furniture that they were selling, and that gave me an idea. The next time I saw them I asked if they had an old T.V. stand that they'd be willing to sell to me. The answer was, "Please, just take it! We don't want money for it, we just don't want to haul it away." So I got a free T.V. stand, in decent shape, to replace the rickety little bookshelf that our T.V. had been sitting on. Thus, we got rid of my biggest babyproofing worry: that she would pull the T.V. over on herself when she starts crawling and pulling herself up to stand. We'll attach the T.V. to the stand so that she can't pull just it over, but now we don't have to worry about the bookshelf and the T.V. falling over. The stand is nice and low and sturdy, just what we wanted. And, just like the couch it was at the right price: free.
In addition to the T.V. stand, one of the neighbors is a liquor distributor and didn't want to move a bunch of half empty tasting bottles he had around. So, he gave them to us. Yep, you read that right. Free booze. And not even a small amount, either. We're not talking bottom shelf liquor, but good stuff, and not all of it has been opened. At my household's normal rate of consumption this is more than 6 months worth of liquor, even assuming we throw a party or two (or bring some along to other parties). I used some of the vodka straight away to make vanilla extract, since I'd been meaning to buy vodka for that purpose for the last month but always forgot. Now, I don't have to worry about it for quite a while.
We went to Arctic Man over the weekend. For me, it really wasn't that interesting. It can be summed up by "A tribute to the decadence of the first world." Or "fat men on snowmachines who think they're so sporty...because they can ride a machine real fast." Ugh. Not my scene at all. the wastefulness of it all, the amount of oil that was burned just in this one weekend. Not to mention everything else. Because people were camped out, a lot of them scoured Craigslist for free couches that they didn't mind having around a campfire. And on the last night, all those couches got burned so that people didn't have to haul them out. !!!! Yeah, you can probably imagine what I felt about that. Then there were all of the motorhomes, and I'm sure lots of food waste and packaging and whatnot. I went for a walk with the baby at one point and a girl on a 4-wheeler stopped and asked me if I wanted a ride. She looked at me as if I was crazy. After all, who would want to walk, right? I said no, of course, and she said, "Oooo-kaaaay," as if she totally didn't get it. Wow. Just wow.
Anyway, we went because my in-laws were going with some friends, and my FIL hasn't seen the baby since New Year's. Unfortunately, she was mildly ill most of the weekend and, especially with the new circumstances, just wanted to be with me the whole weekend. Oh well. But the in-laws were also about to take a trip to Hawaii so they'd brought up a bunch of food for us. A lasagna, a ham (part of which was eaten there), some milk, and a bunch of fruit. Banana bread. So our food bill should be almost non-existent this week, which is nice, especially since we came home to a sick cat.
I took Monday off anyway to watch the ill baby (just a precaution) and myself (I was feeling under the weather too, I just didn't realize it until we got home), so making a vet appointment when I discovered that our cat was peeing blood (I know! poor guy!) wasn't as hectic as it could have been. Still, forcing the cat into the kennel (with gloves on) and taking him to the vet, yowling the whole way, and with the baby, wasn't the most pleasant of activities. I think I need to talk to my child about being kind to animals, though, because she thought his cries of distress were pretty hilarious.
Thankfully, it is *just* a bladder infection. His kidneys seem fine, and the peeing blood should stop within 48 hours. I wish I could tell him that. He might be more willing to take his medicine that way.
So, life goes on. You win some, you lose some. For the most part, things have been going really well for us. Finding out that Shane only has one more year of school was a huge, huge plus. We're nervous and excited because we're not sure where life will take us after that, but it will be good. I'm certain of it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Blueberry Oatmeal Banana Bread

This has become my new favorite breakfast. I really don't like bananas. In fact, they're one of the few foods I'll say that I pretty much hate, with the caveat unless they're in something. Then, the other flavors tend to mask at least most of the banana flavor and I can stand them.
You can imagine Shane's surprise, last time we were at the store together, when I put two big bunches of bananas into our cart. "Miss I-Hate-Bananas, you're picking up bananas?" Yep. Because this is seriously the best breakfast.

Blueberry Oatmeal Banana Bread

(adapted from this recipe)

3 very ripe bananas, mashed to oblivion
1 large egg
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, or honey (both work well)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 generous cup oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4-1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional, but delicious)
Frozen blueberries, preferably wild, until you think "that's blue enough", about 1 cup

Preheat oven to 350. Mash the bananas, then mix in the wet ingredients, then the dry ingredients into the wet, then finally the blueberries (gently) into everything else. Bake in a greased loaf pan for 1 hour.

In the mornings I cut generous slices, slather them with butter, and microwave them for 30-45 seconds to make the butter melt. It's heavenly, and actually not too bad for you.

So, how's it going?

Every day is a whirlwind for us. Especially the evenings. We've fallen into a routine, but that doesn't mean the routine is particularly easy. For at least 1 1/2-2 hours in the evening, it seems like everything needs to get done. Dinner needs to be made, breakfast (if I'm making something baked) needs to be made, pets need to be fed, baby always needs to be fed and have a diaper change, it seems, which leads to realizing that we're totally out of diapers and so a load of laundry needs to be started, the overflowing dishes need to be done because the cook needs that item right there and all the space the dishes are taking up, the cat box needs to be cleaned out, some spill (or spitup) needs to be cleaned up and, oh crap, is it a bath night? Hurry hurry hurry! When we were in the midst of this the other night Shane paused and asked, "Do you remember when we used to relax in the evenings?"
Which is not to say that we don't relax. It might seem crazy for a short amount of time, but the before and after are quite nice. It's been warm enough in the afternoons to go for a decent walk when I get home from work. I strap baby into the Ergo, leash up the dog, make sure I'm wearing my ice cleats, and off we go for about half an hour. It's lovely. Miss B(aby) tends to suck her pacifier and keep her serious face on during the walks. I was a little worried that she wasn't enjoying them until Shane pointed out that not once in her life has she ever hesitated to tell us, quite loudly and vocally, when she wasn't enjoying something. Too, she tends to put on her serious face whenever she's trying to take in a lot. She's the same way at the grocery store, but she's also very quiet and well behaved so she must enjoy it at least a bit.
The reason I mentioned my ice cleats is because, well, I broke my wrist a couple of weeks ago. I know I mentioned before that it was already hurting and I was starting to suspect a stress fracture. Well, I fell on it one day when I took the dog for a short walk (for which the dog is totally to blame), and then slipped and fell on it again later in the same week. It hurt bad enough that a couple days after that I decided to go to the urgent care clinic. I have, according to the doctor, a buckle fracture in my left wrist. So I need to wear a hard brace for 6 weeks (I talked the doctor out of making me see an orthopedist to get it casted) and I'm already sick of it. This is all exactly what we needed, more medical bills and for me to not be at 100% again. I'm somewhat annoyed with my dog (I had the baby in the Ergo when I was tripped, and she nearly fell out), but then I have to remind myself that she's an old lady and she tripped me not on purpose, but just because she was so damn happy and excited to be out for a walk. She's going blind, and we think she's starting to go deaf as well. Poor dear, she didn't know what she was doing. Her life has changed, she's not getting all of the walks and runs and attention from me that she's used to. Sometimes that's hard to remember.
After the crazy part of the evening, though I need to be with her (still) for her to sleep, Miss B is usually asleep sometime between 8:30-9:15. After she's asleep I read, with her snuggled up against my side, until I get sleepy and then curl up with her and go almost instantly to sleep. It's hard to complain about that.
As crazy as life at home has been, life at work has been even worse, filled with uncertainty and, frankly, having to deal with crazy people and crazy ideas. I won't go into it, because this isn't the right time or place, but it's been stressful, annoying, and just plain hard to deal with at times. It makes leaving my baby every day that much harder.
As if everything else wasn't quite enough, our duplex was purchased and, though we'd been told by the realtor that the new owner wanted to keep renting to us, I met the new owner this past week and she said that she'd like to move into our unit, not the upstairs as we'd been originally told. When I asked for a timeline she said "one to six months, I'm not sure." Oh goodie. Apparently she's going to fix up the upstairs unit a bit first, while living there, and then move downstairs. So, Shane and I were hoping that we could stay in this place until we moved out of Alaska and it doesn't look like that's going to happen. *sigh* We're trying to figure out what our options are.
You'd think that life would have slowed down a little bit this week, because it's spring break here, but not really. Shane gets to be home with Miss B during the days, but that just means that he needs some time to himself in the evenings. I do get tomorrow off, though, so I'm trying to hang onto my 3 day weekend. I'm sure it will go by far too fast, to be in proportion with how long this relatively short work week has felt.
The very big "however" to all of this is that I'm still managing to take care of myself pretty well. In fact, now that I'm pretty much totally recovered from the c-section, I'm doing my best to put myself first once in a while. I've started running regularly again! Just on weekends, but it's still progress, and last weekend I was actually able to extend one of my runs, so I'm getting back into shape. I carve this time out for myself when I get the baby back to sleep on weekend mornings. I lay her down with Shane (who's either sleeping in or very happy to have an excuse to nap himself) and then I lace up, grab the dog, and go. If I'm really, really lucky, she'll sleep long enough to let me do a few other exercises (like core exercises), stretch, and take a shower. Ok, that really only happened once so by lucky I mean, in my fantasies.
When Breakup really starts and the snow has melted a bit more, when Baby Girl is big enough to go in the jogger, I'll start adding weeknight runs into the rotation. For now, we'll stick with our walks on weeknights. That's about my pace in the evenings, after work. Just enough time and distance to get the benefits of exercise, without it feeling like exercise.
I'm losing the weight I wanted to lose, and though it seems slow to me, it really isn't. I'm losing about the pound/week that's recommended as a healthy pace. And the best part is that I'm not depriving myself at all. Our birthdays are at the beginning of March and this year I made a giant skillet cookie for my birthday, and a key lime pie for Shane's. (See in the pie recipe how it's supposed to be two layers? Yeah, I need to learn to read directions when I'm trying a new recipe. I mixed it all up together and then realized what I'd done. So I tossed in an extra egg and hoped for the best. It still turned out great!) I've since made the skillet cookie again, and I probably will make it again this weekend. It's so much sugar but damn, it's tasty. Even Shane, not normally a fan of cookies, loves it.
I've gotta say, drinking a big glass of whole milk most days is helping me with my weight loss. I'll feel a bit hungry after dinner, drink my milk, and still usually be a bit hungry but not so much that I feel the need to eat. Just as good, I've noticed that it helps with my milk production. And, with a broken wrist, the extra calcium is doing me some good.
So life is crazy, but for the most part I am enjoying it. Baby Girl has learned to laugh, so Shane and I spend a good portion of our time trying to get her to laugh some more. Just as there are no diminishing returns on the humor of baby farts, baby giggles solve all problems and make life infinitely better.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Things I want my daughter to know

I've been thinking a lot over the last year about what I'd want my child to know. Some of these things are specifically because she is a girl, and will have to deal with a world which can be much harsher to the "fairer sex". Some of it is just what I hope any child will grow up knowing.
Shane and I talked about this briefly a while ago. When I said that my number one hope for our girl is that she grows up to be a good person, he pshawed. But, I pointed out, I have no doubt that she will be intelligent and pretty and all of that. So what do I most want to teach her? To be a good person. I think the following things might help with that. Here's my list of life lessons I want her to know, and approximate ages that I hope she'll at least have a grasp on the concept.

From the beginning: I want her to know that she's loved. Not just in the "oh, they're my parents so they have to love me" sort of way. I mean deep down in her bones, in the depths of her soul, as her first and last thought every day. Not every child is lucky enough to receive such love, and it breaks my heart. I am so in awe of this tiny, wonderful person I made and birthed. I hope she grows up secure in how much her family loves her. This is the start of self-confidence, which she will need in this big crazy world. I have stated before that one part of having a high needs baby is that she's already strong willed, and no one's pushover. I hope she keeps that all her life, and that our love for her will give her the confidence she needs to not back down when she's knows she's right, and to reach out to help others when they need it.

By elementary school: Damn those post-pregnancy hormones! My emotions are more raw now than when I was pregnant. I was listening to the Pandora "Lullabies" station the other day and the song from "Dumbo" came on. You might not remember it, but I always thought it was such a sad lullabye. In fact, I never liked that movie much because I knew I'd cry at that scene. So here I am, nursing my daughter and listening to this song. It hit me, powerfully, that one day in the not-too-distant future, someone will make fun of my perfect, wonderful little girl. It will hurt her and there's nothing I can do about it. More than that, though, I felt a sense of companionship with every other mother, ever. No child escapes being ridiculed by somebody, and every mother feels it just as keenly as their child does*. I thought back to elementary school, and what jerks we were. Of course, there was one kid everyone picked on. Brian. He peed his pants in first grade and that was an unforgivable offense, especially since he was kind of shy and weird anyway. Now that I'm older, I wonder what his home life was like. I actually wonder a lot about him. Whatever happened to him? I have no memories of him after middle school. But I do know that he was picked on and shunned and bullied for all of his school days that I saw. Even worse, I participated. I wasn't the worst, not even what you'd call a bully. But I took part in the shunning and laughed at the mockery. Now I can't get out of my head how many evenings his mom must have spent comforting him, telling him that things would get better. At least, I hope she did. For all the hell his schooldays put him through, I hope he had (has) awesome parents to make up for it. And wherever he is, I sincerely wish Brian well. I hope that life got better for him, and the people around him more understanding.
Just as much as I can't stop other kids from making fun of my girl, I can't stop her from at least occasionally being a jerk to other kids. That hurts too. Because every mom feels just the way I do right now, that their child is the best and most perfect being ever. We should feel that way! Certainly our babies deserve it, because they are beautiful and wonderful and perfect. My girl might not understand this lesson until she's older, but I'm going to try to carry it with me. To be more forgiving and understanding and just plain nicer to everyone I encounter. If nothing else, I can lead by example.
Going along with that, I hope she has empathy for others. There are plenty of ways to help your child learn empathy and I'm already starting some of them. I think that one of the benefits for kids who grow up with pets is that they learn early lessons about other creatures having feelings of their own. So when I help her pet the cat or the dog I talk to her about not only how soft they are, but also how they feel about being petted. (And I praise them hugely for letting the baby touch them.) If the cat backs away from us I talk about how he's not in the mood to be petted right now. Baby Girl might not yet be vocal, but I want to get myself into the habit of showing her the thoughts and perspectives of other creatures.
I want her to have a basic grasp on manners. Not just please and thank you, but actual respect for others which manners are meant to show.

By middle school: This is such a tough age. Puberty and hormones, oh my! Through it all, I want her to know that she's beautiful. There are so many distorted ideas about women's and girls' bodies in the media, including people who think that beauty doesn't matter. It does. I want my girl to know that she's beautiful. Not that she's super hot, or glamorous, but it is important for her to know that she's pretty. And I mean her. I want her to know that makeup can be fun but isn't necessary (and that too much is awful). I want her to understand that there's much more to life than being fashionable, and that clothes which suit her matter the most. This all goes back to self-confidence. I want her to know these things because, for so many of us, puberty is an awful time and most kids look painfully awkward during this time. Even if that's the case with her (as it was for me--glasses and braces on a late bloomer with too-long, unkempt hair? yeah...) she deserves to know that it's just a phase and that she is, and will be, beautiful.
Along with her beauty, however, I want her to know that she is strong. Exercise was never really emphasized in my house growing up, but I think it would have helped my self esteem a lot more if it had been. I became used to thinking that I couldn't do things, when in fact I could have if I'd just tried. It's taken me many years to get over that attitude so I hope that Baby Girl never has it to begin with.
This is also the stage when I think we'll start mandating that she cook, or help cook, dinner every once in a while. I think it's important for every adult to know the basics of how to feed themselves without resorting to a box. She will grow up cooking and baking with me (in fact, we baked our first cookie together this past weekend!) but this is when I'll feel comfortable letting her have more, er, solo flights in the kitchen. I started baking bread by myself when I was 12. Yep, there were plenty of failures. Like the time I killed the yeast? Or the one I put in way, way too much salt. Or the time I did both of those things. Ha! I look forward to seeing what kitchen disasters my little girl comes up with.
Going along with this, I want her to have a basic understanding of building and fixing things. I mentally thank my dad a lot for teaching me how to swing a hammer and use a screwdriver. It gives me confidence to attempt new projects, and to figure out how something works so that I can fix it myself. And, as a woman, it's fucking beautiful to not have to depend on a man to do these things for me. I want her to be just as capable.

By high school: Most parents dread teenage rebellion. You know what? I welcome it. I want her to test boundaries (safely), and to get into some trouble, and learn life lessons. More than any other time of life, this is when kids start figuring out who they want to be. Good! I want her to try many things, and fail at plenty of them. She'll find what works best for her, and what her deepest interests are, that way.
I also want her to have a basic grasp on finances. I don't mean of the "how to balance a checkbook" variety. (Does anyone under 40 actually still do that?) Monitoring finances is important, but it's one small part of a much larger picture. I want her to understand that expenses trump income any time when it comes to building wealth (that is, keep your expenses low and save the rest) and the best ways to utilize her money.
I don't want or expect riches from her. Wealth yes, but not Scrooge McDuck status. I just want her to have the independence which comes from not needing to work for a terrible boss, or to make hard choices because of money. I also want her to know the joys of being generous with others, which is a lot easier when you have a firm grasp on your finances.
I want her to think critically. I don't want her to take things at face value, including what she learns in school. So much of it is actually wrong, or interpreted in such a way that it changes your understanding of a situation. It's up to her to look at the actual facts, or dig deeper into a text, and figure out how she thinks/feels about it all.
I want her to invest in her health. We will, of course, try to instill healthy eating habits in her, and get her into sports, and lead by example in these things. However, by high school I hope that she'll be doing these things not because we want her to, but for herself. It's really, truly hard for most high schoolers to recognize just how young they are, but the things we all do at that age have lifelong consequences. I hope we can show her enough of the long view so that she doesn't take youthful health for granted and instead cherishes it and takes care of herself.

By college: Ok, so maybe she won't go to college. I hope she will, not because I think it's so necessary for a good job or a good life, but because I want her to have a lifelong enjoyment of learning. I also think that there are life lessons which college teaches that you don't necessarily get (or get in a harsher way) in "the real world". My family has a long tradition of going to college (even my grandmother went to college, which not many women did in the '40s) and I would like her to continue this for truly intangible reasons. There is a benefit in education for the sake of education, and I think that we've lost sight of that in our society and especially in current conversations about whether college is worthwhile or not.
One of the opportunities you don't really get outside of college is to study abroad. Shane and I are disappointed in ourselves for not pursuing it when we had the opportunity. We cited how expensive it is, and worried about trying to go somewhere together, or what it would do to our relationship if we had gone separate places. We should have just done it. There are things about other countries that you simply can't learn by visiting. To go, to immerse yourself in another culture and truly live there, is a special thing. I will very much encourage her to do so.
Whether she goes to college or not, I really want to show her that a car is not a necessity. In fact, it's a fitness destroying, lazy-making money pit. I find it a pity that so many people are so dependent upon their cars. I used to have a roommate who would drive two blocks to go get cigarettes from the gas station. I'm still in awe of that. I hope my daughter is more dependent upon herself and her own strength to get around than she ever will depend upon a car.

Eventually: I want her to know true love. I'm sure most people want this for their kids. But what I want for her is not some fairytale, storybook romance. I mean true love; the kind where you have fights that can last a couple of days without thinking that it's all over, where you see something funny and your first thought is of how much your partner would laugh, where spending an evening in with them is just as fun and exciting as all the nights you ever went clubbing and bar-hopping. I don't care if it's with a man or a woman. (I might find it a little hard if it's with a space alien, but for different reasons.) Even if the relationship ends, I want her to know what that's like at least once in her life. Of course, I do hope she ends up happily married. And yes, I do hope she opts for marriage because I think there are many benefits to marriage, and a different sort of commitment than just "living together". (Not to mention all the legal and tax ramifications, oy.)
I also hope that she chooses to become a mother one day. Why? For one very simple reason: because I feel like I understand the world so much better now. I mentioned above when I felt a kinship with every other mother on the planet. How many other life experiences help you to feel that way? I also understand my own mother so much better than I did before I was one. The intense love, unlike any other. I don't want to diminish my love for Shane, who is and always will be the love of my life, but I never knew I could be in love with another creature the way I am with my baby.
The highs in life are higher now that she's here. When I hear her laugh...words cannot describe it. When she cries, part of me cries too. And things which wouldn't have touched me so deeply before now do. I read an article the other day about all the new gadgets which are being marketed to parents which play on fears of SIDS, and in it they discussed a device which needed to be recalled after a couple of babies got tangled in the cords during their sleep and strangled to death. That sentence was hard even to write. When I read about these deaths, I actually gasped aloud. I just can't even imagine what that would be like. Before having a child, I understood the pain in the same way I imagined it to be painful if one of my siblings died, without having to experience it myself. This...is so much more. With the intense love comes the intense pain. But, I wouldn't want her to shy away from romance because of the possibility of a broken heart. Neither do I think she should avoid motherhood for the same reason. Being a mom is worth it.

There are many, many other lessons that I want her to learn, and skills I want her to have. How to read (and I mean truly read, the way I was taught as an English major to pull everything possible out of a text) and write well, how to speak, optimism, etc. But this short list will do for a silly blog post.


*I feel the need to clarify: yes, I do understand that there are shitty moms out there. I'm not referring to them, as that's a whole different topic.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

High needs baby

Having a high needs baby means that there will be lots of nights with everyone crying, usually because of over-exhaustion on everyone's part. Having a high needs baby means that breastfeeding is more like an Olympic sport. Sometimes that sport is gymnastics, sometimes hockey. Having a high needs baby means that the pitiful cries of other children are easily tuned out, with the shrill demands of your own offspring echoing in your head. Having a high needs baby means that, most days, no one but Mom will do and woe to everyone if Mom has to work. Having a high needs baby means that, most days, more will be asked of you than you think you can handle. It means that you can never satisfy baby's needs fast enough to suit her, and you will hear about it. Having a high needs baby means that you don't get lovely long naps in a crib, or even time to yourself to pee. Having a high needs baby means that you will live in perpetual fear of someone (or something) startling the baby awake. It means that you will learn to do everything one-handed, because you have to hold the baby in the other arm, and it will not be uncommon to have your child in your arms for 23 out of 24 hours. They will protest that other hour. Having a high needs baby means that, once they do something once, they expect to do it again and get frustrated easily. You will hear about this frustration.
Having a high needs baby can make you feel like you are no longer yourself.
Having a high needs baby means that you are everything to them, and you will cherish those cuddles, even when they seem never-ending. Having a high needs baby means that everyone comments on how bright-eyed and alert your baby is, as she drinks in the world around her. Having a high needs baby means that she will always demand what is due to her; she's nobody's pushover, this girl. Having a high needs baby means that she is intelligent, quick, and learns to do things earlier than other children. It means having a child who is so excited about life that she doesn't want to miss another minute of it by sleeping. Having a high needs baby means that her smiles, which come easily, are just as big as her cries, and twice as memorable. Having a high needs baby keeps you on your toes, and life will never be dull. Having a high needs baby makes you fully understand what you are capable of, what reserves of strength are available to you, and when you need to get some help. Having a high needs baby breaks you down and builds you up better.
Having a high needs baby isn't easy. Some days I just feel like I'm going batty. I've had weekends where, from the time I got home from work on Friday until I left for work Monday morning, she hasn't been out of my arms for more than about 5 hours total, including nights. Try getting anything done that way, I dare you. I suspect that I have stress fractures in both of my wrists from holding her. (I haven't confirmed with the doctor because it would be a very expensive appointment to hear what I know already: wear a brace and rest your wrists.) And my first statement was particularly true: there have been plenty of nights that end with both of us in tears as we wail at each other. (I seem to be the only one who feels guilty afterwards for my display of temper.) But, being Mom to a high needs baby is also really rewarding, and I wanted to remind myself of that since this has been a particularly rough week. I mentioned before that she fit 8 out of 12 things on the Dr. Sears list I linked to above, but now that she's 3 months old she's fitting ALL of those categories. That's my baby, classic overachiever. But, her desire to get the most out of life also led her to learn to roll over last weekend, a bit shy of 3 months. She really does smile a lot, and though she doesn't quite laugh yet, I know that when she does it will be with the abandon of true joy. Her smiles and almost-giggles make up for the hours of frustration.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pumping

This is actually a post I told myself I wasn't going to write. There are so. many. freaking. mommyblogs that talk about pumping, and breastfeeding in general. And it's great! I love that so much of this information is available now.
BUT, even with the prevalence of blogs talking about pumping, some of the information which helped me the most still took me a while to find. I've made no secret of the fact that Baby and I had a rough start to breastfeeding, and it made me very nervous to only be pumping during the weekdays, since that can decrease supply. But things are going really well so far, especially after I did some research, not only online but also asking people I know and love for their advice. One of my cousins pumped so much extra milk that she literally donated gallons of breastmilk to her local breastmilk bank (seriously, she posted pics to Facebook that made me envious), not just once but several times.
So, after all of my research and asking, here's what's helped me the most and a few facts which might be hard to find.
First, there's the amount you pump at a given time. So many of the blogs with posts about pumping show pictures with two VERY full bottles. Like, 5 ounces in each. Or more. This can make the rest of us feel a little inadequate in our pumping. However, most of these women are pumping full time. If you start off with only pumping (and there are a variety of reasons why women need to do this) then your body will begin to respond to the pump as if it's your child and you'll get a lot more from the pump at any given time. For the rest of us, our bodies don't like the pump as much because they know what it's like to have a baby suckling, and the pump is just second best. It is perfectly normal to only get a few ounces each time you pump. On a really good day, and if I've had to push off pumping for a little while so that my boobs feel like they're going to burst, I can get a bit over four ounces. (I would show a picture here, but my iPod died so I don't have a camera handy.) I think the most I ever pumped at one time was about 5 ounces, total. And this is fine! Don't expect to fill up both bottles each time. I aim for eight ounces each workday, and just cheer for myself if I happen to get more.
It is perfectly normal to get more milk from one boob than from the other. Again, you'll see all kinds of pictures online of perfectly even bottles completely full of breastmilk. Again, these tend to be from full-time pumping moms. For the rest of us, baby drank from one boob after the other, and and boob #2 might not have filled up as much in the intervening time. Or one side just plain doesn't respond to the pump as well. One of my boobs literally squirts milk for the pump, and the other tends to have more of a slow dripping leak for the pump. THIS IS NORMAL.
You might not leak at all. I saw so many things about how you NEED to get breastpads so that leaking doesn't seep through your shirt. This has never really come true for me. I've had noticeable leakage a grand total of four times, and each of those times I was at home, feeding my baby on the other side. Even for women who start off leaking, this sometimes stops after baby and body adjust to each other. Leaking doesn't necessarily mean you're a super breastmilk making machine, and not leaking doesn't necessarily mean that you're not making enough milk. Don't worry.
If you're breastfeeding the rest of the time, you might produce less at the end of the week than you did at the beginning. That's ok, if you breastfeed all weekend (even better if you can fit in a pumping session or two) then it'll be sky-high again on Monday. I tend to get 9 1/2 ounces on Monday, and by Friday I'm a bit under 8 ounces total. Sometimes even down around 6 ounces. It all works out, though, and if I can pump a bit over the weekend I can leave 8 fresh ounces in the fridge for Monday.
Big boobs do not necessarily mean big nipples, and small boobs don't necessarily mean small nipples, and the flanges that come with the pump usually fit a little less than half of all women. If you have an improperly fitted flange, you'll regret it. I ended up buying new flanges after Christmas because I'd end up sore after using the pump. Turns out, I'm in the small group of women who actually needed smaller flanges. Since my boobs are normally an overly-large D, and I don't even know what monstrous size they are now (I've been using sizeless bras), that was a bit of a surprise. But pumping is no longer in the least painful and I get a lot more than I was, so I've clearly found the right size for me.
Move the flanges around while you're pumping. My cousin mentioned that no one had told her this the first time around, but having the flanges always in the same places, putting pressure on the same spots, can set you up for mastitis. Ew.
While pumping, many people say to massage the breasts. In my mind, this implies lots of movement, which doesn't work for me. What I do is, after milk stops freely running out, run my thumbs down from the direction of my armpits and wait until I see milk coming out again. (It usually doesn't take long the first time.) I stop there and just hold pressure on that spot until the milk stops flowing. I keep doing this from various directions (working down the sides of my boobs, back up toward my armpits, a little bit on the insides and undersides of my boobs, then back up to my armpits again, etc.) and it's made a noticeable difference. Once I get all the milk I can this way, I move on to....
Hand expression. You'll probably need to do some hand-expression after pumping. I thought it was just me who still felt pretty full after pumping, but I'm not alone. Most women can get quite a bit more from hand expression. (I generally get at least half an ounce, and could get more if not for the time involved.) And if you're feeling like it's painfully slow to hand express milk, don't worry. You get much faster. (If you don't know how to hand express, there are lots of videos on Youtube.) I've found that the best way to do it is actually to switch off between breasts. I do two, er, squeezes on one side, then two on the other, etc. For some reason, having a bit of a rest in between makes everything so much easier.
Getting enough sleep is also crucial. If you're tired, your body is going to prioritize taking care of you. So get enough sleep. With Baby Girl, now that I'm working she wakes me up a bit more often to eat because she doesn't eat as much during the day as she would if I was home. On weekends, when she has free access to me all day, I get woken up once. During the week, it's usually two times, but sometimes even four wake-up calls. So we start getting ready for bed by about 9:30 so that I can get enough sleep, and so that she's not a tired mess when I hand her off to Shane the next morning.
A lot has been written about what you should eat and avoid while breastfeeding and/or pumping. Oats are great, yes. I realize there's no scientific proof that it works, but it does seem to help me. I mean, I ate oatmeal the day my milk finally came in (a few hours later), and this isn't proof but...yeah, I'm a believer.
But the one thing that I didn't really see mentioned in all those lists of what to eat is just an incredibly simple rule: eat a high protein diet. Milk is made of three basic components: water, fat, and protein. Of course it's got all the other good minerals and vitamins and whatnot that your baby needs in it, but the bulk of it is composed of those three things. Everyone emphasizes drinking lots of water, and unless you're under-weight your body has plenty of fat to provide, but I was puzzled for a long time as to why I still wasn't producing much milk even while drinking what felt like gallons. We tend more toward a plant-based diet in our household, with not much meat. So I finally found the advice to eat a bit more protein and HOLY BREASTMILK, BATMAN! Since upping my protein (a little bit more meat and cheese, some cow's milk for me at least most days, and lots of nuts and beans) I haven't had a single day where my supply was inadequate for Baby Girl. Damn, that feels good. I just wish I'd been told about this earlier; it would have made life so much easier.
I said above that I aim for 8 ounces each day, but if I don't get it all I don't stress and here's why: Baby Girl prefers mom over bottle. I wouldn't say that she's "rejected" the bottle, as some people say is a possibility, but she's not a huge fan of it. I freaked out the first week I was gone because on Wednesday I got a call from my mom around noon saying, "She's eaten everything you left in the fridge. Now what?" That was TWELVE OUNCES! That week she ended up drinking everything I produced plus three of the packs from my precious freezer supply. Turns out, she was starting a growth spurt. (I don't have a giant baby, but by the next week she'd grown out of several outfits which had fit her perfectly just a few days before.) For about a week and a half most of my thoughts centered around how to increase my supply (which is where most of my research came from) and what I would do if I just couldn't produce enough for her. Well, my worry was a bit needless because after the growth spurt she's settled into a routine of drinking about 1 1/2 bottles (about 6 ounces) while I'm gone during the day. Since I feed her right before I leave and as soon as I get home, this is working well for us. By the end of the week there's a surplus of milk in the fridge and some of it gets frozen for future growth spurts. Baby Girl spends a good portion of the evening eating and eating and eating, so I know she's getting enough food, and now I don't have to worry about producing enough.
I hope this helps other moms like me, who might have a rough start and who can get discouraged about breastfeeding, especially after returning to work. You're not a failure and you can produce enough food for your baby. It just takes a bit of research to find what works best for you.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Review: Diaper Free Before Three

I've heard a bit about the book "Diaper Free Before Three" but, of course, didn't really have a reason to read it until now. It was shocking how late people in this country keep their kids in diapers. Are there really normal, functioning children who need to wear diapers until they're ready for kindergarten?! I thought about it and realized that one of my neighbors has a son with autism and he's still in diapers, even though he's at least four. (And from what I've seen and heard, he's fairly high functioning.) It's staggering. Even worse, the cost to people and the environment. All those diapers.
So, I'm behind the general concept of the book. Yes, it's perfectly reasonable to expect most kids to have very few accidents by the time they're 2. And I liked that the author constantly recommended a gentle style of training. Don't scold your kid for accidents, they happen and that will only make them feel ashamed. And I will, indeed, implement a lot (if not all) of the suggestions, including starting Baby Girl on the potty when she's about six months old. I seem to have an amazing knowledge of when she's going to pee, since I regularly open up her diaper only to have her start peeing before I get the next one on her.
I thought that this book was really well researched, involving the history of how we got to this point of potty training so late, the problems caused by diapering so long (especially the emotional ones for both parent and child, and the physical ones), and the emphasis on health throughout. (The author is a pediatrician.)
However, there were plenty of things about this book I didn't like and I'll talk about those more in-depth than the positives because they get less attention. The pluses you can get from any review on Amazon.
First, there's the author's insistence that cloth diapers are such a hassle. "My friend tried to do cloth diapers but gave it up after about a week because it was such a pain to deal with." I've heard this from so many people who basically expect you to fail at using cloth diapers because they're somehow inconvenient. SO ARE DISPOSABLES! Especially considering how much they cost. (Shane has estimated that we're saving, at a minimum, $1.25 per diaper, including the cost to wash the cloth ones. And that's not calculating the savings from using the cloth wipes I made, either.) How many times have people bemoaned the midnight trip to the store because they ran out of disposable diapers? And yet, somehow, they never think that perhaps that makes them inconvenient. But washing diapers? Ooh boy, that's a lot of work! ?? I don't get it. Even when I don't have family staying with us and helping, the cloth diapers have never been a pain to wash.
The author also gets into the environmental factor of diapers for a second. Rightly, she points out that the only truly good option is to get kids out of diapers as fast as possible, since either cloth or disposable use a lot of resources. However, she cites a very old report about the environmental cost of diapers which uses absolutely the WORST kind of cloth diaper use and says that it could go either way, in terms of which is better for the environment. Yes, cloth diapers take a lot to manufacture. So do disposables. However, cloth can be used for multiple children, especially if you wait until an older sibling is out of diapers to have another, or if you have graduated sizes so no two children need to be in the same diapers at the same time. Our diapers have all been used for AT LEAST one other child besides ours, and will go through at least one more before I sell them or pass them along to someone else. In fact, we'll most likely have friends having babies before we're ready for a second, so I'll let them borrow the newborn size until they can collect more diapers or find a style they really like. That makes at least four children for those diapers, cutting down the environmental toll considerably. And, none of us is using a diaper service, the emissions from which (driving to and from picking up diapers, etc.) were counted in the cited report.
Cloth diapers for the environmental win, yo.
My other complaint about the book is about one of the asides. There was a special section talking about girl-specific issues that can come up, and one about boys. This might seem like such a small thing to get upset about, but it's part of a much larger issue. The section for girls mentioned that, at this age, many little girls like to touch their private areas and said that "modesty" should be emphasized for them. There was no such corresponding platitude about modesty among boys who, to be frank, touch their genitals just as much as that age, if not more. It's a thing kids do. A lot. They're exploring themselves. I can understand not wanting them to do that in public, but telling little girls to be "modest" without the same message to boys just makes me see red. All of this message was delivered within a section talking about the fact that little girls are more prone to urinary tract infections. A little girl with dirty hands, touching herself, could easily create the circumstances for a UTI to occur. However, modesty has nothing to do with it! Emphasizing bodily cleanliness is fine, but "modesty" has moral and sexual implications that really, really don't need to be there.
For the record, what I intend to tell Baby Girl (and any future children we might have) is that private parts are for private time. I think this sets the right tone, letting a child know that it's ok to explore their body but that it's not ok to do so in public. I don't want Baby Girl to ever, ever feel ashamed of her own body. I know she will at times, because there's no way I can insulate her against the messages of the rest of the world, but if I can get her off to a good start with regard to body image then I can at least mitigate some of the negativity she will inevitably hear.
I'm done rambling. In conclusion, I would recommend this book, but with a heavy grain of salt. The reasons for starting diapering earlier than most people in the US even think of doing so are excellent and well-researched. The timeline seems reasonable and while starting a kid on the potty before they can walk and talk will mean a bit more work on my (and Shane's) part, I think it will be worth it. At the very least, I won't have a toddler with a profound sense of "bait and switch" as far as expectations regarding peeing and pooping to contend with, and hopefully potty training will be a much more pleasant, uplifting experience overall.