Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Operation Niner: Update

The princess/duchess/highness is at it again. First she shops at Zara and is a repeat outfit offender, and then she rocks a post-baby belly as she debuts her baby at the hospital.

While I have to applaud her attempts at meeting us plebs where we are at, I do have to wonder if her hair and make-up were managed. (Also, shout out to the Aden and Anais blanket they used, but BOO to images of them not properly strapping the future king in the car seat.) And let's be think she was sporting hospital issued granny undies under that frock?

I'm not going to rattle on with commentary about her polka-dot pooch (said in a loving tone) because others have done it for me. I mean, she's awesome. And amazing. And gorgeous. And seemingly nice. And she played field hockey. ("here we go, yo!" That's for Maura/Bec/Sam...none of whom I am sure even read this anymore.) And just birthed a freakin' king. And walked outside to millions and millions of judgy-mcjudgersons mere hours after giving birth. And there is nothing I love more (outside of my family, friends, and homemade guacamole) than stories about Kate. Heck. I am not cutting my hair in part (70%) because she still has long hair. If it weren't for the pond and my illogical fear of the loch ness monster, it would be single-white female, cockney style.

More than pouring over sites to find imitation polka dot gowns (don't tell me they don't exist), I am anxiously awaiting for her declaration on how she is getting back into shape and what she is eating. Courtesy of some legit news agency like US Magazine, clearly.

I'm thirsty for a little more motivation. Operation Niner is going well. It's more like Operation Sixer and a third. (Or Operation Seven if we are talking racing.) I am still slogging, but runs aren't as painful. I am aiming to do at least 5 races before next April. You know how well I do with goals, so here's hoping for at least 2. Eric has allowed me to get a new pair of Oiselle Roga shorts after I run a certain # of training runs. I am strategically not identifying the goal # nor the # I am currently at. I am also not disclosing to Eric that I have already bid on a pair of Oiselle shorts on eBay for a fraction of the cost (#advantageofanonblogreadinghusband)
Of all times in my life, I have never felt more comfortable wearing just a sports bra top to run. I think because I feel like there is no expectations for a woman in her 30's who has 3 kids and birthed one of them 3 months ago. That, and it's hot and sticky in these parts. And...I'm living my life on a "go big or go home" basis these days.
But I have hiccups of apathy, and have needed extra push to battle the temptations Ben and Jerry and their Greek Cousin have slung my way.

And here is if I ever had a sponsored post you would start getting the sense that I was going to go all "sales-y on you." In my journey to becoming a stalker of Oiselle (and missing the deadline to apply to their "team" by a mere days), I have also stumbled upon my antidote to caffeine and soda/pop/Coke. I am no saint...girl likes a good Misto and Coke. I've been flying through seltzer water forever, but needed a little somethin' somethin' to get me excited about running. I used to crave Gatorade at the end of each run, but know it's not the best source of anything for you. Then during my stalking, the "birds" at Oiselle posted about nuun. In's athletic Alka Seltzer.

I became intrigued.
Then obsessed.
Amazon opened on my browser, and it was a done deal. (Eric hates when that happens.)

I've been using it for a few weeks now, and definitely have my favorite flavors. (GRAPE. Tho...anyone want to try tropical fruit? Dislike. I'll send it to you.) I also split each tablet in half because during the day, I am not exercising anything but my digits and boobs (pumping), so probably don't need all the salt/electrolytes. But not only does it keep me away from soda and caffeine (not 100%, but I'm weaning), it has also helped my pumping output, which took a little dive after going back to work full time. I am still slowly increasing my frozen supply and am almost at 300 oz, which feels pretty good for a not over producing girl like me. (And have you seen Gus? Brother is not want for food.) I've made it to a year + with the first 2 boys, and I'd like to make it to at least a year of only breast milk with Guppy, too. Emphasis on "like." Not "I will go ballistic and commit hari kari if I can't."

So, there you have it. Slow and steady might not ever win the race...but it sure beats all those sitting on the couch eating Ben and Jerry's watching The Biggest Loser (not that I have EVER done that...never...ever...).

ouch! Sorry, pants got a little cinged.

This in no way is a sponsored, supported, endorsed, refuted, [insert any verb you like] post regarding the products above. I just love them. Buy them. Use them. And catch flack from my husband about getting excited over running shorts and electrolyte tabs.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shock and Awe

...that moment you walk out of your office after pumping, and halfway down the hall realize your shirt is still unbuttoned.
Yeah, that happened.
Thank you Guppy, for the perfect visual to my story.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The first rule of Baby Night Club: You do not talk about Baby Night Club.

The first rule of Baby Night Club: You do not talk about Baby Night Club.

The second rule of Baby Night Club: You do not talk about Baby Night Club.

Third rule of Baby Night Club: Someone cries, loses a paci, or gets unswaddled, the night is over.

Fourth rule: Both parents help at night-if possible.

Fifth rule: Take one night at a time, Mamas.

Sixth rule: No shirts for the breastfeeding Mamas.

Seventh rule: Night wakings will go on as long as they have to.

And the eighth and final rule: If this is your first Baby Night Club, you will lie about it.

[Insert Brad Pitt at his finest. Yum, yum give me some. Even my husband openly claims to have a crush on Brad Pitt from Fight Club.]
Unfortunately, I broke the cardinal rule of Baby Night Club: don’t talk about it (unless it sucks). Sorry mom for the crass language, but there is no other way to describe night wakings. Actually, you could add an "eff" word to it and that might even be more appropriate. Until Gus, I was totally convinced that I was put on this earth to make 99.9 (repeating)% of mothers feel better about their own babies’ sleep habits because mine have been so pitiful. I’m that friend where people come to complain about their little one’s sleep habits with, “I know I shouldn’t complain to you, but…” And then they go on to explain that their 3 month old started getting up once a night, when my first two children were up every 2 hours a night at 3 months. And 6 months. And sometimes at 9 months. Oh, and maybe even last night.

Then I had Gus. And whether it has to do with being full term, or being a third child, or maybe even that area of the DNA strand that is responsible for night wakings got untangled this time, he has been a pretty easy baby. And his sleeping has been predictable and even better: TOLERABLE.
He sleeps on his back.
He tolerates being swaddled.
He puts himself to sleep.

And then he started giving me something I had never experienced before: 6-7 hour stretches of sleep a few weeks after birth. And on two occasions, more than 8 hours.
Folks, this was EPIC.

But I knew better than to blast it all over social media because what I am used to are the rules to Baby Night Club: the second you gloat, the second your baby stops sleeping well. (And at one point, I almost wanted to scream: Holla back gurlz! I have a baby who sleeps through the night--and makes me a latte in the morning!)
First, he hasn't really "slept through the night" (depends on your definition). And second, I prefer a misto over a latte.

But in a moment of weakness, I was talking to my friend who just had her 2nd daughter, and briefly mentioned that Gus was giving me a good 6-7 hrs in his first stretch.
And then all hell broke loose and the past week Gus has been getting up every 2-3 hours. Up at 10pm, 1am, 3am, 5am, and 7am.

What is this, some homage to prime numbers? I know, I know...10 is not prime.

While I prefer to default to the easiest mechanism of getting him back down (boobies!), I am now asking Eric to help out. Instead of a bottle, I am forcing him to push the paci at the first 10pm waking. The kid is getting bottles all day when I am gone, and honestly-I don’t want to do the extra washing. I know he doesn’t *need* to eat at 10pm, and this is the first week of Gus’s life I have asked Eric to do anything for this child after 7pm. Luckily, last night he took to that plastic nipple-shaped crack like a champ, and went right back to sleep until 1am. And then after that, I found myself like most nights this past week: drooling with a baby on my chest popping on and off the tap until 7am.
I am back to all of my old mind tricks telling myself every reason in the baby book: it’s a developmental “leap” time, he’s teething, he misses me at work and wants more time with me, he knows my supply is tanking since I’ve picked up pumping, he is transitioning out of the swaddle, he is seeing how far I can go with sleep deprivation…

But really, the reason doesn't matter; what I can say after doing this newborn thang 3 times now is that I can make myself nuts by trying to reveal the "why" or just acknowledge that this phase is temporary...stay consistent with our routine...and seriously look into getting Eric to lactate. (And anyone who just imagined Meatloaf from Fight Club is clearly my best friend.)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Leaning Tower of Motherhood

When you are married to a teacher, he makes you do things like write your thesis at the top of your essay. So here you go: 

Just because a choice is caked in ambivalence, doesn't mean it's wrong. It means it's hard.  (Good, Eric?)

After 12 weeks of inhaling breast milk burps and lightly gnawing, in a non-cannibalistic way, on chubby thighs, my journey back into VLOOKUP and outcomes analysis has begun. During my maternity leave, I curled up with my iPhone’s kindle app in the middle of the night and consumed things like The Great Gatsby in between gnursing sessions. (That’s when you nurse, and then do some thigh gnaws because baby chub is the perfect calorie free midnight snack). I became impervious to legitimate news and things like Savannah Guthrie’s “what’s trending Today”.

Now I feel like I am playing catch up and only recently heard about the firefighter tragedy in Arizona, and apparently missed much of the heated debate about Sandberg’s Lean In. In full disclosure, I have not read the book, but like a carrot to a donkey, am drawn to the discussion surrounding what to me appears to be the rub between mothers who work outside of the home, and mothers who do not work outside of the home. (Notice the very deliberate terminology—acknowledging not all women who do not work outside of the home embrace the term “stay at home mom”). Giving me some context, I did watch what I feel is one hell of a documentary during my leave on PBS called MAKERS: Women Who Make America and cannot recommend it enough. I have also referred in previous posts to a well written article in The Atlantic that tries to deconstruct some of the debate surrounding the Lean In phenomenon. While I am not fully invested in the Lean In conversation because, honestly, I don’t have time to read the book (I am too busy reading the Positive Discipline series to try and mitigate the explosions my threenager is currently responsible for as a result of the new baby and going back to work), these two sources have served me well in deconstructing my own place as a mother who works outside of the home.

Recently, an article was published on Yahoo! Shine ("Stop Leaning Into Your Career and Start Leaning Into Your Family") that stirred the pot, perhaps not intentionally, and sparked a heated conversation regarding the choices we make as mothers in considering “work”. I give any author credit for being vulnerable within what I am assuming is a character limited space. And while I hesitate making inferences regarding the piece’s intent, I suggest there are multiple dimensions to consider and explore. I want to offer up a personal reflection of what I call the Leaning Tower of Motherhood; as women, I think we sometimes look as though we are leaning so far we might just crumble, but somehow keep it together. And more importantly, depending on your vantage point, we could be leaning a number of different ways.

(Here is where I get to blame sleep deprivation and post pregnancy hormones on anything either incorrect or unsavory about this entry. Including my attempt to play on the whole “leaning” image. I am giving myself another 9 months to use this excuse. Hey, Ms. Manners gives you a year to write wedding thank you notes, I am giving myself a year post baby to say stupid $hit…and say it incorrectly.)

Life is composed of what I call “competing priorities.” Those priorities are defined as the most basic (good old Maslow) to the complex (25 page analysis reports due on the day 1 child breaks his leg and the other has his starring performance as “sea-land creature #2” in the school play). While I can say that there is nothing more important than my family, I also need to say that at times, it isn’t and can’t be my only priority. I mean, I’d never take a shower and require catheterization because it seems that a puzzle just *has* to be completed whenever I’m about to rinse off or utilize the potty. And sometimes I am late for dinner (ahem, last night) because a huge analysis at work needs to be completed. Because my priorities shift doesn’t change their ultimate importance, and the process of triaging doesn’t always result in me feeling good. (Who wants to be late for dinner on PIZZA night with my beautiful boys? Yeah, me neither.)

Here’s another consideration: family first. Sure. But I consider myself to be part of my family, and I have witnessed that I don’t serve others well until I’ve taken care of myself. My body/my soul/my spirit craves exercise. And I crave spending time with girlfriends. And I most certainly crave spending regular time with my husband sans kids. And I also craves working outside of the home. But my body isn’t yours…and I can’t tell you how to operate yours…but I can support the choices you make. While my current arrangement of working full time may not be perfect or ideal, I have made the choice down this path and am learning to make it the best I can. There are many moments I wish I had a few months, hell--years, to stay at home with my entire family. In fact, there have been more moments than I can count that I have wished to play the lotto and win big so I can stay at home with my children forever. And there are moments, in full disclosure, I am relieved to drop my kids off at childcare so I can breathe deeply again, turn on NPR, decompress from a manic morning, and welcome adult conversation at my office.

There. I said it. And I don’t take it back.

While I wax poetic about the necessity for me to go to work, when you strip down all of the layers, it is still a choice. My husband’s and my earning potentials are relatively similar, and we are in a position where if we chose to have someone stay home, salary wouldn’t be a huge determining factor. Excise that out of the conversation, and we are left with decisions regarding what we want our family life to look like. One of us could decide not to work outside the home and our mortgage would still get paid. We would need to sacrifice more, and make different decisions regarding things like Nature Camp, vacations, the type and volume of food we eat, the quality of clothes we buy, etc. But the choice we made was to have 3 kids, and for those children to go to childcare.

I not only pushed my children out of my body, but also take seriously and honor my role as someone who raises them (and I humbly assert I raise them well). Yet I will also honor and ascribe the role of caretaker to more than just my husband and myself. Running the numbers, for good and/or for sad, my children’s caretakers have changed more of my children’s diapers than I have. They clock far more hours and have the opportunity for far more kisses than either my husband or I do during the week, and are most certainly players in raising my kids. It is why we have taken such careful steps in selecting a center that meets our needs and desires (and just so happens to be at my husband's work). In addition, my mother tirelessly comes down every summer to watch the boys during the time childcare is closed and Eric and I are at work. Make no mistake, I stew with the decision to delegate childcare outside of the mother/father arrangement and many times it makes my heart ache to the core. But for our family, we’ve decided it takes a village. And although a choice, that choice isn’t always easy to reconcile. But when they are at childcare, I am certain that they are seen as a priority. Children do absorb what they see as the Yahoo! article asserts, but I believe that for my children, whether at home in the care of a family member, or at our chosen childcare in the care of a teacher, they are loved, nurtured, and made a priority.

It has been asked, ‘but if there is a choice, and someone can be home with the children, to be there, to see the fleeting moments as they pass, to teach and to nurture, why would you choose otherwise? Why wouldn't you just "lean in?"’ This is where I think the question posed may be one dimensional. I choose to work outside of the home because in addition to a paycheck, it provides me with an outlet for the years of education I committed to; because it affords me the opportunity to (maybe selfishly to some) work on different facets of myself that in my heart, believe are necessary for me—Ali—to be a better mom. Because it allows my children to be able to participate in some extracurricular activities we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Because it provides my children with exposure to seeing both mother and father as equal earners outside of the home. Because it is a choice, my choice, that I am making work for my family. Because it has afforded us the opportunity for my husband to take on more significant  and equitable parenting responsibilities. While these reasons are not universal, they are choices reflective of paying mind to how Eric and I need to and choose to nurture our own family. What I am learning to do, even as I write this, is to be okay with those who call my choices “selfish” or question my commitment to my children. I am not going to argue that leaving my 3-year-old as he runs down the driveway in tears begging me not to go to work is awful. I’m not going to say that I haven’t buttered my bread with thick layers of guilt for deciding to go to work. I’m not going to say that our childcare does a “better” job with my babies—but they do a damn good one! I think it is true, you can’t have it all…at once.

But it’s okay for me to wear a cape of ambivalence regarding work. Likewise, it’s okay for those who don’t work outside the house to do the same. Because I question my choices and feel guilt at times doesn’t mean they are “wrong” means they are hard.

I contend that modern day feminism is not about a unilateral definition of “a woman’s work”, but more the push for societal (and governmental?) allowance of “choice” All for 1 year of paid maternity leave say aye-aye! (And all for forgetting if the period goes inside or outside quotations say aye-aye!) Some may choose to have their career in their back pocket, while others may find peace and meaning in having their career with a lead foot in the front seat. How this affects another’s family dynamic and stability is not for me to judge, even when it is in stark contrast to my experiences. While my arrangement of deciding how I “lean” with my family may not 100% resonate with me (or you) every single day, and at times I may be on the verge of crumbling, I am committed to working tirelessly to make it the right choice. And as a “feminist”, I can only work toward and supporting everyone else to be given that choice, too.

Now, back to the thighs. #nomnom.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Everything at once: maternity leave

(If you are like me and have trouble reading and or writing complete sentences, just skip to the video below. For all you pumping moms, I promise it will increase your output if you watch while going to 2nd base with the Medela. I even tried to pick music that would sync with the WAAA WAAA of the Medela PIS. You're welcome.)

The time has maternity leave concludes, and even though it was my longest (previous leaves were 6 and 10 weeks respectively), this feels the most difficult to conclude.

I sort of feel like I've been given a bucket list and tomorrow I'm about to walk the plank to my demise. Just imagine Goonies with Sloth "yawing" in the background and that creepy Mama Fratelli poking me in the back with one eyed Willy's sword.

I want to do everything at once; soak up every molecule of Gus and spend days with him splayed on my chest, freshly nursed, researching a way to Peter Pan him and keep him a boy forever (minus the pesky shadow and green tights).

Maybe because he is my last of everything...maybe because I spent 12 weeks invested in fully loving him and getting to know him and not freaking out over a premature baby or cancer.

It's not that I want to be a full time stay at home mother. Sure there are compelling moments and reasons to do so. Here is a great piece on not regretting being a SAHM. But over time, I've realized that:
  1. I don't want to foreclose on my house (ie, financially, I need to work for our family),
  2. the socialization and education my children have received at their particular childcare, which I know is unique, is something I am confident I cannot replicate on my own,
  3. I readily admit that I am selfish and want to have time in my life to challenge myself professionally and make a go at a career, and sadly
  4. I personally believe taking myself out of the working arena will make it more difficult for me to re-enter if I stayed at home full time.
This doesn't mean that my current arrangement of working full-time is preferable, but at the very least it is required. Again--I want everything at once: time with my kids together, time with them individually, time to cultivate my career, time with my husband, time to train and run...but I can't. 

People keep throwing this whole Lean In movement at me when I talk about being a career woman. Listen, I can't even finish each month's book club selection and just go to the meetings for free bubbly and good conversation, so the chances of me reading the book right now are slim. But my husband keeps sending me great articles from The Atlantic, which I can easily read under the covers at night in anticipation of Gus's late night snacks at the booby bar. And one of the most recent articles put a lot of things into perspective...while the slant is weighted on gender issues, the general thesis is that the solution to the work-life conundrum is establishing social supports that allow families to function...whether or not the load is being shared [between men and women equally] doesn’t matter if the load is still unbearable. It will not become bearable once women lean in, or once the consciousness is raised, or once men are full partners, always, in domestic life. It will become bearable when decidedly more quotidian things become commonplace—like paid parental leave and affordable, quality day care. And I add, longer PAID maternity leave for women.

Whoa. That soapbox flew under my feet without my permission.

So this whole transition is branded with ambivalence at best. But I can say with certainty that another 3-6 months of maternity would probably do a Mama good right about now. And after watching the following 3 minutes, I'm sure you'll see why. (insert tears).

Oh Guppy... Trouble seeing embedded video? You can see a poorer quality version here:

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A plant I can't kill

Sadly, a result of the incredibly expensive new windows we installed upon moving into our house 5 years ago, is that the light that comes in isn't optimal for growing plants inside. This breaks my husband's heart, as he is a closet horticulturalist.

So for Father's day, I stumbled upon the intersection of two of his loves: no, not running and facial hair...but succulent plants and modernity (still debating that word). Port-a-plant! I actually got mine from another site where I found free shipping and a lower price (yeah coupon codes).

We had fun assembling them (we got 2 so each boy got to give one to Dad. Okay, the real reason was because I knew that we would run the risk of damaging them while assembling them with the boys), and I think they add a little punch of fun to Eric's desk area and compliment our new Harper print well.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"It happens every time, they all become blueberries." Willy Wonka

Who needs words when an appropriately filtered iPhone photo on Instagram does the job?

 It's called Blueberry Buckle.
And it's divine.
And it's a recipe that comes from may late Grandmother Lila. (I still cannot get over using the word "late").
And it's a result of driving over an hour to pick strawberries at Lone Oak Farm, only to find out they were out of them, and we had to settle for blueberries.
One gallon of brain food and $12 later...
As the "farmer" said (I use the term lightly. I know what a farmer is, and this guy had plaid shorts on, was talking on his cell phone, and using a 4 wheeler. Talk to my late Grandpop Paul. He'll tell you about farmers), "nothin' but sunlight, rain, and God growing them here berries."
We have been gorging on blueberries. And our GI systems have experienced shock.
Every day I have the same breakfast: TJ's complete oatmeal with a tablespoon of PB2 and a tablespoon of chia seed. The past week, I've added a generous helping of blueberries and it's out of this world.
Every day I also convince myself I need a second breakfast and have a square of Blueberry Buckle. Because MyFitnessPal app doesn't have the recipe for blueberry buckle already keyed in, it just doesn't get added. My reasoning: if it isn't in the library of foods on the app, the calories don't count.
And once you see this recipe, you'll see why this is the best reasoning for all involved.

Try it.
And really do separate the eggs.
And sift the flour.
And add a little "hasenfeffer" for Lila and Paul (inside Deysher joke).
Fahrvergn├╝gen works well, too.

If you try this, leave me a comment and let me know how it is! (BTW, you can use any assortment of berries).

2 /14 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 C sugar
3/4 C butter
3/4 C milk
1 1/2 t lemon juice
2 C floured blueberries

1/2 C sugar
1/2 C flour
1 t cinnamon
(Cut together and sprinkle on the batter before baking)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x11 dish (we use a slightly smaller one). Separate eggs. Beat egg whites until stiff and set aside. Cream butter, sugar and egg yolks. Sift flour and baking powder. Alternate adding dry ingredients with milk to the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Fold in egg whites, lemon juice, and then blueberries. Sprinkle the topping over the entire mixture. Bake in oven for 35-45 minutes (ovens vary, and if you use a smaller dish, cooking time will be more) until toothpick comes out clean.


I remember his burlesque pretense that morning of an inextinguishable grief when I wonder that I had never eaten blueberry cake before, and how he kept returning to the pathos of the fact that there should be a region of the earth where blueberry cake was unknown. William Dean Howells (1894)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Carolina on my mind: Part 2

The beach and DSLRs don't mix. 
So I was reduced to my iPhone and IG filters. 
And only 1 of the 3 days of beaching did I get pictures since the day we actually worse swim attire (holla for the boy shorts and rash guards for post partum bodies!), I was pretty much on a constant battle to nurse Gus without having him ingest sunscreen or sand...and help manage the 2 older boys who were (are) completely terrified of water. 

I am just going to come out and say it. I've nursed just about everywhere, and can honestly say the beach is no fun to nurse at. 
Wind, sand, sunscreen, sea water, and sweaty rash guards. 3 year olds terrified of water who come screaming at you and flopping their sandy body all over you while you are trying to get a good latch.

Next year--I am hoping more days at the beach like this:

C' know it had to be done.
As my brother aptly said, "I want to be this picture forever."
Undies and Polos. And dollar store shades. Classic