Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Pumping Closet, Trisha Yearwood, and The Grown-up Taste of Nuts

Four days a week, twice a day for 20-30 minutes at a time, I am hooked up to a machine expressing breast milk for Violet's next day's meals. My work had established a supply room for me to use for pumping purposes but the frequency that staff needs to get things out of there made it difficult for me to feel comfortable getting topless in that room. Twice I heard someone outside the door, keys jingling, about to walk in on me looking like a working Holstein dairy cow at milking time. I have moved my operation and am much more comfortable in the bathroom even though people think being forced to pump in the restroom is a hardship. This is a really nice restroom--a onesie, no stalls--with tile floors and a frosted glass window. It is big enough that I sit in a chair by the window, not on the pot. It is also adjacent to the office kitchenette which means I don't have to tote test tubes full of milk through the office letting all of my co-workers see whether I am having a high or low producing day.

I have a pumping schedule I try to stick to--10:30 & 2:30--but I have to be flexible. Some days I have a 10am meeting so I have to pump early or late, and there are days when the phone rings and I run behind. I think there has only been one day that I didn't get my two pumpings in so I think I'm doing pretty well. I always try to take something work-related to read with me into the pumping station but, with so much of my work being via phone or computer, there simply isn't always a paper document that needs my attention. In addition, mine is a double pump so I don't really have a free hand which further limits my options for double tasking. Most books require 2 hands and proofreading is out cause I couldn't hold a pen.

So my standby reading material for my pumps is the Redbook magazine that has been sent to our office by mistake for well over a year. I think that the subscription has finally run out, however, because I have read the August and September issues cover to cover but haven't seen anything more recent. Redbook, competing with titles like Ladies Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens, is the Grandmother of all the "Mom" magazines with headlines ranging from "16 Savory Soups" to "Real Women, Real Weight Loss" and "How to Get Your Husband to Do Almost Anything Without Nagging." It is that magazine that has a glossy photo on the cover of a slice of fruit pie, filthy with shortening and sugar, with the article byline "Walk Off The Weight!" superimposed right over the lattice crust. It is a momazine. I could bring in one of my magazines from home--Vanity Fair or Real Simple--something more my taste. But something about pre-meditating my reading material makes it seem a bit more like slacking at work.

One of the Redbook issues I read has the chubby country star, Trisha Yearwood, on the cover. The article about her was pretty ho-hum. I read only half of it before moving on to a nice spread about how to get a handle on my family's debt. But, since I spend so much time pumping and have so few periodicals available to me, I went back to the article about Trisha later in the week and finished it. Included in the layout were a few of her favorite Southern style recipes with photos included. One, a Chicken Spinach Lasagna Casserole, seemed exceedingly grody to me when I first read it. It contained the great triumvirate of casserole ingredients: cream of mushroom soup, mayonnaise, and sour cream. Nothing wrong with those three, aside from the fat content, especially when you know it will be topped with shredded cheese. What got me was the casserole topping--not your usual breadcrumbs or french fried onions, but pecans. Pecans on casserole--ugh! I like most nuts now but remember being thoroughly grossed out as a kid when chocolate chip cookies had walnuts or waffles had pecans. Who would ruin a perfectly good cookie or waffle with nuts?? My mom said nuts were "Yummy." I thought they were unnecessary. I don't know when I finally warmed up to nuts, but it was definitely an acquired taste.

It was probably my 5th or 6th reading of the Redbook, likely during one of my pumping sessions right before lunch, when the recipe started to intrigue me. I mean, I do like spinach and chicken. Casseroles are an easy meal for a weeknight. It is fall and something hot is always comforting and good. I do like pecans in other settings; pies, cookies, bars...could Trisha be on to something? So I tore it out. And, sitting in my pumping closet milking myself, tearing out Trisha Yearwood's Chicken Spinach Lasagna Casserole recipe, I realized I was the target reader for Redbook.

When I went to the grocery I bought all the ingredients I needed to make the casserole, including the pecans. I think it was a Wednesday night when I made it, nuts and all. I think Shawn liked it--he eats almost anything I cook without a complaint. It was very casserole-y and the pecans were an interesting touch. I don't know that it will find itself into our regular dinner rotation but I kept the recipe. That meal, more than even Violet's birth itself, confirmed my identity as a mom. A mom with nuts on top.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Adding Family Members The Easy Way

When it comes to growing your family tree, there are two ways to do it. One is by marriage, the other is by baby. I am excited to report that my oldest brother Jeff has invited his girlfriend, Stephanie, to join the clan and she accepted. Hooray and Congrats! We celebrated their engagement with a brunch including both sides of the newly joined family on Sunday.

But is marriage really the easier of the two ways to increase the number of family members? The day of the actual event, marriage definitely is easier. Who would rather give birth than go to a big party often with an open bar? But what about the days, weeks, months and years that follow the blessed event? Babies are a more intense, concentrated kind of work right out of the gate. They need oodles of attention, require lots of patience, and can leave parents with more questions than answers. Babies won't let themselves be ignored.

Marriages, on the other hand, tend to start off with both parties running on cruise control, enjoying the afterglow of their wedding celebration and honeymoon. It is easy to assume that your marriage will always be that easy, that good. Then, life starts to flip by. Careers change, money gets tough, houses are bought and sold, babies enter the picture. And, if you are like me, you have an "a-ha" moment as you look across the kitchen at the guy talking to the baby in his best Baby-ese falsetto and realize you haven't really spoken to each other since last Wednesday. You've compared schedules, swapped baby anecdotes, and updated each other on joint bank account expenditures, but you haven't actually talked. And you wonder, how long could you ignore your marriage and have it survive? So make an effort. Just a little effort. A nice hug in the kitchen goes a long way.

In a lot of ways (hell, in almost every way imaginable!), Shawn and I are lucky. Though we didn't plan on making a Violet so quickly, we sure got a good one. And the good, old, pre-kid days of our marriage, though they were few, are still recent enough memories that we actually remember why we liked each other before we became family. I think that is a big reason why people end up getting divorced after they have a couple kids. Raising humans is so time consuming, so all consuming, so unignorable, that a marriage silently withering away is barely noticeable until it is too late. Some couples don't have the "a-ha" moment in the kitchen, or if they do, they ignore it and keep emptying the dishwasher. And, ignore enough of those moments and then it is too late.

So, for Jeff and Stephanie, I wish you guys lots of "A-Ha! I Love You!" moments. And maybe even a few little Violets. With their own names, of course.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Two Good Reasons To Go To Bed

Does the wonder of babies ever wear off? I know that I can be blinded to it temporarily due to exhaustion or frustration but I don't think I ever really cease to be amazed by what we've created. And Violet's constant changes only add to my awe.

The photo was taken last week. I was up late doing laundry and when I came to bed I saw Shawn and his clone sleeping soundly looking more like one another than ever. People constantly remark how much Vi looks like her Dad but it has always been hard for me to see. She looks like my baby, he looks like my husband. I saw similarities before, but that night I saw a true resemblance. How funny genetics are! As my Dad said, children are bundles of your DNA that you send marching off in to the future. Clearly, Shawn's DNA is on its way. Hopefully, a smidgen of mine is in there, too.

I guess since she looks so much like Shawn, it is only fair that she still favors me. Not like she did at 2 months when she would scream at the approach of anyone else, but I still have the touch. She loves her Daddy and her Grammy but I think I am still her go-to, especially when the times get tough. When she's tired or scared, there is no substitute for Mama. What a flattering, warming, all-around heart-melting feeling!

Prolactin, the mothering hormone as it is called, is definitely doing it's job on me. I can't get enough of my sweet baby. I guess it is prolactin that makes me patiently tolerate the pain when Violet yanks on a fist-full of my hair and murderously angry when a mosquito bites her leg and indifferent to the rolls of chub left on my belly from my pregnancy. Maybe it is prolactin that makes me beam with pride when she squeals in a new way or googly-eyed over how much her hair has grown. Whatever it is, hormone-induced or just plain mother's love, Violet is the coolest person I've ever met!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Eating In

After 4 months of a liquid diet, Violet decided that it was time to branch out. Her eyesight, which only weeks ago was too fuzzy to make out anything further than 24 inches away, is now able to hone in on anyone eating anything in the same room with her. She, like Scout, stares at you while you eat until whatever it is you're enjoying is gone. Violet has the added advantage, unlike Scout, of being on your lap during some meals and having opposable thumbs on her hands with which she can reach out and touch your food. So, after about 10 days of a begging baby, we gave in and fed the poor tot some solids.

Now I've read that babies are "supposed" to start solids between 4 and 6 months but many breastfeeding hippy moms like me lean more toward the 6 month marker. In newborns and young infants, the baby's gut is still very immature and open, rather than closed as in adults. The "open gut" is not a chubby baby tummy left uncovered by a too-small Huggy, but rather refers to the large spaces between the cells of an infant's digestive tract. These spaces eventually fill in but in the newborn they are still open allowing small bits of whatever she eats to pass directly into the blood stream. When that baby is eating strictly breast milk, this open gut system is a huge plus as it allows her to get all those great antibodies in mom's milk directly where she needs them. When baby whose gut is still open starts to nosh on other goodies (including a Frosty-coated binkies, Shawn!), proteins and sugars from the "foreign" food sneaks into her bloodstream making her more susceptible, down the road, to food allergies and such.

Violet decided that her gut, open though it may still be, needed some real food. I was determined to wait a few more weeks but after she spent our whole meal at Yat's sucking on a plastic spoon and trying to steal beans off of my plate, I decided "F-It. The kid wants to eat." So we vetoed mashed banana (too green, maybe when they ripen) and whipped up a tasty treat of rice cereal. Violet LOVED it. She leaned forward into every bite, hummed in anticipation as we re-loaded the spoon and cried when it was gone. Folks, we've got an eater!! No surprise there that my girl loves to eat. The apple, as they say, does not fall far from the tree. She probably won't be early to walk or crawl, talk or read, but my baby was ahead of schedule when it comes to eating. I see Mommy and Me Weight Watcher meetings in our not too distant future...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Why we talk about poo

New parents go out on their first date since the birth of their baby. The food is delicious, the wine is perfectly paired, the service is flawless. It has been months since these two got a chance to connect with one another sans baby. They are quiet at first, as if they have forgotten how to talk to one another. They study their menus intently. They order. They talk about work briefly. They comment on what the couple next to them ordered. More silence. The woman brings up the baby. They spend the rest of their evening discussing, in great detail, their baby's shit. Or so the cliche goes...

Shawn and I had our first date since Violet's birth on Sunday and we made a rule that we wouldn't talk about her. We mainly stuck to it (she came up in regard to other topics, i.e. "We should definitely go to that concert, who will we get to watch Violet?") and managed to carry on a pretty adult conversation. Don't give us too much credit, though. We'd spent most of the previous 24 hours discussing Violet's first real blowout.

Blowout. I had heard this term umpteen times regarding babies and even used it (prematurely, as it turns out) to describe some of Violet's previous diaper breaches. A little poo would squirt out the leg hole staining her onesie and my shirt. Must be a blowout. No. It wasn't.

Blowout got it's name for a reason. If diapers could be ripped or torn, this would be the movement to do it. Luckily for me, Violet's blowout didn't occur on me. She was in Shawn's capable hands when the blessed event occurred. I could go to great lengths about the amount of poop, where it landed, how we handled it, and list every crappy last detail. I could tell you that this kind of event is not cleaned up with just a diaper change and some baby wipes; it requires a bath. But this is the thing--if you are a parent, it has already happened to you. If you're not a parent, you think the whole discussion is disgusting and cliche. And it is. Until you are shat upon, it is.

Let me just say this, it doesn't matter in what context you get pooped on, it is still news. If you are on a bus, and you get pooped on, you'll tell someone about it. If you are a nurse and you get pooped on at work, you'll bring it up to co-workers. If you are a parent and you get pooped on, you will want to share your experience. Just because you have a baby, you don't expect to be pooped on. I know Shawn didn't wake up last Saturday thinking, "Today could quite possibly be P-Day." So, if you don't have kids, sorry, maybe someday you'll see.

Anyway, these pictures are poopy and post-bath.