Clearly, walks are out of the question, which absolutely sucks because I really enjoyed taking Isabella for strolls around our neighborhood (it's amazing what 20 minutes of fresh air can do for your psyche when said psyche is on the brink of collapse at times). And we've had some days here lately when the temperature hasn't risen much above the morning lows, so I'm hesitant to haul her out in that kind of weather. Plus snow, plus winter driving, plus questions about whether or not my not-yet-ready-for-prime-wintertime Jetta will make it over the enormous drift of snow our town plow dumps at the end of our driveway each morning, and you've got one woman and one child housebound for much of the past month or so.
So, I've invented several games to keep us busy. If you have kids and you've stuck at home with them in a cold climate, I encourage you to try them! Because, while it appears as if Isabella is the only one having Tons! Of! Fun!, truly, her mother is as well.
I call this one Whip Out Your Umbrella Stroller and Wheel Your Baby Around Your House. Clearly, Miss Ella is out of her mind with excitement over this idea, and the cats? Well, the cats are just confused.
Next, we have one I like to call Dress Up In A Silly, Frilly Dress And Pretend You're Going To a Cotillion. Suzanne Sugarbaker would be proud of this one, no?
And finally, we have Build A Fort Out Of The Eleventeen Hundred Packages Of Diapers Your Slightly Neurotic, But Extremely Generous Relatives Have Bought You. Seriously, ya'll, I've not had to buy one package of diapers since Isabella was born. And yes, I know that fact alone renders me the most ungrateful girl in the world for complaining about their critiques of my mothering abilities. I'll throw the tomatoes at myself this time to spare you the trouble.
Is it spring yet?
If you've been reading here for awhile, you know that I will pull no punches when it comes to describing the "challenge" that is motherhood. There are days, oh, there are days, when I truly wonder if I can put forth the concerted effort it takes to keep myself from going insane. When I'm entering my 10th hour of being alone with an out-of-sorts baby who can't tell me what's wrong with her. When I haven't talked to another adult since 10pm the previous night. When it takes every ounce of self-control I have not to join my overtired baby in a round of tears.
But when she's reaching up to grab my nose while I'm changing her diaper, or when she gives me that gummy grin as I peer down into her crib at a baby who is rising from a painfully short 40 minute nap, or when she strokes my hand with her tiny fingers while I'm feeding her, there's nothing there but total and complete adoration there.
Isabella has found her feet in the past month, and when her feet are bare, she's often sucking on her own toes. Quite the contortionist, that one. She finally rolled over (both back to tummy and tummy to back). This probably should have happened months ago, but since she hates "tummy time" with a fiery passion, we've avoided forcing her to do it. But now she's lifting her head and looking around while on her tummy, instead of just laying there, head on the blanket, screeching expletives at us in a language only she can understand. That said, she much prefers being on her back.
We're working on getting her to sit up on her own. She has this cute little chair that's helping the process along. Sitting upright is an important part of being able to eat solid foods, which she's starting in less than a month.
She loves her excersaucer, and has recently begun picking up the small balls it comes with and throwing them on the floor. Chasing them around all day long is fun. F.U.N. for me. In fact, sometimes after she goes to bed at night, I take the balls and toss them around the house, just to go and collect them from under cabinets, tables, and chairs, For.The.Eight. Millionth.Time.
The little darling has begun screeching, often as a prelude to hitting the wall in a complete apoplectic fit. This bizarre little behavior began to manifest a few weeks ago. And the cats and I are fighting over my Shuffle as a result.
And when we go out, she no longer snoozes in the car as she used to. She's awake, alert, and looking all around. And when she wants to be, she can be downright charming. Who would ever think that behind this little face lurks a little demon who, when whiney, can make her mother want to hit the Bailey's. Hard.
So, happy five-month birthday, Isabella. It's been a wild ride, my dear, and I can't wait to see where we're going next.
And speaking of birthdays, welcome to the world, Samara Madeleine! Sasha over at My Wombinations gave birth to her beautiful baby girl on Thursday. Go on over and congratulate the new mommy!
So I tend to take great pleasure in the more understated things in life now. Like being able to pee in silence without having to hear a single whine from Isabella, who is often upset at the absolute outrage of being set down in her bouncy seat, located in the bathroom for that exact purpose.
Here are some of my current favorites in no particular order.
1.) The Jumperoo. Oh Lord, the Jumperoo. The Rolling Stones got it all wrong when they called out Valium as Mother's Little Helper. Clearly, they had never been introduced to the Jumperoo. This little gem of a baby contraption was recommended to me by a good friend who told me her kids loved it, and best of all, it exhausted them, what with all that...jumping. Score. So I told my mom to buy it for Isabella for Christmas, and praise God, she loves the thing. We have it in the kitchen, so I can set her in it, get my coffee, read yesterday's mail, or sit at the kitchen table and contemplate my navel for 10 minutes before she demands my attention again. And yes. It tires her out too. See below.
2.) Reeses Pieces. Okay, so I haven't had these things since I was five years old and following a trip to the theatre to see E.T., my mom decided to place a trail of them outside my bedroom and my sister's, as they did in the movie. But lately, I'm funneling them down. I read in one of my baby books that breastfeeding moms actually have more cravings than pregnant women. Damn straight, they do.
3.) Puffins Peanut Butter Cereal. I'm all about peanut butter, and hello? Peanut butter cereal? I'm all over it. Plus, they're organic, made from all-natural ingredients, and low-fat too. Buy some. Seriously. You'll thank me.
4.) Yummy Mummy. This is a show I caught for the first time on the Discovery Health network a few weeks ago. I *heart* it. It shows real moms, real struggles, and explores real issue affecting today's moms. Plus, I really dig the cute cartoonish beginning. Anyone seen this besides me?
5.) Grocery shopping by myself. Okay, so I totally know how lame mentioning this makes me. But I'm okay with it. As I've mentioned, I don't get out much. And when I do, I'm hauling the bean and a diaper bag packed with gear for every potential disaster that could befall her, and a lot of times a stroller the size of my Jetta. So getting out and about unencumbered, in a word, rocks. Usually my aunt comes and watches Isabella on Friday mornings, and I'm off. I hit the in-store coffee shop. I browse the natural food section looking for healthy alternatives to the food we normally eat. There is no crying (at least from my kid). There is no one demanding my attention. And. It. Is. Glorious.
6.) Hillary's recent presidential announcement. I know some of you may not like her. I realize she's a polarizing figure (but hello? So is our current "leader). But I love her like nobody's business. She's intelligent. Well-spoken. And has done remarkable work as my state's junior senator. I am absolutely, 100% behind her presidential campaign, and my hope is for a Clinton-Obama ticket. And my right-wing, conservative Republican family members' heads are likely to explode when I bring Isabella over to Sunday dinner at my aunt's house wearing this.
1.) This one is fairly obvious if you've been reading this blog for awhile, but I am an exceptionally picky eater. Most of what I eat is prepared extremely plainly (no spices, dressings, toppings, etc.). When we order subs, sandwiches, wraps, and the like, I have plain turkey or chicken. No lettuce. No tomatoes. No mayo. Sometimes if I'm feeling adventurous, I'll add cheese. Just turkey. Or chicken. And sometimes cheese. Oh, and bread. Or pita. Or tortilla. And I also don't like the food on my plate to touch. Those of you out there who load up your forks with a wee bit o' salad, a wee bit o' mashed potatoes, and a wee bit o' meat all at once? You live on the wild side in my book.
And one final bit of food freakishness. I hate watching people eat on tv. I know, it's bizarre. You know those Oreo commercials where two people race to finish licking the "stuff" from one end of their Oreo? Seeing their tongues skeeves me. And you know that Campbells soup commercial where the guy is walking around his office drinking a can of tomato soup while moaning and when he finally puts it down he has tomato soup all over his face? I think it's nasty.
Oh, and I don't like chocolate either. I know. I scare myself sometimes with that one.
Okay. Moving on.
2.) Bad grammar bugs the hell out of me. Before I go any further, I will say that I am far from a perfect writer. Even though I make my living as a writer, and I used to work as an editor, I will never claim that every sentence I write (especially those I write for this blog) is without error. But, I have an"eagle editor-eye" that is tres annoying to the average person.
I am constantly pointing out to Rich spelling, grammar, or sentence structure errors I see in menus, billboards, newspapers, and on tv. They really, really bug me because I don't understand how these businesses can present such a flawed image to the public. And I don't understand how the errors aren't caught before they're printed and distributed. And those that are "wrong on purpose" are even more baffling. For example, the "I got people" slogan H&R Block is using in all their commericals. Seriously cringe-inducing. This slogan should read "I've got people" or, even better, get rid of the "got" (ugh) altogether, and go with "I have people."
And oh adverbs. Where for art thou? Whether it's the ubiquitous "fresh-brewed coffee" you see just about everywhere or "She's not breathing normal" or "I did real well on the exam," adverbs are MIA.
Adjectives modify nouns, and adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. It's not that hard. We all learned this in third grade, right?
3.) I cut my fingernails really short. Really, really short. As in, if there's a tiny bit of white showing, I'm off in search of the clippers. So my fingers? They're really attractive, ya'll. (How's that for some awesome grammar?)
4.) I was in a coma for a week when I was five, and when I was ten, I had my entire large intestine removed. So the coma? Apparently I had strep throat and the virus somehow infected my brain. I lapsed into a coma, and doctors told my parents that if I woke up (and they didn't believe I would) I would have severe brain damage. I woke up, but the jury's still out the brain damage diagnosis.
A year later I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, or inflammation of the large intestine. My case was so bad that I underwent a series of four operations at age ten to remove my entire large intestine. And yes! You can live without that massive five-foot-long organ!
5.) I have what equates to a third-grader's knowledge of math. Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing are about the extent of my skills. My verbal SAT scores? Were twice my analytical scores. Oh, and I'm the one who pays our bills and balances our checkbook. Right.
6.) I don't own a cell phone, and I don't want one. Everyone is telling me to buy one because I'm the one who travels with the bambino most of the time, but I just hate them, and the whole "cell phone culture" that surrounds their use. Now I know none of you fair readers engage in obnoxious cell phone behavior, but like the watching people eat thing, and the grammar thing, grating cell phone behavior is one of my biggest pet-peeves. And the only way I can ensure I'll never be called a hypocrite is to never get one of my own.
So there you have it.
So I'm not sure what to make of this article I read the other day. Basically, the FDA is investigating a Texas company that produces and sells "ready-made embryos" for $5K a pair. Customers can pick their pair after checking out the egg and sperm donors' characteristics, including their educational background and photos. The reason for the investigation is unknown at this point.
Okay, makes sense to me, I guess. I mean any infertile couple would want at least some information about the potential egg and sperm donors of their future children, right? And although I don't know too much about it (maybe someone out there reading this does?), I would imagine some clinics have donors who allow patients to view their photos as part of the screening process.
But then the woman who runs the clinic let fly with this little nugget when questioned about what she's doing: "Who wants an ugly, stupid kid?"
So here are my thoughts. This woman appears to be manufacturing "designer embryos" in accempting sperm and eggs from only attractive and highly educated donors. (And as an aside, I'd like to know her criteria for acceptance, because in my opinion, a person who's deemed physically beautiful by one person is not necessarily another's cup o' tea. Case in point: Brad Pitt. Most women I know worship at the altar of Brad. Me? Not so much.)
I don't think fertility clinics have these kind of pre-qualifiers. I do know they only accept eggs and sperm from healthy and young (ish) donors, simply because they want patients to have the greatest chances for success with their treatment. This only makes sense. But by offering this service, this "buy my smart and hot embryos!" business, is she setting a dangerous precedent? And if not, where will this kind of "designer embryo creation" end? Will another company, or maybe even hers, eventually, allow you to screen for and select certain genes (those that make some kids tall and some short, some with brown eyes and some with blue)?
Alright. Tell me what you think.
And thank you, sincerely, to everyone who responded to my last post. I can't tell you how gratifying it was to read that I'm not the only one who feels the way I do about motherhood. Your responses were exactly what I needed.
But there are truths you don't quite realize about new motherhood until they've become a part of your daily life. These are the things no one talks about. Because to do so goes against every common perception of what a "good mother" should be. Now I'm not saying I agree with the following. Frankly, I don't at all. But mothers are held to a very high standard in American society. A standard to which nothing but perfection in every aspect of the role is deemed acceptable. Don't meet this standard? Well, chances are, there are people out there who doubt your mothering ability.
"Good mothers" don't complain about how hard it is to raise their children. "Good mothers" give selflessly of themselves 24/7, 365 days a year, and they don't bemoan their lost senses of self. "Good mothers" are nurturers and protectors. "Good mothers" don't lose their tempers. They have never-ending patience. Some "good mothers" work their day jobs, and come home and immediately begin their second career, taking care of their children and their homes. And they do it without resentment, or without ever thinking that the only thing they want is a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, the book they started reading before having the baby, and a nice bubble bath.
"Good mothers" always respond positively when asked how things are going with their baby at home. "Oh, he's incredible," she'll say. "Each day is full of joy and new discoveries." "Good mothers" never say, "Actually, things aren't going well this week. She won't nap, and yesterday she shit through three different outfits. It's hard, if you must know."
I'm here to confess I don't fit the conventional definition of the "good mother."
These truths I know:
There are days when I truly miss my freedom. The ability to go for a run when I want, and for as long as I want. The ability to bake on a Saturday morning as I used to without having to consider feeding schedules or baby care. The ability to simply veg out when I have the time, without feeling like I'm being lazy and ignoring the myriad other tasks and chores that are piling up around the house.
There are days when being a baby's primary caregiver is exhausting. Seriously and totally exhausting. It's the hardest job I've ever had. When it's me and Isabella, all day every day, from 7am (and sometimes earlier) until 7pm (and sometimes later), I want to go right to bed (instead of to work) when she does. And while I do have relatives coming over sometimes to give me a hand during the week, their visits often aren't without a healthy dose of masked judgment about my mothering abilities, and sometimes it's less stressful when they stay away:
Grandma: "Why are her knuckles so red?"
Me: "Because she chews them, Gram."
Grandma: "She's spitting up mucus!"
Me: "That's breast milk, Gram."
Grandma: "Why are you cutting her nails so short?"
Me: "Because her face will resemble Freddie Krueger's if I don't, Gram."
And lastly, there are days when I miss my marriage, and the silly little rituals we had pre-baby. We used to go out to dinner together every Friday night. It was a nice way to unwind together before the weekend, to come together as a couple when the previous week's work schedule (mainly Rich's) kept us from spending much time together during the week. The last time we did this since Isabella was in September, for Rich's birthday. It's not as if we couldn't do it now if we really wanted to. But frankly, it's a lot of work to escape for an hour or two, and given that I'm breastfeeding and given that there are nights that she doesn't go to sleep easily, getting a babysitter and going out is more of a hassle than it's worth.
Tired of hearing me bitch, yet?
Here's the thing. I started this blog with the idea that I would always be honest in my writing. Writing has always been cathartic for me, and it does me no good to self-censor. And I'm certainly not one to pretend that I fit the societal definition of the "good mother" either. Motherhood is ultimately hugely rewarding. Motherhood is something I've wanted for years, and it took a great effort to achieve it. But I'm also here to tell you that while being Isabella's mom is at once the most amazing and fulfilling thing I've ever done, it's also the most draining and difficult as well.
And I don't think confessing these truths makes me a bad mother.
Instead, I am about to fulfill my promise to you, my faithful readers. A promise I made back in October, as a part of the Pumpkin Pay It Forward Contest. If you remember, Miss Deen's recipe for Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake received the most votes, and should have been the recipe I baked for the contest. But, given its fragile-sounding constitution, and given that the yumminess would have to be shipped potentially cross-country (and as it turned out, internationally), I figured that wasn't the smartest idea. So I baked the Pumpkin Pound Cake instead, but vowed to, at some point, make the true winning recipe and post it here.
Well, my friends, the time has come.
On Friday night, I baked the Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake. And let me just tell you, it was delicious. And addicting. And likely probably not the healthiest thing in the world for you, given that the recipe calls for two sticks of butter. But it's made with pumpkin! Which is a vegetable! Of which you are supposed to partake in 6-8 servings a day, no? So, in my esteemed opinion, eat up!
Anyway, it wasn't as "gooey" as I thought it would be. The top portion was the consistency of pumpkin pie, and the bottom was the consistency of cake. And the combination of the two? Was sinfully good. And, since I received this book as a Christmas gift, and the recipe for Gooey Butter Cake is included, I now hold the knowledge that there are many, many variations of this recipe, including Lemon Gooey Butter Cake, Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cake, Chocolate Chip Gooey Butter Cake, among others. And apparently, these cakes are the most requested dessert at Paula's The Lady & Sons restaurant in Savannah. Now I know why.
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake
For the Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick of butter, melted
For the Filling
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 15-ounce can of pumpkin pie filling
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 16-ounce box of confectioners' sugar
1 stick butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine cake mix, egg, and butter, and mix well. Pat into the bottom of the prepared pan, and set aside.
3. Using the electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth; add eggs and vanilla. Add confectioners' sugar and beat well. Reduce speed of mixer and slowly pour in butter. Mix well.
4. Pour filling onto cake mixture and spread evenly. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Oven temperatures may vary, so Paula recommends you keep an eye on the oven. You want the ceter to be a little gooey, so don't bake it past this point.
5. Cool completely and cut into squares.
Then, dig in!
So when I sleep, I like to be warm. Really warm. Unless it's 100 degrees outside, chances are I'm wearing flannel pajama bottoms and a long-sleeved t-shirt to bed. And when I get in the bed, I like to "cocoon" myself. I like the sheet, blanket, and comforter pulled up as close to my face as possible without them covering my head. And I like to make sure my back is covered with all these layers and not laying open to the drafts that are everywhere in my 82-year old house.
It appears, then, that I made a grave error in picking a mate fore score and five years ago when I got married because the husband is not always cold. No, he's not only not always cold, he's rarely if ever cold. In fact, he's usually hot. And that means we have problems in the bedroom. No, not those kind of problems (get your minds out of the gutter, people), but problems regarding blanket distribution and coverage.
You see, dear husband is a thrasher. He tosses and turns, limbs a' flailing, covers a' flying all night long. And given the fact that he prefers the covers completely off him or only partially covering him, and I like to be buried beneath them, I've decreed us completely incompatible sleeping partners. Couple these truths with the fact that I tend to lay pretty inert all night long, and have awoken shivering many a night to find the covers kicked off the bottom of the bed by the husband, and I'm thinking of wearing a snowsuit to bed.
So, do tell. Are you and your partner compatible sleeping pals? Is one of you a thrasher and the other a frozen corpse? And if you have any solutions for this problem, please share those too.
She's discovered her feet. Whenever I strip her down to change her diaper, she'll grab at her feet and attempt to stick them in her mouth.
After ignorning them since the day we brought her home, she's suddenly developed a full-blown fascination with the cats. Now, whenever they walk into the room, she tracks them with her eyes, and immediately starts babbling at them. If the cats start meowing back at her in response, I'll be very, very afraid, because Rich and I will be outnumbered.
Up until a few weeks ago, I could feed her and eat or drink something at the same time. No longer. She's now obsessed with anything that goes near my mouth. She'll stop nursing, and immediately look up at me with this intense look in her eye as if to say, "um, hello? Down here. A little decaf for me, perhaps?" And she swipes at things I'm attempting to eat and drink as well. We've had one mishap already, resulting in a blob of yogurt being deposited on her forehead.
She's pulling hair and glasses and grabbing at noses. During Christmas week, my mom was over visiting and I came down the stairs after showering and she pointed out this red scratch on my face. Isabella was swiping at my face earlier in the day, and had given me a scratch reminiscent of those my cats accidentally give me when I haven't cut their nails in awhile.
She's actually playing with her toys, and everything, and I mean everything, goes straight into her mouth. She's a massive drool machine, which causes everyone to ask, "Is she teething?" Her doctor says most babies start teething at six months, so I think she's got awhile before her choppers come in.
And finally, I can now make her laugh. She started laughing at anything and everything a few weeks ago. But now I can cause her to giggle by singing a funny song, or tickling her. It's a very cool thing to see indeed.
There is good news on the sleeping front too! It's too early to say at this point, and I fear I'm cursing my own recent good fortune as I type this, but it appears the little girl was simply missing being swaddled. See, her sleeping issues started to develop around the time we stopped swaddling her. I had read that most babies won't tolerate being swaddled after about three months time. And this seemed to hold true for her, as she would kick herself out of her swaddle, and create a smothering hazard in her basinett (where she was sleeping at the time). So, we stopped swaddling her.
So last week I asked her doctor if it was okay to keep swaddling her, and she said yes, and that they sell bigger swaddles as she grows. At first I didn't want to take a step backward and start swaddling her again, only to have her develop the same sleeping issues she's working through now all over again, so I didn't. But last night, I decided to give it a try. And she went down at 7pm easily. And she only got up once during the night. And today? She's taken a one-hour nap in the morning, and a two-and-a-half hour nap this afternoon, just like a normal baby! Please, Lord, let this swaddling thing be the answer. Because a not-cranky, not-whiny, not-pissy, not-sleep-deprived baby makes for a not-cranky, not-whiny, not-pissy, not-sleep deprived Kristi.
It's amazing how sleep can affect both her personality and mine. Yesterday, she had a 15 minute morning nap, and a half hour of afternoon sleep, all day long. Her personality yesterday as a result? Highly unpleasant. My personality as a result? Even more unpleasant. But today? Today, following her afternoon siesta, she was a completely different baby. Smiling, happy, alert, and playful. And her mother? Well, she took a step back from the edge.
So, okay. This picture. For those of you who guessed rum balls, nope. Not in reference to rum balls. What exactly are rum balls, because they sound really good. I can't say I've ever had one. And it's not in reference to any sport either.
Let's just say that I've had my balls for a few months now, and I love them. And now everyone in my family, men and women alike, and yes, even my dear older relatives have balls now too. The balls are these. Mamacita got them for me awhile ago, and she bought a pair (ha!) for each of my family members for Christmas. Then, the female members of my family, who previously lacked balls, but who suddenly found themselves with some (including Isabella) posed for a picture with this sign my mom made. They really do reduce the time it takes you to dry a load of wash. So I'm in favor of balls for everyone!
Now let's move a little lower on the human anatomy model to the knee cap region. On Wednesday of last week, we took the little girl for her four-month checkup. She weighs 11 pounds, 15 ounces, putting her weight in the 15th percentile, which is on par with what she was at her two-month checkup. Her doctor said there's nothing wrong with her small size. She's just "petite." And I'm comforted by the fact that her head is in the 75th percentile, which means she's growing a huge brain in that skull of hers, and is on track to becoming the world's smartest bobblehead. Plus, Little Big Head's gotta retire sometime, right?
Anyway, she finished her exam, answered my twenty-zillion questions (including "how young is too young to give a little peach schnapps in the nighttime bottle?"), gave the bean her four shots, and we were just buttoning Isabella back into her clothes, when her doctor started rubbing her knees and said, "I'm not sure she has knee caps." Um, what?
She then very nonchalantly said, "Let me just go look up when knee caps in babies should be fully developed. I'll be right back." And with that, she left the room.
Rich and I were all, WTF??? Our daughter doesn't have knee caps? If it didn't sound so potentially serious (would she be able to walk without knee caps?) I think we would have laughed about it. Her doctor returned and said, "Yup, they should be developed by now. I'd like you to stick around to see a colleague of mine. He has a patient without any knee caps, and I'd like him to take a look at Isabella."
She left, and we waited. She came back about 10 minutes later with another doctor, who within seconds of feeling up my daughter's knees declared her with knee cap. Two, in fact. He then told us he had a patient in which he had missed the no knee cap diagnosis until the patient was six years old. Apparently, you'd never know this kid was missing them, because he's an athlete and runs and walks normally. Okay, then.
So the moral of the story is, check your children for knee caps everyday. Don't take it for granted that they have them! And even if you think they have them today, check for them again tomorrow. :)
Oh, and for those of you who so kindly responded to my post bemoaning my husband and his ginormous and gigantic tv Christmas wish, you'll be pleased to know I took some of your suggestions, and gave him money to put towards its eventual purchase. He was happy with it, as uncreative and uninspired as it was. And someday, he will be the owner of the aforementioned electronic behemoth. Joy.