Friday, May 28, 2010

Struggling with prayer

In the past, I've gotten in a little trouble for my complete honesty on my blog. I'm a bit more open, I guess, than many people. That means that once or twice things have come back to me from friends pretty far magnified from things I said on the blog. That hurts, especially when it's usually not me they're going after, but other people mentioned on here. People feel like they have to step in and "protect" me from situations on my blog. The fact is, if I'm comfortable putting something on my blog, it's because I've already got the situation under control.

For awhile I was less open, but that just didn't work for me. This blog is nothing when it is not honest. Sharing my deeper thoughts is what this blog has always been about. Yes, I know anyone could wander in off the internet and read this. I don't mind that, because I have very little I care to hide. If Joe Smith in Tuscon reads my blog and discovers that I felt ashamed over how I handled labor -- why should I care? I'm finally to a point where I've realized that people who judge me when I share my struggles with them aren't really friends, and I don't care what they think. Most people who read my blog read it because they like me and care about me, and therefore they don't waste time judging me for the things I say.

That's my rationale, and I hope it works. In any event, I intend to continue being open on here, and today I'm even going to take it a bit further and talk about my spiritual life. This is something I don't often do, in part because I was once forbidden from talking about it at all. Yes, I know I'm not going to get the kind of advice on here that I would get from a priest, but I'm not looking for that, any more than I'm looking for medical advice when I tell you my back hurts. My purpose is to share my struggles so that others who struggle with similar things won't feel alone. I believe that it is completely right for us to bear each other's burdens and share our own victories and defeats.

The fact is that I have been struggling in my spiritual life for a long time. I began to have some interest in that sort of thing when I was about eleven or twelve. I occasionally prayed the rosary on my own, and my mother and I said parts of the Divine Office together. I enjoyed praying. More importantly, I made my faith my own. I think it's silly when people assume that "cradle Catholics" just accept their faith as a given and never question it or consider it rationally. My mother told me that we only have faith in God because our reason tells us that God exists and is trustworthy. I spent a lot of time thinking about it, up in my treehouse where I did all my thinking, and I proved the existence of God to myself. It's not something I could likely prove to others, but my simplest proof went like this: "The grass is so beautiful. It is like a gift. That means someone must have loved me to put it here for me -- it is far too beautiful to have just happened. The person who put it there is the same who made this tree and that beautiful lake I can see on the horizon. That person is God." And then building from that foundation up and up, to the Bible, to the Catholic Church, and so on. It made and still makes perfect sense to me, and every time I question it, it still stands up just fine.

Then came a time in my life that I guess I'm still not willing to talk about, not here. It concerns something very controversial, something I have such mixed feelings about that I'm not willing to come out and cause trouble by arguing with people whose opinions I still do respect. Suffice it to say that, for the sake of my spiritual growth, because I thought God wanted me to, I put myself into a very strict environment, which ended up being way too strict for me. I was required to pray, which made it no longer a joy but a chore. The more it became a chore, the less likely it was that my "prayer time" was actually spent praying. Yet I had to pretend I was praying, because I didn't want to get into trouble. I absolutely loathe hypocrisy on principle, yet it was becoming a habit.

When that time period ended, I was a very changed person. I tried to keep up the "prayer life" I had had before by being extremely strict with myself -- even stricter than others had been. Yet the more I tried to force things, the less my heart was in it.

Finally I gave up. I was going to keep praying -- because through all this I still had my belief in God, as well as my desire to keep up a relationship with Him -- but I would have no schedule, no set times to pray, no specific requirements. I was just going to do it.

Most likely, this is just what the doctor ordered; however, I am naturally an extremely undisciplined person, so the eventual result was that prayer time dropped slowly out of my life. If I remembered, I was praying a few short prayers a day and that was it. The rest of the time I used to pray -- even as a child -- had gone by the wayside. I felt very resistant to most forms of formal prayer, even resistant at times to going into a church. The more time separated me from the hard time in my life, the more hurt was surfacing. I had, in fact, gone through a lot at the hands of religious people -- people who I even now believe meant very well! It was hard not to associate all the hurt I felt with my faith ... to blame God for how terrible I was feeling. Yet I knew, deep down, it wasn't His fault. So I tried to pray -- and failed -- and felt terrible that God had led me forth from so much sadness into a wonderful and happy life, and I seemed to be incapable of returning anything to Him, not even a word.

Yet my exterior life kept getting better and better. As I stopped being so strict with myself, I also stopped judging others. I let people get close to me, and I loved them. When I loved them, it was all so easy ... none of this "forcing myself to be charitable" nonsense -- I would have done anything for the people I loved, just because I loved them! And I found ways to manage all the responsibilities in my life, while still leaving time for myself. Letting myself relax and enjoy myself was wonderful -- and it also made it easier for me to "live for others" all the rest of the time.

Still, I knew I needed God. When a hard time came along, I knew I would be helped by turning to Him. Yet when things got hard, I seemed even less likely to pray than when I didn't need it! It was like the time that I knew ginger tea would help my morning sickness, but the sicker I was, the less appetizing it smelled. The more I needed God, the further I let myself get from Him. During the year between my graduation from college and marrying John, I was struggling almost constantly, and yet by this time I was praying barely at all. I felt like a huge hypocrite, teaching in a Catholic school and yet not doing a single one of the things I advised the kids to do. A few things got me through: Mass, frequent confession, and stopping by the church to make visits when I was out. In the state of mind I was in, I couldn't just visit the school chapel -- someone might see me, and didn't that make me a hypocrite, just praying so people would see me? (Yes, I know this is irrational!) But if I happened to be passing the church, I would slip inside and just sit in silence. No rosary, no Bible reading, just silence. I couldn't even say much to God, because I didn't feel like just spilling out all my troubles -- I didn't even want to talk about my troubles! But I could sit and soak up the peace, and so I did. When a created being comes to deal with his creator, you would think everything would always go according to the creator's terms, but God lets us meet with Him on our terms. He doesn't send us a bill; He will take whatever we can spare, and if that is nothing, He will accept nothing and still give all we need.

When I married John, he really put me to shame. When I had met him, I had judged him as "not being very spiritual," compared the tons and tons of devotions I was doing. But he was now the one who was always asking me if I wanted to drop by the church with him, if I wanted to go to confession, if I wanted to do the stations of the cross. Whether I came or not (and he never pressured me), he would go himself. Every time he would offer, I would think to myself, "I really should go. He puts me to shame, doing all these things while I'm doing nothing. He's giving me a perfect opportunity, it would be wrong not to take it." And the instant I would start thinking that way, I would start to feel obligated. Which, of course, would make me not want to go. (See how complicated I make things?) Eventually I began to come along, just for company, not to participate in this or that devotion, but just to sit and be at peace. To drink up the peace that I was being offered, even for just the five minutes I could keep myself quiet before all my other thoughts got me distracted. I wouldn't complete a single decade of the rosary, but it didn't matter because I was putting in the time. I was showing up. It "counted."

When Lent came around I decided I really should take up a morning and night prayer again, and start reading the Bible more. I managed the morning prayer. In the car, on my hour-long commute, I would ask God to help me be a better teacher. The words were awkward because I had almost forgotten how to talk to God, and I was always second-guessing myself for fear I was just pretending to talk to Him -- saying what I thought one was supposed to say, instead of what I really meant. It is so hard to talk to a friend if you've always been told exactly how to interact with them, and what the right and wrong ways are! But eventually I just started rattling off to Him about what was on my mind. I had been told not to do this, but I decided that, if I couldn't focus because of my distractions, I should just make those distractions the subject of my prayer. Sometimes I even did the same on the way home -- even though I had no specific resolution to do it then.

Now that Mark is here, I feel like I've hit a small breakthrough. When I look down at him sleeping peacefully, I want to pray, in the same way that I want to be kind to others instead of forcing myself to. I just feel such an immense gratitude ... that and so much to ask for. I pray for him to be kept safe, for him to be happy, for him to take a good nap today, for him to grow strong and healthy. I want so much for this little boy, but I know that my wants are what God expects me to want ... He has made me with a natural love for my son that makes it easy for me to "do my duty" by him.

Sometimes I get scared that I "love my family more than God" or that I would be bitter at God if His will involved something I don't want. But I don't think this is so. I think I just love my baby intensely because it is right for me to, and that I love God through my husband and son, not one instead of the other. I was taught to avoid "attachments," only to find that my attachments are the very thing that are making me close to God again. My strict ways of denying everything I wanted were turning God into the enemy. Instead, when I see how very many of my natural desires are exactly what God wills for me, I love Him and thank Him for giving me such a wonderful way to serve Him.

I used to think a vocation would be something I didn't want, something that I would do out of pure generosity because I would hate doing it. Instead my real vocation is something that I love, something I enjoy almost every moment, where even the trials and crosses seem fitted to what I can do. Isn't it silly that I had to be told that it is possible for God's will to be the exact thing I wanted? John told me this once, long before we were married, and I realized it is true. Instead of seeking out what I didn't want, I prayed to God to bless the path I took and to let me know if it was the wrong path. And God opened the doors that it took for me to marry the love of my life and have the child of my dreams.

I don't think I need to stress out much about prayer. When I change a diaper or wash a dish, I am glorifying God because I am being what He created me to be. (See this poem.) Prayer time is just so that I can become more aware of this, and become renewed to continue doing it. It isn't a barren requirement, just there to make me feel guilty. It isn't something I have to put down the baby or stop washing the dishes for. It's a running conversation of gratitude to the one who has given me so much.

I only hope that when hard times come next, I won't be running from God like before. I know I haven't really fixed all my issues ... that it's a process and always will be a process. So long as that process is headed in the right direction, I know I'll be okay.

Nursing basics

This post is intended for General Audiences -- even guys! I know you won't be nursing your babies, but a knowledgeable, supportive husband is the #1 thing that will help a mom succeed at nursing her kids. I think a lot of men are embarrassed hearing about nursing, but really, there shouldn't be anything embarrassing about it. As for my women readers, I know few if any of you are currently expecting, but many of you will end up having kids, and this will be good to know.

Also, I'm kind of hoping that this can be of help to the nervous first-time mom who googles "nursing basics" and finds herself faced with half a hundred baby websites which all seem to have the same two paragraphs of advice. This is what happened to me, so I assumed I knew everything there was to know about nursing -- which was NOT TRUE. However, on getting home from the hospital, I discovered that now that I knew what to look for, I could find out way more than the lactation consultants had told me.

I'm writing this because I strongly believe nursing is important, and that every mother should try it. However, I think what we need isn't a lot more pressure to do it. After all, every doctor, midwife, nurse, parenting magazine, and even formula commercial tells us it's best for baby. We all know that, and yet by six months, most moms have given up on it. They are trying and giving up. Why? Not because they're not convinced it would be good to do it -- because they have tried and failed.

I see tons of moms, in person and online, saying, "Oh, I tried, it didn't work." "I didn't have enough milk." Yet I have also read that 95% of moms can nurse successfully! Most problems can be resolved -- they just aren't. When I read people's stories, I can often pinpoint the exact place where they went wrong. Often, by the time they realize what they should have done differently, it's too late. So I'm writing a list of important things to know BEFORE you have a baby and start trying to nurse. Hopefully, this way you'll be ready by the time you (or your wife) have a baby and need answers right away -- not on the next business day.

1. You have to try to nurse the moment the baby is born, if you can. This will help so much -- though c-section mothers and others who can't nurse right away usually can still succeed. In my case, the hospital urged me to try to nurse at birth, and told me it was their policy to hand the baby to the mom right away. However, there was meconium in the water when they broke it, which meant they were going to have to suction his lungs in case he had inhaled some. Well, he came out screaming, so there really wasn't any danger, but they suctioned his lungs anyway. This makes nursing a little harder, apparently -- it hurts their throat so they don't want to nurse. I didn't know that, and besides, I wanted to follow medical advice. If the doctor recommends suctioning the baby's lungs, don't worry too much -- it may be necessary to suction them, so don't feel bad about that.

However, after they'd done that, they seemed to find it necessary to bathe and swaddle the baby too. This is a big no-no. You should get the baby skin-to-skin with you as soon as possible. An unmedicated baby placed skin-to-skin with his mother at the moment of birth is often able to find his way and latch himself on unassisted. I wish we could have had that. I didn't even know to unwrap the swaddle when they finally gave him to me after 20 minutes, so my efforts at nursing the baby in that first hour were a failure, and later efforts were quite a struggle.

Husbands, consider this your job: if you see someone wandering off with the baby the instant he's born, chase them down and get that baby back to mom! If he's healthy and there are no complications, there is no procedure that must be done and can't be done either while mom is holding the baby, or later.

2. A newborn is usually awake and alert for the first 1-2 hours after birth, but after that, he falls asleep for around 12 hours. So, that alert window is a great time to start nursing. If you miss it, don't worry. The baby is born well-nourished and won't starve. However, as soon as he wakes up, or about 12 hours after he is born, you should start trying to nurse right away. If you're lucky, there will be a lactation consultant in the hospital to help you. If you're even luckier, they won't be pushy and obnoxious like mine were. Getting the baby to latch on properly is the most challenging part of nursing, and it's one that meets you right away. Read up on what a good latch looks like, and how to correct a bad latch. A bad latch means pain for you and not enough milk for baby. This is a good source.

3. During the first 2-4 days after the birth, you don't actually have real milk. You have colostrum, which is a nutrient- and antibody-rich fluid and is all your baby needs during those first few days. There isn't a lot of it -- he'll be taking a few teaspoons at a feed, and that's all. However, that's okay. The baby may lose a small amount of weight during the hospital stay, and that's okay too. Mark lost about seven ounces, but had gained it back by his pediatrician appointment five days later. Be very reluctant to give any supplement at this time. Some doctors and nurses are more used to formula-fed babies, so they may be concerned at this small weight loss. Unless the baby is losing a lot of weight or is jaundiced, try to avoid supplements. If you do need to supplement, ask that it not be given in a bottle, but with an eyedropper or a supplemental nursing system. If a newborn is given a bottle even once, he may learn to prefer it and won't nurse as well. The same goes for pacifiers. Instruct the hospital nursery not to give any form of bottle or pacifier, but to bring the baby to you if he is hungry.

4. About 2-4 days after the birth, the real milk comes in. The body doesn't know that you didn't have triplets or something, so it provides a lot, just in case. At this time it is crucial that you let the baby nurse all he wants. If, after a few days, there isn't much nursing going on, milk supply decreases drastically. From this point on, milk supply goes by demand. If the baby's nursing a lot, supply increases; if he's not, supply decreases. So if the baby seems extra hungry, and you give him a bottle, your supply will never catch up to your baby's needs. Instead, try to nurse very frequently, use a pump if recommended, and supplement only if absolutely necessary, and then preferably with a supplemental nursing system.

5. Nurse very frequently, especially for the first few weeks. Like I said, supply follows demand. If you think the baby might be hungry, nurse him. If he's fussy at all, nurse him. If it's been three hours since you last fed him, nurse him. Yes, even if he's asleep. A baby shouldn't be sleeping through the night at that age anyway -- waking him to eat now isn't going to stop him from sleeping well when he's older. (I only had to wake the baby to eat once, ever.) Ask your doctor or nurse when it will be okay to let him sleep longer. But your rule of thumb in the first two or three weeks should be at least every three hours. Don't be hampered by any kind of schedule in this beginning period either. These can be established later. First, you have to establish a milk supply that keeps up with your baby's needs.

This is where I think a lot of moms go wrong: they expect nursing to work like formula, where you can feed every 3-4 hours and be sure of success. This just isn't so. Some moms and babies are going to need hourly nursing at first to keep up supply and keep baby's tummy full. During Mark's waking hours, we nurse about every hour. He takes three-hour naps which he nurses before and after. At night, he's down to waking once or twice a night, but in his first weeks he was waking every 2-3 hours. This is normal, and it's when you start following all the advice you got to "sleep when the baby sleeps." Co-sleeping is great for mom to get rest while baby gets frequent nursing. It didn't work at all for me -- I couldn't sleep -- but it might for you. Read up on safe co-sleeping, if you want to try it.

6. Don't nurse less because you are afraid of what people will think, or because you want to go out in public and not have to nurse then, or because your relatives judge you. That happens a lot, but you kind of have to conquer your self-consciousness and fear of judgment and put your baby's needs first. If you're not ready to nurse in public, make plans for what you'll do if the baby is hungry. My first trips out of the house with baby were to church and choir practice. I discovered I could nurse in the stairwell of the choir loft at church, and go upstairs (it was a private home) at choir practice. Now, though, I'm pretty savvy with a cover and can manage anywhere -- though I'd still be uncomfortable if people were staring at me. Your personal comfort level may vary. But know that you are protected by law if you nurse in a public place. Whatever you do, don't just let a 2-week-old infant cry from hunger just because you're in public. Find a solution -- even if that solution is to go straight home.

7. Get plenty of rest, food, and water. Don't skimp on the fat -- babies need fat. Husbands: nursing a baby, in the early weeks, is a fulltime job. Do everything else, if you can. That includes bringing her everything that's out of reach while she parks on the couch for an hour at a time. It is no fun nursing a baby who is falling asleep while you're dying of thirst and there is a glass of water just--out--of--reach.

8. After 3-4 weeks, you can introduce pacifiers and bottles of expressed milk, if you want. Don't overuse these, though. You spent all this work teaching the baby to nurse, and you don't want him to forget how it's done.

9. Watch the numbers of wet and dirty diapers a day, especially for the first week or so. The nurses will probably tell you how many to look for. Since the baby can't tell you how many ounces he's getting, this is how you will be able to tell he's getting enough.

10. Nursing sometimes hurts at first. Many advice articles say that if it hurts, you're doing something wrong. This isn't necessarily the case. Be prepared with lanolin ointment and the knowledge that pain doesn't usually last past two weeks.

Those are all the tips I can think of for now. For anyone who's wondering, nursing Mark is going just fine. Though we had some rockiness at the start, trying to get him to latch on, he's certainly getting plenty to eat. One of my nicknames for him is Milkboy, which I call him after a meal when he gives me that pie-eyed, milk-drunk look and drools milk down his chin. (Yes, I find even this absolutely adorable.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My parenting opinions

So, just to get things straight as to where I stand on all the parenting "issues":

Breastfeeding: STRONGLY for

Cloth diapering: reluctantly for

Circumcision: against

Vaccination: slightly against -- there are some I'm considering getting

Spanking: depends on the child and the circumstances -- certainly never out of anger or with anything but a bare hand

Co-sleeping: theoretically for, but I'm not doing it myself (both baby and I prefer our own beds)

Baby-wearing: so much fun!

Crying it out: against ... at least not for infants

Solid food: not till 6 months, planning to start with egg yolk

Daycare: you know I'm against it

Homeschooling: again, as you know, FOR

Would love to discuss any of these choices in the comments! Though, to warn you, I am extremely opinionated and unlikely to change my mind. ;)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sourdough Garlic Knots

Apparently garlic knots must be a Philly thing, because a lot of people I've talked to don't seem to be familiar with them. What they are is a bit of bread in a knot shape, covered in garlic and salt. I've made them before, using a regular pizza dough recipe, and they were delicious. I tried them this time with a sourdough recipe, both to save money and for the health benefits. I used these two recipes, which were quite similar: this one and this one.

First, the starter. I made my starter with plain flour and water in equal amounts. I fed it each day between 1/2 and 1/4 cup of each. I used filtered water, because I am not sure if our water has chlorine. That can kill your starter, and I didn't want to risk it. After a week, it looked like this:

This is soon after a feed. The top was bubbly and it smelled sour. (Sour enough that John asked, "What is that? Can I throw it away?" In the background you can see the cloth I use to cover the jar -- it's actually a flat-fold diaper. Since I use prefolds, those flat fold diapers have been doing all kinds of useful work for me -- they're a lot like cheesecloth, which is what was recommended.

I mixed together 1 1/2 cup starter, 1 1/2 cup flour, and 2 tablespoons olive oil, as recommended. The recipe said I might need to add water to get a "soft dough." But my dough looked like this:

It was not forming a ball, and it was not even reasonable to expect me to knead it. I kept adding more flour in little sprinkles as I stirred it with a wooden spoon, but if I'd had half a brain I probably would have just dumped in another half cup at least. It definitely needed it. Later I realized that the writer of the recipe dumps out the separated liquid at the top of her starter, though she says you don't have to do that. (Next time I will -- it made for a very sour taste, more than I wanted.) Obviously I had more liquid than she did, so I should have added more flour.

Here my two recipes conflicted. One wanted me to form the dough first and then let it rise, and the other said to rise first, and then form. Seeing as I wanted a rather complicated shape which would need some handling, rather than a flat crust, I should have formed first and then done the rise ... but of course I didn't. Mistake #2. I let it rise for about five hours before forming the knots. The last batch got a little more of a rise, because I left them for awhile after shaping and before baking, and they were better than the rest. Next time I am certainly shaping them first!

Once the dough had risen, I got ready to shape the knots. The dough had not come close to doubling in size. I suspect my starter wasn't really ready. Maybe I should have let it rise longer, too. After all, sourdough needs to rise much longer than yeast dough.

As I tried to shape the knots, I discovered that the dough was much too wet to shape into anything. I had read that sourdough turns out better when it's wetter, but this was just ridiculous. My second batch didn't get shaped at all -- I just did blobs like drop cookies. My third batch, I added a lot more flour, and these were the ones that turned out the best.

This is the shape you're going for:

Just stretch out a rope of dough and tie it (as best you can) into a knot. The first time I made these, I was rolling out a little "dough snake," but really, dough is stretchable, so you can just take a little blob and stretch it out. Remember that the finished product will be bigger than what you're shaping -- so think small.

The first batch got baked for 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Then the fire alarm went off and John came over to wave a towel at it. The second time he had to do it, he asked me to please stop whatever I was doing. So the next batch was baked at 350, but for much too long, and they were pretty well ruined. They were like little rocks. The third batch got 350 degrees for 15 minutes and were the best off. So that is the time and temperature I recommend.

The insides of the first batch, I thought at first weren't done, because they were so dense. I thought that was doughiness -- but it was really just failure-to-rise.

They tasted good though!

Last step: put knots in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and garlic salt (or chopped garlic and coarse salt). Toss them around to coat.

Then I ate them all! Well, several of them anyway.

Mine were kind of a failure, due to several different mistakes. But the last batch turned out a little better, thanks to the longer rise, so I feel like the recipe could succeed, if only I'd done it right. John took one bite and handed the rest back. It was too sour for him, I think. But I did enjoy them ... in fact I ate little else for dinner.

Here are the directions I would recommend following.

Start the recipe in the morning, to have with dinner.

1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup flour, and then keep adding flour until you get a dough you can knead

Knead for five minutes, until the dough is no longer sticky. Form into a knot shape -- you will need 2-3 cookie sheets to place them on. My trick, since I only have 2 cookie sheets, is to form one batch on each cookie sheet, and then a third on my Silpat (silicone mat). When the first batch is done and cooled, I take the knots off that sheet and move the Silpat onto it to bake the last batch.

Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 5-7 hours, until the knots look much bigger and puffier. I don't know if you can expect them to double completely.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until light brown.

Cool enough to handle, then roll in olive oil and garlic salt (or crushed garlic and coarse salt). They're best while they're still warm.


N.B. Here is my second try at the garlic knots -- much improved!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mark's progress

I just thought I'd take a moment to make a list of all the things the baby can do. Some he could do since he was born, but he keeps adding and improving to the list. Tomorrow he'll probably have more! But, as of six weeks old, he can:

*Hold his head up when on his tummy. He could hold it up a little in the hospital, but now he can hold his whole head and shoulders high up for as long as he wants.

*Push himself along the ground with his feet, if you put your hands behind his feet to push off on. (Then if you stop he gets all fussy because he can't get where he's going! This kid very much wants to be crawling already.)

*Hold his head up when you hold him in a sitting position. He likes to look all around.

*Smile. It's still pretty fleeting, and there's no way to make him do it (he doesn't seem to be ticklish yet, and if you make faces he just raises one eyebrow and looks puzzled), but those are real smiles! He smiled yesterday, a lot, when I read him Chesterton's "Lepanto." I'm raising another Chestertonian!

*Move his eyebrows independently. He could do this since birth. I can't do it for all the trying in the world. Go figure.

*He's rolled over a couple times, but I haven't gotten him to keep at it. Perhaps it was an accident before.

*Be still (and cute and smiley) for his diaper change. A good thing too, because mama isn't so good with the pins. If he were moving around, he'd get poked for sure -- oh no!

*Sleep in 4-5 hour blocks at night, and wake up only 1-2 times. This is nothing less than miraculous to me, who have had four younger brothers and sisters who wouldn't do this till much older. I feel it's important to mention that I have not practiced any formal "sleep training" with him and that this level of sleep was obtained without any crying. I may write a post on my methods, but I really think it's more the kind of baby he is rather than anything I've done. He's a good sleeper and runs an extremely predictable timetable. Honestly, you could set your watch by this kid. Yet another way he does NOT take after me.

*Recognize mom and dad. He knew John's voice from the day after he was born, and would turn his head trying to find him. Now he stares at John with big eyes whenever he's in the room.

*Recently, make noises more like "ah, ah" then his old sounds, which were mostly grunting and "mmm, mmm." I read someone saying their newborn's only sound was a cry. That's not the case for ours at all -- whenever he's awake and happy, he's making little noises. Sometimes I talk to him and he shouts "Gah!"

At this point I realize that I am quite the doting parent, listing the noises that he makes as an accomplishment. Ah well, what can I say. This kid can't pass gas without making somebody proud of him.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The direction of this blog

I've been pondering lately the direction this blog should be going. Historically, it has no one topic, but has tended toward reflections on life. A bit is just updates, a bit is opinion, and a bit is about cooking or other housewifely things, but the largest label is "Thoughts." I think that is what most of my oldest readers expect from me -- particularly the ones who followed me over from Enchiridion and Sniffles Predominating.

However, the reason I branched out from Enchiridion, while keeping the old blog going (something I haven't been doing well lately, but hope to get back to) was to have a blog without a set topic, so that I could talk about whatever I wanted to. So that I wouldn't always be writing blog posts in my head that never saw the light of day because I had nowhere to put them.

The trouble is, now the blog is threatened by being taken over almost completely by baby stuff, at least for awhile. I'm only really reading baby blogs most of the time, and I find myself wanting to address topics like breastfeeding and cloth diapering. Yet I am quite aware that some of my oldest readers, especially guys who showed up for the poetry, are not the least bit interested in diapers. I don't want them to be saying, "Darn, such a nice blog and now it's taken over by stuff that doesn't interest me." However, a lot of new readers are more interested in baby stuff, and so are all the family members who read this. I've already gotten one comment asking about diapers.

I'm torn. How much baby stuff is too much? And, while I'm at it, how personal is too personal? I debated putting up my birth story for a long time, because it is rather personal and detailed ... hence the warning. If I continue to write on that level, will I have a lot of people skipping over a lot of posts?

One thing I'm definitely going to do is be careful about my labels, making sure to label each post so that you can click on the labels that interest you and only get what you're interested in. If Blogger supported it, I'd probably separate my whole blog into tabs like I've seen people do. But even with plain labels, it should be fairly simple to sort things out. Unfortunately you can't filter out one kind of label (as I've often wanted to do on those baby blogs: there's no label for "everything except reviews, giveaways, and memes"), but I don't have a ton of labels, so it's not completely impractical for someone to read all my labels in turn. Still, that is a lot to ask.

What is your opinion? Please take a moment to comment and tell me what kinds of posts you enjoy most, and what you'd like to see less of. I only partially blog for myself, you know -- I'd just get a journal otherwise! I think you'd better know that I have one post already written about diapers, one half written about baby sleep, and several in my head about breastfeeding, nursing in public, and my parenting choices. If you tell me you want baby stuff, you're going to get it!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hello again, internets

I know it probably hasn't been a "long time" since I've posted, insofar as I don't always blog more often than this anyway. But I've been without internet for over a week, so it feels like it's been forever. Especially because a lot's been going on. I've been "mental blogging" a ton, but you can't read those!

The first update is that we've moved. I didn't want to tell the whole wide internet before, but for the three weeks before we moved, John was living with a friend in Washington, DC while starting his new job, while baby and I remained in Philadelphia. It was pretty rough. We didn't leave the house much at all, because John had the car. Luckily he came up on weekends. We spent those packing. Each time he went back down, he took more of our stuff to put into storage down here. The apartment just got emptier and emptier each week, until I had to send down almost all our food so we could unplug the fridge! It was like a ghost town ... well, apartment.

Then our lease finally started a week and a half ago, so we were able to make the epic trip. It was both baby's and kitty's longest trip of their lives. Baby took it a lot better than kitty did. She meowed the whole first hour, while he slept all the way till the Beltway! Then, of course, he woke up and started to fuss just as we got stuck in traffic. Less than 20 minutes from our destination, we stopped and took care of him. I suppose we could have made it the whole way, but I cannot bear to hear my baby cry, especially when I have the power to make it all better. Indeed I did-- because once he was fed and changed, he just cooed to himself in his carseat the rest of the way! What a good boy.

Now I am a real stay-at-home mom, taking care of housework, making dinner, and (sometimes) packing lunches for my working husband. It is so nice to have him home every evening. He plays with the baby, I put dinner on, and we get to eat together every night. AND, with this new job, he is off every single weekend ever! It's such a big deal to me. Last weekend, we went to the park where we'd gotten engaged on Saturday, and to Christendom and a friend's house on Sunday. (Notice I'm not telling you here, where all the internet can see, the name of the town I live in. But it's between DC and Christendom, and I've lived here before.)

Probably we were a bit too ambitious. I don't want to stay at home all the time just because we have a baby. But it was a long day for him, and though he was very good, he was grouchy the next day. Next time we'll be sure to leave around dinnertime I guess!

Our new place, by the way, is very nice. It is way more spacious than the old place. (Many prison cells are also more spacious than the old place.) But this is quite large, especially for what we're paying and where it is. It has a large dining area (yay! we get to eat dinner at a table instead of on our laps!) and living room. The bedroom is also big enough to have not only the bassinet, but also the rocking chair and a changing area. For once we have a place for all our stuff -- particularly our books. We got another bookshelf at Wal-Mart and finally I have a place for my own books (besides the back of the closet or scattered all over the house).

The real advantage to living here is that we're closer to friends. We've already had more of a social life than we had in months of living in Philadelphia, and that's with a baby keeping us at home! Once we've got a couch and table, we're going to invite all our local friends over for an apartment warming. We actually have room to entertain them!

Baby is bigger and cuter than ever before. He is six weeks old today. His latest accomplishments include smiling (very brief, but they're real!), cutting down his night wakings to once (usually -- last night he woke up twice), and scootching along the floor if you push on his feet. He wants to crawl so bad ... he gets really frustrated sometimes when he finds he's not getting anywhere. He definitely knows both John and me. Last night he was just looking and looking at daddy, and every time John moved out of his sight he kept trying to twist around to see him. It was so cute for me to watch.

So, check him out. Here's him in his fancy cloth diaper. I only have four of these, but they are so much easier and more absorbent than prefolds. Wish I could give you a link or something, but I lost the business card that came with them. At any rate, they are made of bamboo fiber and organic cotton and probably cost a bundle ... but they were a gift from my grandma. I am quite appreciative for their convenience! Besides that he is so cute in them.

And here's him sucking on his hand and gazing at ... something. I believe the window. He'll just stare and stare at the same thing for ages sometimes, but it's hard to tell what he's looking at.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How my life has changed

I have been the mother of a newborn for 4 weeks, and already it's hard to remember what it was like before. It's almost hard to believe that there was a before -- that my little boy wasn't always here. It reminds me a lot of getting married: beforehand a lot of wondering, "What will it be like?" Then the next thing I know, I'm thinking, "Wasn't it always this way?" So it's hard to compare the before and after. Still, I'm going to try.

Before I had the baby, I had a really, really hard time getting up at 6:30. I generally hit snooze for at least 15 minutes before hoisting myself out of bed. Now, I count myself lucky when I wake up at six ... because it means I wasn't already awake. Once I find myself awake at six, I don't usually bother trying to get the baby to sleep any longer. He's harder to push snooze on than an alarm clock, and besides, six a.m. is daytime! I don't think I've slept later than six since he was born ... though I will admit to midmorning naps.

Before I had the baby, I didn't particularly want to get out of the house, and I certainly didn't want to do housework. Now, both of those things sound like special treats -- probably because it is such a challenge to find time to do them. I'm overdosed on sitting on the couch, watching movies while I cuddle the baby, and underdosed on dishes. (I will admit, though, that I still prefer blogging to dishes ... hence this post.)

Before I had the baby, I don't think I had this much energy. I'm tired, sure, but I feel much more ready to jump up at a moment's notice and go do something. Turns out sleep deprivation wears me out much less than pregnancy did.

Before I had the baby, I was as big as a house. Now I've lost all but the last 10 pounds (as of a week ago) and I fit into my old jeans. I didn't think this would be so important to me ... but for some reason it is. Partly I'm just sick to death of those old yoga pants -- but part of me is thrilled to be "skinny" again. I like the way I feel, and I like not dealing with the inconvenience of being huge.

Before I had the baby, I thought it would be more complicated. Not more difficult -- because it is difficult. But it is not complicated to take care of a baby. Really, he just needs to be fed. Occasionally he needs to be changed. Sometimes he can't sleep and needs to be rocked. And that's about it! At this age, it really isn't rocket science to care for a baby ... it just takes patience.

Before I had the baby, procrastinating meant surfing the internet for 2 hours on a Saturday instead of getting chores done. Now, procrastinating means not going to the bathroom the instant I have a chance, because that chance will be gone soon and I might not get another one for hours.

Before I had the baby, I took food, water, and sleep way too much for granted. I could have any of these whenever I wanted. In fact I took a lot of things for granted. It was nothing to me to get in the car and go somewhere -- in fact I hated doing it most of the time -- and now it's an exciting trip when I manage to pack myself and the baby up.

There are a lot of downsides to being a mother, I have to admit. Last night John texted me to tell me he couldn't call because he was going out to Theology on Tap with two friends. I felt so jealous I cried. You know, if I hadn't had the baby, I might not have wanted to go? But since I couldn't go, and hadn't been anywhere for fun in so long, I wanted to badly. (By the way, lest you should feel indignant, John did call after all. Lucky for him ... he would have come home to quite a minefield if he hadn't, I'm afraid.)

There are a lot of little things that it's hard to go without. Being able to go to bed, reliably, at the same hour every night, and not get up once until morning. (Couldn't do it when I was pregnant, either -- I always had to go to the bathroom.) Getting to go out alone with my husband at our whim -- just "hey, let's go see a movie" and we could be off! The worst of it is that we weren't able to take advantage of this before, because of our opposite schedules. Almost all of our married life we have been terribly busy and stressed out, and now things are better but we can't take advantage of it!

Part of me really wishes we hadn't had this baby so soon -- that we could have waited awhile to enjoy each other's company and get our feet under us a little more. But, for one thing, I don't believe in waiting -- I believe marriage is for children, not just for me to enjoy -- and for another, well, look at this:

How could I regret anything? I can't honestly wish for a single day more without him ... because I already love him so much, a day without him would be terrible. Sure, I long for some time alone, without all this responsibility, but you know the second I walk out the door without him the first time, I'll miss him awfully. He's a wonderful little guy and I wouldn't trade him for anything. Not for all the fun times and movie nights in the world. Not even for an extra bathroom break.

Two more videos

In this next video, he fake sneezes. This is absolutely the most adorable thing he does (in my opinion). He sneezes twice, then he does this little shout, which is him trying to sneeze, and then he manages to sneeze again. The little shout is the cute part.

He is four weeks old today!

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