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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sick sick sick

I'm so tired of having a sick kid.  Last week it was Mira, this week it is Ellowyn.  When Mira was sick, she was just pathetic: miserable and wanting to be held in my lap.  I actually kind of like snuggling with her like that, but it makes taking care of Ellowyn more difficult.  Now Ellowyn is sick and she is making me want to tear my hair out.  She is really congested, so she's having trouble nursing and it seems to be a common trend that she spends the entire morning crying no matter what I do.  We've been doing the steam shower thing, especially in the morning when she is most congested, but Mira won't just sit in the bathroom with us, so I've been plopping her in front of the TV (which I don't mind doing occasionally, but on sick days it seems to happen a lot).  And to top it all off, I can't get out of the house.  I've been stuck here for two whole days and it feels like forever.  I think I lose my sanity a bit when I can't leave the house.  AND I haven't been able to get to the gym to work out in 3 days so my body is feeling crappy.  It's frustrating.

Rant over.  Let's all have some cute pictures to cheer us up.

Mira helps me do Ellowyn's hair in the morning.  Ellowyn is unsure about this arrangement.

Sweet sisters

Ellowyn is still a little wobbly when sitting up, but Mira is there to catch her.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A little time for me?

About a month ago, things came to a head as far as my health is concerned.  I had symptoms of PPD, tests showed I was seriously nutritionally deficient, I had no motivation... I was at the lowest point that I had been in for more than a decade.  The turning point came in a diagnosis: ultrasound showed that I had polycystic ovary syndrome.  It's a hormone imbalance that causes irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and weight gain due to insulin resistance.  There's no cure for this, the only thing that can be done is to treat the symptoms individually, but it has been known to reverse itself with weight loss.

That diagnosis was what made me decide that I had to start putting myself first, at least a little bit.  I was sacrificing myself to my children, and while that is what's required of a mother to a degree, I was taking it to an extreme.

So I got a gym membership.

I've been working out 4-5 times a week for the last 3 weeks now.  Most of the time I take the girls with me and they stay in the child care center at the gym while I work out.  (We still make our playdates and fun activities in the mornings; I go to the gym with them after they're done napping in the afternoons.)  I've already seen great improvements with my energy and stamina and motivation and my cycles are already back to normal.  So I know this is exactly what my body needed.

While I feel great that I'm getting the exercise, I also struggle with feeling guilty about leaving my children in the child care center.  They're only there for 30 minutes to an hour at a time, but still the first two weeks were really hard for them: lots of tears and I would frequently get paged to stop my workout because one of them just couldn't handle being left there.  (The care-givers give me a pager when I drop the kids off in case they don't do well.)  Let me tell you just how great this made me feel about finally deciding to do something for myself... Needless to say, I constantly question the decision to do this.  And I hate to say it, but it often feels like the price is not worth the reward.  It's been 3 weeks now and Mira is doing better... pretty well, actually.  But Ellowyn still cries every time and she has developed a pretty nasty case of separation anxiety since I've started going to the gym.  It really pains me to see her struggling and I'm constantly wondering if I'm making the right decision.  I know that this is the right thing for me; my body is showing me in so many ways that this is the answer.  But I'm finding it so difficult to put what my body needs ahead of what my daughter needs from me.  I guess it's just not in my nature to be selfish in this way.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why I'm a Stay At Home Mom

I just recently had a friend ask me, "If being a stay at home mom is so hard, why do it?"  In the moment, I gave a brief vague response about it being the best choice for my children.  But it got me thinking and I realized there were so many things I wish I'd said.  Because there are so many very important reasons why I chose to be a stay at home mom (SAHM).

It's true, it is hard work.  Being a SAHM constantly tests my patience, ingenuity, creativity, and resolve. I can't eat or go to the bathroom without addressing someone else's needs first.  It's difficult to never have a break from your children and putting them before you.  Juggling two children presents it's own special challenges, especially when the needs of one are in direct conflict with the needs of the other.  Even when they're sleeping (and if I'm lucky enough that they are both asleep at the same time), I'm listening for them and wondering when they will wake and planning what to do after that happens and recovering from their latest adventures and picking up the leftover messes.  And god forbid I ever need to go to the dentist or get my hair cut.  It's messy, painful, tiring, relentless, and thankless.

So why on earth would I put myself through that?  

So many reasons.

Bonding: A special kind of bond is formed between a child and a parent when the parent is dedicated solely to the process of caring for and raising the child.  This bond creates a feeling of security for the child.  And in turn, that security breeds trust: trust that I will always be there and that their interests will always come first.  That trust makes so many other aspects of parenting so much easier.

Breastfeeding: As a SAHM, I can breastfeed my children as long or as often as we need/want to.  I don't have to worry about pumping or supplementing or weaning or finding an appropriate place/time.  We can just do what comes naturally whenever it strikes us.

Stress-free kids: With no deadlines to meet or time cards to punch, my children are free to explore, play, sleep, and eat on their schedule.  There is no mad rush to get out the door in the morning, no commute home wondering if I'll have time to make dinner for the family before the kids need to get to bed.  Also, if my kids are not enjoying a situation, we can change it up.  If they are getting stir-crazy at home, we can go out somewhere.  If we are out and about and one of them melts down, we can leave and head home.  This is a stark contrast to a day-care environment where, if the child doesn't want to be there... well, that's just too bad.  The kind of liberty I have as a SAHM creates a nurturing, relaxing, easy-going lifestyle for my children that reduces their anxiety and stress.  

Parenting my way: By being with my children 100% of the time, I assure that I make the parenting choices.  I decide how much TV they can watch, what foods they can eat, what punishments/consequences to use, what lessons to teach, what experiences they are exposed to.  It's a big responsibility, but I would rather take it on myself than leave those child-rearing decisions to someone else.  Also, I am able to oversee their social interactions (and they do get lots of social time with other kids thanks to my network of other SAHMs) to make sure they are learning how to be polite and share and avoid physical violence and take turns.  

Go, Do, Learn, Play, Explore: As a SAHM, I have the joy of being able to take my children places like playgrounds, parks, ponds, pools, museums, playdates, rides, activity centers, etc.  If they were in a day-care situation, they would miss out on being able to go do these things with me every day.  It is rare for us to spend a day at home, we are constantly going out and doing fun exciting new things specifically for the girls to enjoy.  (And it's nice for me that we are usually out doing these things with another SAHM or two, so I have some adult company.)  Bouncy houses, baking classes, gymnastics, dance classes, train rides, museum visits, nature walks, zoos, farms, puppet shows, story times at the library... these are the things that fill my days and these are all things that I'd hate for my children to miss out on.  

Never miss a moment: Every day, I am creating loving memories with my children.  And I know that I will be there for every first: crawling, teething, walking, laughing, talking, etc.  These are memories that I will cherish and I can feel sure that their earliest childhood memories will be of the time they spend with me.

So many reasons.  

Is having a parent at home with the kids the right choice for every family?  No, of course not.  If staying at home is a choice that would be regretted or one that felt forced, then children will not thrive with a reluctant parent.  Also financially, while some monetary sacrifices are acceptable, if having a parent at home would be too hard on the budget, not having the money for groceries is not in the best interest of the family.  

But for me and my family it was clearly the right choice and I'm so glad I made it.  Even if it means that my successes are measured in whether or not I have bodily fluids on my clothes at the end of the day.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Any day now... (Ellowyn is mobile)

Ellowyn just recently turned 8 months old.  For over a month now, she's been getting up on her hands and knees and I've been SURE that she would start crawling any day.  Yeah.... not so much.  However, she's got a MEAN army crawl.  She can really book it.

Here she is about a month ago (this was taken while we were at the beach).

And here she is more recently.


I think the fact that she can army crawl so well has lessened her determination to get up on her hands and knees to crawl.  But she does still work on it.  She'll get up on her hands and knees and rock a lot. Sometimes she'll manage to move her arms, but she gets caught up when it's time to move her knees.  She just can't figure out how to move one then the other.  But I'm sure it will be soon (though I've been saying that for a month now...).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Facing the Music

My mother died just about a year ago.  Today is the 2nd time I've been able to play native American flute music since that day, or rather night.  The first was too raw, too much pain.

I got a phone call from my sister: "Brian, Mom's in surgery and there has been a complication..."

... I had gotten a voicemail from my mother the night before - and ignored it, like usual.  I think I even pushed her to VM rather than take a late night call.

Oh Shit!

The thoughts that percolated at that point weren't terribly sophisticated.



Surgery?  I didn't know about any surgery!

OH SHIT - what will my boss think?  --Meta information - I was in my first week of my new, high paying, save my family's financial ass job--

F' the boss - "Sis, where are you - I'm on my way"

The pride I feel at this point, looking back on that decision to prioritize being with my family over my finances kind-of bothers me... it's honestly a decision I'd make again - but the fact that I feel pride in it means I could have gone the other way... and what kind of despicable ass makes that decision?

A bit of time in the waiting room with my sister and her then BF - a nice guy but not up to the multi-month crisis my sister would then enter - my other sister joins us - we eat a ad-hoc dinner and then find Mom's been moved to the ICU... after dying for 10 long minutes with docs manually pumping her heart.

Yeah - my head is spinning; my heart is cold; my strength for my family is palpable.

We plan - who's doing what shift - I insist on the overnight....  insist.  I know my sisters won't sleep - but they will be worse than I if they don't at least try to sleep.  To this day, I don't know if/how they did.

I did go home briefly while Kevan spent some time with Mom.  I threw together a bag with my 'hospital sweatshirt' my iPod and it's portable speakers and a book.  The speakers and iPod are key to this story.

My mother loved native american flute music; those rhythmic drums and haunting melodies.  One of my favorite internet radio stations was based 100% around this musical style - and it was what I played for us the hours while I sat at her bedside.  Praying to my goddess, her God, anyone who might be listening that she could pull through the coma, get over the twice an hour body wrenching retching, and have intelligence, rather than horror, reach her eyes once more.  Yes, I saw her fear in her deep brown eyes.  The terror.  The soul ripping horror at her situation and our mutual inability to do more than pray.

So as the low sonics of wood flutes and skin drums penetrated the ICU, and the concerned young man who was taking *very* good care of my mum came and went; I waited - listening to the sounds - knowing my mother could hear them... and knowing that they called her to a fearless beyond... I helped my mother pass.

And have had a hard time listening to this music since...

Light a candle when you see this post - she loved candles.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ellowyn's first teeth

Ellowyn cut her first teeth this week.  It's the front bottom two teeth.  She cut one and then a day later the second.  It's funny because, leading up to the teeth coming in, she was not cranky at all.  It was only AFTER the teeth came in that she started the "teething" behavior.  And by that I mean reluctant to nurse and difficult to get to sleep.

I'd post a picture of Ellowyn's new chompers, but they are only just barely poking through the gums so you can't even see them yet in person, much less in a photo.  The only way I know they're there is that I can feel them when I put my finger in her mouth.

In related news, here's a cute series of photos/videos from one of Ellowyn's recent culinary adventures.

Mmm, blueberries.

Uhm... ew.

How did the unsuspecting blueberries get mauled into indecipherable mush?  Let's examine the evidence.

Exhibit A: Note the "who me?" expression on the face of the accused.

Exhibit B: Note the blueberry-induced face puckering.

Exhibit C: And now the foot has entered the scene.

Exhibit D: The accused shows no remorse.

Exhibit E: Blueberry mush was discovered between the toes of the accused.  

Guilty as charged.  And to top it off, after she tired of mauling the poor blueberries, she proceeded to play with the remains, spreading blueberry carcass all over the surrounding area.  Oh the humanity.