Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Nine Months

As I've been progressing though adulthood for the past, oh say, 22 years, I've been forced to acknowledge that I share many traits and quirks with my mother. Yet, it wasn't until I became a mother that it finally resonated that I'm becoming my mother. Whenever I wore new clothes to school, my mother would always ask, "did anyone comment on your outfit?". She would seem disappointed when I replied that the answer was no. Apparently, Ms Myrtle would ask Myrtle the same question and she threatened to send Myrtle to school in some hideous outfit just to see if anyone would notice, so Myrtle wised up and just started making up comments. I had dressed Kate in an adorable raccoon sweater from Janie and Jack. The sweater was actually a gift to my cousin's first born from me. A family of raccoons made their home under our deck that year and we spent the summer exhausting ways to encourage them to relocate. My cousin gave the sweater back to me along with other clothes and baby items. Judging on it's perfect condition and knowing how messy her kids are; I'm guessing that it was never worn. "So, did any one comment on your sweater?" I asked Kate as I picked her up from Day Care. D'oh! There it was. My mothers words coming out of my mouth!

A slightly more interesting case in point: My maternal grandfather took a lot of pride in the family car. We're talking, washing it by hand on the driveway every Sunday kind of proud. We used to visit my grandparents between Christmas and New Year's and one year there was a big snow storm just before we left for Pennsylvania. Our car was caked with salt and dirt and looked pretty typical for any vechile during a Northeast winter. Apparently, my grandfather made a snide remark about the state of our car, as every year afterwards, we would stop to get our car washed when we were within 30 minutes of my grandparents house. Some years, when we would travel on Christmas day, and our usual car wash stop was closed, we would have to use a coin operated do-it-yourself facility. (Looking back, I have no idea how may parents found these places to wash your car without a smart phone!)

My mother finally quit smoking in her mid 50s. However, she let her parents believe she quit in her early 30s, a few years after I was born. As my grandparents didn't drink and didn't keep any alcohol in their house, my mother would joke that visit was here 3 days stint in the Betty Ford Clinic, as she couldn't drink or smoke. I have memories of being at that self service car wash on Christmas Day. My Dad and I unpacked all of our suitcases so we could vacuum the interior while my mother was 'supervising' as she savoured her final cigarettes before checking into rehab. I can only imagine all the cars that drove by wondering what the fuck was this family doing cleaning their car on Christmas day? 

Actually, I've been getting my car cleaned prior to my parents coming out for a visit ever since we moved out to California. We joke that it's become a bit of a family tradition. However, I had a greater sense of urgency with this past trip. The front of my car was a mess of crumbs from my secret stash of oatmeal raisin 'I need them to maintain my milk supply' cookies. Before easily getting talked into the most expensive wash option at the professional car wash, I took our air compressor and blasted the crumbs out of every small crack that I knew would be missed unless I opted for the super expensive detailing package. Then, I took a lint roller and did a final pass after the car came back from the cleaners. I was determined to hide my secret habit, just like my mother. 

Stats: Weight 19 lbs 1.4 oz  Length 27 inches
Her height has hit a plateau. Our paediatrician warned that after 6 month genetics would take effect on her growth rate. Sorry Kate both your parents are of average height for their respective genders.

Teeth: So, remember how in my Eight Month post I was convinced that she was never going to cut any teeth, but I would forever love my toothless bald baby? The night after that post, she (we) had a horrible night of sleep. She was waking every two hours and would take about an hour to put down. This was far worse than her newborn days. The next morning she decided to chew on, of all things, my thumb. Something sharp tried to piece my skin. There was no mistaking it. The slight emergence of a pearly white tooth. "Oh! You're not an asshole!" I cried with joy. Two weeks later another tooth joined the party and she is now sporting two bottom teeth. Her hair is finally starting to emerge. Within a week it seems to have sprouted as if someone slipped her Rogaine. So far it seems to be blond.

Feeding: Even before she cut any teeth, our pediatrician gave the us the green light to feed her Cheerios. Cheerios are awesome. We can put her in the highchair with a handful of O's on the tray and that will buy us about 10 minutes to wash bottles, start preparing dinner or even waste time if we wanted. My rookie error: forgetting to don a bib. Apparently, Cheerios stain. Rather badly, as I've ruined a few of her pajamas, which she has fortunately outgrown. We also started feeding her meat. Her first taste was some leftover cottage pie that I quickly pulsed in the Baby Bullet. It represented the first time she ate the same food as us, but as it was on leftover night, we weren't eating the same meal at the same time. I made up some batches of ground turkey and butternut squash, but they became more of an acquired taste. In order to get her to take a bite, I had to dip the spoon in applesauce. As I worked my way through the jar, I used less applesauce and saved the rest for her dessert. So far the only food she's really rejected has been parsnips. She doesn't appreciate the foods of her father's people. 

I'm not sure what finally worked, but my milk supply returned to normal and I was even able to wean off the Mother's Milk tea, Fenugreek, beer and cookies. Then my parents came to visit, and I tended to  bottle feed when we went out, which led to longer periods of time without expressing. I had a few nights where I overslept and missed a pumping session and I've been so busy at work that I can only manage pumping twice a day. This all led to a slight drop in my milk supply. It feels similar to how you can work out consistently for weeks, but then skip the gym for a few consecutive days and suddenly you feel so out of shape. The breasts are unforgiving. I'm so tempted to follow this lead and wrap up breastfeeding, but I'd fall short of the goal to make it to one year, even though my plan is to start weaning in about six weeks. During the day, Kate seems to be easily distracted and less interested in nursing, which makes me wonder if this is the time to cut her off? (My intention is to stop nursing before she can demand the breast) Yet, I'm not too keen on being an exclusive pumper, although I did master a new skill: Pumping while driving. I thought it was crazy when Nina first suggested it, but it is a good use of time. I just had to drive very carefully, for fear of getting into an accident; but if I did, my obituary would note what a dedicated breastfeeding mother I was.  

Sleep: After the horrible frequent waking on the teething night, she went back to waking just once a night. She was even pretty consistent about it. It would be at either 11:30 or 3:00, which coincidently, are around my pumping times. Once again, we accepted that waking once during the night wasn't so bad. I would feed her and we could both be back asleep in less than half an hour. The she slept through the night one weekend. We both knew not to get too excited about it, but for the past few weeks she been sleeping throughout more nights that she's been waking and needing to feed. She will sometimes wake once or twice a night, but usually falls back to sleep herself. We've been transitioning her naps from three to two, and it seems to be going well. Although I realised that I tend to take her out to do my errands, knowing that she will sleep in the car. I viewed it as a win-win, she gets her nap and I get shit done. Then I started to fear that I was using the car as a sleep crutch, so thanks to a few rainy days when I didn't want to go out anyway, we discovered that she can still go down for a nap in her crib. Phew! 

Milestones: Not really walking just yet. She still wants to stand all the time, and when she's in the Pack and Play, she'll do a 'Look Ma! No hands!' and stand on her own for a few seconds, before needing to grasp the sides or fall down. We got her a little plastic activity table, so she can practice cruising around it and one day she decided to push it like a walker and took a few steps. We joked that we should put some tennis balls on the feel of the table to help her practice. She learned to clap, which was followed by banging two objects together. Her language is still the same. Lots of babbles with some 'ba-ba' or 'da-da' thrown in. We may have had a break through with baby signing. While I was feeding her dinner, I noticed that she seemed to be making the sign for milk. I had Husband bring out a bottle to show her and we both repeated making the sign and saying 'Milk. Milk. Milk" Which sounded very similar to a classic scene from American Pie. She just seemed to giggle at us, but the next day when I went to get her out of her car seat, she was making the milk sign. I showed her a bottle and she repeated the sign. She greeted me with the milk sign on one other occasion and I began to wonder if she sees me as milk, hence relates me to the milk sign. Or maybe she was just randomly clenching her hand in a fist.... Yet while I was feeding her carrots, she did position her hand correctly for the carrot sign. We'll keep practicing. 

Likes and Dislikes: When I take she shopping, I'll wear her in the Baby Bj.orn and she'll hold on to the handle and will want to push the trolley. It's adorable, but to allow her to push, I have to scrunch down and it kills my back after a while. She loves climbing in the infant seat when it's sitting on the floor in her room, but if you go to put her in it when it's time to go out, she'll cry and fuss and try to squirm away, so it's another wrestling match to get her in the car seat. 

Clothing: Leading into her 9 month birthday, she was still able to wear most of her 6 month size clothes. As I've been delayed getting this post out, she is no longer fitting into the 6 month stuff, which means she either had a growth spurt, or my mother shrunk her clothes by washing them with hot water.

Diapering: In exciting diapering news, she moved into a size medium diaper cover. It's still such a challenge to change her, and for some reason I naively thought she would get over this wanting to crawl and climb everywhere thing and lie still for a diaper change. Our pediatrician suggested changing her on the floor, as it would be easier to pin her down and I think he fears she'll fall and break a bone. We tried. No luck holding her down and she peed on the carpet. Twice. Many years ago I had issues with our cats peeing in the house and I feared this could invite them to start again. No more changing on the floor. 

Health Issues: She had a bad cough spell earlier this week, where she was up for nearly and hour with a cough that wouldn't stop, but it seems to have cleared.

Looking forward to: I can't believe our trip to Hawaii is next month! I'm excited, but also overwhelmed by the planning and packing that needs to be done. I also have no idea what we are going to do. I received an email from the hotel concierge offering to help schedule some activities for us, and I asked if she had any suggestions for a family traveling with a 10 month old. She replied that most activities are not conducive to families with young children, with the exception of a luau, which seems to be enjoyed by all ages. She added "I can see you and your daughter relaxing out by the pool". She must not know that pool is the last place I would want to try to relax with my near mobile daughter, and their pool is merely an oversized bathtub... but anyway... we'll be in Hawaii... 

The Blooper Reel:

As she tried to pull off the sticker, we tried putting it on her back...

Place the sticker on the chair and use a toy to distract...no this isn't working either...

Now she's finally facing the camera, but we're looking at the lion's butt.
Sheesh! Will no one cooperate?

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Do as I say; not as I do...

As breastfeeding was going so well, I thought I had won the debate on baby feeding. Nope. I had just passed Phase One. When Kate was almost three months old, I went for lunch with some other mothers in the New Parents Support Group. As their babies were a few months older, they had begun introducing solids through Baby Led Weaning. "What's Baby Led Weaning?" I asked in earnest. The two women exchanged looks. I'm sure it was acknowledging their surprise that I hadn't heard about Baby Lead Weaning, but also realising it was an opportunity to teach me. Almost talking over each other, they quickly ran through the philosophy and principles of this approach, and then tried to convince me that purees are passé and BLW is the BFD. "It's so great! Baby eats what you eat!" one woman kept repeating. That's where she lost me. Yeah...you see about that... I said to myself in my Bill Lumburgh voice. We eat like crap!

When we were getting ready to start Kate on solids, I realised it represented quite an opportunity. I could make sure the foods she eats in her first year, will be the healthiest choices of her entire life. I went to Whole Foods to purchase their pre-cut butternut squash. Husband tried to cook with a bag of organic peas, but I stopped him in time to point out that those were for Kate, we would be eating from the bag of basic Safe.way brand peas. I relished having total control over what she would be eating. I know I will eventually have to relinquish this control as she will become exposed to other foods outside of our home. She'll discover that candy is involved with almost every major holiday and she'll receive the obligatory cupcake with each classmate's birthday. Even just this past week, the instructor at her Baby Yoga class offered flavoured teething biscuits. "They're organic!" she assured her crunchy Bay Area audience. A mother next to me read the wrapper, "it contains organic sugar" she informed me. The purist in me wanted to refuse it, but I didn't want her to watch all the other babies snacking on their waffers, not that I know whether or not she'd get upset about it. "There are worse things..." I commented to the other mother as I decided to let Kate have the treat.

The thing is that I do want her to enjoy foods. I want her to discover that chocolate and peanut butter make an awesome combination. I want her to know that everything is better with bacon. I just want her to be at an age where she can make good choices. The trouble is that I'm nearly 40 years old and I still haven't learned those lessons. Although we have improved over time. When we moved into our house 6 years ago, we were spending our evenings working on remodeling and we ate take-out meals almost every night. I gained nearly 10 pounds during that time, it was a struggle to lose that weight. As I've mentioned previously, Husband is not very [at all] helpful with meal planning. Sometimes, I would ask him just to defrost a protein in the morning, figuring that we could create some kind of a meal when I came home from work, only to discover that he failed this task. It always amazed me they way he could be so oblivious about dinner. I suppose between his mother and myself, the magical dinner fairy has produced a plate in front of him. I pointed out that it was fine for him to ignore dinner with me, after all, I'm an adult who can fend for herself; but if we were to have a child, he would be legally responsible for feeding him or her!

Throughout the course of our (almost) 10 year marriage, we've gone through the 'what's for dinner' debate. I finally had to accept that I will never get assistance with meal planning, and if I leave him to do the shopping, he'll come home with many unhealthy options. I am fortunate in that he is a good and willing cook, so I'll continue to handle the other two tasks. Previously, we would do well for a few weeks, then encounter a week with many FUFFYs, (when one of use will not be home for dinner, it's Fuck yoU, Fend For Yourself) or we'll just get busy and planning will go out the window and we'll be left scrambling for dinner ideas each night. Now that Kate is here, I can't drop the ball on this. As she will eventually be eating what we are eating, it's my responsibility to make sure we have a plan for dinner each night, and I'm also taking ownership to make sure it's a healthy and nutritious meal, and not processed crap.

I often quote Eleanor Roosevelt, "you cannot ask that of others, that which you are not willing to do yourself". If I want Kate to eat healthful foods and to develop good habits, then I have to model good behaviour. During the month of June, I'm going to do a Whole 30 Challenge. No sugar. No grains. No dairy. No legumes. No alcohol. It's my version of Cry It Out. I know I won't always be able to maintain clean eating and I know I won't always be able to control Kate's food, but I'm going to do the best that I can, for as long as I can.

The other behaviour that we have to modify in order to set a good example for Kate is with watching TV. Our pediatrician is very adamant about not exposing her to any screen time before the age of 2 years. As we were reading about the purpose of white noise to help infants' sleep, I recognised we seem to use TV for the same purpose. We'll turn on the television to syndicated episodes of The Big Bang Theory or Modern Family really just to have something background sound. So we've moved to using Pandora in the kitchen while we're making dinner or feeding Kate. Husband was also motivated to reduce our monthly bills, so he dropped our cable provider and switched us to a Roku. There are fewer channel options, but still gives us access to some basic cable channels and we spend a little extra for HBO. We only watch TV in our bedroom after putting Kate down for the night, but we'll rarely stay awake long enough for an hour long programme.

I question how long we'll maintain this strategy. My mother described that when I was a toddler, her one hour of sanity per day occurred while I was watching Sesame Street. I actually feel that The Street really helped shaped my upbringing. I learned to count, was introduced to Spanish words and other aspect of cultural diversity, as well as other valuable life lessons, such as Mr Hooper's death and Gordon and Susan adopting a baby named Miles. Furthermore, I cannot deny that television media is an important aspect of our social experience. The Nurse who led our New Parents Group described that she didn't let her children watch TV and her son felt left out while playing with his friends as he didn't know what The Power Rangers were. I made some friends in my college dorm while gathering in the common room to watch Friends each week. During most of the 90s, you could break the ice or evade an awkward pause in a conversation with a Seinfeld reference. I do want her to experience the positive benefits of TV.

Yet how to strike a balance? While I was growing up my TV time was limited and I could not watch television if it was a nice sunny day outside. My mother would literally shut off the TV and throw me out the door to go play in the back yard. If it were raining outside, I always knew that it meant I could watch cartoons, but my mother would give me something else to do while the TV was on in the background. I had to play with Legos, color or if she happened to be sewing, I would make clothes for my stuffed animals and dolls using her material scraps. My parents had a friend who used an interesting strategy with his boys. They had to earn an hour of watching TV or playing video games by reading for an hour. His hope was that they would become so engaged in the books that they would prefer reading to TV, or at least if would reduce the number of hours of TV time. It worked for the younger son, as he became a voracious reader. It was a struggle for the older son, as he had learning disabilities (probably dyslexia). I think I'll adopt a similar strategy, but may include other non-TV activities such as playing with Legos or art projects to start at an early age.

The final behaviour we need to modify is our use of iphones and the ipad (although as I am tying, Kate is sitting beside me eating Cheerios in her high chair). A few months ago, Husband was googling early signs of autism (you know, as you do...) and found a video from the Kenndey Kreiger Institute. In one particular clip a boy on the ASD spectrum was playing with an old mobile flip phone. The voice over described "the child shows an intense interest in his phone and does not share his enjoyment of the phone with others." Um, I don't know if that is unique to autism, as it seems to describe just about any adult with a smart phone, (including myself). I realise that the phone was just the toy used for the demonstration as this boy did exhibit other ASD features, yet it did give me pause to think about the impact of smart phone use.

I saw (on Facebook) a great Meme that captures the dilemma of this aspect of modern technology. "Cell phones keep you close to people far away, but it takes you away from the ones right next to you". This was also brilliantly captured by photographer Eric Pickersgill, in is Removed series. It thinks there is something poignant that many cafes are actually promoting 'No wi-fi service here. You'll have to talk to each other.' Especially when Husband and I are together, I'm trying to avoid using the phone in front of her, so she'll see that people do actually take to each other. Sometimes about things other than what they see on their phones. Yet perhaps the biggest execption with the iphone is when we enage in Facetime with her grandparents. BTW, does that count as screen time? I know how much it means to my parents and my in-laws to be able to see a live shot, so we'll continue our weekly calls and just hope it's not causing any lasting damage.

I need a better editor.