Saturday, December 30, 2006

the in-laws

I'm at my in-laws. We've been here for a few days, which is why I haven't posted.
This is our first trip out of San Diego with Lucy. It was a Major Event. How major I sort of anticipted, but was, of course, compltely unprepared for.
Actually, it felt major for the first day and a half. Then it felt kind of less major. Turns out babies don't like change so much for the first day of travel. Who would have guessed? So her sleep was off, and she was overwhelmed by all of the smiling Caliri/Calire faces. (For those of you who don't know why my in-laws spell their name differently than us, ask me why sometime. Funny story. Very Calire/i of them.)
So of course when Lucy was off, I proceeded to have a nervous breakdown the first night. By the second night, however, I was an old hand at Being Out of Our House. Today I'm rather blase.
I wish I could do without the nervous breakdown.

One reason I was a stress case the first night was because my in-laws live in a very (very!) cold house. It is a former chicken coop. Literally. (Mostly. On the land plans at the county clerks, this house is listed as being a chicken coop. My in-laws have lived here for 30 years, and they have never kept chickens. I'm not sure if it's converted from a coop or on the grounds of what used to be a coop). The structure itself is very poorly built. We think it's basically stuccoed concrete bricks. With no insulation. The windows (those that are solid glass) have gaps around the panes. In the bedroom where we usually sleep, there are handy slat windows--slats of glass that you can open and close with a lever, sort of like blinds. Which means they never fully close.
It gets in the 40s at night in Ojai. There's not much keeping the cold from seeping into the house. Though there is a heater in the bedroom, it has never been turned on in the time I've been around (6 years), so's I can remember. Many things in the house don't work properly, so why would the heater? (We found out on the second day that it does actually work, but only has one setting--sweltering. With a baby, this would have been preferrable to Ice Cold).
Donna, my sweet mother-in-law, has really thick down comforters that are great for adults, but not so great for small babies. So we had Lucy in about six layers + hat, and her hands were still ice.
To make a long story short, we figured out a better solution, involving a space heater, for the second night. And tonight.
We leave tomorrow on the train. Much as I'm glad to make the trip so Lucy can see everyone (and meet her aunt and uncle and cousin for the first time) I will be glad to be back in our conventional, boring suburban duplex with functioning central heating. And insulation.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

out without

There was a major milestone at our house last night.
We left the house...without Lucy.
Some friends of mine from high school got together in Solana Beach after Lucy's bedtime, so my parents came over and made sure she was sleeping okay while we hung out...sans our daughter.
It felt surprisingly normal.
Of course, she went to bed super early (not because I wanted her to, just because she was out of her mind tired) and then woke up at 9, 1, 3, and 6. Not the most auspicious night.
Luckily, I was able to at least doze through her nursing and felt okay this morning.
It felt good to be able to have a calm outing.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

no room

Going to the Christmas service at our church didn't go so smoothly today.
Walking up the steps to the sanctuary, I felt like calling out, "Merry F'ing Christmas" to everyone.
Very festive. It's what Tiny Tim would have said, right?
So here's what happened. Dyami went out to buy some last-minute Christmas gifts (no, not because he procrastinated, but because both of us found it hard to get gifts this year...too exhausting). We had decided to go to the 3 pm service, since it would be less crowded then the other afternoon service, but still before Lucy's bedtime.
I asked him to get back home by 2 pm. Because even though the service is less crowded, it is still packed. So we needed to leave by 2:15 or 2:20 at the latest.
Except I didn't actually say that last part. I mean, wasn't it obvious? (For those of you unmarried people--things are never as obvious as they seem).
So he got home at 2:30 after very successful and helpful shopping. I had managed to get ready with Lucy in the sling. And right as Dyami pulled in, she fell asleep.
We've been trying hard not to wake her from naps. But we had no choice. There were no other good services that worked with her bedtime.
So she wasn't too happy on the car ride over. We managed to make it into the church parking lot without getting to an accident. That was an achievement.
I calmed her down (calming myself down was another matter) and put her into the sling.
Then Dyami and I had a fight about something somewhat mundane.
I stormed off towards the church. He followed, frustrated. We hurried up the steps into the sanctuary. Go into the building.
Did I mention how I'd known the service would be packed? There was no room.
It occurred to me, moving through the aisle, that my post about feeling like Mary was very apt (with a bit of grandiosity thrown in). No room! Mom and baby and no room!
I started crying and rushed out of the sanctuary. I went into the cry room. Amusingly, this room was designed for crying babies, not moms, but it works in a pinch.
I managed to get a hold of myself after a minute and went back out. We tried upstairs in the balcony. Still no room--until we tried the left side, and found two seats in the first row!
And I'd forgotten I mostly stand and rock Lucy during church services to woo her to sleep.
Another happy ending: she did fall asleep, so she got her nap anyway.
And I was crying during a lot of the service, but I wasn't mad at Dyami anymore.
And the children's choir sang, and that made me a little weepy too. (In years past, I've thought the children were a little cheesy. This year I was completely enthralled. Look at the wee choir! Omigod they're so cute. In a few years, Lucy will be up there. Sob, sob.
And funnily enough, worship is always more meaningful when I'm poor in spirit. We sang "In the Bleak Midwinter": the last verse starts--"What should I bring him, empty as I am?"
I could quite identify with that verse.
Merry Christmas, f-ing or otherwise. God bless us, every one.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

the new bedtime ritual

Well, people, with no further ado, I introduce the new bedtime ritual.
Tah dah! (applause)
First off, we start a lot earlier. Now she is going to bed at 6:30 pm. We are the early bird special dinner hour people. I think Dyami has started wearing his pants up around his ribcage. With white shoes and black socks.
It's a little less involved. No swaddling, no squeezing every last drop of poop out of her. We have found she sleeps okay without these interventions. And that sometimes she sleeps poorly despite them. Well, and she refuses swaddling.
I still nurse her to sleep. This usually takes over an hour. I wish it were shorter, but it's pretty consistent. At some point (maybe when we don't care about the amount of time takes to get her to bed?) we may try Other Methods of putting her to sleep. But nursing so reliable. Reliable/long vs. Unproven/possibly shorter in the long run? Remember, I'm not good with unknowns.
I wait until her breathing slows down and then I unlatch her. Usually it takes a couple tries for it to work. And then I verrrryy carreefullly get out of bed. Dyami helps (after wedging myself in place with pillows, it's not so easy to move).
Usually, she wakes up again, once or twice, and I have to go back in there and nurse her some more.
The biggest change is that I'm more relaxed. A few weeks ago (or was it a month or three days? It's all very fuzzy) I was complaining about spending two hours in the dark by myself. Now I don't notice it so much. I was even okay with Dyami closing the door on me tonight. Time really goes pretty quickly while nursing (unless you have to pee, and then it slllllllooooooowwwwws down.) I don't know why. I think it's kind of like birth: God grants us a sort of time warp as moms.
Oh, I was remembering a funny story about my birth while in the bedroom. It's a little gross, but it makes me laugh.
So my labor was extremely short (3 hours), and I drank a bunch of fluids during, to keep my strength up. It didn't seem like more than a few sips, but a few sips between every contraction is a lot of fluid when the contractions happen every minute or so for three hours.
For those of you who haven't been through labor, it's kind of a carnival down there at that end of your body. So you kind of tune out the more mundane body cues, like peeing.
At one point, I remember shuffling to the toilet because my midwife, Andrea, said I needed to pee. It was news to me, but I was pretty obedient at that point. I think I got about three drops out when a new carnival ride started: pushing.
I promptly forgot about peeing.
So by the time Lucy was actually out of my body, I probably had several gallons of fluid inside of me. I was laying on our bed, and the midwives were cleaning me up. "You probably should try to pee again, Heather," said Andrea. "It's okay to go on the bed. There are a lot of absorbant pads down."
I wrinkled my brow. How did one pee again? I thought for a long time, and finally, some muscles clicked.
Well, the juices flowed.
A lot of juices.
"Hey, Andrea," I said. "Ummm, you might want to get some more absorbant pads."
The midwives (Andrea and her assistant, Sarah) were facing away from me. I was laying down on the bed. It seemed like a lot of fluid to me.
"It'll be fine," Andrea said, not turning around.
I couldn't move, but I could feel a small lake of pee traveling up towards my armpits. "Okay," I said, still obedient. (After everything that had happened in the last three hours, pee getting in my armpits was No Big Deal.)
A minute later, Andrea turned around. "Ohmigod," she said. "Sarah, get some more absorbant pads."

Wow, that was a long time ago.

Friday, December 22, 2006

the problem

Maybe the problem is that there is no problem.

Exhibit A: My baby is happy.
Exhibit B: My baby is healthy.
Exhibit C: She barely cries at all.
Exhibit D: She sleeps through the night (last night 11 hours straight. Man, how does she do it?)
Exhibit E: She naps. A lot, for uncomfortably short periods of time. On me, so I don't get a break.
Exhibit F: Despite Exhibit E, she does not seem sleep deprived (Exhibit D, and the usual baby tiredness at the end of the day).

I realized today that my anxiety about her naps (besides the no-break frustration) was that I kept asking myself if Exhibit E was Normal. Is it Okay? Is my child having some sort of Problem? According to some charts, my baby is not Usual at all.

I called my sister, Katie, a mom to a lovely 6-year old. "I feel like I'm doing it wrong," I told her.
She was very supportive. "There is no wrong way, Heather. You'll drive yourself crazy thinking that way. Kids are all messy and un-neat and..." she trailed off.
Can you guess who is the Neat, Organized one in our family? "You mean, I can't just figure out the Right Way and get an A in raising Lucy?"
She laughed at me. With me. Something.

I mean, I don't want Lucy to nap 5x a day for 30 minutes when she's one. But somehow, I doubt she will.
And I would love some breaks during the day. But I do have a very small baby. Perhaps me wanting them is sort of--unrealistic? For my baby at this time?

So I can't do housework right now, really. So I can't cook, much. So what? Will it be like that in two months? Probably not. Two months ago...Lucy was two months old, and I was just going out of the house for the first time. I still felt as though I'd just gone through birth, where as now it's pretty...fuzzy. She didn't smile much then. She didn't crow. (She crows. Often while she's waiting to poop. It's very cute)
Somehow, deciding Lucy does not have a Problem makes me feel better. I was actually relaxed getting her to bed tonight (despite her having major sleep deprivation from nap Experiments today).
I might get used to not having a Problem.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


God, what I would give for some confidence right now.
Most of the time I feel pretty confident about what I am doing. I mean, Lucy is happy, healthy, and she still has all of her fingers (despite an unfortunate nail clipper accident a few days ago. Sorry, sweet pea). She eats well, sleeps, and I'm still sane. Our house isn't spotless, or as spotless as it used to be, but she still is wearing clean diapers (Confession: when she just wets a diaper, I let it dry out and re-use it. It's just baby pee, right?) On the big Are We Surviving? checklist, I feel like I meet most, if not all of the criteria.
We're definitely surviving. And that's fine, and most hours, I'm fine with that.
And then there are the hours where I think if I were just doing x, y, or z a little better, she would be so much easier. Or if not easier now, she would be easier in a month. Or tomorrow. Or in a year.
Take her naps. Before, she was getting them very sporadically, and I didn't understand how they worked. Now, she gets them regularly, and is not as cranky all the time. But she doesn't sleep very long at any stretch, and she has to be on me, and if I don't get conditions just right, she often wakes up. I can only wonder: is this because I'm doing it wrong? Or because this is the stage she is in, and in a day, hour, month, things will be different?
Or peeing in the sink. We inadvertently trained her to pee in our sink. Not in containers, or toilets, or other places (such as apartment complex signs). This was a function of the sink being fairly easy (water right there! nearly self cleaning! Over tile, not carpet!) and her not reacting well when we offered other choices. But now, I wonder--if I only offered the toilet for a week, would she start preferring the toilet? She'd be very cranky if I did that--I'm not sure if I want to go there (and spend even more time than I do holding her). But toilet as a default option would be easier in a lot of ways than the sink (for one, it's more socially acceptable to have your baby pee in strangers' toilets, not sinks). Could I have avoided this whole problem if I'd offered a potty cornucopia those first weeks? We'll never know.
Anyway, all the should have would haves drive me up a wall. And since we're doing the more touchy feely sort of parenting, where we decide that crying is a form of communication, and not manipulation, and that we'll go with Lucy's preferences, within reason (and especially when she's so small and helpless), there's always that niggling question: what is within reason? And what if within reason changes? Or if I need it to change?
Of course, then you change it. But sometimes change is more trouble, see. More of a pain in the short term. And without confidence, you're not sure that short term pain will pay off.
Maybe that's what babies are. Short term pain, for long-term pleasure.
In theory. Talk to me in another two years.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Holiday fervor is a little tiring this year.
Last weekend, our dear friends the Polzins brought us a Christmas tree, and we were able to put it up and decorate (low-key, don't worry) this weekend. So that helps with the festive feelings.
Also, I was actually able to buy gifts and wrap them. No bows, but they are wrapped. Good enough.
And we have family coming over Christmas morning. With the various foods (milk, eggs) I don't know what we'll have for breakfast (the tradition is eggs with buttermilk-heavy coffee cake), but we will have gifts! and festivity!
But we haven't been able to read from our Advent guide much at all. And our trip out of town is stressing me out a little bit (to our in-laws). We want to go so badly I wouldn't think of cancelling, but if staying at home all day with Lucy is exhausting, I don't want to imagine what travel will be like. But maybe the change of pace will be bracing.
All that said, I have little extra energy right now to think holiday thoughts or go to parties or cook special foods. I don't feel very...Christmassy.
I would feel sorry for myself, except I think perhaps my unChristmassy feeling is actually closer to Christmas than any evergreen tradition.
At night, nursing Lucy to sleep, sometimes I sing Christmas carols. A lot of them are lullabies. And they always talk about mother and child, the baby in the manger.
What's more Christmas than infant care? What experience will bring me closer to our Savior's birth than an actual live child to take care of? Sure, she doesn't have blinking lights, but she is a beautiful creation.
It awes me, the more I see of babies, that God chose to become one. Babies are precious, but they're so...helpless. So out of control of their fate--their food. Someone has to do everything for them except breathe and swallow and digest. And they take so long to mature. Years! God was willing to be helpless and stumble and spit up and wet himself and learn to walk. And they're so--fragile, especially at the beginning.
God was willing to let a humble creation, care and feed him. Be base and physical and needy. Oh--so needy.
Just think: Mary learned how to breastfeed with Jesus. That's no small task. She was a first-time mom, just like me. (Granted, she'd probably been around a lot more babies than me, and had a community of moms and family around, instead of our weird nuclear family isolation, but still).
So for this my first Christmas as a Mom, I actually feel pretty Christmassy in my own untraditional way. There are a lot of things I'm impatient with and miss about my old life, but God sure is present with us in Lucy. There will be time for caroling and parties and Christmas cookies. What I have now is the carol: mother and child.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

hypochondriac mommy

Every day I have a new diagnosis for Lucy.
I think my pro mommy friends are slightly bemused by my symptom-checking.
Today I think she's teething. (sure, it's early, but she is advanced for her age). Yesterday she had severe allergies to everything. The day before, she was sleep-deprived.
What might really be wrong?
I may have figured it out....she's a baby! And babies have unexplained crying jags sometimes! And don't always sleep well! And can be cranky and demanding!
The problem with this final diagnosis is that there is no hope of fixing it. She's going to be a baby for a while. And nothing to do to fix what is wrong, if there is nothing wrong. Just a sigh and accept our lot for now and hope that she will grow out of it.
Thankfully, one thing guaranteed about babyhood is that they do grow out of it.

Please tell me they do.

Monday, December 18, 2006


A year ago, I bought fancy salt.
I did not need fancy salt--I just needed some NaCl. But I was at Trader Joe's, and while I love TJ's, they aren't so practical with the household staples. Hand-knitted mango licorice ropes? Check. Ground ostrich in pre-made patties? Check. Baking soda? No dice.
But salt is salt, right? Even at 3.99 a pound?
What I bought was sea salt in a tall blue container. It had a lighthouse on the front. Great, I figured. I need salt, and I have a chance to see what the fuss about gourmet salt is all about.
Why I paid 3.99 a pound I have no idea. I guess I really needed it.

Got the salt home. Opened the top. Poured some into the soup or biscuits or trek mix or whatever it was I was making.
Well, everything except for that last action.
The salt didn't pour. The blue container the stuff came in had one of those swivel salt openings--you know the kind, with the four-option feature: Salt Shaker Holes, Pour Option, Larger Pour Option, and Shut.
Shut worked fine. It was everything else that malfunctioned.
Before this time, I didn't realize salt could malfunction.
Believe me, it can.
See, this was fancy Sea Salt. From the sea, see? And so it was moist. Moist is sticky.
Being Clever Pete, I decided to help the salt dehumidify.
My in-laws use sea salt, and they put rice grains in the saltshaker to help pull out moisture. Sort of like those little silicone packs I find tucked away into new purses and vitamins (why purses and vitamins need the same silicone pack is a topic for another post).
I fed rice grains (brown basmati, also from Trader Joe's) into the Larger Pour Option opening. Two at a time. In a day, I figured, I'd have pourable salt.
No such luck. Now I had sticky salt with grains of rice mixed in.
To get any salt out of the dumb container required a vigorous arm throw. Very vigorous. And the blue salt container was sealed (no Twist Off Lid Option). So I couldn't put it into another container, because to do so would require me to get the salt out of the blue container, which was the whole problem in the first place!!!!

I am kind of an odd mix of stingy and spendthrift. I was willing to pay for Fancy Salt, but once it malfunctioned, I was not willing to throw it away.
So we had phantom rice grains in our food and baked goods for a while. And my throwing arm improved.

Then our regular salt shaker (the one we put on the table) ran out of regular salt.
By this time, the Useless Blue Container was about half empty. It got easier to get salt out of it.
So of course I filled the saltshaker with the sticky salt.
Makes sense, right? Useless salt should be spread around to make life as difficult as possible. And it hastened the demise of the Useless Blue Container. In theory.

Dyami noticed the deteriorating salt situation and came home with regular salt from Henry's.
Now we have three salt containers, only one of which really works well. Does it surprise you it's the one Dyami bought?
The Useless Blue Container is nearly empty. It's almost easy to get salt (and rice) out of it now.
Maybe when it's empty I'll pour the salt from the table shaker back into the Blue Container. Just to have everything make sense.


What is it with children's toys?
I just re-read the Little House books. Laura's first toy was a corn cob girl.
Anyone know where I can get me one of those for Lucy?

Something about infant/baby/toddler/children's toys scares me. I think it's my aversion to Stuff.
I think I'm going to have to get over this aversion now that I have a child.

Here are my ideas of acceptable toys:
1. corn cob dolls. Okay, any doll. Laura also later got a rag-doll, so that must be okay.
2. blocks
3. books
4. He-Man action figures.
Well, that last one is questionable, but I did have Skeletor as an eight-year-old, so that must be okay.
5. Stuffed animals.
6. Anything that doesn't glow, or beep, or chirp or bark or sing or dance or move unassisted. Those things scare me.

I think I'm a little odd. I know a lot of great parents with a lot of toys that do many of the things in #6. Their children are fine.
I must say, though, that even some of those parents hate the toys their children love so much.
Like my friend Jerusha got this baby doll from someone (in-law, neighbor, friendly axe-murderer.) The doll looked harmless, but when you squeezed it, it laughed.
The doll scared the bejeezus out of Jerusha, and out of me when she showed it to me.
I think its name was Mrs. Chucky.

I would like to avoid the diabolical baby dolls.

Dyami feels much as I do, and has vowed to remove batteries, snip wires, and do whatever it takes to keep our toys silent. Maybe that should be the new motto: toys should be seen and not heard.

Another category of toys/devices that I have mixed feelings about are the My Child Can't Do It Yet, But This Toy Will Help Her Acheive It Early! toys. This includes stuff like walkers and jump jumps and those clever seats that let 4-month olds sit unassisted.
When I say mixed, I mean mixed. Have you ever seen a baby in a jump jump? You have not seen joy if you haven't seen a baby in a jump jump. It's like ecstasy. It's like crack.
It's like Empress Tea.
Thus my mixed feelings.

This is one of the reasons I'm a little nervous about Christmas.
Grandparents. And excited aunts and uncles. (if any of you are reading, don't worry. I know I'm a little crazy).
But everyone wants to give the baby joy. And they want to see their devices/toys used with frenzied abandon!
I want to give them that pleasure in giving.
As long as the toys (or my baby) don't laugh diabolically in the midst of the enjoyment.


I forget what day we're on. But there has been sleep progress.
First, I just have to say I have an amazing husband. The last few nights, I've been ursing Lucy almost to sleep and he's been picking her up, taking her to the hammock, and getting her to fall back asleep if she wakes up. Which she has, every night. He rocks her, he sings to her, he woos her. Even if she's somewhat upset, he's got the magic touch
I am in awe. When I have an awake, upset baby, I pop boob A in mouth B. It's a skill, but it has its limits.
Having Dyami take over some of the night sleep wooing lowered my blood pressure about 20 points. (What percentage of blood pressure would that be? It's good, when writing, to be specific, but not so much if it means you're laughingly inaccurate. Like, what if 20 point reduction meant I was dead?)
Another big shift--Lucy can now almost always be convinced to sleep without my nipple in her mouth.
And--the new night pattern seems to be holding. Bed at 7, wake at 4:30, up for good by 7:30.
And--Dyami and I actually have a few hours to ourself at the end of the day! (Hubba, hubba!)

Now for the griping: I still can't get away from her at all when she's napping during the day. Well, nipple out of mouth kind of counts, but I'd prefer to be out of bed when she's not napping. She's napping right now, in the sling on my shoulder. It's hard to type while slinging.

I forsee another trip to Melissa's, soon. For more encouragement and brainstorming.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

that winged chariot

Time really flies with a little baby. Lucy was a newborn, and then--she wasn't. She has been three months old for nearly a month now, and it seems like about five minutes.
I can tell time is hurrying because the food in my refrigerator gets scary faster.
I just looked in to get a snack, and saw the fennel left over from Thanksgiving sitting in the back of the bottom shelf. For those of you who don't know what fennel looks like, it is kind of celery-ish with feathery green frondy leaf things, and where the stalks join together is this big white bulb which is usually what you eat. For thanksgiving, I made a chicken Provencal recipe with fennel and orange. It was good.
Unfortunately, fennel doesn't seem to be in season for Thanksgiving, because it was the price of gold.
And I had Dyami buy way, way to much of it.
We had about twenty dollars worth of fennel sitting in the fridge.
I used two of the leftovers to make a grilled fish/orange/red onion thing that was good, but that still left two bulbs.
Now to the time hurrying by theme. I keep thinking we just had Thanksgiving, so the fennel can't be past its expiration date.
But it occurred to me, getting out the baby carrots, that T-day was nearly a month ago.
And the fennel is looking a little forlorn there, in the back of the fridge.
Back when the fennel was fresh, Lucy couldn't even turn over.
Today she did a 360 degree flip. It was quite precocious.
So looking at the fennel made me a little misty-eyed. (It doesn't take much, these days).
Oh, fennel. How I miss the days when you were edible!
It made me so nostalgic, I just left it there, wilting, in the fridge.
Well, nostalgic, and it was hard to reach back there with Lucy napping in the sling.
Maybe by New Years we'll start cleaning out those memories.

hack mommy

Hack Mommy is one of the only people who comments on my blog (the only proof I have anyone reads this thing), so it's a little odd writing a post about her. Am I pandering to my audience?
But I have to tell a story about how calm she is. Would that I would learn from her example.
Melissa's three year old, Owen wanted a snack. An avocado.
Hack Mommy tries to help her children be self-sufficient and helpful. "Please go to the kitchen and pick your avocado," she said. "I will come and cut it up for you."
Owen comes back in a minute later. "I got the avocado and a knife," he says, in his cute three-year-old way.
Melissa purses her lips. "Owen, you're not allowed to touch knives. Did you touch a knife?"
Own grins. "Yes," he says, proudly.
I'm thinking of him rummaging through the silverware, picking out a table knife--or yikes! a steak knife.
Melissa goes into the kitchen. Next to the ripe avocado is a chef's knife (almost) the size of my forearm. Melissa, still calm, asks Owen, "Owen, is this the knife you touched?"
"Yes," says Owen.
"Where did you find the knife?" she asks, still calm.
"It was in the dishwasher," he says, still proud.
She looks at me, still (!) calm. "Well, isn't that terrifying."

Friday, December 15, 2006

day nine

Finally! some progress.
First, the dramatic--I'm not quite so grumpy. I'm not sure what happened. Sage wisdom from two pro mommies helped. Sarah reminded me to try to relax and surrender into the work I have to do (ie take care of Lucy) and let go of the work I don't have to do (ie laundry, cleaning, and taking the last class for my degree next semester). I'm trying to relax, and less work certainly helps me not resent the work I can't hand off.
And Melissa helped me see that I don't have to be quite so obsessive, sitting in dark rooms for hours. I can take breaks, even if it means Lucy doesn't sleep quite so quickly.
And small incremental progress also helps improve one's mood. Lucy still can't stay asleep during the day if I'm not next to her, but she at least slept decently today unattached. Thanks, daughter. My nipples thank you, too.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

day eight

If you couldn't tell, my posts vary wildly in mood depending which nap you catch me after. Right now I am feeling euphoric. I just nursed Lucy to sleep, popped her off, managed to get up out of bed, and keep her asleep after only 30 minutes in the dark.
I am obviously a genius, and have perfectly executed my Sleep Plan.
(Hopefully I will finish this post before she wakes up in ten minutes and foils my plan to watch The Office tonight.)
Today was a day of little nap success and some friend encouragement. Luckily, friends are super great and actually make up for a day of crappy naps.
Lucy is smarter than I want her to be. I think she realized very quickly I was out to Change Her Patterns. And she decided (also quickly) to Resist My Efforts.
Thus when I wasn't trying to pop her off every time, she would also do so on her own. And when I wasn't trying to get her to sleep quickly, she would.
When I started trying, all hell broke loose.
Last night I nursed her in the dark for 2 hours whil I was awake, and 2 hours while I was asleep.
That is a lot of hours! And when I woke up at midnight (after 4 hours of near-continuous nursing) she was still latched on, going strong! And I had been in bed 5-6 hours during the day for similarly unsuccessful naps! That is why my post was so unwitty last night. She had nursed the wit right out of me.
Luckily my hack mom friend, Melissa, lives within walking distance, so after 4 more unsuccessful naps today, I walked over there and she bucked me up like a good little camper.
She reminded me that I don't have to do everything obsessively. Like spending all day and all evening in bed instead of enjoying my husband's company.
I know this, in my head, but I kept thinking, if I just stayed in bed ten more minutes, this will work. (ten minutes change for the better) Sigh. But ten minutes more certainly would change things...
Motherhood is like that. You think just a little more effort--just that one extra bit--would have made all the difference. And if you don't give that extra effort, and it doesn't work, you beat yourself up. Geez, Heather, if you'd just stood on your head for another half hour, she would be dressing herself by now!
The great news? This post is finished, and my daughter is still asleep. And The Office starts in twenty minutes.
Darn it. I think I hear baby noises.


I've been feeling pretty sorry for myself, because care of a baby is hard.
Then I realized something astonishing.

Quite a few people have parents!

That means, if you do the math, that there are literally dozens, if not hundreds of people around the world struggling with exactly the same problems as me!


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

day seven

here it is, near the end of the day, and I have nothing to post.
This is not true. I have lots of things to post, but they aren't witty.
I don't feel terribly witty right now.
Of course, this could be because I spent the last 45 minutes in a dark bedroom with Lucy, trying to get her to nap.
I sang for a while, which helped.
But though she did sleep some, which met goal #1 of nap (or bedtime--I wasn't sure which it would be), we did not meet goals #2 or #3 of naptime, namely I make some sort of progress with her not napping on me, and I manage to get away for a few minutes of me-time.
I am Sisyphus. Hear me roar.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

day six

Things are better. But I want them to be even more better than they are.
Lessons learned:
  • When Lucy's tired, she acts like she has to pee. Note to self: Do not enrage tired baby by mistaking her thrashing for Full Bladder Syndrome.
  • If I arrange the pillows ahead of time, I can manage to lay her down to sleep even if I wasn't in bed to start with. This frees me from spending the whole day in the bedroom (I'm a hermit, but not that much of a hermit).
  • Being in the sling nicely substitutes for a nap while out.
And progress:
  • She at least sleeps some in the bed by herself. The theory is, once she gets used to that, she will sleep for hours (not minutes) in the bed by herself.
  • She is not as sleep deprived. Happier baby equals happier mommy.
  • Because of the above, I am once again able to eat, sleep, do a load of laundry or exercise for bits of time during the day. This is a good thing.
  • I have had a few heavenly hours to myself the last few mornings. Woo hoo!


Today our big accomplishment was going to get some groceries. Lucy kind of freaked out in the parking lot as we arrived (she's developed a marked preference for one breast over the other, and is extremely offended when I offer the the "inferior" brand). She also needed to pee. So I barrelled through Trader Joe's , crying baby in sling, and got to the bathroom...and it was occupied. Finally, the woman came out, and I went in there--and Lucy successfully peed. And still was freaking out because I was offering Brand X boob. Switch sling, latch on, bounce bounce bounce. Mothers should really have second careers as jugglers.
I managed to shop with her asleep/nursing (we'll just say slurping for short) and decided, upon getting helped back to the car, not to wake her up to go home just yet. No more interrupted sleep for Lucy for a while, if I can help it.

So I got some lunch at Pickup Stix. I evaluated my options, and decided to stand at the counter to eat. I have this protruding bump coming out of my midsection (reminds me of pregnancy), and have to eat left handed because Lucy prefers brand Y boob. Standing up is the easiest option when slinging. However, eating at the counter increases my weirdness factor (which is already through the roof when slinging/slurping). Restaurant counters seem to be purely decorative features these days. Who the heck sits at the counter at Pickup Stix? Much less stands?! Anyway, I got a great view of the girl refilling teriyaki ramekins.

Oh, and did I mention that my super-discrete tops were all in the wash, and I was wearing a sling with a very short tail? With way more boobage showing underneath it than I was comfortable with? And that when lucy was freaking out, she kept pushing her head back, against my very precarious tail cover? I felt like I was shopping naked. I guess I was sort of shopping in naked--I think noone could see anything. If you were there, and could, don't tell me. I don't want to know.

A shout out for these two angelic acts of service:
  • At TJ's, the cashier forgot to ring up a bottle of water I'd opened and stuck in the front of the cart--but she waved it off and just gave it to me for free. Thanks, TJ's lady!
  • I dropped all my change from my purse when I was paying and a nice older lady came over to pick it up for me. She was a little stiff in the joints, and probably I could (almost) have done it easier than her. Then she grinned at me while I was eating my lunch. Granted it made me feel conspicuous, but then, I also was waring a huge blue polka-dotted hump that was sucking on my boob. So go figure.
But we got groceries. Key items: cookies, cereal, and beer. Momma's happy, now.

Monday, December 11, 2006

day five

Besides the anxiety, things with sleep are going pretty well.
All things considered.
On the plus side, changing daytime sleep patterns has not seemed to affect her night time sleep. Unswaddled, she slept from a little after 9 to 6:15 this morning, then has been asleep after I nursed her until now (after 10). She's like the antiEnigizer Bunny.
Also a plus: our new pattern (nursing back to sleep when she pees first thing in the morning) means I have a leisurely breakfast, and some time to do a few things to get ready for the day. It has been almost two and a half hours of me time. This is unprecedented.
Also a plus: I have realized just how sleep deprived she was before. She had been acting super cranky and on-edge all day, every day and I was wondering if she had severe allergies to air. But her sleep deprived crankiness looks a lot like gas-induced crankiness, so that answers a lot of questions.
Also a plus: I re-read sections of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and saw a lot of us in the book. I've already tried some of the methods and though we don't have complete success, I think they'll work if I'm patient and keep trying.

Minus: The black tar-ball of anxiety lodged behind my sternum.
Minus: Having been locked in the house most of the last five days, trying to observe Lucy and figure out her new patterns.
Minus: All of this pattern-changing is a crap-load of work. Right now, during the day, she wakes up after every sleep cycle for her nap (after 20-30 minutes) and trying to get her to sleep past that requires energy and attention for an hour or more. I'm glued to the bed! And not in a restful way!
The problem with the no-cry/gentle approach is it means the parent gets severely inconvenienced (surprise!). This sounds like a decent trade off for no crying, but after the twentieth time of trying something and having it only sort of work, I am almost willing to give up and let the baby figure things out herself. Until college.

But here it is, 10:30 am, and she is still asleep. I have no idea what her sleep patterns need to look like today, but we are a little more sane than at 7 am, so hopefully I can roll with the punches.
Keep praying.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

do not be anxious

Okay, a few days ago I wrote a post I didn't publish. It was a list of ridiculous fears (including Lucy contracting leprosy from us not giving her enough baths). I didn't publish it because it was sort of saggy and lacking energy, and I wanted to write more on it later, when I figured out better items to add to the list.
Now I've decided to abandon the list altogether, because fear is really hard to joke about.
I've been dealing with a huge sticky black tar ball of anxiety the last few days, lodged right behind my sternum. Turns out changing my daughter's sleeping habits produces a crapload of uncertainty. This is not fun at all for me, even though I've been seeing lots of progress with her sleep. See, I kind of like certainty. And (surprise!) there ain't a lot to be had with a baby.
I'll give you an example of anxiety.
Lucy sleeps really well at night. Every night, with very few exceptions. But every evening, when I'm nursing her to sleep, she thrashes around for a while. Every night, without fail, I tell Dyami that she's really agitated and not going to fall asleep. I get pretty upset, and scared, and ask him to pray for us, and then she falls asleep, and I fall asleep and sleep beautifully.
And then we repeat the same dialogue the next night.
The fact that she's changed her patterns the last few days (rather drastically) has not helped my nighttime confidence.
What the heck am I so afraid of? When she wasn't sleeping through the night, I was fine. I didn't die. I even laughed at her cute face when I got up in the middle of the night. So why do I get this scared?
Control, people. I think it's all about control. My lack of it, that is.
Part of the rituals are control. If I do a, b, and c, that guarantees me x amount of sleep. Except with a baby, there are no guarantees, and what worked last night might not work today.
I have a hard time letting go of what worked yesterday. I tried swaddling her last night even though she clearly was rejecting the idea. I got her in bed swaddled for about 30 seconds before I gave up and undid the ties. I considered asking Dyami to swaddle me. I think it might have helped.
Now, this morning, she woke up a little early, and I did our new pattern: nursing her back to sleep for a while. Yesterday it worked great and I got a leisurely breakfast and morning until about 9 am.
Today I tried doing the same thing, and was filled with crushing anxiety that it wouldn't work. I was praying. I finally got her to let go of my boob and fall asleep, but she still thrashed around a little bit every few minutes.
I was kind of hyperventilating as I got dressed and watched her thrash. The voices in my head had a little conversation.
Voice of Anxiety: She's not going to stay asleep.
Voice of Reason: Why not? She stayed asleep yesterday.
VOA: You don't know for sure she will stay asleep.
VOR: Well, no, but that's okay, right? What's the worst that could happen if she wakes up?
VOA: Nuclear holocaust. Global warming. John Tesh on sax.
VOR: You're kidding, right?
VOA: (No answer. Hyperventilating).
It helps if I am not in the room to watch her thrash (and stay asleep). So I got breakfast together and prayed and sang, and cried a little. I'm okay, but it's exhausting to be anxious. And Jesus commands us not to be. I tried to have open hands and an open heart, and to let go of control.
I'm feeling a little better right now, but could really appreciate your prayers.

Luckily, babies only change once, at three months, so after we get through this rough patch, I'm golden.


So I just got back from a walk, where I saved Lucy from mortal danger.
Here's what happened:

We were passing some of the lovely suburban homes in our neighborhood, and I noticed a large red hydrangea bush up ahead. As I was about to pass it, I saw a hummingbird fly around the other side of the bush from me.

I love hummingbirds, don't you?

But I've heard before that hummingbirds, though diminutive and cute, are ferocious.
Then I thought, what if the hummingbird comes around the other side of the bush and flies in front of us, and is startled, and tries to peck us to death?

I started to laugh at myself for my ridiculous thought when I noticed my hand was shielding Lucy's head protectively.

Don't mess with me, hummingbird.

day three

So day two was not a resounding success.
It was better than the alternative, but only because I had a plan.
Even if said plan wasn't working.

Here's how nap time went at ten and three:
Pee/poop, wrap up.
Nurse. Kick slightly. Kick harder. Wiggle uncontrollably.
Does she have to poop/pee?
Poop/Pee (unsuccessfully). Wrap up.
Nurse Kick slightly. Kick harder. Wiggle uncontrollably.
Etc., etc.
This is what we did for two hours (with some floor-time breaks).

God was kind to me and Dyami managed to come home early, so I at least had company (though he was trying to take a nap himself. Poor guy--she sure wasn't making it easy).
At about 5:30, I gave up. She'd had a total of a half hour of sleep. She kept rubbing her eyes, tiredly. I was slightly wild-eyed, myself.

So we tried a morning nap today. Here's what happened:
Pee/poop, wrap up.
Nurse. Kick slightly. Kick harder. Wiggle uncontrollably.
I was running through options in my head. Then it occurred to me.
I undid her swaddle. She stretched her arms out and relaxed.
She nursed to sleep. No more wiggling.
(It's funny, this morning before this happened, I had been wondering: three months is about when they outgrow swaddling. How am I going to know she has outgrown the swaddle?)

So my next problem: she has almost never been moved successfully while sleeping while unswaddled. I've tried. Lord, how I've tried (recently, too).
I took a deep breath and slid my hands under her neck and her bum. I swept her over the floor and into the hammock. She stirred (flailed her arms, opened her eyes).
"Shhhhh," I told her. "Go back to sleep."
To my surprise, she did.
It has now been ten minutes.

Pray, people. Pray.

Friday, December 8, 2006

day two

So it's day two of our nap experimentation. It's tiring, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel.
On the plus side of the equation, she's taken three naps today so far: one at 8 am, one at 1, and 1 starting about a half hour ago. She is still asleep for nap 3.
This is miraculous--because each time, I intended her to nap. There has not been any sleeping on my lap or in the sling today.
On the negative side, I tried putting her down for nap #2 from approximately 10 am-1 pm. It was very stressful, hard work. I collapsed on the sofa by the time she fell asleep. For a half hour.
I think that was hard because she wasn't ready to nap, and so I was going upstream. I learned from my mistake and getting her down at three was a one-shot deal.
And yesterday when she fell asleep at 3, she slept for a loooong time. Nearly two hours. So I'm having a needed respite from baby care.
Also on the positive side: my tea arrived from Canada. From Canada? you ask. Yes. Murchies' Empress Afternoon tea. So smooooooth. I already got Sarah, aka Nature's Mom, hooked on the stuff. Yesterday when I went to Hack Mommy's house, I took five teabags as a thank offering. Heh heh hehheh. I'm a pusher.

Here's the story of Empress Tea.
Dyami and I went to Vancouver and Victoria for our honeymoon. Victoria was my favorite. It's an island, and the seat of government for British Colombia. The downtown is quaint, with a beautiful Parliament building and a hotel, the Empress Hotel.
You can go have high tea there for an obscene amount of money. Even obscene with the favorable exchange rate. It's ridiculous to go have high tea there.
I made Dyami take me.
It was our honeymoon, for Pete's sake!
We were waited on by Luba, a woman with a very convincing European Accent.
We had strawberries with clotted cream (tastier than it sounds) and little sandwiches that dyami hated (blame the mayo) and...
absolutely fabulous tea.
Then, they really stick it to you in the end. They give you a sample pack of the tea they serve. Twelve teabags.
Laced with heroin.

So what could I do when we got home but order myself some more?
That was four years ago.
I order 200 bags at a time.
I let myself have one tea a day. Unless it's a special day.
I think today qualified as one, don't you?

Thursday, December 7, 2006


So my friend Hack Mommy (aka Melissa) posted a comment after I wrote about napping. She said if I was unhappy with my daytime sleep situation, we could talk.
Melissa, did you read my post? Unhappy barely covers it!
No, we've got to not tease Melissa, because she was good to her word and we talked (while her adorable children talked about their trip to Disneyland where they met Jazz Man, the princess).
Boy, did we talk.
Melissa gave me some BTDT wisdom about sleep. How you can gently change a child's sleep patterns if you're willing to endure major unpleasantness for a week, and minor unpleasantness for another week.
(While I was walking over to her house, I had been telling myself I'd do anything that would make things better. I was steeling myself for three weeks of major unpleasantness. So her offer sounded awfully good to me).
But the best part about our talk was that when I thanked her for her sage advice, she said, "Oh, it's not advice. I really don't know what you should do."
Thanks Melissa. Advice is really so toxic for new moms. Even when you are longing for it, it makes you feel incompetent when you get it.
So it wasn't advice: it was brainstorming.
And it bore fruit this very afternoon.

At three pm, Lucy's one regular nap time, I did the usual ritual to get her ready (pillows, phone off, pee/poop her, swaddle) and got into bed with her.
I took a clock into bed with me.
3:05--I let her start eating.
3:15--I took a deep breath and popped her off.
(Remember, I was nursing her for at least an hour before!)
3:16--I picked her up and put her in her hammock bed. This was a big leap of faith for me. Usually, if I'm stressed, I don't move a sleeping baby. But we were resigned to unpleasantness, so what the heck?
3:16:10--Lucy opens her eyes.
3:16:20--Lucy shuts her eyes, turns her head to one side, and falls asleep.

I was flabbergasted. With extra flabber on the side.
She slept for twenty minutes!
This wasn't great, but it was a heck of a lot better than I expected on Day One of the Week of Unpleasantness.
When she woke up, I shrugged, moved my pillows around, and nursed her on the other side.
I casually experimented a bit more. What about nursing her for 8 minutes? (no luck). What about 4 minutes? (again, no luck).
The best part about all this was--I was resting, too. I was finally relaxed, so I just was mellow, nursing with her. It was the best rest I've gotten during her nap this whole week.
Then I tried 10 minutes again.
Moved her to the hammock bed.


Exercised, folded some laundry, mailed a package, did some Christmas shopping, wrote an email. Ate cereal.


the leaves

I swept the leaves out of our front patio yesterday.
(Moment of silence)

What? You all aren't as excited/proud about this as I am?
That's because you don't understand how it was a herculean task.

First off, there were a lot of leaves. I think a month or so after Lucy was born, I got a burst of energy and swept. That was before the sycamore in our front yard started undressing for her long winters' nap.
There were so many leaves that when our friend Chris Hobson came over the other day, we knew he had arrived well before he knocked.
(cue sound effects)
"Swiiiiiish (gate opening over thick carpet of leaves)
Crunch crunch crunch crunch.
Knock knock."
I was ROTFLMAO by the time he came in.
That was when I decided I had to sweep.

So yesterday I worked up the courage and put Lucy down for her nap and headed outside with broom and dustpan.
I kill myself sometimes!
I didn't have any luck putting Lucy down for a nap, so I put her in the sling. Then she wanted to nurse, so I latched her on.
Then I got the broom. Luckily the dustpan was on a shelf, because when she's nursing in the sling it's a tad hard to just bend over and grab things off the ground.

Hmmm. The leaves (and a rich loam/ecosystem formed by their decay) were on the ground.
Does anyone see a problem with this?

Now you understand why this task was herculean.

So what I did, see, was I swept the leaves into (very large) piles. One handed, with a push broom. That was the easy part.
Then I got the cover of the trash can, which is sort of bowl-shaped, and put it on the ground.
I stepped on the cover so that one half of the bowl tipped onto the ground.
Then I swept the leaves over my foot onto the cover. Carefully.
Then I carefully squatted (Lucy's still nursing) and picked up the cover one-handed. I dumped it into the yard waste recycling can.
Surprisingly, my method was somewhat effective. Luckily, leaves are light, and sort of big, so they actually slept decently, as long as I truly swept them over my foot.

In hindsight, it was a good thing I was wearing longish socks and sneakers, because in mid-sweep, a black spider with a very large abdomen crawled out of one of the piles of leaves and onto our planter.
Black spider + large abdomen = black widow?
I leaned forward to try to see if it had an hourglass but remember, I can't lean forward very well.
Then I thought, which is more important? Getting all of these leaves swept up? Or avoiding poisonous spider bites?
The choice was simple.
I squished the spider with my sneaker and kept sweeping.
See, I was almost done!

Once I got the leaves swept up (the yard waste can is FULL), there was still the rich loam (and probably more spiders nourished by it).
This was easier: I swept it out of our patio into the dirt by our front walkway.
It made quite a pile.

By this time, Lucy had fallen asleep.

Some of you might be wondering why I didn't just make Dyami do the sweeping.
1. Because I never remember to ask him while he's home.
2. Because I make Dyami do a lot of unpleasant things for me and I feel bad sometimes.
3. Because I have something to prove.

Dyami is a lovely, lovely man who does a ton of stuff around the house. But he doesn't do yard work usually without prompting. Unfortunately, I grew up in a family of gardeners, and Dyami--well, not so much.
That's not actually accurate. My mom-in-law, Donna, is a very good gardener. But their back yard has a walnut tree in it. Walnut trees kill any plants their shadow falls on (this isn't really an exaggeration). Walnut trees, however are impossible to kill (I think one method involves chopping the tree down, dousing the stump in gasoline and lighting it on fire. No joke).
You could imagine a good gardener gets slightly morose when their hard work ends in a walnut tree swooping over and saying, "Brou ha ha ha ha."
Growing up with an
almost completely abandoned backyard , it's no wonder my husband ends not to see what's happening in ours.

That's why I had to be Hercules.

Let's see:
Hercules made his name sweeping poop out of some stables.
I poop our baby and sweep out the front patio while nursing.
Ha! Who's the hero now?

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

answered prayer

So I thought I was at the end of my rope today. I raked the leaves (I'll tell you about it tomorrow) and tried to get Lucy to nap, but could only do so while she was hanging in the sling (restful for her, not so much for me), and I couldn't go to my writing group, and I am under the weather. And I was out of tea!
I did one of my prayers: "ARGH!" and then, more calmly, "God, please give me patience and strength."

It didn't work right away. So I had a cookie to tide me over.

A few hours later, though, a friend of mine who is also a mom (a fabulous one, whom I won't name since I haven't asked permission) IM'd me and asked for prayer. She said she was at the end of her rope.
Knowing the child-rearing issue she's dealing with, I quickly put my own (end-of-the-day tiredness) issue into perspective.
And started prayer-typing (or type-praying?)
It was all I could do.
I reeeeeaaaaaaallllly hope it helped you, dear friend.
Oddly enough (cue sappy violin music) my prayer for my friend was my answered prayer. Besides perspective, hearing another mom say she was at the end of her rope helped me not be so alone. It helped me count my blessings. And it gave me an opportunity to serve (which, strangely enough, is another spiritual discipline).
Thank you, Lord.
As an added bonus, God also answered my prayer more physically. Soon after I stopped praying for my friend, Lucy woke up and needed to pee.
Holding a baby over the sink after she's been sleeping strapped to your shoulder isn't so comfortable.
But this time, she seemed unnaturally light.
It was a small favor, but those are the ones keeping me sane right now.
If any of you are reading and want to pray for my friend, please do. Pray that she'll have insight and strength and rest and that the issue with her daughter will "magically" disappear.
May your prayers be answered, too.

spiritual discipline

Lucy is bringing me closer to God.
But not by warm fuzzies, as in curling up on your daddy's lap and reading a story.
More like being dragged kicking and screaming.

In olden times, monks and nuns flagellated themselves, wore hairshirts, and slept on beds of nails to get closer to God.
Parenting is not that bad. But it is a similar idea.
Lucy is my spiritual discipline. I think the whole idea behind spiritual disciplines (for example, fasting, prayer, meditation, giving money regularly) is to subvert the "what I want" impulse in favor of "what God wants" impulses.
Boy, we are sure getting the hang of that.

I was eating lunch today (cobbled together from various leftovers, which, luckily, were pretty tasty). Lucy wanted to eat (or pee, couldn't quite tell). Then. In the middle of lunch! The nerve!

If this happened once, twice, or three times a day, I would be completely down with that.
The problem is it happens every minute:
I want to eat. Whoops! Lucy wants to eat first! For forty-five minutes.
I want to sleep during the day. Whoops! Lucy wants to kick me!
I want to go to a party. Whoops! Lucy would rather stay home. Or once we get to the party, she wants to be fussy and irritable.
I want to pee. Whoops! Lucy wants to pee! She taunts me with her free-flowing urine! (Thought: Maybe I'm the one that needs a diaper. Then at least I could go when I want. Hmmm. Still have some oversized adult pads left from after birth. Note to self: look into the adult-sized pads.)
Okay, I'm not that desperate. Yet.

Mostly, I roll with the punches. But it gets hard having your will yanked out of tightly clenched fists every two minutes.

It's even harder because the will-subversion is so unequally shared. For some reason, God designed us so that women had to do 95% of newborn care. I mean, guys can get awfully handy at, say, changing diapers, but they just can't feed them the perfect food. This was a rude awakening for someone who married a guy known as "the baby whisperer".
Why did God design us this way? Wouldn't it be good to have a backup system: ie, guys with functional nipples?
Some people think God is a man.
I think the jury is still out.

All blasphemy aside, maybe that's why God came to earth in the form of a guy. Since he knew that women would get his point a lot more quickly.
Jesus: "Become like little children."
Women in the audience: "I sure sleep, eat and pee like a little child. I've got the brain capacity of a small child from sleeplessness, hormones, and dehydration. Check!"
Jesus: "Take up your cross."
Women in the audience: "A baby is sort of cross-shaped. Check!"
Jesus: "You must lose yourself."
Women: "Boy, he ain't kidding."

So I end up praying a lot, to help with the letting go of will. Not fancy-pants prayers, either. More like, "Argh!" or "@#%^$". Luckily, Paul said when we were unable to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us with "groans that words cannot express."
Boy, he sure wasn't kidding.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

breaking rules

My friend Ted was nice enough to look at my blog. He is blogging too, on our church's website:
He gave me some tips he read in a book.
  • Use as many links and pictures as possible – shake it up – stay away from just text.
  • The shorter the blog, the more readers. About 20% of readers go beyond 100 words of any blog.
Crap! I'm already doing it wrong!

fear itself

Today when I woke up after a full night's rest (thank you, sweet Jesus), Lucy was still. Very still. Unnaturally still.
I poked her.
She didn't move.
I started to panic. My baby died in the night and I didn't even wake up, I thought.
I prodded her less gently and she snorted and wiggled. I breathed a sigh of relief. For a minute.

The worry (about Lucy, anyway) started about five minutes after I got a positive pregnancy test. I had been sick (a 1st trimester symptom!) and had a few buttered rums. They felt great on my irritated throat, but had a bitter aftertaste when I realized I was marinating my unborn child in hard liquor.

I worried about if I was getting enough folic acid. Too much Vitamin A. Whether the salicylic acid on my face cream was causing weird deformities. Whether Dyami would still think I was cute with a huge stomach or saggy boobs. Whether I'd gain 100 pounds. Whether labor would make me cuss at my sweet husband.
Whether I worried too much.
This is true.

And the worst part was I knew (knew!) it would only get worse after Lucy was born.

We shopped for baby stuff, so I read some reviews, and I found a whole other category of worry: Products Marketed for My Child that Might Cause Her Irreparable Bodily Harm. Car safety seats that weren't safe! Thrift store toys that could choke her! Flameable clothing! Death trap cribs!
My sweet mother-in-law got us a used crib (the one currently blocking the puppet spotlight). It did not have the recommended space between slats. It probably had lead-based paint.
I told her we couldn't use it (against Dyami's protests--and despite the fact that Lucy wouldn't be chewing or able to navigate past crib bumpers for a while). She was crushed. Well, disappointed, maybe.
Then when Lucy was born and I saw how immobile she was, I thought, what was I so worried about? We used the crib for a while, and still put her her in it as a containment device while I run to the bathroom. No problem, so far.

I have realized (warning: real confession, one that makes me feel very less then) a lot of my worry about her dying is fear that I will look bad. Fear that people will think I was a terrible mother (for what kind of a mother lets her child die?) Of course, great mothers have to deal with children dying all the time.
If I'm nice to myself, I realize that it's natural that my fear is selfish. I've never lost a child--Not to dwell on the unlikely, but I'm sure I wouldn't really only notice how her death made me look bad. I'm sure I would have other, more pressing concerns.
Also, part of it is that she's so little, and so much potential, so little kinetic, energy. If I think about losing Dyami, I know the things about him I would miss (let's not go there). But I'm still learning my child. Still in the process of falling in love with her. Part of losing her would be losing the joy of seeing her develop. Seeing her walk or eat strawberries. Reading Little House on the Prairie to her (since I basically had children so I would have a larger reading audience).

And at rock bottom, my fear is about not being able to control who she is, what will happen tomorrow (remember Marvin 5: 17) and how well I'll be able to handle whatever life throws us.

The good news is that God promises to be with me no matter what happens. And he is a good God, who wants to give us a fish, not a snake.
I believe this, most days.

Now excuse me: I've got to go make sure Lucy's not chewing on the lead-based paint.

Monday, December 4, 2006

magic sleep part deux

Lucy's asleep right now. It's about 6 pm; when I got up from our nap an hour ago, the sun had just set and the sky was golden gray.
It's a magic hour.
Everything I said about her being a good sleeper isn't quite as true when applied to naps. Naps are very hit-and-miss with us. I'm not sure why. Our hit-and-miss naps give me a window into the world of parents who truly have sleep problems.
It's not a world I care to visit. Window-shopping is just fine with me.
Naps are the closest thing I get to my old life. I could wax poetic about my old life: the eating what I wanted exactly when I wanted it! The going to the bathroom whenever I felt the need! The ability to answer the phone every time it rang if I felt so led! The starting something and knowing I could finish it!
That last point isn't actually true about naps, because they are so hit and miss, and I never know when she's going to wake up.
As far as I'm concerned, a great nap has three elements:
1. It's easy to get her to fall asleep. We only do the sleep ritual once.
2. I sleep too. Not for long, just enough to wake up and think, "Ahh! refreshing!"
3. She continues to sleep for a half-hour to 2 hours after I get up.
Out of the three, I'll pick #3 as most important (my priorities change on the nights she doesn't sleep well). That's why today is so magic.
Today we had one repetition of the sleep ritual (she had to poop about 15 minutes after we lay down to nurse). And by the time she stopped kicking--you guessed it! I had to pee and had a persistent cough that kept annoying me. So not the greatest nap-time for me.
But when I got up (confession: I popped her off before she finished nursing. It had been an hour-and-a-half, so I think she probably ate enough) she stayed asleep.
Sometimes she wakes immediately. I have just enough time to put on clothes before we start intnsive mommying again.
Sometimes I have ten to 15 minutes. Just enough to turn on the oven, leave water running, or start an exercise video. Oh! the frustration!
But there are some days where I race through the thins I have to do--write a grocery list, start or finish dinner--and have time to do Pilates or type two-handed or get the mail or drink a cup of tea.

Mommies talk about their children having more than one nap a day. I don't see how this is possible. Sometimes I think about trying the sleep ritual in the morning, but then I wouldn't have any day left. Sometimes (like today) she'll fall asleep in her bouncy seat if I rock her. For about 15 minutes. Sometimes (very sometimes) she'll fall asleep in the bouncy seat with no help from me!
The only other time she falls asleep is when I'm nursing her in-sling or on-couch. And she wakes up really easily when she's not swaddled, so I'm stuck on the couch or with a twelve pound weight on mr shoulder, unable to make any sudden movements.
I have tried swaddling her all day, but that gets really tiring w/ the EC.

That's what is so magic/scary/crazy about infant sleep--it takes so much intensive, tiring work to achieve it. By the time you finish lulling them you need a nap from your nap.

It's downright dull-witted to project forward with babies, but I do anyway. It's in my nature to think forward a year and try to see what kinds of problems I'll be having, as Jesus commanded us to do: "Today doesn't have enough trouble of its own, so try to take care of the next six years. It'll help." Marvin: 5:31
But on my less-witted days, I wonder, "If it takes an hour and a half to get 15 minutes of downtime, what about when she's one? Or eighteen? I don't think I can take this forever."
Then I think maybe the professional mommies do it differently. That I missed out on the sleep seminar or the super-secret decoder ring. Surely she could have a morning nap? surely there's something I could do?

In the time I wrote this post, Lucy woke from her nap. Now we're nursing on the couch. It's gotten dark out, and colder; Dyami's home.
In a few hours, it will be time to take her to bed again. I have to marshal my resources.

magic sleep

Of all parts of parenting, sleep is the one I understand least. Eating, pooping, peeing, general holding and comforting, this all seems pretty straightforward. Food in, waste out. Mess with that, and she's unhappy. Then you fix the unhappiness with extra cuddles.
But: Sleep: what is it? Where does it come from? How does it happen?

My daughter is a good sleeper. A great sleeper. Last night she started eating to fall asleep at 10 pm. She woke up a little before 8 am. This is representative of most nights.
She is an amazing sleeper.
While it's tempting to attribute this sleeping largesse to my amazing parenting skills, I will be humble for once and admit I have no idea how she does it. Ten hours is a ridiculously long time for a three month old to go without eating or peeing (she was dry this morning when she woke up--this is also representative of most nights).

Because I don't understand it, I regard sleep as sort of a magic trick. I get a little stressed and unreasonable around bedtime. I want everything to be perfect, so as not to interfere with the sleep ritual.
Here is the sleep ritual.
1. One of us (hopefully Dyami, if I'm nice to him) takes her to the bathroom. I pray that she pees and poops so that she won't get Irritable Bowel Syndrom at 3 am. If I think she needs to poop, I want to give her belly rubs, enemas, and bribes until she produces some excrement.
I'm kidding about the enemas! Ha ha ha!

We use laxatives.

If Dyami takes her to the bathroom, I have a few minutes to stretch, take a shower, brush my teeth, and put on pj's. I usually appreciate this, but on nights where I am more tired than normal, I sort of hover as he's holding her. Maybe he's not doing it right, I think. Maybe she won't go for him. I resist the urge to yank her out of his arms and use the Mommy Technique.
Breathe, Heather. Breathe.

2. We put on her pocket diaper. For those of you not familiar with cloth diapering technology, the pocket diaper is like a little diaper -shaped pocket/pillowcase with an opening on one end. One side of the case is waterproof. The other is fleece. You stuff absorbant material (like a flat cloth diaper) inside. Then if she pees, the pee is wicked away from her skin and she doesn't feel (as) wet. It's almost like a disposable!
Of course, if she has to pee, she almost always wakes up anyway--so I'm not sure why we reserve the pocket dipe for nighttime, but it's part of the pattern, see. Part of the ritual.

3. I set up the bed for nursing. My assorted/necessary pillows, a water-resistant wool soaker pad in a pillow case for underneath Lucy (sometimes even the pocket diaper leaks--she has a really timy bum). My earplug (she's super noisy when she sleeps. Another thing they don't tell you when you sign up for the baby distribution). Only one earplug, because then I can hear her if I move my non-plugged ear off of the pillow. My sleep mask to block out all extra light.
If you can't tell yet, I'm a very light sleeper.

4. Speaking of light: we adjust the lighting. A lot. We close thick curtains to block out any moonlight/morning light. Turn off bedroom/bathroom lights. We bought a night-light in the first weeks of her birth because with the curtains drawn, we couldn't see well enough to attend to her in the middle of the night. But the night light is BRIGHT! I think it's used on Broadway as a spotlight for puppet shows!
So we found a really sensible solution: we use the crib that we're not using for her to sleep in to partially block the nightlight we got to provide the light that we're eliminating with curtains. And wear eyeshades to block out that blocked light.
My pro mommy friend Sarah laughed when I told her about our arrangement. It took me a few days to see why it was funny.
Even seeing the absurdity has not caused me to change one jot/tittle of the arrangement.

5. We swaddle Lucy. Well, I swaddle Lucy. At first swaddling was equal-opportunity. Then Dyami said, "Wifey! I ain't swaddling no more babies! That there's women's work!"
Okay, so that's not exactly what happened.
What did happen was that when D went back to work, I swaddled Lucy on my own a lot. I got pretty good at it.
Dyami was at work, getting even better than he was a Java programming.
Java programming, though extremely useful, does not help you swaddle babies.
A few times, I have thought, "Maybe I should let Dyami (read: make Dyami) swaddle her for a few weeks until he gets the hang of it."
Then I snicker. Because if she's not wrapped securely, she wakes herself up. There's a reason why we called her "Houdini" in the first month.
I am just as exacting with myself. Read on:
There are a few ways to wrap a baby. There's the baby burrito, where arms, and legs (whoops! almost wrote, "and head." Don't give me any ideas!) are all tucked in securely. We did that the first few weeks.
However, it seems impractical for EC when you need quick access to the diaper: you have to unwrap everything and re-wrap ger five minutes later. Keep in mind good swaddling is an art form, like origami--and just as exacting. So now we just wrap her arms, so it looks like we chopped them off. (how sweet!)
Then we discovered, through trial and error, that she generally won't poop while swaddled. And often won't pee.
But I got in the habit of the armless wrap. Until a few weeks ago, when I got tired of her kicking me while she's falling asleep. And it was getting colder and her legs get cold. I decided to do the full burrito. Brilliant, idea, right?
The first night I tried it, she woke up at 1:30 am. arms completely free. Houdini would have been proud.
So now I do the armless wrap, religiously.

6. I nurse her to sleep, lying down. At the beginning, when I was reaaaaally tired, I would fall asleep too. This was the plan--classic co-sleeping. Baby's happy. Mommy's happy.
Mommy's back not so happy.
Plus, she usually kicks for the first 10-15 minutes, minimum. By then, my bladder's full enough that I can't fall asleep easily (you drink a lot of water while breastfeeding). Lying still next to a (crazily beautiful) squirming baby for fifteen minutes generally makes me tense = no sleep.
So sometimes I try just nursing her to sleep, and deciding that I will get up and move her to her bed once she's out. (Her bed is a little Amby Bed Hammock. I'll have to write about that later.)

7. Here is where the magic happens. She falls asleep. And (usually) stays asleep. In the first few weeks, when she wasn't sleeping as well, I read books about "sleep solutions" and "nighttime parenting" and how to teach your child to sleep.
But how can you teach what you can't explain? Here's what you'd think would happen:
She'd nurse really hard at the beginning, sort of "gimmie, gimmie" style. Then her grip on me would get looser and looser until pop! she slipped off.
This would seem to make sense, but it is rarely how she falls asleep.
Last night, for example, she kicked for about 20 minutes, nursed quietly for about 20 minutes, then started getting agitated again. Let go, and made a grabbing motion with her face to start eating (I accidentally wrote "teating!" ha!) again. Ate furiously, gimmie gimmie style. Let go. Lather, rinse, repeat.
After about an hour, I couldn't hold my bladder it anymore and got up quick when she let go, before she could grab me again. I raced to the bathroom, half-fearing that she'd wake up. When I came back, she was:
Still. completely out.
This often happens. She gets more and more agitated and keeps nursing for an hour or more, until I just have to go the bathroom. Then when I finally pop her off or escape her clutches, she falls asleep, peacefully.
I don't get it.
See why I say it's magic?
But hey, whatever works! I'd be practically willing to sacrifice some small animals if it would help her get to sleep. Ha! Just kidding.
Really, Eleanor. I'm just kidding.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

pretend mommy

Now that I'm a parent, my friends are divided into four categories:
1. Those who have not had children yet.
2. Those who have had first babies before me. They are still pretty clueless, but waaaay less clueless than I am.
3. The professional mommies. They have multiple children! (How do they do it?)
4. Those who have had first babies after me. Since Lucy is only 3 months old, this is a very select group. With one member.
I can feel smugly advanced/ahead-of-the-game only in comparison to categories 1 and 4. (Patting their head: "Oh, it gets better after the first few weeks! Trust me!" )
This is not very many people.

It helps that we're doing the super-crunchy EC thing. Then I have something to be an expert at--guaranteed. Unless I'm talking to Evelyn, my sister-in-law.

It's easy to joke about this, especially since my delusions of grandeur are so overblown. But comparisos are a real issue. Why is it so easy to feel 'less than' or 'more than' when talking about parenthood?
I love my friends in category 3. They are the ones keeping me sane. But sometimes, I want to feel less like an novice. And I find myself wondering, "Is this they way Sarah or Evelyn or Melissa or Jerusha would do this? They probably don't have this problem. Or--they probably solved this problem so much more smoothly. Or--they probably didn't even think this was a problem, because they're so much closer to God than I am. And they love their children more. And have whiter teeth." Etc, etc.
But then I don't really like feeling superior and 'older' than people either.
I find myself wanting a friend who had given birth _at the same time_ as Lucy (okay, give or take a day) so that we'd be unable to feel further ahead or further behind than the other. (Of course, since my child is so startlingly advanced, that would probably still be a problem).
A good friend of mine has an eight-month-old who doesn't sleep. A few weeks ago, she asked _me_ for advice. I was appalled and gratified all at once. Sort of like if I were a 2nd year med student and a third year resident asked for help on a diagnosis. Half feeling, "Are you crazy? How the heck should I know?" And half, "You finally recognized my genius!"

Sometimes I remind myself that I am the only expert mommy for my child (and other people for theirs). The only one that exists! They broke the mold! That only my instincts, my knowledge are right for my child!
This helps, except for when I want to lord it over other people.
What I'd really like is confidence. And peace. That I'm doing an okay job, and that the times when I'm ready to pull my hair out are normal, even though the situation (Lucy wants to nurse...again) wouldn't seem to merit it. That it is okay to feel like I'm doing everything I can just to have a few minutes away from my (lovely, sweet, amazing) daughter. And that when I don't get those few minutes, it's acceptable to end up crying in the closet. Among the shoes.
If I do get that confidence and peace, I don't want it to feel like someone patting my head, saying "there, there."
I want to know it, feel it, own it.
And then feel so much better than others who don't have that knowledge.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Pros and Cons

Speaking of EC, our good friend Heather (same first and middle names (Lynn), same color hair, same interests...spooky.) asked me the other day if I'd do EC with our next child.
It took me longer than I wanted to answer.
I mean, when you do the super-crunchy alternative to something, you'd hope it would be such a resounding success that you'd say, "Absolutely! I've clearly proven that our way is superior to the prevailing wisdom! Other people are idiots! Suck on that!"
And sometimes, I do think that.
But the problem with delusions of grandeur is that they come with a hefty kick in the pants on days things are not going so well. That's when I admire that nice green lawn there on the other side of the fence.
Like when I've had to take Lucy to the bathroom for the third time (I'm SURE she's got to pee) and she cries, arches her back, and generally hates life. And doesn't pee.
Or when I realized that by teaching our daughter to not like crapping her pants, it means that sometimes when she has to crap her pants (in her car seat, say, or when I can't get to a bathroom) she fusses (more?) than if we'd just taught her not to care.
Or when I realize that holding a twelve pound baby over a sink for the thirtieth time gets awfully tiring.
Or when I realize that she's developed a clear preference for sinks with nice mirrors over them. Only it's not really feasible for her pee in sinks when we're outside of the house. (Mostly. Confession: Today at the chiropractor, I used some Lysol wipes. I might buy some and put them in my diaper bag).
Or when we're watching the Super-sized episode of The Office and she has to pee right when Jim and Pam are having their conversation in the parking lot. (remember, she gets upset when she wets herself. Lucy. Not Pam.).
Or I ask Dyami to take her to the bathroom for the fifth time because I can't stand doing it anymore, and he's tired from work and can't stand doing it anymore either.

The problem with EC is it's yet another way we're letting Lucy call the shots. We take her to the bathroom when it's convenient for her, not when it's necessarily convenient for us. In the middle of dinner. Or a good conversation. Or when we'd rather be sleeping (luckily, she sleeps really well at night, so this hasn't been as big of a problem).
When I'm holding her over the sink, she is in kind of a sitting position, my hands under her thighs. She raises her fists, and looks like a very cute Roman Emporor, sans laurel leaves (or was that the Greek athletes? I forget).
Point being: she is a tiny omnipotent (benevolent?) dictator. We are her subjects.
Now don't get me wrong--I don't think she's trying to be a dictator. It's more that her tiny bladder is a dictator, not her. She is sweet and very good natured, and does her best under the circumstances.
But it is frustrating to be on a baby's timetable. Especially when eating and sleeping are also on her timetable. Sleeping (thank you sweet Jesus) has not been too much of a struggle. But
eating is constant. She wants to eat when I want to eat. When I want to go out. When I want to vaccuum or take a bath. When I want...
Boy, nobody told us how inconvenient babies were.
That is a lie.
But getting back to EC, sometimes I look longingly at conventionally-diapered babies (or even cloth diapered ones) that look blissfully unaware of how their digestive tracts work. And parents who have no idea when their children pee. No idea! How freeing!

All that said, I think we made the right choice for us. First off, you have no idea how cute Lucy looks as Caesar. Or when she's tap-dancing over the sink before she pees (her little black Trumpette socks really help here). Secondly, we hardly ever have to sponge anything off of her bum. Also: no diaper rash. Much less laundry. We can be smug about being good to the environment (major green points!).
And really, the awareness I was just complaining about is also a plus. I can help my child feel better in a very concrete, simple way. I mean, who really likes wetting themself? Or needing to go and not being able to? We're avoiding the middleman, diapers, in favor for the more natural, healthy route.
Now that I've convinced you all, would anyone like to hold Lucy over the sink?

Liquids and Solids

I hesitate to write this post.
But how can I write about new motherhood without addressing this issue? The one that makes people glance down uncomfortably when you bring it up at dinner? Because you have to bring it up at dinner if people expect you to talk about your new life.
I'm talking about all the sundry liquids and (quasi) solids that me and Lucy produce. Mostly her.
Here's the list:
a) drool.
b) snot (she's been congested lately).
c) pee.
d) the perennial favorite, poop.
e) belly button lint.
f) toe lint (did you know babies have toe lint? Lucy's is BLACK! Don't worry, it's from her black socks)
e) weird white cheesy stuff that collects in various folds of her skin. I swab it out with q-tips.

And for me, b) (I have a cold), c) and d) (of course). Along with f) milk. Lots and lots of milk. Most of it ends up in Lucy's belly, and eventually forms one of her many chins, but some of it dribbles out and onto my shirt. I love the black shirt with the "mystery fluid" drips in the middle of my chest. Not just the stains--the actual white milk forming droplets and dripping onto the floor. I look like a soft drink station at In N Out.
Or if I've gone for a long time without nursing (or Lucy pulls off mid-suck) I get a fine jet of milk spraying her face, the dresser, my clothes, the table. Whenever I dust, i find odd, sticky stains on things. "What is that?--oh."

What with the EC (again, that's Elimination Communication for you neophytes), Dyami and I talk about bodily functions even more than most new parents.
He usually reminds me with a stern look when (not if) I bring it up over meals.
But the thing is, we have to give progress reports to each other. So that when the other takes Lucy to the bathroom the next time, we have some idea what to expect.
Lately we've taken to hand gestures (i.e., one or two fingers) to avoid that awkward pause in the conversation. Most of our friends aren't parents. I'd add on the "yet", but I'm afraid with us talking about poop so much, they won't want to take the plunge.

My parents have been pretty good sports with us doing the crazy/crunchy/hippie/ultra-granola EC journey. My mom even gets a kick out of telling her friends. One friend is Cantonese. She nodded when my mom told her (See! China and India!) Another (very nice) lady wouldn't't listen to my mom bragging about Lucy peeing in the toilet at a month old. She shook her head and said, very firmly, "Babies don't have bladder or bowel control until after two."
She should have been here today. I finished nursing Lucy, and she was wiggling and grunting. Classic "hey, I have to poop" face. Take her to the sink. She pees, she poops. She is a champ. I turn her sideways and make the sign for "all done" before I rinse off her bum.
She fusses.
I decide--maybe she's not done. Maybe I'll give her another chance.
Not thirty seconds later, she goes again. She was most definitely not all done.
Then when I signalled "all done," a second time, she looked bored. As if saying, "Of couse I'm done, now, slowpoke."
Yes, we have a preternaturally smart child. She is three months old!
And yes, I feel much better for getting this $%*@ out. Oh, sweet relief!