Friday, May 29, 2009

Random Crap: Friday Edition

Here are a couple of odds and ends stories floating around my brain from the last few days.

Jenna used her first curse word the other day, and Dan and I were impressed that she used it correctly. I had gone grocery shopping in the evening and when I returned home, I showed the girls I had bought their favorite treat du jour, Cheese Balls. (I really resist buying this for them and then I realized they are about 98% air, so a bowlful really is only about 6 grams of actual food substance.) Anyway. I held up the bag to show Jenna, who was in her pj's and moments away from brushing her teeth and going to bed. "Can I have some?" she asked.

"No. You can have some tomorrow. Go brush your teeth. It's time for bed." (See previous post about how I am the Meanest Mom People Have Ever Witnessed.)

Jenna turns on her heels and with quite a bit of vehemence says, "Dammit!!!" as she walks towards the bathroom.

Of course Dan and I told her that was not a nice word to say, but it was certainly one of our less- harsh rebuttals of behavior. Because we were desperately trying not to laugh.

Michaela lost a tooth yesterday! It is her fifth tooth out and it was a relief because it has been so loose it has impeded her eating and teeth-brushing. The Tooth Fairy came last night and brought her $2, which appears to be the going rate around here. She looks very cute with another hole in her mouth.

I finished up a dense, rich, very good book called Drop City by T.C. Boyle. My aunt recommended it and for the first 15 pages I was really struggling with his style and the content of the book. The book takes place in 1970 on a hippie commune in California. Their 'leader', who is supplying most of the cash they are living off of, gets chased off the land by the government for code violations and back taxes. They decide to head north to Alaska where the leader's uncle has some land he is no longer using. Of course they are completely ill-equipped to live in the secluded Alaskan wild, let alone survive a harsh winter there. The book follows the members of the commune, focusing on three characters there, as they adjust to communal living and the big move North. The author portrays them as real people, with needs and utterly human characteristics of selfishness, laziness, and possessiveness that clearly go against the whole "peace, love, and brotherhood, man" vibe of the commune. It becomes kind of funny as they all realize what a filthy, unsafe and boring existence they are leading which could literally kill them in Alaska.

The side effects of reading the book are twofold: 1) I have never been so glad that my husband works for The Man and we live a completely proletariat/ privileged (and sanitary) life, especially while being pregnant, and 2) I have started to refer to all men as "cool cats."

In any case, it's a very thought-provoking book and I recommend it just for the realistic portrayal of hippie life, which I was sort of obsessed with as a middle schooler, but obviously never came even close to experiencing.

Well, except in high school drama club... that was pretty hippie-ish.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vindication at last.

When Jenna was a baby, shopping was a real chore since 98% of the time she was screaming by the end of the trip. Grocery stores, department stores, discount stores... it didn't matter the locale: we would hit the checkout and she would be crying and carrying on. I believe I blogged about the "helpful hints" I've received over the years from checkout personnel, many who were missing front teeth. I knew that Jenna was tired, overwhelmed by the store, overstimulated by the lights and sounds and noise and just wanted me to nurse her (and I have, I will tell you, nursed her in the shoe section of Walmart. Right there, sitting on the floor, surrounded by inexpensive men's workboots and rows upon rows of fake-leather shoes shipped directly from China).

So one young check out girl in particular in Walmart commented that I was "the meanest mom she's ever seen". And this has stuck with me for the last three years or so. I am amazed that with all of the parenting styles that are on display in the checkout line of Walmart, I would somehow rank as Meanest. I mean, sure, sometimes I'm not as structured as I'd like, or I let my kids eat Swedish Fish before noon or give in to to an occasional toy request. That I can own. But Meanest? I have pondered that quietly in my heart.

Imagine my delight- and horror- as I read this story in my local paper on Tuesday about a mom in Tennessee who definitely ranks as Meaner than Me. The sense of vindication was amazing.

Here's the story:

"Police have charged a woman who they say used a car seat with an infant inside to
hit a Wal-Mart employee.
...Camilla Fields of Memphis was charged with felony child abuse and neglect and assault.
A police report from the Wednesday incident says Fields was confronted by a security guard about shoplifting. Police say she threw the seat and ran, causing the baby to land face down on the pavement. A paramedic treated the baby until the child regained consciousness.
The child's mother, Stacy Cleaves, was also charged with false reporting and child neglect."
This felt so good because not only have I never thrown my child at someone in an attempt to distract them from accusing me of shoplifting, which I have also never done, I can say with confidence that I have made friends with women of such a high caliber that NONE OF THEM would throw my infant in a car seat in an attempt to distract a security guard from accusing them of shoplifting. It's a good feeling.

So take that, young checkout girl at my local Wal-Mart from three and a half years ago! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Victory is MINE!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blankets for REAL babies.

I made a bunch of blankets for Michaela's stuffed animals and Jenna's baby dolls for Christmas and had a blast... all straight seams, quite hard to mess up completely. They've been a big hit and so when I found out I was pregnant, I decided I would make blankets for the baby as well.

So I hit the fabric store the other day and picked up this lusciousness.

Can you tell I am using a blue and chocolate brown theme? There's so much of it around that I have lots of options. I bought both solid blue and solid brown flannel for softness, patterns in a smooth cotton, and I splurged and bought a whole yard of the minky-soft light blue with the raised dots for $13/ yard. Whoo-hoo... I KNOW how to party.

Not sure exactly when I'll get to this sewing... so many other projects to get to. My organizing is going well thus far... I've made good progress and will show pictures when I'm done.
Enjoy the day!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Twins for a day.

The girls decided to wear the same outfit and both wear pigtails yesterday. Very cute.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Check Ups.

So Jenna had her 4-year-old check up today at the pediatrician's and everything checked out fine. She is healthy and happy and normal, which I think is just about what every parent wants to hear.

The only item of note was her height, which is 41.5 inches, placing her in the 80th percentile. And the fact that she grew FOUR INCHES in the last year. "That's pretty... impressive," her doctor says to me, eyebrows raised. It is not surprising that she would be in the upper percentiles- I am 5'6" and taller than most of my friends and Dan is about 6'4"- but four inches?? She started out so tiny- at 2 years old she was in the 5th percentile- and just has gone into overdrive. Her doctor asked me twice, "What does she eat?" and I just said the truth: she's generally a great eater, and she eats lots of variety of foods. "Apparently it works," he said.

She also had the joy of experiencing vaccination shots for chicken pox, measles, mumps and rubella and let me tell you: she did not buy the whole the shots have medicine that will keep you healthy routine. She was a trooper, though, and made it through just fine, declaring them "sharp".

The nurse who gave her the shots told her she doesn't have to get any more shots until she's ten(which isn't really true- the girls both get flu shots in the fall), so now she's been asking me all afternoon:"How long is it until I'm ten?"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Long Weaning Road

I am about to tell you something mortifying and incredibly exciting at the same time: Jenna is finally weaned.

It has been a three year process to get where we are today. Her fourth birthday on Monday was her last shot at nursey-nursey. We did lots of build up and preparation and warnings and reminders that she's going to be a big four-year-old soon to convince her that a non-breastfeeding life would coming flying at her and it was going to be okay. She treated this all with mild indifference, like, okay, I hear you, you can stop warning me now. She certainly was not excited or resistant, just sort of ambivalent.

And I am shocked to find that she has not even asked for it. Not once. In fact, last night I was telling her how proud I am of her not nursing and she misunderstood what I was saying and thought I was offering to nurse her. And she screwed up her little face and said, "Why? I'm a big girl. I thought we were done with that!" And you could have knocked me over with a feather.

Jenna has been a rabid breastfeeder since birth. My plan was to try to "stick it out" and nurse her the whole first year and then quickly wean her. I knew I was in trouble when we gave her the first bottle of breastmilk at age seven weeks and she refused all subsequent attempts of bottlefeeding. But I hung in there, often nursing her what seemed to be dozens of times a day and night. For a few months she slept in bed with us with my boob in her mouth. My mom called me a human pacifier. One of the only times I really lost it as a mom- sobbing and completely defeated- was one night when she woke me up at 2am after basically nursing every hour and I said to Dan, "I just CANNOT nurse her again. I cannot."

At her one year checkup I asked the pediatrician when she was going to lose interest in breastfeeding like the books say kids do. He looked at me wryly and said, "Some kids don't lose interest." And I knew right then what the next few years would be like.

We tried everything we could think of- solid food (she's a great eater), different bottles, different liquids, sippy cups of all shapes and sizes, substitutions, bribery- to distract her from the boob. Finally, completely defeated from the pile of failures, I stopped trying anything and just rolled with it. She wanted the comfort and closeness of breastfeeding, and she was so quiet and introverted and seemingly overwhelmed by the world that my instinct was to keep at... keep trying to fill that little girl up.

So many people I talked to about my inability-to-wean dilemma said to me, "Well, have you tried a sippy cup?" that it is now a frequent family joke. OF COURSE I tried sipppy cups. I have a Master's Degree and two children. I am able to think of the obvious, thank you very much. It was incredibly frustrating and defeating and draining.

Things got a little better when I finally limited our breastfeeding to only happening at home. Then Jenna, totally on her own, dropped her before bed feeding. By the time she was two or two and a half, I was only nursing her in the morning and during her nap. I still wished it would end, but it was at a more manageable level and just became part of our lives.

Then about a year ago I realized that deep down, I obviously wanted to keep nursing her. I mean, she can't overpower me and hold me down and nurse. Clearly I am not stopping for reason. So I stopped complaining about it.

I think what kept me going was the feeling I had inside as a mom that taking this comfort away before she was ready to give it up would just simply not be the best thing for Jenna. She's a sensitive girl. I was a sensitive girl when I was little, easily overwhelmed and often quiet towards others. My parents let me keep my pacifier for a long, long, long time and I gave it up when I was ready. I think I used their modeling as reassurance that this was okay.

Then about a year ago, Jenna started talking more. Interacting with other people. Smiling more at others. Letting go of me and going off with her sister at parties. She was disengaging from me and engaging with the world. My relatives were floored. "Who is this kid?", they asked.

So I knew that it was time. We set the date a few months ago and stuck to it. I started cutting back the time she was nursing each morning and we were really nursing only for about 10 minutes per day. And I am thrilled that the transition has been as seamless as this. I am expecting some bumps along the way but feel confident that we can handle it without moving backwards.

And I am taking 150% of the credit for any brilliant accomplishment she has as an adult (curing cancer, discovering a new world, winning the Nobel Prize or a Pulitzer, etc.) as a result of all of this brain-boosting breastmilk she's consumed.

Last week, Jenna informed me that no milk was coming out anymore when she nursed. "So why are you still nursing?" I asked her, laughing.

"I just love your boobs," she answered.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Birthday to Jenna!

Dear Jenna,

You turned four years old this morning!! What an amazing ride these last four years have been! Your gentle beauty and sweetness has charmed all who know you. You were a tough baby who knew what she wanted, and that was to be comforted constantly, but all of that love given to you now flows out of you in words and actions.

Now you are, quite possibly, the easiest of four year olds. You are my constant buddy, a fun shopping mate, a quiet companion who loves being home and helping me out around the house. Your favorite activity is laundry, helping me take out the wet clothes and after they have been placed in the dryer, slamming to door with great satisfaction. You are low-key and easy going for the most part, playing with your babies all day, dressing and undressing them, taking them for walks around the house in their strollers, and feeding them your special "binachos" baby food.

You are tremendous fun, with a highly developed sense of humor, and a high level of maturity. You are bright and observant yet in many ways show signs of being a ditzy blond in spirit, much like your mom. Yet when you get in your head to do something, you are steadfast and demonstrate an iron will until you get your way.
You have an exciting year ahead of you with the birth of your brother coming quickly towards us. You are thrilled to have a real live baby living with us, "one that moves and talks and crawls by itself". I'm certain that you will shower him with love and hugs and kisses and kindness as you have the rest of us.

Happy birthday to my sweet angel!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day (little) Miracles

Mother's Day, 2009 edition, is about half over and has been a rousing success: neither of my daughters have puked on me yet today.
Yes, in my seven years of celebrating Mother's Day, not one but TWO of them have involved my children retching all over me and me taking care of them the rest of the day. Hardly a celebratory "day off".
On Michaela's first Mother's Day in 2002, she was a happy, chubby 7 month old. We pulled her out of her crib in the morning and set her down between us in the bed. Feeling all the lovely maternal feelings one does all snuggled up to her baby, I savored the moment. And just towards the end of the savoring, Michaela very casually turned her head to the side and puked on me and the sheets and pillows.
Jenna's turn was much less dramatic, I think two years ago now. (It all blends together so easily.) She just woke up in her crib and started puking soon after she got up.
But, as I say, you're not a real mom until all of your children have puked on you.
And you get double points if it's actually ON Mother's Day.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Great Parenting Analogy.

I was talking with a friend last weekend about trying to pass down your interests and hobbies to your children and our frustration at this.

I think this is one of the great motivators of procreating in the first place: you think, all warm and fuzzy inside, wouldn't it be great to bake/ garden/ sew/ go to ball games/ play hockey with my child? I can pass down my vast knowledge and life lessons and we can have this special activity together that is OURS.

And that is wonderful, in theory.

And unless you have remarkably patient and compliant children who are really older than you think they'd need to be to do this, it is usually a disaster. A happy disaster and a great story, but a disaster nonetheless.

My friend loves to garden and her children have asked to have their own garden areas. They are bright kids with their own ideas of what should be planted and how they want to care for it. This sharing of interests has not turned out to be the warm and fuzzy experience she hoped it would be: the kids have all but abandoned their gardens in light of more immediate-result pursuits.

I shared that my baking lessons have turned out to be a miserable failure as well. I always wanted to be the type of mom who let their kids help and be part of the process. But my girls have realized that the best part is after everything is mixed and measured and cleaned up, and this is when they swoop into the kitchen, drag their grubby little paws through my batter and lick it off their fingers. Then they disappear again until everything is out of the oven and cooled, when they suddenly reappear and beg for treats.

I was at our Town Park recently and saw a mom and her about-three-year old son trying to fly a kite. I'm sure she had the best of intentions: it's a nice day outside and we have this very attractive, sturdy-looking kite... let's go fly a kite together!! Yay! he must have said. But do you know what happened? They were having trouble getting it up in the air and eventually I watched the boy grab the kite and just pound it into the ground as the mother tried desperately to pull it away from him. Not quite as bucolic as she set out to be, I'm sure.

But you know what? Kids are kids, not little adults. They are incredibly self-centered by nature and this is how they get their multiple young needs met by loving adults. They are impatient. They want instant results. Many, many of our hobbies and interests are extremely boring to little kids.

But if you wait, and set good examples by keeping at what you love, and break big projects into small, manageable pieces, you can experience glimmers of success with your children and it is magical. I have seen this while sewing with Michaela. It's not the way I would do things, but that's okay. I want my children to have their own ideas and feel free to tell me what they want.

I just smile whenever I think of that poor mom trying to fly the kite with her little boy. I hope she was able to laugh about it eventually, and not too discouraged. It's such a great parenting lesson: it sometimes doesn't work out the way you planned, it sometimes doesn't work out at all, but you know what? They were together and they tried.

God Bless the mothers who are out there, trying every day.
Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Baby #3 Update: Week 20

We are cruisin' along here and now we're halfway done.

It's been an exciting few weeks since my last update. As you all know, we had an ultrasound and not only found out that the baby is healthy, growing, and has all of it's necessary body parts, it also has the extra parts that indicate it is a boy. We are still ecstatic over this news and have slowly calmed ourselves down, mostly because maintaining that excitement level was exhausting.

I had a checkup with the midwife, who had returned to work that day from her own maternity leave with her first child, and got the very soothing news that all my bloodwork came back normal, including the screening tests for Down's and other birth defects. I was also pleased to learn I don't have syphilis. Whew.

I am getting bigger in the tummy area and Jenna is somewhat fascinated with this. She is convinced that if she looks VERY DEEPLY into my bellybutton, she can see the baby. I am still not so big that I am uncomfortable or anything, so this truly is the honeymoon period of the pregnancy. Some people still don't realize I am preggers if I am not wearing a maternity top.

I have started feeling the baby move and that is one of the most blessed sensations a woman can feel. Every little kick is a little message from him, saying, Hello, out there! All's okay in here! How about a snack? Of course, this is all sweet and precious now, since since he has little strength and plenty of room. I seem to remember being less enchanted with this moving around at the end of my previous pregnancies, when the baby is squished and strong and loops it's legs around your bladder, and is all, Uhh, hello! Do you have any more ROOM in here? Is it almost time to get out or what, 'cause I'm ROASTING in here... I need some AIR.

I enrolled a few weeks ago in a program sponsored by my health insurance company called Healthy Start, which involves a nurse to call me every six weeks or so and check in on how things are going and prevent problems that would lead to premature labor and delivery. Our insurance is out of Minnesota (it's a long story) so this very sweet woman who sounded like she was straight out of the movie Fargo called and asked me a bunch of questions. I'm not sure I'm really in their risk pool, since I have regular prenatal care and have had to be induced both times I was pregnant, once 15 days after my due date. An early bird I'm not. But they promised me a $50 gift card after delivery and let's be honest: $50 buys a lot of cute outfits. And formula. And wine for Mommy.

Anyway, the intake interview, done over the phone, was very interesting. She asked me standard questions about my previous pregnancies, labor and deliveries, and of course I went on and on about them. (Because that's really women's equivalent of war stories, isn't it? If you want any mother's guaranteed attention for a half hour, ask her to tell you all about her labor and delivery experience. Women just love to tell every little detail about it.) She asked about my general health, my living situation, and then got into some very detailed socio-economic questions. She asked if I felt safe in my neighborhood. If I have regular, reliable transportation to my "clinic appointments". She asked if anyone at home was hurting me in any way. When she asked if anyone in the home was yelling at me or trying to control my life, I resisted the overwhelming urge to say, "Only my seven year old," because it was clear that my nurse Penny had a scripted, super-efficient and helpful response to all of my responses and she'd have a policeman at my front door before I'd hung up the phone. She then explained that she had some written material that she'd like to send out to me and asked me, "How comfortable are you with reading?" which I think was code for "Are you literate?" And I assured her that I was indeed very comfortable with reading and to send it right along to me.

These questions were a little stilted, sure, but the social worker in me just beamed with their lack of assumptions and attention to detail and sensitivity. No one has asked me straight out since grad school (when I went to the university's infirmary for some little medical issue) if I was being hurt by anyone. Sometimes one can have lots of assumptions about life in middle class white suburbia and I like it when people or organizations are bold enough to question assumptions and ask tough questions. Go, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota! I salute your thoroughness!!

So that's where I'm at. Feeling good, looking pregnant, and not getting beaten. It's a good place to be.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Maybe she'll make millions and support us in our old age.

Libutti, Michaela. (American, 2001- ). Man with Buger and Butt, 2009. #2 pencil on copy paper. Part of the Libutti Refrigerator Collection, New York.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Holy Nesting, Batman.

Ahhh... the nesting instinct has fully taken over my body and brain. Now that we know it's a boy (CAN YOU BELIEVE IT??), my brain has gone into full planning mode. Even Dan, who pooh-poohed my idea of getting the room ready before Baby's arrival, has started talking about painting and redecorating the nursery (I've heard rumblings of some kind of baseball mural on one wall that looks like you are playing left field at a major league stadium...).

I look around the house and everywhere I look is a new organization project.

(When I was pregnant with Jenna, I fully took apart and refolded every towel, sheet and linen I had in my linen closet not once but TWICE! Because THAT was going to make me prepared to mother another infant!)

I cleaned up our bedroom last night and finalized two bins to go up into the attic: one of my regular-sized clothes (who wants to stare at clothes they don't fit into anymore?) and a bin of Jenna's 3T and 4T sized clothes, as well as a box of stuffed animals I pried away from Jenna.
I organized the baby boy stuff I have accumulated so far (including some adorable, tiny blue and brown clothing!!) into a bottom drawer in Jenna's dresser.
I have started ripping apart the office/playroom/craftroom, consolidating the office and craft part so there is more room for the playroom part.
The girls' closets need to be organized.
The bedrooms have to be consolidated.
New hooks have to go up in the bathroom.
Underbed storage needs to be purchased.
My crafts supplies/fabric/paper/scrapbook materials have to be consolidated and reorganized.
The toys need to be redistributed.
The baptism dress needs to be cleaned and prepared and proper archival storage needs to be purchased for it for long-term storage.

I made a wish list on the Container Store website and now am in the process of paring it down: because, as I told my mom, we can either eat for the next two weeks OR be super organized with attractive storage boxes and containers.

In my opinion: it's a clear toss-up.