Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sourdough Crackers

In my ongoing quest to keep my sourdough starter alive, I made sourdough crackers today using this recipe. Instead of lard I used butter. My rule of thumb is that you can never have too much butter. Blending the butter into the sourdough starter was difficult, though -- I wondered if I was expected to use a mixer, or have the butter softer than room temperature. In the end I did a very haphazard job, and it turned out fine.

You're supposed to leave the dough to rise for 7 hours. Due to several delays (mostly baby-related) I didn't finish till one, and I wanted to cook them before John got home, so they only got 4 1/2 hours of rise time. To make up for it, I let them rise in the warmest place I could find -- outside! It's been in the nineties. I just put the bowl in a plastic bag. When I brought it in at 5:30, it was warm, probably twice as big, and very foamy in consistency -- full of great big air pockets. Excellent rise! My sourdough is finally alive.

With my Silpat and rolling pin (or, as my Grandma J calls it, "spousal realignment device," haha) it was way easier than I thought it would be to roll them out. Took only a minute or two with each batch. (The recipe made three batches.)

Instead of plain salt, I sprinkled them with adobo. Yum!

They were delicious and very crunchy! Just like Wheat Thins, only better. (Though John's response was, "I could have bought you crackers." He misses the point, I think.)

Herb garden

I have been wanting to grow my own food for awhile. Unfortunately, I haven't been in a position to do it, because we've always been renting. This summer, however, I'm getting a tiny bit of a start by growing herbs on our porch. It gets direct sunlight for the whole morning, and seems a great spot to grow things.

All I've got so far is basil:

I planted it just a couple weeks ago, and look how nice it looks! I discovered recently that I will have to pinch off the buds when they appear -- good to know. Other than that, I've just been watering.

I have a little room where I can plant something else. Any ideas? In the fall I want to do garlic, but I've discovered that I can't plant it now. I have tomato seeds, but that's much too big for my little planter. Maybe chives?

Monday, June 28, 2010

A spiritual take on breastfeeding

I admit it, I'm a little obsessed with the topic of breastfeeding at the moment. Probably because it is finally working out well for us. It was doing okay up to now, mostly, but there were some issues due to some (very unhelpful) lactation consultants I saw in the hospital which are now worked out, at long last. I am very proud of myself, proud of the baby, and thankful.

I've been thinking a lot lately about all that nursing my baby teaches me about the spiritual life. After all, Catholics were pioneers of breastfeeding in the 60's and 70's, when almost everyone was told to bottlefeed. They founded the La Leche League -- under the patronage of Nuestra Senora de la Leche y Buen Parto (Our Lady of Milk and Good Birth) -- to support and educate breastfeeding mothers. Now the organization isn't officially Catholic, but you can still find a lot of Catholics there. After all, Mary didn't exactly stop and shake up a bottle on the flight to Egypt!

The bible is full of references to breastfeeding. In the book of Maccabees, the heroic mother of seven martyred sons tells one of them, "Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months, nursed you for three years, brought you up, educated and supported you to your present age." Nursing well into toddlerhood was quite common. Then in the Gospels, the woman cries out from the crowd, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you nursed!" Best of all are the metaphors:

"Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort,
That you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts!
For thus says the LORD:
Lo, I will spread prosperity over her like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent.
As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap;
As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you;
in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort."

Although God is usually referred to as a Father, here He compares Himself to a mother, one who comforts and nourishes us. Jerusalem is a nursing mother with plenty of milk.

This metaphor is very meaningful to me, because I truly feel that I understand God a lot better as I nurse my son. Being a mother means being, in a small way, like God. Nursing is giving of myself -- like the mother pelican who was supposed to pierce her breast to feed her young with her blood, who is an ancient symbol of Christ.

Medically speaking, there are many reasons why I feel so very emotional about nursing. The two main hormones in a breastfeeding mother, prolactin and oxytocin, are strongly mood-altering. Prolactin governs the production of milk. It produces nurturing feelings in the mother; in fact, prolactin injected into a male rooster will cause him to gather chicks under his wings like a mother hen does. It also has a great balancing effect on the moods, making the mother feel calmer. When I was pregnant, if John said the wrong thing, I was all over him. I would tell him exactly how he was wrong, and sometimes I would cry. Now, I can have a baby screaming in my ear at the moment when he says the offensive sentence, and it really doesn't bother me the same way. I'm annoyed, but I generally shut my mouth and let it go. Prolactin actually makes it easier for me to be patient! A very necessary virtue for the mother of an infant. Another handy effect is lighter sleep -- you can be roused more easily and fall back asleep more easily. Believe me, I need that!

The second hormone, oxytocin, is responsible for (among other things) milk let-down. Once the baby's been nursing for a couple of seconds, oxytocin is released and milk rushes down for the baby. Oxytocin is popularly called the "bonding hormone" because it promotes a feeling of intense love and happiness. (It is also released during labor and sexual intercourse.) I'm not sure scientists yet know exactly how it affects the brain in order to "imprint" the person you're with as the person you're bonded to -- but it does act in this way. John often laughs at me as I stare down at the baby while he's nursing and start gushing about how wonderful he is. "Look at him," I'll say. "Look at the way he's looking up at me! Look at his little fingers! Look at his eyes! Don't you just love him? Don't you?"

I think these two hormones are absolutely necessary for navigating the hard job that is motherhood. I just don't know how bottlefeeding mothers manage.

Breast milk is naturally adaptive. When the baby is first born, he is fed with colostrum, the thick yellow milk that's full of antibodies. After a few days (signaled by the delivery of the placenta) this turns to true milk. This milk undergoes slight changes as the baby matures. Milk made at nighttime also contains chemicals that induce sleepiness. Milk at the beginning of a feed (foremilk) is more watery and thirst-quenching, while milk at the end of a feeding (hindmilk) is fattier and more filling.

The amount is also adaptive. When the milk first comes in a few days after birth, there is an almost limitless amount -- way more than the baby needs. But by about six weeks, the supply regulates so that it's just the amount baby needs. Whenever the baby goes through a growth spurt and needs more to eat, he nurses more frequently (well, almost constantly). After a day or two, the milk supply increases in response to his needs. When the baby begins to wean, eating more solid food, the milk supply decreases. There is always just the amount the baby needs.

With time, the mother's body becomes so responsive to the baby's needs that her milk will begin to let down when the baby cries -- or even before! It always astounded me the way my mother used to say, "The baby must be hungry -- my milk's coming in," and then a moment later, he would wake up and cry. I'm still not quite sure how that works!

Since prolactin represses fertility, a woman will rarely become pregnant while her baby is still nursing exclusively. The longer and more frequently he nurses, the longer the infertility will last -- so a "difficult" baby will end up with more time as the youngest child than an "easy" baby will. Again, it adapts to the baby's needs.

In order for this perfect attunement to happen, the mother and baby should be virtually inseparable. Separation will throw off the balance. When the balance is thrown off, the usual suggestion is to bring the baby very close -- to spend as much time as possible with the baby right against your skin. Often this is enough to increase the milk supply to fit the baby's needs. I have only been without the baby once since he was born: for a bit over an hour, to get my hair cut. I decided John and the baby could stay home, since I was only going to be two blocks away and could rush home (with my hair half cut!) to take care of him. I spent the entire time thinking about the baby and worrying about him. I was so glad to rush back home and scoop him up into my arms again! A nursing mother and child are sometimes referred to as the "mother-baby dyad" because they are like a single unit in their inseparability.

Okay, so how does this function as a metaphor for God? Well, think about how close God is to us -- as close as a nursing mother, who simply won't leave her baby for a minute in the hands of a stranger. When we cry out, we don't have to wail and wail for help, like a baby left far away in a crib -- no, God has heard us before we even cry, and rushes to us with overflowing mercy. It isn't a burden for God to attend to our needs, but a joy.

The best verse of all on this topic is this: "Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you." As a mother, staying as close to my child as I do, I realize how utterly ridiculous is the notion that I could forget my baby. It's like saying, "I forgot to put on my feet this morning," or, "Oh, I have to run back and grab my arm." Even if I was separated from him for awhile, my overfull breasts would make me remember. If it's been too long since he's nursed, they actually become painful, and I hover over the crib, thinking, "Wake up! Wake up! I want to feed you!" Isn't that how God is when we fail to pray to Him? He tells us, "Wake up! Pray! Ask Me for something! I am so overflowing with graces for you, it hurts!"

Yes, when I nurse my baby, I feel like I understand God better. I identify with Mary, and with Jesus on the cross. It is such a joy to me to pour myself out completely for my son. Instinct makes this virtue come easily to me. I know it won't always be this way -- but I hope I always remember it.

Letters to my past self

Someone whose blog I read had the idea of writing letters to one's past self. I wrote a LONG letter to the 15-year-old me but decided not to publish it because it would require so much explanation. So, instead, I'm writing a few short letters to myself at different ages.

Dear nine-year-old Sheila,

You are so desperate to go to "real school." Really, it's not that great. Just remember that the people there aren't better than you, so trying to be just like them is silly. Be yourself. For all you or I know, they would like your real self.

Twenty-four-year-old Sheila

Dear twelve-year-old Sheila,

Without my advice of the previous letter, you have spent three years trying to be like everyone else. Of course you're failing miserably, because you aren't (and never will be) like the other eggs in the carton. That's okay though -- who you are is pretty great. Try not to be so shattered when other people -- those who sit next to you, or your teacher -- don't appreciate you. They don't even know you, so it doesn't really matter what they think! You do have a few friends, so listen to them and not to the others. Oh, and the friend who is friends with you one day so you will help her with her homework, and totally ditches you the next day? She's not a real friend; don't waste your time trying to get her to stick around.

The chin-length haircut is awful; you never should have done it. Soon you'll get a pixie cut, and it will look awesome, but you put it off way too long. Oh, and the braces? Don't complain about them, they'll end up (mostly) being worth it.

Twenty-four-year-old Sheila

Dear fourteen-year-old Sheila,

Don't go to boarding school. Just don't. You think your life is going so much better because you're planning to go there. Actually, it's going better because you're older and becoming a more thoughtful and considerate person. Even now I know you have some doubts, and you're wondering whether things might be much better if you didn't go. Trust those thoughts.

However, I know you don't have the benefit of this advice, but don't worry. After several very hard years, everything really will be okay again.

Twenty-four-year-old Sheila

Dear sixteen-year-old Sheila,

You just got kicked out of boarding school. No one will tell you why. But it doesn't matter. Just know that it wasn't God rejecting you because you weren't good enough for Him -- it was God rescuing you from a place that would have been very bad for you, if you'd stayed. He has way better things in mind for you for the future.

Right now you are in a black hole of depression. It would help to talk about it, but I know you won't until it's all over anyway. But there is one person who will save you: your baby brother. Loving him heals so many wounds. One day next spring, you will look at the flowers and the green grass and suddenly realize that you can see the light again. It will happen, believe me. And you and that baby brother of yours will be especially close forever.

Twenty-four-year old Sheila

Dear eighteen-year-old Sheila,

You're about to go to college. How excited you are! Your theme song goes, "When I leave, I don't know what I'm hoping to find, and when I leave, I don't know what I'm leaving behind." It's true. You have no idea how many changes this will bring to you -- but you feel they'll be big. You're right. You will grow up here. You will make real friends -- not like the grade-school friends whom you never spoke to again. And the biggest change of your life begins here.

Twenty-four-year-old Sheila

Dear nineteen-year-old Sheila,

Give John time. Stop freaking out. All shall be well.

Twenty-four-year-old Sheila

Dear twenty-two-year-old Sheila,

Good for you, you graduated from college! I know you really wish you could stay. But have no fear--life will only get better. This one year out from college will be rough, though. You'll be a bit lonely. But teaching is a great job, you have some good friends, and you've got the grit to push through the stress and the tiredness.

I know you think you know what you're doing as far as teaching goes. But you don't. When the kids behave well for a week, you'll think it's safe to be nice to them. But don't do it. Be strict. You can't let up on them for a minute, because they'll take advantage, you'll come back down on them hard, and then they'll resent you because they thought you were "nice." Don't get drawn into arguments--send all the kids who talk back straight to the office. You haven't got time for that. Also, keep better records.

Twenty-four-year-old Sheila

Dear twenty-three-year-old Sheila,

In three weeks, you'll be marrying the man of your dreams. Frankly, you're terrified. You're sure you've been deluding yourself all this time, and that marriage won't really make either of you happy. But it will. This is going to be one of the harder years of your life, but you will be very happy. Despite sickness, tiredness, busy-ness, opposite schedules, and seesawing emotions, or perhaps because of all these things, you will be drawn closer and closer to your new husband, and the closer you get, the more you will love him.

The only advice I have for you is to relax. Every time something goes wrong, you panic and leap to the worst possible conclusion. Your first married fight, you are convinced is the beginning of the end of your marriage -- but it isn't. You two are both learning, so when something goes wrong or doesn't go right on the first try, just laugh it off and try again. You'll figure each other out. I know you think you know him now -- but you still have a lot of learning to do. Just enjoy the learning process, and when you get confused or discouraged about it, turn to him as your best friend.

Twenty-four-year-old Sheila

Now if I could really send letters back to the past, they'd be way more detailed. I feel I could save myself so much grief if I could change decisions I've made, knowing about them what I do now. Only, as every time travel movie ever will tell you, when you try to change the past, you mess up the present. If I hadn't suffered all the things I have suffered, would I be who I am? Probably not, so in the end, I'm thankful I can't send them. I'll just take one piece of advice that came up in almost every letter: don't stress, don't worry, don't be afraid -- it will all turn out all right. It always has so far, so I'll try to trust that it always will.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Marko gets less easy and more fun

He's eleven weeks old already. How the time has flown! My mom told me that from 3 weeks till 6-12 weeks, babies are the hardest. I don't believe it. It's been very easy up to now, but now that he's getting more interactive, he's getting more difficult. In the old days, if I wanted to do something, I could lay him down on the floor and he would be so entranced with kicking his legs he didn't care. Now kicking his legs does not hold the same charm -- he wants to see new things, he wants me to watch him, he wants to get around (and is frustrated that he can't on his own), and he is getting very good at making those wants known.

Of course, we knew it would be like this. John and I agreed some time ago that, while he is an easy baby, he will be quite a handful later, once he learns to crawl. He's very good-natured and good-tempered, but he is also interested in everything. He wants to discover things and to get around. Snuggling simply does not cut it for him. Hold him with his head on your shoulder and immediately that little head pops up to look around. I tried and tried to rock him down for a nap yesterday and just couldn't get him to hold still enough to sleep! Even when he was nursing (which used to be the magic knock-out drug) his little legs were kicking and his arms were flailing. That kid has energy!

Up till last week or so, he hardly ever cried. Now he's discovered crying-as-communication, and gives a loud, angry cry when I do something he doesn't want -- like offering nursing when he is not hungry or putting him down on the floor when he wants to be in his bouncy seat. On the upside, at least I know what he wants. I'm not dealing with a passive lump of wiggles anymore; I'm dealing with an interactive kid who has wants as well as needs. On the downside, I do not much like being yelled at by my own child -- and I have no delusions that this is going to go away anytime soon!

He's also a stubborn little guy. You may think he would forget things quickly, but he doesn't. Up till last week he was using this little plastic shield to nurse. (Oh how I hated the thing! They gave it to me in the hospital without telling me of all the trouble it was going to cause.) I tried and tried to get him to nurse without it, and he adamantly refused. Wouldn't do it. Wouldn't even try. Then one day last week, he started refusing the shield. Wouldn't nurse with it. Wasn't too good at nursing without it, but absolutely wouldn't give up. It was quite a struggle for a couple days, as we had to kind of re-learn the whole nursing thing, but we succeeded, and it was entirely due to his stubbornness! I couldn't have gotten him to do it unless he had first made up his own mind to do it.

He's very talkative when he knows he's got your attention. And he'll get pretty annoyed if you stop paying attention to what he's got to say! However, that doesn't happen often because his babbles and smiles are so utterly adorable it's hard to pay attention to anything else anyway.

He likes to be tickled. He likes to go outside, even if it's a scorcher out. If he's in a good mood, he likes his carseat, but if he's sleepy or grumpy, forget about it. He likes his dad, I think better than me. (But that's okay.) He likes strangers. He loves his bath. He wants to put his face underwater and to eat the washcloth. He likes to look in the mirror. He likes to be carried around, but he absolutely must be able to see what's going on.

He still isn't into toys. He's good in church, even though he no longer sleeps the whole time. He drools a lot. He's 24 inches long and weighs a ton -- I don't know how much, but he's definitely gaining. He's grown out of his newborn clothes and mostly wears 3-6 month clothes. He has (as he always has had) an insanely expressive face. He can raise one eyebrow. He looks more like his dad every day.

I call him Marko because he seems too little for a big, grown-up name like Mark. No one else seems to have this problem though. And yet 90% of the time he goes by endearments anyway: little man, little guy, buddy, little mister, baby-san, man-boy, young one.

He requires a lot more of me than he used to. Gone are the days where I could just park on the couch and nurse him all day. But I wouldn't trade it. He is so much fun these days, and I love to watch him grow.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Holy fear

I read a news story last night that absolutely horrified me. I'm not going to tell you about it because I don't want to think about it any more, and I'm pretty sure you don't want to know anyway. At any rate, I know for sure it wouldn't have been so scary to me a year ago. But now, I read about something awful and I look down at my beautiful little boy, sleeping so peacefully, and I feel terrified. No one will ever hurt my baby! I promise myself.

I think I have heard of this feeling described as "passionate protectiveness," or something like that. It describes how I feel pretty well. I hold him tight and I know that I would not, and will not, allow anything to happen to him. If anyone bursts his balloon or knocks over his sand castle, if anyone spills his milk or breaks his heart, they will have me to reckon with.

Maybe there will come a day when he doesn't want me to protect him anymore. That would be terribly difficult. Until then, though, he's got himself a mama bear who will look out for him.

I still fear, though. I'm afraid I will not be enough to protect him from this evil, evil world we live in. (It never seemed this evil before I was a mother.) Yet I know the world he lives in is different from the world I hear about on the news. His world is safer, because I have already given him so much. I gave him a loving and loyal father, one I married so he would always be assured of both of us. Together we gave him a home that is always safe. We keep him close to us. We don't hand him off to a million and one people we don't trust. He will never be lacking for love. He has his father's arms and his mother's breast always there for him. He has a large, loving extended family that thinks the world of him. He has amazing godparents to count on when he needs them. He has all of his parents' close and trustworthy friends who will stick up for him.

Someday he will have to face more of this big, bad world on his own. But it will be in his own time, when he is ready. His childhood won't be taken away from him or hurried along. When he steps out into the world on his own, he will be strong and confident, because he has been loved so well.

I believe this, and that's how I ever sleep at night.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Baby sleep

I'm going to preface this post with a caveat that I am not at all an expert on baby sleep. Not because I can't get my baby to sleep. I can very well. But I am aware that I have an incredibly easy baby, as far as sleep goes, and therefore I can't take much credit for his excellent sleep habits. So, this post is about what works for him, with the proviso that most babies would require a little more.

When we brought Marko home from the hospital, he didn't know the difference between night and day. This is usual but quite exhausting. Generally he would eat, sleep for a few hours (three if we were lucky, more often two or less) and wake up to eat again. There wasn't much "awake time" in there at all. During the daytime it was so nice to have him sleep so much ... at night, the interruptions in sleep meant that I was asleep (if I was lucky) only half the night.

The pediatrician told us that it's quite normal for him not to know the difference between night and day, but that we should be able to train him to sleep more at night by making nighttime as boring as possible: just feeding and changing, no playing or turning on the lights. In the daytime, we should interact with him a lot whenever he woke up. That did work after a week or two -- he would sleep three-hour chunks at night, and always go right back to sleep after he woke up. For his daytime naps, he mostly slept in his grandma's or aunts' arms for the first week, but when they left, he started taking crib naps. And those started stretching to three hours as well. His awake times were never much more than an hour, so I admit to feeling a bit lonesome with a baby who slept all the time!

He sleeps in a Moses basket a couple of feet from the bed. I tried the cosleeping thing, but it just didn't work for us. He absolutely wouldn't sleep in my bed for more than maybe half an hour, and I couldn't sleep at all if he was next to me. I wasn't afraid of rolling over him -- I just can't sleep if anyone's touching me.

Now, I might open myself up to some real criticism here, but in the interest of honesty I have to admit it: Mark is a tummy sleeper. I tried and tried to get him to sleep on his back, but he would have none of it. He would wake up within a few minutes if you put him down on his back. Even in the womb, I believe he was always tummy-down at night. Every pediatrician ever will advise you to put a baby to sleep on his back. This is believed to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, also called crib death). Since we still aren't completely sure what causes SIDS, the idea is just to get on the right side of the statistics game. But in every other part of the statistics game, we're on the right side: he was born at full term, at a normal weight; he is exclusively breastfed; we don't smoke; he sleeps in our room instead of a room of his own.

And babies on their backs have a few problems too. The pediatrician warned us that back sleepers will get flat spots on their heads, and are also physically delayed because they don't get enough time on their tummies to exercise. Often they can't even lift their heads up well -- which puts them at further risk for SIDS or smothering if they do end up on their front once or twice. Also, sleeping on the back triggers a startle reflex. Have you ever been dozing in a chair and felt like you were falling? This causes the startle reflex which wakes babies up. They throw their arms and legs in the air. We swaddled him to try to keep him from waking himself up, but he was a strong baby and would fight his way right out of it (if we could get him in it in the first place, and then get him to sleep, which was rare). Finally my mother-in-law said, "Just go ahead and put him on his front. We were always told to put babies down on their front when I was raising mine." So I gave in, and I'm glad I did because he finally got some good sleep and has been getting it ever since. It makes me feel safer to know that, with him so close to me at night, I wake up if he gets too quiet, and I always check on him.

Another piece of conventional advice is, "Put the baby down drowsy, but awake, so that he will learn to soothe himself to sleep." Um, a "drowsy but awake" baby doesn't get drowsier when you put him down ... he gets awaker. I could imagine this works for some rare babies, but considering I have a rare specimen of a good sleeper and it doesn't work for us, I really don't think it would work for many. He does sometimes wake up as I put him down, and occasionally I leave him that way, half-asleep, but he has to be soundly asleep before I put him down, or he wakes right up and flails around grumpily.

I also ignore the "don't nurse him to sleep" advice. What's the point of nursing if you can't take advantage of its handy calming powers? (Well, there are tons of good reasons still, but really -- if something always makes baby sleepy, why make a rule that they must never fall asleep while doing it?) He can and does occasionally go to sleep without nursing, but usually nurses to sleep. (I am thankful that he can go to sleep without nursing, though, because it means John can put him to sleep too. In fact, he can often do it when I can't, like last night when baby was a big old fussy-pants!) Once he's pretty well out, I move him up to my shoulder to burp. He stirs a bit, but doesn't generally open his eyes. I burp for awhile and rock the rocking chair, and gradually slow down the back pats and the rocking until I think he's ready to go down. Then I carefully lay him down in his crib, which invariably does wake up a little bit, and wait for him to stop moving around. If he opens his eyes for more than a second, all is lost and I have to do it over. Still, I think most babies are a lot harder to put to sleep than that.

So, what about a nap schedule? Some babies have no schedule, and some you could set a clock by. For awhile there Mark was very scheduled. He got up at six exactly, stayed awake till eight or nine, slept till noon or so, was back down by three, up at six, and down for the night at nine. It was like clockwork -- three hours up and three down, all day long! Well, in the past couple of weeks the whole nap schedule has fallen apart. I'm not really sure why. It might be because he doesn't need as much sleep as he used to, especially as he sleeps better and better at night. I think a big part of it is that he is sleeping more lightly for whatever reason: he wakes up after one sleep cycle, about 45 minutes after going down, and can't get back to sleep like he used to. (He used to wake half-up and screech a few times, fuss a bit, and settle back down without ever opening his eyes. My trick to figure him out was: eyes closed, he's just fussing and needs help to settle back down (back pats or a soothing voice), eyes open, he's ready to get up.)

His original nap schedule was completely of his own making; he woke and slept as he wanted, and I just followed his cues. If he was fussy at all, I nursed him. If he dozed off while nursing, I rocked him and put him down. When he woke up happy (waking up screaming has been a sign he needs more) I played with him. Once the schedule was established, I reinforced it by keeping him awake for a nice long time before naps, so that he would be able to sleep soundly instead of taking little catnaps. Now that the old schedule is shot, I'm back to just following cues. I figure he knows how much sleep he needs. If he's fussy, I generally try to get him to nap, but if he won't go down, I just wait till he will. Lately his naps are not very long, except when I hold him. I know people will say I'm spoiling him by holding him for a whole nap, but he sleeps so much better in my arms, and besides, I love to hold him. I know he won't want to be in my arms forever, so I need to get my snuggles in now! (It helps that I can surf the internet while he sleeps in my arms.) If he wakes up crying, I try and get him to go back down. Once he wakes up and smiles at me (the BEST feeling!), he's up for awhile.

Now for a word about baby sleep schedules. A lot of parents decide on their baby's sleep schedule for him, and have rather strict methods of reinforcing it. Different methods include the Ezzo or "Babywise" system and the Ferber or "cry it out" system. Babywise dictates certain schedules the baby is to follow from the day he comes home from the hospital. You feed only every three hours. When it's time for a nap, you put the baby in his crib, shut the door, and walk away. Obviously the baby screams and cries, but eventually he wears himself out and falls asleep. Whatever happens, you are not to open that door until the scheduled nap is over. This method, besides striking me as cruel and inhumane, has been linked to failure to thrive -- babies lose weight or stop gaining weight because they are not getting enough to eat. Every three hours is just not enough for some babies. But my main objection to this method is the notion that a baby only cries because something is wrong, and if he cries, you should go get him. Wild, I know.

This same objection applies to the Ferber method and all other "cry it out" techniques. The advantage is that you are supposed to wait until the baby's a little older and has a better ability to fall asleep on his own. But the system still requires you to let the baby cry, for hours if necessary, until he falls asleep. I simply couldn't do that if I wanted to. Eventually, they say, it does work: after a few days the amount of crying is reduced and the baby will usually go to sleep fairly quickly. But I don't want my baby to fall asleep crying alone, feeling abandoned and unheard. Proponents claim that "he'll never remember it"; however, there are some studies out there that show they do remember it on an emotional level, and grow up more disconnected from their parents. Extended crying also does damage to the brain, as it is flooded with stress hormones for an excessive period of time. Only in the Western world is it considered okay for a baby to cry for hours --in the developing world, babies cry for minutes a day. As for me, I don't need the science -- I just love my baby and don't mind caring for him. I know he will learn to sleep on his own later, but for now, while he's a baby and doesn't know how to fall asleep on his own, I will help him. When he cries, I go to him.

We still sleep at night with the crib a few feet from the bed. Baby goes to sleep about 9:30, sometimes earlier or later, but I've found that it has to be dark outside or he won't stay asleep. Unfortunately our bedroom only has light blinds, so I have to wait for real darkness. I put him in a thick diaper and try to avoid nighttime changes unless he's soaking through the diaper. Someone told me about this when he was little, and it's true -- nothing wakes a baby up like a cold, wet wipe on the bum! I use either a plastic diaper or my fancy bamboo-fiber diapers.

These days he generally wakes once at night, if at all. When I hear him start to fuss, I shush him a little to see if he will go back to sleep. Sometimes he does. (He did at 4:30 this morning, much to my delight ... I really didn't want to get up!) If, after a minute or so, he's still fussing, I get up and gently pick him up. Since he's generally still not completely awake, I try to avoid anything that will wake him up. Instead I bring him to the rocking chair, feed him, and burp him. When I see that he's still and contented again, I lay him back down and creep back into bed. Sometimes he keeps stirring for awhile, but when he sees it's dark and his tummy is full, he drifts back off. (When he was little it took a lot more work than this, and I sometimes had to pick him back up several times! But now he knows the drill, and he goes back to sleep very easily.) Then, around six (sometimes 5:30, when Daddy's alarm goes off) he'll wake up full of smiles and cheer. I feed him, change him, and we're up for the day. Occasionally he'll wake up at this time and still be fussy, in which case I put him back down after I feed him, but generally once he wakes up and it's light out, he stays up until his morning nap.

He's been sleeping through the night with only one wakeup (around 3 or 4 a.m.) since he was six weeks old. This is NOT the norm, so don't go thinking you can have kids and get a full night's sleep too! We have gotten a lot of amazement from friends and family, who have raised kids that didn't sleep through the night till one or two years old. Babies are ready to sleep through the night at different ages, and that's okay. It doesn't mean there's something wrong with the baby, or that he's not developing as he should. It just means he has a big appetite, he isn't tired, he doesn't like the feel of a wet diaper and needs a change, he's a light sleeper, he needs more snuggling, or whatever. A lot of moms feel bad that their babies don't sleep while other mothers' babies do. Sheesh, babies are all different! It doesn't mean you're a better mother or have a better baby just because yours is a good sleeper. A "hard" baby is just as likely to grow up into a wonderful, intelligent, well-behaved kid as an "easy" baby.

So, that is how a non-expert gets her baby to sleep. None of this is an attempt at giving advice, though if any of it works for you, go for it! I would advise, though, that NO ONE ever use the "Babywise" method on their children, because it has been so heavily linked with harm to babies. I am a firm believer in the notion that you can't spoil an infant, so you should follow their cues and pick them up when they cry. It's a little harder on the parent, but parenting isn't easy no matter what you do, so why not pick what's easiest on the baby? Just my two cents.

10 weeks old

Such a happy guy!

Monday, June 14, 2010


As the mother of a two-month-old, discipline isn't exactly something I need to worry about. (To those people who think a two-month-old needs to be/can be disciplined, all I can say is, You're Wrong.) However, I've been thinking about how I will discipline my kids for almost ten years now. I've been a big sister, a nanny, a tutor, and a teacher. I have had to work within other people's discipline systems, and I've had the opportunity to use my own. I've disciplined kids from toddlers one year old to 18-year-old high school seniors. So, I've had the chance to see a bit of what works and what doesn't.

There are two extremes. One of them is called "gentle parenting" or "gentle discipline" from what I've been reading on blogs. That's the idea that punishing a child is unfair, because they don't know any better or don't have the self-control to act differently, and so we talk through their problems instead. Implied in this is the idea that the first several years of your child's life, you basically just have to put up with whatever they do (or constantly redirect and distract them), because they won't understand why not to.

The other extreme is the Biblically-based "child-training" idea which involves hitting the child with a switch from infancy on. It's been blamed (justly, I think) for the deaths of more than one child. The notion is that you strike a child for every small offense in order to teach them about parental authority, and you continue to whip them until they "submit." In an infant, you're supposed to tell that they've "submitted" by the sound of their cry; an older child is supposed to stop crying quickly in order to show that he accepts your punishment.

I don't think I need to tell you that I disagree strongly with both these tactics. Both can risk your child's life. The first one, I had to deal with on my first nannying job. "We don't punish our children," the mother said, as we watched her four-year-old twins play together. Even then I was doubtful. When one twin distracted me with a pantry raid and the other ran out into the street, I realized this technique would never work. I scooped up the kids and put them in time-out. (Only I used the mother's method of calling it the "thinking chair" -- but the girls and I both knew what it was.) I realized that, while her method had worked all right when the kids were a little younger, now that they were four they had grown into monsters. And when you can't count on your kids to obey the first time -- when you say that they "can't" and make excuses for them -- you won't be able to save them from dangerous situations (like running out into traffic). The whipping method endangers children's lives for a much more obvious reason: since you are supposed to keep striking them until they "submit," if they never submit (at least, never show the expected signs of submission like stopping crying), you will never stop. And even if you're only hitting them with a thin switch, you can cause a whole lot of damage and even death. We know that now. No one should EVER use this "parenting technique."

In my opinion, discipline is not about what the child "deserves." The gentle-parenting philosophy says, and rightly, that a toddler doesn't know better and doesn't "deserve" punishment. (God, after all, lets off everyone under the age of reason for everything they do. It is not their fault.) And it's not about "showing them who's boss" or "proving your authority." (The child-trainers say that this will prepare them to understand the authority of God. I say it will teach them that God is a big old meanie who beats you till you're defeated, even if you didn't mean to make a mistake in the first place.) Discipline is there to teach about consequences.

Imagine this picture. A toddler is in a room with a wood stove burning. The stove is hot and will burn the child if he touches it. (The gentle-parenting advocate would just not have a wood stove. But that's dodging the issue -- we can't remove everything dangerous forever.) All right, now our toddler is toddling toward the stove, hand held out inquisitively toward the pretty flames. The mother sees this and lunges for the kid. She pulls him away from the fire and smacks his hand. "No. Hot!" she says.

She didn't smack the kid's hand because he deserved it (he didn't know the fire was hot!) or because he needed to learn that she was in charge. She did it because the smack hurts less than the fire would -- she doesn't want him to get a serious burn! -- but it does hurt enough that he will learn that reaching out for the stove isn't a good idea. She replaces a truly dangerous consequence with a simply painful consequence.

Chances are, the kid is going to try the same thing a half-dozen times to see what happens. Sooner or later he realizes that it's not worth it -- that stove is off-limits because every time he goes for it, he gets his hand smacked. Toddlers like to test boundaries, but they're not dumb. They do learn.

It's up to the parents to set the limits they want -- something not so close in the child is smothered and there are no free options, something not so far out that anyone in the family suffers. (So, taking toys from other siblings is not allowed, grabbing knives is not allowed, bringing dirt in the house is not allowed, but it's up to the parents to decide if they're going to make a fuss about saying the same word a million times over or driving cars over Daddy's face -- things that are annoying, but which kids love to do as part of their discovery of the world.) I like Dr. Ray Guarendi's advice that, if it's going to drive you crazy and make you yell at your kids, you should make it against the rules.

Now I'd better say something about the idea of the "smack." I don't think corporal punishment is strictly necessary. I think it works better than anything else on pre-verbal children, because it's immediate and they have such short attention spans. But my little brothers got sent to the corner, and that worked too. For older children, time-outs, extra chores, or essay writing works fine. My students would get extra homework, missed recess, or the dreaded Call to Your Parents. In any event, spanking of any kind should not be severe, regardless of what the offense was or whether the child is sorry; it should have built-in limits (e.g. five swats); and it should never be done in anger.

The philosophy behind my system is simply this: if you break a rule, there is a consequence. Later in life, that child will be an adult whose actions sometimes have very big consequences. And though I will try to warn you ahead of time, I accept that maybe you will have to be punished in order to learn. My four-year-old charges heard me say "Stop" or "Come back," but they didn't think they actually had to listen until I punished them. Once they realized there was an unpleasant consequence of not listening, they listened a lot better! Continuous application of various consequences throughout childhood helps form good habits. A consequence for not turning in homework eventually paid off in children who remembered their homework. A consequence for mouthing off eventually taught the kids to think before opening their mouths.

The one secret, the one magic ingredient without which the rest is nothing, is consistency. If you punish a child for disobeying one time, but laugh at him another time, he's just going to keep trying it and trying it until he can figure out a pattern. This isn't a "bad child," this is a child trying to figure out the pattern, the way a child will drop a block five or six times to see if it always goes down. Once he knows the pattern, he'll react accordingly: if disobeying causes punishment, he'll stop; if it just gets a rise out of Mom (funny!), he'll keep doing it and shriek with laughter every time. And you can't call him a "bad child" because you taught him to do it!

About the concept of the "bad child": I knew one mom of a toddler who had no system of discipline for her two-year-old. She had to physically restrain her from tearing off down the hall or flinging herself down the stairs, but the whole time she would say, "I love you, sweetheart, and I don't want you to hurt yourself." The second she removed her restraining arms, the toddler would rush off to get in more trouble. The mother would turn to me apologetically and say, "I'm sorry. She's just a bad girl." But I couldn't see anything "bad" about the child. She was a normal two-year-old, working within the limits (i.e. no limits) her mother had set. We call a child "spoiled" because there was nothing bad about the child before his parents taught him to act that way. Underneath every spoiled child is a child who has just never learned where the limits are.

The second golden rule is never to be angry. Obviously this is an impossible rule to follow. But it works well as an ideal. I have disciplined a lot of children, and 9 times out of 10, showing any emotion at all is going to undermine your discipline. You want a child to obey because you said "no," not to wait until you start screaming because they know the screaming stage comes before the spanking stage and they have loads of time yet to mess around. Plus, lots of kids find it funny when the adults lose their cool. I know my high school kids did. Meanwhile the more sensitive children are thinking, "Mommy doesn't love me." The point is "actions have consequences," not "Grownups are scary so I'd better do what they say."

I have a friend whose parents really did follow this rule. I was over at her house once when her little brother threw a tantrum. The mom calmly said (as she continued to prepare dinner), "If you can't calm down, you will have to do that screaming in your room." The child continued to scream, the mom continued to chop the meat. "All right, go to your room." No movement from the child. "If you don't go on your own, Daddy will carry you there, and you won't get dessert." Continued screaming; no movement. "Daddy, please carry him to his room." The father calmly came and calmly carried the kicking, screaming child to his room. He placed the boy inside and shut the door, saying, "When you've settled down, you can come back and join us out here again." No screaming. No yelling. No threat that was not carried out. I resolved at that moment that this was how I wanted to raise my children. I was a child with very turbulent emotions who really did throw a fit at the drop of a hat; how reassuring it would have been to me to know the adults never lost their cool even when I did! (Now, I am quite aware of how hard this would be to do. If I can manage to keep calm 50% of the time, I'll consider it a good average.)

I do know that, in all my years of disciplining children and sometimes flipping out at them, only once has losing my cool done any good. It was my first full-time nannying job, and once near the end of the summer, when the kids were really driving me nuts, I burst into tears. It was the only time I had ever lost it with them. You would not believe how shocked they were, or how sorry. They were well-brought-up kids and felt terrible that they had Made Their Nanny Cry. They'd only been messing with me and hadn't meant to actually hurt me. But every other time I have ever yelled at, pleaded with, or cried in front of kids, it has never done a bit of good. Sometimes it's just what happens, and I don't think it's the end of the world that they find out you're not invincible and you do have feelings. But I don't think any amount of yelling at kids has ever helped to discipline, or convinced them of your authority. All it does is teach them that you're out of control, and perhaps give them an example about handling your emotions that you really don't want them to learn.

Rule number three is to focus on rules instead of rulers -- that is to say, not, "Because I said so," but, "Because it's against the rules." The ancient Romans had a saying that it was better to be ruled by laws than men, and I believe this is true. Rules make it easy to be consistent, and consistency is both more effective and less frightening. When X is against the rules all the time, regardless of Mom's mood, Dad's day at work, and which kid it was that did X, I really believe it builds less resentment against the parents and a better understanding of why they are being punished. My mother was so into this idea that she actually wrote up our family rules in a notebook and had my brother and I sign them to show that we understood them and agreed that they were fair. Of course, we later claimed they were unfair all the time, but deep down we knew that was just an excuse. Again a caveat: 100% consistency is impossible and maybe not desirable -- every once in awhile there's a reason to allow something that's usually against the rules, and sometimes you know a child knows better even though there wasn't a specific rule against what he just did. But most of the time, the stress should be on the rule.

Some people say that you shouldn't let kids ask why -- that's talking back. But I think it's good to give at least a short, simple explanation why you are punishing them or why you say no. Of course you don't want to teach them to argue with you, but they learn something by your explanations, so you should be giving them something. For a toddler, "No, that's hot," might be all he needs, but for an older child it's good to give a longer explanation, like, "I assign homework every day because it'll be much easier to remember what we did in class if you practice it at home." Or whatever. There's a difference between asking for an explanation and sass. I think we all can tell which is which.

So, there it is: parenting methods from a newbie parent. I'm not an expert, but I do have some experience. I'm hardly Supernanny; however, I almost always have gotten equal or better results (insofar as respect, obedience, and listening go) than a child's parents get. (The secret to this is no secret: it's way easier to be consistent when it isn't 24 hours a day.) My mother knows way more about raising children than I do (having done it six times, and a good job by my account), and yet she still sometimes asks for my suggestions. The only question is, will I hold to my principles with my own kids? I believe they will work if I do ... but there are some high standards in my system, and I am not positive I will live up to them. Specially not when the kiddo's this cute. But I'll do my best. I want to do what's best for him.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Garlic Knots, Take 2

As promised, I tried those garlic knots again. I followed my modifications from last time, and they turned out great!

First change was pouring off the "hooch" or dark, sour liquid at the top of my starter periodically. I did it every couple of days. This made the knots much less sour, and made my flour-to-water balance just right. Instead of a wet, sticky batter, I got this:

It was not at all sticky, and was easy to knead. (Shown here is half the dough, after I had formed half into knots already.) Because I didn't have to add a bunch more flour, my batch was a little smaller than the previous batch. I might try doubling this recipe sometime, especially for company. The batch made two cookie sheets worth -- about 2 1/2 dozen.

Here are the knots after I formed them:

And here they are after 6 hours of rising:

Do they look puffier to you? They did to me. Not doubled, but definitely puffier.

The proof, though, was in the eating. Were they too dense and chewy, or puffy and soft inside?

As you can see, they were much puffier. They are still a tad chewier and denser than regular garlic knots, but not to the point that they are any less enjoyable. They have a slight sour tang, but not overpowering. The outsides are chewy but not crunchy (a little longer in the oven, or a hotter temperature, might have yielded crunchier outsides if desired), and the insides are soft. A perfect knot; I wouldn't change a thing.

Next, I hope to try pretzels, but I'm a little worried. All the recipes I've found seem a little tricky and require boiling the pretzels. My goal is to make something like the Utz sourdough pretzel bites that John likes so much. They're small and crunchy -- I'm not looking to make a big Philadelphia soft pretzel, though I suspect that would be much easier to do at home. Any suggestions?

Oh, and one more picture, mainly just because it was beautiful: Thai iced tea.

Thai tea is regular black tea that is specially flavored with herbs. I got a bag of it from my friend Sarah for my wedding shower, and I really like it. You boil the finely ground tea leaves for five minutes, making a very strong, blackish orange tea. It smells like a fine pipesmoke, almost -- a little bit vanilla-ish. Then you chill the tea and add coconut milk, whipped cream, or condensed milk. I didn't have any of those, so I used regular milk. The moment after you add the milk is so beautiful I just had to take some pictures. When you buy it in a restaurant (as I used to do, on trips to our local Thai restaurant with my mom), it's even prettier. I wonder if that's the real reason I like it?

Friday, June 11, 2010

A big family

I've always wanted one.

Of course no one believes me on that count. They say, "Oh, sure, you think that now, but wait till you've had one." Drives me nuts! Can't someone know what they want? As shown above, I do have a few younger siblings to judge by. I like them, and I'm pretty good at dealing with them, too.

But now, I'm finally in a position to vindicate myself. I can say, "I was queasy for six weeks. Gagging all the time for six more weeks. In terrible hip pain for four months. Having contractions for three months. I experienced labor, which ended up being more painful than I could have imagined. I was so exhausted I couldn't remember what it felt like not to be tired. And yet, now that he's here, I still would like to go through that a dozen more times, just to get a dozen more of him."

Yes, I did say a dozen. I think a dozen is a great number. Though I'd be willing to have more. And if anyone asks me, "When are you ever going to stop?" I'll just tell them, "When I have one I don't love -- that is, never."

Still naive, coming from a mother of one? Well, maybe. But I'll put my money where my mouth is. I don't believe in birth control ... so the next baby is going to come whenever he or she is ready. Because who would not want another one of these?

Monday, June 7, 2010

24 years ....

It's my birthday today, and I can't help but look back at the past year and be amazed at how much happened. And almost all of it was good stuff! Well, let's see:

*I got married to the most wonderful man in the whole world (don't argue with me, it's totally true)

*I climbed a 6,000 ft mountain with that man

*I moved to Philadelphia, and lived for a month in a one-room apartment (not recommended for newly married couples, but we managed not to kill each other)

*John went back to working at the paper, and we were thankful to be employed again (a month or so before the wedding, neither of us had a job)

*I moved again a month later, to a very nice but very small apartment with noisy neighbors but a great front yard

*I got pregnant, finding out about it on the anniversary of John's father's death ... we resolved to name the baby Mark, after him, if he was a boy (I was quite sure it would be -- too poetically appropriate not to be)

*I was miserably sick for some time -- though I didn't throw up much, I was queasy 24 hours a day and absolutely exhausted

*John absolutely loathed working for the paper, which was treating the workers quite unfairly

*I started a new job -- quite a challenge when you can barely keep your eyes open, but I enjoyed it all the same

*I drove some 44 miles every workday ... which adds up to a lot of miles overall but I don't feel like doing the math -- something like 5,000

*John quit working for the paper and got a job at the bank, which was a great improvement even though the schedule really, really stunk -- no weekends off the whole time he worked there!

*I endured some very shaky social situations in our new home ... when you're the newcomer you find yourself unintentionally stepping on some toes -- there was a month where almost no one would speak to us, yikes!

*I realized that, once I stopped working, we would have no way to make ends meet, yet I planned to stay home with the baby anyway and prayed for the best

*I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner, and probably overdid it, but the guests seemed to have a great time, and I don't mind eating leftovers for a month anyway

*I spent my first Christmas with my husband ... we stayed home and celebrated it with just the two of us. I was afraid we'd be lonely for our families, but really I am glad it turned out that way -- it was wonderfully peaceful (and we both had the day off, for the first time since Thanksgiving!)

*I helped John discover a new goal for a better career -- librarianship

*I took my first-ever road trip, going down to Georgia with John and three friends

*I discovered the Waffle House, which I believe is responsible for at least ten pounds of my "pregnancy" weight

*I saw two very dear friends get married

*I battled for one of my students to get the extra help he needed (with partial, though not complete success) and discovered that even first and second graders need tough discipline sometimes

*I suffered from pregnancy-related sciatica

*I had Braxton-Hicks contractions a couple of times an hour for three months

*I discovered that it's harder to have a healthy body image when you're the size of a house and have so many stretch marks you look like you've been mawled by a tiger

*John got offered a new, better job down in DC, and gave notice at the bank that same day

*I thought I was going into labor many, many times before it really happened -- though each time I pretended I didn't think it was the real thing, so I didn't get my hopes up, but found I was disappointed anyway when it wasn't the real thing

*I sang at Holy Thursday Mass the same day I found out I was 4 cm dilated -- the choir was afraid I would have the baby in the loft, but I didn't

*I sang in a choir for the Easter Vigil, which was beautiful, but I was disappointed that I hadn't had the baby yet

*I celebrated Easter with John, not the first time, and we made plans to eat at a friend's house, but had to cancel because we went to the hospital instead

*I spent several hours in the hospital, dilated to 5 cm and having contractions 3 minutes apart, but they sent me home anyway ... and I did not have the baby in the living room

*I kept John home from work a couple more days, thinking I was having the baby that day, but didn't

*I had strong contractions while waiting in line at Rita's for an ice cream cone, and was pretty sure this was it, but didn't want to jinx it, so we kept up with our original plans to go to our ob/gyn appointment, though by the time we got there it was pretty obvious that it was the real thing

*I pushed that baby out with no drugs, and though I didn't feel proud of myself at the time, I do now

*I met my little Marko for the first time, and loved him right away (though not as much as I do now)

*I watched my husband find his groove as a father

*I learned to nurse my baby, which was not nearly as easy as I expected

*I endured the sleepless nights, the pain of recovery, the stress of hosting 5 in-laws, all at the same time

*I was lonely for 3 weeks while John lived in DC during the week, but I got through it

*I did not die when I had a 102 fever and the baby was screaming and wouldn't go to sleep and I had no one to help me -- even though I felt like I would

*I realized that I would never again look the way I did before I got pregnant, but I also realized that it didn't matter, since no one was looking at me anyway -- they only had eyes for my baby, whom I'd rather hear complimented than myself anyway

*John was accepted into grad school to become a librarian

*I discovered I somehow felt like a real mother, and wasn't sure when that happened

*I dealt with the realization that my old life, as I knew it, was quite gone, as I found I couldn't go places or do things like I used to -- and I didn't care because I liked my new life so much better

*I fell more in love with my husband every day

*I watched my son grow, almost before my eyes, from a little newborn peanut who could barely do a thing to a wiggling, kicking, laughing, smiling baby

*I finally, just yesterday, had some of that Bailey's we were given for our wedding ;)

So -- it's been a big year! I've endured unemployment, money troubles, 3 moves, pregnancy, childbirth, exhaustion ... and I have seen the creation of my new family. This ranks up there as one of the harder years of my life, and certainly the year that has seen the most change. But it is also, to date, the absolute best year of my life.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Award from Jen

So my friend Jen tagged me for this award. Thanks, Jen!

If you get this award, you are supposed to:

1) Save the image above so you can upload it on your own blog without direct linking.
2) List 5 things you absolutely love to do
3) List 5 friendly bloggers, and comment on their blogs to let them know they've received an award!

Now, I find that awards can be somewhat like memes, so I'm mentioning my 5 friendly bloggers with the caveat that they shouldn't do this award if they don't feel like it!

First, five things that I love to do:

1. Anything with John. Seriously, anything (except fighting) is more fun if it's with him. Particularly driving off into the middle of nowhere with no idea where we're going (he always knows) and ending up at beautiful parks, ice cream stands, or beaches. Also, hanging out with friends so I can listen to him talk. That guy has a lot of interesting things to say, and when we're with friends I can hear him tell stories he's told me before. He doesn't like to repeat himself to the same person, but I like to hear the same stories again and again.

2. Being with my baby. Playing with him is nice, but so is watching him sleep or cuddling him. He is just so perfect and precious and wonderful I'm going to make you all get a cavity just listening to my gushy sweetness if I keep talking about it.

3. Reading. I will always love reading. I just read a Timothy Zahn book the past couple days. (Unfortunately, I am a very fast reader and get through good books way too fast ... so I need a constant supply.)

4. Singing. With a choir particularly, especially a polyphonic choir, especially Victoria or Palestrina. I am not that good at it, but I enjoy it enough to try to get it right. It is one of the downsides to leaving Philly that I am not in a choir anymore.

5. Being outside. There isn't a climate or terrain that I don't like in its natural state. My favorites are mountains, forests, and ocean, but I like the desert too. I am not an "outdoorsy type," mainly because I'm not very physical, unfortunately, but I still like short hikes and I love taking pictures of what I see.

Five bloggers:

1. Seraphic, though Jen nominated her already so I assume she's not going to do it again for me, even if she does it once for Jen (she hasn't yet). But I enjoy both her blogs immensely.

2. Meredith. Update already, Meredith! Ah well, I know she is busy these days. But I love her blog anyway, because when she does post, it's inevitably something really good. Meredith also is one of the reasons I blog -- she was a member of the first blog I wrote for (which I admittedly joined only because I liked John).

3. Ibid always has some interesting things to say at the Freaking Awesome Blog.

4. Dr. Thursday is one of my closest blog friends, and is also Mark's godfather! Couldn't ask for a better one.

5. Enbrethiel, whom I've never met in real life, but who always says such interesting things in the comments.

My apologies for not posting much lately, and I'm afraid it won't get any better soon. Unfortunately I'm not very well at the moment ... I've been pushing things a little too hard since the birth (moving is a bit of a stressor as it turns out) and had a bit of a setback. I promised John I'd use baby's naptimes to rest, and since that's my main blogging time, there goes that, for the present. In fact, I'd better go lie down now. *sigh*
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