Friday, June 25

Mommying and Other Things

So I am supposed to be writing my masters degree thesis! Actually, I was supposed to be writing it over one year ago. But one year ago, I was having a baby, packing, moving, unpacking, packing, moving, unpacking, and settling in. Oh yes, I may not be a master of English yet, but I am most definitely a master of excuses. On one hand, I rather like being able to say to people who ask me, "what do you do?" that "I stay at home with my little girl and I'm working on my thesis." Somehow, I always have this half guilty feeling that staying home with my baby and growing another is not quite enough in most people's minds... probably just in mine. This thesis business justifies my cushy existence as a stay-at-home mother.

But the sad truth is that I really haven't been working on my thesis. I "read" for it, but that is nothing new... I am always reading a book and since they are all vaguely literary, I call it "reading for my thesis." Granted, there was a period when we lived in Florida when I ordered a bunch of books on motherhood and writing and avidly read for about 4 months. And then I finished the books and started on "Miss Marjoribanks" which has nothing to do with my topic. And that's been the story ever since. Yet that thesis is always out there, begging to be written, pervading my sleepless hours, worse for my conscience than the pile of laundry that did not get washed, or the dirty dishes left overnight in the sink. I put a lot time and energy (and money) into my master's degree; it would be a pity if I don't ever earn it from lack of having the gumption to write a thesis.

Two days ago, I had a rebirth of interest in this bugbear of a thesis. I wrote my adviser, said hello, let her know I'm still alive, and told her I'm still going to write a thesis. Her email back to me was encouraging. She has two children of her own and somehow manages them, a teaching career, and research. With the impetus of her words, I started rewriting the proposal draft I'd previously coined. I'm about half way through and getting to the nasty, researching part. There is just so much information available that it is always a chore to use it in an organized, succinct manner.

Now a new dilemma strikes. What to do with Greta? She suddenly decided to stop taking two naps and instead, have two cranky, sleepless times in the morning and afternoon. As I procrastinate and write this entry, she is trying to crawl out the window and play with "her" dog, to whom she just fed the pen I was going to use to take notes on my research. Sigh.... Now she has moved to her crib, where she is loudly  thinking over life and the delinquencies of her mother. I should be able to work because she is out of the room, but no, how can one work with a guilty conscience? My kid is crying. I'm supposed to do something about it, right? Sigh again..... The slightly ludicrous part of this whole drama is that my topic has to do with motherhood and art/writing, how the two compliment each other as two ends of the creativity spectrum (motherhood is physical creation, while writing is mental creation). The consoling part is that every critic on the subject is beset with the same struggles I'm having right now. Somehow they manage, and manage to create lasting works. My thesis does not need to be lasting, but it needs to be written at some point in time!

Anyone else? How do you do it?

Tuesday, June 22

Easiest, No-Bake (Berry, Citrus, Chocolate) Cream Pie EVER

And, my friends in blogging land, it is NOT made from a can or from a mix! I put this recipe together for dessert tonight and both the baby who was craving it and the mommy who concocted it were well pleased. The best part of it is that with a little creativity, you can turn it into any kind of cream pie. First I'll give you the base recipe and then explain the variations.

8oz. cream cheese (1 pack), softened
2 tblspoons sugar (I used turbinado and it was fine)
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped until firm and peaky
1 tsp vanilla extract (if making a non-citrus version)

Cream the cream cheese and sugar together. Whip the cream. Add the vanilla. Mix ingredients together. Pour into a baked pie crust (you can use a graham cracker one or a regular one. Just make sure it's already baked). Put in the freezer for half an hour if you want to eat it sooner, or put it in the 'fridge until it is firm enough to cut. I think mine 'cooled' for about 2 hours before we ate it and it was in the freezer for about half an hour. Don't leave it in the freezer too long or it will freeze solid. :)

The Berry...
Put about 1 cup of fresh or frozen berries of your choice in the blender on a low setting. They should look slightly mashed, but not quite smoothie texture. Mix in with the whipped cream and the cream cheese mix.

The Citrus...
Zest one or two lemons. Juice remaining lemon and add the juice to-taste. If you like, set aside enough zest to lightly garnish the top of the pie. Mix remaining zest into pie mix. Don't add vanilla extract.

The Chocolate...
I'd leave off the vanilla extract. Add about 1/2 cup melted chocolate chips or cocoa powder (moistened) to the cream cheese mix. You can mix it in thoroughly, or simply marble it.

Monday, June 21

A funny incident.... or; "Miss Manners" Learns a Lesson in Discretion

Oh lordy... this pregnancy has been very hard on my brain. I feel most days as if I fall a little further from a reasoning, intelligent being to a hormonal, emotion-ridden creature. Well, I was rather poignantly reminded this weekend that the age-old adage of "think before you speak" is a wise one to remember. To think that my old boss at Ave gave me a mock award once for being "Miss Manners" because I "always said the right thing at the right time."

So it started at McDonalds, somewhere along the way to Sedona. The family drove down to Sedona this weekend to spend time with Josh's dad and family. It is a 3 and a half hour drive from Gallup. Anyone who knows me should already know how much I abhor long drives, especially when I am pregnant and since having Greta. Anyhow, we stopped for dinner (I "needed" chicken strips) and went inside to sit down. We deposited ourselves in a booth next to a young man, who was industriously typing on a laptop. He was sitting down, so all I saw of him was his laptop and the fuzzy, little mustache on his face.

Well, we ate our food, played with Greta, and sat back to observe the incoming customers. People watching is one of my favorite pastimes... and people watching with Josh is one of my favorite sports. Our conversation falls to the level of satire, if not outright criticism, which usually results in a trip to Confession for both of us. I was in rare form that day. My head ached, my legs were stiff from sitting, my stomach was queasy (McDonald's chicken strips are not to be noted for their antacid effect), and the prospect of a long drive was still ahead. Needless to say, I was not feeling in particular good humor with my fellow men at that time. Then two boys, about 15 or 16, walk in. One has on a green t-shirt, reading, "God Recycles." Both had on those patchwork, plaid, pastel shorts that men/boys have been wearing recently and which are so ready to go out of style and remain horribly dated for the next 50 years. This is what I mean.

The boys walked by and went to the counter to order. They were out of ear shot when I looked over at Josh and said in my normal voice, "Those shorts are just ridiculous. Little kids might be able to get away with wearing them, but they just look stupid on grown men." Josh was nodding and laughing when suddenly, he kicked me under the table and started laughing even harder, but quietly. He discreetly indicated the mustachioed man sitting next to our booth. I look, but don't notice anything. "What?" I ask. "Look at what he's wearing." I look and oh my! He has on the fruitiest of plaid shorts that ever appeared out.


The funny part is that the young man never looked up, never noticed us, never made any indication that such ill bred human beings ever existed. Let's just say that we made our exit soon after.

But why, oh why, do men insist in dressing in plaid, patchwork shorts? I blame the fashion industry for this lapse of civility on my part.

Tuesday, June 15

Thoughts upon one year of nursing

Ha! The English major in me totally likes that title. Sort of reminiscent of Anne Bradstreet and "Upon some distemper of the body." Ok, ok, it's a little lame, but it's late, I'm tired, and it doesn't take much right now for me to find myself clever. This might get edited out tomorrow, fyi.

Well, today was not one of "our" better ones - meaning, myself, Moopy, and Doopy (the respective names of our born and unborn children). I had one hell of a headache. If one could die of headaches, I would be on my merry way to being 6 feet under the ground by now. Greta (Moopy) was not "feeling" her nap. We fought over it for a good hour, upon which time Mommy surrendered and put Moopy in her crib to think things over. I hate doing that. Whenever I do it because I am just out of options rather than as a result of a well-reasoned plan, I feel like I failed something as a mother. However, failed or no, Greta did fall asleep after complaining loudly in her crib for 15 minutes. But all that was enough to amp up the headache to unbearable heights. So what did I do? I laid on the couch, called el Husbandito, worried about my sister, and contemplated writing an entry tonight about nursing.

Which brings us (finally) to the point of the title. It's a funny thing, but as we near the end of Greta's nursing period, I'm starting to feel very sentimental about the end of one of the hardest things I ever had to learn. Note: I am not going to be one of those people who nurse two babies concurrently! I'm not denying there may be health benefits, but please! Just imagine what that would do to your boobs. Kidding, people, kidding. But seriously, no more nursing for Greta after Doopy gets here. But I digress... Oh yes, nursing Greta. Going in to it a year ago, I had no real set ideas. I refused to take the La Leche classes, simply because I thought it seemed a little much. I did read their book, but couldn't get past the very dated pictures in the edition my mother-in-aw had. I just thought I would figure it out when it had to happen. The only part I recall feeling certain about was that it was going to happen. From my own mom, who'd breastfed each of her six kids, I inherited the firm conviction that this was the only way to do it. Besides that, someone had told me that breastfed babies were healthier, and if there is anything that really scared me about having a child, it was the thought of aforesaid child getting sick, catching a cold, having an earache... God knows what. Sick people and I don't/have never mixed well.

So Greta was born and anyone interested can read that entry posted somewhere in this blog. The short version of that story was that it was the easiest birth I had ever or have ever heard about it. Literally 15 minutes after Greta was born, Josh and I were laughing about it and talking about when to have the next baby. In all seriousness, I was very blessed and lucky. I am a firm believer in the notion that God gives you only the struggles you can handle. Well, I guess I can't handle very much (knock on wood!). But what threw me for a loop was the nursing. That was TOTALLY the worst part about having Greta. The first two or three days before my milk "came in" were fine. She didn't nurse a lot and needed to be cup fed. Not fun, but nothing compared to the nightmare that ensued when I started making real milk. [TMI alert for all you boys, non-mothers, or squimish folks] For one, I was sickeningly engorged. Literally, my boobs grew to be the size of my head. And I wonder why that is the only place I have stretchmarks? It hurt like... not even like hell. It just plain and simply hurt like nothing I can compare it to. Then, of course, whenever Greta "latched" on, it felt like my nipples were about to burn off. It was so, so, so horrible. And to top things off, instead of lasting the "one or two weeks" my midwife promised, this went on for about 1 month. If that wasn't bad enough, Greta was a really poor nurser at first and had to constantly cajoled into eating.

The funny thing was that through all this, I never doubted that I could "do" this or that it would eventually get better. I suppose when you're raised by a mother who exclusively breastfed, you forget that there are other options available. Greta gained back all the weight she needed, and I appreciated that no one was around to tell me that I wasn't doing a good enough job, or that I needed to supplement, or that my kid wasn't getting all she needed. Because it did work out. Until she hit about 6 months, Greta was not a very good nurser... needed to be coaxed into eating, bad latch, etc. However, after about the 6 month mark, she became very consistent and dependable in her feedings. I actually came to look forward to snuggling with her fat, little body and nursing her. It was our cuddle time, mutually enjoyable to both of us. We'd lay in bed, side by side, and she would curl up with her little feet against my tummy, her little mouth busily working, and all was at peace between mommy and baby for the time.

So what happened to end this utopian existence? At about 9 months, I simply had enough of the whole thing. Why? (Major confession moment coming up) I got so sick of my shirts getting stretched out. I usually wear fitted, ribbed tees or tanks, and you know how those stretch out on their own during the course of the day. However, when you are lifting them up and down all day long, that nice, form-fitting shape doesn't last long. No, it lasts until the first feeding. Then you are stuck with the option of changing your shirt or going through the day looking like you are wearing a bag... and a droopy one at that! Between that and the fact that we were getting less sleep at night due to increased night feedings prompted me to finally start solids.

Four months later, I'm three and a half months pregnant, and the mother of a very fat and health child. She still nurses at night and before naps, but it's no longer her primary source of food. But now when I nurse her, there is something in me that becomes very sad, as I watch that fat little face suck so intently. Nursing has always been "our time"... just Mommy and Moopy. She really enjoys it, and although I'm back to having sore nipples due to the pregnancy, I enjoy the exclusivity of our bonding time. It's very bittersweet knowing that it will all be over so soon. Not that there aren't more fun things to come, and not that I won't be able to do this ALL OVER AGAIN with several more children (God willing), but it won't be the same. No baby will ever be my first baby, no baby will ever have to learn so much with me, and right now, I think that no baby could ever be as loving and sweet as my little Greta.

But I guess that's life... whatever does remain the same?

Just for Katie...
How did teething affect nursing? I'm going to pull a brilliant one and tell you that "it's different for everyone." In our case, Greta did not cut any teeth until after her first birthday. Crazy, isn't it? However, I'm still nursing her one month later, and in all honesty, it doesn't affect it for us at all. Seriously. I wouldn't know if she had teeth if I was to go by how nursing feels now. I do take extra precautions now. I don't let her just "hang out" unless she is actively sucking. If she isn't, I take her off, just in case she starts feeling "chewy." Granted, my case might be a little different. Since getting pregnant when Greta was 9 months, my nipples have been SO sore, just from the pregnancy hormones. So I'm sore regardless, and believe me, I would know if she started biting. I wouldn't worry too much about it. From what every mom I know has said, if you either yell at them, take them off the boob, drop them on the floor (kidding), they usually get the hint pretty quickly and stop biting.

Monday, June 14

My most unfavorite-est things

You should be able to tell that I am either (1) really, really bored, or (2) trying to put off doing one of these said "unfavorite-est things" in writing this post. I'm not a big list person, but while trying to convince myself that I should use the 1 hour of quiet allotted me by my baby's nap to iron the stack of El Husbandito's shirts, I decided that there are a number of chores or activities that I absolutely abhor. If you are in a similar position (bored, or procrastinating), read on. If not, by all means don't waste your time with this one.

Dislike Number 1:
Ironing. I hate it. Plain and simply hate it. The actual work is not so bad. It's almost relaxing to watch the hot iron smooth away ugly wrinkles. There are very few other tasks in life from which you receive the instant gratification of seeing immediate results. But the set up... and the time it takes... and the putting away... and the overwhelming number of shirts to be ironed. Maybe my problem with ironing is not so much the chore itself, but the mindset I have about it. Note, watching movies helps. However, having a baby who tries to crawl up your butt while you are ironing is not conducive to a relaxing experience.

Dislike Number 2:
Dusting. I just don't do it. Plain and simple. Living in a desert means that 5 minutes after you dust, all the same dust is back. So why even bother?

Dislike Number 3:
Road trips with my baby. She isn't a bad traveler, but we've just been on way too many since she was born. I have this mental shut down when she starts crying in the car. It's either I totally zone her out, turn up the music, and drive on... or have a break down somewhere along the 100 mile mark. Either way, I feel like a bad mother. Will this change? Sure hope to hell it will or I don't know what we are going to do with the other kids!

Dislike Number 4:
Dirty sinks. This may be worsened by the fact that I am pregnant, but it is a major pet-peeve of mine that whoever does the dishes is responsible for cleaning out the sink drains and rinsing out the sink. I lose my lunch or my religion every time I see sopping bits of food or other unidentifiable squishy objects in the sink.

Dislike Number 5:
A dirty house. There is a difference between dirty and messy. Dirty refers to physical filth... something that can be wiped up, swept up, or rinsed off. Mess is simply things not being in their proper places. Now, "mess" I can handle on the average day, so long as it is put away before I go to bed. However, "dirt" is unacceptable. This paranoid state of mind developed while I was in college, when I couldn't concentrate or study until my room was cleaned and orderly. I've loosened up on the mess part since having a kid, because, well... kids and mess are sort of synonymous. But the dirt part still gets me. I hate it when Greta's knees are greyish-brown from crawling on my floor, or when she's picked up as much dust and lint as our vacuum cleaner.

There. Just from the simple activity of telling myself how much I hate ironing, I've worked myself into a much better state of mind... to the point where I can't think of anything else I dislike enough to write about it. So ya'll have a good day. Meanwhile, I'm going to set up the ironing board, refill the spray bottle, count the shirts, find the hangers, and start the damn ironing.

Saturday, June 12

"Revolutionary Road"

I shouldn't ever bother writing this, but I hated the movie so much that my sense of proportion would not allow me to let this one pass unscathed. I watched this mind-numbing flick featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet this past weekend. I seriously felt like I was in the middle of a war zone. The relationship between this romantic pair could not have been less turbulent than drowning on the Titanic. From Scene I, the two fought and fought and fought. And it was ugly. It was noisy. It was vulgar. And it was pointless. Kate and Leo play a married couple who deem themselves too special for ordinary living. However, they find themselves stuck in this ordinary, ol' world, and hence, go around with a perpetual grudge against each other for said circumstances. Nice, right? Kate plays this AWFUL woman... silent, accusative, begrudging, contemptuous, and just ugh! Why do I always make myself watch movies in which the lead actress is a human being I really dislike? Nicole Kidman is one. Kate Winslet is another. Please don't assume I'm jealous. If I looked as mean and angry as the two of them, I might not like myself very much either. DiCaprio plays the more or less selfish, slightly indulgent husband desirous of his wife's attention. The two decide to leave their humdrum lives in the US and go to France, where Winslet will work as a secretary and support her husband's ambition of sitting around and coming up with his life's mission. But ah... she gets pregnant, they start cheating on each other, and the crazy son of a busybody neighbor tells them exactly what they are.

And here is my confession. In the middle of another stirring fighting match between the romantic couple, I shut the movie off. I'm too pregnant and hormonal to be able to sit and enjoy watching a married couple fight, even it it isn't real. I couldn't see anything getting better for this pair, except maybe having a paid assassin shoot the two of them. But as that did not seem to be in the cards, I left well enough alone and went to bed. Still, the entire performance left me with a bad enough feeling to waste my time this morning, writing a partial review of a movie that I could not finish.

When life strikes

So what is new in this odd circumstance known as my life? Well, I temporarily disappeared into the wilds of Ohio for an impromptu visit to the few family members left there. All of them are "going through" something in one way or another. I've come to the conclusion that I have a bad tendency to go overboard when it comes to my family. If there is something wrong, I worry and stress and fret over it until I've done something towards righting the wrong. This may sound like a meritorious trait, but it isn't. For one, it leads to no end of useless worry and anxiety on my part. Secondly, I often the doubt the efficacy of any action on my part. I mean, if people want to mess up their lives and if people don't want to be saved from themselves, intervention seems futile, right? Ah well, some people never learn to stop.

So one unnamed family member has been making a series of choices that have yet to prove beneficial to him/her and in the mean time, are seriously affecting the rest of the family in a negative way. Said family member indicates that he/she will be visiting Ohio for a short period of time to another unnamed family member. Big sister hears about this and decides with one day's notice to haul her butt and her baby's butt out to Ohio to reconnect with this family member and figure out what the hell is going on. Through a series of unfortunate events, big sister and baby arrive in Ohio, rent a car, and go to see said family member. Said family member then communicates that he/she will be unable to visit due to unforeseeable circumstances. Ok, then... on to Plan F... fly erstwhile family member home. Family is reunited and everyone lives happily ever after.

Not so much. As I look back now, from the fine vantage point of my comfy couch, pleasantly situated in my own cozy home, surrounded by my own affectionate family, it certainly felt like a very painful and useless experience. I'm still having a hard time deciding what exactly was so awful about the experience. Being accused repeatedly of being a liar, a traitor, and an untrustworthy human being may add to that feeling. Watching my baby suffer through a time zone change, a routine disruption, and turn into a clingy fiend was not exactly a joyful process. Facing misunderstanding and lies from other, supposedly "helpful" family members could be part of the problem. The physical discomfort of sitting through 4 long flights, by oneself, with a toddler, in one's 1st trimester, and missing two of those flights, and having to stay overnight in God-forsaken Atlanta could definitely be cause to doubt the overall success of the venture. Just being away from your husband for a week and under such stressful circumstances is hard enough. So what was accomplished, I ask myself? Well, I haven't seen my Grandma in almost a year. While never the most stimulating of visits, it was still good to see her again. And I saw another family member who I haven't seen in a long time. And as for the current problem child, well... he/she at least knows that his/her family cares enough about him/her to go through great lengths to see him/her. If actions do speak louder than words, and said family member does not close off his/her mind to reality, then he/she should realize that his/her family still loves him/her.

Whatever. Everyone is able to make their own decisions, good, bad, or otherwise. It's just a pity that often, you have to hurt yourself and others around you in order to learn from the school of hard knocks. This little episode in my family's drama is far from over yet, but I'm settling back to watch it happen, secure in the feeling that I did my best and couldn't have tried harder to give someone the chance to stop screwing up. Smug? Maybe, yes, a little... but it's also a great way to mask very real feelings of failure, disappointment and sadness. I can honestly say that I have never, in my 25 years of life, been through so harrowing and painful an experience - mentally, physically, and emotionally. Being 13 weeks pregnant didn't help, either. Oh well... pick up, and keep moving on. What else can you do? You just can't live other people's lives for them or prevent them from hurting themselves if they are determined to do so.