Thursday, May 31, 2012

We Must Be Crazy...

We're getting ready to start trying to have another baby. Are we nuts? We're still not sleeping because of the first one! Plus, this time (unlike last) we know what we're getting ourselves into. Again, are we nuts? I keep catching myself trying to envision what Life With Katie will be like in 10-12 months. What will she be into? Will she be more independent? (I hope so!) Will she stop running into the street every chance she gets? (I hope so!) Will she still be screaming when she's frustrated or something doesn't instantly go her way? (I hope not!)

Looking back on our first few months with Katie, I honestly don't know how I can do it all over again, with the addition of a boisterous toddler to look after.

Firstly, we stayed in the hospital an extra day, so we could get breastfeeding help. (For all the good it did.) We also were totally freaked out about bringing this beautiful, tiny, helpless being home with us. We didn't know what to do with her. This time around, I don't want to stay an extra minute! I hope they will release me early so I can go home to my sweet Katie. I've even fleetingly considered giving birth at home. (The hubs is firmly against it.) Darn, that would be so convenient. But messy! Ew.

Secondly, breastfeeding. I wanted to breastfeed Katie, but Katie had other ideas. We saw four different lactation consultants and countless nurses, but she just wouldn't do it. We made trips to the hospital, 45 minutes each way, several times a week for lactation support.  We fed her breast milk through a tiny tube taped to one of our fingers for three weeks, a job which required both of us for every feeding.  Finally one of the LC's told us to feed her with a bottle - against my better judgment - so we could get some sleep. I didn't know it at the time, but that would be the end of our breastfeeding relationship.  But I'm tenacious. I kept trying to get her to latch until she was about 5 months old, and then I finally gave up. I did not, however, give up pumping. I pumped and fed her breast milk in a bottle until she was just over a year.

I had to feed Katie some formula, too, because I couldn't produce enough milk. I was on all sorts of weird herbal supplements with lovely names like Goat's Rue and Fenugreek (which Anthony calls Fen-U-Reek, because of a very embarrassing side effect.) And I was pumping 8 times a day. That may sound do-able if you've never done it, but I tell you, it is grueling. It pretty much means you have to pump every 2 hours, plus once in the middle of the night. I'd do 7am, 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 6pm and right before bed, then around 2 or 3 am when Katie would wake up. Seriously. And what are you supposed to do with your baby during all those times, as a stay-at-home-mom all alone?  Goodness - I had lots of tricks. Bouncy seat, Jumperoo, songs, games, special When she was old enough to eat solids, Anthony would feed her in her high chair during the 6pm pump, and that was a big help. And, around that same time, I got a hands-free pumping bra and I pumped in the car while driving! WOW, can you say INSANE?

So how am I supposed to do all that again, with Katie The Toddler as well? Plus not sleeping? One thing's for sure, I have a Plan B if Baby 2 won't latch. I was so overwhelmed when Katie was born, and I was in denial about having to pump every 2 hours. I think if I'd understood about pumping properly in those first few weeks, I would have built up a good supply and could have eventually dropped to 4-5 pumps a day like so many other moms.

But other than that, I don't know how I'm going to manage. How do you other mommies do it? I know a mom with 3 boys, ages 8 months, 2 and 3 1/ on earth does she do it? (I'm gonna ask her next time I see her.) Another mom has 2 boys 16 months apart. I already asked her; she said the first was a fantastic sleeper. Great. Some other parents I know have kids who are 6+ years apart, so their older kid is in school part of the day. That sounds lovely, but with my "advanced maternal age," we don't have the luxury of time. (That is the actual medical term for being a mommy at age 36. WTH!)

Any suggestions welcome!!!

Wouldn't I be a great big sister? Think of the mischief I could get into if I had an accomplice!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bread maker fail!

To underscore yesterday's post about my utter lack of kitchen prowess, I have now failed at the easiest task ever: making bread in a bread machine.

I got the machine, a Zojirushi Home Bakery Mini, for my 4th anniversary. It may sound like a weird gift, but I've been wanting one forever and we agreed that this would be a good "for both of us" kind of gift. As in, I will love using it and Anthony will love eating the bread. Win-win. :)

Let's see - today is the 22nd and I got the machine on the 17th. I've made four successful loaves already, which means I've baked nearly every day since I opened it.  As the name "Mini" suggests, it makes the cutest little mini loaf you've ever seen! It's a 1-pound loaf, and most loaves you're used to seeing are either 1 1/2 or 2 pounds.  It's perfect for us - the loaf is small enough that we can finish most of it before it goes stale.

I've been trying to recreate Anthony's absolute favorite bread in the world, King's Hawaiian rolls. I've been extremely diligent about conducting my experiments, only changing one variable at a time. I started with a standard loaf, then tried substituting pineapple juice for the water. Then I tried substituting eggs in place of part of the water. Then I tried adding a lot of sugar. All four loaves came out good, but I'm still quite a ways away from finding the perfect recipe.

Today I thought I'd go back to a regular sandwich bread before resuming my experiments. I managed to get all the ingredients measured and into the machine before Katie woke up from her nap. I also started the machine at the perfect time to have fresh, hot, delicious bread ready for dinner. It was a race to the finish line. In order to be ready at 6, I have to start the machine by 2:30, and I almost didn't make it.

Katie and I ran our afternoon errands, and when we got back, I checked on the bread to see if it was rising nicely. It wasn't. It hadn't risen at all. In fact, I could still see the little pile of yeast in the middle, unmixed. I reset the machine, cursing that we wouldn't be having yummy fresh bread for dinner after all. I checked to make sure the baking pan was seated properly in the unit, and that's when it hit me.

I'd forgotten the kneading blade.

I poured everything out into a bowl, inserted the blade, and dumped everything back in. I hope it works!  :( :( :(  Stupid failures.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Broccoli is My Bag, Baby, Yeah!

I've mentioned before that broccoli and I have never been friends. I spent my childhood hating it and avoiding it at all costs. Over the years I've learned to tolerate it, especially if it's smothered in some sort of savory sauce (like in Chinese food. Yum.) When I was pregnant with Katie, I went out of my way to eat as much broccoli as I could stand, because I know it's packed with goodness. Broccoli conforms to my theory that the worse a food is for you, the better it tastes, and vice versa. So when I'm trying to eat healthy, naturally my thoughts turn to broccoli as the king of all foods. (Which it probably isn't - but no one can deny it's at least got some nice vitamins and minerals.)

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the foods I feed my family. I'm a struggling homemaker - I don't like cooking. Actually, I loathe cooking. (I generally loathe things I'm rubbish at.) I recently made a list of all the things I know how to cook semi-successfully, to aid with weekly meal planning. Guess how many things I can cook? 17. And that includes Rice-A-Roni, grilled cheese, spaghetti, and Breakfast For Dinner.  Sigh.  So I've been checking out cookbooks at the library, hoping to be inspired.

In the cooking section I came across a book called The Locavore's Handbook by Leda Meredith. I skimmed the first few chapters (I don't have time to actually READ, folks!!) and started to hyperventilate a little. There are about a zillion great reasons to eat locally, and they're all reasons that hit home to a Crunchy Mom like me. Reducing carbon footprint. Reducing the use of pesticides. Eating in sync with the seasons. Being a locavore (meaning, getting all your food from within a specific radius of where you live; in Leda's case, 250 miles) is said to be more eco-friendly than recycling: "Buying 25 percent of your groceries from local farmers for a year lowers your carbon footprint by 225 pounds -- even more than recycling glass, plastic, and cans!" -- Eating Well Magazine, Feb 2009

So why the hyperventilation? Because I should be doing this, and I'm not. I'm SO not. I buy nearly everything frozen because I'm so lost at sea when it comes to dinner. We live on Trader Joe's meals at least once a week, sometimes twice. So naturally I'm asking myself, How on earth can I eat locally when I can barely figure out how to put a meal together? <wheeze wheeze wheeze>

But I'm pulling myself together. Baby steps! That's what Flylady says. Don't worry about where everyone  else is, just jump in where you are and take baby steps so you don't burn out.  So my baby step is broccoli, because Katie loves it and it's something I should be making an effort to feed to my family. Yesterday I bought it FRESH at the grocery store.  That's baby step #1: I have to figure out how in the heck to cook it. (Just kidding, I'm gonna steam it. I just don't know how long...oh boy.)  Baby step #2 will be buying broccoli weekly at a farmers' market.  Just one thing, which I hope will snowball into a whole new locally-sourced lifestyle.  I'll keep you posted!

More broccoli! Nom nom nom

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sleep, no thanks to Dr. Sears

This is about my 7th attempt at writing this post. I keep alluding to our sleep story like it's some long, drawn-out saga, and it is - but living it is one thing and writing about it is another.

I don't know how to make our saga engaging. The long story short is, we love Katie. We didn't believe in letting her "cry it out." We believed the attachment-parenting gurus like Dr. Sears, who played upon our fears, telling us that we would be monsters to abandon our helpless, crying baby in the dark.

At first, Katie slept like a normal newborn (3-4 wakings a night), but around 4 months things got a lot worse (7-8 wakings a night.) And we plodded on, like zombies, trying anything and everything to get her to sleep.  We tried:

Putting her down awake (hah!)
Feeding to sleep
Sleep Sheep white noise maker (note: don't buy this. It's adorable and cuddly but has a timer that shuts the white noise off JUST as she's going through a sleep cycle change. Dumb.)
Bathing before bed
Co-sleeping in our bed
Feeding her relentlessly all day long in hopes that she wouldn't want to eat at night

...and on, and on, and on.

I read a couple of books on sleep that suggested that day sleep is really important to good night sleep. So I became the Nap Nazi, making sure that Katie got her naps during the day NO MATTER WHAT, even if I had to hold her in my arms the entire time. And usually, no matter what I did, she'd nap for 30-45 minutes and then wake up screaming.  Swaddling helped, but then she started to break out of the swaddle and it became clear that it was dangerous to continue.

We started sleeping in shifts in order to get at least a couple of hours of sleep each. Anthony was "on call" from 9-2 or 3, and then I'd take over for the rest of the night and get up with Katie in the morning while he slept until 9.  It was awful.

The torture lasted 14 months, until one day my mothers' club newsletter featured a Sleep Expert who was coming to give a talk at their next meeting. I called her THAT DAY.  That hour, actually! She came over for a 2 hour consultation, and basically convinced us that "cry it out" isn't inhumane or cruel, like the attachment-parenting folks would have you believe.

It took a lot of convincing, but this is what finally changed our minds. We'd both read an article about the supposed dangers of the "cry it out" method - namely that crying elevates the baby's cortisol levels, which is a bad thing for her overall health. Our sleep expert agreed that elevated cortisol is a bad thing, but pointed out that lack of sleep, over long periods, contributes far more to elevating the baby's cortisol than a couple of nights of crying. That was my "aha" moment. Katie hadn't had a good night's sleep since birth, and that can't be good for a baby's developing brain. (not to mention ours!)

So we did it. We Ferberized Katie. The first night was awful (2 hours of crying). The second was better. The third night, she cried 5 minutes and went to sleep. Naps took a LOT longer to settle into a routine, but I think I can safely say, 4 months later, that they're well established.  THANK YOU, sleep expert! THANK YOU, Dr. Ferber!

And absolutely NO THANKS to Dr. Sears.

This was taken in March. Please ignore the Christmas pajamas!

p.s. Even though Katie sleeps almost 11 hours a night, usually without waking, Anthony and I still haven't gotten our old sleep patterns back. We're still waking up many times during the night, still tired during the day. But at least now we have the opportunity to lie in bed for 8 uninterrupted hours.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bathing Beauty, pt 2

Well, folks, no one can accuse us of depriving Katie of water-based frolicking and fun. Due to a weird turn of events, we took THREE swimming lessons last week!  On the upside, we are now locker-rooming like pros. (Almost.) On the downside, that's a LOT of chlorine for one week!  Their pool is unbelievably hyper-chlorinated. This is a good thing, as it's used for kids' swimming lessons all day long, every day of the week. But wow, do I reek of the stuff afterwards.

Anyway - I guess the turn of events isn't that weird. We were signed up for a Tuesday/Thursday class, and after Thursday's lackluster lesson and Katie nearly falling asleep in the car on the way home, I decided that 10:40-11:10 is way too close to naptime. I called and transferred us to the earliest class of the week, 10am on Fridays. Which meant, sigh, another day in the pool. Personally, I've had enough chlorine to last at least another 6 months, but instead we get to do it again for the next 6 Fridays.

That's ok. Friday's teacher is SO much better than the Tuesday/Thursday one!  Tues/Thurs was like April from Parks & Rec, and Friday's is more like Leslie. For swimming lessons, or frankly, anything having to do with small children, you want a Leslie.  She was cheerful and smiling and seemed to really enjoy encouraging the little ones to swim. I can't recall if the other one smiled at all. I know I never saw her teeth!

Now that I'm a seasoned (ahem) veteran of the swimming lesson experience, I've noticed a couple of things.

1) Some moms are young and hot. Others are like me: mid-thirties and not. It's totally unfair that we have to get into swimsuits and get in a pool together.

2) Some babies - most babies, it would seem - love the water. Other babies love the water and don't mind putting their faces/heads in it. Katie is not one of those babies. She loves being twirled in the water, jumping into my arms in the water, bouncing in the water - but go near her face with it and you'll be sorry! In our Friday class of four, we had two face-water lovers and two haters. It was actually a relief to me, because instead of freaking out that I'd done something wrong (started her too young? not young enough?) I saw that the water-hating thing is probably a personality quirk.  And, interestingly enough, guess who else flat-out refused to put her face in the water until the age of about 7?  Yours truly. And in high school I was on the swim team. So all is not lost for Katie.  :)

So for the next 6 Fridays, we will decline to dunk. Forget about dumping a bucket of water over her head. (Can you believe that's even a thing?) If Katie can learn the meaning of the word "Kick!" then I feel these lessons will have been well worth it. Right now she just clings to me while I struggle to kick her legs for her. :)

Chlorine, here we come!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bathing Beauty

On Tuesday I took Katie for her very first swimming lesson. She's been in the pool twice before; once at a friend's and once at my mother-in-law's. Both times she loved the water, especially when Daddy and Mommy would spin her around in it, "Wheeeeee!"  So we figured it would be bordering on cruel not to teach her how to swim.

This first lesson was one of our most fraught excursions to date.  Not only did I have to get Katie and all her swim gear into the car on time, we had to survive a clothing and diaper change in a crowded locker room. A sign on the wall explicitly forbade me from changing Katie on the locker room benches, so I opted for the floor. Not exactly what they'd intended, but too bad - we were stressed enough. I tried taking Katie to the designated changing station in the bathroom, but before I even set her down on it, she started to freak out. Somehow we managed to get Katie's suit on (I'd prudently worn mine under my clothes) and stuff all our crap in a locker. After seven or eight unsuccessful tries, a nice old lady helped me figure out how to lock it. (Sigh. Before Katie I was darn good at figuring stuff like that out. Now I can barely think straight.)

We made it out of the locker room and into the pool area. We checked in, put our stuff down on a bench, and got into the water. Lovely and warm! Yay. There were three other kids in our beginner-level Water Babies class. All three were boys, and all three were older than Katie.  And, all three had attended the first two lessons of the series (I screwed up the dates, thinking the class started this week instead of last. Gah.) So we were a little behind to begin with, in addition to being the youngest and least able to follow instructions. (Katie, not me.) To make a long story short, Katie did fine, better than I'd expected, but before it was over she was saying "ALL DONE!" pretty forcefully. And she was shivering. Poor baby! I guess that's what happens when you just hang out in the water and let Mommy do all the work. :)

The most inelegant part was doing the whole locker room thing again, in reverse, while soaking wet. I really don't know how we did it, but it helped that there were a lot fewer people around. Lucky for me, Katie was a little scared by the noise of the hair dryers, so she wasn't as inclined to run off at top speed, leaving me half-naked with one wet leg stuck in my jeans. Instead, she had fun opening and slamming the lockers near us. Yeah, we're making friends already.  I'm now "that mom" that absently says "No, honey" while her kid continues to do something annoying.

We'd almost made it to the door when Katie tripped and fell on the scale. She started to scream bloody murder, so I scooped her up and ran for it. She calmed down as soon as we were out of the locker room. Whew. And, as an added bonus, she didn't fall asleep in the car on the way home! I played peek-a-boo with her nearly the whole way. Not my safest driving, I admit. But if you know our sleep story,* you'll know that Mommy will do ANYTHING to make sure Katie has a good nap!

Tomorrow, we do it all over again. Here's hoping the locker room thing goes more smoothly this time!

Swimming is fun! Let's go again!

*The sleep story is coming! I keep falling asleep writing it...

Friday, May 4, 2012

How did I just drop $30?

Or, "Grocery Shopping as Entertainment: Bad Idea Jeans"

Oh, Nob Hill Foods, you know me too well. You know that I will come into your store looking for a couple of things and leave with two full bags. And, knowing this, you deliberately put enticing items into your bargain bin.

Today they REALLY knew I was coming. There were two bins marked "99 cents," both filled to overflowing. One had tea. TEA! Only my favorite thing in the world. They had Earl Grey, Red Rose, and even Decaf Red Rose! And, of course, a couple of icky fruity-sounding teas that I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole. I put three big boxes of tea in my basket, and thank goodness I had a change of heart before I reached the cashier. You see, a long-term caffeine fast is quickly approaching. I only have until the end of the month to enjoy my PG Tips in the morning. So, two boxes of tea went back into the bin. The third is decaf, and we'll see if it can make a decent glass of iced tea. I already know it will be wretched hot.

With the other bin, I wasn't so lucky. Hold onto your hats - it contained CAKE DECORATING SUPPLIES! Specifically, gorgeous, brightly colored sanding sugars!  ZOMG!  I've read tutorials on how to make your own, and I'm sure I'll do that someday, but not today! Today they are 99 cents each!!! I'm not entirely sure you can buy coarse sugar, even plain, for that price. And these are some frou-frou high-end brand, to boot! WOOHOO! At first I was very practical, and picked out red and green for Christmas treats. But then I saw blue! And yellow! And orange! An entire rainbow!  (wheezing and fanning self)

Mind you, readers, I don't have time to bake. And when I do make time to bake, I definitely don't have time to decorate! But alas, all of those sanding sugars came home with me, to sit on my pantry shelf and take up space until I have a life again.

Ah well, could've been worse. The bins could've been stocked with half-price chocolate.  Did I say worse? I meant AWESOME! :)