Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's Her Party and He'll Cry If He Wants To

Picnic

Ivy's first birthday is two weeks from today, and as much as I want to celebrate—she's going to be ONE!—I have yet to plan anything. Because I don't know what to do about Westley.

When the subject of Ivy and her birthday and the possibility of a party was brought up earlier this month, Westley lost it. I was a little shocked by how upset he got so quickly. Westley wasn't much of a fit-thrower until recently. My only guess is that over the past few months (since preschool ended) it's really sunk in for him that the baby is here to stay. She's so here to stay, in fact, that she's having a birthday. For some reason, that fact is just intolerable.

Westley and I have been doing a lot of talking about little sisters and brothers and what it's like to have one (I'm an older sibling, too). How even though you love your sister, you can hate her sometimes too. I let him know that whatever he feels is fine—and that if you asked other kids with younger sisters, they'd probably say they have the same thoughts and feelings he does sometimes. Some of our little talks seem to have helped, but the smallest mention of Ivy's birthday still distresses him.

Obviously Ivy doesn't care whether she has a birthday party or not. (She's much too busy STANDING UP WITHOUT PULLING UP!) But I want to have some kind of little celebration, like we had when Westley turned one. And yes, it's mostly for the parents because, hey, we made it through another babyhood! High-five!

This is among the worst problems with growing a family. Not planning parties—the fact that things are never going to be fair. And even when they are fair (e.g. everyone in the family gets a birthday party), they're never going to feel fair, especially to the 5-1/2-year-old, who has decided that all presents everywhere should be for him and only him.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Camera Unshy

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The only way I ever get a half-decent picture of Ivy these days is by taking about 500 photos at a time. In most of them, she's trying to grab the camera—or complaining because I won't let her grab the camera.

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I'm more than a little envious when I click over to a blog with gorgeous photos of the writer's children reading, playing, eating...and not trying to cover the lens in big, slobbery kisses.

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Work it, camera! The baby loves you!

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Exhaustion is Spelled P-A-R-E-N-T-H-O-O-D

I wasn't gong to write about this because, well...what else is there to write? A mom is tired. How totally cliché. But I'm all kinds of out of my writing groove, and the ancient wisdom is "write what you know." All I know right now is tired.

I used to think I knew what exhaustion was. In our pre-kid days, Rob and I sometimes worked crazy overtime hours. Leave-the-house-at-five-AM-and-get-home-the-next-day crazy. Rob coped with that better than I did, and showering together every morning became our routine, as it was the only way Rob could make sure I wouldn't turn the alarm off, roll over and go back to sleep.

Then I got pregnant, and I couldn't get enough rest, ever. I took to sleeping in the car on the way to and from work throughout my first trimester. More than once, I spent my lunch hour napping on the floor under Rob's desk, my head on a ream of A4 paper.

Then I had a baby. I hated getting up in the night. I felt crazy, like I was the only adult in the world who was awake. More than once, when the baby started to cry in the oh-so-early hours of the morning, I cried too. Please, not yet. I fought and piled up pillows and cursed and struggled and adjusted blankets and finally mastered the art of breastfeeding while lying on my side in bed. Eventually, everyone started to get a little bit more rest.

When Westley was a baby, I would often turn to Rob and say (somewhat dramatically), "I'm so tired I can't see." When Westley was about 3-1/2, it actually happened. I got up one day and my vision was totally blurry. It resolved in a few days, and the optometrist couldn't find anything wrong with me. She gave me a pair of reading/computer glasses with the wee-est of wee prescriptions, mostly to humor me, I suspect. "You were probably just really tired," my doctor said when I mentioned it to her.

Fast forward to now, and "really tired" is my "normal." Sleep is only part of the equation. By the end of the day, my body is exhausted, like I ran or climbed a mountain for 13 hours, when all I did was...I can't even remember. Pick the baby up, put the baby down, pick the baby up, put the baby down. Laundry, meals...how does this take all day?

I knew parenthood would be emotionally demanding. I was ready for that—sort of. I didn't know what shape the emotional challenges would take, but I knew children were good at trying their parents' patience and pushing (with shocking accuracy) their parents' buttons. But I had no idea that having children would be so physically taxing. That I would wake up in the morning with post-workout fatigue, even though I didn't work out last night or the night before. That when asked what one piece of advice I wish someone had given me about becoming a mother, I would say, "Get really strong. Bench-press-your-body-weight strong."

So now I know about a kind of exhaustion I never would have guessed existed. The strangest thing is that little moment of contentment still manage to creep in through the tiredness. Maybe it's because I've had a baby before and know that nothing lasts long, but holding Ivy in the oh-my-God-it's-early hours isn't so bad most of the time. It's actually kind of nice.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

How Sweet It Isn't: A Sugar-Free Update

I'm a little over half-way through my month of sugar-freedom, and it's going really well. I was more than a little annoyed to find sugar in my salt, but cleaning out the pantry wasn't too difficult and mostly consisted of pushing the jarred marinara to the back of the cupboard.

(The salt in question was labeled "iodized sea salt," but the ingredients list included dextrose. Dextrose isn't sugar exactly, but it is a sweetener. Made from plant starch. In my salt.)

Since I don't eat many packaged foods, sugar-free living, for me, has meant less baking. A lot less. When the fridge is overflowing with berries, I no longer make an impromptu batch of muffins. I have a bowl of berries and a few raw almonds of a snack. And while I miss the creativity of baking and the Domestic Goddess feeling it gives me, I'm not missing the baked goods themselves much.


Which is not to say I haven't let a few treat-like things into my sugar-free month! Way, way back when Westley was a baby and I was first on a crazy elimination diet, I discovered Larabars. I almost always carry a Larabar in my bag in case hunger sneaks up on me, and I've made use of them a few times this month. But without a lot of other sweet foods in my diet, Larabars have started to fall into the "treat" category in my head—which is sort of appropriate, since the flavors are all named after desserts. Also, since they're composed mostly of dates, I think Larabars are essentially raw vegan candy bars.

Which brings me to dates. Dates are magical. I used them to sweeten a sugar-free fruit crisp with great success. (See? Treats are still invited to the party in my tummy.) One or two dates chopped up in oatmeal is much more satisfying than a drizzle of maple syrup. Dates are very high on the glycemic index—higher than glucose, for some varieties—so if your most important reason for cutting out sweets is to avoid spiking your blood sugar, dates are probably not a great choice. But if you're just trying to turn off a sweet tooth...dates, my friend! In moderation, of course.

I haven't noticed whether drastically reducing my sugar consumption has had any effect on my back pain (via the sugar-inflammation connection). It may be too soon to tell, or I may just be too tired and sore from the seemingly never-ending pick-the-baby-up, put-the-baby-down routine to notice a change right now.


A few more weeks on the sugar-free train may or may not make a difference for my back. But I'm pleased to say that my sweet tooth has all but disappeared.

The secret to not craving sugar seems to be not eating it. It's annoyingly simple.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Eleven Months

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As of Sunday, Ivy is eleven months old. Over the next two weeks, she'll graduate into "almost one."

These next few days are the last time I'll measure her age in months. When she's eleven-and-a-half months old, I'll start telling people she's "almost one." Next: "She'll be one next week." And finally, "She's a year old."

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She's going to be a year old. I can't believe she's going to be a year old. Except that it was a million years ago that she was born. I remember so vividly when she wasn't here, but still it seems as though she's always been here. She was never not crawling and cruising and pulling up to stand on everything and everyone.

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Last week my fearless, outgoing social butterfly became fearful and clingy. She wants to be on my body all the time, or at least close enough to me that she could grab me if she wanted to. It's no fun for her. When I hold her against my front, she pushes her arms into my chest and arches her back, straining with all her might to get down—put me down! But when I do, she whirls around and looks up, betrayed, fussing and reaching for me with both hands.

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Clingy or otherwise, Ivy is very happy most of the time. She claps whenever anyone says "yay!" She gets up on her knees and bounces. She says "hi" and waves bye-bye. She still loves getting kisses, and she's learning to give them too.

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Ivy now sits in her high chair for three meals a day, most days. She still gets most of her nutrition from breastmilk, but food is quickly becoming one of her favorite things. Ivy likes almost everything I offer her, but her favorites have been soups and stews. The more strongly flavored the better. Soup and stew aren't the best for summer (she's too young for gazpacho), but I keep making wintery dinners because Ivy will eat as much stew as we give her. She also adores watermelon. She is passionate about watermelon. Between them, Westley and Ivy polished off a 30-pound watermelon in two weeks. Ivy ate most of it.

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This past week (right around the time the super-clinginess started in earnest) Ivy shifted her sleep schedule again. She was sleeping a solid nine hours at night before waking up to nurse, and now it's more like seven hours. Then she's up to nurse for half an hour or so, and then sleeps for another three-and-a-half hours. I want to chalk it up to a teething/developmental milestone/growth spurt explosion, but I've given up trying to figure out what's going on and why. I just cuddle her when it seems like she needs cuddling, night or day.

When she doesn't need cuddling, I let her explore.

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I'm more tired than I remember being ever—including in the few weeks right after Ivy was born—and some days I can't imagine getting anything done ever again. Ivy is just so busy and interested in everything that it's impossible to match her. She is more than I ever could have imagined.

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Sleep Nursing
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More energetic, more beautiful, more moody, more adventurous.

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I can't wait to see what she'll do next.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Bipolar-Curious

When I was 16 and suicidal, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder for five minutes. The psychiatrist, who seemed bored with my fat-lonely-high-school-girl problems changed his diagnosis to clinical depression after deciding that my "highs" were not high enough.

My mother was glad to hear about the change. "Bipolar disorder is a serious diagnosis."

I felt very unserious with my mere "clinical depression."

Since then, I've used depression to explain all sorts of mental and emotional shifts in my life. It became a neat little boilerplate answer for every "why am I the way I am?" When something unpleasant bubbled up (or ripped through me), I didn't have to think about it what it was. Depression. I'm depressed.

Or, more often, I'm just depressed.

Did you hear that? "Just" depressed.

Yesterday at about 3:00 PM, I was bleary-eyed, watching Ivy use the scientific method on the contents of my nightstand. I felt...something unpleasant, which instantly turned into I'm just depressed.

I don't know if it was the giggling baby or the clatter of an amethyst cluster against the wall, but I stopped. For the first time in fourteen years, I questioned that thought. I was feeling sleepy, physically sore, lonely, maybe a touch bored, but depressed? No. That unpleasant something was tiredness with a side of cabin fever.

I drank a glass of peppermint iced tea and took Westley and Ivy for a walk around the neighborhood and felt a little better.

As we walked, I wondered how many mood swings I've labeled "depression" without question. Instead of setting me on a course to feeling healthier, my high-school diagnosis became a reason to say no to life. Thinking of myself as "just depressed" kept me from ever trying to get help—or help myself.

Depression has been a story I've told myself for over a decade. And it's not entirely true.

I wonder how my mental health narrative would played out if Dr. Can't-Be-Bothered had stuck with his original assessment. Would "bipolar" simply have been another label to embrace and outgrow? Would my mind be less of a mystery to me today?

I can't do anything about the past 14 years. I don't know what (finally) shifted yesterday. But going forward, I will be writing a very different story.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Shopping Metaphor

Ivy

A little while ago, Rob and I were discussing how inscrutable our own parents can be. We love them, but sometimes we also wonder How did we end up with these people? Then I realized:

"We're probably not what our children would pick out in the Neiman Marcus parents department."

Rob jumped all over it: "Well yeah! Have you seen the prices in that place? We're the K-Mart models."

"We're not from K-Mart!"

"Yeah, you're right. We're more Nordstrom Rack. There's some good stuff in there, if you look around..."

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sugar-Free July

Until I was pregnant with Ivy, I wasn't much of a sugar-lover. I was a French-fries-for-dessert person. An annoying "no thanks, I don't really care for chocolate" person. Then a sperm busted through the zona pellucida, and somewhere in all the cell division that followed, my sweet tooth got turned on.

And it made up for lost time. Batch after batch of cookies, scones, and chocolate-chip peanut butter brownies (better known as "are there any more of those brownies?") appeared on the cooling rack. Rob has always had a sweet tooth, and his favorite part of coming in the door at the end of the day became playing the "What Sugary Treat Have You Baked Today?" game.

We knew it would have to end sometime. I assumed my sweet tooth would disappear again after the baby was born, like my fondness for tomato sandwiches did after Westley's birth. But much to my annoyance, my cravings for sweets have stuck around—and I've allowed them to stay by continuing to feed them. I haven't been baking every, but too many of my "once in a while" treats have turned into "most of the time" habits.

This month, I'm quitting sugar. And when I say "sugar," I mean the white, processed stuff and the more "natural" alternatives like maple syrup and agave. Basically, if it tastes sweet and it's not fresh fruit, it's out.

Watermelon
I also ate TONS of melon while I was pregnant with Ivy. Now watermelon is one of her favorite foods. Go figure.

I'm sure I could retrain my taste buds by cutting way back on sweets (a little sprinkling of coconut sugar on my muesli and no other sweeteners for the day, for example). But turning off my sweet tooth is only part of what I hope to gain from this little experiment.

There seems to be a direct link between sugar and inflammation in the body, which can contribute to all kinds of problems—including the kind of chronic back pain I've been dealing with for years now. Despite regular exercise, chiropractic care, and physical therapy, my back still freaks out on me more than I would like. I'm getting stronger (slowly—I think), but I'm curious to see if a little dietary overhaul might help things calm down back there.

Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I don't think this will be too difficult. Since I'm the resident food-prep person, if I don't make (or buy) sugary stuff, it won't be around for me to grab in a moment of exhaustion. And there are no birthdays or major celebrations in our family this month. (Confession: I had planned to do a Sugar-Free June instead, but Rob's dad's birthday is in June and there was cake from Flying Apron. Gluten-free, vegan, delicious cake! And I wasn't about to miss out on Father's Day mimosas, either.) I'm probably cursing myself by saying so, but I'm not too worried about a month of sugar-free-dom.

There's plenty of sweetness in my life as it is.

Sweets
No dessert necessary.

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