Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Link Love

(I'm so crazy about them it's scary.)

Happy Halloween!


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Actually, I Kind of Like Pie

I have enough energy to take care of two people. That's it. At last count, there were four of us here, five if you count the kitty, and you really should count the kitty because she does nothing to earn her keep except glare at the fat squirrels who use our backyard fence as a transit center.

Most days, most of the time, there are three humans in the house, so I have three people's worth of needs to consider. So far, that's one more set of needs than I can address at any given moment. Someone always ends up getting shortchanged. Some of the time, it's inevitable. (As in, Westley's preschool day ends at a certain time, which means I have to drive to school at a certain time, which means Ivy has to be in her car seat—caterwauling because she wants to eat RIGHT NOW!) And then there are the moments that I seem to purposefully draw the short straw.

This morning, instead of enjoying my oatmeal while it was hot, I made a yarn ball for Westley. I was hungry, my breakfast looked and smelled delicious, and instead of eating it, I carefully wound some yellow acrylic yarn into a sphere the size of a tennis ball. Because Westley asked me to. It never occurred to me to say no. It wasn't until I was out in the freezing garage in my bare feet looking for a yarn needle—so I could tuck the end of the yarn ball in securely—that I started to wonder what the hell I was doing!

Raising a family involves making sacrifices to one degree or another. I knew that going in, especially the second time around. I don't, however, buy into the message of complete self-denial as the path to successful motherhood. I don't believe that to be a good parent I must empty myself of all desires, put my needs on the back-burner, ignore my interests entirely. On the contrary. Happy, fulfilled individuals seem to be the happiest, most relaxed parents. And yet, somehow, it keeps happening that I lose. I push myself so hard to give my children the loving, timely, individualized care they deserve, that I disappear. It doesn't matter that I'm hungry and the food is hot, because Ivy needs soothing, or the laundry has to be moved to the dryer so Rob will have something to wear to work, or Westley...wants a yarn ball.

When I did finally sit down to eat, and reflected on the situation, I realized that my bizarre moment of self-denial was partially related to guilt. I've been feeling awful about not being as present for Westley as I used to be. I owe him big time for cutting back on our fun so drastically by going and having this needy baby. So if I can pay back some of that debt by whipping up a silly, spur-of-the-moment toy? Awesome. But Westley's whim trumping my meal happened so abruptly and without any real thought from me. Whether or not I believe in putting my needs last, I realized that I've been developing self-denial as a reflex over the past ten weeks as a mother of two!

Raising a family involves making sacrifices to one degree or another. I knew that going in, especially the second time around. There will be compromise. Someone will always have to wait. Someone will be last. And the truth is, I really don't mind being last, as long as I'm not last every time, by default.

Tomorrow, I'm eating my breakfast while it's hot.

* * *

The title of this post comes from the following quote, which I'm sure you've seen pop up around Mother's Day:

"A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. — Tenneva Jordan"

While this certainly sounds like several of the mothers I know personally, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about this as a mother. Thoughts?


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dailies 10/21


Today was the annual Miles for Midwives family fun run to benefit midwives in Washington State. From the handful of pictures Rob took, it looks like we were the only people there, but the turnout was excellent.

Lincoln Park
Lincoln Park

One of these years, I hope to actually run—or at least briskly walk—the 2.5-mile course. But for now, I'm happy to stroll along with the strollers, bringing up the rear with the new mamas and their front-pack riders.

I love seeing all the new babies, bundled up and strapped to a warm adult chest. I love the hippie-ish families, the midwives and midwifery students who talk shop while they jog along, all the beautiful Seattle dogs. The smiles, the hugs, the public (chilly!) breastfeeding, the custom T-shirts. Next year I'm making one that says "A Midwife Saved My Life."


Earlier in the week, Westley went with my dad to get his hair cut. The lovely friend who usually keeps us all trimmed and styled just had a baby (congratulations, Ruth!), but Westley was excited about changing things up. He was very proud to tell his preschool classmates that he'd gone "to Grandad's barber."


The timing was perfect for school pictures. Last year, I mistakenly scheduled Westley's much-needed trim two days after picture day. Looking back, I guess it's not a bad thing to have professional photographic evidence of Westley's perma-bedhead.

While Westley was getting his haircut at a barber shop like a grown-up dude, Ivy had her two-month check-up.


She weighed 11 lbs. 10 oz. and measured 23-3/4 inches—which means in three weeks, she's gained a pound and ten ounces, or over an ounce a day. How is that even possible?

Everywhere I go, grandmothers (and great-grandmothers) stop me. They're nothing if not lovely. They all have something sweet or funny to say. My favorite this week was a woman at Trader Joe's who asked to "peek at the baby," and then sighed and said wistfully, "Oh, I'd do it all over again if I were 60 years younger!"

Later, another grandma at the library asked, "Is she breastfed?" I thought it was an odd question, but I said yes. The woman nodded knowingly. "I could tell by her pouty lips."

Pretty sure those are Daddy's covergirl genes, actually.


I've been feeling not-too-overwhelmed these past few weeks. We're not back to traipsing all over the Seattle area, but we are getting to story time on a regular basis, and Westley is almost always on-time to preschool. But as the days get darker earlier and the weather gets colder, I feel my mood slipping. I love sweaters and boots and warm beverages, but that's about it. The dark and cold (and rain) get inside me somehow and pull me down.


Also, both of my children despise hats. I will spend the next three seasons worrying that they're freezing their tiny ears off.


Halloween is around the corner—in more ways than one, as our neighbors have all decorated their front porches with glow-in-the-dark skeletons and fake cobwebs. I feel like we're going into the last relatively calm week before the holiday storm. This is always the time of year that I tentatively write Rob's mom asking if it's too early to think about plans for Thanksgiving. Because once Halloween arrives, then it's Thanksgiving before we know it—then Westley's birthday, Christmas, New Year's, and my birthday all in rapid succession. And then a short breath and then Ivy will be six months old on Valentine's Day.

I just made myself dizzy thinking about it.

The days are fast and wild inside my head, but photographs make them quit bolting away. A picture can make time sit. Stay.


A picture can grab onto the light and keep it here.

Seattle Sun


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Weighty Issues Postpartum

Ivy is two months old (or nine weeks old, depending on how you track new baby time), and it feels like high time I tackle Project Serious Weight Loss. I meant to start this earlier, but so far the only way I come close to getting enough sleep is by prioritizing sleep. That doesn't leave a lot of time for getting my fitness on.

While I did eventually make peace with my appearance while pregnant, those post-birth pounds were always on my mind. Gaining weight sucked, even if it was healthy-baby-growing weight. Each time the number on the scale increased, I wondered how much of that pound would stick around post-birth.

With Westley, I gained 38 pounds and it took me almost 18 months to lose them all. To be fair, I was too depressed to do much of anything in those first nine months. Even so, it took nine months to lose the weight the first time around, and I did it by kicking my own ass. Daily workouts, raw veggies, coffee—I was cruel to my body. I got into a groove that lasted a year. Right around the time Westley turned two-and-a-half, I was the lightest I've ever been (and I wanted to lose another 15 lbs. because I am a crazy person).

That weight wasn't sustainable, because I was killing myself to get there. But I wasn't all unhealthy all the time, and looking back, I'm proud of myself for taking all the weight off the first time around. I know it will be harder this time, and not just because I plan to continue feeding myself this time. Three days after Ivy was born, I was down just 10 lbs. I found this incredibly depressing, but reminded myself that the hospital had spent a couple days pumping me full of fluid. My fingers were twice their normal width. Over the next two weeks I lost another seven pounds, due in large part to those crazy postpartum night sweats.

For the past seven weeks, I've maintained that two-weeks-post-birth weight. I just don't have a lot of time to devote to weight loss. I had this idea that I would go for walks with Ivy in the Ergo while Westley was in preschool. But so far, I've been using that time to grocery-shop, run errands, and advance the never-ending laundry. Since Ivy was born, I've only managed to squeeze in two short workouts and two walks (not counting our weekly strolls to the chiropractor's office, which is about half a mile from home).


Then there's the food aspect. Forget about dieting! Most of my "meals" consist of whatever I can grab quickly while Ivy complains in her bouncy chair for five minutes. In other words, lots of muffins. And, as you may have noticed, "the main ingredient in muffins is cake." If I'm going to lose these last 15 lbs. (give or take), I'll need to work on my time-management skills.

I'm trying to be gentle with myself as I get used to life with two children. Losing weight is still important to me. I'd like to get back into my skinny jeans, if for no other reason than I have just one pair of pants that fits me right now, and they may not be actual pants. My goal weight isn't that far away. But for the first time in as long as I can remember, I'm not willing to punish myself to get there.

That alone feels like progress.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Two Months

Two Months

She is a sunbeam. I am totally smitten with her.

Two Months
Two Months

I can't believe Ivy has been on the outside for two whole months (and one day) already—even though her birth seems so far away that it hardly feels real anymore. She's got the whole two-month-old thing down, though. She would REALLY like to be able to roll over onto her tummy. The fact that she can get up onto her side before getting stuck makes it worse. She can see rolling over from here! She can TASTE it! So, so close!

Ivy smiles at faces she recognizes, and she looks around to see where a familiar voice is coming from.

Two Months
Two Months
Two Months

I love having pretend conversations with her. Ivy coos, I coo back. She watches my mouth when I talk to her (and when I eat), so I make huge, stupid, wide-eyes-open-mouth faces at her. I would feel like a idiot doing it, except that it's totally fun. She also seems to like being read to. Night before last, Rob caught me reading to her from Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck.

Ivy is always delighted to see Rob. She makes her, "Oh, wow! It's YOU!" face at him, like the George Carlin dog. But Westley is the one who keeps her most engaged. It's perfect: he loves to explain things about superheroes and fictional robots, and she seems to enjoy being explained to.

Westley often says, "I'm so glad to have a sister."

Two Months
Two Months

I'm glad Westley has a sister, and that Rob and I have a daughter. I feel so lucky it's ridiculous.

Two Months


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dailies 10/14

Ivy is two months old today and I just realized that now because I'm not very bright really tired.

tired girls

Sleep was the theme of the week. Every morning Rob and I go over the events of the previous night. "How did you sleep?" "OK. Not great. You?" "OK." And the comes the math: how many hours we were in bed divided by the number of wakings, carry the three hours when Ivy decided she wasn't hungry but she wasn't sleepy either, which makes...not very much sleep.

When Rob and I curl up in our king-size bed, it seems luxurious. Add a baby, a preschooler, and a fat kitty to the mix and things become clown-car cramped. I sleep with everything drawn in tightly and (I hope) out of everyone else's personal space, and wake up with knots in muscles I'd forgotten about.

It's fine, though. Really fine. And I'm not just saying that in a blow-you-off-I'm-suffering-and-don't-want-to-talk-about-it way. We're doing really, really well on rest. Ivy is working on getting a good five-hour block of sleep after we first put her down. I'm working on remembering that not every little squawk means "I'm hungry and I need you!" Rob and I each drink a strong cup of coffee in the morning, and at night, we go to bed when the kids go to bed.

This postpartum period, I taught myself early on to prioritize sleep above all things. It worked. I can tell because I start yawning at 8:15 PM.

library sculpture
Rob went back to work full-time on Tuesday. I'd gotten very used to having him home in the late afternoons, and I really felt his absence. Late afternoon is when everyone loses their cool. Westley is whiny, Ivy is fussy, I'm at the end of my energy. I don't like resorting to turning on the TV and leaving it on, but I feel like my current options are limited.
soft kitty
Ivy continues to be a total peach of a baby. She's very particular about certain things (if I try to feed her when she's tired, she howls angrily at me), and prefers being held whenever possible. Ivy's not as laid back as Westley was as a baby, but she's very clear about her needs which bumps her back into the "easy baby" column. Or maybe she just seems like an easy baby because this is the second time around, so I'm not flabbergasted by every little baby-thing she does.
fall walk-a-thon
After weeks of summery September and Septembery October, Fall arrived on Friday. It was cool and drizzly and Westley got to wear his rad Batman raincoat that I spent way too much money on, but fuck it he loves it so much and it really is the coolest little kid raincoat I've seen in a long, long time. I dressed Ivy in a ridiculous pajamas-Babylegs-socks ensemble, topped off with a hat that turned out to be too big and kept slipping off. I was so afraid she'd freeze, but she was cozy against my body in the Ergo carrier, and I ended up warming my hands in the space between the carrier and the infant insert.
I also decided that, to celebrate my seventh Fall and Winter in the Pacific Northwest, I will finally break down and buy the ugly, bulky gear that actually keeps a person warm when it's cold outside. I might even buy it from the outdoorsy store with the climbing wall—though I'm certain the real outdoorsy people will know I'm a faker and laugh at me. I don't care. I want to be able to walk to the park with my kids in the snow.
miss face
My mother thinks Ivy's eyes might be hazel. I've never been totally clear on what hazel eyes are supposed to look like. Ivy's eyes look brownish-blue-grey to me. (Westley's eyes are bright blue, and they were definitely blue at two months.) Before she was born, I dreamed about a brown-eyed blond toddler girl. Ivy looks nothing like I imagined, and everything like herself.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Where Is My Mind?

6 week weigh-in
Weighing in at 10 lbs. exactly at 6 weeks old.

Today I took Ivy for her two-month well baby appointment—except her two-month well baby appointment isn't until next Wednesday. I had it written down wrong on the calendar. Now that I think about it, I do remember the doctor saying "10:00 AM on the 17th" when I called to confirm the appointment a few weeks ago. But it got tangled up in the Rube Goldberg machine of my mind, and I wrote down 10:00 AM on the 10th instead.

The mistake ended up being fine. Our naturopathic physician recently moved to an office half a mile from our house. We'd walked over, or really I'd walked over with Ivy strapped to my chest in the Ergo. It was cold and gray but not raining, so I took us home the long way around and made an official "walk" out of it. Ivy slept, and I went over my never-ending mental to-do list.

It's just a little unnerving, actually, that my calendar was wrong about Ivy's well baby exam. The calendar is my attempt at transforming my mental jumble into a neat paper grid of official Things To Be Done. The agenda in my head is a wild mess these days. It always was, but having two children makes the mess even messier.

(Agenda literally translates from Latin as "things to be done." I'm amused and reassured by idea of Ancient Roman To-Do lists.)

I need to be able to trust the calendar because I can't trust my mind. As much as I try to remember it all, to organize the appointments, to make sure Westley is ready for preschool on preschool days, to notice that Ivy is tired and needs to be soothed before the frantic squawking starts, to feed everyone, to feed myself, to take the library books back, to actually read the new library books before they're due, to get back to the people I promised to get back to, to write, to stretch, to gets away from me a little at a time, and then...

Shit, I'm supposed to have this ready by tomorrow! And there's no food in the house.

I actually have more time now that Westley is back in preschool, but it feels like I have less. It slips away from me faster. I have an hour and a half in which to do three hours' work. And it probably wouldn't take three hours, except that half of my mind is somewhere else. Maybe the reason Ivy seems so much more capable every day is that my intelligence is slowly dissolving into milk.

Even these words...I'm not sure what I'm writing about any more.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Dailies 10/7

Sibling Meeting I
Serious Profile
Smiling at Daddy
Miss Face

Ivy and I spent last Sunday evening surrounded by midwives and midwife-supporters in a sweet little love-filled Seattle living room, watching the premiere of the Call the Midwife on PBS. I brought my camera to capture the action and spent the entire evening breastfeeding. Oh, well. I did manage to take a blurry picture of the moon through my car windshield. It was the most enormous full moon I've seen in a while.

Blurry Moon

The show made me nostalgic for Professor Hunter's British Film and Television class. Hanging out midwives made me nostalgic for being pregnant, and made me entertain thoughts of midwifery school in the future. (Midwifery is catching!) I would love to work with mothers and babies, but I don't know if I have what it takes to be a midwife. I wouldn't want to be on the other side of my emergency, for example. How could I ever be as resolute and magical as Beth was?

Beth is one of my favorite people. She's been helping women have their babies longer than I've been alive. I was sad to realize today that she probably won't be midwifing it up anymore (and may not even be with us on the Earth plane) when Ivy is baby-having age.

Smiling at Westley

We're pretty sure Ivy is teething. She sleeps HARD when she sleeps. She's drooling buckets and pissed-off fussy. Nothing helps except cuddling, and that doesn't help much. It's miserable for everyone. I try to remember not to take her fussiness personally.

Ivy took her first bottle of pumped milk like a champ, and then refused every other time we offered it. We tried offering it to her when she was hungry, when she was not hungry, when she was calm, when she was a little agitated... We finally figured out that the milk was the problem. The milk I had so lovingly pumped and frozen, once thawed, smelled and tasted like soap and vomit.

A quick consult with Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding—which I'm kicking myself for not reading while I was pregnant—suggested it was my fault. I make lots of lipase. Great for helping Ivy get her fat-soluble vitamins and free fatty acids, bad for keeping the milk fresh-tasting once it's outside of my body.

Today Rob tried giving Ivy a bottle of freshly-pumped milk. We hoped this would help her keep her bottle skills up and give her a positive association with the bottle. She screamed and refused to drink it. Maybe her mouth feels funny and the bottle makes it worse. Or maybe she's just particular about where her milk comes from.

"She's a pistol," my mom says.

Ivy was a character as a fetus (I will never forget seeing her little raised fist on the monitor, like she was punching the transvaginal ultrasound wand), and she's not slowing down now that she's on the outside. Today she tried with all her might to roll over. I'm afraid she'll be crawling when she's six months old. She's already quite the conversationalist.

Sibling Meeting II
Smiling at Westley

My children love to talk. Westley is non-stop chatter. By the end of the day I almost want to bribe him to stop talking. It's a weird variation on the movie Speed. If he drops below 50 words a minute, he'll explode. And all he wants to talk about is robots and what they do and how they "battle." Battling is very important. It makes my pacifist heart heavy. Yesterday Westley noticed the Spy vs. Spy spies on a poster of various cartoon characters. He wanted to know about them—especially which one was "the good guy."

Rob explained that there wasn't a good one and a bad one, that they both did mean things to each other.

"I think the white one is the good one," Westley determined.

"Oh. Why's that?" I wondered if he had picked up on the narrative shorthand: white clothes for heroes, black clothes for villains.

"Because he's the one with the bomb."

I choked on air. The one with the BOMB is the GOOD guy.

I knew trying to dissuade Westley of his interpretation wouldn't work (he once burst into the bitterest of tears and screamed at us when we told him that Superman is an alien) so I quietly went about my morning routine while feeling like a pacifist failure. I may have daydreamed about running away to a hippie commune with my still-innocent baby girl.

I do sometimes fantasize about running away with Ivy. Things are so easy when it's just the two of us. Of course, I never get anything done because I just breastfeed her and stare and her and talk to her. (Seriously, I'm so behind on everything. Housework, blog-reading, shaving, you name it.) But if Ivy's a total crab apple Annie when I'm alone with her (Rob calls her "Crabcake"), I feel like I can roll with it. The hard part comes when Ivy is grouchy and Westley and Rob are around too. I don't know where the shift happens or how, but it's there for sure. Maybe it's as simple as more people means more energy, more voices, more emotions.

(More fun, too.)

Halloween Aisle
Dad Life
Playground Spinning
Smiling at Westley

I'd like things to be easy, but I'll settle for difficult-in-a-good-way.