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Amid the good times, a reality check.

26 Apr

Things have been so great lately (WHADDUP, SECOND TRIMESTER?!?!?!) that I thought it might be wise to revisit a very bad, very real day in the not-so-distant past.  You know, just to keep my head in the game.

Bad day.

Meet my son, Seabass.  He hasn’t had a haircut in 1.16 million years.  He has been sick with an upper respiratory infection for 4 months.  Snot gushes from his nose with impunity 24/7.  Oh, and the infection has spread to his ear, so his balance is off and he falls down a lot when he walks.  (Hence, the scrapes and scabs on his face.)  His skin is weathered and chapped from both the constant snot-wiping and cold, wintry weather.  He is getting his two-year molars, so he drools.

On top of everything, he’s about to turn FREAKING TWO YEARS OLD.

This period of time seemed to last years, but it was nothing that a visit to Supercuts, a few antibiotics, doctor visits, boxes of Kleenex, tubes of Aquaphor and buckets of Tylenol couldn’t fix.

The Power of a Loving Mother

20 Dec

Love Fest

I was pushing Seabass in his stroller on one of those crisp, sunny December mornings that Central California does so well when I suddenly felt a little hand on mine.  It was Seabass, reaching as far out of his seat as possible just to touch me.  I had been in a reverie, tripping on neon red maple tree leaves and the warmth of our neighbors’ smiles.  But the little pink hand got my attention.

I reached over and gave him my own hand, which he grasped and pulled to his face in a most gentle, loving motion.  He just wanted to enjoy my presence, and I would have walked halfway to China stooped over with my hand on his face if he’d asked.

The truth is, he did ask.  I nearly broke my back walking home with him clinging to me like that, and I’d do it again and again.

As I caressed his pudgy little angel face, the thought came to me that I love Seabass so much that I believe in him.  This seemed a little odd because my little guppie is only 19 months old – how much is there really to believe in at that age?  Do I believe in his ability to eat with a spoon like a big boy?  His ability to resist touching the space heater?  His eventual ability to potty in the toilet?  You get my point: It’s not like we’re talking graduation from Harvard or running a marathon here.

But it got me thinking about my own small achievements and the role my mom played in them. Just musing on this, I felt an intoxicating gratitude for her sacrifices to be available to me throughout childhood and beyond.  What might have happened to me without my mother’s love and belief in me?  I shudder to think.

Everyone in this world needs a cheerleader – someone to shout encouragement from the sidewalk and pass little cups of Gatorade as we trudge along in the race of life.  I’m humbled to be cheered on by my own mom and even more so to cheer my precious little one on, too.  Thank you, Mom, and thank you, Seabass.

Coccoon Obsession

15 Dec

"The ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp, and that's all I need."

In the early days, when Seabass was an infant hell bent on systematically whittling my endurance down to a quivering nub, I would have done anything to get him hooked on a “lovey.”  Unfamiliar with lovies?  Think Linus and his blanket.  Or Maggie and her pacifier.   Basically any tangible item that makes a child feel comforted and secure, other than MOM or BOOB.

While BabySleepSite.com suggests that a lovey “should ideally not be larger than [a baby’s] head nor have things that can fall off that he can choke on,” I was so desperate to calm our colicky Seabass down that I would have given him a chef’s knife if it might’ve helped.  When it came to settling him down, no suggestion went untried, from stroking his eyebrows (while he screamed) to dancing with him to Björk (while he screamed) to squirting breastmilk in his face (straight from the tap, I might add…while he screamed).

Little did we know that the source of Seabass’ comfort would come in the form of a circular blanket that my mom knitted – a coccoon, if you will. (For all you wild and crazy knitters out there, here’s a link to the pattern.) It all started when he started busting out of his swaddle blanket.  Afraid that he would get cold while he slept unswaddled, we used the coccoon from my mom to keep him warm.  Think of it as a baby sleeping bag.  Or a big blue sock. Or a Rastafarian beanie in which lengthy dredlocks make their home.

We used the coccoon consistently through last winter and into the spring, though eventually it became too small for wearing and was instead used for clutching.  Pretty soon we noticed that Seabass had formed a real attachment to the coccoon, trailing it behind him as he tromped around the house, in the backyard, wherever.  It was getting harder to wash because whenever I had time to chuck it in the washing machine, it was more than likely being snuggled during a nap.  Thus, a distinctive “aroma” has settled on the coccoon – one that is specific to Seabass’ needs in moments of uncertainty, exhaustion, or plain old fashioned fussiness.  I know this because he often takes deep hits off of it, smothering his face with what is becoming a ratty – and gamey – oversized sock.

Growing up, I never had a lovey, but I sucked the first and second fingers on my right hand until I was old enough to know better.  (Truth be told, I sometimes sniff those knuckles if I can’t fall asleep.  Don’t tell Jake.)  While it’s sometimes a nuisance to pick dead leaves, burrs, and God-knows-what-else out of Seabass’ coccoon after he wanders in with it from outside, I know what it is to be comforted by something as simple as a blanket.  Much as I may mock the smell wafting off his coccoon, it probably smells a lot like me: It squishes between us as I rock my little boy to sleep each night and as we greet each morning.  For that, I take his obsession as a compliment.

This mama likes a walking baby.

7 Jun

New Mom: My baby just started standing up on his own!  I can’t wait for him to take his first steps.

Crusty Veteran Mom: Take it from me, girl: You do *not* want him to start walking.  When mine started taking his first steps, I pushed him down repeatedly because I didn’t want to have to chase after him all the time.  That’s what happens when you’ve had a few kids – you know what’s coming so you prolong their immobility for as long as possible.

First course: Dirt. Second course: Camera.

This is the conversation I had about fifteen bajillion trillion times before Seabass started teetering on two legs a couple months ago. To be honest, I always found it pretty annoying to be told I didn’t want a walking child.  The truth is, I wanted it more than anything.

You see, we always knew Seabass would be an early walker – not because he’s so advanced or anything, but because he utterly detested crawling.  All he ever wanted was to be upright and into everything.  But since he couldn’t, Jake and I were forced either to

1. listen to his painful, skin-crawling whine whenever he couldn’t get something he wanted, or
2. break our own backs getting it for him.

Everything’s different now.  If Seabass wants something, he gets it.  If that something is a toy, book, or Cheerio, hooray!  If it’s a broken Pacifico bottle, knife, or can of Ajax, boo!  So we have eliminated all “boo”-type implements at his level.

But there are some things that simply can’t be removed, such as DIRT.  Dirt belongs, by its very nature, at ground level.  And Seabass is a true dirt connoisseur.  How often does he partake of it?  Oh, I’d say at least every day now.  I know that seriously bugs some of you.  But a) I’m too tired to hover, and b) if it doesn’t kill him, it will only make him stronger.

And at this rate, this kid is going to be really, really strong.

A page-turner for the whip-it-out crowd.

14 Mar

Where all my time has gone of late.

I recently continued my tentative foray into self-publishing with a new miniature cookbook entitled The Little Book of Breastfeeding Recipes: Delicious Meals for Nursing Mothers and Their Wee Ones.  It’s nothing fancy – Martha Stewart, it ain’t! – but it’s a very utilitarian little collection of yummy recipes that my friend Carrie Squires and I put together to keep our sensitive-tummied babies happy.  A little glimpse at the forward:

When I gave birth to our son, I did not expect that my eating habits might have to change, to say nothing of my cooking habits. At the hospital, as the nurses walked me through all the many foods I would need to avoid to keep my breastfeeding boy happy, I nearly wilted. No broccoli? No chocolate? No spices?

Doing my best to avoid the myriad do-not-touch foods on their list, I realized that dry turkey sandwiches and pretzels would comprise the majority of my food intake. At a time when everything changes so violently, when sleep is nowhere to be found, and when hormones are in upheaval, it seemed criminal that I should be forbidden from the singular joy of eating well.



Here’s the part where I have to promote myself without shame:

You need this book.  It is a sweet addition to a friend’s baby shower gift, or bundled up with dinner for a family trudging through the first weeks of new babyhood.  Even if the mother doesn’t end up breastfeeding, recipes like Fresh Herb Potato Salad, Grilled Chicken Eggplant Kebabs with Quinoa, and Harvest Flatbread will be appreciated by anyone who simply likes to eat.  In other words, every recipe is adapted for maximum flavor and minimum baby tummy irritation.  To buy the book, follow this link.  And for those of you feeling lucky, leave a comment by Wednesday, March 16 at 9am and be entered to win a free copy!

Okay, I have my shame back.  But seriously: thank you for supporting this project.  All revenue from the sales of this book is going toward getting professional photos taken of our sweet Seabass!  So you know it’s a good cause.

And speaking of Seabass, thank you, little guppy, for all your good napping that allowed me to write this.  I love you.

Controversy Wednesday: BABY TALK

15 Dec

How am I supposed to resist this cuteness? I ask you.

About a month ago, I was walking Seabass around the neighborhood in his stroller when he busted out with his standard “get-me-out-of-this-thing-I’m-bored” cry.    You know the one.

But on this particular occasion, in the middle of an especially baleful howl, Seabass started to giggle, even as the tears rolled down his cheeks.  I looked down.  “Are you…are you laughing?” I asked, bewildered at my child’s remarkable ability to swing from agony to ecstasy in the blink of an eye.  And indeed, he was laughing.  I couldn’t figure out what was so funny until I realized a dog was barking down the block.  He was laughing at the dog barking.  From then on, whenever Seabass heard so much as a “woof” from across town, a little smile lit up his giant face.

I bring this up because I recently discovered that I could woof and have the same effect on him.  So now I bark whenever Seabass is fussy, whether he’s on the changing table, playing in the bath, or in the stroller for a walk.  In public.  This makes for a very strange sight, as you may well imagine. 

Jake, I’m pretty sure, does not approve.  He thinks I’m stooping too low – in other words, acting like a lunatic – to keep the baby happy.  In fact, in our blissful, adult-speech pre-Seabass days, Jake insisted that when we had children, we would never use baby talk to communicate.  “None of this ‘poopoo’ and ‘peepee’ nonsense,” he declared.  “It will only be ‘feces’ and ‘urine.’  I can’t stand all that oogly-boogly baby talk.  Who’s with me?!?”

Little did he know he was directing these edicts toward the most oogly-boogly baby-talking weirdo on the face of our planet.  I simply cannot resist.  When I talk to Seabass, every noun is followed by a suffix of -ies, as in “shoes-ies,” “kiss-ies,” and “blanket-sies.”  It’s totally obnoxious, I know, but I really can’t help it.  Seabass’ cuteness draws this behavior out of me, and the cuter he becomes, the less power I have to control myself.

Fortunately, science backs me up.  According to the infallible wisdom-trove that is Wikipedia, a number of reputable researchers believe that “baby talk contributes to mental development, as it helps teach the child the basic function and structure of language.”  In fact, there are even scientific names – and acronyms! – for baby talk, including  infant-directed speech (IDS) and child-directed speech (CDS).  (There is also something called pet-directed speech [PDS], which, unfortunately for Murphy, doesn’t get used too much around here anymore.)

Okay, so all of this is really fascinating.  However, what I really want to know is whether I get to talk about farting and butts as much as I do when Seabass is old enough to understand what I’m saying.  Because I LOVE talking about farting and butts.  LOVE might not even be a strong enough word for the extremity of emotion I feel.  The same stupid fart joke can be told 200 times and I’ll still be giggling because you said fart.  And you know what?  I’ll stop laughing when it’s no longer funny.  That’s just how I roll.

But enough outta me.  Does baby talk pour out of you or does it make you bristle?  And for you parents further down the road, do you refrain from talking about poo and butts, or do you let it all hang out around your kids? 

Controversy Wednesday: CALLING QUITS ON BREASTFEEDING

1 Dec

Disclaimer: This post is about breastfeeding because that is what I am doing.  This in no way reflects on those of you who choose/chose formula for your baby.  I am a firm believer that breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone, so more power to ya.  However, this is what I know and experience, so please bear with me if the breastfeeding discussion doesn’t apply to you.  Thank you.

Long ago and far away, I was a yuppy working in an office.  One day, a client came in with her five-year-old son to take care of some business.  In the middle of said business, the son looked up at the client and announced, “Mommy, I want milk.” 

Now, remember, I was a clueless young woman with no intention of ever having children.  I thought he was asking for a cup of milk, so I offered to grab some from the convenience store next door.  “That’s okay,” said the client.  “He’s asking to nurse.  Do you mind if I do?”

“Mommy, I waaaaaant MIIIIIIIIILK!” the child persisted, though now that I understood what was really going on, he may as well have been speaking King James English.  Mother, prithee offer thy breast that I might not expire forthwith.  Seriously, he seemed that mature.

I said of course I didn’t mind and the mother proceeded to whip out her left breast (quite deftly, after so many years of practice) and breastfeed the child right there in my office.  Not knowing how to react, I went with my first instinct, which was to stare.  And then my second instinct: to call Jake and tell him everything.

“Freaky,” he said over the phone.  “If we ever have kids, we’ll never let it go that far, right?”

“We’re not having children, remember?” I quipped, and hung up the phone.

And now here we are, eight years later with a 22-pound, three-foot-long baby that I am breastfeeding four to five times per day. 

I think he's getting enough.

Things have definitely changed since I saw the five-year-old manchild nurse in my office.  I’m committed to breastfeeding Seabass for one year because

  1. breastmilk is the most perfect, complete food for him
  2. it’s free
  3. it’s easy (at least NOW it is – remember how hard it was before?)
  4. every medical professional and their mother says to do it for at least that long.

There’s another reason we’re sticking with breastfeeding: We both really like it.  I never thought I’d say that.  Seabass wakes up once in the middle of the night to breastfeed about two or three times per week.  Ever since he started sleeping longer stretches, I have never once minded getting up at 3am to feed him.  There is something so fulfilling, peaceful, and beautiful about a mother satisfying her child’s hunger in the quiet hours of the early morning, and I’m honored to serve Seabass that way.

Whoa.  Did I really just SAY that?!?

Anyway, even though I’m definitely enjoying breastfeeding at 6 1/2 months, I’ve been feeding Seabass solids irregularly since he hit four months of age.  I hadn’t planned on starting so early, but Dr. Awesome suggested that introducing rice cereal at four months might calm Seabass down a little.  I don’t know that it did, but he enjoys the process, and we love watching him attack the spoon with reckless abandon. 

How do the sweet potatoes wind up above his eye, I ask you?

The real adventure with solid foods isn’t so much at the mouth end of things, let me tell ya.  Since we started fruits, vegetables, and the occasional grain, this kid’s butt has been working overtime to gross us out.  My favorite poops are after he’s had quinoa grains.  They come out looking exactly like they did going in.  (Which reminds me of a story.  When my brother Dusty was a baby, I distinctly remember my mom opening his diaper one day to discover an intact rubber band.  Now he is a father of two kids of his own.  How time flies.)

I’ve heard horror stories of women who encountered crazy amounts of criticism from older generation folks who thought breastfeeding past a couple months was weird or unnecessary or unhealthy.  Thankfully, I have only received a very little bit of mild concern on this front, usually because someone was worried about my mental health and independence.  (Seabass won’t take a bottle, so we’re pretty much joined at the hip, er, boob.)

But what if Seabass and I decide to nurse for another few years?  What would people say then?  At a pre-birth breastfeeding class, the lactation educator said that many babies across the world nurse until their seventh birthday.  SEVEN YEARS OLD?  That’s the year I started piano lessons.  I’m sorry: If Seabass can play the Can-Can Polka on the piano and he’s still nursing, I authorize you to confront me on it.

I have a dear friend who was committed to nursing her baby until he turned one year, but even now at fifteen months, they’re still going strong.  “I only nurse him once when he wakes up and once when he goes down at night,” she says.  “I don’t know how I’m still producing milk for such a small bit of nursing, but we’ll keep going until I dry up or he decides he doesn’t want it anymore.”

I don’t know if I can be that selfless.  Much as I enjoy nursing my baby, I’m very much looking forward to being able to leave him with someone for longer than an hour and a half.  But who knows?  Maybe I’ll be too whistful for Seabass’ babyhood to stop at one year.  It’s entirely possible.

Enough outta me.  What do you think?  When did/will you stop breastfeeding and why?