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Life… in a nutshell

December 9, 2009

So the incredibly cold weather we’ve been having lately, and the snow that it brought with it, slammed me with migraines in the last couple of weeks.  Living with weather-induced migraines in a state like Colorado (which I swear is Mother Nature’s weather testing grounds) is no easy life, and when you add an exclusively breastfed toddler to that compound, the result is a volatile mixture just waiting to erupt under pressure.  Fortunately, Bro is willing to chip in and help out – if I ask.  Of course, the one thing he can’t do is lactate (been trying to convince him and The Hubby that they really need to try – just for reasons like this… okay, and the incredible amount of humor that I see in it), so it means when Little Frog is hungry, cranky, hurt, or any other number of reasons for nursing, the migraine takes a back seat to him.  All of this means that my blog, which was sparse to begin with, is even sparser, so to those few who are following, I apologize for the lack of content.  Winter is a sketchy time for my brain, so we’ll see what happens.

On the plus side, the cold weather does have an up side.  When it evens out (which means as little as snowing for a couple of days straight – no changes means no headache), and the headace goes away, I can do things inside that I keep meaning to do. So right now, I’m working on soft, unbreakable ornaments for the tree – things that Little Frog can grab and pull on (since I have no clue how to keep a toddler from being irresistably attracted to the holiday tree), working on paper ornaments for more grown-up areas of the tree – ours and our close friends, and figuring out the list of holiday baking to be done.  Also, I have gift cards to mail off to my nieces for the holiday, and to figure out what to get both the Bro and my oldest niece – both of whom decided that being born right around the Winter Solstice (not kidding – they sandwich it) was the way to keep their families on their toes – for their birthdays.  They turn 16 this year! 😮  I’m not sure what to think of that, but it seems like an amazing feat that they’ve both made it this far into their teens without loss of life – they’ve both pushed my sister and me (and our respective spouses) to our absolute limits. The fact that they – and we – have lived to see this birthday is sometimes a testament to sheer will power… and the desire to not have to stand trial. LOL  Seriously, they’re great, amazing kids, but the teens years can be trying.  So much so, that we’ve decided that Little Frog is not getting to be a teen-ager.  We’ll mark birthdays til he celebrates the 12th one, and then it’s anniversaries of his 12th birthday til we get to his 20th year, then we’ll mark them properly again. 😀 Think it’ll work?

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A new tradition has started…

November 28, 2009

So we had decided – mostly by my request – that this year, Thanksgiving wasn’t being celebrated. Instead, we were doing a birthday celebration – since mine fell on Turkey Day this year – and would be doing a very relaxed party. More of a “come, bring food (something you like and want to share), and hang out as long as you’d like” type of affair than a party, really. We invited our close friends, and extended the invite to family as well, letting everyone know that there was no traditional anything going on. Everyone thought this was a great idea, and the meal planning began.

We had decided ahead of time that this would be a nibble all day, no formal dining time, buffet style food service.  The food would be there, and people could get what they want, as they needed it.  I made a coffee cake in the morning, so that those that were close and wanted to could stop by for coffee and munchies before starting cooking. The Hubby’s college buddy was next up with egg drop soup.  He mentioned that he thought it was a little to heavy on the sesame oil, but it tasted great, and the timing was perfect since I was just starting to get hungry.  A little bit later, my heartsister arrived, with sushi and the makings for spring rolls and lettuce wraps. The sushi went over great, disappearing in less than 30 minutes 🙂 I know one of Bro’s favorites is enchiladas, so I made those, and rice. I had planned to make beans too, but realized we didn’t really need them; we were going to have plenty of food. People started gathering around the table to fix their plates, and the Hubby’s college buddy came back from their house across the street with sesame chicken.  My other close friend brought a mexican-flavors inspired chocolate mousse – cinnamon and chili powder added a little kick, and made for a more complex flavor profile. The whole thing was finished off by a delicious chocolate cake with coffee cream cheese frosting.

The best part of the whole day – aside from the wonderful homemade food – was the lack of stress. No worries about gathering everyone up, or forgetting something. No worrying about the food coming out perfectly, or all getting to the table hot. For Bro, the best part was having plenty of foods to choose from – and foods that he either knew he enjoyed, or looked forward to trying.  Towards the end of the day, I asked the Hubby if we could do this again next year – instead of Thanksgiving – because it had been so very enjoyable for everyone.  He agreed that he’d liked it very much, and that yes this might have to be our new tradition. We’ll extend the invite to family again – they declined to come this time – and there are a couple more people we’ll be inviting – one had been going to come this time but wasn’t feeling well, so decided to stay home.  My heartsister and I have already started thinking about what next year’s food might be – after all, there’s no reason to make the same thing, unless we really want to.

In sharp contrast was last night’s visit to family for make up Thanksgiving. The Hubby’s mom reheated leftovers, and we sat down to the table – turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry relish, yams with brown sugar and marshmallows on top, gravy, and bread. I took the things I wanted, as did the Hubby. When Bro sat down with his plate there were only three things on it – turkey, a slice of the garlic bread, and mashed potatoes. One of the other reasons for the non-traditional Turkey Day offerings at our house – Bro has always disliked (or downright hated) most of the traditional foods offered. I used to make him have a bite or two of yams and stuffing, but over the years, I’ve learned to respect the fact that he’s a person, too, and that he has a right to decide that he doesn’t like a particular food.  He hates the feeling of gravy in his mouth, doesn’t like green bean casserole at all (also in this category are Hubby and me), has never ever liked yams – ever, and most of the time doesn’t like cranberry stuffs – too tart for him.  Grampa gave him a hard time about the lack of stuff on his plate, telling him he’d have to grow up some time and actually eat foods that are at a dinner. To my gratitude, the Hubby jumped in immediately and defended Bro’s food choices. This all served to reinforce the idea that perhaps we as a society have become to hide-bound regarding what foods should be eaten on which day or at which time.  Makes me really glad we did something different this year.

So for next year, I’m thinking of fun things that I’d like to try, and thinking about foods I enjoy that I want to share. I know there are a few people who’ll definitely be joining us, a few who are maybes, and possibly a few that won’t join us.  If there are those who don’t want to join us, I’m just as happy that they don’t… if they don’t want to eat with us, then they shouldn’t come. 🙂

41?!? So soon?

November 21, 2009

So a tradition we started in our family a few years ago is the Fortnight Celebration.  For those who might not know, a fortnight is 14 days, or two weeks.  What we have realized is that sometimes, the important events in our lives (anniversaries, birthdays, major holidays) don’t fall on days that make it easy to actually celebrate on that specific day.  For instance, my birthday is right around Thanksgiving – actually on Thanksgiving this year – so because of that, getting together on the date itself doesn’t happen very often.  It’s usually more of a “Happy Thanksgiving!, and since we’re all here today, we’re going to acknowledge L’s birthday” celebration.  Also, if the occasion falls in the middle of the work week, that can add stress to what is supposed to be a happy thing.  So, we instituted the Fortnight Celebration.  Any time during the week leading up to the day of the event, and any time during the week after the event is okay for celebrating. If we’re not doing anything specific on the proper date, we always make sure to acknowledge it by a card or something.  It’s fantastic, because it actually feels like an event when you celebrate off and on for two weeks! 🙂 

😮 Which means we’re in my birthday Fortnight, already!  Friday night, The Hubby brought home some pretty purple carnations, as a way of starting off the celebration, and it made me realize I’ve got some work to do around the house this week.  You see, as part of my birthday this year, I asked for something I rarely ever get.  I asked for my birthday to be more important than Thanksgiving – I don’t want to celebrate Thanksgiving-with-a-side-of-Laura’s-birthday.  I want this day to be about me, for once.  It took some doing, mostly because he has family in this state, and there was the worry of will there be upset and hurt feelings if we don’t do Turkey Day on Thursday.  Since we made plans for this about the middle of last month, there weren’t any concrete plans for Thanksgiving yet.  Everyone seems to be okay with this, except for the fact that (as we found out last week) due to schedules and things, there’s not a good time to get together any other day.  So the rest of the family will be celebrating Thanksgiving, while we and our so-close-they-might-as-well-be family friends will be celebrating my birthday.

No turkey at this get together, we’re going to celebrate with a mix of foods.  I’m doing enchiladas, rice, and beans. My heart sister and her man will be doing Vietnamese spring rolls, and sushi.  The Hubby’s college buddy and his wife will be bringing egg drop soup and sesame chicken. One of my other good friends is bringing cinnamon chocolate mousse. Rounding this up is my doula friend, and possibly her husband if he doesn’t have to work that day, bringing something as yet undetermined.  Somewhere in all of this, The Hubby and Bro have mentioned doing a cake – 😉 we’ll see if it happens this year.  So we’re looking at possibly 11 people in my smallish front/dining room and kitchen.  Since my heart sister and the college buddy both live close – within easy walking distance – their food will be prepped at their houses and brought over.  Hopefully the cake will be done beforehand, since I’ll need the oven for the enchiladas, but that’s about the only possible kitchen conflict.  The biggest issue will be moving stuff around so that there’s room for everyone to not feel crowded.  The basement is useable as well, and it may be a secondary place for splitting into a smaller group.  We’re planning on nibbling throughout the day, so no real serious need for seating, but the table can accomodate all of us, if we’re willing to snuggle in.

I’m looking forward to this.  Thanksgiving is usually very stressful, trying to make sure that everyone has what they’re going to need for the whole day (the day very often starts with breakfast or brunch and goes from there), and getting out the door, in the car, and to our destination in time to eat breakfast while it’s warm.  To top it off, Bro has never liked the traditional Thanksgiving foods – ever – and so he’s usually pretty hungry by the end of the day, because the foods he does like – dark meat turkey and potatoes – are the things that go the fastest.  He’s never liked stuffing, or yams, or cranberry sauce or relish, or gravy, or green bean casserole (and I don’t either).  I’ve had him try them, every year, but I figure he’s almost 16 now… if he hasn’t acquired a taste for these foods, he probably isn’t going to anytime soon.  So this year, no turkey dinner, no stress, no trying to figure out what foods to take for Bro (he follows the Feingold Program, so we have food issues to worry about) to snack on.

The only part that’s blowing my mind… how’d my 41st birthday get here so damned fast? I don’t feel 41, probably because I’ve not been 41 yet, so don’t know how it feels; but in my mind, I’d always thought of it as feeling older.  I don’t think I look 41, but I’m probably not an impartial judge.  I’m not as energetic as I used to be, but I’m blaming that on Little Frog… he’s very active 😉 and it takes a lot to keep up with him. I can’t be 41 yet… my oldest is still a teen and I have a 15 month old (he will be 15 mos exactly on my birthday 🙂 ).  I have a marriage that’s only 2 years old.  *sigh* Yeah, I know, I’m 41.  It’s not a bad thing at all, just surprising.

I’m out of touch…

November 20, 2009

Lately, because of various things going on with Little Frog – he’s working on getting in three teeth at the same time, making leaps and bounds in his movement (he almost runs to get things), and he’s getting more communicative – he’s been super clingy.  If I move at night, he’ll wake up and fuss at me, or he’ll scootch in closer, resulting in me waking up in a sweat from the two of us radiating heat off each other.  Many times I also realize I have a dead spot along my arm, always a startling realization in the middle of the night when the brain is only partly functioning, caused by the dead weight of the totally asleep child’s head resting on my arm.  The resulting numbing of everything on the other side of his head will later be countered by the jangling return of feeling when he finally shifts to nurse.  I’m not really sure what’s worse in that case – the dead feeling or the pin and needles, pokey-stabby feeling – especially when what you want is to be sleeping.

This clinginess of his is extending to more than just while we sleep.  It’s all day.  If I move, he wants to be right where I am, preferably in my arms, or on my lap.  If I set him down, squalls on a large, loud scale ensue.  He doesn’t want The Hubby in this case, though he’ll do in a pinch.  He doesn’t want Bro, and if made to go to Bro (like when Mama is cooking something hot and splattery on the stove) will howl as though deserted with a stranger.  He wants to sit on my lap all the time, wants all the things I have, to do all the things I’m doing (even those things that he can’t have or do), and does not want at all, in any way, to be set down – until he wants it.  Then he gets down, usually to play with Bro, giving me a rare opportunity to run to the bathroom unaccompanied!  No sooner am I back, and he’s attached to me again.  If I don’t immediately pick him up upon regaining my seat, he circles me, patting my leg, shaking the arm of my desk chair, pushing against the back of my chair, pulling on my clothes.  I feel hunted, by some weird, taunting little predator, one who’s not above letting me know that he knows I have the boobies, and that as long as I sit still and let him have the boobies, no one will lose their hearing.  LOL  I love him, but boy does he have strongly held opinions, and powerful set of lungs, and he’s totally not afraid to use either one of them. 

 Over the last week, getting him to go to sleep at night has been nearly impossible.  He’s asleep, I can tell by his breathing, his complete limpness, his stillness.  I move on the bed, preparing to get up – nothing.  I lift myself up – and *boing* up comes his head, like a prairie dog popping out its hole to investigate that noise, that commotion.  Upon recognizing that Mama is leaving, he’s up out of the covers and starting to protest loudly, while grabbing onto my arm. *sigh* All that time, laying down next to him all for nothing in the merest blink of my eye.  Sometimes I wonder if he’s got some invisible alarm system that tells him Mama’s on the move.

It wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that this sleeping time at night, is my quiet time, my recharge.  I’m not getting much of it lately, and I’m noticing it.  I’m noticing it in the worst of ways… I don’t want to be touched.  One of my closest friends calls it “Being out of touch” – in other words, you’ve touched and been touched so much, you don’t want to feel it any more.  I can deal with being a jungle gym, and climbed on, and accosted, and, and, and… if I get this down time.  When I don’t get it, when it starts becoming backlogged, I start to notice my nerves being more twitchy, I notice less patience – with everyone, I just want to run away to some quiet corner and be alone for a little bit.

Tonight, wonder of wonders, he went to sleep – huge sigh of relief – and here I sit, in the quiet.  The Hubby and Little Frog are upstairs asleep, Bro is in his room listening to Tom Petty, and I’m here at the computer, finally getting to blog a little before I pick up my newest hobby – knitting.  Yep, much to the happiness of my mom, I have finally learned to knit.  A good friend (who was my doula with Little Frog) opened her house to a bunch of crazy women – moms with their youngsters  in female service positions (lactation consultants, doulas, etc) for a get together every week.  We sit and talk, wrangle our kids, and try not to strangle our yarn as we manipulate our fingers and the needles into creating a cohesive chain of stitches.  It’s working, amazingly enough, though I daresay the biggest thing we’re all getting out of this is the camaraderie and companionship.  We sit around, flashing boobies as we nurse our children of various ages, to the soundtrack of conversation and clicking needles.  It’s fantastic, this reconnection with other mamas, and necessary to keep myself balanced.  Otherwise, I’ll lose myself even more than is already too easily happening.

Time to get back in touch with me, to find me again in the Momiverse that circles around me.  Me, spiritually, since that’s been on hold.  Me, craftily, as I’m loving this new thing I’m doing, but also miss the old crafty me.  Me, the person, since I know I’m so much more than just Mama, but somehow Mama takes precedence, and the rest of the parts of me seem to shuffle back in the back, like all the girls you knew in school… the ones who were always afraid to call attention to themselves.  Yeah, that’s the rest of Me right now – the jr. high girl, who stands back and lets life pass by because you’re not supposed to call attention to yourself.  Now I need to pay attention to those needs… at least a little.  Mama is important, needs to be forefront right now, but the rest of Me needs to not be lost in the process.  Hopefully I can juggle it, and not be so “Out of touch” both for my family and for me.

Learning from your kids…

November 13, 2009

As a teen-ager, you know you know it all, and are invincible in this knowledge and your power over death.  As an adult, you think you know it all, but the invincibility is waning somewhat – mortality is a little more apparent than it used to be.  As a parent, you realize you know nothing whatsoever, and mortality is staring you straight in the face, daring you to keep moving, like some weird game of chicken.  But if you can break away from that stare, you realize those kids (yes the ones that alternately make you want to scream and to laugh) can teach you so much if you let them.

Bro constantly amazes me.  We unschool, and always have, so that means he’s never been in a formal school situation.  He’s never been subjected to the peer pressure that says you must stay in your herd age group, and only associate with those people.  He’s never had the joy of learning snuffed out like nothing more than a little candle.  Because of this, he willingly hangs out with his parents, and he thinks his parents’ friends (who are our chosen family) are fun to do stuff with.  He builds Legos with his Dad (they have a show they’re participating in this weekend at the Colorado Mills Mall), and he helps keep an eye on Little Frog.  He asks questions out of the blue, about subjects that are flowing around in his brain, and those questions can spark an hour’s worth of conversation (at least) as the subject moves from one connection to another.  This is one of the things Bro has taught me over the course of his life – that in learning, as in life, all things are interconnected.  Once I realized that, it became clear to me what has bothered me so much about the way the majority of our schools teach subjects – divided, with none of the connections that help tie it all together.  All the things that students are supposed to be learning about are tied in – art to science to math to history to literature to government/politics.  When we learn about one in the absence of the others, it loses that spark of interest that can grab someone and spark the desire to know more.  Instead it becomes a meaningless jumble of words and statistics, a static fact devoid of life.  When you bring all the subjects together, and follow the ebb and flow of an idea that sparked a quest for more, which in turn became challenging and dangerous to those in power, and thus must be banned from public knowledge – you get a true feeling for why we are who we are.  This plays a big part in our decision to not just homeschool, but to unschool.

Little Frog has challenged a lot of my previously held child-rearing knowledge.  I knew I would breastfeed again, but hadn’t planned to breastfeed exclusively – until I started learning more.  I read more and more, and discussed things with The Hubby, and decided that circumcision was a thing we would never do, that babywearing spoke to us deeply, that vaccination was too questionable to approach without more knowledge (and once we’d gotten that, very selectively chose what we did).  We decided that gentle discipline was a necessary thing, that extended breastfeeding just made sense (especially since at 14 mos, Little Frog still hasn’t decided solid food is worth more than tasting), and that crying it out was a cruel thing to do to the tiny individual who would be depending on us for everything (this was not a change from what I did with Bro).  We drew the line at co-sleeping/bedsharing though.  He would be in his own room after the first week, and sleep in his own crib, just like Bro did.  If he cried, I would comfort him and put him back in his crib.  We wanted our space at night, our privacy.

In the first few days home, however, Little Frog’s bilirubin count was high enough to warrant being put under bili-lights.  We let the doctor know that we were exclusively breastfeeding, not supplementing at all, and that my milk had come in since Little Frog had been nursing so much.  So we had a bili-blanket brought to the house instead, and for the next three days, my brand new son spent all his time that he wasn’t nursing, in his cradle by himself.  I spent most of that time on the verge of tears.  I just wanted to hold him, but knew that the more time he spent on the blanket, the better it would work.  Once he was finally off the bili-blanket, and his count was normal, I was extremely happy, but still thinking that night-time would find Little Frog sleeping in the cradle, to be moved to his room in a couple of weeks.  He had other ideas, though… he would sleep just fine in the cradle for 30 minutes to an hour, and then wake up crying.  I’d nurse him back to sleep, wait til he was fully asleep, move him to the cradle, only to have the same thing happen.  It took me a couple of weeks of no real sleep to finally decide to bring him to bed with us… call me a slow learner if you want – I’m chalking it up to lack of sleep.  I put pillows behind me so I was semi-reclined, laid him on my chest, and he slept that night for 4 hours!  When he finally woke up and needed to eat, I sat up (hadn’t figured out the side-lying position yet) and fed him, and then we snuggled back down to sleep.  It was wonderful… better even than chocolate!  After a few nights, The Hubby said he wanted his turn.  I’d read all about how dads aren’t as aware or responsive to babies being in bed with them.  However, The Hubby was totally aware (said it was one of the most exhilirating and sleepless nights he’d had), that he’d had no idea of how erratic newborns breathing patterns are, but that he wanted to keep doing it because it was such an amazing feeling.

Fourteen months later, and we’re still bedsharing.  Little Frog sleeps between us, won’t sleep at night without us both there, and seems to be very happy about the situation.  He nurses, and then snuggles up against one or the other of us, and reaches out a hand to the other one to make sure that we’re both there.  Changing the one most strongly held idea regarding sleeping together has made for a happier family all around.  Letting Little Frog tell us what he needed, and paying attention to that need, was probably the best lesson we have all learned.  We all feel better when we know that others are really paying attention to our needs.

 

One of the many reasons I love The Hubby…

November 12, 2009

So a couple weeks ago, something happened that reminded me why I fell in love with this man.  When we first met (online – which is another story all together), we had long talks about various and sundry things, and I realized that I was way more earthy-crunchy than he was aware.  As time passed, and we moved from online chat to phone calls, more of this came out, and this opened up new avenues of discussion. 

Fast forward to just before I got pregnant with Little Frog, and we had discussions about why I couldn’t give birth in a hospital.  I had him read the chapter on childbirth in Christiane Northrup’s book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, and it began to make more sense for him.  So we talked more, this time in depth, about the birth of Bro, and he understood.  Throughout the pregnancy with Little Frog, as I read mothering magazine and other mags and websites that were pertinent, and read to him and Bro various articles about all different topics, they were both soaking up all this information. 

I hadn’t realized how much until the aforementioned incident.  The Hubby’s younger sister had called, and because of a twist in the course of the conversation comments regarding bed-sharing (“he’s old enough to be sleeping on his own” which Hubby met with “wakes occasionally to nurse at night”), sleeping through the night (“he’s old enough, he should be sleeping through the night, shouldn’t be waking to nurse” to which Hubby responded “breastmilk digests faster than formula or solids, so of course he’s still waking”), and breastfeeding (“he’s old enough, he should be eating solids” which really got things rolling with Hubby) brought forth a whole long discussion of breastfeeding, and the stats and recommendations, and the fact that we are happy with the way things are going, Little Frog is healthy and happy and totally not in danger of starving, and that yes, he does taste things, but that’s all he does is taste them… once he’s gotten the flavor, he spits it out and wants a new piece of something else to taste.

I had been out with my friends, and heard about the conversation after I got back home.  What I thought was incredibly fantastic was that he did all of this without any prompting by me – you know the “tell her x information” “oh, and don’t forget this info” kind of stuff that goes on when someone’s on the phone, but you have things you want to pass on.  All that stuff I’d been reading and sharing had been absorbed and retained, instead of being heard and dismissed as I was afraid might be the case.  Hooray for Hubby! 

I was so happy that conversation happened, since later that week, we were going to dinner at her house.  Since all of this had been discussed beforehand, there were no sideways glances or comments about the fact that I was still nursing.  Hopefully all this sunk in, and there will be no more questions about our family’s arrangements.  However, if there are, at least I know that The Hubby will be there to support me when I respond… as a matter-of-fact, he might even respond before I do.