Thursday, October 30, 2014

Forest Park in the Fall

I took the girls to Forest Park last week with the big camera to try to take some cute pictures of them with all the lovely fall foliage (I actually do not like the word foliage very much at all).

Here are the steps to a photo session in the lovely fall foliage with two-year-old and two-month-old:

Step 1: Dress in adorable coordinating outfits. (check)

Step 2: Drive to outdoor location that will provide beautiful backdrop for photos. (check)

Step 3: Pack snacks like apples that also look cute in photos. (check)

Step 4: I HAVE NO IDEA. How are you supposed to get them to be awake at the same time? And looking the same way at the same time? And sitting in the same place? I seriously snapped 142 photos at the park. The vast majority of Zuzu, because Coco was sleeping at first and when I woke her up and tried to get Zuzu to sit with her, Zuzu (who is always asking if she can "hold baby seester") said that Coco was "too heavy" and let her huge noggin flop down on the blanket!

My best advice? Take a shitload of pictures, try to keep having fun, and quit while you're ahead (in other words, go home before anyone has a meltdown, including you.)

When it was all said and done, I got one picture I love love love of each of them (and I'm saving those to possibly use on Christmas cards). But here are some of my other favorites and some outtakes:

Zuzu Running With Apple. We had many, many versions of this photo. 

Zuzu pondering the beauty of the park and its relation to the meaning of life, or possibly pooping her pants.

Zuzu's dazzling rendition of the "I have a dream" speech?
Very serious about examining this small berry that I cruelly did not allow her to eat. (No idea if it's actually poisonous, but c'mon. I've read Hunger Games)

OMG! Successfully removed berry from branch. Also demonstrating why hairbows are a challenge for us.

Is it Zuzu? Or is it Elsa? Because she was belting out "Let it go!"

And twirling.

Very gracefully.

I really love how forcefully she twirls. She fell down right after this.


Believe it or not, this is the BEST of the photos with both girls. You can see how cooperative Zuzu was. And you can see all of Coco's chins.

Zuzu - please look utterly vacant. Coco - please look constipated. Hashtag nailed it.

Zuzu - please rut around like a barnyard animal with your eyes closed. Coco - please gaze thoughtfully into the distance. 

Zuzu is relating a thrilling narrative. Coco appears to be shushing her.

The narrative continues. Neither girl will look at the camera. 

Baby in some leaves. 


She was actually uncertain about this perch, but I love this photo.

Little forest fairy.

Fun Fact: I thought I'd lost all my photos when David removed my memory card from the computer without ejecting it. I was so sad I actually cried a little at Monica's house (which is where we were when I discovered what had apparently happened).

He apologized, but only sort of half-assy and I was SO SAD and I felt like he should have been really kissing my ass and sucking up to me and instead he just went downstairs with Johnny to watch TV.

So when I recovered the photos (found them in iphoto trash while clicking around hopelessly on my computer at Monica's kitchen table--I dunno... computers are a mystery to me) I celebrated with Monica (and a glass of champagne) but DIDN'T mention it to David.

The next day, on our drive home, he suggested we go to the park and try to take a few pictures of the girls (the leaves were past their prime by then).

I casually remarked we didn't need to because I'd recovered the photos last night.

He was all indignant and couldn't believe I'd held out on him. He said he'd been "beating himself up over this."

Mmm-hmm. I think we have different definitions of "beating himself up" because he definitely didn't seem very sorry to me. I would have liked a little groveling. I'm just saying. He's not the one who spent an hour and a half in the park cajoling two uncooperative little people into looking at the camera.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Perhaps This Calls for Psychological Evaluation

Some of you may have seen a video I posted to Instagram last night. I'll post the full (23-second) version here (sorry I didn't flip my phone properly).

Basically, we were eating dinner in the kitchen. Zuzu insisted she was finished, so we let her get out of her high chair, allowing us to have a conversation without her shrieking, "I DONE! Mama! I DONE!" the entire time. She disappeared into the back room and was quiet enough that I got up and checked on her. She was playing with the package of diapers I'd bought for Colette that day. I wasn't thrilled about the idea of her unpacking and unfolding 80 diapers, but she was quiet and occupied in a non-dangerous activity, so I let it roll. Several minutes later, she comes in the kitchen with the package of diapers. The baby's face has a hole in it. She informs us that she bit the baby's nose, and we have the following conversation:

This is a little bit worrisome because just a couple nights previously, she bit Coco's toe.

Like really bit it hard.

Zuzu and I were sitting together and Coco was on my lap facing us and we were making her smile and PRETENDING to nibble on her delicious little toes. Zuzu thought it was hilarious to put Coco's toes in her mouth and say that we were eating them, and Coco thought it was pretty funny, too.

So we're having this super precious family moment of baby-toe-nibbling when suddenly Coco starts SCREAMING--like face red, tensed up, serious screaming. I've only seen her cry like this when she's had a shot (or a terrible blood draw).

I gasped, Zuzu also looked totally shocked, and I said, "Oh, Coco! What happened?"

Then Zuzu said, totally matter-of-factly, "I bit her."

You can imagine the Very Serious Conversation that ensued as David talked with Zuzu about not hurting her sister, not biting babies EVER, and generally not being a sociopath.

In retrospect, perhaps I didn't emphasize enough that we were just PRETENDING to eat Coco's feet? I really thought I made that clear, but evidently not?

On the other hand, Zuzu often says, unprompted, that she loves her sister, but it seems she might have some aggression to work out.

Anyway, since the toe-chomping was soon followed by the biting off the nose of the baby on the diaper package, the mild concern that we could be raising the next Dexter ended up being incredibly timely because I just got a phone call from a local university's graduate psychology department.

I don't remember if I mentioned this on the blog, but last summer at the Farmers' Market, I signed up Zuzu as a volunteer participate in a local university's psychology department. A couple graduate students were working a booth there and they were looking for children between the ages of six months and five years to be on call for various studies that came up. Of course I love the idea of my children being psychological guinea pigs (they could be like the Marshmallow Test Kids at Stanford!), so of course I signed up.

And then the call came in! Zuzu has been asked to participate in a study examining...

wait for it...


in toddlers.


Are there spy cameras hidden in my home? I can't help but wonder.

Anyway, the study consists of her watching a puppet show and then answering some questions. This should be interesting.

Hashtag please don't be a sociopath.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday Weekend Recap

I missed Microblog Monday. It was a busy day around here in terms of cleaning up and getting organized because David spent all of Sunday outside working in the yard and running electric lines to the other side and front of the house to more easily plug in the chicken's heat lamp and Christmas lights. That left me on solo parent duty, and I decided to finish sewing Zuzu's Halloween costume, so cleaning up the house waited for Monday and blogging got away from me. Even Microblogging. Well, there's always next week.

Monday, Coco had her two month check up (although she's actually two and a half months) and not only did she appear healthy and adorable (I like that our pediatrician pronounces her "healthy and cute" as his official diagnosis at the end of each visit), she also flirted shamelessly with the doctor, giving him huge grins and all but batting her eyelashes at him.

She cried dramatically for her shot, but not for long.

I think Monday was also a bit challenging because I was still recovering from my weekend.

Oh, that sentence does not mean what it used to.

Friday morning was fabulous--our friend E came over to play with Zuzu since E's middle school was having parent/teacher conferences that day. E kept Zuzu totally entertained--it was a morning without whining, which is miraculous! We went to the park (the weather was beautiful), came home and painted pumpkins, and then had lunch before E had to leave.

I actually could have brought a book with me to the park this time--E was very careful and conscientious about helping Zuzu climb and slide and it was totally adorable.

Zuzu rocked this headband sweat-band style the whole time. 
The only hiccup came at lunch time, when E's sack lunch that she'd brought with her caused a lot of food envy for Zuzu--particularly the package of yogurt. E was nice enough to share her grapes and surreptitiously eat some of her other food so that Zuzu didn't really notice it. Zuzu cried when we dropped her off, but she took a good nap.

Zuzu loves E.
Friday evening was Family Fun Night at David's school. They set up a carnival and have food trucks and a hay maze and it's a fundraiser for the PTA. My friend Jamie and her family now live about five minutes from David's school (although they are in another district) so I invited them to come to Family Fun Night with their boys, Owen and Nathan. Zuzu calls Nathan "My Nay-fun" which is pretty cute.

Nathan, Owen, and Zuzu
Thank goodness they came with us because I don't think I could have kept track of Zuzu without their help. She basically acted like she owned the place, butting to the front of all the lines for the carnival games (the games were staffed by school volunteers, so people who knew her were totally enabling her, despite my best efforts), opening doors to rooms that she was not supposed to access, and bolting down the sidewalk when she was supposed to be waiting in line for the hayride.

Watching the boys play the fishing game. Zuzu had already gone fishing because of course she had to go first. #diva
Having Coco in the Ergo is convenient for keeping my hands free, but I can't exactly sprint while wearing the baby. And David was doing his hand-shaking, back-slapping, high-fiving principal thing, so he wasn't able to be with us the entire time we were there. Fortunately, Max and Jamie picked up some of the parenting slack since their children were, you know, NOT running amok and actually listening to their parents. Hashtag must be nice.

Zuzu got her face painted for the first time. She took it very seriously and held very still. I requested a pumpkin to match the dress she was wearing, but then she asked the girl for purple (her favorite color right now) so she got a purple spider on her other cheek.

So serious.
Both were smeared into unrecognizable blobs within ten minutes.

By the end of the night (it ended at 8pm), I was exhausted and Zuzu was still buzzing. I thought I was so smart for remembering to pack the girls' pajamas because it's a forty-five minute drive home and I was hoping to transfer Zuzu from the car without waking her up.

Would you believe that kid STAYED AWAKE the whole way home? In spite of soothing music on the radio. She chattered about her "fwends, Nay-fun and Owen" and asked me if we could go to Jamie's house and said she didn't want to go home, she wanted to go to Jamie's house. Finally, I quit engaging in conversation with her, hoping she'd nod off. But no. She was still bright-eyed when we got home. In fact, when David got home about forty-five minutes after we did, she was STILL AWAKE.

I'm wondering if someone slipped her a Red Bull when we weren't looking.

It was 11:30pm before we were all asleep.

Saturday morning we were up at 6:30pm to drive back out to David's school to canvass for votes for a proposition that will give the district enough money to accommodate the influx of students they will have over the next few years.

Coco was a total crab apple even though she usually loves chilling in the Ergo, so we'd only gone to a few houses when I turned back and headed for the car to sit down and feed her.

Zuzu, however, LOVED canvassing. After we left each house, she kept saying, "I say hi!" She was thrilled when people were home and opened the door so she could say hi. David would ring the doorbell and then she would pound on the door.

I'm totally going to get her to campaign for Hillary in 2016.

After canvassing, we decided to lunch at Red Robin. This was a good idea in theory, but we had two Code Brown diaper situations while we were there which does not exactly boost the appetite. Zuzu discovered how amazing Ranch dressing is and was drowning her grilled chicken in it and then resorted to just dipping her fingers and licking them. Gross me out. This is why children should not really be allowed to eat in public.

(I don't really mean that.)

(Except kind of I do.)

I freaking love Coco's face here. Look at those cheeks!
At least she was finally worn out enough to nap after lunch. She was asleep in her carseat before we pulled out of the restaurant's parking lot, and she didn't wake up when David transferred her to the stroller. This meant that we were actually able to do a little shopping at Macy's before Zuzu woke up. The game was over as soon as she was awake, but we were pretty much finished by then anyway.

While David was trying on pants at Macy's I started watching this bike race on the TV by the dressing rooms and got so into it that when he was ready to go, I had to wait and see who won. It was exciting!

The last few days have been so gorgeous--October in the midwest in all its glory. Cool, crisp mornings, impossibly blue skies, all the leaves changing colors, highs around 70 degrees. Glorious.

I'm taking advantage of the weather by taking Coco and Cooper for long walks in Forest Park after we drop off Zuzu at school. It only takes two days in a row for Cooper to get his heart on the same thing happening over and over again, so we are both going to be really sad when it gets too cold to keep up this routine.

Coco's in the stroller, Cooper's sniffing in the brush
So that's what's been going on around here. I can't believe it's nearly Halloween! I gave a sneak-peek of Zuzu's costume on Instagram, but I'm pretty excited about how it's coming together. I just hope I
can get her to wear the bonnet. Two-year-olds--they're unpredictable, man.

for example, Zuzu here is saying, "No pictures, please, Mama" with a sigh in her best long-suffering voice

Friday, October 17, 2014

More Conversations with Zuzu

This has been a heavy week, so here are a few recent conversations that made me laugh.

Scene: In bed, early one morning. Zuzu woke up and came in my room and crawled in bed with me. I'm wearing a nursing tank top. She is being very sweet and affectionate, sort of petting my arm and shoulder. She rubs her hand over my shoulder and then starts petting my boob on the outside of the tank.

Zuzu: Mama, your tummy feels good.

Me: Uh, well, actually that's my chest.

Zuzu: Oh! I yike your chest.

# # #

Scene: Sitting in the recliner in the TV room. Reading a book.

My stomach growls.

Zuzu: (gasps) Oh, Mama! You peepee in your pants?

Me: (laughing) No, my tummy growled.

Zuzu: Oh.

# # #

Scene: In the kitchen.

Zuzu's stomach growls. She lifts up her shirt.

Zuzu: Oh, Mama! My tummy coming out!

Me: What?

Zuzu: My tummy coming out!

Me: No, your tummy growled.

# # #

Scene: Bedtime. Zuzu has suckered David into letting her watch the Cardinal game with him in our bed.

Zuzu: I yike to watch your show, Dad. Tank you.

# # #

Scene: Bathtime.

Zuzu toots in the bathtub.

Zuzu: Oh! Bubbles come out!

# # #

I have this impulse to start videoing everything she says lately. She's talking so much and already some of her baby-talk is becoming more grown up. For example, I'm sort of sad that Zuzu has started calling Cooper Cooper instead of Peeper. She's such an imitator and will repeat nearly any word we say, with almost the same inflection. It's adorable.

I love some of the other funny things she still says, and the way she says "my" for "I" and skips over prepositions:

My yike tunnels. 

My coming! 

Come in my kitchen, play me. 

Coco wants to come downstairs me.

Don't cwy, Coco. Mama coming. Mama, Coco cwying. She wants mama-milk. (In case you're wondering, Coco ALWAYS wants mama-milk.)

# # # 

Happy Friday, everybody. Thanks to all of you who lit a candle for Eliza on Wednesday, and all of you who remember her regularly. xoxo

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

October 15

print created by Francesca at Small Bird Studios

Today is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Day.

Before I ever got pregnant, I was aware that people lost babies.

But I never thought that it would be me.

My friend Veronica said something in an e-mail the other day that I thought summed up the situation so perfectly. She said that many people seem to think about stillbirth or pregnancy loss as tragedy, but one that is an isolated event, an event that we move on from after it occurs.

In reality, though, it's a loss that we wake up and experience again each and every day. It isn't just a baby I've lost--it's a toddler and a preschooler and--in just a couple of years--a kindergartener and the list goes on and on and on.

I'm going on four years out from losing Eliza, and I'm better at balancing my grief. The buoyant joys of having two little girls here helps to keep the dark sorrow at bay most of the time.

But of course they are also living reminders of another little girl who's not here, of our firstborn daughter, of the sister who isn't here, of the baby we loved so much and never got to see grow up.

Time has made my grief easier to carry, but a day doesn't go by that I don't think about Eliza and who she would be if she were here now.

Tonight at 7pm, I'll light a candle for Eliza and for all the other babies who have been lost and the families who are missing them. This is part of the Wave of Light that will go all around the world. I would be honored if you would join me, and I thank you for thinking of our baby girl.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Microblog Monday: Chatbooks & Instagram

They say that today's kids are the most photographed ever, and that is certainly true for my kids.

I take most of their photos with my phone because it's easy and convenient, and I frequently post pictures of them on Instagram. In fact, I'm totally the Instagrammer who only posts pictures of my kids and occasionally my dog. It's such an easy way to share photos with family and friends. I even bookmarked my Instagram page on David's grandma's desktop computer so she can click on it to see pictures of the girls.

The problem with taking countless photos is that it's hard to keep on top of getting any of them printed! I've still been (sporadically) printing traditional 4x6 photos for albums, although I'm seriously thinking about switching to creating a photo book every six months or so and only printing a few snapshots. Thinking is the operative word though--finding time to actually sit down and order prints or create photo books has not happened recently!

But I found out about Chat Books, so at least some photos are getting printed. It's an app that links up to Instagram. Chat Books offers a subscription that automatically creates and prints a mini-photo book for you every time you post 60 pictures on Instagram. (For me, this is every 3 months or so). With a subscription, it's $6 a book. Free shipping.

And the best part is, I don't have to think about it! They send me a notification, I have three days to delete any photos I don't want and select my cover photo, and then it's printed and mailed to me. Couldn't be easier, and they sure are cute. 

(This may be needless to say, but this isn't sponsored and they don't know me.)

Do you print photos regularly? How do you keep them organized? I really need to get a system going...

Want to sign up for Chatbooks?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

This Must Be The Land That They Call Life

Two weeks ago, we had Coco baptized. It was different from Zuzu's baptism, which was in my parents' church and very traditional. This was more of a blessing or a dedication or a "welcome to the world, we love you baby" kind of ceremony.

My BFF from high school is now a Disciples of Christ minister (something no one who knew her in high school would have predicted and yet is the perfect definition of a true calling as now I can't imagine her doing anything else--until we get our own HGTV show spraypainting things we buy at thrift stores, or our cooking show where we pair recipes with classic novels) and I asked her to perform the ceremony. It was a gorgeous day and we did the baptism on a little island at a park (the same park where David and I had our engagement photos taken). 

the Rev. Monica with Colette
Monica and I joked about her being at this park baptizing my daughter when it seems like our high school selves were just there skipping school and smoking clove cigarettes (only on special occasions, I assure you) but such are the stages of life (and one man in his time plays many parts).

Playing the part of adequately responsible adults with baby
The ceremony was short and simple. Our families were there. It was a perfect blend of traditional and nontraditional and it felt right for us right now.

David's grandma (wiping a tear), his dad and his dad's wife, Ellie Kate, and Monica's mom
Bop, Grammy with Zuzu (who is licking snot from her nose), my cousin Rosemary, and great-aunt Dottie
my aunt and uncle with their granddaughter, Mesa
Somehow my Papa managed to not get into these photos (he's tricky like that), but he was there. Zuzu and Coco are lucky to have great-grandparents who are still around, and the baptism was a time when we especially missed my Nana and David's Grandpa, as well as my Grandma and Grandpa Vance and David's Grandma and Grandpa Duckworth. When I was pregnant with Eliza, one of the things I wrote in her baby book after her family baby shower was that she was so lucky to have a family who loved her so much already. It's so true for all of my girls.

I haven't written a lot about my faith here because I find it hard to articulate. My concept of God and His role in our lives was shattered when we lost Eliza, even though I realize now that it should have already happened--I don't know why I expected to be spared suffering when so many other people are not. And some serious shifts in my thinking had already happened as I got older and a little more reflective. I guess the most accurate thing to say is that I'm still searching.

Not pictured, Coco's sister, who insisted on picking her nose throughout the ceremony
I certainly have more questions than answers, but the Rilke poem I asked Monica to read at Coco's baptism expresses a particular view of God that I think is both beautiful and compatible with my (very limited) understanding of how God might be working in my life.

The promise here is one that God makes before we are born. It is not a promise that we will get through life unscathed, but it suggests that the holiness of life is in its intensity.

The way I read the poem, it says that the nearest we can come to God after we are born is in the moments of great happiness or crushing sadness. The delightful and the brutal. Or, as the poem says, beauty and dread. That, after all, is real life.

It's hard to feel close to God in the devastating moments, but it's an idea that I am thinking about a lot. It's easier to think that I could be feeling God's presence on a gorgeous day at a beautiful park surrounded by loved ones. But those experiences are equally real.

"God Speaks to Each of Us" by Rainer Maria Rilke

God speaks to each of us before we are,
Before he's formed us -- then, in cloudy speech,
But only then, he speaks these words to each
And silently walks with us from the dark:

Driven by your senses, dare
To the edge of longing. Grow
Like a fire's shadowcasting glare
Behind assembled things, so you can spread
Their shapes on me as clothes.
Don't leave me bare.

Let it all happen to you: beauty and dread.
Simply go -- no feeling is too much --
And only this way can we stay in touch.

Near here is the land
That they call Life.
You'll know when you arrive
By how real it is.

Give me your hand.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Microblog Monday: Closet

I organized Zuzu's closet yesterday. Like really organized it--emptied out the entire thing, put away clothes and shoes that are too small, refolded the sheets for her bed, removed the basket of baby bibs, added new shelf paper, and organized all her hanging clothes by category.

It was a really satisfying exercise. I don't know why it took me so long to work up the energy to tackle it (it was on my list of things I wanted to do before the baby was born).

I ended up leaving one shelf half-empty (amazing!) and Zuzu actually commented on it: "Oh, Mama! It's all gone!"

Don't worry, Zu. I'm sure it won't take anytime at all to fill it up again.

Of course, I "put away" a lot of stuff into the closet in the guest room, which is kind of a disaster... But you know. Another project for another day. In the meantime, I'm keeping the door open to Zuzu's closet and feeling ridiculously proud of myself everytime I catch a glimpse of its nicely organized contents.

Are your closets tidy? Does it give you a bizarre rush of joy and accomplishment that suggests that you are incredibly old and boring? Or is that just me?

Thursday, October 2, 2014


This morning I decided to take the girls to story time at the library.

What a great idea. Good moms take their kids to libraries.

I managed to take a shower this morning before Coco woke up and kept Zuzu busy by letting her take a shower with me (not my favorite way to shower, but easier than wondering what's she's doing while I'm in a compromised position).

We had breakfast, I even put away some laundry, and then I loaded up the girls and we drove the five minutes to the library (we could have walked, but it was raining).

Zuzu and I had a conversation on the way to the library about how the library is a place where we keep our voices down and listen and hold hands with Mommy.

Our library has a big staircase and she always wants to go downstairs even though there's nothing in the basement except meeting rooms. The children's books are on the third floor so we go upstairs, but evidently that is not as cool.

So we went to story time. I was wearing Coco in the Ergo carrier so I sat in a chair. Zuzu sat in a chair next to me.

Storytime went just fine. The librarian read pirate stories. I'm not sure Zuzu knew what a pirate was, so I tried to fill her in before the story started ("Pirates sail in boats in the ocean.")

She enjoyed the pirate stories and the little songs we sang in between the stories ("If you're a pirate and you know it, say 'Ahoy!'"). And then it was craft time: make your own pirate hat.

She played a little fast and loose with the glue, and I had to try not to roll my eyes at one mom who was directing her daughter's pirate hat a little too closely, but in the end we ended up with a lovely pirate hat.

We'd just picked up a batch of library books earlier in the week, so I told Zuzu to select one book to take home. She chose a book on airplanes.

She had done really well, so it was reward time: walk down the stairs to the basement.

And so we did.

She wanted to drink out of the drinking fountain, but... cold, flu, EBOLA... I said no.

It was time to head out and I was congratulating myself on a successful outing. Coco was comfortably snoozing away in the Ergo, Zuzu was well behaved and had had a lovely cultural experience designing her pirate hat and now we were going to go home, have lunch, and take a loooong nap, right?

In a word, no. I let her choose elevator or stairs to go back up and check out her airplane book (she chose elevator) and as we headed for the check out line, I reminded her that she would need to sit in the chairs by the window while I checked out the book.

This is our normal routine at the library, but today it fell apart. She wanted to continue to ride the elevator or run up the stairs and she did not want to wait in line to check out the book. She bolted, I grabbed her arm, and she did the drop-to-the-floor-limp-and-boneless thing while also shrieking, "NO! I go upstairs! I go downstairs!"

And so I ended up picking her up super awkwardly under my right arm (because Coco was occupying my front in the Ergo) and dragging her out to the car while she screamed, "I NO GO HOME! I GO LIBARRY!"

A man walking out to his car said something to her--I can't remember what, something about her face freezing that way except it wasn't that exactly, but along those lines. She ignored him. I wished that he would just ignore her.

Of course his car was parked next to ours, so he had to wait while I put her in her carseat. And I felt all flustered and self-conscious.

Zuzu fought me and wouldn't let me buckle her in, and I couldn't really force her because I had an innocent baby in between us who was going to get smacked by an irate two-year-old and also a witness in the form of the dude who wanted to get in his car. So I just left her in the floorboard of the car, shut the door, and went around to the other side to put Coco in her car seat.

Then I remembered Zuzu can open the car door and I was suddenly afraid that she would open her door and smack the dude's car as he backed out, or worse, jump out of the car and get run over, so I was trying to hold onto her across Coco's car seat and saying things like, "We have to leave because you're not following library rules" in a calm and rational voice even though what I WANTED to be doing was screaming louder than she was screaming.

Once the dude had vacated his parking spot, I took a deep breath and counted to ten, and then went back around and got Zuzu buckled in her car seat (by this time, her screaming had softened to a super annoying whine). Then I went back around and buckled in Coco, then got in the front seat.

At this point, Coco started crying and Zuzu continued whining in the most irritating pitch possible and fake crying for good measure, "I go libarreeeeeeeeeeeee, Mama, waaaaaaahhhh, I go libarreeeeeeee."

I ignored her.

Coco stopped crying once the car started moving, which saved my sanity. I did my best to think zen and tune out the incessant whining coming from Zuzu.

She did it all the way home, stopping at one point to ask, "Is that a train, Mama?" in her TOTALLY NORMAL, not whining voice.

I said, "No, that's a truck."

She said, "Oh."

And then remembered that she was supposed to be whining and started up again.

Don't get me wrong: I'm glad Zuzu has so much fun when we visit the library. I just hope that some day she'll enjoy the books as much as she enjoys the elevator and stairs.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Best Breastfeeding Advice I've Gotten

I'm exclusively breastfeeding Coco, just as I did Zuzu, and I'm relieved and happy to say that it seems to be going well. At least, if Coco's cheeks are any indication.

I was thinking about how much I stressed about it the first time around. I was absolutely determined to breastfeed because I was convinced that it was the best thing for my baby and I was so furious at my body for failing Eliza, that I was going to force it to work for Zuzu. Turns out you can't really control that sort of thing, but I was fortunate that I was able to breast feed Zuzu for fifteen months and then she weaned herself with zero drama. (It's probably the last time she did anything without some drama.)

This time around, I know that breast feeding is not actually the best choice for everyone, and I was just hopeful that it would work out again. I haven't been stressed about it and I haven't really tried to schedule Coco. She cries, I give her the boob. Works like a charm. I'm still having some over supply issues, which include a super fast let down that nearly drowns her. She's also spittier than Zuzu ever was, so that threw me for a bit of a loop, but we are getting things figured out (translation: I do a lot of laundry but the baby is getting enough to eat!).

Anyway, in the course of breastfeeding, I asked for lots of advice. I have consulted many, many times. I've attended La Leche Meetings and other breast feeding mom groups. I've talked with lactation consultants and other breastfeeding moms. This is a compilation of the best advice I've gotten.

1. Remember that it gets easier.
As I mentioned, last time around I was so determined to breastfeed that there's nothing that could have deterred me. This time around, I had kind of forgotten how much IT FREAKING HURTS at first. Even if your baby is latching correctly. Even if you're holding the baby in a "proper" nursing position (ear, shoulder, and hips all lined up straight). It just freaking hurts at first. It hurts so much that it's hard to believe people actually keeping doing it!

And then all of a sudden, it doesn't hurt anymore. It gets super easy.

I went to one breastfeeding support group at the hospital and the lactation consultant passed out a graph comparing the ease of breastfeeding to formula feeding. At first, formula feeding totally beats out breastfeeding in terms of difficulty. But somewhere between the 4 and 6 week mark, when baby starts getting some neck control and your nipples have stopped feeling like they are being shredded, breast feeding just gets easier. Simpler, less messy, and super convenient. All you need is the baby and yourself (and, if you're me, a burp cloth to catch the overflow of breastmilk shooting everywhere).

2. Attend a breastfeeding mothers group.
I was totally the pregnant girl attending the breastfeeding mothers group when I was expecting Eliza. That made it kind of hard for me to want to go back, even when I had a baby to take with me. I cried when introducing myself the first few times because it was hard for me to talk about having lost Eliza, but I didn't want to leave her out. As difficult as that was at first (it's easier this time around), it was worth it for me to get advice and feedback from other people. It also helped me to see other people who were struggling with the same issues I was--and seeing some moms battling low supply or serious latch issues reminded me how fortunate I was that I was able to do this.

The first time around, I was really anxious about Zuzu's weight gain, so I'd go to breast feeding groups so I could weigh her before and after I fed her. This time, I haven't felt the need to do that, but it's nice to know the option is there.

3. Slather on the lanolin and use gel pads.
Zuzu had a great latch from the very start. Coco was born with a little tongue tie that I noticed right away in the hospital. After consulting with three lactation consultants and two pediatricians, we decided to have it clipped at the hospital. I was worried about it hurting her, but they assured me that there are very few nerve endings there. I made David go watch and he said she fussed when they did it but stopped crying as soon as it was over. I noticed a difference in the way she latched on immediately.

BUT I was still really sore for the first 10 days with both girls. So I smeared on the lanolin all the time. Actually, my favorite stuff was this MotherLove cream. It's awesome. I used it every time Coco nursed until I forgot to use it because it didn't hurt anymore!

I also used these soothing gel pads--keep them in the fridge and feel the relief. AHHH-mazing.

4. Air out your boobs.
Some good advice I got was that you want to avoid smooshing your sore boobs/nipples in clothes all the time. But lying around with your boobs hanging out may or may not be an option for you, depending on who is visiting and how you feel about them checking out your boobs. In that case, you need these breast shells (ask for them at the hospital).

I would smear on the MotherLove cream and then stick these in my nursing bra and give a little sigh of relief.

Also when my boobs were engorged and it was August and I was hot and cranky and sweaty, I would put a sock between them so they wouldn't touch each other. (UGH I hate engorgement.)

5. Save that milk. 
Speaking of over supply, when I nurse Coco on one side, the other side leaks milk. And by "leaks," I mean "shoots out about two ounces."

I ordered one of these milky cups from Amazon (they've gone up in price since I bought mine, but it was worth the investment for me) and when I nurse on one side, I stick it in my bra on the other side. I pour the milk from the milky cup into a bag or bottle and keep it in the fridge and add to it after each nursing session during the day. At the end of the day, I stick the bag in the freezer.

This allows me to start building up a little stash of frozen breast milk without having to pump. I don't want to pump because (1) I hate pumping! and (2) I don't need to increase my supply at this point.

One thing I was concerned about was the issue of foremilk and hindmilk. But I asked a lactation consultant about it, who checked with someone who has a PhD in lactation (did you know they have those?) and she said that it would not be an issue because there is not an absolute distinction between foremilk and hindmilk (it all comes out of the same tap) and the milk in the first few weeks is especially full of good stuff.

6. Use Sonicare and shower massage for plugged milk ducts.
I have had a couple of plugged milk ducts this time around and I was really concerned because of my experience with mastitis when Zuzu was the age that Coco is now. (Mastitis is the worst!).

A friend advised me that the best thing you can do for a plugged milk duct is take a hot shower and use the shower massage setting to spray right on the duct. You should also massage the duct (if you can) while the baby is nursing.

And the other weird but effective thing I learned from a LLL leader is to hold a Sonicare toothbrush handle against the duct and let it vibrate through a brush cycle. It totally helps!

7. Get fitted for a bra and then fitted again.
Getting fitted for a bra can seem really awkward, but I sort of gave up on modesty after I started breastfeeding and seriously it's not like the ladies fitting you for a bra care at all about what your boobs look like. The last thing I feel like doing is trying on several bras to see which one fits best. So I followed the recommendation of a local friend and I just let the lady at the bra shop eyeball me, bring me a bra, I put it on, it fit. Bingo!

Right now, I mostly wear nursing tank tops (I also let the bra lady tell me what size to get), but once my milk supply settles down (it takes about four months, so I'm almost halfway there!), then I'll get refitted for a couple of nursing bras that I can wear under regular clothes.

8. Don't worry about pumping. 
I stressed about pumping the first time around and had this idea that I had to have a huge stash of milk already pumped before I went to work. I know that works well for some women, but for me, that wasn't the case. I was so relieved when a lactation consultant told me not to worry about pumping for the first several weeks. I ended up not pumping much at all until I went back to work, and that's my plan this time around, too. When I'm at work, I pump what baby needs for the next day and that was that--and if necessary, I can supplement with the milk I've frozen from the milky cup.

But also don't worry about pumping because it's not as big or weird a deal as it seems. I got one of those hands free bras (super sexy!) and I'd just check my e-mail or read blogs at work for 15 minutes while I pumped.

9. Drink a lot of water.
I'm thirsty all the time. I use my trusty Starbucks cup or a Tervis cup or the mug from the hospital and I chug water. I definitely underestimated how thirsty I would be. I carry a cup with me everywhere I go and I drink more water now than I did when I was pregnant!

10. Enjoy it.
Last time I was so worried--did I go too long before pumping? Is she getting enough to eat? Is there too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk? Last time it took me a long time to figure out that I had an over supply (I ended up diagnosing myself via kellymom after Zuzu started having neon green poops), while this time I started nursing on one side per feeding in the first week and that helped enormously.

But BOTH TIMES the baby is doing fine. We're doing fine. While I was still nursing Zuzu, I had a friend tell me that if she could go back and do it again, she'd do everything the same except not stress out about it. And that's what I'm trying to do.

The truth is that sometimes there are other things I want to or need to take care of and I wish that I didn't have to take the time to sit down and feed the baby. It's those evenings when Coco wants to cluster feed and she's squawking, and in a second she'll start screaming, and it's only been an hour and a half since she last ate, and I'm tired of small people touching and grabbing me all day long, and if I could just do x, y, or z...

But everytime I sit down and feed the baby, I relax. I breathe slower. I enjoy the endorphins. People don't talk about breastfeeding feeling good because that sounds so weird, but it does. I look at Coco's sweet face. I check my instagram feed, or I watch TV, or I do a little reading. I never regret the moments I spend nursing her. It never feels like a waste of time. In fact, I can't really think of anything more important or rewarding that I could be doing. It's that good.

I remember a friend telling me that breast feeding is hard at first and then it's "pretty much the best thing ever." I was so skeptical, and I know that's not the case for everyone (for various reasons that may or may not be in your control) but in my experience it's been true.

Would you add to this list?