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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Okay, maybe she was right...

My clothes *are* getting less forgiving in the whole what-used-to-be-my-waist section. So maybe my BSF leader was right. Maybe I am showing... just a li'l bit. :) I noticed it for the first time with the two dresses I wore this weekend. I'll be able to wear them throughout my pregnancy, but they fit differently now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Monthly Check-Up

James got to go with me to the midwife's today, for the first time since the miscarriage last year. We got to hear the heartbeat, 152 beats per minute. I got a referral for the anatomy exam (which could also be used to determine gender, except that James doesn't want to know).

Out of the first trimester, I am continuing to be sleepy but am not sickly anymore. My general chest vicinity is tender, but there's really nothing to complain about. This weekend, I rode my bike 10.5 miles in one stretch, and except for being a little saddle-sore, it went swimmingly. I feel less sleepy when I'm up and moving (energy inertia, I suppose) the same way I felt less nauseous when in motion earlier on.

Because I was wondering when I first felt Daphne move, I looked through my old pregnancy journal the other day. First of all, I felt her move at 18 weeks, 6 days. Right now, I'm at 16 weeks, 6 days. I can feel where the baby is now, like there is a rock in my lower abdomen. No movement yet, though, and no feeling like things are being shoved out of the way.

I had lost some weight and am back up to what I weighed the first time I weighed at the office. That means, according to their records, I have gained 6 pounds this pregnancy, but I really just guessed when I told them what I weighed at the outset. The last time I'd weighed was when I was being seen by the Volunteer Healthcare Clinic last year with my back issues.

In reading my old Diaryland journal, I found three entries that were especially poignant. If you care to check them out, they're here:

1) September 11, 2001 (I was still expecting; Daphne was born on November 2).
2) The day I stopped breast-feeding.
3) The day I decided that the Ezzos aren't actually experts on anything and I wasn't going to live under the tyranny of their stupid sleep/wake/eat/play schedule anymore, because it was ruining my life (very literally).

From reading back through all of it, it's amazing how different this pregnancy is. Old-lady and prior-miscarriage concerns aside, I have so much less stress in so many areas. For one, working from home is about 4000 times better than working in an office. There's almost always a bathroom available, I can catch a nap if I need to, I can go on a walk and shake stuff off, and I don't have to deal with people except over the phone.

Our anatomy scan is in a couple of weeks, and after that, I'll feel comfortable buying high-dollar stuff like a hammock and rocker and other items that we'll need to move James out of his office and turn it into a nursery.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Now (not) showing!

As happened with Daphne, I am down from my initial pre-pregnancy weight. Just a few pounds, not the fifteen I lost with her, but still not showing. I noticed yesterday that the flesh below my natural waist doesn't have as much "give" as it used to (meaning fun imprints from some trouser hooks and snaps), but the avocado-sized baby and its luggage just isn't enough to be pooching me out in any noticeable way yet.

Last night, I walked into my BSF discussion group a little bit late (it was fellowship night, which starts at 6:15, but the kids' classes aren't available until 6:40, so...) and my discussion leader said, "Wow! Look at you!" I looked at her questioningly, and she continued, "All of this time, nothing, and now... baby!"

Um. Memo to me: as soon as the pregnancy is over, throw out this empire-waist shirt. Seriously. It's all clothes and posture right now, because I still don't "look" pregnant. Except, of course, that my natural glow is amplified.

But, yeah, the shirt, post-maternity, is garbage.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Toddlers are more time-consuming, but at least it's pretty black and white...

You know how sometimes you just get hammered with the same message over and over again, like someone upstairs knows just what you're needing to hear?

Mine started with coming across this excerpt from an article in "People" magazine that Ellen Degeneres wrote.

Now, I realize that she probably had a more traumatic childhood than a lot of kids, but it struck me because I know there have been times when I've been annoyed with Daphne for her not being cheerful. Which isn't a big deal, unless I let myself love her less when she's not a constant ray of sunshine.

When I was Daphne's age, I was a lot like her. I remember going shopping with my mom, trying on an article of clothing and having it work, and wanting to *go home*. My mom wanted to look around. Every time. I did not. And apparently, according to her, I'd be miserable and spread the misery around, until she'd finally get fed up and we'd leave. I remember several times her getting on to me for "ruining" an outing because I was done.

What I don't remember is feeling particularly bad, penitent, or guilty about "ruining" her time. I was probably just relieved to get home.

I was a selfish kid. Most kids are. And they need to be trained to recognize selfishness and combat it, but not to "act" a certain way necessarily because I find that preferable.

Today, The Libertarian Homeschooler posted this:

There have been times that I have "mom-sensed" an "attitude" rolling off of Daphne, and have snapped at her to get over herself, only to have her cry, not understanding what "attitude" I mean.

One day, when she sat down to do school, I was insisting that she focus on a certain thing, and a couple of minutes later, she had tears in her eyes. I was torn between being baffled about what had just happened, and being frustrated that Daphne was so lazy that my forcing her to get to work made her shed enraged tears. Instead of talking to her about it in that moment, I let it go and we went on with school. Later that night, I approached her and said, "Whatever I said or did when you were starting school, I'm sorry that I made you cry." She thought about it for a moment and said, "Oh! I almost didn't know what you were talking about... but I had just listened to a sad song, and I was picturing a video for it with some characters, so it kind of made me cry."

This was a wake-up call to me not to assume that I know what is going on in my child's head because of her outward appearance.

Daphne is a good kid, and while I can't say I "enjoy" her all of the time, I'm proud of her and I'm glad she's mine. I'm fairly certain that she'd tell you she doesn't "enjoy" me all of the time, either. She doesn't like it when I sing with a song she's trying to listen to on the radio. I don't like it when I'm talking and she turns up the radio because a song she likes is on. There are things about everyone we know that we don't adore, but typically, we don't exert direct pressure to change those things in anyone but our kids (or maybe our spouses, if we're being especially dense). I think one of the most difficult tasks of parenting an older child is determining what is a character flaw that needs attention and what is a behavior that isn't necessarily my favorite, but might just be an indication of where they "are" at the time?

Actually, this *does* happen with smaller kids, but, again, the stakes don't "feel" as high. When your kid is tiny and they've been humming the same three notes all day, you still do need to check yourself before angrily sending them to their room just because you're annoyed. You can always say, "Sweetie, you've been humming that tune a long time, and I'm kind of tired of it, so can you please give my ears a rest?" Then if they keep doing it, you have to decide if it's a habit and they're just a forgetful kid or if it's purposefully to spite you and to go from there.

It feels like a whole other thing when you have a near-teenager at a restaurant with a bunch of people and the kid lays her head down on the table as though sleeping, which you then interpret at being rude because 1) eww, head oil on the table and 2) passive-aggressive "I wish we were anywhere else but here!" much? and 3) OMG, what are these people thinking about me because of what my kid's doing?---


There is where I have to check myself.

There are a lot of things that "irritate" me that I realize have everything to do with me, and little to do with my child. For instance, a year ago, Daphne would hold hands with me or lean on my shoulder during church. Would she now? Heck, no! She'd be mortified! But my "attitude" when she flinches away from my rubbing her back is more about my wanting to feel affirmed and accepted than it has to do with her necessarily being "rude." Thoughtless? Possibly. But I'm the adult, and I can't get offended and therefore mad and therefore act out just because my little baby doesn't want to kiss mommy goodnight like she used to.

I wish Daphne were more excited about hanging out with me. When I ask her if she wants to go to the grocery store with me, I wish she still jumped at the chance. And, yes, sometimes I don't give her a choice, and I expect her to be respectful and helpful, even if she's not skipping down the aisles... But I do miss the times when she was eager to go wherever I was. Sort of. I think I've forgotten how tiring it was never ever having a moment alone.

I wish Daphne weren't so enthusiastic about giving James and me a "date night," because, come on, who wouldn't want to go out and have dinner with us when we're so awesome?!

Would I tweak Daphne's outlook/behavior if I would? Ehh... I don't know. Would she still be "Daphne" if I could control her behavior? Because the fact is that I love Daphne, and I even love the stuff about her that gets on my nerves (which is probably all stuff that I do/have done coming back to bite me in the butt).

I can't control her and, ultimately, wouldn't want do. I do want to help her become her best self. But her best self may be so different from what I'd have have sculpted if I'd fashioned her out of my own brain that it might include pieces that I don't understand or fully appreciate. That is one of the wonders of her being her own person.

Maybe I err sometimes on the side of letting her be, but I know there are also times when I err on the side of being unreasonably terse and demanding.

There are difficult moments, but we have breakthroughs and grace. I'm working on more grace. I hope my daughter has some for me, too.

One night toward the end of SXSW, the three of us walked down to 6th Street for dinner. Daphne insisted that she wasn't hungry, she wasn't feeling well, and she wished we hadn't made her go. On the walk down, I felt like she was being a downer, asking how long the walk was, how long we'd be at dinner, etc. It's my nature to snap at that, because, good grief, buck up and enjoy your life, man.

Instead, after a while of listening to her, I explained to her that I understood that she didn't feel good. I wasn't telling her to feel better. I wasn't insisting that she feel better, or even lie about how great she felt. But I told her that the issues she was experiencing were common both to me and to most women. I mentally calculated one week every month for a potential fertility period of thirty years and realized that a "typical" woman will spend seven years of her life in a situation she can use to excuse bad behavior if she wants, but do you really want to waste that much of your life being put-upon by everything? I told her that even in feeling less-than-100%, she can choose her attitude, and then choose what words come out of her mouth and how she helps the environment around herself and others. (And let's all pray that I remember these words of wisdom.)

Later, sitting at dinner (we shared a steak and she didn't eat 1/2 of her 1/2, so she wasn't kidding about not being hungry, because usually that girl is all about the meat), Daphne said, "I'm sorry for being such a douchebag--" Yes, that's what she said. I'm sorry if that's offensive to anyone. I, for one, really appreciated it. She then explained that she wasn't feeling awesome but that she was trying to have a better attitude.

It would have been just as easy for me to explode in the frustration I felt and even make her cry a little bit, which I know I can do when I'm forceful enough... but that's pretty much bullying, and I desperately want to avoid it.

It's taken me a lot of time to start noticing things and to learn to be okay with them. For instance, I don't want Daphne to be rude, but I have accepted that she just doesn't do well in group conversations. It used to frustrate me when she'd try to have a sidebar with me if we were at dinner with a bunch of other people, because I felt like it looked rude to the other people at the table... until I started to realize that she doesn't command a room. If she's alone with me, she might talk to me for forty-five minutes straight about a topic she's interested in. But she doesn't hang out and chat with half a dozen people. That's just not how she works. 

It's a process, but I'm praying that time and persistence for us to work through the next few years with respect and our relationship intact. I genuinely don't wan to force Daphne to put a face forward that is not hers. I do love her for the alien being she is. She is of me, but she's not me, and that's a great thing. So I walk that razor's edge between expecting her to act like a decent human being, and giving her the space to become someone I wouldn't choose to become... because she's not me.

Then today in church, Jacob was teaching from Colossians 3, specifically the whole "provoke not your children to wrath" part (my mom used to accuse me of doing this when Daphne was little, but I used the excuse that she didn't have siblings to teach her to share, or to lord it over her when she lost a game, so someone had to expose her to these life realities). He said, "Nothing will exasperate a child faster than forcing them to be something they are not."

Just as I was writing that down as a reminder to myself, he paraphrased Bruce Wesley, who said something to the extent of: "Know the difference between rebellion and a kid just trying to figure out who they are."


Let that sink in.

So, before I unleash the righteous indignation at the unmitigated gall of my child to do a certain thing, I need to look at it more closely. I don't want her to shut down who she is to be complaint. Actually, this probably isn't a risk for Daphne. She's more likely to hide that part of herself than to change it, and I want to know her fully, so I need to choose my battles wisely.

I remember as a young person being criticized variously for my speech patterns (this was during the Valley Girl days, and while I don't think we were doing that, we were doing something weird), for the clothes I wore to church, for not wanting to participate in certain events, and for wanting to participate in certain things, for chewing on my fingers, for my posture, and for a whole lot of things that, ultimately, don't matter. It was exhausting to try to manage people's expectations while still trying to grow up and address genuine areas of concern. I hope that I can discern the things worth working toward, and the things worth letting go... just like I used to take an Aleve and let her bang on a pot with a spoon long after it had ceased to be "fun." 

Early second trimester doldrums

It's not this way for everyone, but for me, this is the least... well, I'd say "enjoyable," but I didn't enjoy the first trimester, strictly-speaking. It's just a time in pregnancy that's super boring. On the one hand, yea! I feel better! I'm still sleepy, but not woozy/borderline nauseous most of the time. (I didn't get nearly as sick this time as I did with Daphne, probably largely because my progesterone is old and under-performing; but even with D, as sick as I felt, I never actually lost it, if you know what I'm sayin'.)

However, I'm a big girl, and while some people at this stage are already having to sport the maternity wear, I'm not. In fact, I'm probably down about 8 pounds. This happened with D, too. The whole first trimester nausea means I eat less (plus, I was probably sleeping about 1/3 of the time I'd usually be eating), and since we live where we do and I'm almost totally car-free, I'm making it a point to get as much natural exercise as I can.

So, here I am, not really "feeling" pregnant. Sleepy, but that could just as well be from the reduction (modest, not total) of caffeine intake. And I don't "look" pregnant. In fact, some of the stuff that was a little tight last summer fits beautifully now.

To be honest, if James squeezes me enthusiastically, I *do* feel a little owie that I don't typically. And I get winded after eating a lot of food. But other than that, it's just a big old thumb-twiddling time until I can utilize my super cute maternity clothes, or really have any proof that I'm carrying a baby at all.

My next midwife appointment is Wednesday morning, and I'm looking forward to that, just because not feeling pregnant is weird when you're... pregnant. So I would like to hear the heartbeat.

James and I have talked about finding out the gender of the baby, and he doesn't really want to know. We will definitely get one more ultrasound to rule out (or rule in, and prepare for) some genetic anomalies, but might hold off until it's born.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Girl and Her Maillot

Today, Daphne and I (and her two female cousins) went to the mall to try to accomplish a dreaded springtime task: Purchasing bathing suits.

Daphne found two suits she liked at Macy's. She tried them on, but they didn't work, so we headed into the mall to look elsewhere.

Daphne is a lot like I was at that age (and am a little bit now): She doesn't like to shop, she isn't happy to be there, and she doesn't try very hard to make the experience enjoyable for anyone else. Now, I will say I was 100% like that as a kid (just ask my mom!). I don't love shopping to this day, but I am pleasant, for the most part. Anyway, she was ticked off that we were looking around in the mall when we had not exhausted the Macy's suits. I had been under the impression that she'd tried on the two that she liked and that was it.

While we were in another store, I found a bathing suit that would work for me. I actually took two suits into the dressing room, but only tried the first one on. Another thing you can ask my mom about, because this is another thing about me that goes way back, is that if I try on an article of clothing and it fits and works, I'm not interested in looking further to see if there is anything that I like better. Because you know what I like better? Being finished shopping.

The first suit I tried on had a racer-back, and it looked reasonably good... so when I glanced at the other suit I'd chosen and really thought about the fact that it was a halter, I decided not even to bother. Halters are an annoyance to me because I tend to tie them into the hair on the nape of my neck. Then I either get it too tight so that it strains my neck or too loose so that the girls don't look very happy.

After my purchase, I told Daphne we'd stop back by Macy's on the way out and she could look again, then if she didn't find anything, we'd hit Kohl's before we dropped her cousins off at their house.

Back at Macy's, Daphne did find one suit that she liked and of which I could approve. It was a one-piece, it was modest, and she thought it was fun. She went to try it on, and came out of the dressing room grinning. Her cousin said that it looked really good on her, and she loved it, so I told Daphne we'd get it.

Then it occurred to me: I hadn't even looked at the price of this particular swimsuit. I turned the tag over... and the suit cost almost 3 times what I'd paid for mine! I saw Daphne's face when I said the price aloud, and immediately I said, "No, that's okay. We'll get it."

Here's why: (If you're a mom with a pre-teen or teenaged daughter, you will understand this) The fact that my self-conscious girl came out of the dressing room with a bathing suit feeling good about how she looked in it was worth it. It was worth it not to have to try on more and more suits. If you're a woman and you've ever unsuccessfully tried on clothes for an extended period of time, you know that every new failure makes you doubt yourself that much more... Which is stupid, but it's a real thing.

So we bought her the first thing I've ever bought from Macy's, and the most expensive bathing suit that's likely ever to be under our roof. But if she can swim all summer (and maybe next) without feeling doubtful about how she looks, without yanking up or down on ill-fitting, poorly-supported swimwear... Totally worth it. Some things just are.

Friday, March 14, 2014

SXSW meets Daylight Savings Time meets an unfortunately-timed nap

Yesterday, I had been very sleepy so ended up napping at 4:00 PM, intending to be asleep for 20 minutes and instead konking out for two hours. James didn't get home until about 8:00, so we finished dinner shortly before 9:00.

James and Daphne both had things to do, but I felt sleepy and didn't want to try to go to bed yet, so I decided to walk. Daphne needed me to pick up a couple of things from CVS, anyway, so I strapped on my backpack and took off.

I always take my camera with me, just in case, but had not planned necessarily to try to put together any kind of blog post... Until I saw this. I'm pretty sure it's new.

The Hotel Ella has a gorgeous red-accented chandelier. In a tree.

It almost makes me want to try something of this ilk, except: 1) we don't have a deterrent fence and 2) that's way too fancy for the Nuthaus.

On the other end of the "fancy" spectrum is student co-op housing. A couple of weekends ago, all of the co-ops seemed to be having spring clean-up. I don't think I've ever seen the yard this tidy.

Also, last time we walked past, there was a large decapitated baby doll's head on the see-saw. It was morbidly funny, and I wish is were there... but it'd still be pretty cool to have a see-saw in the front yard. Actually, this *is* something we could cobble together and that would go perfect with our flamingo decor.

I'd say that this is ornamental lighting, but they obviously don't need it, so it's just ornamental. :)

Most of the trucks from the Rancho Rio eatery are gone for SXSW, but they're still all lit up and there were a couple of couples eating a late dinner.

Graffiti on the corner of The Old Grocery Store apartment building. I love this building; almost everything else in the area is new construction student housing, and this building looks like it could be in some down-on-its-luck 1940s European small town sreet.

As much as I have zero need for a water pipe, I think they're awfully pretty. Just like every time I see a prettily-arranged and well-lit bar, I long to collect liquor for display.

This is outside of a church and when they put out the sandwich board sign last year, it made me giggle. This is located right behind a bus stop, and hundreds of people (maybe thousands; I haven't researched it) walk past it every day. It's cool that the church decided to try to inspire people by writing something encouraging to meditate on every day. But they don't exactly trust us. The board is securely chained to a wrought-iron fence. 

I happened to reach CVS precisely as the employee was turning the lock at 10:00 PM... so I guess it's not open 24 hours. Oh well. The walk was totally worth it.

As I was watching the guy lock the door, an inebriated gentleman sitting under the awning called out to me.

Man: Hey, woman. You're a woman.
Me: I am. Thanks for noticing.
Man: I'm a man. And I'm gay. And I have more boyfriends than you'll ever have.
Me: You're probably right. I am not popular with the dudes.
Man: What I've got going for me is, well, right now, I have a cute butt.
Me: You must be very proud.

Right then, three college guys walked by, and he started talking to them, but I don't think they were interested in his admiration. Every time a street person (which I say because I don't know whether some of them are technically homeless; this guy didn't have all of the encumberments most homeless people have; I think he might have just settled in to sit off his buzz) and they try to engage me, even if they're asking for help and I can't do anything for them, I try at least to make eye contact and talk.

There's a scene in "The Fisher King" where this homeless guy is sitting with a change cup in a subway station, and people are walking by dropping coins into his cup. Jeff Bridges' character is sitting with him and comments that no one even makes eye contact with him. The homeless man says something to the effect of, "They give me money so they don't have to. I'm like this great warning for them to keep doing what they're doing or else they could end up like me..." Then he goes on to explain that any time they feel like ramming a stapler into their boss's head, all they have to do is think of this homeless guy begging for money, and that's their warning to abort their mission and go about kissing the boss's butt.

I want people to know that I see them as people. Not as scenery or "them" or that I don't see them at all. Besides, most of the time, interactions with random people tend to be either entertaining or heart-warming.

In case I haven't mentioned this, I *love* our neighborhood. I was thinking as I was walking last night that when I used to live in the suburbs, I would sometimes feel nervous walking later in the evening. I don't feel that way at all around here. There are just too many people, and everything is well-lit. I wouldn't walk alone at 2:00 AM, but that's largely because I'm not such a night owl.

We got official word of our lease renewal a couple of days ago, so we're looking forward to at least another year at the Nuthaus! 

Monday, March 10, 2014

In the Shower with Fern

If you come to our house to stay for a while and you end up needing to bathe, you will find that we have a houseplant in the shower.

"Why?" you might ask.

My husband read that houseplants such as ferns help with in-home air quality, of special interest to us since I have allergy-induced asthma and three allergens cats. So this weekend, when we were at the hardware store, James suggested purchasing a fern to put in the bathroom, our smallest and least-ventilated room; a room which also happens to have a litter box.

At first, we considered hanging it from the ceiling, but we were told early on that the owner might get testy about putting holes in the ceiling (although he seems to have no problem with opossums doing the same thing). I had an idea to put it in the magazine holder, until James mentioned that we needed to get a mister/sprayer for it. Then it hit me to keep it on the pedistal at the end of the shower. That way, it will get misted quite often.

So, thanks to my thoughtful husband, our house guests get to get back to nature when cleaning up. Because he loves me and wants to do something to improve the air quality for my beleaguered lungs.

On a similar note, this morning, after James left for work, I hurriedly pulled myself together to meet my sister at the store for a much-earlier-than-usual (for me) grocery run. When I plopped down in the van and saw my face in the rear view mirror by daylight, I momentarily recoiled.

Because of the weather's being so wonky (I've loved the warm spells, but not so much the environmental aggravants that go along with it), I have had sinus issues for weeks. My nose was decidedly raw and red and just generally disgusting, but I distinctly remember the way my husband looked at me this morning before he left for work... And it was with the same love and appreciation as he looks at me when I'm fixed up and my imperfections are more well-hidden.

I guess that by now, he's seen me just about as good and as bad as I get. And he loves me, not in spite of the bad but including it. I am so grateful to have a man who wants to take care of me and I really do hope to make it worth his while.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Royer's Pie Haven Ding Dong

"Vitamin Fortified!"
So, all of us have eaten a Hostess Ding Dong, right? Don't lie; yes, you have. When I was little, I used to like to try to peel off the chocolate coating and save it for last.

Recently, an outlet of Round Rock's Royer's Pie Haven opened in a corner of what used to be Toy Joy (which is sadly closing forever today) on the northwest corner of Guadalupe and 29th street in Austin. Ever since I'd looked through their menu*, I've wanted to visit, but we've never been there at a time when it was convenient to go in for a bite.

Yesterday, however, Daphne and I did stop in specifically to purchase something I'd read about on their website: A "homemade" Ding Dong. They describe it thusly: Chocolate cake filled with butter cream icing and dipped in double fudge!

Well. Hello, gorgeous!

First of all, I have to give mad props to pretty much everything that was in their bakery case. The pie pops (think of the popular cake pops, but with pie stuff in them instead), the pie-wiches (think oatmeal creme pies, but homemade and with different varieties of cookies), the whole pies... It all looked delicious and very tempting, except that I had tunnel vision.

I was bent on a Ding Dong. I didn't realize it'd be heart-shaped! That made it even better.

This is after the cake lived in my backpack for a mile-long walk home. I think it held up pretty well!
See the red checkered liner paper? That is what the whole cafe looks like. It's all cute and shabby chic and would be a nice place to hang out for coffee (if you like that kind of thing) and pie... And allegedly, they have sandwiches and stuff, but why bother?

Anyway, as a testament of love for my husband, I did not, in fact, tear into the Ding Dong as soon as I got home. Nay, I put it on the shelf for six long hours, until he'd gotten home, we'd had dinner, and we were all ready to enjoy it (hopefully) together. We cut into it, and here's the cross-section.

They keep the Ding Dong refrigerated, and with good reason. It's very delicate at room temperature, but that is, of course, the best way to eat it. If you bring one home, though, I'd recommend cutting it while it's cold, because our cutting it when it was warm and without having prepped the knife by dipping it into hot water caused the top layer of chocolate to slide off. Fortunately, we salvaged it.

The chocolate coating is actually not very sweet at all. Neither is the buttercream frosting, which is both lighter, consistency-wise, and milder than typical cake frosting. The chocolate cake is spongy and moist and is probably the sweetest component of the Ding Dong. Individually, they're all good, but together, it's really something special. The suggestion is nostalgic, but the flavor is so much better. I told James, "I don't have that plastic coating around my mouth like with a real Ding Dong!"

Bottom line: This snack is an adequate dessert for three people, if you've eaten dinner, or two people if you're in the middle of the afternoon and need a substantial nosh. It costs $10, or $10.83 with tax. Obviously, you could get three BOXES of actual Ding Dongs for about the same price, but they're not nearly as good (even if they happen still to be vitamin fortified). You can also get three fancy cupcakes for about the same price. But I think it's worth splurging on an elevated Ding Dong (that sounds dirtier in writing than it did in my head) every once in a while.

I was about to say that I'd purchase another one, and I might... but first I want to try the Salted Caramel Pie-wich. Who's with me?

*according to their menu, it's "pa-CAN," not "PEE-CAN." Thank you very much. (Although, I say it more like "puh-CAHN." A pee can is where you go when you don't have a proper toilet. Dang hillbillies.)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Everything I know about parenting, I learned from my daughter

I had some serious postpartum issues with Daphne. I can't guarantee that hormones won't try to make my life miserable this time, but I can say for sure that I learned a few things the first time around that will definitely be different with this baby.

1. Scheduling. I had read a lot of books by the time I had Daphne. Without a doubt, the worst was "On Becoming Babywise" by Gary Ezzo. What I remember most about this book is its emphasis on getting your baby to sleep through the night. While I definitely agree that sleeping through the night is a necessary goal, this book places a lot of emphasis on enforcing a schedule or else the child will never lead an organized life. It basically implies that if you do it the way they tell you, there's no reason that your child won't be sleeping through the night after a few short weeks.

Do you know when my daughter finally slept through the night? After I forcibly weaned her from that final middle-of-the-night bottle when she was about ten months old.

You read that right. Except for the one night Ken took over and the night my mom spent the night with us to give me a break, I did not get a full night's sleep (or more than four hours at a time) for the better part of a year.

This even though I did exactly what the book said. And it was awful.

For example, the book says that babies should not ever nurse to sleep. If they do, they'll not be able to calm themselves from wakefulness into sleep alone. They say to feed the baby and then keep it awake for an hour or two before putting it down for a nap. If your baby starts to fall asleep while feeding, you are supposed to do everything you can to try to keep it awake, and the one thing I remember doing exactly one time and feeling like a creep then never trying again was to take off Daphne's clothes and rub her skin with a cold washcloth. It made us both cry.

You are supposed to keep a schedule, like a robot, ignoring the cues of your child and forcing them onto a feeding, playing, sleeping schedule that works for you. Well, I'm sorry, but as a clear-thinking older adult who now has some experience with infants, I see that you really can't force a newborn to do anything. They're creatures of need and demand and expediency. They do what they need. Just as we are told to listen to our bodies and not eat when we're not hungry, or to stop eating when we're full, babies do this and can thrive.

I spent so much time fighting and setting alarms and worrying that I was doing it wrong, and why my kid wasn't sleeping six hours a stretch when her month-younger cousin was that I absolutely failed to relax and rest myself, and this was a huge factor in my postpartum stress.

Oddly enough, what shook me out of this stress mode was something a server at the Cheesecake Factory said in passing. We'd met some out of town friends for lunch and Daphne, several weeks old, was sleeping in my arms. The waitress asked me how I was doing, and I said, "I'm really tired!" She said, "Welcome to the new normal."

This made me feel better, for some reason. She was not promising a time when it would be less stressful if only I would do this plan. She was saying, "This is how it is now. Embrace it." And she was right.

(Also adding to the stress of her not sleeping through the night was that after Daphne was two months old, we lived in a residential treatment home with six teenaged boys, and I hated to think that she would wake them up with her crying. That's obviously not going to be an issue this time.)

2. Stimulation. If Daphne woke up wanting to feed any time after 5:00 AM, I'd just stay up for the morning until she went back to sleep. I'd drowsily feed her, then felt like I needed to do something to engage her, like talk or sing or make faces. I sang the alphabet and pointed to parts of my face to name them, etc. And I was exhausted. Now I realize that babies are CONSTANTLY stimulated because everything is new. If I wake up at 5 AM with this baby, and all I want to do is hold it and lay my head on the couch for a while while the baby looks around, that's plenty of stimulation. It's all information going into a tiny head, and I don't have to force it. Oh, but I felt like every moment had to be rich with meaning and purpose. Bleh.

3. Breast-feeding, diapering, sleeping, responding to needs, etc. This is all a personal matter, but people outside of me and my family have extremely pointed and vocal views on how to handle all of them. I was especially surprised to see how militant the La Leche League was about insisting that I breastfeed. Don't get me wrong: I wanted to breastfeed. It is ideal, both in terms of health and cost. But Daphne was tongue-tied and couldn't latch on. I didn't realize this until after three miserable days of trying to get her to nurse and her being mad and groggy and finally starting to lose weight and become jaundiced. When someone suggested that I try to give her a bottle and see if that helped, as she started sucking that stuff down, I felt a wave of relief come over me. I could tell the breast-feeding didn't seem to be going well, but I didn't know why. And once she finally started gaining sustenance, she was obviously happier and healthier. I was very grateful.

When I mentioned this during a follow-up (from the hospital) call that the La Leche League gave me several weeks after Daphne was born, they said that I needed to stop bottle-feeding her immediately and get her back onto the breast at once. Never mind that she'd never actually been *on* the breast. They told me that they even had coaches who had experience with tongue-tied feeding, and they could send someone over to help me until I got into the swing of things.

Frankly, I was tired. I didn't want an "expert" barging into my house and showing me how to undo the wrong I'd done out of desperation. But they insisted that if I didn't want a sick baby, this was what I had to do.

At my next pediatrician's visit (doesn't it seem like you're in the doctor's office every other day with a newborn?), I asked him about this. He asked me a couple of questions in return. He asked, "Is your baby eating?" Yes. "Is she gaining weight?" Yes, finally. "Does she appear to be thriving?" Yes. "Then I don't care what exactly you're doing, as long as it works."

Again, freedom.

I appreciate good advice, but I won't be bullied into feeling guilty that I can't attain some perfect version of eco-friendly, crunchy-granola, attachment-parenthood. I will do what works for my family, and I will make no apologies.

For what it's worth, my daughter has barely been ill ever in her life, save that 6-month stretch when we lived at Boys Town and she caught every bug that the boys brought home from school. So I'm thinking that the formula foundation didn't ruin her.

4. Labor and delivery. Oh, my goodness. My experience actually having a baby was ridiculous. First, I went to a female doctor I really liked, but after three visits was informed by my insurance that they were changing providers and that doctor was no longer authorized. I sadly transferred to another office, one where I had the typical 10:00 AM appointment that actually started at 11:15 and ended at 11:18. Toward the end of the pregnancy, I had dutifully created a birth plan, which, to his credit, the doctor read through. But he asked why I didn't want drugs that were specifically designed to help certain things. And he said that since this was my first child, I'd probably have to have an episiotomy. Sigh.

My water broke while my sister and I were looking at model houses, trying to get my parents to move to our side of town in Las Vegas. We went back to my house to get things in order, send the dog to a friend's house, pack our bags, etc. I didn't start having contractions until after I'd taken a shower. When they came on, they were intensely painful, which I suppose is kind of the normal labor experience. My sister called the hospital to tell them that I was having contractions, and they told her something she didn't tell me, which was that they didn't have any beds for me at the time so that I needed not to come in yet. They suggested I walk around the neighborhood until I couldn't. Well, I couldn't. At all. So we headed to the hospital.

At the check-in desk, the nurses told me what my sister wouldn't which was that there was no place for me to go yet, so they had me fill out the paperwork and go into the waiting room to sit. The waiting room was full of people who were not pregnant, and the television was on pretty loud. The Goldfish crackers jingle was on, and as I sat there with my head in my hands listening to "This is the jingle for Goldfish... the tiny snack that smiles back until you bite their heads off..." I seriously wanted to throw an axe at the television screen.

I walked back to the nurse's station and asked if I had to stay there or if I was free to leave and go to a different hospital. They said, "You don't have to stay, but we recommend you don't leave. If you go into labor in the parking lot..." shrug. Blank stare. Murderous rage.

I slowly headed back to the waiting room when a particularly painful contraction hit. I squatted down on the floor to wait for it to pass. While I was down there, a lady walked by and asked me if I was okay. I told her that no, I was not okay, that I was in labor and in pain and they were making me sit in the waiting area. She told me to hold on and she'd be right back. Somehow, she found a bed, rolled it into a linen closet, and told me that I could go in there to be alone, if that would be better. It was. I welcomed the dark, and the quiet.

Every half our or so, someone would come check on me. At some point, I suppose, a room opened up. I was lying there, very still, focusing on breathing and keeping my muscles loose when a nurse came in to move me. She remarked to another nurse, "Oh, look. She's sleeping. That's good."

Again, I wanted to punch her. Sleeping?! How could anyone sleep through that?! I was WORKING. Rrgh.

The next few hours are a blur of pain and focus and finally getting an epidural, which I loved at the time. After that, my legs were really shaky, but the only way I knew I was having a contraction was that it showed up on the monitor.

The one very awesome spotlight in an otherwise frustrating hospital experience was my delivery nurse. First of all, my doctor wasn't the one on call. His partner was. I was happy about that. I told him that the doctor and I had agreed on several things (this was a lie) including no episiotomy. "Is this your first?" he asked. Two other nurses asked the same thing. I didn't want to be cut! I wanted to be left alone. No pitosin drip. Nothing to speed or slow anything. And the only person who listened to me was this one angel nurse. She came in and talked to me for about three or four hours, massaging me and, well, stretching me so I'd be able to deliver without any surgical intervention.

At some point, she said, "I should call the doctor. You're close... But we'll wait a few more minutes." When she finally did call the doctor, I pushed maybe three times and that was it. Boom. Baby born. I really appreciated that woman. She was awesome.

Here's the part that's kind of sad. I had felt no pain in a few hours. I didn't really feel any strain in pushing, and I didn't feel Daphne being born. I didn't have any endorphins kick in after she was delivered. I felt detached and insulated from the entire process. As much as I loved the epidural at the time, now I think it kept me separated from a moment in which I'd been more participatory.

But it was good. Healthy baby. After an hour or so, she was taken to the nursery - No vitamin K shot, please! - and I was escorted to the restroom. I was left there long enough that I fell asleep on the toilet, if you must know, because they'd asked me not to try to walk back to the bed until someone came to help me.

I was wheeled into my "recovery" room, which I didn't know existed. I had been given a tour months ago, during which they showed off the amazing labor and delivery room. They neglected to mention that I'd spend the following hours in a "semi"-"private" room.

My first roommate was a lady with a colicky baby. I was exhausted and as much as I'd thought I'd want Daphne in the room with me, I fell asleep before the nurse came back, so Daphne ended up spending the hours between about 2:00 AM until 6:00 AM in the nursery.

After she was brought to my room, I was visited by a La Leche League lady who showed me how to get her into position, etc. I pulled my curtain to try on my own, and found that the curtain didn't close all the way. The nurse had told me that they were moving the crybaby to a separate room, and I got a new roomie. Quieter, but she had a very big family. So I would sit there in my bed next to the door, trying to get my new baby to latch onto my breast, and some affable Hispanic man would walk in. We'd make awkward eye contact, and he'd bow into the other half of the room. Over and over. Sometimes ladies. But mostly men.

My sister came to visit me. My mom came by after work. It was lonely and I hated it. I wanted to go home.

When I needed to use the restroom, I'd have to walk across and through the literally half-dozen to ten people sitting around the other bed. I knew I had blood all down the back of my gown. The restroom didn't have a vent. I'd turn on the shower, the sink, and flush the toilet all at the same time just to drown out the noise of me doing my business three feet away from a bunch of strangers. This happened two or three times that day, and it was humiliating.

I wanted to leave, so I wanted the staff to see how healthy and strong I was. I picked Daphne up and walked into the hall to get some exercise. Immediately, nurses yelled at me that I could not carry my daughter. She had to be in the crib, and I could push her. Seriously? Whatever. So Daphne and I did laps around the nurses' station. I told them I wanted to go home. They told me that I'd already been released but that Daphne needed to be seen by the pediatrician, and he wouldn't be there until after his office hours.

By the end of the day, the pediatrician had had a busy one and decided not to make his hospital run. I suppose I threw a minor fit. He did eventually come by at about 7:30 PM and said that Daphne could go home after she'd urinated. Well, as 9:00 PM approached, she still hadn't. Obviously now I see that's because she hadn't gotten to drink enough.

Taking matters into my own desperate hands, I took my "personal cleansing bottle" and squirted what I thought was "enough" liquid into her diaper. She'd already done the other thing. I told the nurse, and she took the diaper with her somewhere... I was terrified that they were going to send it to some lab to analyze the contents, and then sue me for hospital fraud or something. I guess that they were just weighing it.

Whatever. At 9:00ish, we were both released and got to go home. I was so relieved. Even with the stress and being overwhelmed by having a new baby... I was grateful to be home, and able to decide to walk with my baby or to go to the bathroom in private.

I never wanted to have another kid, but I immediately decided that if I ever did get pregnant again, I would have a midwife. So far, this experience is awesome. When I first started calling people last year when I was pregnant, I qualified myself by saying that I was probably high-risk because of my back and the fact that I was "too old" to have a baby. The midwife I chose said, "Ehh, the medical community might tell you you're too old, but if you're pregnant, then you're not too old to have a baby."

When I've gone in for testing, she tells me, "Listen to your body. It knows what you need to eat. It knows when you need sleep. Do what it says." This is so much better than, "Try to keep your first trimester weight gain to x pounds." Etc.

I already paid the midwife for everything, up to and including the delivery and four post-natal visits. What I paid her is $900 cheaper than 9 months' of insurance premiums would cost me. And I get to walk a block up a hill when I'm in labor, then after I have the baby, I get to walk a block home. I get to deliver so close to home, without having to clean or prepare my place for the delivery. I get to give birth in a big old bedroom, with a birthing pool, and a birthing stool, and a yoga ball. I get to choose my position and who I want there, and they really don't want me hanging around too long after the birth, as long as everything is okay.

What's also cool is that the 48-hour check-up and the 5-day check-up she will do at my house (which might be more impressive if I lived further away from the office!), then I go see her at 2 weeks and I think 8 weeks.

But a midwife facilitates a birth that works for us. She guides me when I want or need it, and otherwise gets out of the way and lets me have a baby. That's amazing to me.

There are probably a lot of other things I learned with Daphne that I will do differently, but those are the ones that will help my stress level most. Cost-wise, I've decided to go with cloth diapers just because the buying of diapers over and over again is such a drain. But that probably won't eliminate any stress. Just expense.

There are other differences, too. Like, I'm not looking at starting a new job two months after I have this baby. We're in a financially secure place. I have an older kid to talk to even when I don't see other grown-ups during the day. I have an attentive and enthusiastic partner. I am grateful for all of these things.

And even given my stressful first-time parenting experience, I'm actually looking forward to it!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Night Rider

Lately, I have been feeling lethargic, fatigued, and exhausted. When I'm moving, I'm fine. But I have to sit down. A lot. Like for work, and because my daughter is in school. Things like that.

Tonight, after James and I had set up D's computer and played a game of Scrabble, he was ready to settle in for his own computer stuff and I wanted to ride my bike. I sat at the table, pendulum ready to swing to "get a head-start on sleep" and "take a ride."

I knew I'd feel better once I got out, so I did it. The sun was mostly down, so I turned my obnoxious flashers on and headed out, planning to ride just a couple of miles, just to knock the cobwebs out.

The night is clear and beautiful. Today started off very foggy and was warm and humid. With the sun down, it was pleasant. I easily made my way up a hill that is exceedingly more difficult when it's sunny and hot.

I drove down a West Campus street, where students were converging for a night out. It's warm enough that many have broken out the cut-offs and tank tops. I saw one already-drunk pretty boy wearing cowboy boots and Daisy Dukes stumble-skipping across the road in front of me. Good thing I drive defensively!

Then I hit "The Drag," enjoying the newish bike lane. Again, lots of students out and about. The bars and restaurants were packed, including Kerbey Lane. When I got to where I needed to turn off to come home, though, I wasn't tired. I felt like I needed a better workout, and the night was so gorgeous. I kept riding until I could see the downtown buildings popping up over the tops of closer parking garages. I drove past the lit-up courthouse.

Approaching 2nd, I realized that something was going on. The whole street was cordoned off and there were
security guards manning the sidewalk "entrances." Since I was on my bike, I got to zip past lines of cars trying to figure out where to park. I drove only about a block on 2nd before getting out of the way so as not to endanger pedestrians.

Heading toward Congress on 4th, I passed Fado's, which had live music spilling out into the street. Another bar was blasting Michael Jackson's "PYT" and the next Guns and Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine." Also, there was a pedicab in front of me booming "Thrift Shop." The trailer had a life-sized Darth Vader attached to the back of it, and picturing him singing "Thrift Shop" kind of made my night.

When I got home I found out that an Alzheimer's fund-raiser called "2nd Street Sound Check" was what I happened upon during the ride. Most of downtown was packed. I love seeing all of the people out, and experiencing the energy... quickly, and in passing, on my bike.

There are rooftop lounges with white billowing curtains and all blue lighting. There are construction tunnels and trees strung with white lights. There are upscale restaurants, a CVS, and a 7-11. You can't "type" the people on the street. There are kids in helmets riding bikes with their parents. There are DINKs going out to dinner. There are indigent people, likely relieved that tonight is so mild. There are pedicabs and horse-drawn carriages. Oh, and, of course, buses. Lots and lots of buses.

I drove up Congress, literally smiling, enjoying the cool breeze as the Capitol neared. Then it was up the hill past the Governor's Mansion, particularly enchanting at night. After that, I was ready to head home.

As I drove in, I realized that when I moved here almost a year ago (actually, eleven months ago to the day), I started calling this "my" neighborhood. At the time, I just meant the area around where I live. But now, I feel like it is truly mine. I know its personalities... It does change. It's different at lunchtime on weekdays, and on weekends when students' parents are in town. It's different on weeknights and on weekends. It changes, but it's all so familiar to me now. We have legitimate neighbors like "Grandma" (who has recently appeared on two occasions, after having holed up most of the winter) and "Grandpa," whom I learned is called "Santa Claus" by the attorney on whose stoop he frequently sleeps. And Crazy Guy. There are all of the cops who frequent Taco Cabana. There are the business people who walk past the house to Chick-fil-A at least twice a week. There are the Jimmy John's bike delivery drivers.There is the lady who stands in front of the Scientology building selling carnations (Daphne asks, "Where does she get those?"). Oh, man, and there are dogs. The dog across the street whose owner brings him out every morning, lets him do his business, and never ever cleans it up. There are the dogs that belong to homeless people... those dogs are super well-behaved and most of them are pit mixes. There are dogs that are apparently too delicate to walk across a busy street because the owner picks them up in his arms to run the crosswalk.

This place is my home. I love it. I'm not intimidated by traffic patterns I don't understand anymore. I'm never worried about going out alone after dark. I know this place, and it knows me, and we belong together. Now if only our landlord would let us buy this house...