Old News: Past Blog Posts

Friday, September 27, 2013

Black Magic Betty

Once upon a time (because that's the way all good stories start...and because I'm not all that clever), there was this beautiful, sprawling village.  The people who lived there had mostly traveled from other places, not nearly as sprawling or as beautiful; and they were so excited and full of hope, it was almost embarrassing. They just couldn't wait to embrace their new home and make their lives better and their children's lives even better than that; and they decided that theirs would be the best and the most powerful village in all the land.  And because these settlers were so ambitious and determined, it seemed an altogether reasonable expectation.

So, they set about working very hard for their families and for their new home.  Soon, the other villages started to take notice and even more ambitious and determined people decided to move to this beautiful and sprawling place so that they too could live out the promise of a better life for themselves and for their children.  

Unfortunately, around this time there also lived a nasty and spiteful witch known as 'Black Magic Betty.'  I mean, she was a rotten old broad; just terrible.  She had several strong powers which she routinely abused, one being the power to make people very, very sick and she did!  For no reason, whatsoever.  Can you believe the nerve of this woman?

There was no rhyme or reason to her choice of victims, she struck down the old, the young, the rich and the poor.  Just for laughs. The real kicker was that these nasty illnesses spread easily from person to person and it was very difficult to contain them once Black Magic Betty sent them out into the world. 

The promising young village was now growing fast and it soon found it wasn't immune to Betty's black magic.  In fact, Betty seemed to have a special loathing for this particular group of people.  Maybe it was their ambition and determination, but whatever it was, she was gunning for them, ready to totally derail their lovely growing village. Loads of people would get very sick with each outbreak of her vicious illnesses and many would die or be forever changed.  

Luckily, there was a group of the brightest and most selfless villagers who were called 'The Healers.'  They fought Betty's diseases as best they could.  The Healers struggled to find cures for her diseases, but soon found that there was a way to prevent the spread of her devastating illnesses by providing the villagers with a special protective armor to wear.  

The armor was found to be so effective against Betty's attacks that the leaders of the village decided they would find a way to issue one to   M.   every single inhabitant in order to keep everyone healthy, happy, and safe.  

Unfortunately, they soon learned that certain villagers were too weak to carry the weight of the armor, including those who were very young or those who were too sick with other diseases.  Luckily, they found that once all the *other* villagers were protected individually, Betty's attacks would stop short of causing the massive outbreaks they had caused in the past.  

The Healers were thrilled.  The villagers were suddenly safe from nearly all of Betty's maliciousness.  Score one for the good guys, they thought happily.  Nearby villages began to issue armor to their people as well, and soon all but the poorest, least developed villages in the land were routinely passing out protective armor to their inhabitants.  In fact, there were a number of Healers who made it their mission to help provide armor to all villages, even the poor and under-developed.  See?  I told you those Healers were selfless.  

As for Betty?  She found herself nearly stripped completely of her harmful powers. But she was a witch, and she took her role as the Villain very seriously.  And she still had some tricks up her silky black sleeves.  So (spoiler alert) this was not the last we'd see of her.   

A few generations passed and the Healers continued to issue the armor, but now turned their attention to non-Betty related illnesses.  The villagers had grown so used to receiving the armor, it was hardly even noticed anymore.  Many couldn't even imagine a world were Betty and her dark magic had any power at all.  

Then one day, a Healer from a village near to the sprawling and beautiful (and growing!), village was working on solving another illness and he made a very interesting claim. He decided that the cause of this other illness was in fact the armor that his patients had received to protect them from Betty and he began telling everyone. How he came to this conclusion was not clear.  It may have been because he just wasn't a great Healer or because he was gullible and believed what others had told him.  Or it may have been because he was being urged to make this claim by people who stood to make money from it (by way of a lawsuit against the armor makers...those letigious bastards).  

Whatever the reason, because he was a Healer, everyone believed him.  Suddenly, there was pandemonium.  News reached the now big, fancy village rather quickly and some of the villagers went completely bananas; particularly the parents of those with this other illness.  They were furious that the Healers had issued their children armor and determined to prevent this tragedy from befalling other families.  They went on a crusade to end the existence of the shields altogether, and their plight was spearheaded by a notoriously fame-hungry woman who happened to also have a child afflicted by the other illness.  

Not long after the Healer had announced his findings, other Healers became suspicious and looked closer into his 'evidence,' only to find that it was shoddy at best and fraudulent at worst.  He was stripped of his title of Healer.  

But it was too late. The damage had been done.  Left and right, villagers began to refuse the armor that was being provided for their children.  They were misinformed. They were afraid. And most of all, they were determined. This, as it turns out, is a dangerous combination.  

They accused the Healers of trying to make money from the shields and questioned their motives.  They also questioned the materials in the shield, claiming they were harmful and dangerous (despite all evidence to the contrary).  They announced their suspicions to anyone who would sit still long enough to listen. They made the other parents feel ashamed for allowing their children to wear the armor and accused them of blindly accepting it's safety and (ironically) of being ignorant and misinformed.

Now the villagers were living under a cloud of suspicion and paranoia...and Black Magic Betty was simply elated.  Her plan had worked perfectly (told you she'd be back!).

Now, she thought, now is the time to strike.  

And strike she did.  She sent the illnesses that were still putzing around in the poorer villages across the land to those villagers now living without the armor.  The Healers were caught completely off guard by these practically defunct diseases.  Worse yet, now that they'd resurfaced, they were having a chance to mutate, making the armor less effective for those who still chose to wear it.  And don't even get me started on those poor villagers who were too weak for the armor in the first place!  

People began to once again suffer and even die.  

The Healers did everything they could to combat the chaos, fear and ignorance with reason and truth.  For they knew that the only way Black Magic Betty could be effectively conquered was if everyone agreed to wear the shields.  

But chaos, fear, and ignorance are powerful and Betty knew this well, for she had birthed these things herself.  You know, because she was a villain and all; and a damn good one at that. 

The sprawling and beautiful village had indeed achieved it's status as the best and most powerful village in the land.  However, the villagers in all their determination and ambition had ultimately turned on each other.  And without unity, their village would fall. 

Black Magic Betty sat back and claimed victory.

Cue the evil cackle.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How to Win Big with a Double Stroller

How to Win Big with a Double Stroller

1. It's important that your opponent is not fully aware of the mounting competition. In our case, Pink Shirt and Ponytail may or may not have been privy to her role in yesterday's race...I mean run...around Forest Park but she was the target.  My friend and I first encountered her inside the first mile, only yards away from the park's Visitor's Center.  From the moment we first passed her, I smelled trouble.  Her pace was just close enough to ours that there was an almost audible click as my running buddy and I shifted into compete mode.  

We passed her on a subtle downhill. Then, possibly because she realized I was loaded down by a stroller, a pumpkin seat, an infant and a toddler, she quickly bolted past us as the path rose into a very slight incline near the northeast corner of the park.  For the next half mile or so, Team Stroller didn't discuss it--we didn't need to--but we both knew the game was afoot.

2. Support is crucial.  It certainly helps to have a teammate/partner who is just as bat-shit crazy as you are.  In my case, the support came from a whack-job grade school teacher who spent this past summer cycling across the country to raise essential funds to support a sick and needy child. Therefore, she happens to be in stellar physical condition.   Oh, she's also training for a marathon in six weeks...a decision she made last Friday.  My boys and I were joining her for the first half of a 12 mile training run.  So the woman is clearly loony toons but also willing to push 50-ish lbs worth of stroller and offspring on the hilly south end of the park without batting an eye.

She also 'gets me' on a cellular level and was not about to let Pink Shirt prevail.  Just when I was about to mentally abort the mission entirely, she swooped in on stroller duty and we whizzed past our unwitting opponent on the first steep uphill climb at the southeast corner of the park. 

My boys were the other support.  Despite the fact that they were technically weighing us down, they were also acting as very necessary motivators.  Toddler Monkey was more or less rooting for us to go faster the entire time.  He may lack the language skills necessary to explicitly request a faster pace, but his grunts, finger pointing, and happy babbles got the point across and basically amounted to verbal encouragement. 

3.  Never let up.  Here's the thing about an innocent run that morphs dramatically into an unspoken race to the death: you cannot let your guard down, not even for a minute.  Ponytail spent the first mile or so proving herself a worthy opponent and we would be fools to think that a few hills would change that.  

Therefore, we amped up the pace and fell into determined silence (unless you count toddler squeals, occasional baby chirps, and Darth Vader-esque breathing patterns ... Luke, I need an oxygen tank).  

If you know me and/or my running pal, you are aware that silence is a pretty unnatural state for us both.  Typically, our runs are action packed with witty banter and outbursts of belly-busting chortles (because we are hilarious, just ask us). Therefore, the relative quiet was a significant indicator of our unspoken decision to create a meal from the trail dust kicked up by our sneakers and watch Pink Shirt eat it for lunch.  

The only words we spoke were somewhat essential one and two word phrases ('bike coming' and 'outside path?'), expelled between gasps of air.  At one point she sputtered, 'where's my phone?' And we paused just long enough to determine that it had somehow fallen into the sneaky little hands of my klepto toddler.  During that time, a squat middle aged lady with about six gallons of water bulging from a Camelback trotted past us.  We wasted no time in putting her back in her place and reclaiming our brutal ass-kicking pace (both of us secretly worried we'd lost precious ground against Pink Shirt).   

4. Be aware of your opponent's whereabouts.  As we lengthened the gap between ourselves and the Ponytail, we frequently threw glances behind us under the pretense that we were scouting for bikes as we readied to pass others whose pace wasn't going to cut it.  Approaching the zoo on the southwest corner of the park, a backwards glance momentarily made us think we'd officially shaken that Pink Shirt from our tails and maybe we could cool our jets for a minute.  

But then she was spotted rounding a bend about a tenth of a mile back and we kicked it back into high gear for the final couple of hills on our route.

5. Have faith...and outrageously perfect weather.  Yes, I am presently 12 weeks postpartum and that shit counts for at least one viable excuse for 'failure.'  Still, I had unloaded the (literal and figurative?) weight of my stroller and children on my workhorse of a running buddy and had to believe that I could hang, even counting the extra 15 lbs of baby weight I am still burdened to carry.  

Deep down, I like to think I am blessed with the soul of a warrior who will simply not accept defeat.  I have faith that I can step into any challenge with the intent to emerge victorious...or die trying (figuratively, of course).  

Call it crazy, call it arrogance, call it whatever you like; I call it perseverance blended with conviction (ok, pepper in some crazy) and frankly folks, it gets shit done.  

Credit should also be given to the picture perfect weather. Sure, it was a hair on the warm side, but the oppressive heat and humidity that had suffocated us just a couple days prior was nowhere to be found. A light breeze would emerge just often enough to provide a little refreshment to our abused and sweat-drenched bodies. It was glorious and magnificent and it was not taken for granted.   

6. Finish strong.  Our run had originated at a coffee shop northwest of the park and it was no accident that we would complete the last leg of our workout (well, my half anyways) on almost a mile of downhill strides.  I could have called it a cool down and eased up on my screaming thighs and cursing lungs, but I was not about to let Pink Shirt stand even the slightest chance of gaining on us.  We'd come too far for that garbage.

When we finally skidded to a stop at the drinking fountains on the northwest corner of the park, panting and lightheaded (at least on my end), I was floored to learn that our splits were just under 9 minute miles for a total of just over 6 miles.  


Pre-pregnancy pace.  

Nailed it.

With a jogging stroller...and two kids.

Feeling elated and all amped up on endorphins, I marched my way back to my car through the sunshine with a sense of pride and accomplishment that ranked right up there with marathon completions and delivering my beautiful babies.  

It wasn't until later that day that I came to realize that the Pink Shirt and Ponytail wasn't my real opponent out there on the trail.  Sure, she was the catalyst that propelled us forward; a tangible target for us to chase down and overcome.   But as we circled the park at our surprising pace, I think was really racing against my own demons.   

See deep down, nestled in right next to that warrior I mentioned, there's a huge bucket of doubt and insecurities.  It's filled right to the rim with all my greatest fears and even the slightest shift in the wrong direction could cause it to spill over and send that tiny warrior into a sputtering, watery grave. I live every day in the very real fear that I am one tiny misstep away from this catastrophe. 

I need that little warrior.  I need her (yes, her--don't pretend to be surprised) to be ready to fight for me at a moment's notice and every victory I have makes her stronger.  

Yesterday's victory wasn't really won over some poor unsuspecting broad in the park.  Sure, she got her ass kicked left, right and center in a race she didn't sign up for; but the real loser here was my insecurity bucket. 

...and that my friends, is how you win big with a double stroller. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Two Under Two: Part Two

Lessons I have learned:

1) Prepare for the witching hour: So apparently small children are pre-programmed to click into melt down mode between 4 and 6pm.  Did you know this?  I have heard it called the 'witching hour' which implies that my little guys are somehow possessed by evil spirits during this period of the day.  Which is nice I guess, because at least it can't be blamed on my parenting.  It does, however, make me consider finding a priest I can keep on retainer for nightly exorcisms.

When I know that Ready or Not Dad is scheduled to be gone in the evenings (happens 2-3 times a week this time of year), I do my best to prepare in advance in order to lessen the blow of a two-pronged attack by my children.  I get as much of dinner prepared in advance as possible, break out the baby sling and my best dance moves, and I douse myself in holy water (just kidding...unless you know where I can get my hands on some?).  I will openly admit that I also frequently turn to the big, bad television as a blatant disregard to the AAP's recommendation of 'zero screen time under two years old' (Those people clearly don't have children, and certainly not two under two)

Remember when 4-6 pm was called 'happy hour' and they served discounted drinks?

Sigh. Me neither.

2) Get out:  For the first month or so when both kiddos were under the same roof, I was terrified to leave the house.  It was somewhat justified given the fragile state of our little guy paired with the oppressive heat. After the first month, though, the three of us started to go a little bananas.

Finally, the weather broke and I decided to grow a pair of mom-balls and make a break for the fresh air.  I strapped the little guy to my chest, popped the bigger guy into the stroller and we set off to the park up the road, even making a pit stop for iced coffee and a sample of freshly baked bread at our local Great Harvest (that place is a carb-lovers wet dream).

Since those first few short trips out of the house, the confines of our living room have started to feel more and more stifling and soul-sucking for all of us.

Toddler monkey is now prone to plopping himself down next to the front door, waving five plump little fingers at me and pleading, 'bye bye??'

Baby monkey will scream incessantly until the minute the door closes behind us and he tastes sweet freedom.  His happiness generally lasts only as long as our outing.  He even came to a spin class with me this week and snoozed more soundly and peacefully in his pumpkin seat next to my bike than he had all week in his pack-n-play.  He joins me on my runs now because it is kinder to strap him snuggly into the stroller and let the vibrations of the road lull him to sleep than it is to leave him with the hubs whose attention, in my absence, is divided between him and his brother.  It slows me down, but burns off more of the baby weight.  Fair trade, especially when you weigh in a happy baby.

My kids already strive for a world bigger than our 1,600 square foot home can offer and we intend to provide them with that.

3) Double stroller is a must:  During my second pregnancy for whatever reason, we decided that a double stroller would be a big waste of money.  We were already the proud owners of three different strollers (Chico travel system, umbrella, and jogging) and thought one more might classify us as stroller hoarders and land us on some terrible reality show.

Then I got a little desperate and sent a shout out to the FB world.  I ended up with a third-hand Phil and Teds (which makes me think of Keanu Reeves and a phone booth whenever I say it aloud) double sport stroller and I have never been happier.  I can easily snap the pumpkin seat on top, drop the toddler monkey below and we are free to roam the world.

Watch for us on a special edition of A&E's Hoarders: Parents Lose Control.

4) Confidence is fleeting at best.  One minute I can feel like I am rocking the socks of motherhood; finishing dinner prep an hour early with one kid playing quietly and the other sleeping peacefully and the next thing I know, the baby is screaming and the toddler is whacking the dog with a plastic hammer (cue my husband's return home to witness the chaos and reconsider his choice of life partner).

My days are action-packed with my waxing and waning confidence in my abilities to pull off motherhood.

Sometimes, when toddler monkey is politely signing he'd like *more* food and baby monkey is happily nursing,  I think I have a real shot at Mom of the Year.  Mostly though, I just feel like an imposter who's parental rights are hanging
by a very thin thread (they'll find out soon enough that the Cat in the Hat and Super Why are invited into our pre-two-year-old home via 50-inch screen on an almost daily basis).

You can't win 'em all

Monday, September 16, 2013

Confessions of a Nursing Mom

NOTE TO READERS: This post was written just about a year ago when I was elbow-deep in nursing and working mommy-hood. Ready or Not Dad was just returning to the black hole that is marching band season, clocking 70 and 80 hour weeks and things were feeling pretty nutso.  See if you can identify my psychotic determination and thinly veiled disdain for lactaction consultants. 


My mother has always been the picture of over-educated, over-achievement.  She earned her PhD smack-dab in the middle of raising three kids, in the midst of a full time job; composing her dissertation in the only quiet she could find: the very wee-est hours of the morning. She never met a book or peer-reviewed article she didn't devour.  She's ended up in charge of everything from the PTO to the Girl Scouts to the university department where she presently works.  

And she formula-fed her children? 

She actually refers to herself as a breastfeeding 'dropout'.  As far as I can surmise, that may in fact be the only time she ever dropped out from anything...ever.

Turns out in the eighties, almost no American women were breastfeeding.  Mothers had turned to formula the minute evaporated milk made it convenient and it was deemed healthy.  By the 1950s, half of America's babies were formula-fed, and that number increased by half in 20 years, with a whopping 75% of little ones sucking it back by the seventies.  

Maybe, that's partially how we ladies managed to finally put our babies down and bust into the workplace?  (So we can happily earn 77 cents to every man's dollar?)  Perhaps the women's liberation movement owes a big-fat thank you note to the formula-manufacturers?   

Today any mother will tell you, the baby-diet winds have shifted.  

I can count on one hand the number of mom friends I have who exclusively formula-fed from the start.    

On one hand...with one finger.  
(and let me just clarify: she's one of my favorite mom-friends, with two healthy, intelligent, beautiful babies) 

Now, us American women are not only expected to race back to work six weeks after childbirth (or one week later in some extreme cases... *sigh*) -- we better do it with a breast pump in tow.  And some of us are still expected 90% productivity.  Thankfully, a skilled pumper can type on a laptop and express simultaneously.  

'Breast is best.' The mantra pulses it's way through me as if carried by my circulatory system itself -- reaching all ends of my body.  It haunts me with every 'woosh-a-woosh' of my breast pump and soapy breast shield I scrub.  It follows me out of my cozy bed at 12am, 2am, 4am, as I stumble through the dark to quiet the hungry cries of my son or, if (Praise Jesus) he's actually sleeping though the night, to desperately capitalize on my early morning supply by pumping an extra bottle or so.  

Ask my husband, I have become a crazy person on a mission.  My determination to offer my kid a breastmilk-only diet boarders on clinical obsession and frequently takes all the fun out of being a working mom.  What is wrong with me?

As a NICU mom, I was dutifully  pumping around the clock.  My first night home from the hospital, I learned that St Mary's security will indeed admit you without proper ID at 4am if you appear desperate and totally disheveled, waving a bottle of breast milk like a lunatic.  

I quickly discovered that I needed to pump for a half hour at a time for my lazy-ass boobs to produce anything of substance.  For all you math majors out there : 30 minutes times eight pumps a day is four hours daily.  Add in working 4-6 hours a day at my 'real job' and three hospital visits...operating on less than 3 hours of sleep at a time....Lets just say for five weeks, I ran myself totally ragged, fueled by adrenaline and determination alone.  

If good friends haven't supplied my husband an me with almost daily meals, we may have both ended up either admitted to the hospital ourselves or committed to the looney bin.

And that was before the precious little nugget came home to us.

Maternity leave was a blur.  I think I spent the bulk of it nursing.  Actually, I know I did.  Like any other overly-ambitious new mom, I meticulously logged my feeding times (motherhood? There's totally an app for that!) and because of that, I can tell you I spent an average of 31.5 hours a week breast feeding.  True story: one day, the kid was latched for over nine hours.  In many job situations, hours like this will very nearly earn you benefits.  

I suppose it was successful. In less than four months, our little man tripled in size; from 3lbs 10oz on March 18 to a respectable 10lbs 3oz by the 4th of July.  

After my first few official days back to work, a small amount of remedial math told me that I had created a monster; there was no chance I could keep up with him.  I would proudly arrive home with eight ounces of expressed milk only to find he'd sucked back 15 since I'd left.   

Feeling like a failure and bordering on tears, I called a lactation consultant.  Her only advice was that I simply work harder: pump more often, nurse longer, and quit my bitching.  (ok, I made that last part up).

Now, my weekdays go a little like this: 

1. Wake up (usually between 5-6am); nurse for 60-90 minutes.
2. Scramble around the house preparing my pump, milk for the sitter and easily-consumed lunch items (so I can pump, eat, and document my treatments all at once), feed the dogs, make the bed, change the kid, and race out the door.
3. Pump on the way to work (there may be some legal gray-area there, but I happen to know I'm not the only mom pumping on the road)
4. Work-pump-work-pump-work
5. Pump on the way home from work.
6. Arrive home.
7. Another marathon nursing session (generally totaling up to 2 hours in the period before bed)
8.  Work out (this happens on average 2/5 weeknights and usually means another bottle for the rugrat and more guilt for mama) 
9.  Clean up kitchen (because my husband is a rockstar and almost always does the cooking) 
10. Bed 
11. Sweet, precious sleep...interrupted at least twice for midnight hour-long snacks, pumping or both.


As we near our sixth month as parents, the frozen milk stockpile--built up when the little dude was in the NICU--is running lower and lower.  He happily guzzles up to 8 ounces at once and it won't be long before I'm forced to throw in the towel and shop for formula.  

Until that time: at least my boobs look great.

FYI:  We did decide to supplement with formula after little dude's six month pediatric appointment (partially because our pediatrician took one look at me and knew I needed to chill the 'F' out).  As I purchased the formula, I felt simultaneously defeated and liberated. Still, I continued to nurse and pump until he was nine months old (when I discovered I was pregnant) and our freezer storage kept him guzzling one or two bottles of breastmilk per day until his first birthday.  

Sure, victory.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My Fussy Baby

On the first night of my second son's life, I padded down the hospital hallway in my non-skid socks and sweatpants, lifted a phone receiver on the wall to identify myself, and entered the bright and beeping NICU to visit my tiny 31-weeker and deliver a small vile of breast milk.  

His nurse was a familiar and comforting face who was sporting a new haircut since our last NICU baby arrived a mere 15 months earlier.  She gently scolded me about heeding the advice she'd given me earlier on skipping a pump in favor of some much needed sleep. Then she smiled at my dozing infant and called him 'a real firecracker.'

Over the next few weeks, adjectives like 'feisty' and 'spunky' and 'vocal' were cheerfully applied to the newest member of our family.  We watched our little guy squirm around his incubator and tug on his nasal cannula, leads, and IVs.  We listened to him shriek and squeal with his tiny chipmunk voice...sometimes from clear across the NICU.  

Having a baby arrive at 31 weeks was not new to us.  Having a baby who howled with all the vigor, enthusiasm, and pitch of a mini soprano opera singer over getting his diaper changed...well now, that was a novelty.  

Our oldest son was generally cool as a cucumber...he still is, for the most part.  In the NICU, he didn't even bat an eye when we bathed him, soaping down his tiny wrinkled body with warm washcloths.  In fact, I think it's entirely possible that I cried more than he did during the five weeks he spent in the hospital preparing to come home with us.  When he did join us at home, his cries were generally milk-related.  He cried when he was hungry and again when I made him stop eating (sometimes after hours of treating my breasts as an all-you-can-eat buffet).  He still tends to react this way to food.  I'm thinking it probably won't be long before Mrs. Obama makes a house call to personally intervene in the parenting of the world's most obese toddler.  

So obviously, my husband and I were lulled into a false sense of parenting security.  We figured all babies (at least all of ours) were easy-peasy.  Hence, our laissez-faire attitude towards the regulation of our mommy and daddy parts, which predictably resulted in the swift second pregnancy.  

Now, we have a feisty, spunky, vocal little firecracker who runs our lives like a tiny overlord with zero regard for our household's previously quiet and restful existence.  

And, as with most parenting conundrums, everyone seems to have an opinion on how to 'fix' his boisterous temperament.  

The go-to theory seems to center around his poor, immature little bowels and his obvious discomfort when the time comes to pass gas through them.  

I mean, I suppose we can assume his seemingly crabby nature doesn't have much to do with his distaste for the wall color or our political affiliations.  But we will never really know, will we?

These theories also typically place blame on yours truly.  Specifically, his gas and by extension, fussy behavior must be derived directly from my diet. I don't know who originally started this insensitive amd baseless blame-game directed towards us poor, sleep-deprived, raw-nippled nursing moms, but I'd like to introduce that someone to the backside of my un-showered hand.  Seriously, do we blame gassiness of formula-fed babies on the diets of the cows producing the milk foundation for their formula?? Lay off the fiber, Bessie!

A nursing-mom friend of mine was once nearly deprived a piece of birthday cake by her in-laws because the frosting contained chocolate.  Oh the humanity!

Facebook comments fill the profiles of desperate new moms instructing them to avoid broccoli and garlic with absolutely zero scientific basis (in fact, garlic has been found to *increase* an infant's time at breast, if not regularly exposed...and has no known association with gas.)

Sure, your girlfriend's breastfeeding niece may have tinkered around with her diet for six weeks until deciding that she couldn't eat bananas after 10am.  But guess who's digestive system was then six weeks more mature when this conclusion was finally reached?  

Just sayin'.  Mama probably could have saved herself a headache or ten by trusting that Junior's gas problems were most likely the result immature gut and/or swallowing too much air while crying or eating (more likely to occur with a bottle vs breast), and they would resolve in time no matter what crazy diet changes were made.

With kiddo #1, a little light research (of scientific articles, not 'joeblowknowsboobs.com') plus a brief consultation with our home-health nurse convinced me that my diet would have no real impact on the behavior of my kiddo.  It does seem to be true that an unbalanced diet may result in food sensitivities or allergies later in life, and therefore eliminating certain foods altogether might be a poor choice. 

The nurse even gave me the big A-ok to drink a much deserved beer every now and then and just allow the alcohol to metabolize naturally before nursing or pumping again rather than feeling the need to 'pump and dump' as they say.  She was excellent. 

Here's a site that has more specifics on drinking and nursing.

With #2, after hours of digging (because what else am I supposed to do in the dead of night while everyone else sleeps?), I was able to find one scholarly, peer-reviewed article suggesting that eliminating cow's milk from a breastfeeding mother's diet may in fact, reduce colic...which is incidentally, not the same thing as gas, and which does not (thank God) seem to apply to my baby. 

Just to prove I'm a good sport, I will happily bid fairwell to my occasional half bowl of ice cream and say hello to soy milk in my even less frequent coffee.  

FYI: I only quit drinking coffee on a regular basis because we ran out of k-cups shortly before I got pregnant and I am too lazy to dig up the old fashioned drip machine and too cheap to buy more k-cups.  I now drink an average of about 2 cups a week, generally in social settings.  Boy, do I miss it. We were such great pals.

So we'll see if cutting the already minimal dairy from my diet has any effect on my (technically not colicky*) baby.  I will keep you posted.  

At this point, I suppose I should point out that one of my greatest personality flaws is that I tend to take even the best-intended comments a bit too personally.  Especially if the comments could be even remotely construed as criticism.  I have an even stronger response towards remarks with no scientific foundation (in case you skipped over the entire first half of this post). 

I have been known to react with internal rage over statements regarding my post-baby body ('Gee, you don't look like you just had a baby' -- 'That's probably cuz I only carried him for 7 months'), and our possible plans for future children ('I would never try for another if I went through what you guys did.'  -- 'Great, cuz your opinion is critical in our family planning process.')  And don't even get me started on the 'competency' of my cervix.  

And before you decide that you should probably just quit talking to me altogether in an effort to avoid accidentally offending me, know that I fully realize this flaw and therefore try to keep those snide responses to myself.  I understand that when it comes to my kids and my mommy-bits, I really need to thicken up my skin and let certain remarks roll right off it.  People generally have the best of intentions when it comes to dolling out parenting tips, so I will do my best to accept those tips with a smile and a nod.  

I might even consider taking that advice, assuming it can be backed up by something other than a third-hand theory passed over a water-cooler.  


*Colicky babies must fit the flowing criteria: when an otherwise healthy baby cries harder than expected (inconsolible) more than three hours a day, more than three days a week, for at least three consecutive weeks.   

Barf, that sounds terrible.  My kiddo may be fussy, but isn't nearly that bad.  Big sympathies to parents with babies fitting that description, you guys are real heroes. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Babies are Boring

Babies are boring...

...Just ask my toddler.  The other day, he tried to engage with the little guy by waving a plastic wrench in his face, but Mean Mommy put a stop to that almost immediately.  

(That lady is such a flipping buzz kill...geez)

Poor little toddler monkey gave me a look that said, 'well, what the hell good is this thing if it won't play with me?'  He gave me the same look when I shooed him and his Cheezit away from my breast while nursing the little guy (but I thought he was *hungry*?? What is with you people??)

He's right really.  All this kid does is eat, sleep, cry, poop and repeat.  

So boring.

Sometimes he spits up.  Occasionally, he flashes me a smile that really just means he has gas.  He doesn't follow current events.  He's never traveled anywhere interesting.  His sense of humor is just terrible (see above, re: gas smile). If I were looking to make new friends, this guy brings a big, fat nothing to the table.  

And I haven't even started in on how needy he is.  I mean, talk about co-dependent.  This dude literally can't even hold his head up without relying on someone else.  

I generally can't stand people like that.  So exhausting, am I right?  Like, grow a backbone already.  Or at least start calcifying some of those bones.  

Plus, he's super short-tempered.  You should see the fits he throws when he's hungry.  He howls and thrashes around like it's the worst thing that's ever happened to him. 

Need I even mention his complete lack of bowl and bladder control?  

So why on earth would we put up with all this garbage?  If I had a houseguest who woke me up screaming and demanding a cup of milk every two hours, that yahoo would be packing his tiny suitcases faster than you could say 'get lost psycho milk dude, you're freaking me out.'

Well, for the sake of my elder son, I have compiled a short list of reasons to justify why we let this small, demanding and co-dependent person continue to occupy our space and essentially run our lives.  

1.  He's so damn adorable.  God makes babies cute for survival reasons, I'm just sure of it.  If they looked like *anything* else, none of them would ever make it to adulthood.  If I wasn't so obsessed with his tiny feet, big  beautiful eyes, and goofy little T-Rex arms (that won't even reach the top of his giant, ill-proportioned head),  I would be like, 'go to the store and get your own damn milk'

2.  He's incredible and frankly he makes me think I'm a little incredible for getting him here and  helping him grow.  It basically blows my mind that he even exists.  Like all of us, he started from practically *nothing,* just a couple of microscopic specks colliding together.  He did the usual magic development tricks in utero (which are nothing short of mind-boggling BTW) to go from a speck to a complex series of organs working together to make a whole and healthy person.  Then he fought his way through less than ideal circumstances after his early arrival to come home with us, basically unscathed.  Life really is miraculous.  It makes me think that there must be a God, or at least something similar.  

3.  He makes me see the world differently.  It's a little like having visitors from out of town who have never visited before.  Suddenly, the mundane little things you see every day carry new meaning as you see them through the perspective of these other people (who are hopefully not demanding nighttime milk every other hour).  It makes me want to make both my surroundings and myself better; and not just to impress the little guy, but to make everything in his life that much more beautiful and meaningful.  

Yes, babies might seem a little boring, especially if you're a toddler.  But even my toddler's face lights up like a Christmas tree whenever he spots his little brother.  I hope he realizes how special that little man is and never loses sight of how precious and valuable and significant their relationship will be as they grow together.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lessons My Children have Taught Me in How to Behave Like an Adult

Be patient. In a house that sometimes reverberates with the simultaneous melody of two crying children and two barking dogs, we are all rapidly learning patience.  

The toddler is learning that that his meals will not magically appear the moment he feels his first pangs of hunger.  The infant is learning to cope with a wet or dirty diaper for more than 60 seconds.  And the dogs are dangerously close to learning what it's like to live on the streets.  

Oh, and mom and dad are learning how to keep their cool when surrounded by needy and demanding creatures whom they really couldn't imagine living without (with the possible exception of at least one dog). 

In the moments of greatest chaos, I find myself taking a deep breath and (true story) singing to my kids. This might shock those of you who know me, especially if you've ever been unfortunate enough to hear me sing.  My go-to song is 'You Are My Sunshine' because it somehow calms both me and my children...and because it's in a comfortable mid-range of pitch that even I can't butcher too badly.  

Eventually, our kids will be less needy and our dogs will be dead (hopefully of natural causes).  But the need for patience and a method to calm those inevitable moments of chaos or frustration will no doubt live on.  

If someday, while standing in line at the DMV, you spot a half-crazed looking woman quietly humming 'You Are My Sunshine,' feel free to step over and say 'hi.'

Be kind. By nature, babies and young children just plain aren't capable of being malicious.  They don't hold grudges, make snide remarks, or pass judgement (did you see Suzie's onesie?).  Sure, they might steal a toy on occasion or accidentally barrel over another toddler when headed for a desirable piece of playground property.  But this never comes from a place of malcontented mean-spiritedness and it certainly never occurs as retribution.  

Adults and young adults on the other hand (the worst offenders generally being teenagers and women--sorry ladies), have the capacity to be real spiteful bitches. Can we all just agree to let our nasty behavior stop short at stealing toys until our attention wanes and accidentally knocking each other down in a moment of tunnel-visioned enthusiasm (like, say, when we spot a delicious-looking brownie sitting alone in a crowded room)?

Be forgiving.  There's no way to sugar coat this admission, so I'll just say it: The other day, I stepped on my son's hand.  

I was rushing down the stairs feeling overtired, overworked, and immersed in a moment of self-pity.    

The sudden squishy unevenness of the last step, paired with an immediate squeal of pain snapped me right out of my self-involved state and straight into a heaping pile of guilt and regret.  

I scooped the wailing toddler into my arms and rattled off a thousand apologies, each accompanied by a kiss and a hug.   You really haven't seen pathetic until you've witnessed a scene like this.  

Two minutes later, the little guy was happily waving plastic tools at
me like we were best buddies and I had never tried to break his hand into sixty pieces with the entirety of my postpartum body weight.  

As adults, we sometimes step on each others' hands.  We usually do it unintentionally, because we are in a hurry or caught up in our own moments of self-involvement.  But it still hurts and it still warrants apologies (kisses are optional since they could be totally inappropriate -- as in let's say, the workplace).  The apology is usually the easy part, depending on the grip of our egos and our ability to admit fault.  The forgiveness is the part that takes real guts.  We have to realize that the pain is temporary, the act was probably unintentional, and it's ultimately better to just go back to playing with our tool set than sit around feeling sorry for ourselves and our nearly broken fingers.

Be loving. If you're looking for a moment to melt your heart, look no further than a cuddly toddler just before bedtime.  We 'love on' each other whenever I can get him to sit still for five seconds and I can't get enough of how it feels to have those chunky little arms wrapped tightly around my neck or shoulders or be on the receiving end of an awkward, open-mouthed 'kiss' on the cheek or chin (especially when it doesn't morph into a savage bite - there's a thin line...?). 

I say as long as it doesn't have the possibility of ending in a sexual harassment lawsuit, we should 'love on' one another whenever possible.  A little affection can truly go a long way, even if it's as simple as a reassuring pat on the back or a firm and sincere handshake.  

Be brave.  Our toddler apparently has an innate need to defy his own death and/or stop his mother's heart on a regular basis.  Whether it's his fascination with power outlets (they were his first destination when he learned to crawl), his signature headfirst sliding technique on the playground, or his recent preference to dismount the couch by way of the armrest or the end table, he is constantly testing the limits of his own mortality (and also my sprinting speed).

The lesson here is not that we should take a dive off the nearest building; but rather that we should not always settle for the safest route simply because it is tested and familiar.  

Imagine if Mr. Ben Franklin hadn't monkeyed around with a kite, a key, and a lightning bolt two and a half centuries ago (a move that probably gave his mother fits)? Or if women suffragists had stayed home to cook dinner instead of heading out and rocking the political arena?  Or if those crazy bastards Lewis and Clark had been too chicken to forge into the uncharted wilderness (thus inadvertently causing significant disruption of the previously peaceful existence of Native Americans...hm, bad example?). 

Anyways, for better or for worse, our world wouldn't be what it is today if people hadn't been brave enough to engage in activities that their parents might have discouraged.  The power outlets in our home have all been covered, but we've learned to allow for certain (supervised) courageous moves in order to learn to trust his abilities to stand, walk, and safely climb on and off the couch (although, being boring adults, we prefer the traditional routes).

Be silly.  My otherwise no-nonsense grandfather was known to pass behind us kids, plant the tips of all five fingers on our scalps, and plainly state, 'eagle on your head.'  He would also, on occasion, stop mid-stride, lift one arm and one leg at an obscure angle, lean slightly forward and call out, 'Hooley!'  And no, he was not suffering from even the mildest case of dementia.  On the contrary, he was a brilliant man who maintained all his mental faculties to the bitter end.  It was just that he knew his grandchildren would never tire of his silliness...not even as we became adults ourselves.

I pray I will never lose sight of that notion.  Silliness is like a second language to my toddler, who can play peekaboo until we're all blue in the face.  His face is overrun with dimples and an impossibly enormous, baby toothy grin when we put things inappropriately on our heads or dance around the living room like fools (that one is mostly just me).  

Silliness reminds us not to take life too seriously and in my opinion, there's just not enough in the world 

Be gentle.  If I could figure out how to collect a nickel for every time my husband or I say the words, 'be gentle' or 'nice touches' to our toddler, we could probably quit worrying about how to pay for collage.  

Obviously, the little guy has no real intentions of removing eyeballs from the sockets of our infant or our dogs, but that doesn't change the fact that his fingers seem determined to do so.  The truth of the matter is that his enthusiasm over both his puppies and his baby brother get the best of him and fingers just go flying willy-nilly.  

Sometimes us grown ups need to be reminded that our actions may seem natural and totally acceptable from our perspective, but in reality, they're putting others in danger of losing an eye -- or perhaps just perceiving that an eye might be lost, which is sometimes just as dangerous.  And as we all know: it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye.  

Be in the present.  I'm not sure I totally appreciated the art of living in the moment until I became a mother.  Up to this point, my whole life seems to have been a series of mundane preparations:  prepare for collage, prepare for grad school, prepare for my career, my wedding, my children.  Womp, womp, womp...I am robot-lady, I will live predictable life...womp, womp, womp.  

Even now, my days are filled with necessary anticipations of my next move: get breakfast ready, scout out clean clothes, distract the toddler to provide for peaceful nursing of the baby, load up the diaper bag...Hell, if I don't plan properly, I won't make it to the bathroom in time to avoid necessitating a change of pants.  If an appointment must be kept and I am sans husband, preparations to leave the house begin a full hour before departure.  And I will still be 5 minutes late.    

And so, I have come to fully appreciate the beauty of experiencing the moment...for two reasons.  

1) I have so few opportunities to do so (see above) but all it takes is a quick flash of my toddler's dimples or a gummy, gassy grin from a peaceful infant snuggled in my arms and I am transported into the sweet, beautiful present (even if just for a split second).

2) I once heard somewhere that for parents, 'the days are long, but the years are short.'  I am finding that this statement could not be truer.  Time seems to have somehow split with the birth of my first baby and since then, each part has moved in parallel, all at once both rapidly and at a snail's pace.  Somewhere in the middle of that warped space-time continuum, my children are growing at an alarming rate.  If I were into clich├ęs, I would say they're growing like weeds.  But I'm not, so let's just say they're growing like children.

I am determined not to miss out on these fleeting seconds of their infancy and toddlerhood because I am too busy preparing for the next meal or to be five minutes late for a doctor's appointment.  I am determined to make each moment matter.  

...and hopefully my babies will continue teaching me how to act like a grownup, so this life thing can go down somewhat gracefully for all of us.