Thursday, 23 June 2016

I'm not Martha Stewart

What is a smash cake?" I asked a fellow blogger, feeling a little embarassed that I didn't know "Haha" she replied "It's a tiny individual cake that the baby gets to just smash into.  Bigger than a cupcake and usually decorated kind of elaborately." "It became a thing when cake companies realized new parents will pay for anything." she added. Well that was enough to trigger my inner skeptic, and start the idea that I would make my own cake for Kate's first birthday. Afterall, my mother made my first birthday cake from scratch.

Pausing for a moment. As I have been trying to replicate some of the things my parents did for me as a baby, I've also been coming to terms with the fact that I may have a romanticised view of my childhood. On cloth diapering, I thought my parents were so environmentally conscious. [My mother's response] Oh, we really didn't care too much about the environment, Cloth diapers were just much cheaper than dispoable diapers. On breastfeeding, we were living in an expersive city on one salary, we couldn't afford formula. On my first birthday cake, yeah, I made the cake from scratch because money was tight. Also we didn't really have a party for you. We let you play with the cake and that was it. 

"Plus, I wasn't working at the time" My mother reminded me as I told her about my idea to do Kate's cake. Well that was just challenge accepted! I'm a pretty competent baker, and if I were to do a regular cake, I probably could have managed that. However, I wanted to do cupcakes rather than a cake. Firstly, her nickname. They would be CupKates. Secondly, I prefer to serve cupcakes as you don't have to deal with the cutting process and people seem to be more willing to eat cupcakes, where they would turn down a regular piece of cake.Then I decided I wanted her birthday to have a Very Hungry Catapillar theme. I thought I was the first person ever to have this idea for about five minutes, until my mother googled "Hungry Caterpillar Birthday" and we discovered that nearly everyone does a TVHC birthday theme. I'm not sure why, but I began to feel more confident that I could pull this off, as I imagined it would 'merely' involve getting some cake mix, frosting and food colouring. I was already anticipating how great they were going to turn out and while I was fantasizing, of course there would be a little praise coming my way. Yes, guests would note how awesome I am; a working mom who makes kick ass cupcakes! [flips hair over shoulder]

Fortunately, I had the sense to do a dry run. I decided to have a go while my mother was visiting. As she wouldn't be there for Kate's one year mark, she could feel involved with the party. We worked together to mix the colours for the frosting. I had purchased some jelly beans for his eyes, a chocholate chip nose and some Hershey kisses for his feet. As we assembled the hungry caterpillar with our cupcakes, it wasn't coming anywhere near the image that I had in my mind.

"What do you honestly think?" I asked my mother. "Well" she paused. "They look like they were made with a lot of love.' [Translation] They look like crap. As my Dad worked in food service for many years, I asked if he thought they looked totally amatuer. He gave a play-it-safe response, "You don't seemed to be satisfied with the finished product." Why are you asking for my professional opinion when you already know the answer? I waited until Husband weighed in with this thoughts. I know I could rely on him for a completely unfiltered assessment. "Would you be embarrassed if we served these at Kate's first birthday party?" I asked. He replied that he really wouldn't care, his critique of my creation is that it just really didn't represent the Very Hungry Caterpillar. "It looks more like the anorexic caterpillar." he quipped.

Oh, how I wish he had just said, "Jane, these look like shit. You're not a baker, so don't try to pretend to be one. Suck it up and go to the bakery like a normal person." I would have saved so much time and energy, not to mention money. I purchased a mini-loaf pan, as well as some decorating tools, brushing off the irony that in my effort to avoid the scam of the smash cake, I would probably be paying about the same, if not, maybe even more. We went for take two. 

So, as you can see, Husband was right. The mini-loafs really were the right way to go, as I was able to do a better job capturing the shape of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. However, the frosting still wasn't working. I really would need to learn how to use the wedding cake style frosting that I saw in Michaels craft store, but fortunately had the sense not to buy. Suddenly, it also occured to me that I would need to spend the day before the party doing cleaning, last minutes chores and a lot of other food prep, so... what the fuck was I thinking? I didn't even bother attempting to finish, it was time to wave a white flag of plain vanilla icing on the remaining cakes. I was ready to admit defeat and started googling local bakeries. 

I could hear Kate start to stir, as I was sulking, cleaning up and eating the fruits of my labour (they were delicious by the way). It served as an important reminder. This is for Kate's birthday party. She needs to be the centre of attention. Not her cake and not her mother. 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Eleven Months

I am issuing an apology. To all parents with a crying baby on a flight. Prior to my own experience as a parent, I figured you were doing something wrong. I didn't understand why you couldn't calm your baby and I probably even blamed you for it. Oh, how very wrong was I. I learned this lesson the hard way. When I was that mother with the screaming, unconsolable baby. Our flight to Hawaii wasn't too bad. The take-off coordinated with her nap time and she slept for the first two hours of the flight. Husband and I were even able to watch The Big Short. We really lucked out and had an empty seat next to us, which was fortunate as I gave Kate a squeeze pouch for the first time and she squirted it all over that seat's tray table. (Rookie error; I should have had her practice before the flight). The flight home was a different story. She had spent eight days out of her usual routine and was overstimulate and overtired and didn't want to be confined to my lap for five hours. 

We tried everything we could. She wasn't interested in nursing. At one point, I think I had both breasts exposed to anyone walking down the aisles. "Do you want me to get your cover?" asked Husband. "No, I don't give a shit!" I snaped. That's not entrely true. In general, I'd prefer not to flash an entire airplane, but I was so exhausted at that moment as I desparately wanted the sleep she was refusing. Although I almost always use a cover in public, I found it really cumbersome in the small confined space of an airplane seat. She didn't want to eat any of the snacks I brought for her and wasn't interested in any of her books or toys. I put her in the carrier and walked up and down the aisles, which worked for a lap or two, then she started really wailing. I decided to go to the back of the plane and stationed myself in the galley. At one point, I went into the bathroom to get a tissue and I wanted to cry myself. Husband tried to calm her, but she kept reaching for me. Finally I handed her off claiming I needed a rest from her screaming in my ear. She finally crashed and fell asleep five minutes later. Of course, he looked like the hero.   

Stats: (approximate) 22 pounds 28 inches

Teeth: Still two on the bottom and is working on her top incisors

Sleep: She's been sleeping through the night since about 9 months. She may wake up once or twice, but she [usually] goes right back to sleep. However, when we went to Hawaii, she stayed on California time for much of the trip. This meant she was waking up at 2 AM [5 am Pacific time] bright eyed, bushy tailed and was ready to get on with her day. It was painful. We just took her back to our bed and took turns, one would sleep for half an hour while the other played with her and we collectively hoped she would fall back to sleep. She would fall back to sleep, which made me worry that we had opened the door to co-sleeping and I feared she would want to resume when we returned to the main land. Fortunately, she re-adjusted back to California time quite quickly and also went back to sleeping all night again. However, she went from waking at 6 AM to waking at 5 AM. It's not so much of a problem during the work week, as I find I can get some chores done, but it's brutal on the weekends. We tried putting her to bed a little later, but it doesn't matter, she still wakes up before sunrise. 

Eating: My parents have become friendly with their neighbours, a couple in their early 30s, who have a baby only a few weeks younger than Kate. My mother often shares updates on their daughter, and I'm sure anyone else could pass on the same information and I wouldn't have any reaction. Yet, because the words are coming from my mother's mouth, my immediate response is to intrepret it as a form of criticism and implication that either I or Kate are inadequate. Fortunately, I've been able to brush most of it off. "Jess, puts her baby down with a blanket" The AAP recommends no blankets until 2 years, but I guess if Jess does it; then it must be okay... "Charlotte is 6 months and already has 4 teeth!" Yeah, I'm not at all worried that Kate doesn't have any teeth yet... "Your Dad held Charlottle on his lap for almost 45 minutes last night" Well, Kate won't last sitting on your lap for 4 to 5 seconds, let alone 4 to 5 minues... "Jess reports that Charlottle [ten months old] can say 15 words...but we haven't heard any..." Yeah, I'm just going to go ahead and call bullshit on that one... "Jess says Charlottle eats everything they eat... they just cut it up in small pieces for her."

Oh, that last one got to me. My pediatrician had suggested we try that at her 9 month visit. I hadn't really pursued it mostly because we were in such an efficient routine. Come home from work around 5:30, feed Kate her puree at 6, start to change her into her PJs by 6:30, nurse and have her asleep by 7. During this time, Husband would prepare our dinner, we could eat, clean up, pack lunch and bottles and be done by 8 PM. I had planned to do a little more food sharing while we were in Hawaii, but we ate eggs almost each morning and we grilled a lot of fish. Two things to avoid before the first year. When we returned, I made some turkey burgers (laced with kale and sweet potato) for our dinner, and I cooked a bit for her and served it without blending it in the Baby Bullet. Husband observed that the pieces were still too much for her. He would dip a bit in the baby crack applesause, and she would manage to suck off the applesause and spit out the lumps of turkey meat. She's still not ready to be a part of the "It's great! Baby eats what you eat!" crowd. I felt intense mom guilt for giving into the pressure to keep up with Jones. Even though it was also a recommendation from her doctor, I still need to remember that I'm the one who knows her best. 

Then we seemed to regress even further. While Husband was away, I started her dinner with some peas and carrots (from the frozen bag of vegtables). She threw all of them on the floor, I don't think anything made it into her mouth. "Fuck Baby Led Weaning!" I wanted to cry as I was litterly holding back tears while sweeping up the floor. I am now convinved that the key element of BLW is to have a dog who can clean this shit up. Tyler will sometimes play with a fallen Cheerio, which is not very helpful. My biggest worry as we transition into more solid foods is how much to feed? Even while exclusively breastfeeding, I never had the 'is she getting enough?' panic. My magic boobs knew just how much to give her. While we were in Hawaii, I decided that I couldn't be bothered trying to make her food while we were on vacation, so we purchased packaged baby food, and I noticed the portions were much bigger than what we had been giving her. Of note, she enjoyed the squeeze packets, but hated the Gerber meals. I can't decide if she just really appreciates her mother's cooking, or Gerber really is shit. I'm going to go with the latter. I don't know if I'm over feeding or underfeeding her with solids, but I feel that I can't rely on her to feed herself yet, and at least with spoon feeding her purees, at least I know how much is going in her mouth. 

We did make some progress. I had her try some grapes and blueberries. Blueberries are the new baby crack. She gobbles those up and my new trick is to dump the cut up blueberries on her remaining peas and carrots and she'll manage to shove it all in her mouth. My not so proud mothering moment: I was so tired of trying to deter her from eating dry cat food that I finally decided to let her try a piece of kibble. I figured she would find it to be disgusting and learn why we don't eat cat food. My plan backfired. She started chowing down on kitty food. Tyler looked pissed. I figure if I want her to stop eating cat food, I just need to put it on her tray. 

She has been doing well since she had to boycott the breast due to my antibiotic use. Earlier that week I took her to do a 5K Walk/Little bit of Running, and I needed to bring a bottle. I didn't want to use any of my frozen milk, as it's reserved for her Day Care. I had some single use formula samples that were about to expire, so I decided to give it a try. She sucked down the bottle without hesitation. Fortunately, we had some forumla on hand, so I've been alternating between using formula and frozen milk. The first morning of my antibiotic use, she seemed a bit fussy, but calmed down when I held her in my lap while she was drinking her bottle. Husband reckoned that she was content just to be leaning against the boob. So far, she hasn't started grabbing at my shirt. I've been pumping just to down regulate my supply. Pumping and dumping is just the most depressing thing ever. I now understand the saying 'crying over spiled milk', as I've shed tears watching my milk go down the drain. 

Likes: Pushing chairs. After I splured a bit with the slightly pricey baby walker (with wooden Zebras to compliment the jungle theme in her nursery -see picture in her Ten Month post) she decided she was ready for an upgrade and started pushing her high chair around the kitchen. Once she mastered manouvering the high chair, the next challenge was something without wheeles, and she moved on to pushing the two chairs at the breastfast table and the two bar stools that are in our kitchen. The bonus? I can work on meal prep and still keep track of her just by watching the tops of the chairs move around the kitchen's island. Our pediatrician had suggested moving all my plastic containers to a low drawer of cabinet that could be designated for her. Wow. This guy really knows his stuff. She has a basket of toys in the other room, but she loves it when I open the container drawer. That occupies a good 15-20 minutes during meal prep. She also loves hangers. I went through her closet to pull out clothes that were too small and I left a pile of hangers on the floor. She was so content playing with them, that I brought her with me when I cleaned out my closet and she loved playing with the hangers!

Dislikes: Anything that requires sitting still. Now really hates Baby Jail (the Pack and Play). We're only keeping it up for desparate times. While Husband was away over Memorial Day weekend, I stuck her in the PNP just so I could shower. She screamed so loud that I thought our neighbours would call Child Services. 

Milestones: Walking! She didn't take her first steps in Hawaii, but she did so over Memorial Day weekend. She would extend both arms forward to keep her balance, which makes her look like a little zombie, which is rather adorable. Now that she's walking, our next challenge is to keep her in shoes. She's been babbling a lot more, using more sounds and syllables, but not producing anything coherent or making any sense. She has uttered "Muma" and Dada" but I think it was more random sounds than addressing us as Muma or Dada. We're convinced her first proper word will be "Tyler" or "Kitty". She seems to br regressing with signing a little bit, using her go-to sign of 'milk' a lot less. She has done the sign for leaf, twice at random times,  and she did the sign for 'peas' while we were eating peas. I keep trying to work with her by doing the animal signs while we play with her stuffed animals and I sign while I read some books. Husband shared that maybe she thinks I'm just an idiot.

Clothes: Cleared all onesies and other items that are less than 9 months out of her dresser and closet. Started introducing the 12 month sized clothes. 

Diapering: In exciting diapering news, we are still using the small size diaper covers that are designated for 12-18 lbs as they still fit and the fit better under her clothes. 

Health Issues: She attempted to crawl from our bed onto Husband's nightstand and her hand fell down the side of the bed, causing her to face plant right onto the night stand. A nice shiner popped up immediately. I explained what happened when I dropped her off at Day Care and couldn't resist the 'yeah, but you should see the other guy...' line. Just as soon as I said that, another mom came in and explained that her daughter had a black eye...Whoops. 

Looking forward to: Her first birthday party. It's been fun putting the details together, and it reminds me how just one year ago I was putting the finishing touches on her nursery. I'm trying not to get too mushy over the fact that my baby is growing up so fast, but I'm reflecting on how amazing this year has been and how I can't wait for the years ahead.     

Close up of her black eye

Probably the best picture, but off centre 

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Even when it's easy; breastfeeding can still be hard

So, remember how I detailed my strategery for weaning Kate off breastfeeding and I acknowledged how things seldom go according to plan? Well, no sooner than I wrote those words and published that post, I came down with a cold. We all did. Who knows if it a virus Kate brought from Day Care, or germs acquired on the flight to Hawaii, as it just seems too opportune to get sick on vacation. Kate got it first, but fortunately she was recovered in two days. Husband's version of the cold was actually a case of man-flu and it sent him to the pharmacy in search for some remedies. Just after one dose of pseudophedrine, he was enjoying those decongestant benefits. I started to pop a tablet for myself, but spit it out just in time and I remembered that it could dry up my breast milk. A few days later, I was still miserable. My throat was raw from coughing and postnasal drip, so I relented and took a few Halls. Sure enough, I was pumping a little less. I thought this might work with my plan for weaning.

I was feeling better by the time we flew back to the main land, but I still had a cough. A horrible deep hacking cough. I sounded like a 3 pack a day smoker. It was so embarrassing. Husband was away at a hockey tournament for Memorial Day weekend, so I was left alone to care for Kate. On Sunday, I feel absolutely exhausted by the time I put Kate to bed. After going through my usual ritual of being grateful that I only have one baby and being in awe of Moms of multiples, I began to wonder if there was something else going on. I took my temperature. It was 101.1. After feeling a bit validated, I asked one of my colleagues to prescribe me a Z pack. This is only the third time I've used azithromycin in twenty years, so I hardly think I'm contributing to the problem of antibiotic resistance.

I started the antibiotics and was afebrile that night. However the cough didn't go away and almost seemed to be getting worse. On my penultimate night of the Zpack, my temperature was elevated again and I began to feel the pains of sinus congestion. As I had a full day of work ahead of me, I realised I needed to bite the bullet and take some pseudophedrine. "I'm sorry Kate." I said as I swallowed the tablet. Throughout the day I kept reminding myself that this was when I wanted to stop breastfeeding. This is part of my plan. Why do I feel sad? Is there an automatic guilt reflex that accompanies the end of breastfeeding?

I wasn't feeling any better by the end of the day on Thrusday, so I made an appointment to see a Primary Care provider on Friday. She sent me two email messages. One informing me of something I suspected and one telling me something I already knew. I had pneumonia and she would be prescribing Levaquin. I would need to pump and dump my breastmilk for the next week. As I drove home, it occurred to me that this would be the opportunity to wrap it all up and be done with breastfeeding. It also meant that when I fed Kate that night, it could be my last time nursing. I felt overwhelmed with sadness.

I began to research whether or not I could breastfeed while taking Levaquin. I shifted through the usual yada-yada-yada, insufficient information, blah, blah, blah. Although one source suggested that peak levels dropped after 4-6 hours, so you could nurse after that interval. Then I reviewed the side effects of Levaquin. Although I don't have any risk factors, the possibility of tendon rupture makes me nervous. Just as I was acknowledging that I didn't want to possibly expose Kate to any of this; my pediatrician sent a response to my inquiring text "I'd prefer you didn't". One source I read advised women, "talk to your doctor about whether you should take Levaquin or continue to breastfeed." I didn't need to have that conversation. I had a fever of 103.1 and I had just hacked up half a lung. I needed to take care of myself by taking the meds that would require a cessation in breastfeeding.

"You can nurse again after you stop the Levaquin" Husband assured me. It just doesn't make sense. If we're able to wean her away from the boob, it just doesn't seem right to re-introduce if it will be for a short time. Initially I thought I would never want to breastfeed. Then I figured I would just give it a go. Maybe we'd make it a few months. I couldn't believe it when she latched well, and I had a good supply. No issues with cracked nipples or mastitis. I never thought the hardest thing about breastfeeding would be stopping.