Our First Time Out

Monday morning, 9 a.m. Mommy is checking email, updating the Christmas gift list, entering Pampers codes, generally important morning-on-the-internet kind of stuff. Kiddo is quietly playing with some dishes in the kitchen.

He gets up to show me something he found, and when he realizes I’m on the computer: insta-meltdown. Screaming, crying, hitting, throwing things, the works. So, I get up from the computer, check out the toy, calm him down. Then I get back on the computer, and the meltage starts up again.

Repeat FOUR times.

So, I said to him, you are going in a time out. And I put him in his crib.

I didn’t know what else to do, he’s screaming and being violent for the sole purpose of getting my full, undivided attention. Is he too young to learn that sometimes I have to do other things, and he has to be ok with that?

At the end of the time out, we hugged and kissed, and I told him I love him. Big smiles. Then he followed me into the bathroom and screamed at me during my entire shower.

Yeah, it’s tough.

So far, raising a kid is not getting easier as I was told it would. It is still a 24/7 mashup of worry, frustration, lack of privacy, wondering if you’re doing it right, frustration, worry and a love that will make your heart burst. It’s difficult. The proverbial emotional roller coaster.

Now, I don’t want to scare some of my readers whose first little ones are still on the way or bundled in their cute little 0-3 months clothes. It doesn’t get easier, but it doesn’t get harder. Each phase they go through presents you with a new set of challenges. Sometimes it feels harder, because the older they get the more independent (read: demanding) they get, and it can be difficult to keep up with, especially if you, say, work from home. Or just need to do some laundry. But, you can handle it.

My theory, and really just my undying hope, is that this is the Terrible Twos, and once through this, it truly does get easier. Right now, Bowie knows what he wants and needs, but can’t communicate it to us. Also, we have no way of reasoning with him and explaining why he can’t do this and must do that. From his perspective, I suppose it seems like we’re denying him fun, excitement and cookies just because. For no good reason. That has to be so frustrating. So, he throws a tantrum until we figure out what it is he needs, or distract him from what he wants.

But I have the sneaking suspicion that it’s still going to be hard. I mean, a year from now, he’ll be able to talk back. He’ll have a little kiddo opinion, probably about everything, which may lead to some issues with broccoli, bedtime, TV and kissing grandma. And 5 years from now? He’ll have a life. He’ll be making decisions for himself every single day. And as a parent, you can only sit back and let them make those decisions, all the while worrying that they’ll make the wrong one and get hurt. Or worse.

So, I keep trying to remind myself of what’s to come. And that he’s only little once. I need to slow down and try to savor this time, even if it is riddled with tantrums and teething and picky eating. At least he’s healthy, and happy most of the time. And who knows? If I do well now, maybe he will come to me later with some of those decisions and ask for my opinion.

Now I am a Statistic

Yesterday, I was laid off. My employment fell prey to the recession. You know, the one that’s over?

Mentally, I’m optimistic. I didn’t enjoy the job very much, and it was keeping me from several side projects that I would have enjoyed much more. I got a severance package, so if something happens, we’ve got a bit of a cushion. And I wasn’t making much, so with a little effort, making up for my lost income won’t be all that hard to do. Our health insurance is through my husband’s employer, so I didn’t lose that.

Emotionally? I am crushed. That was my first “real” job after college. I have put so many hours and so much hard work into that company and was a large part of the success it became. Before it ultimately took a right hook in the kisser from the “economic downturn”.

And when you are laid off, as opposed to being fired, you know what you did was necessary, and that you did a good job, but that it was so insignificant, such a small drop in the pond, that someone else could add it to their own list of duties, you really are expendable. Such a blow to the ego.

I can, however, take heart in the fact that executives, people who made way more than me, have also been laid off this year. They likely have mortgages and larger families to support. I am in a better position than most, I’m sure.

And hellooooooooo free time. Now I can get to some of my side projects.

The Flu

My head is spinning over this H1N1 stuff. The media are simultaneously telling us that OMG YOU COULD DIE and OMG THE VACCINE IS BAD FOR YOU. So…what are we supposed to do? Duct tape and Saran wrap our windows I guess?

It’s hard to get our hands on real, empirical, helpful, unbiased information. And normally I’d pay no mind to any of this. I have a relatively good immune system, on the off chance I got it, I’d make it.

But, now I have a kiddo to worry about. What if he got it? Some of the stuff I’m reading suggests that small children have different symptoms and it hits them a bit harder. And kids are, you know, DYING and everything, so yeah, I’m a little worried.

Both kiddo and hubbs have been vaccinated for the regular flu (I don’t get this shot, because I got it all through my childhood, but managed to catch it every year anyway, so now I just save myself the cost and try to stay well). It’s the additional H1N1 vaccine I’m confused/scared/undecided about.

And then there’s the fact that most people as of right now can’t even get the vaccine if they want to. And a vaccine can only cover some strains of the flu, you could still get another strain. Or you could still get the flu you’ve been vaccinated for. No guarantees. So, do we err on the side of caution, or do we save the money and just wash our hands and take our vitamins?

What are you doing, and do you have some good sources I could look at?

Polite

The other day, I went all the way downtown to the mall, which I never do, because I was desperate to see what H&M had on the racks after seeing some ads in a recent magazine. AKA moment of weakness. Plus, I REALLY needed to get kiddo out of the house.

But, on my way through, on a very painfully slow Tuesday morning at the mall, one of the kiosk guys got me. Because, his “gotcha” question was: where are you from?

On my long 3 block walk from the bus stop to the mall, I passed swarms SWARMS of tourists (and, disclaimer, I love ya, I really do, keep coming to SF, but please don’t stop dead in your tracks in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture of a big, dirty building or to plan your route to the ATM) and I was done. Just done. I was so smug. I have lived here for a while now, I am a local, bitches.

So, when he asked where I was from, I was thinking, uh, I am from here, unlike the many tourists I’m sure you sucker in to your booth every day. But, I made the mistake of answering him. And getting into a whole thing about how I was originally from Wisconsin, him from Chicago. And so on and so forth.

And even when I knew I was knee deep in shit and he only cared about selling me something, I just could not leave. Because I have the Midwest Nice. I’ve been stating for years how Midwest Nice is just a myth. Doesn’t exist. They are just as rude a population as anyone else. Yet, something was holding me there, paralyzed with niceness. I blabbed on about how I could not possibly stop today (he was offering a teeth whitening procedure that would involve me staying there for a half hour or so), what with the kiddo and all. And I was on a budget (which is completely true). I threw it all at him. But, I couldn’t find myself just saying, no thanks and walking on, like I normally do. When I’m with my husband, and when there’s ample crowd for them to pick from.

I felt so bad for this guy. I knew he had to pull out all the stops because the coworker who was eavesdropping was likely his manager, and he worked on commission, and after all, I had stopped in the first place. It was ridiculous. I knew and he knew that I was not going to buy anything, but he kept giving the pitch and I kept being so…nice. Just nice. There is not another word for it.

My 8th grade English teacher told us “nice” used to mean “stupid”. Well, I think I fit the original definition that day.

Problems with Paci

The pacifier. My current nemesis.

I spend 97% of my time with my arm shoulder deep under some piece of furniture, desperately trying to find one there because all of them are lost and it’s NAPTIME SWEET JESUS IT’S NAPTIME AND I CAN’T FIND A PACI.

Honestly, I only have myself to blame. Early on, I really pushed it on him, because it helps with SIDS, blah blah blah. It soothed him. Well, when it stayed in his mouth. (I also spent the first 4 months of his life with my arm draped over the side of his co-sleeper bed, holding the pacifier in his mouth. All night long.)

At the time, I was thinking he’ll want to give it up someday…he won’t use it forever…I’ll take it away when he’s done teething… etc. etc. etc. I was justifying it to myself, all the while having that nagging thought in the back of my head of my thumb-sucking brother and his massive orthodontic bills. Because, they say the tooth problem thing is genetic, not necessarily from sucking on anything. And…well…we don’t have genetics on our side.

And then I read that there’s this window of time, about the 6th and 7th months, that you can take it away with little to no backlash. They don’t yet have the total mental capacity to miss it for more than a few hours, and they have begun the process of self-soothing. So, I did take it away, for about a week. Then he started teething.

Of all the wonderful things about my child, grace under fire is not one. He teeths miserably, and tries to make everyone feel as miserable as he does. So, when push came to shove one long teething afternoon, he broke me and I whipped out the paci. And worst of all, it worked like a charm.

Later on, I tried going cold turkey but that went like this: read above paragraph. There was no end to the screaming and crying. Especially at bedtime. So, we compromised, I let him have it at bedtime. During the day, I tried the trick where you snip off the end, and little by little snip off more and more until they lose interest. The first day, he put it in his mouth, took it out, examined it, threw it at me with the force of Joe Montana and cried until he threw up. I could try it again. But can you blame me for wanting to avoid that?

So now, I have a 16 month old that has a pacifier in his mouth way too much, and his first dentist appointment is coming. To me, the teeth look ok. And he is back to mostly only having it at bedtime. But, I’m not the expert. So, I’m a little worried.

They help prevent SIDS. That’s a really good thing. (Though it would not surprise me in the least to find out this was a conspiracy started by a pacifier manufacturer to get us to buy them in mass quantities. Because seriously, every new parent will go out and buy anything with “prevents SIDS” associated with it.)

All new moms: you must take it away before their first birthday. You MUST. Or you will be like me. And I will probably be taking it out of his mouth so he can cross the stage and get his high school diploma.

Best Mac and Cheese

I made a new, very terrible macaroni and cheese recipe last night.  In honor of its colossal failure as a dish, I thought I’d post my favorite macaroni and cheese recipe.  To give credit where credit is due, this is adapted from a recipe that was clipped some time ago from an issue of Everyday With Rachel Ray (say what you will about the woman, but her recipes are genius).

You’ll notice quickly that the mac and cheese sets on a bed of broccoli, which is incredible and a really great way to eat it, but I have been known on a decadent day or two to leave it out.  Also, it says serves 4, but I think it’s more like 6 or 8, so feel free to half the recipe if there’s just a few of you eating it.

Baked Macaroni and Cheddar

1 large bunch broccoli, cut into bite size florets (stems cubed)

1 pound elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup finely chopped shallots

3 tablespoons flour

3 cups milk

1/2 cup cream (optional, you can use more milk instead)

3 tablespoons cornstarch

12 ounces cheddar, shredded or cubed

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

Fill a pot with enough water to cover the broccoli. Bring to a boil, add the broccoli, cook for 1 minute and drain. Rinse with cold water. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish and add the broccoli in an even layer. Use the pot again to cook the macaroni. Drain.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In the same pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Stir in the flour for 1 minute.

Whisk in 1 cup of milk until it gets thick, then whisk in 1 cup more. Whisk the cornstarch into the remaining 1 cup of milk and ½ cup of cream and then whisk that mixture into the pot. Simmer until the mixture thickens, just a few minutes.

Lower the heat and add the cheddar and parmesan, stir until the cheese melts. Season with the salt and pepper. Stir in the pasta. Spoon this mixture over the broccoli.

In a small microwave safe bowl, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir in the bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top of the mac and cheese.

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

If we look sleepy…

…this is why.

I have a confession to make. Bowie has not slept through the night in about 2 months. And it’s not teething, and it’s not hunger, and it’s not noise (well, not all the time, because, well, THREE PETS). We’ve tried to remedy all those problems, and it still seems to be happening.

At first, we gave him more milk, and he drifted back to sleep. Then, that didn’t always work. He was cutting molars at that point, so we’d give him Tylenol and rock him back to sleep. Then that stopped working. So, then we were rocking him, laying him back down then rubbing his tummy or head until he fell back asleep, and then slooooowly tip toeing out the door, careful to step over the creaky board.

On a desperate night, we’d bring him into bed with us. I say desperate because, a toddler moves in their sleep the way they do awake: NON STOP. Kiddo might sleep, but you won’t. Plus, we’ve been mighty turned off of co-sleeping having heard one horror story after another about the six year old that refuses to sleep in their own bed. No thanks. But, sometimes when you’re holding a screaming toddler at 3 in the morning, you don’t do the most rational thing, just what seems the easiest in the short run.

Last night we found out that’s not working anymore either. I did the rocking-rubbing-sneaking combo three times, and he still woke up. I was determined not to bring him into bed, but then my husband and I lay awake in bed together in irritated silence and I was like, “okay, I’m bringing him in here.”

Ugh.

And, to top it all off, I get these developmental emails each month telling me what’s normal, what we should watch for, what kiddo should be able to do, etc. And it says this is all normal. NORMAL. And it can last for a whole year. YEAR.

I think it’s payback for all the times I bragged that Bowie slept through the night at 3 months.

Worst Week

I’ve had a heck of a week. Seriously. When it rains it pours. Here’s a snapshot:

On Tuesday, Bowie had a pediatrician appointment at which he received three vaccinations. The DTP shot proceeded to make his entire left thigh hard, red, hot and throbby. Also, rashes all over his neck and back. Plus, it took the doctor forever to return my frantic calls, so I was browsing the intertubes to find some info and yes, you guessed it, freaked me the F out. Stupid internet.

Later that same evening, we had a BBQ with the neighbors. Bowie walked up to the grill and touched like he has a zillion times, only this time? HOT HOT HOT DANGER DANGER and everything was in slow motion, I just could not get to him in time to prevent it. He got two very large blisters, and most of his fingers on that hand are burned. One of the blisters has popped and it looks NASTY. I think I have to call the doc again, ugh.

My mother-in-law is in town and borrowed our car to get to and from my sister-in-law’s house. Which would be fine if all the computer systems in all the Matrixes weren’t randomly shutting down rendering the car useless, and ours decided to do so when she needed the car. Thankfully she was not on the highway or anything, and I guess it’s also good it wasn’t me and kiddo going somewhere on our lonesome. That could have been scary.

Last night, Bowie didn’t sleep at all. Well, that’s a slight exaggeration. He slept from 8 to 10pm, 11:30 to 12:30 and then maybe for an hour between 2 and 6am. I had been out with friends until 12am and was really looking forward to my date with my soft, comfy bed. Little did I know a tossing, turning, teething, burned finger, vax reaction, crabby toddler would be joining me. I’m running on about 2 hours of sleep today. As is my husband.

Also, my husband has been undergoing a barrage of medical tests and procedures in order to find the cause of the mysterious loss of his sense of smell. We have insurance, so we didn’t think it would be a big deal, but we got the bill for the CT scan yesterday and…holy Jesus. Guess I don’t get to see the Cubs when their in San Francisco this year. And that Wisconsin wedding in January? Sorry Jess, love you to death, but we’re drowning in medical bills. Even though we have insurance. Oh, but the system is just fine as is. Grrrrrrrr.

Anyway, hopefully you had a better week than me.

The Pill is Kicking my Butt

My best friend from high school started taking the pill when we were about 17, and she was like, “OMG you should totally go on it, it’s great!” And, I can’t even believe how shallow I was, but I didn’t want to go on it because…I didn’t want to get fat. Can you believe that? I just kept reading that you put on weight and in my 17 year old brain that was a Deal Breaker.

A few years later, when I started to, you know, get busy, I went on the pill, ready for a barrage of side effects, but didn’t have any. Well, except for two: my breasts doubled in size and my periods were shorter and lighter. I’m thinking, okay, I can handle that.

I stayed on the pill for 10 solid years, trouble free, until I decided that it was time to have a baby. I was off the pill for just 4 months before becoming pregnant. But in those 4 months, I had the 3 worst menstrual cycles of my life, and that’s including the super erratic, embarrassing messes in junior high. I had crazy heavy bleeding with tons of cramping. I immediately thought I have to go right back on the pill as soon as they will let me after I have this baby. It was clearly the only way to avoid these horrible bouts of menstruation.

Fast forward to about 3 months post partum, when I think it might be ok to get down and dirty again. (And yes, my husband is a saint, he actually did wait that long.) I was breastfeeding, so I was put on an estrogen-free “mini pill”. With this pill, nothing really changed (thankfully because seriously, who could deal with both that and a newborn? Perhaps Super Woman, but not yours truly). There were no breaks (aka placebo pills), so I still was not menstruating, and my hormones were relatively stable.

It was when I weaned the kiddo at 12 ½ months and went back on my same old pill that the trouble began. The hormone fluctuations of weaning the baby and the hormones in the new pill proved to be a roller coaster ride of a combination. The first month, I was so convinced I was pregnant, I took 3 home tests, and called the doctor and spoke with her for a half hour about my mysteriously negative results.

I had horrible headaches, I had horrible bloating, I had worse morning sickness than when I was actually pregnant, I was a bit fainty, I had terrible acne, I had crazy food cravings (I wanted dill pickles so badly one day, I went to the store and got them…and a pregnancy test) and was constantly hungry, and the fatigue. My god, the fatigue. Being on the pill after having and nursing a baby was turning out to be worse than pregnancy itself. Without any of the fringe benefits, like a big belly you’re supposed to have, a party where you get lots of cute baby clothes, and, oh yeah, a cute little baby.

But, that leaves me where I am today, 4 months after weaning (and still lactating—yippee!). The symptoms have subsided a bit, but not much, and it may just be that I’ve learned to live with them. I have an appointment soon to meet with my doctor about some alternative methods of birth control, because I’m ready to strangle whoever decided this was a good idea!

Well, no, not really, that’s the crazy hormone monster coming out again. Down, girl. Truthfully, the pill is a great invention. It basically jump-started the modern women’s movement. It is a true godsend for some women. But, the hormonal implications can be too much for your body, especially when it’s trying to bounce back from such traumatic events as pregnancy, birth, labor and delivery, breastfeeding and reintroduction of menstruating.

What have your experiences been like with the pill? What other methods have you tried successfully? Unsuccessfully?