Thursday, April 28, 2011

To Fargo, With Love

Time is passing so still now. It reminds me of my childhood, when the days just faded into each other. There were things to do, but nothing urgent.

I grew up in West Fargo, North Dakota. Lately, I've been thinking of my hometown a lot. I'm trying to remember what summer feels like there.

Summers were humid and the air buzzed with the sound of grasshopper and crickets. Trees, large green massive bushels, rustled in the sky. The air was warm, sometimes hot, but as the day trickled into dusk, I remember the most carefree moments in time--barefoot in the grass and the warm street--we moved through space like butterflies.

I remember the thickness of summer, how the clouds of mosquitos swirled over the grass. I remember the river, the color of mud, slowly moving under the train tracks. (The more daring of us jumped from bridge into river with a courageous yelp.) I remember the smell, that earth that dirt those thick knotty woods--a smell that reminds me of days that waft like wind through your hair.

I know this place lives in my bones, but I fear the place isn't mine anymore. I shutter my eyes so tight to feel it. I want to lay in the grass of my childhood home in the country. I want to sit alone underneath the falling branches of our weeping willow tree, that old poem. I want to look across the yard across the highway and see the straight line of the horizon. I used to try to guess how many miles away the horizon lay. The answer itself unreachable--every step toward the line of the horizon moved it one step equally away.

North Dakota is so flat you can see for miles, you can see where the wheat-colored plains hit that cauliflower blue sky. Everything is so still and quiet and understated. If Rothko painted in lighter colors, this would be his emotional landscape. Blocks of color. Farmland and sky. Silence and Thought.

I don't know what it means to be From Somewhere. I know I feel a kinship with people from the area. I know that they know what a tornado siren sounds like, what a basement smells like after a flood, and what the bulbous black silhouette of a watertower looks like at dawn. I know that lately I've been dreaming about old friends, people who make up the building blocks of my soul, people I haven't seen for the better part of a decade, people I may never see again. I know that these words fail my memories.

Fargo is not gone, it continues. But what I know of Fargo is gone. All that is left is these remnants--scraps of paper and old photographs. There is a tender grief.

I think about Dax. I think about this lush landscape that will provide the backdrop to his memories. What will it be like to grow up in San Diego? What scenes, what smells, what sounds will comfort him?

Life is so slow now. So many things are figured out; there is no yearning. I have married my greatest love. I have moved to the town we will raise our children; where we will grow old. I am living my greatest profession, as a mother to my son. Years ahead, these are the days we will be living.

In this space, I've rediscovered the way time passes without checking off days. Maybe this is why I've been thinking of my youth; the feel is so similar. I can feel the lucidity of moments during mundane things like rinsing off plates, dicing vegetables, and tucking in my baby. I notice the color of light and the coziness of a warm room.

Perhaps we are all going too fast to feel. Perhaps when we abandon expectation, we can truly experience the present. Perhaps I'm adult enough to know that each precious moment passes...And so the sadness goes...

I have minutes when I see this Southern California landscape as Dax might see it. The hills, the houses, the flowers, the sea, the sky. I look to the palm trees and the jutted cliffs. In the night I try to see like a child--the lights from the houses in the hills look like clusters of bright yellow stars. I see the beauty he will come to know as Where He's From. I don't pretend though to know how his young free mind will etch this land in his heart.

I don't know how to end this. I suppose there are never any endings. Only middles. In betweens. Until the nexts. And so we go, 

Into the air
with our soaked hearts
One thub away from feeling
Everything At Once. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pink Pink Pink Pink Pink

wanna share?


Organic Food is So Expensive Because...

Read why here! my newest guest post for The Eco Chic blog...


Friday, April 22, 2011

How To Make Your Own Baby Food

First, buy this book: Baby Love: Healthy, Easy, Delicious Meals for Your Baby and Toddler

Then, follow all of their recipes :-).

No seriously. Delicious basic purees for six months and up. Apple, pear, carrot, butternut squash, pea and more. At 8 months, the recipes get a little more creative, helping your wee one's palate evolve. I love the simple, pretty instructions. You can make a few weeks worth of food in about two hours. 

Making food this way is great for baby because jarred food is cooked at such a high temperature it loses a lot of the nutrients baby's need, plus it takes added preservatives to get jarred food to keep on the shelf for one to two years (what?!). 

Most of all, we did a blind taste test of simple mashed bananas and Earth's Best Organic Bananas in a jar and I about died: the jarred had this really weird aftertaste and a chalky foreign texture. Side by side it was clear the superior tasting product: Fresh is Best!

Here's a mildly tweaked rendition of their Basic Apple Recipe. 

1) Get five organic apples. If you live somewhere without organic as an option, then make sure to peel them first. 

2) Cut each apple in half. Scoop out the steams and seeds.

3) Cut each apple half into six equal-ish slices. 

4) Place apple slices in large pot with 8 ounces of purified water. Turn heat on high and cover. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring once. 

5) Pour apple slices and water into blender.

6) Blend until smooth.

7) Pour into ice cube trays and allow to cool.

8) Wrap trays and place in freezer overnight.

9) Unwrap and put 'cubed' apples into quart bags. Label bags with contents and date (frozen cubes last three months in the freezer).

10) To serve, warm 2-3 cubes on the stove over low heat. 
(Note: I put my cubes in a glass jar. Then, I place that jar in a pot of water that I warm. The reason? I'm pretty sure my pans are cheap and old and leech awful things, like aluminum or lead or titanium, into the food I just took all this time to specially prepare. So until I get the green to purchase safer, newer pots, I opt for caution. Plus, then I use that jar as his serving jar!)

11) Feed your fresh and tasty food to your rad little angel.

The End.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The First Days of Breastfeeding are Very Very Hard

Breastfeeding is hard. In the beginning. 

In the beginning, I cried almost every day. I thought, those first few days in the hospital, that my baby was starving. My first job as a mother, and I was failing. 

The baby loses weight. For a week or so. That's hard to swallow. A couple drops of the thick, yellow liquid, colostrum, drip from your body. How can that sustain my newborn baby?

I knew from reading that this stuff was the good stuff--the real antibody-laced serum--the stuff that would coat his insides with protection from all sorts of sickness and disease. I knew I needed to resist giving any other liquid--no water, no formula, no nothing. I knew in my heart of hearts that my body knew exactly what it needed to do. I needed To Wait. To Trust. To Believe.

People have been having babies forever. This is how We Survived. How hard could it be?

But I'm not going to lie, the reality of it, watching my baby sip wee tiny drops, and then fall asleep, terrified me. Was I doing it right? As a new mother, with hormones raging like jet planes, I fought my head and my tears all day. 'Baby. Dear baby, pleeaseee. Eat...'

The bright-eyed lactation consultant zips in. She has machines and droppers and pumps. When my baby falls asleep at the wheel, she cranks his arm. 'Wake up baby,' and he does. She shows me different holds; she shows me how to get him to latch on. She tells me everything's going to be all right. It's all normal. I'm feeling better. 

She gets me hooked up to The Breast Pump. If you've ever seen one of these, especially the hospital grade pumps, you'll know why women are scared shitless of breastfeeding and pumping and all the rest. Feel like a dairy cow much? 

I think panic set in here. With the tubes and the wheeze of the pump and the harsh pull on my nipples, I felt separate from my body. It took over 30 minutes to get 5 mil. When it was over though, I felt better as I gave Dax his food through a dropper. It was sustenance I could SEE. But, what kind of message did the exercise send? Left to its own devices, my body can't be trusted to provide...

(After I left the hospital, I rarely pumped. Pumping makes it so you decide how much to produce. When baby nurses on demand, it creates a symbiotic relationship between you and baby. Your body produces exactly how much baby needs. How amazing is that?) 

Those first few days at home were absolutely some of the hardest days of my life. On Day Four, my milk came in, and oh my god, it came in with a furry. I looked like Dolly Parton. Seriously. I was sure my breasts would never recover from this amount of stretching. 

The pain. Oh my god, The Pain. I felt like they were bursting at the seams. I tried cooled cabbage, an old wife's tale, to ease the swelling. I tried ice packs. I tried hot baths. I tried Tylenol. Nothing worked. I wept every single day. I whimpered and whined and threw pity parties. Daily. My baby had trouble latching on because the girls were so swollen. I panicked again. I pumped three times to relieve the pain. It Sucked. Four days of agony. 

After the swelling stopped, another wave of fun occurred. Suddenly, I was drowning in rivers of milk. As my body tried to regulate itself, milk ran down my stomach while I ate dinner. I woke up in drenched sheets--my body in a pool of my own breast milk and sweat. (Because after giving birth, you also sweat. A lot. I swear I lost pounds of water in that first week.) 

My poor son would choke and sputter as he tried to keep up with my supply. If he pulled away, he would get sprayed in the face. I felt out of control. I felt tired. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. 

THEN, as the body struggles to level off, your nipples start to feel the pain of their new lot. The entire breast sometimes aches for seemingly no reason. The nipple feels chafed and raw and red and stinging. No nipple cream helps. And when a milk duct decides to crap out, there is no greater pain. Only time heals it. Insert more tears here. 

All of this madness lasts about two weeks. Two really really really really tough weeks. Seriously tough. Like The Hardest Ever. No lie.

But I want to tell you. I want to tell you with all my might that if you push through this time. If you can muster up the energy, the wherewithal, the will, to make it to the other side of this, You Are Rewarded. Rewarded with a very special thing shared between a mother and her babe.

One day, it all just clicks. Your boobies calm down, your nipples get used to it, and your supply is equal to your baby's need. That's when things get pretty darn cool. 

Breastfeeding is super simple now. Easier than making my baby bottles and dish washing and bib wearing and spitting up. He eats when he's hungry, he stops when he's full. I have only a vague idea of how many ounces he consumes. 

I want to tell you mostly though about THE JOY OF BREASTFEEDING. The joy is just this indescribable glorious thing. It is the experience of a beautiful bond. It is the knowledge that my own body can give this baby life. It is the knowledge that my body produces the perfect formula for this specific child. My child.

It is the knowledge that when he is crying, the one thing that NEVER FAILS to calm him is breastfeeding. It is the satisfaction of seeing the love and comfort on my baby's face when he nurses. It is the absolute calmness of those moments when he nurses in the rocking chair, and drifts off to sleep in my arms. To me, breastfeeding symbolizes pure love & joy.  

The other day I went to the art museum with a couple of girls from my mom's group. One of the girls, who, like me, had a tiny infant strapped to their chest in a sling, said a very poignant thing: "Before I had a baby, I always heard people talk about how breastfeeding is best. About how 'breast is best,' for health reasons. And that's why I wanted to breastfeed my little girl. But what I didn't know was how much I would LOVE breastfeeding. How come nobody talks about that? How come nobody talk about much you'll fall in love with it? I wish I would've known THAT."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Busy Buddy

this month at your 6 month checkup
you weighed 19 lbs., 1 ounce
(80% percentile for weight)
your height was 28.25 inches
(91% percentile for height)
your head was in the 51% percentile

Your Visual Stats

you are getting so big and strong...

you are eating real food...
 (homemade by me)!

you just started sitting up this week...

you are so darn curious and grabby...

and you're getting just a tad too smart for your own good ;-) (can someone say 'baby proofing'?)

Last one. Just for cute's sake.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Day Away

Dear Dax,

Your father and I have been married for almost two years. Although we've been together for almost a decade, our true lifetime commitment came on April 18th, 2009. The day we married.

I wish you could have been there. You can tell that you love a good party. You smile so easy; your sense of humor is already so developed. You know when we're being funny. You know when the cats are being weird.

Whenever Daddy gets on one of his soapboxes about this or that or the other, he gets real serious and barotone. His tone turns passionate and he starts to lay down some argument about why this or that or the other is really really stupid or silly or just plain wrong. Whenever he dives into one of these long soliloqueys, you always stop what you are doing to watch him. Your eyes shine and you smile your gummy smile. Daddy can't even finish because when he looks at you it breaks his concentration, and he'll just laugh instead. How can he take himself seriously when you smile at him like that?

Anyway, what was I saying....oh yesss......

Our anniversary.


Your Grandma Deb was just here for 9 whole days. She graciously offered to watch you for one entire night while we stayed at the historical Hotel del Coronado on Coronado Island (she also gifted us quite a bit of the cost of it) to celebrate our two years of matrimony. You'll probably know this hotel well, being that it is in your hometown. (Your childhood will be so much different from mine. There were definitely no expensive resort hotels in North Dakota :-).)

Our room at the Hotel Del Coronado

We love you sweetie, but wowser, it was FUN to get away :-). We enjoyed massages. We went to ENO, the wine bar there and had a couple flights of wine with some flights of cheese and topped off with some flights of chocolate. We then went to the hotel bar there and some guy sang Jack Johnson songs while strumming his guitar. Me and your Dad, we couldn't stop talking. We talked as if we were parched and the conversations quenched our thirst.

Then, we went back to our room and watched an entire movie! The Fighter. What a movie. Unbelievable. We ordered room service and slept in. It was divine. Did I mention the breakfast buffet by the sea? Coffee, eggs, pancakes, bacon, english muffins, watermelon, cantaloupe, orange juice. Sigh.

After breakfast, we scampered home to see you. And Grandma said you did just fine. Phew. We were so proud of you. Thank you for being so awesome on our very first night away from you!

Dax & Grandma Deb in the yard

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Mother's Lament and/or A Spiritual Journey

The words felt like big chunky things stuck in my throat. So when I dislodged them, they fell so hard out of me, they broke a dam. Tears rushed my eys.

"I feel so desperate," my head hung down in the yellow light of the kitchen, "I feel so desperate for time alone." The whispered words raw against the darkness framed in the windows. I could barely look at you.

"I'm running on empty. I feel so out of gas that even when someone takes him. I'm so far below 'E' that it doesn't even change it. I still feel so in need."

The truth made me feel ashamed. 

I went to the bookstore the other day. I used to browse for hours, a kind of lazy meditation. This time I whizzed passed the random sections that used to amuse me, in lieu of what I came for: Reprieve via the Parenting Section. I have no time for languid browsing. Another thought: To mourn this is a waste of time.

The past is the past. It IS a compilation of memory and our feelings about those memories. It no longer exists.

The future is an illusion. F**k the future. I can not sit around waiting for my babies to grow up before I start living again.

I choose to live in The Now.

But how? My spirit is limping.

I imagine myself posting quotes on my mirror (and I'm paraphrasing here because I don't feel like googling these exact quotes so here's my approximations):

"the measure of a man is not how he does during the good times, but how he reacts during the challenging ones"

"think not of all the ways something can not be, but instead think of all the ways that it might be"

"think not that something is a hindrance or a problem, but instead as a challenge."

I do not tack these on my mirror though. Instead

I buy a book called "Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children." I'm thinking (praying) a little spirituality might keep me steady. I read it in the bath. I cancelled all my Real Housewives shows on my DVR. I am looking for the time. I played Pandora all day today and felt better, a soft guitar makes pouring the fresh pureed carrots into the blue ice cube trays seem poetic and light. I try to rearrange my thinking: Every moment is a moment for me.

Dax holds me in The Present. He requires me to be there almost every second. It's exhausting. It's exhilerating. It simply IS. And it IS NOT changing. I've never been in a tough place that I didn't want To Leave. This parenthood thing. This is different. I don't want out. (Obviously).

But...if I am to come out of this thing buoyant and glowing...

How can I stand the standing still? The most precious pain of The Present?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Letter to a Six-Month-Old on His Birthday

And then you turned 6 months old. I ask myself, "How did that happen?" When did you get to be a whole half of a year old?

You give this world such JOY. I can't imagine existence without you. Your smile causes my heart to leap into the air. I feel my eyes light when I look at you.

You and I. We are best friends now. We can crack each other up pretty easy now. When I walk in the room you get this cool sideways smile. I can read you like a book, every sound and movement--I know almost every time exactly what you want or need. Sometimes you're bored, sometimes hungry, sometimes tired, sometimes you simply dropped something and want it back!

I've decided over the last month or so to completely not care about any kind of schedule whatsoever. This gives me sidelong glances at my mom's group, but truly, I feel a lot better about it. You? You don't seem to care at all. You thrive all the same.

I tried, but I simply suck at schedules. I get all bunched up and nervous when we don't hit our intended times and lengths. Then I start to think about it and what to do different, and I stop living the moment, and I start trying to make our lives "look" like something that makes sense, and when it doesn't it gets me crazy.

So I decided not to care at all. I feed you when you're hungry. I try to put you down when you're tired. You fall asleep in all sorts of places, at all sorts of times. And I've decided that I really don't care. I'm happy and you're happy and that's what matters. Accepting that has made a big difference in my mom happiness.

But even though that, you've made big strides in the sleep department this month. You've been sleeping in your crib! Not only that, you've been sleeping on your back. We went cold turkey on that carseat. It's been rocky, I must admit. You're back to waking every 2-3 hours at night. But I don't care (that's a bold-faced lie). I'm over that car seat.

Perhaps though, it's because you're starting to teeth. On April 2nd, just two days before your sixth month bday, we felt the little jagged white tooth peeking out of your gums. I've never been so excited. (Well, when you rolled over, just days shy of your five month birthday, I leaped into the air and shouted, "You did it!")

This month it seems, everything has changed. You are reaching for EVERYTHING. You get the coolest look on your face too, like you are just discovering The. Coolest. Thing. EVER. even if it's a towel or a hanger or a phone. You lunge your body, both hands open, towards it; your eyes wide like Christmas.

You all of the sudden are moving across the entire kitchen floor in your walker. Your favorite motivation to move is...Diego the cat! You LOVE looking at Diego; he is your favorite buddy. If he's in the room, you'll scout so fast. We also got you a bouncer from craigslist and you bounce bounce bounce and grab grab grab all the fun stuff.

It has been weird though, because all of the sudden I can put you down for longer periods of time and you just entertain yourself. I have to admit: it's kind of a relief to be able to do more without needing to scoop you up and soothe you. You can sit all by yourself for an hour or more now--happy as a clam! You laugh and giggle and scream and play. I barely know what to do with myself.

You still love to hang out in the sling though, close to me. In the morning when I make breakfast, I put you in there all groggy and you watch me make the coffee and pour the cereal and cut the fruit. You look up at me and smile, quiet and still as a mouse. In the late afternoons, you still love to nap in there while I jog around and watch some dumb show. It's been a nice balance lately of close carry time and also of independent play time.

The biggest new is: You started solids! I made it to my goal of exclusively breastfeeding you for the first six months. The World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and many other health organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. This means no supplementing with formula or juice or food. Their stance is due to the extensive research that reflects that EBF babies are more protected from allergies, obesity, asthma, colds, other illnesses, and diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

It was very hard, but I am glad that we accomplished our goal! Studies show that even though the research is there to support EBF for 6 months, few women in America reach this mark. The percentage hovers around 13%. I just think our society is so fast-paced and women are rushed back into the workplace that they don't have the time or patience or support to do this. I feel very blessed that we were able to give you this gift!

However, I can't tell you how fun it was to watch you on April 4th, your sixth-month birthday, finally use a bib! We fed you mashed bananas for your first food, and you ate like a pro! Your daddy said it was because you're his blood. You ate half a banana. The next day we fed you almost a whole banana and also some rice cereal mixed with breast milk. I am looking forward to your daddy taking over some of the business of feeding you.

Anyway, I know this is long, but it was a big month for you! Right now your Grandma Deb is in town here and she is loving hanging out with you. We went on a hike around Lake Poway today. What did you do? Slept in the sling, attached to your Grandma, like a perfect angel baby!

You are such an easy-going little fellow. We love your easy smile. Your loud screams and grunts (you really are a loud buggar), and your perchance to crack yourself up without any prompting. You just look at things and laugh!

I must close this. I could go on forever. I love you Dax. So very very much. I wish I could bottle up all these lucid moments of joy. They are so frequent.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Little Girls Too

So, my sister is pregnant. She has one little beautiful girl who is two years old--a spunky little perfect soul named Nova. We just found out recently that she is building another little baby girl in her belly--another perfect little pretty soul as yet unnamed.

I have to admit, I'm feeling a little baby frenzied. I am attracted to the dream of family. For the majority of my life, I've wanted a big family. In my 6th grade autobiography, I dedicated an entire page to my future five children. Of course, I do not want five children. But I often think I want a solid three.

I went through a period of time in my teens and early twenties where I wanted no kids. This probably spurred by my fear of anything resembling commitment, as opposed to my real life thoughts. My real life thoughts love the dream of family. I feel like since Dax has been born, I've ran headlong into "PURPOSE." A Purposeful Life. It's clear, for the time being, what I'm supposed to be doing.

And now my sister's little girl baby makes me twinge with jealousy. I love my little boy, but the dreams of the little frills of a girl tug my heartstrings.

It just gets silly worse when, here I am, planning her baby shower and perusing pink invites and, oh my golly gosh, aren't these so friggin' dainty cute???

(PS Try Paper Culture- You'll love it! Get $5 off your first purchase with code: ECOMOD)

Or this....


Or how bout THIS?


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