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Not my best week

I think I’m having an identity crisis. How fucking cliché is that? I get so bent out of shape when I feel like I “fail” at mothering (or housewifing). Failure can be not getting the baby to nap, not getting the laundry folded and put away, not making a good dinner, making a good dinner but not making it from scratch, not paying enough undivided attention to Lillian, not running enough errands, running too many errands, and the list goes on. And on. Does it seem a little crazy? Uh, yeah.

I take parenting criticism waaay to personally. This is crazy, because I’m REALLY GOOD at taking criticism usually. I’ve been a musician, a grad student, and an entrepreneur. All of those things are like taking criticism for a living. You listen, take what works, discard the rest. Not internalize it and use it to define your value as a mother! Argh!

I was all into being an entrepreneur before I had Lillian, and now I don’t know what I’m into, or what I’m good at. But solely defining myself by my expertise (or lack thereof) as a mother is not good for my psyche. Granted, the last few days have been spectacularly crappy, but I’m tired of getting exhausted and emotional.

Lillian and David and I have all had a bad stomach flu for the last several days, each of us in different but nasty stages at the same time. If I had a sneak preview of this particular type of experience before I got pregnant I would have run screaming the other way. It’s not as bad as the first six weeks postpartum, but it’s running a close second.

I guess if I try to get back to my Buddhist roots, not having an identity is ideal. Letting go of labels is a good thing, right? But the problem is I’ve taken on UberMother as my identity and I’m not her. I’m just a new mother who fucks up just about the same amount as every other new mother. So every moment I’m not UberMother I feel like a big FAIL. Which is silly.

Being older has some advantages and disadvantages. Having some wisdom, flexibility, and adaptability are good things. I think I generally make good decisions for Lillian because I don’t take the party line on parenting and I don’t react the opposite direction. I look at what’s going on and adapt as necessary. I’m aware enough of my own emotions to not let them cloud my decision making process as much as I would have when I was younger.

But being at a stage in my life when I feel like I have my shit basically together, and then suddenly not knowing which end is up is a little trying, especially nine moths out. Maybe it would have been easier if I was younger? Or maybe not. Maybe this shit is just hard.

Halloween!

I’m not going to write a whole lot about it since it’s all about the pictures. We had two Halloween events – a Weds. play date and a barbecue at our house on Halloween Sunday. The first helped us figure out how much dressing and photography the babies would tolerate for the second, so we got really good pictures the second time. The party was a blast, everyone seemed to have a good time, including the babies. There was some excellent food which I neglected to take pictures of. You know where my priorities lie these days. I am, however, eating some dairy now with no ill effects and very slowly easing into the soy. This makes mama happy. Enough about me. Pictures!

Halloween Playdate!

Tinkerbell!

Halloween Playdate!

Such happy, well behaved babies!

Halloween Playdate!

Whoops.

Playgroup Halloween BBQ

Yes, I dressed my child up like a fairy and put her on a pumpkin. Sue me.

Playgroup Halloween BBQ

Halloween Playgroup BBQ

Chaos eventually ensues.

Playgroup Halloween BBQ

Yes, I dressed like a fairy too. I know.

 

Eight Months Old!

DSC_0917What is the difference between a seven month and an eight month old baby, you ask? Three more teeth, for one thing. And that’s just the last time I checked. They keep popping out.

Lillian has always wanted to be freely mobile, and now she’s gotten her wish. She crawls everywhere, and pulls herself up to standing on anything, no matter how unstable. Then she climbs on top of whatever she pulled herself up on and tries to pull up on whatever is above it.
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She stuffs everything in her mouth. We’ve had some fun incidents with paper, leaves, and some unidentifiable substances.  She’s also expanding her actual food eating repetoire. She enjoys broccoli, potatoes, bits of chicken, and she really loves coconut milk ice cream.

The weather has turned bearable but not cool here in Texas. I’m really looking forward to some cooler weather so we can break out her unbelievably cute fall wardrobe. She’s got an adorable sweater from Grandpa and Grandma Oster, and a bunch of super cute outfits from Auntie Michelann. I would change her clothes three times a day, but she’s not so fond of it and protests loudly.

She has the cutest Halloween costume ever! Pictures soon.

Seven Months!

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No, I'm not teething. Why do you ask?

Lillian turned seven months old on Saturday. That last month just disappeared. But major stuff happened during it. We got our first cold. Then we got it again. Yuck! Two sick parents and a sick baby = not so fun. But we staggered by like always. I’m starting to mend other than my useless lungs which insist on pretending they have asthma despite the metric ton of steroidal inhaler I’ve pumped into them. Man I hope Lillian does not have my asthma, because yuck. At least it’s way easier to treat these days.

More fun stuff: crawling! Really crawling. Not almost/slightly/scooting/army crawling – the real deal. Don’t believe me? Bam! [flickr video=5023498671 secret=8880833235 w=400 h=225]

Every day she’s getting better and faster at it. It took her about a week to make the mental connection: see object – go get object (insert object in mouth/bang against other objects). Now she’s got it and is booking it around the house. She’s also pulling herself up to standing on stuff, and grabbing stuff out of baskets (laundry, toys).

She says Mama a lot these days. Or more accurately, “MAMAMAMAMAMA” – especially when she’s upset. I think she’s supposed to be too young to associate the sound with me yet, but tell me that when she’s shouting across the house at me.

I thought she was teething for the last week. She had a big swollen lump on her top gum, but it kept not showing up. After a spectacularly fussy day on Saturday, I felt around her gums again and there it was, all pointy and hard. That brings our grand total of visible teeth to three.

For whatever reason, ’tis the season for dead rodents to be left around the house by well-meaning terriers. They considerately leave them where Lillian is most likely to be playing, necessitating a lot of disinfecting and vacuuming. Loki is very competitive with the baby, and has limited tolerance for her hi-jinks, especially when they involve crawling on top of him and pulling his ears. This might be revenge? A peace offering? Mostly it’s just really icky.

Lillian is just an awesome kid. Even when she’s got this icky cold, she’s really funny and active and curious. I can’t wait for all of us to be healthy again. The weather has turned in Texas and it’s finally starting to feel like Fall. We’re going to spend more time outside and take advantage of the cooler temperatures.

Morning walk

The Princess surveys her subjects.

Multitasking

You know how I’m this stupid perfectionist and I feel like I never do enough/get enough done/accomplish enough? And how it’s ludicrous?

So sometimes when David gets home from work and I’m all like “Aaaaaah, I’m exhausted TAKE THE BABY!” and I then survey my messy house, unfolded laundry, dog-fur laden floors, and half-finished dinner I think I really just kind of suck at this homemaker thing.

So today I decided to count the number of things I was doing during a 10 minute interval:

  1. Wear the baby (because our house is not completely babyproofed and she doesn’t want to be put down right  for whatever reason).
  2. Cool the baked squash (for baby food).
  3. Bake sweet potatoes (for baby food).
  4. Vacuum the living room.
  5. Dry laundry.
  6. Fry bacon (for part of dinner).
  7. Prep acorn squash (for dinner).
  8. Write blog.

Dude. That’s a lot of stuff. How many tiny but not insignificant tasks do I do every day? Somehow the baby has clean clothes, and David and I usually do. She eats home made food. We eat home made food with almost no convenience food because of the whole soy/dairy free thing. I take walks. I go to yoga. I occasionally shower. I breast feed. I participate in at least 2 activities with my mamas’ group per week. I pay bills. I do all the grocery shopping and cooking (though David does some grilling). I take care of the baby full time. I take a million pictures, edit them and upload them. I go to therapy. I even sleep sometimes. And all the other crap that has to get done that you then forget about as soon as you’ve done it.

No, I haven’t written the Great American Novel yet. Nor have I run a 5k. Or met many other lofty ad not so lofty goals. But I’m getting by, I have a beautiful family, I’m happy a good portion of the time and not crazy most of it. My kid is happy and wonderful. I think I need to just chill the hell out, no?

Eating my words: my new job description

So you know how before you have a kid you say, “oh, I’ll NEVER do that” and then after it’s all shot to shit? Well that happens after you have the baby too. Daily, sometimes. I swore up and down I wouldn’t cut bangs on Lillian because it would be so cute if she had long hair that was one length. Except then her hair was all in her face and any barrettes or clips I use run the risk of ending up lodged in her throat since everything ends up in her mouth sooner or later. So guess what?

Haircut!

Bangs!

I called in the professionals (Auntie Tracy) to trim her bangs so I didn’t botch it like I did her neck trim a couple of months ago. And it really is adorable and now she doesn’t have hair in her face all the time.

And then remember that whole sleep thing where I wasn’t going to let my kid cry? Er, well, what happens when they cry for three hours while you bounce, nurse, sing, cajole, and bargain with them, but only for about ten minutes if you leave them alone? We happened on option B kind of by accident. David was alone with her at bedtime a couple of weeks ago and NOTHING was working. So he took a breather and a few minutes later she was out. For nine hours. We had to keep checking that she was still breathing. So we kept at it for the next week or so and things improved incrementally. She hit a growth spurt right after that so she was up a lot during the night to nurse for a few days, but she was getting to sleep faster and easier.

Then we both got sick and that’s been all screwed for the last week. But she’s become an avid climber and scooter in the meantime and so we can’t leave her alone and awake in her co-sleeper which butts up against our bed, because she’ll crawl out of it and roll or lunge off the bed. So probably in the next few nights we’re going to make the big move – out of our bedroom and into the crib. There were a few days where I temporarily lost my mind and started to think that I wanted to co-sleep with her instead of moving her out of our room, but I got over it.

It basically came down to this: do I want a tired, cranky baby who doesn’t have to cry in her crib (even though she cries in the car and other times so who am I kidding?) or a well-rested baby who has a bit of a tantrum at night for a little while? Do I feel guilty? Well, yeah, but that’s pretty much a given. Like I said before this little reversal, there’s always someone to tell you you’re screwing your child up. But we tried all the Dr. Sears stuff and it just didn’t work. She needed to start learning how to put herself to sleep at night and nobody was going to get any sleep until we let her. Believe me, if what we were doing before was still working we would still be doing it. I’m a great believer in not fixing what isn’t broke, but this shit was broke.

Napping has been pretty much screwed since Lillian started her rapid approach on crawling. She’s just too busy and fired up to relax for very long. We get 2-3 half hour naps in if we’re luck now.

Enough about sleep. We’re also big on food right now. I’m still making most of Lillian’s food because I’m a big snob and I like to cook. Lillian likes butternut squash, peas, and avocado. She really hates apples so far, and is iffy on sweet potatoes and pears. I’ve got an acorn squash to cook this week, some carrots, and we might try chicken.

Today I was at a birthday party for my niece and I overheard a mom complaining to another that someone she’d seen feeding a baby at a McDonald’s should have given it french fries. Yeah, I kid you not. MCDONALD’S  FRENCH FRIES. More salt than anyone should be exposed to, let alone a baby, and God knows what else. Oh wait, I do:

French Fries:
Potatoes, vegetable oil (canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, natural beef flavor [wheat and milk derivatives]*, citric acid [preservative]), dextrose, sodium acid
pyrophosphate (maintain color), salt.  Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to
preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.
CONTAINS: WHEAT AND MILK *(Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients).

Bleargh. And note they don’t list soy as an allergen even though it has soybean oil in it.

I’ve been a food snob for a long time, but since I’ve had to be really careful not to eat any dairy or soy it’s been impossible not to recognize how much crap is in most of our food. And I love junk food, I’m just finding I like local junk food with less actual junk in it a lot more. I like purity in my artery-clogging deep-fried food, thanks very much!

So that’s the latest. Lillian is crazy busy and active these days and keeps me on my toes. I’ll post video soon! Yay iPhone4!

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Six Freaking Months!

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Not a silly child at all.

Lillian is six months old! How the hell did that happen? Seriously.

She is so stinking cute. It hurts our brains, the cute. She’s in love with the dogs. I mean in looooooooooove with them. Persephone is not so sure about this. Loki is pretty into it. Pictures below.

She is very mobile, and we fear crawling is going to happen soon. She scoots backwards, rocks on her hands and knees, launches forward, and rolls every which way.

Giggling. Holy crap this kid giggles a lot. She snorts, shrieks, cackles, raspberries, and laughs. She cracks us up.

She’s been doing this kind of conversational thing that is awesome. David thinks she’s singing. It’s in about the same vocal range as the songs I sing to her.

We saw her new pediatrician today and are oh so much happier. She’s very relaxed and friendly and much more interested in what we have to say, much less lectury. Lillian is holding in the same percentile she has been which is fine. It’s wild, though, how much variation there is in babies. She’s easily the smallest in our playgroup by age, but also one of the most advanced in physical milestones. Meantime, it looks like she’s going to be in 3-6 month clothes for several more months barring a big growth spurt. Thank God for hand me downs!

We’re still trying to re-figure out the sleep thing. She’s gotten very hard to put down at night. I don’t mind one or two night feedings if she needs them, but I do wish getting her down for the first block was easier. I read some of Dr. Sears book on sleep tonight and tomorrow we’re going to try putting her to bed extra early and see what happens.

She’s really into the food these days. I’ve gone from rice cereal, to oatmeal, to oatmeal mixed with fruits and veggies. She’s had banana, pears (roasted with cinnamon stick, yes I’m an annoying food snob) and butternut squash. She’s pretty into it. Next up are avocado, mango, and sweet potato. Then I might try peas and some chicken. We shall see. It’s fun to cook for Lillian, though I’m still cooking everything for myself too. Soy is pretty much off the table which means not eating out much at all. But we may try to ease dairy back into the picture to see what’s happening with that.

Mostly, she’s a pretty delightful kid. David and I are totally smitten with her.

Lillian and Loki

Loki gives kisses

Lillian and Loki

Lillian examines Loki.

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There might be something cuter out there, but I haven't found it yet.

Brunch at the Braymen's

Okay, that's pretty cute too.

Photo 52

Perfectionism and Motherhood: Non-Mixy Things

I’ve thought a lot about the nature of perfectionism – my perfectionism in particular – and how it is totally screwing me as a parent.

Perfectionism has pervaded most my life. I’ve always felt that I’m either “not enough” or “too much” and neither of those options are acceptable. For example, I’ve felt like my body is too much by nature of being on the roundish side. That it takes up too much space, that it’s not attractive enough, firm enough; it’s not enough and too much at the same time. This perception makes it hard to be comfortable with my body, and it makes it harder to take good care of it because I never reach my own standards.

I really wish I could exercise every day. It makes me feel better mentally, physically, and emotionally. But it just doesn’t work out that way all the time. Sometimes I have to make it to an appointment. Sometimes it’s just too dang hot to take the baby outside for a walk. Sometimes I want that extra hour of sleep after being up 5 times during the night.

I realize that I’ve faulted myself for not exercising “enough” even though all the above reasons are valid. That every day I don’t exercise is a FAIL. What if I stopped looking for enough and started going for “the best I can do right now”? Wouldn’t that be wild?

Especially when I was a singer, I clung to my perfectionism like a barnacle. I thought it gave me an edge; without it I wouldn’t be any good. But it really just caused me a lot of pain and wasted energy. When I’d listen to a recording of myself I’d invariably decide it was crap because it had audible flaws. Especially I’d felt like it was a good performance before I heard the recording. There was no good enough, only perfection or failure. And since perfection isn’t attainable, guess how I felt most of the time?

I realize that I’ve applied these same standards to parenting. If I can’t  get Lillian to nap enough (what the hell is enough?) during the day, I’ve failed. If I don’t narrate my whole day to her, sing her songs, dance with her, read her books, and otherwise force her brain to develop I’ve failed. If she has a bad night, I’ll review everything I did the day before and find some reason it’s my fault.

This is totally insane. There is no perfection. It’s an ideal that changes from moment to moment. And trying to apply it to taking care of my child is bad for me and probably not great for her.

So my new mantra is “I’m not perfect.” This probably seems uninspiring, but I really used to get my panties in a twist about not being perfect. Now I’m trying to take comfort and refuge in it. It’s okay that I didn’t do yoga today because I’m not perfect. It’s okay that the dinner I made the other night was kind of crappy because I’m not perfect. Instead of thinking “FAIL!” I’m just thinking “I’m not perfect.” It’s pretty relaxing to realized that I can ditch that checklist of things I think I’m supposed to do every day on Lillian’s and my behalf and just get what I can done. And some of what I want, too.

The Experts

I’ve realized lately that when it comes to babies and kids there is a theory – endorsed or espoused by an expert with many letters after his/her name – for EVERYTHING. Remember how I bragged on Lillian’s excellent sleep? Well that lasted until just after she turned five months old and then fell apart. This was not unexpected, it often happens around then, but we certainly hoped we had dodged that bullet. Not so much.

So now her sleep is totally erratic. Some nights we get the old school 7-9 hours straight. Some nights there’s one extra wake up for nursing. Some nights she goes down fairly easily and some she wakes up every 20 minutes until midnight. Some nights she wants to nurse every hour or two. Did I mention I hate unpredictability? It makes me crazy. But here we are, trying to adapt .

Some of my mama friends have had to contend with this all along, for others it’s more recent. But most of us are now having to take another look at the dreaded “sleep training” and making decisions about how to help our kids sleep. Some experts say that the only way to make sure your kid will have good sleep for the rest of his life (and do well in school, make money, and marry doctor) is if you let them cry it out. There’s a bunch of different names for this but they all amount to letting you kid scream alone in their room until they eventually put themselves to sleep. There are gentler and not so gentle versions of this.  The first book David and I read on sleep espoused a not so gentle version, and claimed the payoff would be a gloriously easy to sleep and nap child. David pretty much bought into it, I was on the fence. I spend a lot of time on the fence these days. I should check for splinters.

Anyway, there are also books out there that claim that letting your kid scream her head off in a dark room with no idea if you will ever show up might be a wee bit damaging psychologically, and some studies have shown it dumps a lot of chemicals into their bodies that can have bad effects on their emotional development. So basically you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

That pretty much sums up the parenting experience. There are so many experts out there who tell us what we should or shouldn’t do, and mostly contradict each other and expect us to ignore our own intuitions and judgment. It’s maddening. It makes me mad. It reminds me a lot of when I was an opera singer. My teacher would say one thing, my coach another, and if I pointed out that it was contradictory they would claim it wasn’t and try to blame me for not understanding. There’s a reason I’m not an opera singer any more…

Recently I’ve come to realize that we all cherry pick the research/experts that resonate with our own beliefs and values the most. At least I know I’m doing it. What I wish is that I wasn’t so insecure about my parenting abilities that I need an endorsement to take care of my kid the way I think is best.

David and I tried a bit of crying it out and concluded it was not what we wanted for Lillian. The “you’re ruining your child’s life” arguments on both sides are less concerning to us than what are we doing to her now? Is there a compelling reason to put her through that kind of emotional pain, other than it speeding up the amount of time it will take for her to learn to put herself to sleep? Not that we could find. She’s a happy kid and we don’t really want to fuck with that.  Now talk to us in a month and if she’s still waking up at all hours we may change our tune entirely. But seriously, why do I need an endorsement to figure out what is best for my kid? I know her better than anyone else in the world. I’m the goddamned expert.

And on to round 2 of poo. We took Lillian to see an expert on gastric issues. We think. This guy has a waiting list a mile long and works a lot with kids with food intolerance issues. But I didn’t do a lot of advanced research on him because I was going on a friend’s recommendation. Whoops.

He talked a lot of smack about “our society” and “basic science” to justify the test he’s having us do to find what Lillian is sensitive to. He gives this blood test called an IGGe4 thingy to David, because supposedly his food sensitivities dictate Lillian’s for the first part of her life. But then I did some research on this test, and it turns out that while one study showed some improvement for IBS patients who cut foods out according to the results, a more in-depth study showed no correlation between the test results and real food sensitivity. The doctor also used some phraseology I tend to get a little suspicious of, claiming that food sensitivity can cause brain fog and inflammation. Er, what? Very not sold. Possibly not even on the fence.

I made this appointment for Lillian after she had a week-long reaction to what I thought was one dose of dairy, but turned out to be a week  of exposure to soy. We know for damn sure that she has a problem with soy. Which is what we had trouble convincing our original pediatrician of in the beginning.

Anyway, we’ve decided that if the test results come back and are intuitive – if they at least confirm some of what we already know – then we’ll take them into consideration. But if they’re all over the map and the doc is really dogmatic about his interpretation I think we’re going to move the hell on. We have an appointment with Lillian’s new pediatrician next week, so I’ll be curious what she has to say.

I guess the point of all this is that as an insecure and at least mildly terrified new parent, you have to sort through all this fucking information when it really makes the most sense to get to know and trust your intuition. I have far more information on my child than anyone else possibly could. Sorting through that information and looking for patterns and correlations is my job. Unless something an expert is espousing really jives with what I already know, it’s probably bunk, or at least inapplicable.

It’s been really hard to get to the point where I can see myself as the expert instead of anyone and everyone else, but I think it’s the only way I can take the best care of Lillian. I have a big brain, a lot of strong instincts, and I love my child profoundly. Pair that with David’s intelligence, love, and protectiveness of  Lillian and we make a pretty good team. I wish I trusted that more and wasted a lot less time on feeling insecure and fearful.

Five Months and updates

Oster Visit July 2010

Five Months!

Lillian turned five months old last Sunday! How crazy is that? It is crazy. She’s outgrowing clothes and keeping her parents on their toes (and shoving her fingers up her nose). Yes, parenthood brings on spontaneous rhyming.

Lillian is a great sitter these days, with very few faceplants. She can stand with just a little support. She’s starting to work up to her hands and knees, rocking a bit, and scooting backwards. She’s sleeping on her tummy now in a sleep sack instead of a swaddle. She’s eating rice cereal once a day. It’s all very strange.

Her personality is more fabulous all the time. She loves dancing, giggling, squawking, and banging things.

She got to meet her Nana Nancy, Grampa Dave, Uncle Shaun, Aunt Kris, and Cousin Saraphina last weekend. She looooooved all the attention. Uncle Shaun had her in stitches:

Uncle Shaun is Magic

Oster Austin visit July 10

Lillian wants the sippy cup.

Oster Austin visit July 10

With Nana Nancy

Oster Visit July 2010

Lillian and Saraphina

Oster Visit July 2010

With Grampa George

She got to spend lots of time with her grandparents, go swimming, and generally be the belle of the ball.

Lillian bellydances with Uncle Shaun