Wednesday, April 29, 2009

He must really like ducks

My son received a puzzle a few weeks ago.  It's a simple puzzle, shaped like a barn with farm animals and a farmer for pieces.  It has a goat, a horse, a chicken, a sheep, a pig, a farmer and a duck.  The duck is clearly my son's favorite.  He beelines for it, and usually holds it up to me, saying "Quack, quack, quack."  Actually, his annunciation isn't that great yet, so it sounds more like, "Wack, wack, wack."  

He's been playing with the duck puzzle piece all on its own a lot lately.  In fact, he likes to hold and play with it while he nurses.  Sigh.  I mean, can't he just cuddle a stuffed toy like other kids?  At least that wouldn't scratch my neck and chest.  

This morning it was obvious that he is becoming a bit too attached to the duck.  He woke up in the middle of the night, and, instead of crying to let me know he was awake, he sounded wide awake when he said, "Wack, wack, wack."  Really kid?  Give it a rest.  We'll play with the duck in the morning.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why do we compare ourselves?

I don't think we can help it.  Moms compare themselves and their parenting techniques all the time.  Sometimes I think we even do it without realizing it.  I know I hold my head high when I announce that I'm still breastfeeding my son even though he's nearly two, but I just kind of nod and say that I wish I could afford that or had known back then when another mom says her kid never plays with plastic toys or never used a baby bottle with BPA in it.  

So, since I'm going to be trying for another baby soon, I've been visiting some forums written by lactating women who are also trying to conceive.  The post that really made me feel selfish was from a woman who still hasn't gotten a regular period back even though her daughter is 2 1/2.  So, to improve her chances of getting pregnant, she's cutting her daughter back on nursing.  Instead of letting her nurse every two hours around the clock, she's night weaning her so that her last nurse is when she falls asleep and then she can nurse again after the sun comes up.  Around the clock?  No, I night-weaned my son at about a year old.   I just couldn't take 8 nursings a night.  I was exhausted.  So, to think someone else just put up with this for about two and a half years makes me feel a bit self-centered.  I love my baby, but I just had to sleep.  It was affecting everything I did.

And that's what I know other moms nod their heads and judge you on.  It's those little excuses.  It was just too hard.  I didn't have time.  I needed more "me" time.  I love my baby but I just couldn't handle it anymore.  He/she wasn't responsive to it.  I hate that we're so judgmental and I really hate that I'm a part of that judgmental culture within mommydom.  I want to just hug and understand why another mom chose to go a different way than I did, but I just can't help thinking about the sacrifices I made for my baby and how I know that it's worth it to give up x, y, and z to make sure my baby is happier, healthier, more well-adjusted, more attached to his parents, etc.  I think we as mothers want affirmation for our sacrifices.  We want to know that it's worth it, even though there are no guarantees.  And since we can't possibly know for sure that little Johnny won't have allergies because he was breastfed until two, or that Emily will be more independent because she coslept with her parents and left the family bed when she felt ready, we want other moms to sacrifice with us, or at least acknowledge that what we've done is worth trying.  A dismissive shrug and an excuse makes us feel like we've been judged silly or masochistic for putting forth any effort.  

What's worse is that, even with everything we try to do to make our kids' childhoods the best we can, we still beat ourselves up for everything we can't seem to do or get right.  I know I feel bad whenever someone tells me that their kid uses sign language, which I desperately tried to get my son to pick up.  My infant son actually rolled his eyes at me once when I signed at him and tried to get his hands to make the same motion.  I think I remember crying that day.  It was awful.  I didn't officially give up, but I just signed less and less until I finally stopped doing it at all.  I tried, I really did...but I know that if I had succeeded I wouldn't have understood when another mom told me she just couldn't get her kid to respond to it.  Why do we as moms do this to each other?  We know how hard it is, and we know how badly we want to be perfect and do what's best for our kids, and yet we beat up on each other and then ourselves afterwards.  It's almost like we see what other moms are doing wrong, and we know we're better that that, but then when we see another mother who is doing something better than we have, we just can't bring ourselves to look at the big picture and take into account those things that she has let slide or doesn't consider important.  We just wonder why we can't add that one thing to our parenting repertoire, even though our plates are full.

For anyone who watches 18 Kids and Counting (formerly 17 Kids and Counting) on TLC and Discovery Health Channel, the Duggar mom brings about these feelings in spades.  In fact, I'd go as far as to say it's probably damaging for moms to watch this show (but I'm addicted, so I'll continue anyway.)  She never raises her voice or loses her temper, and she is definitely of the opinion that there is no such thing as too many kids.  The Duggars belong to the Quiverful movement, which is a Christian movement that believes that God should control the size of your family.  On the Montel Williams Show, she actually said, "I think saying there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers."  All her children are homeschooled, given violin and piano lessons from the time they can speak, and are raised without TV or video games.  Most importantly, she never seems to let the pressure of parenting get to her.  All on its own, she looks like supermom and makes the rest of feel miserably inferior and like pathetic examples of motherhood in comparison.  I would love to add these elements to my own parenting methods.  But I would never want to segregate my children from society with a super fundamentalist Christian homeschool curriculum.  Her children are never allowed to watch TV or movies unless they are specifically approved by fundy mommy and daddy.  The only music they can listen to is gospel or other Christian music, but even Christian rock is too risque for the Duggars.  Oh, and no dancing either.  That might make the men in the room think of sex, which is a big no-no.  They rarely venture out into the real world, and when they do, they do it in packs to help keep each other thinking of Godly ways.  They actually have a code word ("nike") to yell out to the boys if a nearby woman is showing too much skin (as in no sleeves or a skirt above the knees.)  When they hear "nike," all the Duggar boys look at the ground, averting their eyes until they hear the "all clear."  Abstinence only education is just the beginning here.  No, they are expected to save their first kiss for their wedding day.  They don't even date.  A sort of weird, Christian arranged-marriage system is in place.  They call it courtship, but becoming engaged to someone before you even hug or hold hands sounds like an arranged marriage to me.  The oldest Duggar boy just got married on the show, and it was the lamest wedding I think I've ever hear of.  No music, no dancing, no booze.  You have to have at least one of those.  I mean, come on!  And, to top it all off, Michelle Duggar, the great matriarch, doesn't even really raise her kids anymore.  Oh, she raised the first six or so.  But now she assigns the new baby to one of his or her older siblings after he or she is weaned and then the sibling takes over raising them, for the most part.  The older kids do most of the house cleaning, teach the younger kids a lot of their lessons, feed them, clean them and just generally keep them out of their parents' hair.  Seriously, it's like Michelle gave birth to a group of nannies first, and then kids second.

Anyway, taking everything into account and looking at the big picture, I think I'm a better mom than Michelle Duggar.  My kids will enter the real world with open eyes.  If my kid was gay, I think he/she would know that they could tell their parents and be fully accepted without reserve.  My kids are taught that the joys in life have nothing to do with an invisible man in the sky, and that sex is not a dirty or shameful thing.  I will have a personal relationship with each and every one of my kids, and we will have enough resources to send them to college or help them on their way to the best life we can.  Yeah, I yell and lose my temper.  I may not be able to homeschool as I would prefer, and my kids will probably fall into the category of children who watched a little too much TV growing up, but they will not be cloistered in Jesus-dreamland and brought up to not understand why the rest of the world can't be just like them.  I just hope I can raise them to be less judgmental than their mom.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Maybe a Baby Girl Next?

So, the discussion about baby #2 is in its final stages.  My hubby still wants me to say that I'd definitely be done having kids after the next one, and I'm still saying that there's no way I'll be done if the next one's a boy, and I'm not 100% sure I won't want a third one even if we have a girl next.  But that's neither here nor there.  At least we both agree that we want a second child and that we hope it's a girl.  We both love our son dearly, and I don't think my husband be too disappointed if the next one turns out to be a boy, but I can't imagine not having a daughter.  Most women who have a bunch of boys and no girls seem to fall into one of two categories: the beat down, run-over wife who is a meek and quiet servant of her men, or the overly aggressive woman who demands that her family not take advantage of her.  The former is often referred to as the mouse, and the latter the harridan (think the Malcolm in the Middle" mom.)  I know some people might be offended by this, but I've seen it a lot.  Not all women become these two stereotypes, but enough do that I refuse to put myself in that situation.  Besides, what woman doesn't want a daughter to share all her girly traditions with?  It's only fair that he gets his son to share all of his male things with, and I get my girl to share my female things with.  

So, I bought Dr. Shettles' book on gender selection techniques.  It's a fascinating read.  I know that no method is 100% foolproof, including medical intervention, but anything I can do to tip the scales is worth trying.  Apparently timing is everything.  The X chromosome sperm (to make girls) is heavier, slower and lives longer than the faster Y chromosome sperm.  A friend of mine said the Y's are like fighter jets and the X's are like tanks.  It looks like I need to time everything for at least two days before I ovulate, and use condoms until three days after ovulation until the next cycle.  There are some other things I can do to help the process along, but timing is 95% of the battle, with diet, position and  acidity accounting for the other 5%.  Eating more dairy and drinking orange juice and cutting back on red meat and salt are a few of the diet changes you can make to help conceive a girl.  Shallow penetration favors a girl, since the Y chromosome sperm are more likely to die before making the long swim to the fallopian tubes.  And the worst part of all, the female orgasm favors conceiving a boy because it propels the short-lived Y chromosome sperm closer to the target, so having an orgasm is a no-no.  More than that, I need to avoid orgasm for a couple of weeks prior to conception, because the fluids released during the female orgasm make the vaginal canal a more alkaline environment, which is easier for the delicate Y chromosome sperm to navigate.  The tougher, X chromosome sperm can handle a more acidic environment that the Y's can't handle.  So, it looks like fun time's over until I get pregnant.  Sigh.

Other than that lameness, I'm excited.  My baby's not a baby anymore.  He's an adorable little man with a vocabulary that grows by leaps and bounds everyday.  He's learning to read, beginning to try to dress himself, and is becoming more aware of the full status of his diaper.  My little man is growing up and I'm ready to see what kind of a big brother he'll be.  Through all the sleep deprivation and lack of free time, I love being a mom. No matter how much I complain and vent, I wouldn't trade this experience for the world.  And I'm ready to have it again... in pink.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Family reflections

This past weekend turned out to be surprisingly drama-free and fun.  I mean, I love my family, and I'm not saying I don't normally have fun seeing them, but having 5 siblings, divorced parents and a widowed grandmother who doesn't always remember what you just said 5 minutes ago often makes my time with them more interesting and fast-paced than fun and relaxing.  Oh, let's face it, seeing my family is never relaxing.  It's just not.  Even when my mom watches my son in the morning so I can sleep in, or at night so I can go to bed early, it's not the same as sleeping in my own bed.  I can't lounge around in my pajamas, or waste any time, since my time there is always limited.  A typical visit consists of a 6 hour drive after my man gets off work, putting us in San Diego around 11 pm or midnight, getting up early that morning and having a long Saturday seeing as many people as I can, and leaving Sunday around noon.  That puts us home sometime around 6 pm or 7, which leaves us only a few hours of weekend before we have to go to bed and get ready for the week.  We really need to go to San Diego over long weekends so we can fit in a zoo or SeaWorld visit.  Sigh.

Anyway, I'm happy to say that my brother looks remarkably better than I expected.  I was told that his bedsore had become infected and that the infection had reached the bone, which is often deadly.  Needless to explain, I cried and imagined the worst.  People with spina bifida, the paraplegic condition my brother was born with, tend to have a shortened lifespan.  But, this time he's going to be okay.  He looked great, had already been discharged from the hospital, and says he feels fine.  I'm relieved.  I've been reflecting on my family and how lucky I am to have them all alive and still talking to me.  So many people don't have that.  

Mom and dad aren't perfect people, but they love and support me in whatever I want to do in life.  They're proud of me, despite my stumbles and flaws, and they've been there for me whenever I needed them.  It's cheesy, but heartwarming to think about.

I feel guilty about living a state away from my family.  I was raised to believe that family is everything, and being close to your family is more important than moving away to pursue a life elsewhere.  I mean, it was never outright said, but it was implied.  Whenever I talked about college in another city, mom got this sad look in her eyes and said, "Oh, but you'll be so far away then.  Do you really want to move away from all of us like that?"  More than that, everyone talked about living in California as though it wasn't possible to live anywhere else.  I admit, I would move back to coastal California in heartbeat if I could.  But I still wish my parents hadn't looked so disappointed when I moved.  I felt like I was betraying my loved ones by leaving.  Throughout college, I considered moving back to "help out" as my parents divorced, two of my siblings had kids, my parents lost the house, and my father had another kidney transplant.  But in the end, I think it was best for us all that I stayed here and finished my degree, married my love and started my family.  I wish I lived closer to them, and I'll try to make sure my son knows his relatives as well as he can, but I love having a separate life and doing my own thing.  Besides, I can always visit.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Corn Allergies Suck on Roadtrips

So, my little family's packing up and driving to San Diego tomorrow.  It's usually just annoying because a toddler on a 6 hour drive is awful if he's not sleeping.  Now it's going to be much worse.  This will be our first roadtrip since I found out that I have a corn intolerance.  I'll have to make and pack some food for myself for the weekend, and I've contacted our favorite stops to see if I can eat anything there.  I'm still waiting for Starbucks and In and Out Burger to get back to me, but I already know about Paradise Bakery, Chipotle and Cold Stone Creamery.  I can have the chocolate ice cream with either almonds, pecans or walnuts from Cold Stone, and I can have the burrito bowl with carnitas or chicken and sour cream, rice, cheese, pico de gallo and pinto beans from Chipotle.  Paradise Bakery doesn't have a single corn free item (including the salads!)  I'll be baking muffins and rolls today, bringing pretzel chips and my own corn-free mocha mix for the road, and bring my corn-free baking powder and shortening so my daddy can make me tortillas when I get there.  Well, it's not all bad...

Of course I was shocked to discover how many foods had corn in them.  There are the foods with the word "corn" or "dex" in them: cornstarch, corn syrup, corn oil, cornmeal, corn flour, dextrose, maltodextrin, polenta and corn solids.  Then there are the devious hidden corn products.  These don't always have corn in them, but can, so I have to avoid them just in case: vanilla extract, vanillin, citric acid, artificial colors, artificial flavors, distilled vinegar, white vinegar, baking powder, powdered sugar, food starch, vegetable oil and vegetable shortening.  So, no ketchup, mustard, barbeque sauce, pickles, store-bought bread, relish, salad dressing, baked goods, ice cream (except some Breyer's flavors,) candy, olives, tortillas, hotdogs (except Hebrew National,) most cereals, and anything else without a label.  Then there's the obvious popcorn, corn on the cob, tamales, corn chips, and anything fried in corn oil.  Sigh.  I miss eating whatever I wanted.  I miss not having to contact a company to find out if I can eat something without getting horrible stomach pains.  

The good news is that my allergist told me I may be able to get rid of this and keep it from becoming a full-blown allergy.  For the past month I have given up anything even remotely related to corn and I'll be keeping this up for another 5 months.  I also take a probiotic or eat plain yogurt once a day.  After the 6 months, the allergist said I can try to eat something with a tiny amount of corn in it, like a baked good with baking powder in it.  She said to try to build up to eating corn products, and eventually corn, again.  She told me that a large dose of antibiotics, which I was given around the time I developed the intolerance, may have killed off all the bacteria in my digestive system that I need to eat corn, and that laying off the corn while taking a probiotic to build up the bacteria again, may do the trick.  Here's hoping!

In the meantime, homemade mochas are tasty, I make some of the best bread I've ever had, and fruits and veggies (except corn) are always corn free.  This just may be the healthiest 6 months of nutrition I've ever had in my life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No more noes

I thought I'd be happy when my son learned the word no.  He can tell me what he wants, I figured, and he'll be less fussy overall.  

I was wrong.  Really, really, really, REALLY wrong.  He says no, whether he means it or not, to everything I ask him now.  He knows how to nod his head yes as well, but I get about 50 noes for every yes.  He'll tell me no whether I ask him a question or tell him to d something.  And sometimes he even smiles and laughs at me while he does it.  I'm firmly against hitting my child, but he pushed my buttons today.  I was out watering the lawn, trying to get some grass and clover seed to grow on that bare patch, and my baby decided to step on my plants in the garden.  I asked him to stop, and told him he was hurting the plants.  "No."  I told him to come here.  "No," he smiled.  I told him to come over here or he was going to get it.  He looked up at me, stepped on my plant, and laughed as he told me "No," again.  I sprayed him in the face with the hose.  I couldn't help it.  His audacity just got to me and I know that his boundary pushing will only get worse in the months and years to come.  

So, I didn't hit my child.  I held strong and avoided doing what I swore to avoid.  But does disciplining him the same way I would discipline my cat count?  I mean, if either of my kitties clawed the sofa, they'd get a spray bottle in the face.  So, am I showing him that animals deserve equal consideration, or have I relegated him to the status of the household pets?  I know he's my baby and that he's my first priority, bar none.  But how did he take it?  I'm sure I've over-analyzed this whole thing, but it still makes me wonder.  Kids hang on to the strangest memories from their childhoods.  My nephew fell back in the tub when he was less than a year old and stayed under for a second before my sister rescued him.  At age 8 he still won't sit down in a bathtub.  There's no way he can remember any of that, but it's still with him manifesting itself as a weird bathtub phobia.  It makes you really think about your parenting choices....and really makes you beat yourself up over the mistakes you make in a moment of anger, weakness, stress or fatigue.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Keeping Sane

So, this has been a stellar two and a half weeks.  My son, my husband and I have all been sick with this nasty stomach flu that's been going around, my two sisters came to visit me along with my dad and their families, my man went to Las Vegas over the past weekend, I got a phone call that my brother is in the hospital with a seriously infected bedsore, and to top it all off I haven't been sleeping well.  I never fell prey to post-partum depression, but if this is what it feels like, it's awful.  
Everything has felt grey and empty.  It feels like you can't do anything right.  No matter what I do, it's never enough.  I always feel like my son deserves more, no matter how often I read to him, how many home-cooked meals he eats, or how much bonding time we get together.  The house is a mess and I have no energy.  All the parenting choices I've made aren't the easy or obvious ones.  Bed-sharing, extended breastfeeding and refusing to put him on a schedule have incited criticism and outright laughter from relatives and complete strangers alike.  It sucks.  It's unfair.  And it's so much harder without support.
I spent some time crying, having my little break-down after my son followed me from room to room whining and pulling on my leg for an hour, and I realized that sleep is at the crux of this problem.  I can handle all of this if I sleep ten hours a night.  Well, I think I can.  I haven't gotten more than 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep since my third trimester (heartburn prevented it.)  The really crappy part of this situation is that, even when my son sleeps through the night, my body is so used to him waking up and needing me that I wake up at least once, convinced I need to check on him.  Lame.
So, I've gotten kind of used to six hours a night, even all broken into two- and three-hour chunks.  But a sick baby won't give you that.  A night of vomiting and diarrhea, whether it's yours or the kid's, denies you sleep like that, too.  Worse, when the entire family is better, and things are starting to get back to normal, sleep will still be off.  Yep, the child has wrecked his sleep schedule and now wants to wake up and play for a couple of hours at 2 am.  I am dying to sleep again.  Sigh.
I'm getting by, napping alongside my son for now, and hoping this storm will pass soon.  I talked to my husband about it a couple of nights ago...okay, we fought about it, and I think we've resolved some of these issues.  He's been more affectionate to me and he now knows that I need a few minutes of quiet in our room to collect myself when the day has been really bad and I'm about to cry.  Just that extra kiss and "I love you" when he leaves for work really goes a long way.  I knew I married him for a reason.
In return, I need to approach him before I turn into a screaming banshee or a puddle of tears.  No problem!  In fact, I'm sure I got the better end of the deal.  
So, I took an overly long nap with my son today and burned dinner, and laundry never got done.  But there's a a distinct sunbeam peeking through the storm clouds now.   The week is looking up.