Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Good eats

So here's a barbecue recipe. The easiest thing you can possibly make, with one sorta tedious step- shredding the meat and picking out the fat.

1 big ol' pork rump/butt roast or shoulder or something called shoulder butt. don't be put off.
1 big onion
apple juice to fill up the crock pot 3/4ths full
1 jar bbq sauce (plus more if you want to top your meat with it later)

Cut the onion into biggish rings. Lay half on the bottom of the crock pot. Rinse the meat, pat it dry, trim any big blobs of fat (or wait til it's cooked and tender, either way works). Salt and pepper it generously and plop it in the crock pot. Pour apple juice around it about 3/4ths full- not all the way to the top of the pot or it'll spill over. Top the roast with the other half of the onion rings. Turn the crock pot on high for about 6 hours (up to like 8 hours, or set the crock pot on low if you do it overnight). When time's up, take the roast out (careful, it's tender and breaky-aparty). Shred that mess and pick out any fat bits. You can use two forks, or the less dignified but more effective your own hands to do this. Empty the onions and juice from the crock pot, put the shredded meat back in and mix in a jar of bbq sauce. We only use mustard-based, but I have a friend who does half mustard-based and half ketchup-based sauce, and I suppose you could also do vinegar, or just throw in salsa or a bunch of green chiles to make taco pork. You can serve it right up, or I like to leave the crock pot on low or warm for another hour or two until mealtime. It makes awesome sandwiches, you can put it over rice, or just eat it by the forkful straight out of the crock pot. And that's all I've got for you today, but once you make it you'll see it's enough.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Isn't this when Mary Poppins comes?

Someone hold me. We're going through what I suspect/hope is the 37-week sleep regression. Wynne IS sleeping, but don't ask me when her naps were yesterday or what they'll be like tomorrow. She'll wake up at 6:30 one morning, then sleep until 8 the next. She'll take 9 minutes to fall asleep for her first nap and an hour to fall asleep for the second one. I can't STAND the unpredictability and wondering if I put her down too soon or too late. She always cries when I leave her to sleep and takes forever to settle, which is maddening because she'd just gotten to where she knew the routine and usually took just 10 minutes to fall asleep. She needs to go in for her 6 month shots but I have no idea when to schedule an appointment because I can't guess when naptimes will be. Some days she gets 5 hours of naps, some days only 2.5 or 3, so bedtimes vary from day to day and that makes wake time vary. We have no schedule anymore and it is highly unpleasant.

She's also not eating like she used to. Sometimes she'll eat a normal serving, sometimes she'll turn her nose up at food she's always liked after three bites, sometimes she won't finish her bottle and has no interest in food at all. And no matter what it's a struggle to get through a meal. She's distracted and bats at the spoon and rubs her green beany hands in her eyes and hair. She didn't used to do these things, and it's making me dread mealtimes.

She constantly makes grunty humming sounds and scrunches up her nose and mashes her face into my body and rubs her eyes after 2 hour naps like she's still tired. She bursts into tears when I leave the room to put her diapers in the pail or get food ready or anything, even when somebody else is in the room playing with her. She'll be playing with a toy and suddenly NEED TO BE PICKED UP NOOWWW WOMAN!! She's had a rash around the sides of her diaper for a week now that will periodically get better and then pinker and more inflamed. She's always on the move, crawling for a step or two and then sticking her left leg out like a kickstand, getting stuck, and resorting to a sniper crawl. And in the last couple days she's started trying to pull up to her knees. I'm sort of hoping she'll start trying to walk just so we can do aaaall the developmental disruptions at once and get back to a schedule sooner.

I don't know WHAT to do most of the time. Basically I'm trying everything I can think to entertain her when she's awake, I'm doing ridiculous performances to keep her from melting down in the crib, I'm trying to sneak food in when she's distracted so she can't fling the spoon or the bottle to the floor, and for the most part, none of it is working.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What I Think About Schedules: Nobody Asked, and Almost Nobody Cares.

The other day I read a blog post where a mama talked about allowing for flexibility in her baby's routine. They HAVE a routine, but on the days it doesn't fit with the other things that need doing, she doesn't freak out, and the baby adapts. What I took from it was that for them, a strict schedule is too limiting. Several commenters wrote that they totally agreed, that you can't let the baby's naptimes and whatnot dictate your entire life. And I absolutely get the gist- you aren't trapped in your house until your youngest child is through with naps. Even for stay-at-home moms, even with only one baby, it's totally unrealistic to expect that every nap be in the crib, that the baby's waketimes are never too long, that all feedings happen on time or at home. And I don't think any baby has ever suffered more than a day or two from a change to her routine. Maybe, as several moms noted in the comments, the occasional schedule disruption and lack of routine is good for babies (though I have my doubts. It isn't like babies go to bed and process the day to glean life lessons like "go with the flow").

What I think, and what I wrote in the comments, is that different babies have different temperaments and adaptability tolerances. Some babies are hardly phased when 2:00 rolls around and they aren't being set in the crib like the past several 2:00s. My baby isn't one of them; she needs a routine (all babies do, of course, but people. Wynnie don't play.), and when we're out at naptime or even when she wakes early from a nap, she is incurably cranky. It's not fun for her or for us. So I am loathe to disrupt her schedule. Occasionally we do, to visit friends or go out to eat with our families, but Mike and I both know we'll pay for it later, so we keep outings to a minimum. To us, it isn't worth the fussing or the day or two it takes to get back on track.

What I didn't write in the comments, because there's no need to broadcast your snobby dissenting opinions on someone else's blog, is this: I think it's a mistake to believe that as a mom, your life doesn't revolve around your baby and her needs (and other children too, when applicable). That may seem extreme, but I come by it honestly. My mama is a routine snob. Any time we're out and hear fussy crying babies or cranky meltdowny children, she says "that baby needs a nap." or "that child should be in bed asleep." When Emily and I were babies, Mama strove (strived?) to have us at home for naps and in bed at the same time every night. She almost never took us on playdates, shopping excursions, or visits to friends and former coworkers. I don't even think we did the church nursery, though I could be wrong. And I'm sure it wasn't much fun for her some days feeling trapped in those wood-paneled walls with two needy children. But what's that thing people are always saying about parenting? "It's the hardest job you'll ever love?" It's corny, but it's definitely true. Being a parent gives you a million new ways to make sacrifices, and for my money, sacrificing your schedule to your baby's, at every possible turn, in order to have a happier baby, is well worth the boredom, difficulty, and juggling it can cause. I don't want to step on any toes or criticize anybody else's parenting. I think routine is more important for a happy, well-adjusted baby than anything else, but some people may disagree, or may not be able to stick to a strict schedule as easily as we can, and their kids usually turn out great. All parents should do what works best for their family.

Of course, with a 2nd baby this is all out the window. Beyond 1 child, as best I can tell, survival is about all anyone can hope for.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm writing in haste because she's in the crib strategizing

Every day is better. I feel it's safe to say I will NEVER be the mama who longs for times that have passed. One more day of holding a tiny sleeping infant when Wynne is older. Up to about 4 months, it was all just so much. And I do not miss it one. tiny. bit. I don't care if someone thinks this makes me a bad mama. I am just glad we made it through. At no point have I wondered where does the time go. It does not seem like just yesterday that I was pregnant or that she was brand new, and I am honestly glad when each day is over and we have one more behind us. Because we get closer and closer to being sleep trained, to being ready for real food and sitting up and talking and playing. Every new day is better. We get more smiles and giggles and sounds and motions. And we get more tears and fits and chances to fail, so when these days are gone I still won't wish to go back.

I hope I'll always be sensitive to other women's situations. Women who can't have babies, who have to wait for ages, women who parent alone, whose babies are sick or don't make it. I don't take for granted that my baby is healthy, is here, is in no danger except what might happen to her as a result of having clueless parents. My baby has a daddy, two sets of grandparents, lots of aunts besides just our two sisters. We have doctors for every possible body part and condition, books and websites and studies to learn from and help fill all the gaps. People who say all you need is milk and diapers ought to be stabbed. And I have some choice words for seasoned parents whose advice is to relax and enjoy it. Just find me ONE woman who felt relaxed during her first year(s) as a mother. Mike and I say that we'll know better the next time around and it will be easier. I can already tell you twenty things we are going to do differently, do better. It's a cruel system, having to practice and flounder and fail with the first one (and possibly subsequent ones). Only when you've done it all wrong do you realize there's a better way. Nowhere do your mistakes and shortcomings haunt you like they do in parenting. There's my mistake, crying in the crib for half an hour. Dirty (baby) dishes, piles of laundry and pizza boxes and new clothes in bigger sizes, filthy floors, days between pictures of the baby, weeks between updates to the grandparents. And what do we have to show for all of it? A list of what to do differently next time around. It's fortunate that parenting is heavy on the love, because it sure is heavy on the guilt. Amiright mommies?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

sleep training help us Lord

Sleep training is kicking our asses, guys. We have undoubtedly brought it on ourselves by always holding Wynne until she was completely asleep (and often for an entire nap). She never slept like you'd think a brand new baby would, for hours at a stretch and only waking up to eat. She was always awake for far longer at a time than I thought seemed right, but I had no idea how to MAKE her sleep. When she did fall asleep it was usually while eating, so we'd just hold her sort of upright until she woke up (since we never burped her before she nodded off and since we thought you were never supposed to wake a sleeping baby). Even then she'd only nap for maybe 30 minutes before an arm would fly up or the paci would fall out and she'd be up again. So for the first 3 months or so, we had a chronically overtired baby who had no idea how to self-soothe. Nighttime was never a real problem, likely because by then she was too exhausted to fight anymore, so I'm mostly talking about naps here.

I bet plenty of people diagnose babies with colic in situations like ours. It's an easy assumption based on all the fussing and crying, but really she was just way overtired. I knew she wasn't colicky, and after we ruled out milk sensitivity or anything in my diet, we finally arrived at the truth: we had a sleep problem. We started reading and watching lots of Dr. Weissbluth (I love him. Just listening to him talk makes you want to get under a blanket and nap) and agreed that we had made some mistakes. I don't mean to say it's a mistake for anyone else, but for us it has caused some serious strife that I suspect we could have avoided. If only we'd known. So now we're doing our version of Cry It Out- a mix of Weissbluth strategies and things I read on a blog I really like called Chronicles of a Babywise Mom, at And it is awful. Wynne got used to someone holding her until she was totally asleep, and that is a big no-no (according to many sources by which we now abide.) So she doesn't know how to get to sleep when we put her down awake. Her arms are unwieldy and her legs won't stay down and her paci falls out and there's nobody to put it back in and it's just more than she can handle. She grunts, then fusses, then cries, then cries hysterically. As per the guidelines of graduated extinction, we check on her after five minutes of crying, then give her ten and check again, then fifteen and so on. Many CIO parent testimonials say "we never got past the 20 minute check! She fell asleep and slept twelve hours straight!" Our testimonial would NOT include that statement. I think part of the trouble is that we don't have to cry it out at night, just naps, so there isn't an open-ended time period in which she can cry until she figures it out. After an hour or so of naptime crying, it's time to get up and eat and get on with the day so maybe she'll be tired for the next nap. The books don't seem to address this problem, so we really don't know what to do.

Crying it out is a snap in theory- put her down and let her cry until she falls asleep on her own. Next time there should be less crying, and the time after that even less, and so on until you lay her down and she drifts off to sleep without a fight. But man. In practice, there are so many variables. What if she gets hiccups? What about dirty diapers? Changing her gets her all roused up. If after the 10-minute check she's quiet for 8 minutes, then starts up again, do we start the 5-minute check over again or wait 15? If she's been wailing like a banshee for 45 minutes, and we know there's no chance she'll go to sleep in the next 15, do we just let her cry the whole time anyway before getting her up to eat? Has she learned anything if all she does is cry for the whole nap time and then we go pick her up? When the schedule is such that she's eating right before a nap and the bottle puts her to sleep, does it undo the self-soothing we want to teach?

Sometimes she goes down without much of a fight, sometimes it takes 20 minutes for her to get calm and drowsy. We never know if she'll sleep for 3 minutes, 15 minutes, or 40 minutes before waking up. She goes to bed around the same time each night, but we don't know when she'll first wake up (12:30, 1:55, 2:30, 3:45, 4:oo, 4:45- these have all been her first waking just in the last two weeks), so we don't have a routine so much as a pattern. It's a lot to manage, and factoring in how often and how much to feed her when we don't know what her sleeping schedule will be, and getting in play time and baths, it is truly a wonder to me that anybody ever does this more than once. Before Wynne I wanted 4 kids. Now I just want this one to make it to the age where I can reason with her about the importance of sleep. Or at least bribe her. What age is that?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I have no time to edit or make a tidy conclusion

Invaluable Baby Junk, Wynne and Erin edition. Here's all our favorite stuff.

1. Medela Pump In Style Advanced. We have a love-hate relationship, but without this pump, I couldn't give her any breast milk. I haven't used any others to know that this one is far superior, but I'm still fairly certain there's no better pump out there. It's as convenient as pumping can be. I'm able to have my hands free (thanks to Mike's patent-pending Sports Bra With 2 Holes Cut In It, so if you ever get one, forget spending money on the brand name "corset" or whatever, cause sports bras work perfectly). Plus Medela makes a million accessories that make breast milk storage very easy. And I hear good things about their customer service in the event that something is wrong with your pump, which is nice because you can't really wait a while for replacement parts like you can for, say, a toaster.

2. My Brest Friend pillow. I didn't get one of these until about two weeks in, from some terrific friends of mine who were so supportive during our nightmare breastfeeding stage. I had a Boppy to start with, and it was no fun trying to position her on it to nurse. It wouldn't stay up high enough so I ended up hunched over, and it sags in the middle and it just wasn't comfortable for us. I actually use it now as a sort of body pillow, and we get some use out of it to prop her up for tummy time, and despite the tag's admonishings, we've set her in it to nap, so I'm glad we have it too, but as far as nursing I found it pretty worthless. The My Brest Friend was such an improvement. It straps around your middle and clips in place so you don't have to hold it up, and it really supports the baby so you can have at least one hand free rather than needing both just to hold the baby in place. I don't nurse anymore, but if we were nursing exclusively, I would be using this pillow every day.

3. Miracle Blankets. We have 4 (from Uncle Johnny) and they are in constant rotation. People who aren't familiar with them are usually pretty wary of them, thinking we keep our baby in a straight jacket when "she just wants her arms free! i can't stand to see them pinned down! she's wiggling, it must be that her blanket is too tight and restricting! let her out!!" These people are nuts; swaddling is magical to babies. I am extremely reluctant to believe anyone who says their baby did not like swaddling. Wynne startles like a madman when her arms are free and can't stay asleep more than 5 minutes at a time. She'll bang herself in the face, scratch her eyes with her unwieldy fingers and scraggly nails (so bad at baby nail-cutting). And when she's fussy, swaddling is always the first thing we do to calm her down. It's not a pacifier in itself, but it helps her to stop flailing, keeps a fit from escalating, and gets her attention so we can do the other things that calm her down. I don't think I'll ever waste my time with any other sort of swaddling blanket. This one is specifically designed so that baby arms can't pop out (though she does manage to bend hers at the elbows sometimes, she still can't flail them all around), and I feel certain that none of us would be sleeping if we didn't have these blankets. Our moms, both of whom disliked the tight swaddle at first, have come around because they know how well it works.

4. White noise machine and hair dryer. We have a little white noise machine that runs on batteries (handy for travel but we have to change the batteries often) and a sound machine that plugs in that we keep in the corner of her crib that we turn on whenever she sleeps. She, and I wager this is true of all babies, does NOT like quiet. It's much easier to fall asleep, and more importantly stay asleep, with background noise. And when she's really fussy, all we have to do is turn on the hair dryer (on high. low isn't loud enough.) and she'll stop crying almost immediately. Again, some people think we keep it too loud, but it turns out babies are used to a decibel similar to that of a vacuum cleaner in the womb, so the noise has to be fairly loud to work.

5. Happiest Baby On The Block, a book (by pediatrician Harvey Karp) about calming fussy babies. I don't think there's any new secret information in it, but it presents things nicely so that I can understand them. Basically, the point is that until 3 or 4 months, babies are really still fetusy and not well-equipped for life outside the womb, so we should recreate the experiences they're used to in the womb. Sensible and helpful.

6. Playtex Vent-Aire bottles. We tried several (nuk, breastflow) and these are the ones that work best for us, despite their many many parts. No fun to wash, but really what is fun to wash? We use the wide bottles with slow flow nipples, because we wanted something that would be similar enough to breastfeeding that she wouldn't refuse to nurse, which is no longer an issue, but I still really like these.

7. Soothie pacifiers. We have The First Years brand ones and love them. We have several other kinds too and she'll take them just fine, but I like the soothie kind. As we JUST discovered, the Munchkin pacifier clips sold at Target will attach to these kind (with a little force) so they don't go flying whenever the baby lets go (which she does. a lot.), and in our house with concrete floors, and with crumbs and fuzz and my hair all over the floors, it's nice not having to chase after the thing and rinse it off every five minutes.

8. Footed sleepers that zip or snap. So much better than having to pull a onesie over a tiny baby's head. And who invented shirts for babies? There's nothing to keep them down around their bellies where they belong. They all ride up and bunch up under their armpits and you're constantly yanking the shirt down. For the same reason, gowns are hit-or-miss for us. I like having her in them at night so diaper changes don't wake her up too much, but they bunch too. Wynne pretty much lives in footed sleepers. The last few weeks, however, she gets really hot and sweaty in her carseat or when she's being held to nap, so we also use lots of short sleeved onesies to keep her cooler.

9. Pampers swaddlers diapers and Huggies wipes. For this baby, Pampers is it. We still get leaks (dirty diapers only; I guess this is bound to happen no matter what), but other diapers leaked with far less mess than Pampers. And I love Huggies wipes because they are very easily torn in two. I like working with a smaller square and feel like I can use the whole wipe more efficiently this way. I usually only need 1, torn in half, for wet diapers and 2 or 3 for dirty diapers. I want to switch to cloth diapers here shortly, so when we do I'll try to do a post about what we like and how it's going, but for now we're using disposables so we love Pampers.

10. Other brand stuff we use: Enfamil Lipil formula (it's sorta frothy, which for some reason makes me think it's gentle on her stomach), Earth's Best Organic whole grain rice cereal (flaky like instant mashed potatoes! i tried food processing brown rice myself but i'm gonna need a much sturdier blade to really pulverize that stuff), Trumpette baby socks (the only ones we've found that don't fall off), Rockin Baby sling (I love it, Wynne tolerates it in short doses; had to watch youtube videos to figure out how to get a baby in and out of it), Moby wrap (again, youtube videos are important. we used this a whole lot early on, now it's hit or miss), Chicco (evidently pronounced key-co) baby gear. We have a Chicco carseat, stroller, and play yard, and they are awesome. I really like the quality of Chicco products and that they have a variety of gender-neutral colors; Baby Luve bath covers, which cover her up in the bathtub so it's not all chilly and drafty on the parts of her that aren't submerged. I don't know what bath time would be like without them, and I don't want to know. We could probably use a large washcloth or a small hand towel to the same effect, but these are designed for a baby's shape and aren't as thick and heavy as regular towel terrycloth. We luve them.

So there you go. Lately, Wynne has been throwing the worst fits I've ever witnessed. She fights sleep every single time we try to get her down (except the middle of the night feeding), and it's gotten way worse this week. Hysterical red-faced screaming. I don't know if it's teething, some phantom pain I can't recognize, or just that she's chronically overtired, but y'all. It is sapping me of all my strength and patience, neither of which I had in abundance to start with. If I can distract her, usually with the hair dryer or standing in front of the bathroom mirror (she likes looking at our reflections) with the vent turned on for noise, sometimes the wailing will subside so that I can get her swaddled. Then I usually have to take her to a pitch black room (for us the bathrooms are the only rooms without windows) with some white noise, and rock her and pat her bottom (kinda hard) and smush her tight against me until she falls asleep. It's a production, and if it wasn't so stressful and terrible it'd probably be pretty funny. But I'm just throwing it out there in case it helps anybody else. Loud noise to distract her from the fit (hair dryer, bathroom vent, white noise machine, motorboat sounds, loud rattle- pill bottles work in a pinch), swaddle her (quickly! she hates being put down and having her arms pinned down- initially), pitch black dark room (no cracks of light, shadows, NOTHIN), pacifier, hold her tight so her legs don't feel free and she can't arch her back, rock/swing and pat her bottom and wait it out. Also lots of prayer thrown in there.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Doing nothing all day takes up all of my time.

Wynne is 6 weeks old today, which both seems impossible and like it took forever. Currently she's hanging out with her Gigi while I pump. Most things I've read say you should pump for 15-20 minutes, but I find that milk is still coming (in tiny dribs; I rarely make more than 1.5 ounces per pumping session), so I usually pump for 30 minutes. It's no fun. It's mighty uncomfortable, and I'm tied down to one spot the whole time, unable to cook or clean or shower or even change positions, and I have to do it sitting up, otherwise the milk leaks everywhere and all is lost, and we're making do with a fairly old futon as our primary seating. It really doesn't offer a lot of support. And worst of all, I can't really hold the baby while I'm pumping, so I have to hand her off (often for a feeding, so someone else has to feed and burp her) and then she'll get comfortable and fall asleep, so I can't hang out with her again for a long time after I'm done cause I don't want to risk waking her up. I do not miss the agonies of nursing, but oh what I would give not to have to spend 4 hours per day pumping (to say nothing of the storage and clean-up afterwords). And we're still having to supplement with formula cause I don't make enough. I know it sounds awful to complain that I'm able to give my baby ANY breastmilk, cause I'm sure if I couldn't I would be furious with anyone who griped about it, but this is my situation and I am just saying, it wears me down. I can't help thinking every time I hook up the stupid pump that it would be so nice if all I had to do was pull up my shirt or mix up formula bottles when it was time for Wynne to eat. I'll keep pumping as long as I can, but I am not gonna be sorry when it's over. It's so good that babies are adorable, because some of the stuff I have to do for one is NOT cute at all. Wet and dirty diapers don't bother me, and I don't care when she spits up all down my arm when I'm trying to burp her (this is a feat, by the way. who knew? it sounds so simple in theory, but babies fling their little bodies all over creation and two hands is simply too few), but the lack of sleep is really catching up to me. I get pretty upset over what I know are actually very small things, and I have to really concentrate on enjoying middle of the night feedings instead of feeling sorry for myself for being awake and only having gotten two hours of sleep. Again, it's a well thought-out system, cause the middle of the night feeding is when she does the most smiling. This week her smiles are seeming more deliberate and intentional, rather than just those little sleep smiles we were getting before. I can't WAIT for my mama to see them when we go back for Thanksgiving. She will just melt.

Here's a picture of her in a precious pea pod outfit that Gigi made her. Tell me I don't have the cutest baby in the land.

At some point I'd like to write about all the baby gear we've found really helpful. Perhaps I'll get around to it before SHE has a baby. But no promises.