Saturday, May 31, 2008

Link to this, Google

After Allison and I both took a nap, I managed to summon a fresh outlook on the breastfeeding situation and decided it wasn't going to stop me from enjoying my day and my daughter.

We were going shopping, boob issues be damned.

I packed a cooler with a bottle and decided she'd drink it cold if need be, and I'd wait to pump until we got home. In the meantime, my lactation consultant e-mailed me back saying she'd call later that afternoon. Things were looking up.

I also noticed that two days of exclusive pumping had done wonders for my right boob. It was almost entirely healed -- which gave me hope for the mangled mess that is my left boob.

On the way, my friend Courtney called to check in on me.

"Would it really be all that horrible to switch to formula?" she asked.

Coming from someone who is eight months pregnant and weighing the options of how to feed her son, I knew she was the perfect person to talk to about it because she sees both sides.

"It's not that I'm against formula. I mean, I was formula-fed. But I really enjoy breastfeeding -- it's so convenient," I said. "Besides, I've worked so hard at it. And I know there's a solution that I'm just missing at the moment."

I went on to tell her that one of the most frustrating parts about the setback is that I can't find any mention of it online. I've Googled every combination of "teething" and "breastfeeding" and "I want to die" possible, and all I get are links with experts and other mothers saying what a breeze it is. That your baby sprouting teeth and the urge to bite is such a natural, pain-free transition.

"So I guess I'm the only one out there with this problem," I said, even though I know it can't possibly be the case.

Allison was wonderful in the store. She had fallen asleep in the car and woke up while I was perusing handbags. She got this hilarious look on her face as she tried to figure out where in the hell she was. I'll laugh about that moment as long as the memory sticks with me.

The trip was mostly a success. Alli is being baptised this weekend and I didn't have an appropriate dress to wear. Somehow black just didn't seem right. And when the leather on the bottom of my purse gave out, I knew it was time for a new one. As much as I love accessories, I hold onto purses like they're an endangered species. Once I find one I love, I become insanely attached. And parting with it is always painful.

Even though I bought what I needed, I pushed my luck and stopped at a second store, where Allison immediately reminded me that I was testing her patience. Once we were in the dressing room, I pulled her out of her stroller and placed her on the couch-sized ottoman with a few toys.

Then she started shrieking at the top of her lungs.

"YYYYyyyyiiiiiiiiEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"

"Allison!" I said. "Yikes! I think everyone in this ZIP code heard you."

And as much fun as she was having stuffing her toys between the ottoman and the wall, she couldn't seem to keep her thoughts to herself. The shrieks kept getting louder and more frequent.

And the bottle was in the car. And I was in my skivvies in between dresses. And the sales lady kept asking if I was alright, which I translated to mean, "Are you killing your child in there?"

So I stuck Alli on my good boob out of desperation and this amazing thing happened.

It didn't hurt.

Apparently now that her teeth have poked through, she no longer feels the need to chomp.

My lactation consultant called later in the day and talked me through a bunch of things to help. Besides pumping exclusively until I heal, she advised me to soak my breast beforehand to loosen the wound so it won't rip open. She also mentioned a few creams to reduce swelling.

"Babies' teeth are like little razor blades to allow them to cut through the gums," she said. "And when your nipple starts rubbing against that spot, it stimulates a natural response to bite that's very hard to resist -- much like a sneeze."

She said as the next teeth start to come through, I can override that response by rubbing my fingers on her gums before a feeding. And we talked about how this is my first opportunity as a parent to teach the word "No."

By the end of the day, I felt much more confident that I'm going to get through this.

And I have a new purse to fall in love with, too.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Tied to two suction cups and an outlet

I completely resisted the idea of pumping for each feeding because, well, I hate pumping. Not only are there a billion parts to wash and assemble each time, it's nowhere near as enjoyable an experience as feeding your child directly.

But two more sores have started showing up where Allison's teeth rub with the new position I'm trying, so I reluctantly have resigned myself to pumping until I heal and can get some help.

This presents an entirely new set of challenges as I have no idea how much she typically gets at each feeding. I could try to pump and give her that immediately, but when she's hungry, she's used to immediate gratification -- not waiting 20 to 30 minutes so mom can set up and use a machine.

I guess I'll just have to start planning better.

This morning was a complete disaster. My breasts were fully engorged, but I forced myself to give Allison a bottle. I selected the largest one in the fridge from the night before at work, figured out how to use the warmer while she cried, then she sucked it down in a few minutes and started crying for more.

Because I didn't know how much more to give her, I just set up the pump and tried my best to block out her cries in the next room. As soon as I got enough out for another bottle, I ran in and gave it to her, but then she puked all over because she's not used to getting it all that fast. She's used to working for it.

I set her down again and took up the pump again, but by that time, I couldn't get any flow because I was too tense. So I swore. Well, part of it was because Toby was whining to go outside and I had to try to reach the door while I was attached to a machine and a plug and ended up spilling milk all over the chair I had been sitting in.

Then, instead of spending the morning eating breakfast and playing with Allison like I normally do, I spent it at the sink. Washing everything. And wanting to cry.

Then we came upstairs for a few minutes, she showed signs of needing a nap and I went down to pump again, so I could give her a little before bed like she's used to.

Now everything's dirty again and my nipples are absolutely throbbing from the pump agitation.

To top it off, I have the day off and had planned to go shopping. I'm used to being able to take her and feed her wherever and whenever, but now I'm guessing I'll just have to stay home. My electronic pump won't work in a dressing room without an outlet. Or in my car.

And my nipples feel so blindingly painful that I can't even tolerate the thought of feeding her directly. I actually have broken bloody flaps of skin that can't heal because they're pried open constantly -- including with the pump.

I wrote to my lactation consultant, but at this point, I'm feeling pretty hopeless.

If I didn't already know how wonderful and rewarding an experience breastfeeding can be, I don't think I'd believe it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Trying not to quit my boob job

I am in a breastfeeding nightmare. If I wasn't so committed to giving my daughter the best possible start in life, I probably would've switched to formula a few days ago.

I wasn't exactly sure what was going on until two open wounds showed up on the same spot on each nipple. Allison had been using me as a teething apparatus.

The problem started when I discovered her top front teeth were coming in. As they began to poke through, each suck scraped and agitated one spot until I was forcefully biting my fingers to distract myself from the pain. When she was done, I realized that I had been holding my breath and clenching every muscle in my body.

Now I have two cracked, bleeding blisters that reopen with every feeding. Imagine taking a stapler to your nipple and punching down on it just enough to break the skin for about 20 minutes at a time. Then do it on the other nipple. Then repeat the process at least eight times a day.

Wonder what you'll end up with?

Excruciating pain that sends such strong shockwaves to your brain that it takes every ounce of willpower not to scream in agony. It's like placing your hand on a hot stove burner and forcing yourself to resist the urge to take it off. Because you know it's good for your baby. And you love her so much you'll find a way to deal with the pain.

But when it got to the point that I was actually crying while feeding her, I knew something had to give. It was only going to get worse if I didn't come up with potential solutions.

For now, I've repositioned Allison so her top teeth hit the other side, but it's still so painful that even the thought of it makes me tense. Plus, it's awkward and cumbersome, but I'm hoping I'll notice an improvement in the next few days.

In the meantime, I keep telling myself that I'll be rewarded for my perseverance. That because I'm dealing with this, my daughter will somehow skip the "I hate my mother" phase.

And if she doesn't?

I'll try to resist the urge to coat her entire bedroom in formula powder.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Because what's a blog without a little self-deprecation once in awhile?

One of my favorite things to do when I visit my parents' house is to look through all my old photo albums, flip through my yearbooks and basically just reminisce. And on my last trip, I thought, why not share the fun?


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Modeling my oh-so-stylish grey corduroy jumper
and bowl cut that followed me through childhood.
This was my very first ferret that I named Christina.
Why? Because my parents didn't name me that.
And I remember totally resenting them for it.


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JAZZ HANDS! (Yep, I'm the tall, gangly thing in the back center.)


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Here's a closeup of my inability to get my hair in a bun.
I remember my mom practically ripping it out of my head,
trying to get it to stay, then eventually giving up and
Aqua-Netting the crap out of it. Sadly, not even my awesome
sparkly sequined headband did the trick.


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Even better? My graceful claw fingers and closed eyes. I'm sure
all four of the other mothers were very eager to pay top dollar for this gem.

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Next on the tall, gangly tour, here is my
seventh-grade field hockey photo. Nice how the
photographer captured the tennis team in the background.
And my super crooked self-cut bangs.


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Here I'm singing during a dress rehearsal for "Annie" where I
played an orphan. I was in fifth grade and thought I was
so cool hanging out at the high school. With high schoolers
and everything. In my smock and long underwear.


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Then there was that time I bought a box of blond hair dye
right before my boyfriend's junior prom. And it turned out
orange. And my hairdresser did her best to fix it. I think
she thought the bigger she made it, the less people would notice.
The only thing giving it competition? My GIGANTIC CORSAGE.

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And as if you needed any more proof to solidify my awesome taste
and style, among all the photos, I found this poster. Long-live NKOTB.

Monday, May 26, 2008

My timing is impeccable

I just got my period for the first time in 16 months.

So I raided my supply of feminine hygiene products to discover a solitary tampon resting at the bottom of the box.

And it's a national holiday.

And all the stores are closed.

And now I remember how much having your period sucks.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Newspaper column

When I'm at home and someone knocks on our door, my immediate inclination is not to answer it. Before I can even think about turning the doorknob, I have to assess the state of our living room and decide whether it's company-worthy.

Usually I end up frantically kicking dog toys under the coffee table, tossing jackets on the coat rack, straightening couch cushions, sliding my daughter's play mat into a corner and, if there's still time, folding the afghan and slinging it over the back of a chair.

It doesn't matter if it's the gas company meter reader or a Girl Scout coming to sell cookies, I need to present the idea that my house is somewhat put together. I'm pretty sure the inclination is part of a woman's DNA. In fact, I think it comes with the second X chromosome.

But forget it if I haven't showered yet. There will be no meter reading or cookie purchasing. It could be a fire chief trying to tell me I need to evacuate, and I would be holed up in the furthest upstairs bedroom thinking, "Yeah, RIGHT! Let me put on a pair of jeans first. And some mascara. And brush my hair."

I've been forced to get over my insecurities in recent weeks. One of our neighbors is helping us install new windows. And because he is the one with the expertise and equipment, my husband has made it very clear that we are available day or night.

The first time Dave knocked, I panicked. The downstairs was a complete disaster. We had gotten home late the night before and gone directly to bed, and signs of it were everywhere. The kitchen was clogged with a stroller, car seat and dishes I hadn't put away. The hallway had a basket of dirty laundry waiting to go to the basement. And I hadn't even kicked the dog toys under the coffee table yet.

I reluctantly answered the door, baby in one arm, the other waving frantically trying to explain away the mess, as if the more I flailed it, everything would magically disappear.

Being the easygoing guy he is, Dave just laughed, telling me not to worry about it, and hauled in his tools.

Even worse, installing the windows required moving furniture. Which, much to my absolute horror, revealed pine needles leftover from our Christmas tree.

"Oh man!" I said, mopping at it with my socks because my hands were full. "How embarrassing!"

Then Dave said something that was so freeing, it felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders.

"Why would you be embarrassed?" he asked. "It's a house, not a museum."

And, just like that, I relaxed. He was right. Our house is lived in. It's comfortable, welcoming -- a place you can put your feet up.

Now when someone knocks, I still give our living room a once-over, but it's not as frantic and dire as it used to be. So what if the meter reader sees my couch cushions a little askew? So what if a Girl Scout notices a dog toy in the corner? Who cares that the afghan was being used?

When I went over to Dave's house a few days later, where he and my husband were installing more windows, his wife answered the door.

After Laura invited me in, she immediately asked me to excuse the mess, pointing to a solitary basket of laundry on a nearby table.

"Oh, please," I said, laughing. "At least yours is clean and folded!"

It really is part of our DNA.

Friday, May 23, 2008

When infinity doesn't seem so desirable

Jerry came home yesterday afternoon saying that if we hit the lottery, the first thing he would invest in is a new service that freezes a sample of your dog's DNA and will make a clone when you request it for the low, low price of $100,000.

He spent the afternoon talking about how great it would be to know Toby could live on for eternity by freezing his genes and making one clone after another.

Our neighbor was over to continue work on the Great Window Extravaganza of 2008, and when the guys got hungry, I made them lunch, setting their sandwiches on an end table in the living room so they could eat while they worked.

Only a few minutes passed when Dave shouted, "Aw, TOBY!"

"What happened?" Jer asked.

"He ate my sandwich," Dave said, laughing.

Apparently Toby had stolen half of Dave's grilled cheese, ran away and horked it down before anyone could stop him.

"JESUS, TOBY!" Jer said, shaking his head, "and I wanted to CLONE YOU!"

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Do you like waffles?

As I was perusing Hallmark.com to find e-cards to send to Gisela and Julie, I came across one that just HAD to be sent to someone.

It was so random, so bizarre, so Gisela.

(View it here.)

So I filled it out, explaining that I had no idea what the hell kind of occasion the card was designed for, but it just screamed to be sent to her inbox.

Later that day, she wrote back:

WTFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF?!?!?! super random!!!

PS- This was hard to watch, as I am on a strict low carb diet :-P

Note to self: Don't send dancing waffles to friends restricting their carb intake. Especially when the intention of the card in the first place was TO CHEER THEM UP.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

If only hugs could be mailed

I have always been a believer that positive thoughts can create a flow of energy that can be sent to people who really need it. My mom and I call it "sending good vibes."

There are two people in my life right now who need to be surrounded with that energy, and if you feel so compelled, I would love it if you would join me in sending it their way.

First, my friend Julie gave birth to her daughter Shobha Grace two months early after complications with pre-eclampsia. It is a very dangerous condition of high blood pressure that endangers both mother and baby, so her doctor performed an emergency C-section May 15. Miss Shobha weighs 2 pounds, 9 ounces, but is breathing on her own, and Julie tells me she is very expressive.

I rarely find myself at a loss for words, particularly when I'm at a keyboard and have the opportunity to mull them over, but I guess Julie's birth story really speaks for itself. And she's overcome tremendous adversity in her life, so I have no doubt she'll get through this. Especially with the help and support of her husband, family and friends.

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The other deserving recipient of good vibes is my friend Gisela whose dog, Lola, was recently hit by a car. If there was ever a pair destined to be together, these two are it. And there's no way to express just how deeply she has been affected by Lola's accident.

The good news is there wasn't any irreparable damage to Lola's spinal cord and she is now at home after a few days in the veterinary hospital. She may, however, have permanent nerve damage to one of her paws and can't use it to walk or play, which is hindering her recovery and affecting her usually lively spirit. The doctors have said it will likely take four to six weeks of healing, and that's a long time for a very concerned dog owner who is the definition of impatient.

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Please send Julie and Shobha and Gisela and Lola some love. Both moms read my blog regularly, so feel free to leave a comment for them here. I'm sure it will lift their spirits.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What the company's ads really should say

Our latest home renovation is a lot more significant than any of the other cosmetic upgrades we've done since moving in, if a lot less flashy.

We're installing new windows.

This winter, I had to make sure I was sitting before opening our gas bill. Each month it seemed to get higher and higher, and usually came the day after we had just replaced all four tires on Jerry's car or paid our homeowner's insurance, causing me to wonder if we should start investing in lottery tickets.

Add in the fact that we have a 107-year-old house with original windows, some of them cracked from trying to pry them open when they swell in the summer heat, and the dollars were flowing out of the house. On really cold nights, I could actually see the blinds moving.

Not knowing a thing about windows, we mentioned it to our neighbor who installs a few new ones on his house every year -- a project Jerry helped him with last summer.

Being the awesome guy that he is, Dave agreed to help us order from a wholesaler and install them. A few weeks later, 10 gigantic double-hung windows were delivered to our door and are currently leaning against the ones they will eventually replace.

If you had asked me even five years ago how I would feel about investing in windows, I would've shrugged. Why buy windows when the world is filled with shoes I don't own yet? And the new summer clothing collection just came out at my favorite store? And, ooh! This pink handbag!

But now I'm all, "WINDOWS! WE'RE GETTING WINDOWS!" to anyone within earshot. I may even put a picture of them next to Allison's on my desk at work.

The task is tedious. Jerry and Dave installed one a few days ago and it took about three hours to pry out the old one, remove the century-old pulley system, fill the space with insulation and wedge in the new window, sealing it with caulk.

It was on a cold rainy day and the chill in the house that resulted from the gaping hole in the living room was a little unpleasant, but I didn't even care. The window is beautiful. We got a free argon gas upgrade that blocks UV rays, it opens every way imaginable, has a self-containing screen, and best of all, WILL PREVENT US FROM PAYING TO HEAT THE OUTSIDE.

I'm so in love I might just make out with them.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Never let a good hoodie go to waste

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This is our neighbor Nicholas. I love this picture
because he's missing the teeth Allison has.

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This entire cluster of flowers is about the size of a dime.
I spotted a patch of them in my mother-in-law's yard.

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One of her trees blooms magnificently this time of year.


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I'm surprised Alli's mouth isn't open.
This move is usually followed by a squeal
and a splat of drool as Jerry dry heaves.

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So, years ago, my mom was all, "I got bleach on my sweatshirt,
I have to throw it out." And I was all, "I'll take it!"

Friday, May 16, 2008

Makes it a little hard to avoid the news

Jerry has been summoned for jury duty on Monday and I guarantee it'll play out like this:

Judge: Where do you work?

Jerry: At a local radio station ... and my wife works at the newspaper.

Judge: You're dismissed.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Month 6

Dear Alli,

How is it possible that you keep getting more and more lovable and fun to be around? Every time I sit down to write one of these letters to you, I think, "It CAN'T get any better than this."

But it always does.

You blew my mind this month. Every week was something new -- the laughing, the rolling, forming new sounds, trying real food, the subsequent real diapers, sitting up on your own, and just a few days ago I felt your top two front teeth. Who cares that it was when you unexpectedly bit down on one of my knuckles? I'm wowed.

All of these new ways of interacting makes it next to impossible to prevent my lips from attacking your cheeks. Frankly, if I didn't know they were dimples, I'd think I had kissed a permanent dent on either side of your mouth.

And because you're not old enough yet to wipe your arm across your face and roll your eyes at me like, "Ma, you're EMBARRASSING me," I'm taking full advantage.

Besides, it's your fault. You're just so smoochable.

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I'm not sure which new trick I love the most. Probably your crazy squeals of delight.

I'm proud to say that I earned the first one. We were sitting on the couch together, you facing me in my lap with your toes in the air. Then, completely by accident, you stuck your left foot in my mouth.

When I made a huge production of it and pretended to eat all your toes, your eyes opened wide and you smiled. Then you got really quiet, as if contemplating your next move, and you did it again to see if it would elicit a similar response.

When it did, I watched as the lightbulb of cause and effect came on in your head.

For the next few minutes, you continued to aim your toes for my mouth, squealing and laughing for the first time.

If your first words are "Holy shit," I take full responsibility. I couldn't help but say it to your dad, followed by "THIS IS AWESOME!"

It might be tough to explain to strangers in the grocery store why you would utter that phrase at such a young age, but, well, I stand by it. It really was that surprising.

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You also allowed me to get a little more sleep the past few weeks. Not because you're sleeping longer, but because you FINALLY ROLLED OVER.

When your doctor asked us at your four-month appointment if you were rolling yet and we said no, he sort of huffed and added, "Well, certainly by six months."

So I did what any mother would do in that situation: I obsessed.

You're just so content all the time that you didn't have any motivation to do anything other than what you were already doing. On your back? Fine, no problem. On your tummy? Cool, whatever. Being held upsidown by your father? Wee!

When the deadline started nearing, I went into panic mode. I kept shoving your left arm under your nose and showed you how to kick over from your belly. Then we did it again. And again. And again. Until the drool had spattered all around the room.

And because you probably wanted to punish me for all that forced movement, the first time you initiated it on your own, you waited until I was out of the room. You were on the floor in between the bathroom and the closet. I popped out of sight to grab a shirt, and when I came out, you were on your back.

"You've GOT to be kidding me," I said.

I guess you inherited your father's sense of humor, too.

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Maybe because that milestone was so excruciating, you've decided to go easy on me with sitting. A few days ago, I propped you up at your changing table and you just sort of took over from there. All of a sudden, you were sitting on your own, grabbing for your booger plunger and a nearby tube of Butt Paste.

Now you're happiest when I push you into that position so you can see the world from a new angle. The only problem is, you think it entitles you to the ability to crawl. You'll see something you want to inspect more closely, start to reach for it, realize your arms aren't strong enough to hold you for long, then take a nose-dive into the carpet.

I just pick you up and you try again.

I hope you always maintain that determination and tenacity. You've certainly reminded me to strive for it.

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Kiddo, I can't tell you what a complete joy you are to be around. It's a ton of work, this parenting thing, but the rewards are many.

I spend hours every day trying to teach and show you new things, but much to my surprise, you've returned the favor. If I stop and pay attention, you offer little lessons about life that every adult needs to be reminded of once in awhile. Like never giving up when you try something new, falter and land face first. Like taking pleasure in the little things -- even if it's just a rubber spatula. Or telling the people you care about how much you love them.

I knew the day I met you that you were going to forever change the course of my life, but I had no idea how completely you would become a part of it. Some days I can't believe you've been with us for six months, and other times I can't remember what life was like without you.

It really can't get any better than this.

Love,
Mom

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Next we'll put an old toilet in our front yard and plant flowers in it

As Jerry puts it, he has "Pens fever" right now. "Bad."

For those not in the National Hockey League know, the Pittsburgh team is a few wins away from the Stanley Cup -- the equivalent of a gold medal in the Olympics or having a pair of Manolo Blahniks in your shoe collection.

To mark the team's success, my newspaper put out a six-part poster series that combined to make one giant poster. All last week, Jerry ran out to the porch in search of the latest installment. Then he lovingly placed them in a pile on the dining room table.

When the final piece came today, he moved the candle centerpiece (and the car seat, diaper bag, pile of toys, dog leash and baby blankets) to put it all together.

"It's beautiful," he marveled.

To be honest, it reminded me of the moment the father plugged in the glowing leg lamp for the first time in "A Christmas Story."

"Why don't we hang it up over there?" I suggested, pointing to a bare wall in the living room.

Then Jerry turned to look at me as if I'd lost my mind. Put a sports poster ... on the WALL? With tape? In the same room as the Pottery Barn nut bowl? It would be like seating a homeless man soaked in his own urine at a black-tie White House dinner.

"It needs a frame, right?" he asked.

"No, crazy," I said. "I know you won't want it up there forever, so how about until the final game?"

"AWESOME."

I cut the edges off, taped it together and attempted to stick it on the wall. Unfortunately, our walls are textured, so there was no hope of it staying. It fell within seconds. After suggesting to Jerry that he go out to buy a roll of duct tape and make our house really ghetto, he shook his head.

"No, I can't do it. It's too college dorm room," he said. "It just wouldn't feel right."

I handed the poster to him saying we'd find a way to make it work and figured he'd let it go for now. But after a few minutes, and a whole lot of rustling in the kitchen, I couldn't help but ask what he was doing.

"Nothing."

Right.

I asked him again.

"Nothhhing."

So I picked up Allison where we had been playing on the floor and went to see for myself.

"LOOK! IT WORKED!" Jer said proudly.

He had taped the poster to the edges of the giant frame in the back stairwell.

Covering our wedding photo.

"AND IT EVEN HAS A FRAME NOW!"

Men.

Apparently his "Pens fever" made him delusional.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Jerryisms

After I made mimosas for breakfast on Mother's Day:
"These are so GOOD! If I had known, I would've gotten drunk on these all through college. ... And my puke would've tasted better, too!"

Reflecting on sex while the TV was running and the Pittsburgh Penguins scored in the NHL Eastern Conference Finals:
"It was awesome. The buzzer was going crazy, everyone was screaming ... it was like 54,000 people were cheering me on."

While ordering take out, debating the difference between an Italian sub and a Super Italian sub:
"The super one probably comes with a silk shirt, hair gel and gold chains."

Monday, May 12, 2008

When the meter reader comes, I'll invite her in for play time

It's wonderful as a parent to know that your child is more comfortable with you than anyone else, but Jerry and I are quickly learning that it has its downsides, too.

One afternoon when Jerry and I had just gotten engaged, I remember stopping by his mother's house to drop off some wedding details for her perusal. When I got there, she was outside by the pool and Jer's nephews were lounging on lawn chairs -- the youngest asleep under a beach towel.

Because they weren't completely comfortable with me yet, their demeanor changed when I pulled up a chair. I noticed that they went from being relaxed to sitting up and alert. I remember thinking how wonderful it must feel to be so much a part of a child's life that they can be themselves around you.

Ironically, with my own child, I never realize how relaxed she is with me until I pass her to someone else.

When our neighbor was over a few weeks ago and reached down to pull Allison out of her highchair, she looked at him like, "Um, right, and you are?"

Then, after I momentarily walked out of the kitchen, she started wailing. When I came back a few seconds later, she was reaching for me in a panicked frenzy.

The trouble is, it doesn't stop there. She panics with everyone other than me or Jerry. It broke my mother's heart when it took Alli awhile to warm up to her on my last visit home. And even my mother-in-law, who sees her at least once a week, can't hold her without generating a crying fit.

Last night while we were at her house for a few hours, we joked that it was like an on and off switch. The moment she hit the arms of me or Jer, she'd stop.

I know a lot of it has to do with the fact that she isn't in day care. Plus, our work schedules dictate a rather secluded lifestyle. Not many of our friends can hang out on weekday afternoons, which happens to be the majority of our free time. Add in the fact that she doesn't have any other siblings and it's the perfect recipe for an infant with no social skills and separation anxiety.

I guess I've been assuming certain things. Like that she's going to grow up to be outgoing and social because her parents are. But if we don't provide a foundation for that, how could I expect it?

The tough part is, I'm not willing to toss her in day care just so she can be with other kids her age. We have lots of friends with children, but they're just as busy as we are. And living in a small town, there aren't any play groups that I know of.

I'm sure the solution is out there, but it's eluding me at the moment.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

It takes one to know one

When I was little, I remember asking my parents why there wasn't a Kids' Day.

"Because every day is Kids' Day," my dad would say.

At the time, I didn't get it. There was no designated day for presents and going to an amusement park just because we were kids. But now I understand. Parents work tirelessly every day on their children's behalf to make sure they have life's necessities and even some niceties.

But now that I'm on the other end, I still haven't identified with Mother's Day. Even though it's the role that most defines me from the moment I wake up to the moment I lay down, and get back up -- again, and again, and again throughout the night.

Over the past few weeks, many of my coworkers had asked whether I was excited about my first go at the holiday.

"Sure," I'd say. But the truth is, it doesn't feel like a good fit. Gold heart pendants with #1 MOM spelled out in diamond chips isn't quite my style. I love being a mother, but it's not something I need to advertise around my neck.

For me, this day feels more about my mom than ever before. Now I know she carried me around before I could walk. She rocked me to sleep when I cried without reason. She encouraged me before I understood what her support meant.

And before her, it was my grandma. And, before her, my great-grandmother. And so on.

This day suddenly feels like a tribute to all of the women before me. And all the others who wear spit-up on their sleeves as a badge of honor. Or muddy fingerprints. Or bank accounts that have cleared checks for everything from little league and medicine for runny noses to car insurance and college tuition.

It isn't about gold pendants and baskets of flowers. It isn't about cards and breakfast in bed.

It's about the women who give tirelessly of themselves out of love every day.

I just hope I can follow in their footsteps.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Doing laundry instead of eating a hot breakfast

One of the things I looked forward to most when I was pregnant was spending weekend mornings in bed as a family.

"She'll be right here," Jer would say of Allison, pointing to the space between us.

As if the thought of her being out of my body wasn't thrilling enough, I envisioned snugly moments and my euphoria would grow. I pictured waking up slowly, lounging around talking and capping it off with a stack of pancakes at the kitchen table.

Reality is a whole lot different.

Take this morning, for example. It's the first Saturday in months that neither one of us has to work or go anywhere. When Alli woke up, I brought her into bed with us and couldn't have been happier.

"Now THIS is what I'm talking about!" I said.

Jerry was making faces, Alli was smiling and cooing, Toby was stretching and yawning, and I loved sitting against the headboard taking it all in.

Then Allison puked and a huge glob of white spit-up cascaded down her body landing splat on my pillow.

"OH NASTY!" Jer said. "GET A TISSUE!"

Then, right as I was reaching for one, Toby started horking and yakked all over the sheets.

"JEEEESUS!" Jerry said. "Just hand me the whole box!"

That got us all out of bed very quickly, but not before Jerry could say, "So would you like to puke next, or should I?"

Friday, May 9, 2008

We might need HAZMAT training

Allison's farts used to be the exact opposite of Toby's SBDs. They were fun little toots without any incriminating odor. And they were doubly amusing coming from something so sweet and small.

Most of the time, Jerry and I just burst out laughing.

But now they're not so funny anymore. Who knew a sprinkle of dehydrated rice flakes could create so much intestinal turmoil?

Jerry was the first to change a real diaper. One with "food" expulsion. And I'm pretty sure he used the adjectives "horrendous" and "chunky." Then, in all seriousness, he discussed the idea of installing a hanger above her changing table and using it to store a high-grade gas mask. One strong enough to stand up to natural disasters -- which her diapers are quickly becoming.

I brushed him off. Surely he must be exaggerating. It couldn't possibly be that bad.

But now I think his idea might have some merit. Late last night, while I was feeding Allison, she wiggled and farted. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a silly sound that made me smile.

Then it hit me.

Oh the horror.

It smelled like Jerry had given her a bucket of KFC and followed it up with a bottle of nitrous oxide. If there had been a candle burning, the house would've exploded.

The worst part was, I couldn't go anywhere. She had me cornered. What I wanted to do was scream, "HOLY GOD, LITTLE MISS!" and run for some fresh air.

What happens when we start giving her actual food? You know, stuff that doesn't pour out of a box and resemble faux snow for a miniature Christmas village.

Regardless, I refuse to give her asparagus until she's old enough to use a toilet.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Intentional accident

When Toby started inching down the hallway this morning on his belly, occasionally looking back at me to see if I was paying attention, I knew he was feeling better.

He's not allowed in Allison's room when she's sleeping, and Toby has always viewed closed doors as an invitation to investigate. It's taken much effort on our part to make sure he understands that's the ONE door in our house he isn't allowed to headbutt open. And pushing boundaries is a sure Toby trait.

Then, a few hours later when I was making lunch, he was underfoot the entire time, hoping my clumsiness would prevail and he would score an unintentional treat.

And, oops, I dropped a small piece of ham.

It's good to have him back.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Resisting the urge to make him a steak

When I got home from work last night, Toby broke habit and actually got out of bed to greet me.

Allison was up, so I was in her room feeding her. Toby appeared, silhouetted in the doorway from the light at the other end of the hallway, and just sort of stood there for a minute. Then he ambled in, much slower than usual, and dropped down at my feet, resting his head on my toes.

That afternoon, Toby had gone to the vet for a few vaccinations. I knew he would likely be sore, but this time they really slowed him down. When Jerry had called to say goodnight, he told me that Toby was so tired and out of it that he had opted to skip a walk. That would be like a gambling addict passing up on a winning lottery ticket.

After I set Alli back down in her crib and went to close the door, Toby didn't even attempt to move. So I walked over, picked him up as gingerly as possible, and placed him on the floor in the hallway.

We sat there for awhile, just me and him, and he was shaking. His ears were back. He couldn't even sit the way he normally prefers because his legs ached. Everything about his body language made me pain for him -- our usually exuberant, energetic, crazy dog.

For Toby, the night was long. He got up with Jerry at 4 a.m., but had trouble making it down the steps. Jerry placed him back into bed with me, knowing he'd never make the leap on his own, but then he just sort of limped around and eventually found a spot in the crook of my knees.

In the morning, I knew it was bad when a doorbell rang on TV and Toby didn't even lift his head, let alone growl and bark and look at the door as if it had just slapped him in the face.

As the day has progressed, he's starting to show signs of improvement, but it reminds me to appreciate Toby's young, chaotic days before they're all gone.

The next time he digs a dirty sock out of the laundry basket, I'll probably just smile.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

No truer words have ever been printed on a bib

When I was visiting my parents' house a few weeks ago, my stepdad kept remarking how Allison was really eyeing my food with interest.

Then I held up the salt shaker and she was just as eager to grasp that and cram it in her mouth.

"Point taken," he said, laughing.

But the truth is, over the past few weeks, I've noticed she gets frustrated when I don't allow her to grab whatever food I'm eating. And because she's already six months old if you're counting by weeks, I figured her digestive tract would be developed enough to handle her first "food."

I say "food," because it's really not. It's just the tiniest amount of single-grain rice flakes mixed with a few tablespoons of boob juice. It was reminiscent of the days I tapped a few sprinkles of fish flakes on top of my goldfish aquarium.

But regardless of whether it can be considered "food" or not, it's a big deal. So, we did what any first-time parents would do when encountering a milestone in their child's life: we charged up the video camera battery.

And then prepared the food, got out a bib and washed the spoons and stuff.

I'm not sure if it's because we have been giving Alli a measuring spoon to play with recently, or because she was completely starving, but she attacked her "food" with gusto. By the second spoonful, she was grasping it and putting it into her mouth on her own, making the job of not spraying it all over the walls and ceiling very difficult.

Jerry captured most of it on a ridiculously shaky video that makes me feel like I'm watching "Blair Witch Project" -- only with less snot and more drool. A few times the camera zooms to the ground while he admittedly looks for the dog, then snaps back to Alli when I say, "Whoa! Did you get that?"

No. No he didn't.

And he didn't get Toby either.

So I took over the camera duty.

By the time Jerry and I traded spots, Allison was coated in it. At one point, the puddle on her bib was bigger than the puddle in her bowl, so we just started scooping out of her bib and putting it back in her mouth. Then it cascaded over her lips back to the bib and we started the process all over again.

It was awesome.


A little more than halfway through, Alli nearly impales herself with the spoon, and her hilarious reaction -- an involuntary single eye twitch -- is like watching the body's natural instincts at work.

Like, "HEY, DUMMY, DON'T TRY TO FORCEFULLY SHOVE THAT THING THROUGH THE BACK OF YOUR SKULL!"

And, if you listen carefully, in the background you can hear Toby as his collar hits the side of his metal bowl, then the scatter of kibble as he drops his food on the floor.

He's saying, "LOOK! ... HEY! ... OVER HERE! ... I CAN EAT ALL BY MYSELF, TOO!"

Monday, May 5, 2008

Looking into the mirror instead of around it?

Even hearing the words "postpartum depression" pisses me off. What's there to be depressed about? I have a beautiful healthy daughter, a very hands-on husband who does more than his fair share, we're both employed in an economically uncertain time, and we have a roof overhead and food on our plate.

Every day I edit stories at work about people who have it far worse than me. Like the one about a teenage mother in Afghanistan whose much older husband killed her 3-year-old son in front of her, then beat her so badly with a rock that she only has six teeth left. Then he cut off her nose and ears. Why? She went out in public without permission. And because disobeying your husband is a crime, she is the one in jail. Where she just gave birth to a daughter she has to care for in a cell.

I have too much knowledge about the world around me to allow myself to be depressed. It would just be a slap in the face to people who have every right to be. Like the spoiled rich kid throwing a temper tantrum over a toy because it's the wrong color.

Besides, depression is an angry, isolated place. I've been there before.

I remember days when I intentionally cut myself and couldn't feel the pain. I remember thinking no one would even care if I died. I remember not being able to laugh, not wanting to get out of bed and feeling alone and empty.

And what would falling back into that now say about my daughter? That she's not what I expected? That the challenge is too great? That I'm not strong enough? Not capable?

After everything I went through to have her?

There are women all around the world who would love to be in my position. Who struggle every month to conceive and spend thousands of dollars on ovulation kits, hormone therapy and embryo implanting procedures. What would my being depressed say to them?

But the truth is, a small voice inside kept telling me there might actually be some substance behind the concept of postpartum depression, and that I shouldn't automatically dismiss it.

It was a big step just to Google the words. It was like I was validating it. Giving something merit I didn't want to believe in.

I almost couldn't believe what I found. A bulleted list on a government-run site was like looking at my worries in print:
  • Feeling overwhelmed with a new baby to take care of and doubting your ability to be a good mother.

  • Feeling stress from changes in work and home routines. Sometimes, women think they have to be "super mom" or perfect, which is not realistic and can add stress.

  • Having feelings of loss — loss of identity of who you are, or were, before having the baby, loss of control.

  • Having less free time and less control over time. Having less time to spend with your partner and loved ones.

And the symptoms? Lets just say I can relate.

  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Feeling sad, hopeless and overwhelmed
  • Having no energy or motivation
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Trouble focusing, remembering or making decisions
  • Feeling worthless and guilty
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities

Maybe it's denial, but I still don't think I have it. Sure, I'm overwhelmed and stressed, have trouble maintaining focus and keeping up my energy, but I'm completely and thoroughly sleep deprived.

Besides, I still feel indescribable joy and fulfillment every time I look at my daughter. Her smile is like a contact high. And seeing her and Jerry together? My heart rate nearly doubles.

Even so, I forced myself to scroll through the rest of the information on the web page. I'm going to try to stop putting pressure on myself to do everything. To hell with the Easter decorations -- they made it to the attic steps and that's where they'll stay.

The "helpful tips" list also advises talking about it and joining a support group.

Translation? Blog.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Trying to remind myself how green my grass really is

It's hard enough to admit it silently in my head, let alone put it in writing, but I've been struggling, really struggling, the past few weeks with everything.

I'm sure a big part of it is the sleep deprivation that comes with caring for a baby. I haven't had more than four consecutive hours of sleep in months. I don't even remember what feeling well rested is like anymore. I walk around in a constant state of semi-alertness, trying my best to function.

It's affecting every aspect of my life. I've made a few stupid mistakes at work, which eats at me so badly that it screws up what little sleep I am able to get, further exacerbating the problem. I am a perfectionist to a fault -- which usually makes me a good editor and an annoyance to live with. I'm trained to find grammatical errors, but it also means my placemats HAVE to line up with the tiles on the kitchen table or my eyebrows start to twitch.

But lately my placemats are in total disarray and covered with baby toys, which frankly, is like a microcosm of my life right now.

I go from home to work and back again feeling like there's never enough time to get anything done adequately. The laundry. The dishes. Finally getting around to organizing the back closet. Scheduling a vet appointment for Toby. Putting the last bit of Easter shit away. Yes, Easter.

And my personal wants and desires? Like sitting down without interruption to write for more than 20 minutes? Or maybe flipping through the last three issues of Real Simple I have yet to crack open? Or doing my nails?

All that now falls last on the priority list. Which usually means never.

I know it's part of being a parent, working full time at abnormal hours and owning things that need upkeep and maintenance. But it certainly takes its toll.

I've had a few mini breakdowns late at night in my car where I've cried so hard that my breath chokes me. I wonder if I'm ever going to feel like I'm in control of my life ever again. Whether I'll ever feel like my time is my own. That I'm not just going from one set of tasks to another in a vicious cycle that saps every ounce of creative energy out of me.

But every time I hit a low point, I think of something an older woman said to me a few weeks ago.

When Jerry and I went to vote, which happens to be at a nearby retirement facility, a group of women who live there filed in behind us. As we walked past to leave, with baby and dog in tow, they all gravitated toward Allison, peeking into her stroller. Some asked questions, others offered advice, but one woman's words will forever stay with me.

She looked at me and my growing family and her eyes filled up.

"I'm so envious of you," she whispered.

At the time, I didn't know how to respond. I think I brushed it off with a joke about dirty diapers and a yard full of the same, but I knew what she meant. She probably would give anything to have one more hectic day of racing to do laundry, dishes and put the Easter decorations away -- all before an eight-hour work shift and a restless night of ups and downs with a baby.

What I should've said was "Thank you."

Her perspective keeps me going on the days I feel like giving up.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Some people just don't get it

This is a must-read if you're a mom blogger.

The excerpt that most speaks to me:

Will you resent me for this website? Absolutely. And I have spent hours and days and months of my life considering this, weighing your resentment against the good that can come from being open and honest about what it's like to be your mother, the good for you, the good for me, and the good for other women who read what I write here and walk away feeling less alone. And I have every reason to believe that one day you will look at the thousands of pages I have written about my love for you, the thousands of pages other women have written about their own children, and you're going to be so proud that we were brave enough to do this. We are an army of educated mothers who have finally stood up and said pay attention, this is important work, this is hard, frustrating work and we're not going to sit around on our hands waiting for permission to do so. We have declared that our voices matter.

My comment, buried at No. 560, sums up my thoughts:

This is an issue all of us who write publicly -- about our children, no less -- wrestle with on a regular basis. I think it's easy for those who don't participate in the blogging community to point fingers and speculate how detrimental it's going to be to our children's social and mental well-being in the long run, but to me, it's just a scapegoat.

I liken it to this analogy: Blogging is like any tool -- when not used with care and precaution, it could be harmful and damaging. But when used correctly, think of all the amazingly beautiful things it can build.

Bravo.

That said, hopefully I'll have a little more time (and oomph) to write more soon. Thank you for all of your ideas and suggestions on the last post.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Non-sleeping beauty

I've run into an issue that I'm hoping some moms can weigh in about. Alli is usually a really great sleeper, but the past two nights have been horrendous. She woke up almost every hour last night -- every two hours the night before -- and I'm more than a little ragged.

Here are my thoughts:

  • Either she's hitting a growth spurt and is trying to increase my milk supply.
  • She's learned that I come instantly when she peeps, so why sooth herself back to sleep when mom can do it for me?
  • She's ready to start on solids. (But, I'm not convinced on this because she's fine all day.)

Thoughts?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Zipped up without feeling like I was wrestling an anaconda

Lots to write about and no time, but one thing just can't wait:

I'M BACK IN MY PRE-PREGNANCY JEANS!!!

Woot!