Please Move, Mountains

I went to St. Lucia for my honeymoon. It's a beautiful, natural island, unspoiled by tourists. It has a rainforest, and a volcano, and two huge mountains which dominate the landscape. You can see them from most every location on the island.

Meet Gros Piton and Petit Piton. My breasts' dopplegangers.

I weaned Isabella gradually. As I mentioned here, she's nursed only once a day for the last three weeks or so. This has been the best way for us to do it, because it hasn't been traumatic for her, and it's meant no pain or engorgement for me. That is, until I stopped nursing her completely on Monday. One of my breasts seems to have received the message that the milk factory is shutting down production. The other? Seems to have been out to lunch when that message was sent.

And so now, I'm walking around with one mostly deflated boob, and one Frankenboob that's hard and painful and twice the size of the other. Carrying Isabella on my right side hurts. Hugging her and snuggling with her in my lap is an exercise in pain management. If I get mastitis again, which I was lucky enough to develop when Isabella was a month old, I think I will officially lose it. I've read that it can take a week to 10 days to a month for a woman's milk supply to completely dry up. And supposedly I'm not supposed to pump even a little bit to relieve the pressure because it's supposed to further stimulate production.

My body is so smokin' right now. Who wants to take me dancing?

Isabella at 13 Months

Isabella turned 13 months old on Saturday.

A lot has changed in Isabella's world in the last month.

As of Monday, she's no longer a breastfed baby. We've been down to one feeding a day for weeks now, with each session lasting less than 7 minutes. I'm so glad she seems to have essentially weaned herself, and she doesn't seem to miss it at all. That makes one of us. And also, I am in physical pain and have huge breasts, yet again. I won't bore you with the details, but someone please tell me it will go away soon.

She has mastered the furrowed brow look, and flashes it quite often when something isn't going her way, which lately, is quite often. To that end, she has also pefected the fine art of the temper tantrum, complete with back arching, and face-buried-in-the-ground fury. Let me tell you, it is F-U-N hauling a screaming toddler out of here, there, and everywhere because you dared to pry your wallet out of her hands to pay the cashier.

Isabella has also developed a raging case of mommy-itis. As in, I can rarely leave her in one room and walk into another (which is mere steps away, mind you) without her bursting into tears. I cannot set her down on the floor, 12 inches away from me, while I type an email or try to work without her attempting to climb into my lap. And remember how I was longing to hear "mama" when "dada" was the word du jour for months? Well, now it's "mama mama mama" all day long. So, I like being needed and loved and stuff, but this? Is a bit much.

Now on to the good stuff.

After cruising around the furniture for about six weeks, and taking a few steps on her own before wiping out for the past month, Isabella is now almost walking completely independently. She can walk across the entire first floor of our house, in our yard, and just about anywhere she needs to go. She still requires a table or couch to pull herself up, but once she's up, she's off.

Her cognitive development has exploded this month. I can actually talk to her and she understands some of my requests. If I ask her to put the block in the box, without any kind of gesturing on my part, she does it. I can ask her to take another sip of milk, and she does. When I ask her to please bring mommy another Jack and Coke from the kitchen, she obliges.

She says quite a few new words, too. In addition to mama, dada, duck, and dog, she says "ba" (ball), "waaaa" (water) and can make the "c" sound for car and cat. She also says "Num" when she's hungry, because I have ridiculously referred to her food as "numma-nummas" since she was a little baby. I blame the hormones.

Oh, and have I mentioned that she still has no teeth? 13 months old and Not.A.Single.One. This has to be some sort of record, right?

Current Likes: Carrying around a tiny pocket calculator with the reckless abandon of one who is unaware of the fact that numbers and math constitute the stuff her mother's nightmares are made of. Also, blowing kisses, attempting to kiss the cats (they're not interested), and wrecking an only quasi-babyproofed house.

Current Dislikes: Sitting still. Containment of any kind, including her arch-enemy, the stroller, the pack-n-play, and her car seat. And also her belly button.

Are Organics Worth It?

When Isabella was nothing more than an 8-cell, Grade 4 embryo, sitting in a petri dish, I made the decision that I was going to make her baby food when the time came. I had read an article (I wish I could remember now which one) that listed the benefits of homemade food for babies, and I decided that just because I didn't cook jack for myself, didn't mean I couldn't give my baby the healthiest start possible.

What I didn't decide until much later on was to have her homemade baby and toddler food diet* consist of as many organic foods as possible. And I can thank my savvy vegetable-growing sister for turning me on to organics.

While I live in an area that's home to a large (and pretty fantastic) chain grocery store that's offered at least 100 varieties of organic fruits and vegetables, and a large organic and natural foods department for years, it never really occured to me to buy any before becoming a mom for two reasons:

1.) I eat very few vegetables (I'm knocking myself upside the head for you right now)


2.) I could not see paying $8.34 for 3 peaches or $5.78 for a pound of butter.

But when Karrie came home to visit for Christmas last year, we got into a discussion about organic foods. She told me she buys organic whenever possible to avoid the chemicals, pesticides, residues, and hormones present in conventionally grown and processed foods. She said that buying organic is good for the environment because it eliminates the agricultural pollution that's a byproduct of our country's large farms, and it helps keep the small farms who grow organics thriving. In essence, buying organic is good for your health, the health of the planet, and the sustainability of the small American farm.

I agreed with her wholeheartedly on each of these points. But my problem with organics was the cost. Organics are at a minimum 20% and sometimes, (for example, as it is with milk) 100% more than non-organics. And while at the time I could afford to purchase at least some organic fruits and vegetables, I could by no means buy organic varieties of everything on my grocery list. And I'm middle-class. Those in the lower income brackets could no more afford organics than they could a vacation home in Barbados.

So I did some research and found this article in Consumer Reports. It tells you which organic products you should always buy because the pesticides, chemicals, and/or hormones are highest in these foods. It also tells you which organics to add if money is no object, and which organics you can skip (seafood and cosmetics) because the USDA hasn't set an organic standard for these yet. Now I know which of my hard-earned dollars to devote to organics, and which organic products I can start buying once I become a filthy rich novelist.

And if the overall health and environmental reasons weren't enough of an incentive, I recently read this article, which attributes the fact that puberty is starting earlier for American girls because of hormone-treated beef. Girls as young as 8-years-old (8!!) are entering puberty, and this article says that if a girl begins menstruating before age 12, she faces a higher risk of breast cancer than those girls who start later.

So are organics worth it? For me, they are. My daughter drinks organic milk that costs $6/gallon. She eats organic bananas that are $.69/pound, organic cheese that's $4.50 for 8 ounces, and organic baby cereal that's $3.00/box. We're going down to one steady income as of next week, and affording her organic diet is about to become a struggle**.

But for me, buying organic is worth the extra cost, even if the hubs and I have to do without. With organics, I know she's not injesting chemicals that can not only do her harm now, but that have the potential to harm her later in life. With organics, I am secure in the knowledge that her diet is keeping her safe from hormones known to increase the liklihood of early puberty at the least and breast cancer at the worst. With organics, I'm doing my small part to keep the earth from further degradation at the hands of He Who Must Not Be Named.

Now if you'll excuse me. There are some Funyuns and Kool Aid calling my name from the kitchen.

*There are some great new recipes up on Mush, The Baby and Toddler Food blog, with more coming soon. Stop by, and then spread the word to your mom friends!

**You can save money on organics by buying them from your local farmers. Head here to find a farmer's market near where you live. Also, you can find deals on organics at your grocery store. For example, today I scored 4 pounds of organic strawberries for $5.00! I even asked the woman working in the produce department if the sign was correct, and she said that the store had received a large shipment of organic stawberries and were trying to get rid of them. Cool, 'eh?

(Almost) Over and (Totally) Out

Today I packed up the office I never really worked in. It is my very first office of my professional career. Four walls that stretched to the ceiling. Big, solid, almost- soundproof door that closed. As far as corporate office space goes, my office is pretty swank. It's at least twice the size of my daughter's bedroom. The walls were painted a nice cream color. And even though I worked perhaps a combined 12 hours in the office in the seven months it was mine, I loved it so.

As a writer who needs quiet to work and has craved it for 10 long and noisy cube-dwelling years, I cannot tell you what a big deal this office was to me.

You see, I am not a cube person. (Are there people out there who like them?) I am not overly chatty at work. I like my handful of friends at the office, and everyone else can stay the ef out of my space. But when you're in a cube, you're not afforded that kind of luxury, because you don't have a door. People pop in and out without notice, and often end up scaring the living crap out of you in the process. In my company's former office space, my esteemed coworkers would often enter my cube unannounced, and without asking permission, conduct conversations with my cube neighbor on the other side of my wall. And many times, they would do this without saying one word to me.

"But you work from home," I know you're saying to yourselves. "You must have a home office in which to write, fill out your 45th application for What Not To Wear (and yes, I can nominate myself if I want to), and cut your fingernails down to wee tiny stubs in private, right?" Not exactly.

I share my "home office," (which has an entryway and no door, mind you) with Isabella's shit-filled trash can.

See, my home office (currently an utter and complete sty)

also serves as Isabella's downstairs changing room. And before ya'll think we're livin' la vida Hilton, and her bedroom and its changing table are four floors and 14 wings away from our main living area, our house is a mere 1,700 square feet. But because I am inherently lazy, I don't want to haul her up a flight of stairs every time I need to change her diaper. Hence the second changing station. In my home office.

As of next Friday, my last official day as a full-time employee, the office in my company's building won't be mine anymore and the only "office" I'll have is the one I share with a not-so-mysterious and omniprescent odor.

Arrivederci, my rare little slice of quiet, corporate heaven. Alas, I hardly knew you.

Saturday Night Fever

If there's anything more pitiful than a sick baby, I'm not sure what that might be.

Isabella came down with a bad cold, cough, fever, and ear infection yesterday.

She spent all day today laying in our arms, her hot little head on our shoulders. Zero energy. Zero desire to play with toys. Zero desire to climb the stairs or ride the cats (which tells me she is really and truly sick). Occasionally, she'd perk up, and request "Na-Na," her word for Elmo, whose annoying and insipid little diddy before his segment on Sesame Street consists of "La-La-La-La, La-La-La-La, Elmo's World." TV is usually verboten on mommy's watch, however it's snuck its way into daddy's.

I never thought these words would find their way onto this blog, but thankfully the hubs had DVR-d some episodes of Sesame Street, because that's all the poor thing had the energy to do: lay in our arms, her head on our chests, her glassy little eyes half-focused on the tv.

And since it's been at least 27 years or so since I've watched Sesame Street, I can tell you that not much has changed. Although, watching it as an adult, I am here to report the show is oddly alluring. I watched Ben Stiller dressed up like a wedge of cheese singing "These Are The People in My Neighborhood." I watched a family of white pipecleaners anxious about meeting the new neighbors, a family of green pipecleaners, only to realize that the green family of pipecleaners is exactly the same as they are, just a different color. And I watched a classroom of five-year-olds painstakingly writing their names on pieces of colored paper over, and over, and over again.

However, I most certainly did not go through all the DVR-d episodes, unable to look away. No. Didn't.

Let me break down other parts of my day for you:

Number of hours spent underneath 20 dead-weight pounds of steaming-hot baby while she slept in my arms: 18

Number of times 47 cm-round, 90th percentile skull smacked into my jawbone as she thrashed uncomfortably in my arms: 12

Number of hours holding pee inside microscopic bladder because of not wanting to wake baby sleeping on my chest, where her right knee was lodged tight against aforementioned bladder: 3

Number of times I wished I was anywhere else but being allowed by my daughter to hold and comfort her, since in her new toddlerhood role, she wants no part of snuggles with mommy on a normal day: 0.

Okay, now bring on the amoxicillin, please.

Most Days Anyway

Isabella had her 1 year checkup last week, and she's grown quite a bit from her 9 month checkup.

She's 30 inches long (75th percentile), her ginormous cranium is now tipping the scales at a whopping 47cm (moving her up to the 90th percentile) and most exciting of all, she weighs 20 pounds, and 1/2 an ounce, putting her in the 50th percentile. To this point, she's hovered between the 15th and the 25th percentile for weight, so for her to finally hit the 50th is fantastic. Must be all those Twinkies and Slurpees I've been feeding her.

In addition to her physical (knee caps still present, by the way), she had to have her blood drawn to check for anemia and lead (this is a standard blood test in my state). If you've never taken your baby for a blood test before, let me advise you to bring another adult with you. A friend who had just taken her 1 year old for a blood test gave me this advice, and so I brought my great aunt with me, not for moral support, but to pin down my poor, flailing daughter as the phlebotomist gave her a fingerstick (no tears!) and then pushed enough blood to the tip of her finger to fill two vials (complete screaming meltdown). If my aunt hadn't been there to hold her arm during this process, I'm certain Isabella would have cold-cocked the very kind and gently phlebotomist who I'm sure doesn't derive much enjoyment from making babies cry.

Surprisingly, this tiny fingerstick produced enough blood on the bandage Isabella was supposed to wear for the rest of the day to give the appearance that my daughter had knawed off the tip of her finger rather than received a small pinprick hole for bloodwork purposes. It was so grotesque-looking I almost couldn't look at it, and attempted to cover it up with another bandage, which didn't work so well.

And needless to say, following her afternoon nap, I found the bandage chucked onto the floor of her room. Apparently, Isabella couldn't stand to look at it either.

Time-Management and Energy-Level Lessons Learned in Year One of Motherhood

I've managed to somehow ensure that Isabella reached her first birthday. Here's what I've learned about motherhood in the last 365+ days.

1. Full-time, at-home mommydom is a study in complete and total physical exhaustion.

When I was pregnant, everyone told me "sleep now, because you won't be sleeping much when the baby is born," and "get rid of your cats because don't you know they are going to kill your child while she sleeps???!!!??." But nobody, and I mean nobody, told me how physically draining it is to be responsible for hauling your one-year-old out of the fireplace, out from behind the couch, and down off the fifth stair of your staircase 45,000 times a day.

Clearly, I should have been working out since about my 15th birthday to prepare my body for the aches and pains associated with parenting an almost-walking toddler. Because.I.Was.So.Completely.Unprepared.

2. Being a mom is not a good choice for the Type A.

I am tightly wound and completely unashamed to admit this. I like order. I like lists. I like to cross things off lists in a timely fashion. I become slightly-to-moderately unhinged when I have too much to do and not enough time to do it. (See this post for my case and point.) Since becoming a mom and opting to work from home with a full-time job, a part-time freelance job, and starting up a new business with friends all while taking care of Isabella, my very ordered universe has disintegrated. There is much chaos and flying by the seat of one's pants going on in my world right now, and I do not like it.

Of course, much of this situation is of my own doing, but my hope is that this is all about to change, because Melissa runs her life by a kick-ass schedule that I'm making my personal goal in the next month or so to try and replicate. I adhere to a quasi-schedule in my head. But I need to get it down on paper.

3. "Downtime" has taken on an entirely new meaning.

In the pre-Isabella days, I would come home from work, throw on my pajamas, and completely zone out in front of the tv (but I was always watching the National Geographic channel or C-SPAN, and never, ever those mindless and ridiculous reality tv shows all the kids are watching nowadays) before starting (read: microwaving) dinner. The hubs and I would eat dinner, and then commence an evening of...more of the same.

Since becoming a mom, "downtime" happens when Isabella is napping or asleep for the night. My relaxation comes in the form of doing dishes or laundry, scraping dried food out of our hardwood floorboards, and picking up sundry toys, and concludes with a long and luxurious night spent working from my laptop. And yes, these are actually the less-taxing and most relaxing parts of my day.

4. My in-office job was a cake-walk compared to staying at home with a baby all day.

When I worked from my office, my day went a little something like this:

Get up. Get ready. Caffeinate self. Drive to Dunkin Donuts. Buy coffee. Consume coffee (rapidly). Enter office. Turn on computer. Write blog post. Make miscellaneous personal phone calls. Write daily task-list. Take copious coffee breaks. Go for walks with co-workers around the office park. Repeatedly ignore daily task-list. Walk around and visit coworkers. Eat lunch. Go to the bathroom and examine teeth for leftover lunch bits. Check blog. Consume more coffee. Check blog again. Go home.

And of course, for at least three 10-minute increments in my nine-hour day, I was working.

That life of Riley came to a halt almost 13 months ago. Now, my day goes a little something like this:

Get up. Get Isabella up. Start coffee. Prop open eyelids with toothpicks while she bounces off the walls, her toybox, the furniture, and the cats until breakfast. Attempt to feed breakfast. Clean highchair, floors, nearby furniture, self, and baby following mealtime meltdown. Attempt to put sleep-hating baby down for a morning nap. Run on treadmill. Shower. Get baby up from "nap." Flee from confining walls of house in search of adult conversation in playroom of library. Pry Isabella off ceiling of playroom. Drive home. Attempt to feed lunch. Repeat aforementioned post-mealtime cleaning ritual. Dance with glee because it's afternoon naptime! Run to laptop to work while baby sleeps. Get baby up from nap 10 minutes later. Strap thrashing baby into stroller for a walk she has no intention of enjoying. Prepare and "feed" dinner. Repeat breakfast and lunch cleaning ritual. Strip down baby, plunk her in tub, and attempt to wash her while preventing injestion of more than 6 fluid ounces of dirty bathwater. Wrestle baby into pajamas. Kisses! Hugs! Story! Nighty-Night! Collapse in sheer and utter exhaustion.

Goal for year two: Put English degrees to good use and clone self.

Who Me? Weird?

I have been tagged by Pru to write a meme detailing seven aspects of my weirdness. And although I've completed this meme before, I seem to possess a super-abundance of weirdness, so there you have it.

1. Reality tv is my Prozac. And lately, I've been very, very depressed. I used to stick to the uppercrust of reality tv (Survivor, Amazing Race, and American Idol). However lately, I've been scraping the bottom of the barrel with Wife Swap, Super Nanny, and that exploitive gem, Fat March. And if Big Brother were on every day of the week, I would feel as if I died and went to heaven. Feel free to laugh at me. I would laugh at you if our situations were reversed.

2. I have a frequent nightmare that places me back in high school, standing in front of my locker, and not being able to remember the combination. This dream is second only in frequency to another high school dream where I have misplaced my schedule and I have no idea what class I'm supposed to be in, and in what room it's located. I have probably had these same dreams over 100 times, and I have been out of high school for a very, very long time. And while I'm no Freud, it's clear that my greatest fear is being unprepared and disorganized. For those who know me IRL, I'm sure this is a shocking bit of information. Except not.

3. I absolutely love removing boogies from Isabella's nose. There is something so supremely satisfying of going up her schnozz with an empty q-tip (I've long since given up on that baby torture device - the nasal aspirator) and coming back out with the huge boogie that's been plugging up her nasal passage. I realize this is not only completely bizarre, but also way TMI for most of you.

4. I don't let my fingernails grow. Like, at all. When there's a tiny bit of white showing at the top of my finger, out come the clippers and I hack the nails off. I used to bite my nails when I was younger, and although I stopped doing that long ago, my preference for nails so short they barely qualify to be called "nails" never really went away.

5. I still have my kindergarten Holly Hobby lunch box. It's made of metal (and probably coated with several layers of lead paint. Please remind me not to lick it) and has a matching thermos. Inside, I've kept about 20 or so notes passed between me and my friends in grammar school and high school, most of which are folded into elaborate triangles, stars and other geometric masterpieces for easy slippage from one hand to the next behind the teacher's back. Oh yes, I was a total 8th grade badass in my Catholic school. And by the way, KG *hearts* KB 4-EVA.

6. Nothing annoys me more (besides my growing fingernails) than spelling or grammar errors on signs, menus, tv commercials or any other marketing piece seen by the public. It boggles my wee little brain that companies and restaurants both big and small don't hire a good editor to ensure their public-facing materials are error-free. I realize this is freakish because most people don't have the anal editor eye that I do, and even if they did, they probably don't give a damn, but come on. I ask you, are you comfortable buying "bake goods" from a farmer's market? I think not!

7. I do not own a cell phone, nor do I ever want to. I realize this is probably the most strange of all the things I've listed here. But I just hate them. I really, really hate them. And I hate people who use them obnoxiously (soccer moms in the grocery store aisles "WHAT? WHAT kind of CEREAL do you want?", dads who cannot resist toting their "I'm always connected" importance while waiting with their kids in the pediatrician's waiting room, and those nasty people who talk into them while in line at stores, making the sales clerks wait for them to finish their calls). Seriously, hate.

I'm not going to tag anyone, but if you feel like sharing your own weirdness (you know you have way more than seven things that make you weird. I know I do.), please let me know so I can read about it.

There's a New Blog in Town

Back in February of this year, I began making all of Isabella's baby food. When I wrote my first post about it, Ramona made the suggestion that I start a baby food blog to share recipes.

Well, that idea has been festering in my brain for the past six months, and now I've finally done something about it.

I've joined collective baby food-making forces with Pru from Barren Albion to create Mush, our new baby and toddler food blog. We've both been making homemade baby food for our daughters since they started on solids, and Mush will serve as a source for recipes (our own, our favorite cookbook authors', and those of anyone else who wants to share them with us) and helpful tips and techniques on the homemade baby food process.

And although our babies are past the puree stage, we still plan on sharing plenty of recipes from the early days, as well as our daughters' current favorites.

So, check it out if you're interested!

Quick Snapshot:

  • 34-year-old writer and
    mother to a daughter
    born in August 2006 following
    IVF and girl/boy twins born in October 2008 following FET. Come along as I document the search for my lost intellect. It's a bumpy ride. Consider yourself warned.

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  • "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware." -Martin Buber

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