Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas.

Luca's first Christmas has come and gone, and it was amazing. We started some new traditions (Christmas Angel, Christmas jammies) and kept some old ones alive (endless hours of A Christmas Story, too much food, and graham cracker houses with the family).

Christmas Jammies!


Graham Cracker House

We went to Darrick's parents' house on Christmas Eve, and the WHOLE family was there. There were kids running around and BIG kids also running around and copious glasses of wine consumed. Luca got a Christmas dress from her Grandma Cyndy, which she looked SO edibly cute in! Uncle Brandon couldn't wait to snuggle her up:
She also got a HUGE pile of gifts. Darrick's family was very generous and made sure she's got just enough toys and rattles and noise-making objects to keep the whole family entertained for the next 5 months, until her birthday. Here you can see her taking in the pile of gifts. In the next photo you can see she was so excited, she put her little index fingers in a steeple, drummed them together, and said 'Exxxxxxxcellent', while pondering how she planned to overthrow the leadership in Iran and bring Peace on Earth.


On Christmas Eve night, we went with my mom and sister the Zoolights at the Phoenix Zoo. It was cold, but we had a great time.

Christmas morning started early (as every morning does with a baby in the house). We woke up and opened our presents. Luca got a ton of clothes and a crocodile piano. I got BEAUTIFUL diamond earrings and some new black flip flops to replace the Tevas I miss so dearly. Darrick got a new cell phone, an 'Out of Office Countdown' calendar (VIVA the end of BUSH!), and a set of espresso mugs and saucers to go with the espresso maker we bought a month ago.

While Luca napped, we had breakfast and watched A Christmas Story, then when she woke we packed up the gifts and went to my brother's house for more gifts and Breakfast #2. He and his wife made breakfast burritos, and after we ate we opened presents. Luca was spoiled again (no surprise there). She got some custom-made onsies and books from Aunt Ann, a custom-made hoodie and a picture frame from Uncle Robert and Aunt Jaimi, a Cookie Monster TMX from Uncle Jim, and books, clothes, stuffed animals, and a Radio Flyer red wagon from Grandma.

Here Comes Trouble

The hoodie Aunt Jaimi made.
Chillin' in the Radio Flyer wagon.

We feel very lucky this year to have each other and our fabulous little girl. We hope your family's Christmas was as filled with laughs and love as ours was.


Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Angels

I was at the mall today and there they were: The Christmas Angel Trees. I almost passed them by because, really, we don't have a lot of extra income right now and we have a lot of people to buy for and - and - and....and then I realized those were excuses I needed to stop allowing myself to make.

I know the sorrow of families who cannot afford a Christmas for their kids. Because of the work I do, I talk to families every day who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and warm, running water in their houses. I hear the pain and desperation in the voices of young moms, raising their kids alone while working 2 jobs and still not making enough money to have a Christmas. I have talked to Grandparents who are raising their Grandchildren as their own and cannot afford to fill their own prescriptions, much less buy clothes and shoes and food and presents for the little ones. In the past few weeks, I've had to say more times than I can count, "I'm so sorry I don't have anywhere to refer you to get help this Christmas. I hope you're able to find a church or school that can adopt your family." I've felt helpless and useless and, in light of how fortunate we are, too fucking grateful for words.

And so, I couldn't just walk past those trees. But, being the procrastinator that I am, most of what was left a mere 3 days prior to Christmas was stuff I couldn't afford: a bike, PS3 games, a robot. I skimmed through, and my eyes fell on The One: an 8 month old boy who, according to his card, needed 'a toy'. A toy. As in 1 toy.

I fiured it was fitting that I be and Angel for an 8 month old, since Luca's almost 8 months old herself. There's something about looking at your own sweet baby's face and feeling sick at the thought of another baby her age going without when she has so much. We ended up getting him 3 toys and a warm, soft outfit, but I still worried if it would be enough. Did his parents have money to buy diapers...wipes...a crib? Or were they like the parents of the 1 month old I saw hanging on the tree, who requested those very things?

Maybe it's the holiday stress. Perhaps it's the Mommy Emotions. But I found myself in tears, semi-hiding my face behind one of the Angel trees, as I pictured the kids still left hanging up there. I hope that each and every one gets picked off those trees. I know that, for us, being a Christmas Angel is something I'd like to make a tradition. Every year, we'll pick a kid Luca's age from the tree, and when she's old enough to understand, we'll let her choose the gifts. I hope it will teach her that there is always room in life to give to those around us. I hope it will give her perspective on how truly lucky she is to have family who can afford to not only give her the essentials but also spoil her with toys and books and cuddles and love. And I hope it will remind her that she's an important piece of this world we live in, and that she can commit a small act that makes a big difference.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Santa and the Serious Baby


Luca had her first visit to see Santa Claus last night. We got there while Santa was throwing back a whiskey- - - - er, I mean, on dinner break, so the line was pretty short. After paying $89.95* for one 5x7 and a sheet of 4 wallets, she had her shot to sit on his lap and tell him what she wanted.

On her list this Christmas:
~ A new Bop in every color of the rainbow so she can always be sure her pacifier and clothes are coordinated.
~ Bananas and pears and Animal Crackers
~ Snuggles
~ Tummy nibbles
~ A dozen or so more puppies to run around the house, sniff her toes, and entertain her in general
~ Lots of fingers and hairbrushes and books to chew on

I'm not sure if Santa will deliver on ALL those requests, but if any of her more well-to-do friends or family members happen to read this, we hear what she REALLY wants is a college fund and a trip to Hawaii. In case you were wondering.
Anyhow, leading up to the Santa visit, Darrick and I were not sure what to expect. I was split 50/50 on whether she would LOVE Santa and want to chew on his beard or FREAK about Santa. I was also torn 50/50 on which one I'd prefer. The smiling baby is so cute to have on film for posterity's sake, but the screaming red-faced baby-on-Santa's-lap pictures are Classic.

Well, it's a good thing Santa's Wonderland was not located within Circus, Circus, or I might ALSO be requesting a college fund for Christmas, because I would have lost my bet. My baby didn't do either of the things I expected. Instead, she did this:




Ah, Serious Baby Face. How I love thee.

Really, though, I think Santa appreciated how stoic Luca was. It's probably preferrable to either a chewed-on beard or a screeching mad baby peeing on his leg.
*If you actually think we paid $89.95 for pictures, please refer to my 'Cheap Husband' blog entry, below.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Photos

My husband is cheap. Let's get that out of the way. And, a by-product of said cheapness is that he hates the idea of getting professional pictures of Luca. His theory is that we can 'take perfectly fine pictures ourselves'.

Please realize that I am not saying he is cheap because I am a bratty wife who wants to spend money willy-nilly. No, indeed, I am quite the deal-finder myself. Other than groceries and gasoline, it's rare for me to buy something that is not at least 25% off. When I shop, I shop the endcaps and clearance racks first. Even a sale isn't a good enough deal for me most of the time. If I see something for 30% off I think "Do I need this now, or can I wait it out and hope they still have one in stock when it hits the 75% off rack?" I have been known, as well, to wander around a store with several items, only to return most of them to their homes and not purchase them. I cannot fathom how people spend $200 on jeans. I've never owned a single thing from Nordstrom. I bought Luca's glider second-hand, 90% of her clothes are used or were gifts, and her crib wasa 50% off....if I'd had time to wait it out until it hit 75% I would have.

But that's not really the point of this post. The point of this post is that I was forced to take pictures for our Christmas cards myself, which proved to be harder than my husband seems to think it should have been. The photo card for Christmas is sort of a high-pressure thing, and I fully admit choosing a family photo based on which one *I* look best in....to hell with my husband and kid! Yes, I chose a photo despite the fact that my husband looked better in the other family photo, and Luca's not even looking at the camera. The thing is: people will save these things. People will judge you based on the photos on them. I know this, because I both save and judge. So the pictures have got to be good. The family has to look happy, and be somewhat color-coordinated. And the kid? Well, the kid has to be cute, smiling, looking into the camera, wearing precious clothes, and so stinking charming people want to nibble her cheeks.

So, with the pressure on, I set out not once, but TWICE to get the perfect Christmas card pictures of Luca. And here were the results of these failed endeavors. And, I believe, compelling evidence of why you should just pay the professional studios to deal with your army-crawling, drooling, blinking, whining kid.




Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wheezy.

In Luca's short life, she has had numerous nicknames. She started out as Schnitz, so named after what my husband *thought* he saw in her first ultrasound pictures. I'm starting to wonder whether we should request a refund for his Lasik surgery....

When she was a newborn, and very skinny, I called her Birdie or My Little Bird. She has since owned a variety of nicknames, including: Bear, Bear-Bear, Muffin, Muffin Head, Puppy, Kid, Lu, Lu-Lu, Lu-Lu Belle, Luca Belle, Luella, Luella Deville, Pooper, Sprout, KidSpree, Bubba, Bubbs, Bubba-Lu, and the ever-creative Baby.

Clearly, I need a hobby....

Her latest nickname, however, I can justify. Anyone who's had the pleasure of seeing Luca in a good mood in person has probably heard the wheeze to which she owes the moniker Wheezy. And if you have not...you really need to watch this video of my kid. As an added bonus, you'll also hear her say "Da" and "Da da", which is so cute it might just smother you in preciousness.

video

Monday, December 3, 2007

Yoga Ball is What They Call It

Anyone? Anyone get the reference? 5 cool points up for grabs!

So, my laptop is set to play my pictures as a slideshow for the screensaver. The other day, I was watching the pictures flash, and noticed a trend I was cracking up about. Witness, the ever-present Yoga Ball:

You'll notice the ball rolled up on us to get in the picture.

Even Darrick became a Yoga Ball convert.
Sneaking in again....

....and again.

And here Uncle Brandon shows us how it's done.

What makes this extra funny is that a LOT of people could tell you how enamored I am with that damn ball. Not as much now, but when I was pregnant and for several weeks after Luca was born, I was convinced it was the best $14.99 I'd ever spent.

Toward the end of pregnancy, I would sit on the ball and bounce or swivel my hips to encourage Luca to move down. I can't be sure it worked, but I did deliver the day before she was due, so I'll be sure to keep that thing handy next time I get all knocked up.

After Luca was born, that thing was my dream come true for 2 reasons. The first only a woman who's given birth can truly understand. Suffice it to say, sitting is not the most comfortable thing you can do post-labor and delivery. And, more so for me since Luca was facing my back and after she was born I felt like someone had beat me with a baseball bat on the tailbone, trying to stand from a sitting position was miserable. Enter Yoga Ball. The great thing about it, other than the obvious forgiving surface, is the bounce. Instead of lifting your body from a flat surface, you can sort of bounce yourself up to standing. SO much better.

The second reason the Yoga Ball was a dream come true was that it was the only thing that would calm Luca down in those early weeks. I'm not sure what magical power it harnessed that made this possible, but when nothing else would make her stop crying, we'd hop on the ball and bounce, and she'd be content. Between the 2 of us, Darrick and I must have logged 1,008 hours on that Ball because it felt like the entire first 6 weeks of her life one or the other of us was on it, bouncing and shushing.

So, now when new moms or soon-to-be moms ask what thing they should buy that no one ever tells them about, I always suggest a Yoga Ball. As you can see, ours is in so many pictures it's practically a member of the family.

(This last picture is just for kicks. The Ball is there...and my baby looks like my dad with the old man face and the male pattern baldness.)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Can I talk about boobs?

(By the way, you are not allowed to freak out about those pictures. My boob is safely encased in a bra and tank top and Luca is not attached. This is post-feeding, when she's in Milky-Zone. Plus, I was brave enough to post the pictures, make-up free and all, so you can't be too mad.... and I look kinda skinny in them, further supporting why I'm allowed to post them.)


Well, it's my blog, so I suppose the answer is I can talk about anything I damn well please. So there we have it. Boobs it is (they are?). I'm not sure whether any of my 6 or so readers really give a shit about my boobs and their happenings. But lately I've been thinking a lot about the wonders of boobs in general, and specifically related to feeding babies.

Now, let me preface this with one thing: the intent of this blog post is not to make anyone who has a baby/babies feel bad if they do not/did not breastfeed. Your boobs, your baby, your decision. Mmmmkay....do we have that clear? I care not who has or has not sucked your teets, although if someone has and you're happy/proud about it, I'd love to hear your story, be that someone a cute baby or a cute boy (or girl...it is the millenium, people!).

With that out of the way, let's get on to the topic at hand....boobs.

Let me just say now: anyone who says breastfeeding is easy or perfectly natural is either a freak of nature and extremely lucky, or a sadistic bastard trying to make new moms everywhere feel like complete failures. Suffice it to say, breastfeeding was anything BUT easy in those early days. When I was still pregnant, I told myself I would try to breastfeed, and if I couldn't for some reason it would be ok. But I had myself fooled into believing that it would be easy for me. It was not. I also was pretending to be a rational human being, not an extremely-stubborn-even-under-the-best-circumstances-so-forget-being-rational-when-hormonal-and-post-partum new mom.

The first problem we faced was that Luca swallowed some fluid when she was born. So, I got to hold her for a few minutes, but was not allowed to feed her until almost 3 hours later, once they determined her lungs were clear. Missing that window of the hour after she was born took a toll. By the time I first tried to breastfeed, she didn't seem interested at all. She was just sleepy. And trying to latch a baby when neither of you has any idea what you're doing and it's 3 a.m. and you just...HELLO...birthed a real live human being? Well, it's not easy. And it hurts. In fact, the pain was so bad that the hospital bed was shaking because I kept tapping my foot like a mad woman to try to get my mind off the pain.

We went home the day after Luca was born, and I continued trying to feed her. She was still super sleepy, though, and I assumed she was getting enough. And then...all hell broke loose. My milk came in. And it just so happened that right about that time, Luca decided she was not only awake, but HUNGRY. I'll spare anyone still reading this far the details, and just say it was the longest damn night of my life. Baby crying. Mom crying. Dad trying everything short of actually latching on himself to make sure the boobs were working. I thought I would go insane. And at 4 a.m., when your baby can't eat and you can't figure out why, there's not a whole hell of a lot of help to be found.

The next day, we took our exhausted selves to see a Lactation Consultant. Future Moms who wish to breastfeed...find thee a LC you like and put her # on speed dial. They are freaking lifesavers (I went and saw Mary here: http://www.milksmile.com/). I think she cost us the best $30 we've ever spent. Basically, she snuggled Luca, listened to my story while politely pretending she could NOT tell I was 2.4 seconds from a mental breakdown, gave me a huge motherly embrace, and gave us just what we needed to make this whole thing work.. Behold the Nipple Shield.

Some moms get their baby's first shoes bronzed. Not me. I'm getting the damn shield bronzed. For you moms and to-bes, I'll note here that I've been told many times that Luca should have been weaned from the shield within a week or two of introducing it....and here we are nearly 7 months later and still using it. I say: screw what the 'experts' say and do what works. Did I mention my plans to bronze that little fucker?


You know, you can read and read and read all you want about breastfeeding and how to know if baby's eating enough, and still.....I never knew. And it was a nightmare, because she wasn't gaining weight fast enough to please her Dr. She was born at 6 lbs, 7 oz and left the hospital at 5 lbs, 15 oz. By 2 weeks of age, she was supposed to be back to birth weight, and she was not. This, despite the fact the kid LIVED on my boobs for the first 6 weeks of her life. We're talking Darrick would go to bed and I'd be on the couch feeding her....and 8 hours later he'd get up for work and we'd be in the same spot, both of us half-asleep in the same position.

For the next 4 weeks, I had to take her to the Dr every 3 days(ish) to get her weighed and make sure she was doing ok. I'd go in, they'd weigh her, and she would still not be gaining enough to make the Drs stop worrying. I'd hold it together and try to maintain a calm facade, then rush out to my car where I would break down and sob hysterically. Nothing made me feel more like a failure than not being able to help my baby grow. I believe the best way to describe how I felt is to say I felt like a wild animal who had been caged with my screaming, seemingly constantly hungry offspring. And I wasn't sure if the universe wanted me to figure out how to make breastfeeding work, give her a bottle and give up, or eat her. SO glad I didn't choose the last option, because by 2 months, she was gaining at a steady rate, and it was determined that she was on a 'curve', albeit a low one, and she was therefore ok, so we were allowed to go back to the normal baby appointment schedule, and around 3 months I broke my scale addiction and returned the rental to the breastfeeding store.

But, there was more. At 6 weeks I had to go back to work, and I was so sad and stressed out about it. I didn't know how I could continue to breatfeed when it was hard enough to do while home with Luca all day and night. I had a major breakdown and my mom had to come over and talk me down from nominating myself for 'Shittiest Breastfeeder of the Year'. Thank god for moms. I decided to stick with it, and it did get better. But part of what made it better was retiring Lefty.

Ah, Lefty. The bane of my breastfeeding experience. From early on, Luca was not a fan of Lefty, and Lefty apparently was not a fan of her, because he failed to make much milk at all. I worried about it. I stressed about it. And between feeding her almost constantly and taking supplements and eating enough eggs to feed a small village just to get more protein and pumping every goddamn 2 hours around the clock....Lefty still seemed determined to not pull his weight. I worried about that, since I was sure I needed both of them to be working in order to feed my kid. And then my mom, on the night she came over to talk me down, relayed how she fed one of my brothers from just one side. I never thanked her for that bit of TMI, but I should have, because her saying that freed me mentally to do the same. Thanks, Mom.

Weaning from Lefty was no big deal. I kept pumping him (I refer to Lefty as 'him' because no female boob would fuck with a post-partum first time mom the way Lefty did), sometimes 6 or more times a day. And when I went back to work, I tried to keep him going by pumping at night and in the morning, in addition to the daytime tandem pumping sessions. In fact, until a week ago, Lefty was pumped at least 2 times every day. I just stopped that last week when I realized I could pump Lefty three times a day or three times a week and still get the same cumulative amount....about 0.0000657462927397238th of an ounce. And so....Lefty has been retired. Only I refuse to bronze that Fucker.

Anyhow. So that brings us to now. Luca will be 7 months old this week, and we're still breastfeeding. Of course, she gets cereals and fruits and veggies now. And the funny thing about it is, if you'd asked me when she was 3 weeks old how long I'd breastfeed for, I would have expected to have weaned when I went back to work. I was sure it wasn't going to last. I was positive I was going to fail. And now....well...now that she's closer to an age where a lot of babies are weaned (or, really, past it since only about 36% of women still breastfeed past 6 months in the US - http://kellymom.com/writings/bf-numbers.html), it's so easy I'm in no rush to wean. I have no plans to be breastfeeding a Kindergartner, so please don't worry. And I'm still shaving my arm pits, so we're safe there. But it took me until Luca was almost 4 months old to finally realize the joy and beauty of the mother-child breastfeeding connection. And I admit...I'm not quite ready to give that up. Because, really, after a long day of work and a disgusting commute, I find peace in these kinds of moments:


All I can say is, I hope maybe someone who read this will benefit someday from knowing that women DO struggle to breastfeed. Not all women, but since having a baby and talking to other moms, I think the majority do in one way or another. And if you're very blessed, like I was, you can work through it if you try. But not all breastfeeding issues can be worked through. And not all moms are as insanely stubborn as I was. For many a mom, sanity and happiness comes in a tub of formula, and I support and commend that decision. And I also promise this will not someday be me:

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